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Lt. General James Edmundson on: Understanding the Power of Nuclear Deterrance
James Edmundson Q: I think President Eisenhower's thinking on nuclear weapons does change somewhat after briefings about the hydrogen bomb in the later stages of the fifties. Early on, he seems to have thought about a nuclear war as something that was, you know, terrible but survivable to some extent. And then I think by `55, `56, `57, after the H-bomb tests it becomes clear that these weapons are too powerful for a nation to survive if they're applied in wartime.

JE: There is an anomaly there. I know I felt it, and I'm sure that presidents, not only Eisenhower but others, must have seen the same thing. These weapons were pretty doggone powerful, and could really do damage that-- We weren't even able to measure how much damage that they would do. We didn't really know the lasting effects of radiation. And then we felt that the only way we could assure that it didn't happen was to have the capability here in SAC to deter the Russians from doing that, and having the honor and the American ethics of not doing it yourself. In other words, self control is easy, as long as you can make sure that the other guy isn't going to do something. And so it was the use of these weapons and the becoming proficient with them and the planning to use them at their maximum capability, that really, we felt, was the one way to avoid a all-out nuclear war. I know there's--that's anomalous, but we couldn't think of any other way that-- to keep it from happening--

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