January 31, 2010

Strategic Air Command reaction to movies - 60's

Slim Pickens with old-style H-Bomb - Dr. Strangelove
The old feeder grew up under the threat of imminent nuclear war. Folks reacted to the situation differently. Some families installed bomb or fallout shelters, some joined 'ban-the-bomb' pacifist outfits and some just grew ulcers. Many good Americans, like my Dad, myself and my wife Jean worked to prevent nuclear holocaust by fighting communism and helping the cause of "mutually assured destruction". Other cats made great movies about the threat. Especially in the 1960's.

My favorite nuclear war movie has always been Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. I never gave it much thought, but the folks at the Strategic Air Command, headquartered at Omaha, Nebraska's Offutt Air Force Base were concerned that movies like Dr. Strangelove and Fail Safe would give Americans the wrong idea. Sometimes such films made it appear that nuclear weapons could just 'go off' the way gun control nuts think handguns are apt to do.

To counter this notion, the US Air Force made a film to show how safe and secure our nuclear weapons systems really were. That movie, for one reason or another, was never made public and remained classified until recently. I caught an AP story about it in the Omaha World Herald* with a link to the movie and decided to check it out. You can watch it here.

JSTPS office door - from the SAC movie - click
It brought back memories. Jean used to work at the Joint Strategic Target Planning Staff, (JSTPS) which is featured in the government movie. The cats in her shop referred to their outfit as Nukes R Us. I remember going to one of their Christmas parties. The mood was macabre, but fun. The theme of the party was "We're making a list and checking it twice" from the Christmas song Santa Claus is Coming to Town. I'll leave you to make the rest of the analogies to the song that were bandied about that night.

What great folks those service men and women were. Dealing with the most deadly weapons systems ever in the history of mankind, 24 hours a day, day in and day out, they still had a sense of humor about their mission. They never forgot, however, that their real mission wasn't world scale destruction, but peace. In those days the entrance to SAC carried this motto: Peace is our Profession. For the entire time SAC existed, from 1946 to 1992, there was no nuclear war, thanks in large part to the vigilance of these troops and their leaders.
The mission of maintaining the peace with nuclear weapons is now carried on by the U.S. Strategic Command, based in the old SAC buildings at Offutt. It isn't just an Air Force job now.
* The Omaha World Herald has a goofy notion that folks ought to pay to read their old news, so if the link is kaput, try this one.


  1. Not as entertaining as Dr Strangelove but it was still pretty interesting.

  2. Government movies generally stink. At least it wasn't about VD.

  3. Nice post, I liked it. Drudge used that as a headline the other day for Obama's flip flop. Think I blogged about it.

    I didn't know the association til now ;) Will watch both the dod and Strangelove. Thanks sir.

  4. Waaaaaay back in the day (early 70's), a group of folks I was associated with were given a "tour" of SAC HQ at Offutt. They showed us this "command center" that featured a bunch of 1950's vintage consoles, several shelves full of official looking but really ratty manuals and a half dozen bored-looking airmen. I still believe that what we saw was for public consumption, and the "real" stuff was off in some hardened bunker a half mile underground. I've seen more convincing "hardware" in episodes of Lost In Space. We lapped it up dutifully, bought a SAC baseball cap at the gift shop and congratulated each other on having such a spiffy and high tech defensive force.

    The one impressive thing I saw on the tour was a decommissioned SR-70 Blackbird. Now there was a machine; talk about techno-poetry .... It's still the only thing I've ever seen that did actually look like it was in motion when it was standing still.

  5. ... almost forgot ....

    RIP ... Buddy, Ritchie, and Bopper

  6. I've been down in the hole a few times. I know cats who install and repair the equipment there. Much of it is old. While I'm not privy to the SIOP, I suspect that all-out nuclear war, toe to toe with the Rooskies, isn't the concern it used to be.

    In the 1970's, however, the game plan included Offutt being taken out in the early stages of such a war. The Airborne Command Post and its ilk were expected to survive and take care of business while SAC HQ was glowing.

    As far as I know, it is almost impossible to harden a site against direct thermonuclear blasts. So the plans are laid down in the hole, day-to-day secret comm for DOD, CIA and the NSA are handled there and in the old Martin bomber plant. I'm sure you have seen the big comm facility and antenna farm between Elkhorn and Blair, NE. None of these facilities are hardened enough.

    The Blackbird was indeed a cool aircraft. The new stuff is stealthy and unmanned; no need to fly Mach speeds at 80,000' plus.

    The war business ain't what it used to be. If you ask me, it ain't what it ought to be, either.

  7. We played at the Officers Club a couple times. I didn't smell anything...

    Then I drove a truck to the base in Bellevue! Is that the one we're talking about? I did that about a year. Saw all kinds of airplanes.It was that year theCars had a song called, Touch & Go. I bought the album.

    Have I ben downstairs?

    I can't comment on that. But I've ben 2 Rumors...


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