Around 8 am on Saturday morning last week virtually all the mobile phones in Hawaii lit up with a warning of an impending ballistic missile attack. We often get beeping warnings on our phones for flash flooding in the islands, so when my phone went off I didn’t even bother looking. Then friends started calling. I immediately though it was either a hoax or hack as couldn’t find any info on the web, plus there were no siren warnings.
About 5 minutes later a text came in from our congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard announcing it was a mistake. But it took 38 minutes for an official response to be broadcast. People panicked. A friend was in a department store and some were crying. Kids I know told me they called friends saying they were going to die.
Hearing the announcement on TV likely caused more panic. A voice recording urged: “The U.S. Pacific Command has detected a missile threat to Hawaii. A missile may impact on land or sea within minutes. This is not a drill. If you are indoors, stay indoors. If you are outdoors, seek immediate shelter in a building. Remain indoors well away from windows. If you are driving, pull safely to the side of the road and seek shelter in a building or lay on the floor. Take immediate action measures.”
In a strange coincidence three days later Japan’s leading broadcaster NHK also issued a false North Korea ballistic missile alarm warning urging people to take shelter. They apologized and corrected the error within minutes.
The false alert brought to mind two movies, Peter Watkins The War Game and Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. Kubrick’s brilliant satire on nuclear annihilation involved a deranged, paranoid Air Force commander who dispatched some B-52s to nuke Russia.
When it was released on 1964, one reviewer described the film as “dangerous … an evil thing about an evil thing.” Another compared it to Soviet propaganda. It was attacked as implausible with an expert at the Institute for Strategic Studies calling the events in the film “impossible on a dozen counts.”
Turns out it could easily have happened. A 2014 New Yorker article concluded: “We now know that American officers did indeed have the ability to start a Third World War on their own.”
President Eisenhower agreed to let American officers use their nuclear weapons, in an emergency, if there were no time or no means to contact the President. Air Force pilots were allowed to fire their nuclear anti-aircraft rockets to shoot down Soviet bombers heading toward the United States. And about half a dozen high-level American commanders were allowed to use far more powerful nuclear weapons, without contacting the White House first, when their forces were under attack and “the urgency of time and circumstances clearly does not permit a specific decision by the President, or other person empowered to act in his stead.”
President John F. Kennedy was surprised to learn, just a few weeks after taking office, about this secret delegation of power. “A subordinate commander faced with a substantial military action,” Kennedy was told in a top-secret memo, “could start the thermonuclear holocaust on his own initiative if he could not reach you.”
Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara worried that an accident, a mistake, or a rogue American officer could start a nuclear war.
The New Yorker reported coded switches to prevent the unauthorized use of nuclear weapons were finally added to the control systems of American missiles and bombers in the early nineteen-seventies. “Although the Air Force now denies this claim, according to more than one source I contacted, the code necessary to launch a missile was set to be the same at every Minuteman site: 00000000.”
Essential viewing for all of our world’s leaders, Watkins’ Academy Award-winning television drama-documentary The War Game depicted a nuclear war. Originally made for the BBC in 1965, it was shot documentary style as if the events were unfolding in real time. It showed the prelude to, and immediate weeks of the aftermath, of a Soviet nuclear attack against Britain.
Depicting harrowing scenes of firestorms, radiation sickness and the complete breakdown of civil defense and law and order, the film was banned from screening by the BBC.
Pressured by British politicians the BBC claimed it was “too horrific for the medium of broadcasting.” I saw it as a film in high school in England in 1966 and felt devastated. Two fellow students threw up watching it.
Using a hand-held camera and grainy newsreel film, the firestorm footage shows firemen dying of gas poisoning as the flames explode. The heat generated in the center of a firestorm, we are told, reaches 800 degrees. It creates an updraft so powerful that trees, automobiles and human bodies are sucked into it by 150 mph winds. All oxygen is drained from the atmosphere. Firemen are plucked from the ground and literally blown into the flames. “This phenomenon actually occurred in 1945,” the commentator observes.
“The real horror is the stark documentary quality of the film. It reproduces with sickening realism charred limbs, crushed faces and eyes melting in their sockets. This, as the BBC rightly decided, could not have been borne by the millions of viewers sitting at home.” The UK’s Daily Mirror.
“The film is the most sickening in the world today and one the public should never see.” The Manchester Evening News.
“It may be the most important film ever made.” The Observer.
Watkins reported “the BBC took the unprecedented step of publishing an open letter to the public, the first paragraph of which implied that ‘The War Game’ had been banned as an artistic failure. The startling hypocrisy was highlighted by the BBC’s eagerness a few months later to collect the Academy Award for Best Documentary – for ‘The War Game’.”
It was not shown on television in the UK until 1985.
And now America’s “Nazi” radiation experiments.
From 1946 to 1958, the United States conducted 67 tests in the Marshall Islands. If their combined explosive power was parceled evenly over that 12-year period, it would equal 1.6 Hiroshima-size explosions per day. There are 1,200 islands – spread out over a chunk of ocean the size of Mexico. It was once called the most contaminated place on Earth.
On a Sunday after church in 1946, a Navy commodore met with the people of the Marshall Islands Bikini Atoll and told them they were like the Israelites, a chosen people, and that perfecting the atomic bomb would deliver mankind from future wars.
On March 1st, 1954, the US exploded a hydrogen bomb, code-named Bravo, on Bikini. It spread radioactive fallout across the northern Marshall Islands reaching as far as the Marianas, nearly 3,000 miles to the west.
In the mid-1980s, it was officially confirmed that the Micronesians had been deliberately exposed in order to further knowledge about the effects of radiation on the human body.
It was a perverse medical experiment equal to what the Nazis conducted in WWII. Marshallese Foreign Minister Tony de Brun reported “some of our people were injected with fluids laced with radiation.” Under what was named Project 4.1 people were used as human guinea pigs returned to the radiation contaminated island of Rongelap. “It will be interesting to get a measure of human uptake when people live in a contaminated environment” one scientist announced.
When suspected tumors were diagnosed, islanders were taken to the US mainland, Hawaii, or Guam for surgery, all the while under very close supervision by DOE officials. Victims were not permitted to see their medical records.
“They knew what they were doing, it was a secret experiment,” said one islander.
In 1983 it was revealed by a local health worker Darlene Johnson at a conference in Vancouver, Canada, that “jellyfish babies” were being born all over the Marshall Islands. She died of cancer at 45.
In 1992 Catherine Beacham, a researcher at the University of the Philippines’ Asian Center, reported: “Although US officials have long denied any link between their bombs and the alarming increase in health problems among Micronesians, they have yet to offer a satisfactory explanation as to why hundreds of jellyfish babies are born to Micronesian mothers. Literally, these babies look like blobs of jelly. These babies are born with no eyes, no heads and do not resemble human beings at all. They are twisted things that breathe for only a few hours. After death, they are buried right away. Mothers are not shown their mutated bodies; it would be too inhumane.”
It was not only the Marshall Islands where US scientists conducted inhuman radiation experiments. Eileen Welsome’s book The Plutonium Files: America’s Secret Medical Experiments in the Cold War is a history of government-engineered radiation experiments on Americans.
It includes an experiment sponsored by MIT and the Quaker Oats Company on 57 developmentally disabled children in Massachusetts, who were fed oatmeal laced with radioactive tracers. It was either mixed into the oatmeal or in the milk. The boys did not know what was being given to them, nor did their parents. They were told that it was something nutritious and good for them.
“It went on for a number of years,” Welsome reported. “And these boys grew into men and did not find out what had been done to them until the 1990’s.”