Thursday, January 19, 2006

Pinnacle Nucflash

To the left: the "football". This is the satchel that follows the US President with him wherever he goes. It contains the "go codes" to launch nuclear strikes.




Take any good nuclear Armageddon movie, from Dr. Strangelove, to Fail Safe, to The Sum of All Fears, there’s always a scene in which the erstwhile lightly engaged president is either tendered an urgent note or handed a telephone by his top aide. Cut to a closeup on the president's face. His expression changes immediately, the color drains from his face, followed by a sound-on-sound slash cut that takes the viewer to an underground bunker, deep under a Virginia mountain. There, a collection of grim faced, high-ranking military men work determinedly to avoid a global catastrophe. . .

What words are written on that note, what could it say that can make the President go white in an instant? What are the words that the president never wants to see on a note thrust into his hand while he is busy giving a speech? I believe the answer is “PINNACLE/NUCFLASH”.

Pinnacle/nucflash is the military communications code word designation that instructs all military communication personnel to stop whatever else they’re doing and transmit the message that immediately, because there's some bad news, really, really bad news that you need to act on right now.

There is a set of instructions that describes exactly how information relating to military threats to the USA is designated, prioritized, and delivered. The rules are spelled out in precise military fashion in a document called OPREP-3, the US Military’s written guideline for operational reports relating to important events involving nuclear weapons.

“PINNACLE/NUCFLASH” are the flagwords or header that presages an electronic transmission through the U.S. military's command and control structure that reports an actual or possible detonation of a nuclear weapon. Not only that, these code words mean that the explosion was not an accident and the risk of nuclear war is imminent.

As one might expect, “PINNACLE/NUCFLASH” has the highest precedence in the OPREP-3 reporting structure. Men and women train for months, years, in order to be able to coolly and efficiently handle the communications that follow an OPREP-3 PINNACLE level flagword. There are several OPREP-3 code word designators with a chilling cold war/Tom Clancy/John Lecarre ring to them. None of these foreshadow good news. I'll write more on those later.

Well, going back to the movies mentioned in the first paragraph, do you know of any other nuclear armaggeon movies? Any movie in which the bomb actually went off? I'm making a list. (I like to make lists of movies. Sometime I'll share my list of movies with trebuchets.)

For much more on similar topics elsewhere in this blog, navigate to the home page: nfttu.blogspot.com and look around

60 comments:

Milan said...

The details of the Single Integrated Operational Plan (SIOP) are certainly a fascinating area of military protocol. The SIOP, which includes 5 Major Attack Options and 165 Limited Attack Options is the plan that is initialized by the nuclear football. I know that it takes two people from a list in order to order a strike, and that they do so through the STRATCOM headquarters in Omaha, Nebraska. Redudant facilities that can serve this purpose include the National Alternative Military Command in Pennsylvania and 'Looking Glass' - a ruggedized 747. What I wonder is what mechanism is used to pass authentication tokens (or whatever control is used) from one person to another in the event that they are killed or incapacitated. I could imagine either an automated system based on some kind of network of dead-man switches or the use of a trusted third party (in which case, I would be interested in knowing their authentication and verification protocols).

With regard to films involving nuclear weapons, the non-fiction documentary "Fog of War" is an excellent example.

amukinak said...

"The Day After" Horrible Reagan-era made-for-tv movie with everything that entails. Picture lead actor weeping atop pile of rubble in middle America.

"Threads" BBC version of the above, but infinitely better. Scary, intense, realistic. Picture Sheffield survivors picking stunted weeds to eat under the nose of masked troops in suddenly mideval England. Only (to my knowledge) available on ebay, usually bundled with:

"The Atomic Bomb Movie" Documentary with lots of things exploding.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget The Mouse That Roared... didn't they have the "Q" Bomb?

Kevin said...

I can think of a few movies where a nuclear, (not "nucular") : detonation occured.
1) Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines.
2) Red Dawn.
3) Trinity and Beyond: The Atmomic Bomb Movie.
4) The Day After.

Anonymous said...

Off the top of my head: The Day After, Threads, Big Trouble.

Anonymous said...

True Lies includes an explosion of a nuclear weapon behind a Jamie Lee Curtis and Arnold schwarzenegger kiss.

Anonymous said...

Armageddon movies:
The Day After

And humourous ones:
A Boy and His Dog, Six String Samurai

Anonymous said...

Well, the bomb goes off in both Terminator 2 and Terminator 3. And there's an underground one in Broken Arrow (Travolta and whatshisname). My favorite one, though, is stil Sum of All Fears - the President is in the helicopter when the blastwave hits it, wow! Cool scene.

OM said...

...Lessee, there's The Day After, Special Bulletin, Countdown to Looking Glass, Dawn's Early Light - the last such flick before the Cold War ended - and a couple of really obscure films called Dr. Strangelove and Fail-Safe.

Anonymous said...

You might try the following IMDB keyword searches:

http://www.imdb.com/keyword/nuclear-weapons/

http://www.imdb.com/keyword/nuclear-war/

http://www.imdb.com/keyword/nuclear-explosion/

...and so on, modifying as you see fit. This should give you a great starting point to your list of movies (though clearly some of the movies listed don't actually have detonation; The Peacemaker is one good example where the entire movie is centered on one missing warheard which is timered and actually explodes, but - in classical Western fashion - the hero manages to disable it enough to not go critical).

wonderful_electric said...

The bomb also went off in Terminator II: Judgement Day, The Day After, Threads, and True Lies - but more as the backdrop to a romantic kiss. I kid you not.

Anonymous said...

Actual nuclear detonations:
The Peacemaker
Chain Reaction
Goldeneye (?)
Predator

Matt Nelsen said...

Better put "The Day After" and "By Dawn's Early Light" on your list of Nuke Movies.

Patrick Correia said...

WarGames is a classic.

Also, Crimson Tide.

And who could forget the phallic nuclear weapon in Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery?

John Travolta and Christian Slater compete for worst actor in the world in Broken Arrow.

I could go on all day, but for one where the bomb really did go off, look no further than The Day After: with a cast including Steve Guttenberg and John Lithgow, how can you go wrong?

Anonymous said...

Miracle Mile was a pretty good Nuke Movie

Anonymous said...

Another one for the list:
As was cited in the William Gibson novel Virtual Light, but not for the on screen nuclear blast - 'Miracle Mile'

Justin E. said...

"Threads" This was a BBS production I think. Much much better than "The Day After" and some of the other "watered down" American movies of the type. It deals with mostly the aftermath-several generations later. Good stuff.

Also, "Miracle Mile" a REALLY great film. I haven't seen it in ages. It stars the guy in ER who was also in Fast Times at Ridgemont High....umm..yeah. Two highly recommended films.

amukinak said...

Oh yeah, add "Testament" and "A Boy and His Dog"

jason said...

"WarGames" and "On the Beach" come to mind.

Anonymous said...

"Special Bulletin" - a made-for-TV movie about nuclear terrorism from the early 80's (I think).

dr. dave said...

I think Pinnacle/Nuclfash may have been the password on one of my free AOL disks once.

Anonymous said...

For your movie list: Threads, The War Game, When the Wind Blows, On the Beach.

Radical Bender said...

Wikipedia to the rescue: Nuclear weapons in popular culture. Definitely more examples in there.

Anonymous said...

They totally nuked the planet in Beneath the Planet of the Apes, but I think the PINNACLE/NUCFLASH message was transmitted telepathically.

Russell Van Rooy said...

"On the Beach".

Russell Van Rooy said...

"On the Beach".

Anonymous said...

The Bedford Incident.

Anonymous said...

On the Beach.

Dekan said...

"Miracle Mile" is one of my favorites. Although it’s not very realistic it is definitely entertaining plus you get to see LA get nuked.

Anonymous said...

Just found this on a p2p network the other day: Pisma myortvogo cheloveka (1986) http://imdb.com/title/tt0091759/

It's in Russian and I've yet to find subtitles for it, but they'll pop up eventually.

Anonymous said...

there's a British movie called "Threads" that's along the lines of "The Day After"... only not as upbeat. I've only seen about 1/2 of it, because I kept having to turn the channel when it got too intense.

"Testament" is another one; focus is on a northern California town that's not directly hit by the bombs, but has to deal with refugees, shortages, and creeping radiation poisoning. Speaking of creeping radiation, "On The Beach" is another great one - Australia is spared the bomb, but not the radioactive clouds rolling down from the northern hemisphere.

- Housepig

Anonymous said...

And of course "Fat Man and Little Boy"

Milan said...

I am also fairly sure the cloned admirals in "The Fifth Element" attempt, without success, to use nuclear weapons against the evil growing planet-thing that confronts them.

Anonymous said...

Just a bout any movie made by Jim Cameron is gonna have one somewhere. I'll bet even Winslet tripped over one in the boiler room on Titanic (new alt ending, why the Titanic REALLY went down, Dicaprio was John Conner's grandfather!).

Anonymous said...

And don't forget "Spies Like Us," my favorite movie of 1985. Sure, the missile explodes in outer space, but still.

Anonymous said...

The US military doctrine I learned was that in the event of a friendly nuclear attack near where you were deployed, you would get a "Strike Warning" message, or as we used to call it, a "STRIKEWARN." Being stupid and young, we used this in the pubs and clubs as a joke to denote total failure in trying to get anyone of the opposite gender to talk/dance/whatever, as in... "STRIKEWARN! STRIKEWARN! Friendly forces overrun! Unit Iron Mike ineffective due to hostile attack of opposing personality! Retreat to safe distance and regroup!"

Anonymous said...

Don't forget "Dr Strangelove", of course.

Alex said...

I think it's interesting that there was a change in the early to mid-nineties from avoiding the explosion being the ultimate aim of the movie to it just being a plot point. Weird.

Read the other comments before posting to avoid embarrassing repetition.

Anonymous said...

From a search, info on a film I saw years ago at a SciFi festival in Cambridge, MA (while under the influence of certain substances that shall remain nameless...)

The Bedsitting Room, Richard Lester (Hard Days Night fame), 1969

"- An absurdist classic
This is a wonderful surreal comedy based on the play by Spike Milligan and John Antrobus. You know that it is going to be an odd film right at the beginning, when the opening credits list the cast in order of their height. The film begins with the BBC (Frank Thornton) telling us through the facade of an old television that this is the third, or is it the fourth?, anniversary of the shortest war in history, lasting 2 hours and 28 minutes. England is now a barren landscape, littered with derelict cars and buildings, hills of old boots, broken crockery, and other debris. Forty million people perished and there are only 20 known survivors. The Queen did not survive, and of the 20 known survivors the next in line for the throne is a Mrs Ethel Schroake of 393a High Street, Leytonstone. Among the other survivors are Ralph Richardson (O Lucky Man!) as Lord Fortnum of Alamein, who isn't looking forward to his impending mutation into a bed sitting room. Michael Hordern is Bules Martin, who wears a 18-carat Hovis bread ring. Spike Milligan is a postman who wanders around and delivers some memorable dialogue, for example: "And in come the three bears - the daddy bear said, 'Who's been sleeping in my porridge?' - and the mummy bear said, 'that's no porridge, that was my wife' ". Arthur Lowe is slowly turning into a parrot (which is then eaten by Spike Milligan), while his wife, the owner of her own death certificate, turns into a wardrobe. His daughter is pregnant with a strange creature, which she has held inside her for seventeen months. Peter Cook and Dudley Moore are a pair of policemen who perpetually tell the others to "keep moving!". Moore growls a lot and turns into a dog at the end. Marty Feldman is a wellington-boot-wearing nurse. It's a hilarious, absurdist treat, and one of my treasured filmic pleasures."

Anonymous said...

Also, in last year's season of 24 (not a movie but consistantly as good), was a subplot about Air Force One being shot down with the specific intent of a rogue group to capture the nuclear football. Good fun.

Anonymous said...

Also, in last year's season of 24 (not a movie but consistantly as good), was a subplot about Air Force One being shot down with the specific intent of a rogue group to capture the nuclear football. Good fun.

Anonymous said...

Well, the bomb wasn't real, exactly...but War Games was about that kind of tense military 'war room' situation.

Anonymous said...

Panic in the Year Zero was on public access last summer here in Rochester; cold war, post detonation, progressive social collapse. The movie was showing how fast society could/would collapse, then a couple months later we saw that happen in New Orleans. We've been warned....

Anonymous said...

"The Bedford Incident" from the mid 60's, starring Sidney Poitier and Richard Widmark.

Anonymous said...

Buncha kids...


"The War of the Worlds" 1953 George Pal version, features a chilling scene where humanity unleashes its ultimate weapon, the Atomic Bomb, on the Martian machines -- and they emerge unhurt from the fireball. "Independence Day" stole the whole sequence, but despite vastly fancier special effects, didn't create nearly as much suspense with it.

Anonymous said...

Greate underrated nuke movies of my misspent youth.

Colossus: The Forbin Project.
Cool acting by William Schallert as he lights a cig and waits for detonation.

The Andromeda Strain. I won't spoil it for ya. Just see it!

Silent Running. Bruce Dern goes space happy. We're not playing for 3-in-1 oil here!

Aliens. Nuke 'em from space. It's the only way to be sure.

The Dead Zone. President Sheen goes nuts and decides to drop the big 'un.

'Course we got Independence Day (which I liked even better the first time I saw it, when it was called War of the Worlds).

There was an obscure (TV?) movie a in the 70's called Earth II about a space colony that has to defuse an orbiting nuke. Cut the red wire... no, the blue!

The Bedford Incident... Captain: "If they fire one, we'll fire one." Crewman: "Fire one!"

The Time Machine (1960)... after the Bomb, Yvette Mimeux will wear a pretty white dress.

Crimson Tide... set condition SQ for strategic missile launch!

2010: East and West come to the nuclear brink, then Jupiter does... something wonderful, and Dave Bowman visits his mom.

Anonymous said...

A comment on comments: Well now, Predator had a fireball that Arnold survived by diving behind a log into a puddle, so I don't think that was a nuke... just sumthin that blowed up good.

And calling Dr Strangelove and Failsafe "obscure" (they're the definitive classics of cold war nuke cinema!) while calling the cheesy TV movie The Day After a "film"--- I hope the writer was being dryly sarcastic!

And could you believe the nuke in True Lies! America gets nuked for the first time, and nobody makes a fuss about it or seems to notice! Dum!

London Calling... said...

I believe you need to add the cold war classic 'Ice Station Zebra', ohh the snow, the artic chill and woops apocalypse! (see, now you have 2 for the price of one)

Anonymous said...

Didn't the 1st Superman movie have Lex Luthor nuking the San Andreas fault?

Also, Season 2 of 24 which is a TV show rather than a movie, had a nuke going off.

Anonymous said...

Another season of 24 (i think it was season 2) featured an actual nuclear detonation on US soil. The bomb was discovered too late for it to be defused so it was flown to a deserted area prior to the explosion.

Anonymous said...

Unbeknowst to most people, there have been many actual nuclear detonations/explosions on US soil, including at least one test where infantrymen were ordered into trenches during the blast, then ordered to advance on the mushroom cloud, just to see if they would do it. They did, with few complaints. The scientists, of course, were sitting nearby in lawn chairs....

Atomic Cafe, cobbled together from declassified government documents (which were promptly reclassified), is a wonderfully appalling documentary on the bomb.

Anonymous said...

"On The Beach" has to be the most realistic movie (& book!) ever made about a full-scale nuclear exchange. Life in Australia as the radiation creeps southward. Excellent, but don't keep holding your breath for the happy ending...

Anonymous said...

"33 1/3 Revolutions Per Monkee" (1969) in which the west coast gets a nuke to the tune of "California, Here It Comes"

Bunny said...

Failsafe. Excellent movie.

Anonymous said...

"Mars Atttacks" has the scene where the entire huge nuclear explosion against the Martian fleet is absorbed into a balloon-like device, returned to the Martian ship, and sucked into a weird space-pipe/bong that the Martian leader sucks on, which makes his voice squeaky (like helium). The Martians laugh ("Aat! Aat-aat!") at our puny human weapons.

Aaron said...

everyone is mentioning Cameron with terminator, aliens, and such but what about The Abyss. Weren't they trying to disarm a nuke by the end....

ludo said...

"The Warfare of Gengis Khan", an episode from Season 5 of "The West Wing": unknown country tests an A-Bomb in the Indian Ocean, USA gets set to blame Iran (launch assaults against their nuclear facilities etc), but it proves to be Israel testing a submarine launched weapon.

Anonymous said...

War of the Worlds, the old one. Family Guy episode where the world ends. I seem to remember an Itchy and Scratchy episode, or was it several with mushroom clouds and missiles.

Anonymous said...

Nukes went off in:

Dr. Strangelove
Sum of All Fears
Peacemaker
Every James Cameron Movie

Anonymous said...

I wish I could see this one again to see if it holds up.
Count Down to Looking Glass,
they covered to events leading up to a nuc exchange in the Stait of Hormuz, where some folks say it is likely to happen, it was like watching CNN cover it all.
I think it was on HBO.
I thought it was so good it was scary.