Almost Everything in Dr. Strangelove Was True

Eric Schlosser (The New Yorker) reveals the surprising historical accuracies of the film, which celebrates its sixtieth anniversary this month
65c61-dr-strangelove-1963-007-george-c-scott-stanley-kubrick-chess-game
Stanley Kubrick (right) plays chess with George C. Scott on the set of Dr Strangelove: Or, How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)

“Despite public assurances that everything was fully under control, in the winter of 1964, while “Dr. Strangelove” was playing in theatres and being condemned as Soviet propaganda, there was nothing to prevent an American bomber crew or missile launch crew from using their weapons against the Soviets. Kubrick had researched the subject for years, consulted experts, and worked closely with a former R.A.F. pilot, Peter George, on the screenplay of the film. George’s novel about the risk of accidental nuclear war, “Red Alert,” was the source for most of “Strangelove” ’s plot. Unbeknownst to both Kubrick and George, a top official at the Department of Defense had already sent a copy of “Red Alert” to every member of the Pentagon’s Scientific Advisory Committee for Ballistic Missiles. At the Pentagon, the book was taken seriously as a cautionary tale about what might go wrong. Even Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara privately worried that an accident, a mistake, or a rogue American officer could start a nuclear war.”

— Eric Schlosser, The New Yorker

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