“It is the stated position of the U.S. Air Force that their safeguards would prevent the occurrence of such events as are depicted in this film.”
So begins Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, that bleak, blistering film from 1964, in which a demented general launches a full-scale nuclear attack against the Soviet Union, leading to global annihilation. As for that disclaimer? We now know that nothing could be further from the truth.
In a declassified memo, dated a year before Dr. Strangelove’s release, Defense Secretary Robert McNamara expressed concern that delegating nuclear strike capability to military commanders increased the probability of an accidental nuclear explosion. He referred to a 1961 incident in which two armed nuclear bombs fell out of a B-52 and landed in North Carolina, undetonated only “by the slightest margin of chance, literally the failure of two wires to cross.”
Just in case you thought anything had improved, last year, Major General Michael Carey — the Air Force general who was in charge of the nation’s nuclear arsenal — traveled to Moscow, insulted the Russian delegation, drunkenly caroused and bragged that he saved the world every day, and then tried to force a band at a Mexican restaurant to let him perform with them. (The band declined, and Carey subsequently was relieved of duty.)
As we settle in for the holiday season, trying not to think about who has their finger on the big red button, you might take a look at these five satirical films that hit a little too close to home.