Adapting to Atlas: A study on the evolution of nuclear policy as portrayed by the development and deployment of Atlas missiles, 1945-1965.
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The period after World War II and the beginning of the Cold War are characterized by significant changes in the United States government and military. Changes in the international environment and the development of nuclear weapons brought the United States into a position in which it had to adapt to new strategic challenges. This thesis researches how the development of Atlas missiles by the United States Air Force and their deployment to Francis E. Warren Air Force Base portray the evolution of United States nuclear policy between 1945 and 1965. The first chapter focuses on the history of Francis E. Warren Air Force Base and its transformation into a nuclear missile site. The next sections then place these findings in a broader context by examining changes in the strategic environment, the evolution of nuclear policy, and the development of nuclear weapons. From these chapters a conclusion is derived that will be discussed in the final chapter. Research for this thesis was conducted at the University of Wyoming in Laramie, at Francis E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, and at Utrecht University in the Netherlands. The thesis draws on a number of sources including books, articles, archival material, and an interview. The result of this research shows that policymakers initially were reluctant to incorporate nuclear strategy into military policy. Policymakers mainly began to embrace nuclear strategy when the strategic environment changed and the United States became vulnerable for attack. However, policymakers only began to embrace the Atlas when technological advancements made the development of this missile feasible.