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War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Europe Goes Nuclear; One Week in October

France and England rush to acquire their own nuclear weapons, NATO worries about the threat from the East, and Europe becomes the most nuclear-saturated place on Earth.

British and American scientists worked side by side to build the first nuclear bombs. “There was a strong desire on the British side for that collaboration to continue into peacetime. There was no such desire on the part of the United States,” recalls British diplomat Roger Makins, Lord Sherfield. Britain decided to proceed on its own and in 1952 joined the US and the Soviets in what pundits would call “the nuclear club.” General Charles De Gaulle, president of France, wanted to join the club, too, and not rely on the US for nuclear protection. Prestige was also an issue. In 1960, France exploded its first atomic weapon. Since World War II the Soviet Union had had a superiority in conventional forces in Europe. NATO countered by deploying thousands of nuclear weapons. “They were accepted as being perfectly reasonable weapons to use in a tactical battle in continental Europe,” said Sir Richard Powell of the British Defense Ministry.

1962 October 01

“War and Peace in the Nuclear Age; Europe Goes Nuclear; One Week in October,” October 1, 1962, WGBH Media Library & Archives, Boston,

This video was produced in 1989 by the Boston public television station WGBH. The producers used footage taken in 1963 by news photographers, and the emphasis of the narrator on military strength and the need for civilians to stay focused on civil defense is more typical of the 1960s than the late 1980s, when Cold War tensions had “cooled” significantly. What methods of waging the Cold War does this source show?

This video was made in the 1980s, but the footage and tone belong to the 1960s. Explain the less familiar details of Cold War military preparation, such as the Strategic Air Command, B52 bombers, and civil defense. The methods of waging the Cold War include military deployment, increased movement by ships and planes, spying, intercepting, boarding and inspecting Soviet ships that approached the blockade, and confrontations in the United Nations.