Fwd: H-Diplo: National Security Archive: Winning a Nuclear War: 1950s
- List members might be interested in the following announcement . . .
National Security Archive Update, February 19, 2011
"Nobody Wins a Nuclear War" But "Success" is Possible
Mixed Message of 1950s Air Force Film on a U.S.-Soviet Conflict
For more information contact:
William Burr - 202/994-7000
Washington, DC, February 19, 2011 - "The Power of Decision" may be the
first (and perhaps the only) U.S. government film depicting the Cold War
nightmare of a U.S.-Soviet nuclear conflict. The U.S. Air Force produced
it during 1956-1957 at the request of the Strategic Air Command. Unseen
for years and made public for the first time by the National Security
Archive, the film depicts the U.S. Air Force's implementation of war plan
"Quick Strike" in response to a Soviet surprise attack against the United
States and European and East Asian allies. By the end of the film, after
the Air Force launches a massive bomber-missile "double-punch," millions
of Americans, Russians, Europeans, and Japanese are dead.
Colonel Dodd, the narrator, asserts that "nobody wins a nuclear war
because both sides are sure to suffer terrible damage." Despite the
"catastrophic" damage described by a SAC briefer, one of the film's
operating assumptions is that defeat is avoidable as long as the Soviet
Union cannot impose its "will." The last few minutes of the film suggest
that the United States will prevail because of its successful nuclear air
offensive. One of the characters, General "Pete" Larson optimistically
asserts that the Soviets "must quit; we have the air and the power and
they know it." It is the Soviets, not the United States, who are sending
out cease-fire pleas, picked up by the CIA.
Little is known about the production or subsequent distribution of "The
Power of Decision." It was probably used for internal training purposes so
that officers and airmen could prepare for the worst active-duty situation
that they could encounter. Perhaps the relatively unruffled style of the
film's performers was to help serve as a model for SAC officers if they
ever had to follow orders that could produce a nuclear holocaust.
This film is from a DVD supplied by the U.S. National Archives' motion
picture unit and is hosted by the Internet Archive's Moving Images
View the complete film at http://www.nsarchive.org or watch a four-minute
clip of the film on the Archive's YouTube channel.