Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with John Sherman Cooper, May 31, 1986

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:03 - Anti-ballistic missile system background

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Partial Transcript: The following is an unrehearsed interview, the twenty-fourth in a series, with former United States Senator and Ambassador John Sherman Cooper.

Segment Synopsis: Cooper provides an overview of the background and reasoning behind the need for an anti-ballistic missile defense system for the U.S.

Keywords: Arms; Centers of population; Central missile; Deadly; Destruction; Detection; Dwight Eisenhower; Fired; Incoming missiles; Instant response; Inter-continental missile attack; John F. Kennedy; Johnson administration; Lyndon Johnson; Multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle (MIRV); Mutually assured destruction; Poison; Retaliation; Senate; Senators; Sentinel system; Single missiles; Striking; Target; Theory of defense; Warning

Subjects: Arms control; Atmosphere; Cities; Cold War; Design; Discussion; Europe; Explosions; Missiles; Nuclear weapons; Politicians; Protection; Radiation; Soviet Union; Technology; United States; United States. Congress. Senate.; Washington (D.C.); Weapons of mass destruction

00:08:56 - Interest in the anti-ballistic missile issue

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Partial Transcript: How did you first get interested in this problem?

Segment Synopsis: Cooper explains what sparked his interest in the anti-ballistic missile debate of the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Keywords: Agreement; Anniversary; Anti-ballistic missile system; Congress; Dangerous; Debate; Defense; Deployed; Henry M. Jackson; Incoming missiles; Interceptors; John F. Kennedy; Lyndon Johnson; Negotiators; Nuclear testing; Political positions; Proliferation, Nuclear; Proponents; SALT I Treaty; Senate; Senate Armed Services Committee; Senate Foreign Relations Committee; Senators; Supporters

Subjects: Arms control; Cold War; Council on Foreign Relations; Friend; Hearings; Helsinki (Finland); International relations; Military; Missiles; New York (N.Y.); Nuclear weapons; Politicians; Scientists; Soviet Union; Space; Space race; Stanford University; Strategic Defense Initiative; United States; United States. Department of State; University of Southern California; Washington; Washington (D.C.); Weapons of mass destruction

00:16:01 - Sentinel system

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Partial Transcript: The first debate over the Sentinel system.

Segment Synopsis: Cooper discusses the Sentinel system, which was a proposed alternative to the anti-ballistic missile system.

Keywords: Anti-ballistic missile system; Banned; Deployment; Letter; Negotiations; Negotiators; No protection; Opposed; SALT I Treaty; Scientist; Senate; Senators; Sentinel system; Treaty; Warning; Wife

Subjects: Arms control; China; Cold War; Communism; Design; Helsinki (Finland); International relations; Missiles; Nuclear weapons; Papers; Politicians; Protection; Research; Soviet Union; Strategic Defense Initiative; Travel; United States; Vienna (Austria); Washington (D.C.); Weapons of mass destruction; Writing

00:19:00 - 1968 anti-ballistic missile system debates / 1984 presidential election and ABMs

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Partial Transcript: This--this ABM debate in the Senate in 1968, I think was affected a great deal by politics.

Segment Synopsis: Cooper reflects upon his position in the 1968 anti-ballistic system debates. Cooper details a controversy surrounding his position on the anti-ballistic missile defense system invoked by the anniversary of a treaty related to the issue during the 1984 presidential campaign.

Keywords: 1984 presidential campaign; Anniversary; Anti-ballistic missile system; Anti-ballistic missile system treaty; Congress; Debates; Democratic nominee; Election year; Funds; Mistakes; Morality; News conferences; Newspapers; Petitions; Political gestures; Republican candidates; Ronald Reagan; Senate; Senators; Sentinel system; Signature; Votes; Walter Mondale; Wife

Subjects: Administration; Budget; Cold War; International relations; Judgment; Louisville (Ky.); Missiles; Nuclear weapons; Politicians; Soviet Union; Speech; Strategic Defensive Initiative; United States; Washington (D.C.); Weapons of mass destruction

00:24:09 - Delaying the Sentinel system / Social life recently

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Partial Transcript: After a while you shifted your emphasis from--from trying to stop the Sentinel system period to trying to delay it.

Segment Synopsis: Cooper describes his efforts in attempting to stop funding for the Sentinel system from being approved in the Senate. Cooper briefly talks of his social life in recent months.

Keywords: Advice; Agreements; Anti-ballistic missile system; Bills; Decisions; Development; House of Representatives; Illness; Presidents; Provisions; Ronald Reagan; SALT I Treaty; Scientists; Senate; Senators; Sentinel system; Signing; Treaties; U.S. Navy; Visiting; Wife

Subjects: Arms control; Capital; Cold War; Helsinki (Finland); Hope; International relations; Military; Missiles; Moscow (Russia); Nuclear weapons; Politicians; Research; Retirement; Society; Soviet Union; Strategic Defense Initiative; United States; Washington (D.C.); Weapons of mass destruction

00:29:42 - Philip Hart and anti-ballistic missiles / Robert McNamara

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Partial Transcript: How was it that you happened to team up with Senator Hart of--of Michigan in fighting the ABM?

Segment Synopsis: Cooper recalls his alliance with Senator Philip Hart in opposition to the anti-ballistic missile defense system. Cooper illustrates the evolution of Robert McNamara's position on this issue.

Keywords: Anniversary; Antagonism; Anti-ballistic missile system; Anti-ballistic missile treaty; Debates; Democrats; House of Representatives; John F. Kennedy; Lyndon Johnson; Namesake; Newspapers; Philip Hart; Presidents; Republicans; Robert McNamara; Secretary of defense; Senate; Senators; Signatures; Signing

Subjects: Cold War; Death; Detroit (Mich.); Hart Senate Office Building (Washington, D.C.); International relations; Missiles; Nuclear weapons; Politicians; Respect; Soviet Union; Strategic Defense Initiative; United States; Vietnam War, 1961-1975; Washington (D.C.); Wealth; Weapons of mass destruction; Work ethic

00:35:28 - Nixon vs. Johnson on anti-ballistic missiles / John C. Stennis

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Partial Transcript: Did you notice much difference in the--the stance which the administration took on ABM after Nixon came in '69. . .

Segment Synopsis: Cooper compares the Nixon and Johnson administration's views on the anti-ballistic missile system debates. Cooper discusses the position of John C. Stennis on the anti-ballistic missile defense system.

Keywords: Agreement; Anti-ballistic missile system; Defense; Different; Duty; Honorable; Instructions; John C. Stennis; Melvin R. Laird; Multiple independently targetable reentry vehicle (MIRV); Nixon administration; Presidents; Representative; Resign; Safeguard system; Senate; Senate Armed Services Committee; Senate Foreign Relations Committee; Senators; Strategic arms; Study

Subjects: Cold War; Hearings; International relations; Missiles; Nuclear weapons; Politicians; Respect; Scientists; Soviet Union; Testify; Testimony; United States; United States. Department of Defense; Washington (D.C.); Weapons of mass destruction; Work

00:39:50 - Question of motivations in Vietnam War / Anti-ballistic missile debate in 1969

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Partial Transcript: . . .An instance in--in 1969 that--where the--the ABM debate was--was threatened with getting even more political, I think.

Segment Synopsis: Cooper responds to criticisms of being unpatriotic during the debates over ending U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. Cooper recalls the situation during the anti-ballistic missile system debates in 1969.

Keywords: Anti-ballistic missile system; Congress; Congressional record; Debates; House of Representatives; Legislation; Non-partisan; Party positions; Positions; Presidential candidate; Proposals; Richard Nixon; Safeguard systems; Senate; Senate floor; Senators; Suggestions; Ted Kennedy; Unpatriotic; White House; World War I; World War II

Subjects: Cold War; International relations; Missiles; Nuclear weapons; Patriotism; Politicians; Security; Soviet Union; Speeches; United States; Vietnam War, 1961-1975; Washington (D.C.); Weapons of mass destruction; World War, 1914-1918; World War, 1939-1945

00:44:40 - 1969 Kentucky Derby / Philip Hart

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Partial Transcript: Do you recall in--I think it was in 1969, you went to the derby with Nixon--.

Segment Synopsis: Cooper briefly recalls attending the 1969 Kentucky Derby with President Nixon. Cooper also briefly discusses his opinion of Philip Hart.

Keywords: East Germany; Governors; Invited; Louie Nunn; Philip Hart; Richard Nixon; Senate; Senators

Subjects: Air Force One (Presidential aircraft); Cancer; Germany; Kentuckians; Kentucky; Kentucky Derby; Louisville (Ky.); Michigan; Nixon, Richard M. (Richard Milhous), 1913-1994; Politicians; Surprise

00:46:49 - Cooper-Hart Amendment

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Partial Transcript: . . .A request for money to--uh--construct at least two ABM sites, one of them in North Dakota and another in Montana.

Segment Synopsis: Cooper describes an amendment he proposed to curb funding for the anti-ballistic missile system in 1969.

Keywords: Anti-ballistic missile system; Clinton Anderson; Confrontation; Cooper-Hart Amendment; Debate; Deployment; East Germany; Edmund Muskie; Independent; John J. Williams; Margaret Chase Smith; Military Procurement bill; Philip Hart; Presidential nominees; Republicans; Senate; Senate Armed Services Committee; Senators; Votes

Subjects: Cold War; Independence; International relations; Kentuckians; Missiles; Money; Montana; National security; New Mexico; North Dakota; Nuclear weapons; Politicians; Research; Soviet Union; United States; Washington (D.C.); Weapons of mass destruction

00:51:55 - Nuclear systems

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Partial Transcript: What--do you remember what your feelings were when it was finally over?

Segment Synopsis: Cooper highlights the differences between American and Soviet nuclear defense systems during the Cold War.

Keywords: Allies; Anti-ballistic missile system; Armaments reduction; Cannons; Central committee; Conventional forces; Debates; Decisions; Forces; North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO); Nuclear systems; Politburo; Ruling group; Senate; Senators; Soviet system; U.S. Air Force; U.S. Army; U.S. Navy

Subjects: Ballistic missiles; Chance; Cold War; Deterrence (Strategy); Europe; International relations; Machine guns; Military; National security; Nuclear weapons; Politicians; Power; Rifles; Soviet Union; Tanks; United Kingdom; United States; Washington (D.C.); Weapons of mass destruction

00:56:26 - Anti-ballistic missile debate during Nixon administration

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Partial Transcript: Well this--this ABM debate continued on into 1970. . .

Segment Synopsis: Cooper assesses the progression of the anti-ballistic missile debates in the Senate during the Nixon administration.

Keywords: Anti-ballistic missile systems; Concern; Construction; Cooper-Hart amendment; Debates; Henry M. Jackson; Influence; James B. Pearson; Negotiations; Nuclear sites; Philip Hart; SALT I Treaty; Senate; Senate floor; Senators; Soviet submarines; Submarines; Supporters; Tactics; Telegrams; Thomas J. McIntyre; Votes

Subjects: Cold War; International relations; Missiles; Money; Nuclear weapons; Politicians; Soviet Union; United States; Voting; Washington (D.C.); Weapons of mass destruction