A Personal Countermeasure
In the 1950’s, school children in North America were taught to Duck and Cover in the event of a surprise nuclear attack by the U.S.S.R. (Do they still teach that now?)
The inhabitants of, and visitors to, Hawaii were informed by text message yesterday that a missile attack was about to be launched against them. (Although not stated, the implication was that North Korea had finally decided to attack the United States of America, and, as usual, chose to target Hawaii because it is the nearest in distance.)
It took more than half an hour before they were told that the text was sent in error (human ‘error’, as it turned out). Panic ensued in that 38 minute period.
Was it a Test?
It has come to the point that reasons given by the Government are no longer sufficient to calm the speculation that Conspiracy Theorists think after a situation like this.
We get lied to so often that we have become world-weary.
“Yea, yea,” we say. “Pull the other one…”
Now, I’m wondering, was this done deliberately to see how it would work in the case of a real emergency? In other words, was this a ‘surprise’ drill, in spite of words to the contrary?
When the Wind Blows
In 1986, Raymond Briggs graphic novel “When the Wind Blows” was made into an animated film featuring the voices of Peggy Ashcroft (Hilda) and John Mills (Jim Bloggs).
The plot is repeated here, as reported in Wikipedia:
James and Hilda Bloggs are a retired couple living in a tidy isolated cottage in rural Sussex in southeast England. James frequently travels to London to read the newspapers and keep abreast of the deteriorating international situation regarding the Soviet-Afghan War; while frequently misunderstanding some specifics of the conflict, he is fully aware of the growing risk of an all-out nuclear war with the Soviet Union. James is horrified at a radio news report stating that a war may be only three days away, and sets about preparing for the worst as instructed by his government-issued Protect and Survive pamphlets. As Hilda continues her daily routine, and their son Ron, who is implied to have fallen into fatalistic despair, dismisses such preparations as pointless (referencing the song “We’ll All Go Together When We Go” by Tom Lehrer), James builds a lean-to shelter out of several doors inside their home (which he consistently calls the “inner core or refuge” per the pamphlets) and prepares a stock of supplies. He also follows through seemingly strange instructions such as painting his windows with white paint and readying sacks to lie down in when a nuclear strike hits. Despite James’ concerns, he and Hilda are confident they can survive the war, as they did World War II in their childhoods, and that a Soviet defeat will ensue.
Hearing a warning on the radio of an imminent ICBM strike, James rushes himself and Hilda into their shelter, just escaping injury as distant shock waves rack their home. They remain in the shelter a couple of nights, and when they emerge they find all their utilities, services and communications have been destroyed by the blast. Over the following days, they gradually grow sick from exposure to radiation poisoning. Ron and his wife Beryl are not heard from again, though their deaths are heavily implied.
In spite of all this, James and Hilda stoically attempt to carry on, preparing tea and dinners on a camping stove, noting numerous errands they will have to run once the crisis passes, and trying to renew their evaporated water stock with (contaminated) rainwater. James keeps faith that a rescue operation will be launched to help civilians. Apparently oblivious to the dead animals, destroyed buildings and scorched, dead vegetation outside their cottage (apart from their own garden), they initially remain optimistic. However, as they take in the debris of their home, prolonged absence of other human company, lack of food and water, growing radiation sickness, and confusion about the events that have taken place, the couple begins to despair.
After a few days, the Bloggs are practically bedridden, and Hilda is despondent when her hair begins to fall out, after vomiting, developing painful sores and lesions and experiencing bleeding gums. Either in denial about the extent of the nuclear holocaust, unable to comprehend it, or trying to comfort Hilda, James is still confident that emergency services will eventually arrive, but they never do, as they were also presumably destroyed in the attack. The film ends with the dying James and Hilda getting into paper sacks, crawling back into the shelter, and praying. Jim begins with the Lord’s Prayer, but then switches to the first lines of “The Charge of the Light Brigade“, whose militaristic and ironic undertones distress the dying Hilda, who weakly begs him not to continue. Finally, Jim’s voice mumbles away into silence.
Outside the shelter, the smoke and ash-filled sky begins to clear, revealing the sun rising through the gloom. At once, the skies clear fully as the fallout fades away, revealing a beautiful blue sky with clean white clouds drifting by. At the very end of the credits, a Morse code signal taps out “MAD”, mutual assured destruction.
If someone in control of their country’s “NUCLEAR” Button decides to launch one on their enemy, we are going to end up with One Tin Soldier.