I recently caught Dr Strangelove on Cable last week and was wondering how realistic the procedures aboard the B-52 were portrayed. The radio messages as only a series of numbers, matching them with a code book. The sealed orders in a safe corresponding to each attack plan. The bomb arming sequence with release of first and second safeties etc. The equipment and control panels looked real. To the layman its seems very plausible so how true to life was the movie from an Air Force perspective?
So the funny part is, the B-52s were accurate but the red telephone was not. When the movie was aired, there was no actual way for the U.S. to make a direct call to Moscow to defuse a possible nuclear war. (or stop one at a stage short of all out extinction)
Whether the procedures were close to the real nuclear ones or not, remember that this was just a few years after WWII, and advisors who had served in air combat were readily available. So the words might have been made up but the tune was real.
I seem to remember reading somewhere that at the time, the internals of the B52 cockpit was still classified. And what is shown in the movie was so close to identical that the production for investigated by…FBI? CIA? some agency.
Well, makes sense. After call, what would they do if he was out on a … social call… somewhere instead?
Actually, the Washington-Moscow hotline was established the year before the movie came out. Although it wasn’t really a telephone line and no red phones were used.
According to Wikipedia:
It doesn’t say that they were actually investigated, only that Kubrick feared that they might be.
I seem to recall an urban legend about Mattel being investigated for “too accurately replicating” a U.S. nuclear submarine in model form. :dubious:
Who was it that produced a toy model of the F-117 “Stealth” fighter while the
Pentagon was still denying its existence?
That had to be embarrassing…
It was Revell. But the model looked very little like the real thing. It was totally an “artists conception”. See https://www.google.com/search?hl=en&site=imghp&tbm=isch&source=hp&q=revell+f-19+stealth
The existence of some sort of “Stealth Fighter” was a well-leaked secret for several years before anybody, even people fairly close to it, had any idea what it looked like or the details of how it worked.
I was stationed at Nellis at the time F-117 was still totally secret. Pretty much everybody on base knew something along those lines was out there. Since our base was where all those people reported for work on Monday but disappeared until Friday. People who, among other things, maintained a special isolation hangar on our main base for some reason.
Meantime specifics were simply unavailable to folks like me who were not in the program. The wall of secrecy was total on the details, despite being leaky on the big picture.
Just about as I was leaving Nellis the USAF released the first pictures of the real thing. Pictures which flabbergasted everybody who saw them.
They were wrong about the design: That model looks too much like a real airplane to be the F-117.
My first thought was that it looks like the front end of an SR-71, and the Smithsonian agrees:
Especially the gorillas.
I have a half-remembered story I can’t successfully google about a cartoonist who got questioned because he drew a cartoon about an “instant airstrip” or similar and the military wanted to know how he found out about Agent Orange or something similar.
Kubrick was notorious for wanting technical detail. This task was handed first to production designer Ken Adam, and then to art director Peter Murton. Murton scoured the available aeronautical encyclopedias and magazines such as Jane’s and Flight. The book “Strategic Air Command” by Mel Hunter had a usable photo of the B-52 cockpit interior.
I think I’ve read (but cannot find a reference) where Murton contacted the publishers of the aeronautical encyclopedias and magazines which had promising B-52 interior photos, told them he was working on a documentary, and obtained the original photographic negatives used in those publications. These were much higher resolution than what was printed on paper.
BTW the scene where Slim Pickens rides the bomb out of the B-52 almost happened twice in reality.
May 27, 1957: A B-36J is ferrying a Mk-17 15-megaton H-bomb and approaching Kirtland AFB. A safety procedure required pulling the bomb release locking pin before landing to enable an emergency jettison if needed. Similar to the Kubrick movie, climbing around the bomb bay is a dark, confined space. In this case the crewman climbed back there, pulled the pin, then lost his balance and while flailing for something to grab, pulled the emergency bomb release handle. The 42,000 lb Mk-17 departed the plane, taking the bomb bay doors with it. The crewman managed to hang on inside the bomb bay.
Some of the bomb’s high explosives detonated on impact but the nuclear portion was was not armed, so did not detonate in a nuclear fashion.
March 11, 1958: A B-47E is on a training mission with a Mk-6 30 kiloton bomb, flying over Florence, SC. It is not armed and the nuclear core was not installed. Upon takeoff the normal practice was to remotely engage the bomb release safety pin to prevent an inadvertent drop. However the remote pin engagement produced a warning light, so the the Captain asked the bombardier to crawl back in the bomb bay and find what’s wrong.
Again, like the Kubrick movie, the bomb bay was a dark confined space and the bombardier could not locate the safety pin mechanism. In searching for it he tried to climb on top of the bomb, and feeling for a hand hold, he accidentally grabbed and pulled the emergency release lever. The bomb dropped through the closed bay doors, which is where he was standing. As he felt himself following the bomb into space, he managed to grab something then pull his legs back into the plane.
The released Mk-6 bomb hit an unoccupied child’s playhouse and on impact the high explosives detonated, making a crater 75 feet wide. The blast injured some people on the ground but nobody was killed.
These are documented in the well-written book Atomic Accidents by Dr. James Mahaffey.
Production still from Dr. Strangelove: https://photos.smugmug.com/photos/i-K39sFM2/0/O/i-K39sFM2.jpg
I have no doubt that some bomb loads in WWII were accompanied to the ground by aircraft personal personnel, from similar causes to the nuke events. We might not even know about some if the aircraft was lost.
ISTM that a couple of well-placed lights would help avoid these situations.