The Air Force versus Hollywood

Roundup: Pop Culture & the Arts ... Movies, Documentaries and Museum Exhibits

To refute early 1960s novels and Hollywood films like Fail-Safe and Dr. Strangelove which raised questions about U.S. control over nuclear weapons, the Air Force produced a documentary film--"SAC [Strategic Air Command] Command Post"--to demonstrate its responsiveness to presidential command and its tight control over nuclear weapons.

During the crisis years of the early 1960s, when U.S.-Soviet relations were especially tense, novels and motion pictures raised questions about the Air Force's control over nuclear weapons and the dangers of an accidentally or deliberately-triggered nuclear war. Foremost were Eugene Burdick and Harvey Wheeler's novel Fail-Safe (1962) (later turned into a motion picture) about an accidental war and the film Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, a brilliant satire about a nuclear conflict deliberately sparked by a psychotic Air Force general. Both Dr. Strangelove and Fail-Safe may have created enough worries in the Air Force about its image to lead the service to produce a film--"SAC [Strategic Air Command] Command Post"--designed to confirm presidential control over the "expenditure" of nuclear weapons and the difficulty of initiating an 'unauthorized launch" of nuclear bombers.

Never used publicly by the Air Force for reasons that remain puzzling, "SAC Command Post" is premiered online today on the National Security Archive Web site....

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