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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Bigger Bang for the Buck, A; Interview with John Eisenhower, 1986

Part of War and Peace in the Nuclear Age.


John Eisenhower was the son of the president and served in staff positions in the White House and Army during his administration. Referring to his father as "the boss," he recounts several anecdotes about the late president and explains his views on certain subjects. The president is described as being fed up with the war in Korea and willing to do something "radical," but whether that would have included resorting to nuclear weapons is unclear. Eisenhower's experiences at the Geneva conference in 1955 are recalled, and he is said to have felt a certain warmth toward Soviet leader Khrushchev. John states that his father was an excellent poker player, a skill not often taken into account by his colleagues or adversaries. He says that as president his father felt a very heavy responsibility for the lives of millions, and made plain his views about the consequences of a nuclear war. John recounts the president's (and his own) opinions on several topics, including the effects of inter-service rivalries, the U2 and the Powers shoot-down, the missile gap, and the military-industrial complex. He asserts that President Eisenhower's famous remarks on the latter were not inconsistent with his earlier policies, which he says consisted of persistent attempts to keep the Pentagon in check. He says that his father's biggest accomplishment was guiding the U.S. through a very unstable period, and leaving the country at the end with a strategic advantage.

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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age
Bigger Bang for the Buck, A
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Interview with John Eisenhower, 1986

Series Description

The first atomic explosion in the New Mexico desert on July 16, 1945, changed the world forever. This series chronicles these changes and the history of a new era. It traces the development of nuclear weapons, the evolution of nuclear strategy, and the politics of a world with the power to destroy itself.

In thirteen one-hour programs that combine historic footage and recent interviews with key American, Soviet, and European participants, the nuclear age unfolds: the origin and evolution of nuclear weapons; the people of the past who have shaped the events of the present; the ideas and issues that political leaders, scientists, and the public at large must confront, and the prospects for the future. Nuclear Age highlights the profound changes in contemporary thinking imposed by the advent of nuclear weapons. Series release date: 1/1989

Program Description

For the destructive power they deliver, nuclear weapons are cheap and efficient. In the 1950’s the United States begins to rely on nuclear, rather than conventional, weapons for its defense.

As nuclear policy evolved during the Eisenhower Administration, three factors combined to produce a new American reliance on nuclear weapons: pressure to control the federal budget (the “bigger bang” argument); competition as each branch of the American military adapted nuclear weapons to its mission; and Soviet bluffs that fueled American fears about a “bomber gap” and later a “missile gap.” On October 4, 1957, Sputnik, the Soviet satellite that was the first to orbit Earth, shocked Americans and delighted the Soviets. A month later, the Soviets launched Sputnik 2 with a dog on board. Both the Soviets and the Americans knew that a booster capable of carrying a dog into space could also deliver a nuclear warhead across a continent in 30 minutes.



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Raw video

Media Type


Dulles, John Foster, 1888-1959
Khrushchev, Nikita Sergeevich, 1894-1971
Korean War, 1950-1953
U-2 (Reconnaissance aircraft)
Gates, Thomas S.
Geneva Conference (1955)
Meeting of Heads of Government and Chiefs of State (1960 : Paris, France)
Military-industrial complex
Symington, Stuart, 1901-1988
McElroy, Neil H. (Neil Hosler), 1904-1972
National Security Council (U.S.)
Radford, Arthur William
Dulles, Allen, 1893-1969
Eisenhower, Dwight D. (Dwight David), 1890-1969
Global Affairs
War and Conflict
Eisenhower, John S. D., 1922- (Interviewee)
Publication Information
WGBH Educational Foundation
Chicago: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Bigger Bang for the Buck, A; Interview with John Eisenhower, 1986,” 04/02/1986, GBH Archives, accessed December 11, 2023,
MLA: “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Bigger Bang for the Buck, A; Interview with John Eisenhower, 1986.” 04/02/1986. GBH Archives. Web. December 11, 2023. <>.
APA: War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Bigger Bang for the Buck, A; Interview with John Eisenhower, 1986. Boston, MA: GBH Archives. Retrieved from
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