[The film opens at a party, where the guest are discussing the likelihood of a nuclear war and its likely consequences. The Professor who is dominating the discussion serves as an advisor to the Pentagon.]

MR. FOSTER: 60 million?

PROFESSOR: I say 60 million is perhaps the highest price we should be prepared to pay in a war.

MR. FOSTER: What's the difference between 60 million dead and a hundred million?

PROFESSOR: 40 million.

MR. FOSTER: Some difference.

PROFESSOR: Are you prepared to say the saving of 40 million lives is of no importance?

MR. FOSTER: You miss the point, professor. The saving of those 60 million lives is what's important.

PROFESSOR: Fact facts, Mr. Foster, we're talking about war. I say every war, including thermonuclear war, must have a winner and a looser. Which would you rather be?

MR. FOSTER: In a nuclear war, everyone looses. War isn't what it used to be.

PROFESSOR: Still a resolution of economic and political conflict.

MR. FOSTER: Well, what kind of resolution with 100 million dead?

PROFESSOR: It doesn't have to be 100 million.

MR. FOSTER: Even 60?

PROFESSOR: Same as a thousand years ago, sir, when you also had wars that whipped out whole peoples. The point is who wins and who looses: the survival of a culture.

MR. FOSTER: A culture, with most of its people dead, the rest dying, the food poisoned, the air unfit to breathe. You call that a culture.

PROFESSOR: Yes I do. I am not a poet; I am a political scientist, who would rather have an American culture survive than a Russian one.

WOMAN: Yes, but what would it be like really? What would it be like? Who would survive?

PROFESSOR: Who would survive? Interesting question. I would predict convicts and file clerks. The worst convicts, those deep down in solitary confinement, and the most ordinary file clerks, probably for large insurance companies. Because, they would be in fireproof rooms, protected by tons of the best insulator in the world, paper. And imagine what will happen: A small group of vicious criminals will fight the army of file clerks for the remaining means of life. The convicts will know violence; but he file clerks will know organization. Who do you think will win?

Ha Ha. All hypothesis of course, but fun to play around with. And time to go home. I didn't mean to hold court so long. I don't usually come to a supper party and talk right trough until breakfast.

HOST: How's that professor, we were fascinated. I just hope we didn't keep you from your work.

PROFESSOR: Not at all. I have a ten o'clock meeting at the Pentagon. I still have time to go home and change.

HOSTESS: You must come again, professor Groeteschele, with your wife this time.

PROFESSOR: I would be delighted.


[Planes taking off. General Bogan and a Colonel Casio are giving Congressman Raskob and Mr. Knapp of an electronics corporation a tour of the Strategic Air Command. Here, they control the fleet of United States nuclear bombers.]

COLONEL: Those are vindicator bombers of the Strategic Air Command on routine patrol. Each one of those planes carried four bloodhound air-to-air missiles, armed with nuclear warheads. Those are for use against attacking enemy fighter planes. In addition of course each plane carried two-ton hydrogen bombs, designed to detonate over enemy targets. At any given moment, night or day flights of those airplanes are in the air in case of any surprise attack on our bases. You can see some of the other groups…

RASKOB: Who controls them?

BOGAN: We do. This is the nerve center, Mr. Raskob, this room. All these machines you see are constantly receiving information from all over the world.

KNAPP: And above it.

BOGAN: Would you like to see what it's photographing right now?


BOGAN: The picture you're about to see is being taken now, Mr. Raskob, by a camera 300 miles in the sky traveling 20,000 miles an hour.

KNAPP: Can you give us a tighter scale on this General?

BOGAN: Colonel. Those are the rocket sites from 300 miles up.

RASKOB: I'm impressed.

KNAPP: Get it sharper than that before long. You'll be able to see the people, not just the machines. We'll how you the hair on your head, Mr. Raskob.

RASKOB: I suppose they're doing the same to us?

GENERAL: You can see for yourself. Colonel, let's take a look at the Russian submarines in the Pacific. That's the western coast of the United States. Those are the Hawaiian Islands. And those are the Russian subs.

RASKOB: That close.

BOGAN: The nearest is about 50 miles of the coast of San Francisco I'd say. International waters, nothing we can do, except keep an eye on it.

RASKOB: That's too damned close. What's it doing there?

BOGAN: Scanning us, the way we do them.

RASKOB: Is it armed?

BOGAN: We have instruments so good Mr. Raskob, we can tell the difference between a whale breaking wind and that sub blowing its pipes.

RASKOB: No argument General. I'm sure we've got the best that money can buy.

COLONEL: We're very proud of what we do here, sir.

RASKOB: You ought to be, Colonel.

BOGAN: Money's well spent, Mr. Raskob.

RASKOB: I don't doubt it for a minute. And you don't have to sell me, General. My committee doesn't deal with appropriations, only with how the appropriation is spent.

BOGAN: You see it all around you, pretty impressive isn't it.

RASKOB: To tell you the truth these machines scare the hell out of me. I don't like the idea that every time I take off my hat, some thing up there knows I'm loosing my hair. I want to be damn sure that thing doesn't get any ideas of it's own.

KNAPP: I see what you mean, but that's the chance we take with these systems.

RASKOB: Who says we have to take that chance? Who voted who the power to do it this particular way? I am the only one around here got elected by anybody. Nobody gave me that power.

KNAPP: It's in the nature of technology, machines are developed to me particular situations.

RASKOB: Then they take over; they start creating situations.

KNAPP: Not necessarily.

RASKOB: There's always a chance. You said so yourself.

BOGAN: We have checks on everything, Mr. Raskob. Checks and counterchecks.

RASKOB: Who checks the checker? Where's the end of the line, gentlemen? Who has got the responsibility?

KNAPP: No one.

BOGAN: The president.

MR. RASKOB: He can't know everything that's going on. How can he? It's too complicated. If you want to know, that's what really bothers me. The only thing that everyone can agree on is that no one is responsible.

[Alarms go off]

KNAPP: Something wrong, General?

COLONEL: UFO sited near Hudson Bay, sir.

BOGAN: What you see, Gentlemen, is an unidentified flying object picked up by our radar. Until we get positive identification we regard it as hostile.

RASKOB: What do you do about it?

BOGAN: We go into condition blue, which is our lowest form of readiness. At the same time we inform those vindicator bombers, which you saw on the air before. They will now start to fly toward their fail-safe points.

RASKOB: Fail-safe?

BOGAN: Fixed points in the sky on the perimeter of the Soviet Union, which are changed from day to day. The planes will fly to those points and orbit until they get a positive order to go in.

RASKOB: And if they don't get that order?

BOGAN: They return to their normal patrols. In short, we can't go to war, unless by express order.

RASKOB: How do they get that order, by radio?

BOGAN: Yes and through a box we call the fail-safe box aboard each plane, which can only be activated by the President.

RASKOB: He has to tell them?

BOGAN: No not directly, his voice can be imitated you know. He just gives the order and the rest is done electronically. No one can interfere with the fail-safe box. No one. All those blue dots you see are fighter planes going after the unidentified object. Colonel Casio, tight scale please.

RASKOB: You're pretty cool about this general, does it happen often?

BOGAN: Oh about six times a month. Probably an airliner of course.

RASKOB: And, if it isn't?

BOGAN: That means it something else. That means it's at 35,000 feet, going 100 miles and hour on a compass setting of 196.

KNAPP: Headed right for Detroit.

BOGAN: Normal procedure, Mr. Raskob. We start an automatic countdown at this point. Very unlikely that the bombers will even reach their fail-safe points. I'd say it happens about one time in 20. We usually identify the disturbance well before that.

VOICE: 6 minutes to fail-safe.


[At the Pentagon. The Professor has arrived to give a talk to the top officials in the Pentagon, including the Secretary of Defense, and top military Generals. He is concerned with how to fight a limited war -- whether, if nuclear weapons are used, they can be used in a limited way against military targets rather than civilian population centers or cities. General Black is also concerned with the military's plans for using nuclear weapons in war. Yet, he is less interested in questions of how to limit nuclear war and more concerned with avoiding it altogether. Behind the Professor is the same radar pictures the Congressman and General Bogan are viewing at the Strategic Air Command center.]

DOUG: What have you got there, Blacky? Another UFO? Commercial plane or a flock of birds.

BLACK: Want to give me odds? I read your memo on counterforce credibility. I don't think old Charlie is going to discuss that today.

BLACK: You think I should lay off?

DOUG: Why open a can of peas?

BLACK: This whole policy of overkill. It makes no sense lining up bombs…we already have…

DOUG: OK, just a… not today.

GENERAL: Good morning Mr. Secretary….

GENERAL: Won't you sit over there?

SECRETARY: Everyone here, General Star?

GENERAL: Yes, sir. All right Professor Groeteschele.

PROFESSOR: I see we have an alert to supplement our discussion. Unfortunately, we settled the question of accidental war last week, so we can't make use it today.

Today the subject is limited war. It is not theoretical. On it depends the kind of weapons we use, where we locate them, and how we use them -- in short, our entire military posture.

So is limited war possible? Can we confine the exchange of nuclear weapons to military targets alone, or must war lead inevitably to the destruction of cities?

GENERAL: It must.


GENERAL: The object of war is to inflict maximum damage on the enemy. Destroy his ability to resist.

PROFESSOR: In the last war, both sides could have used bacterial warfare. They didn't.

GENERAL II: It wouldn't have been decisive.

PROFESSOR: Can you be sure?

GENERAL III: Maybe people still couldn't get used the idea of killing civilians.

PROFESSOR: I suggest you take that up with the civilians of London, Hamburg, Dresden or Tokyo. Killed by the thousands in bombing raids. I omit Hiroshima and Nagasaki, because they properly belong to World War III not World War II.

GENERAL: I still don't see how we could restrict a war.

PROFESSOR: We could come to a mutual agreement with the Russians to strike only at missile bases.

GENERAL III: What if the missile bases were near the cities?

PROFESSOR: They would have an incentive to move them elsewhere.

GENERAL II: They might take such an offer as a sign of weakness on our part.

GENERAL: Could be worth a try.

GENERAL: They've got as much to loose as we have.

BLACK: We're talking about the wrong subject. You've got to stop war, not limit it.

PROFESSOR: That, that is not up to us General Black.

BLACK: We're the ones who know most about it.

GENERAL: You're a soldier Blacky, you carry out policy.

BLACK: Don't kid yourself. The way we say a war can be fought is making policy. If we say we can fight a limited war with nuclear weapons, all we do is let everyone off the hook. That's what they want to hear. We can just keep on doing what we're doing and nobody really gets hurt. Well you can't fight a limited war and you know it.

PROFESSOR: For my part, I'm not so sure.

BLACK: There's no such thing as a limited war anymore. Not with hydrogen bombs there isn't. Once those bombs start to drop you won't be able to limit a damn thing.

PROFESSOR: Are you advocating disarmament, General Black?

BLACK: I don't know.

PROFESSOR: It's the logic of your position. Peculiar reversal, the press would be interested. The military man who is the dove and the civilian who is the hawk.

BLACK: We're going too fast. Things are getting out of hand.

SECRETARY: Can you be more specific, General?

BLACK: We all try to make war more efficient.

GENERAL: That's our job.

BLACK: And we're succeeding; we now have the capacity to blow up the whole world.

PROFESSOR: Which does not mean we must do it.

BLACK: We won't be able to stop from doing it. That's the logic of your position, Groeteschele. We are setting up a war machine that acts faster than the ability of men to control it. We are putting men into positions that are getting too tough for them to handle.

PROFESSOR: Then we must toughen the men.

GENERAL: Suppose they launch a first strike against us?

BLACK: Then we retaliate, and we're all finished.

PROFESSOR: Oh, would you prefer that only we were finished?

GENERAL II: We have to prepare.

BLACK: We're preparing. We've got to slow down.

PROFESSOR: I disagree; we've got to speed up! Naturally, that means taking risks. But our intention is always to minimize those risks. Of course, we can only control our own actions. Our concept of limited war is based on equal rationality on the part of the Russians. It also presupposes there will be no accidents on either side. But, suppose for an example that unidentified flying object was one of their 50-megaton missiles that had gotten loose by mistake. What could be done? How could they prove it was really an accident? Would it make any difference if they could? Even if we believe them, should we still think in terms of limiting our response, or should we hit them back with everything we have?


[Such an accident described by the Professor has occurred. "Group six", a group of vindicator bombers, has been given a fail-safe order to drop their nuclear bombs on Moscow. The fail-safe box that no one could tamper with has, in the face of Russian radar jamming, gone ahead and given the bombers the order to drop their bombs. When this scene opens, the President is speaking by phone with General Bogan. With the President is a Russian-speaking translator named Buck.]

PRESIDENT: Now, if we do regain radio contact will the bombers respond to an order to return?

GENERAL: Your voice can be imitated by the enemy, sir. Our men have been drilled in that.

PRESIDENT: What's our next step General, if we follow standard procedure?

PRESIDENT: What if the bombers don't respond, then what?

GENERAL: The fighters would be ordered after the bombers, to raise them visually, and to alter their course.

PRESIDENT: What if the bombers don't respond, what then?

GENERAL: The fighters would be ordered to shoot them down.

PRESIDENT: Who gives that order?

GENERAL: You do, sir.

PRESIDENT: Thank you, General. I'll get back to you. Get me Mr. Swenson in the Pentagon. Mr. Secretary, I have a decision to make. It's my decision, and I'll make it. But I want the advice of you and your people and I need it fast.

SECRETARY: The President says he may have to order our fighters to shoot down group six. He wants our opinion.

PROFESSOR: I oppose it sir on the grounds that it is premature. Our planes have not reached Soviet territory. They're still hundreds of miles a way.

BLACK: We've got to do it and fast, right now before it's too late.

GENERAL: It might be too late anyway. Those fighters swung away from the bombers when they got the all clear. They've been flying in opposite directions.

GENERAL: But, they're faster than the vindicators.

GENERAL: Not that much faster. I am not sure they can catch up in time.

BLACK: They can do to afterburners. That will increase their speed.

GENERAL: And use up they're fuel. They'll never be able get back. They'll go down in the ocean.

BLACK: We've got to try it.

GENERAL: Suppose they do catch up, why do they have to attack? Can't they signal?

GENERAL: Our men have been trained to expect anything from the enemy. Even sending up his own fighter planes disguised as ours.

GENERAL: They're good men, we've seen to that. If their orders are to attack the only way to stop them is to shoot them down.

BLACK: We've got no alternative. At this minute, the Russians are watching their boards, trying to figure out what we're up to. If we can't convince them that this is an accident we're trying to correct by any means, we're going to have something on our hands that nobody bargained for, that only a lunatic wants.

SECRETARY: Mr. President, it is our opinion that fighters should be ordered in.

PRESIDENT: Thank you. General Bogan, please. The fighters are to overtake the vindicators, and if necessary shoot them down.

BOGAN: Sir, it will be necessary.

PRESIDENT: I know that General, order them in.

GENERAL: Colonel, order the fighters to attack group six.


[While the American fighters are attempting to shoot down the American bombers, and thus prevent a Soviet response to what can only appear to the Soviets as a nuclear first-strike attack, Secretary of Defense Swenson, has asked those assembled to consider the following questions: First, what has happened? Second, what are we going to do about it? Third, what are the Russians going to think of all this? And, fourth, what are they going to do about it?. The group considers these questions. They are connected both with the President, and with the Strategic Air Command by phone.]

PROFESSOR: In my opinion, they'll take no action at all.

GENERAL: They're not just going to sit there, Professor.

PROFESSOR: I think if our bombers get through the Russians will surrender.

BOGAN: Who's this professor, Mr. Secretary, and what is he doing there?

SECRETARY: Professor Groeteschele is a civilian advisor to the Pentagon, General. Will you explain your statement professor?

PROFESSOR: The Russian aim is to dominate the world. They think that communism must succeed eventually, if the Soviet Union is left reasonably intact. They know that a war will leave the Soviet Union utterly destroyed. Therefore, they would surrender.

GENERAL: Suppose they feel they could knock us off first?

PROFESSOR: They know we might have a doomsday system. Missiles that will go into action days, even weeks, after a war is over and destroy an enemy, after that enemy has destroyed us.

BLACK: Maybe they think that even capitalists aren't that insane, to want to kill after they themselves have been killed.

PROFESSOR: These are Marxist fanatics, not normal people. They do not reason the way you reason, General Black. They are not motivated by human emotions, such as rage and pity. They are calculating machines; they will look at the balance sheet and they will see they cannot win.

SECRETARY: Then you suggest doing what?



PROFESSOR: The Russians will surrender, and the threat of communism will be over, forever.

BOGAN: That's a lot of hogwash. Don't kid yourself. There will be Russian generals who will react just as I would. The best defense is a good offense. They see trouble coming, take my word for it, they'll attack and they won't give a damn what Marx said.

PROFESSOR: Mr. Secretary I am convinced that the moment the Russians know bombs will fall on Moscow, they will surrender. They know that whatever they do then, they cannot escape destruction. Don't you see, Sir, this is our chance? We never would have made the first move deliberately. But group six has made it for us, by accident. We must take advantage of it. History demands it. We must advise the President not to recall those planes.

BLACK: They're flaming out.

GENERAL: He's firing anyway.

BLACK: No chance.

GENERAL: They're goes number two.

SECRETARY: Mr. President. The fighters have not succeeded. They've fallen down into the sea.

PRESIDENT: What are the chances of our bombers getting through to Moscow?

BLACK: We've made the calculations hundreds of times. What they have in the way of defenses. What are planes are capable of doing. The vindicators fly so fast, the Russians won't be able to use all their defense apparatus. One or two of the bombers will get through.

PRESIDENT: Thank you. Buck, I'm going to talk to the Soviet Premier now. You will translate what he says to me. He'll have his own translator. But, I want something more from you.

BUCK: Yes, sir, whatever I can do.

PRESIDENT: I think the Premier will be saying what he means, he usually does, but sometimes, there is more in a man's voice than in his words. There are words in one language that don't carry the same weight in another. You follow me.

BUCK: I think so sir.

PRESIDENT: It's very important the Premier and I understand each other. I don't have to tell you how important, so I want to know what he saying, what he's feeling, any inflection in his voice, any tone, any emotion that adds to his words, I want you to let me know.

BUCK: Sir, I'll do my best.

PRESIDENT: I know you will, Buck, it's all any of us can do. Don't afraid to say what you think. Don't be afraid this is too big for you, Buck. It's big all right, but it still depends on what each of us does, history lesson number one. I'll talk to Moscow now.

SECRETARY: It's the premier sir.

PRESIDENT: Mr. Chairman, this is the President of the United States. Do you hear me clearly?

PREMIER: Fine. How are you?

PRESIDENT: Mr. Chairman, I'm calling you on a matter of great urgency. I hope it turns out to be a small matter. It's the first time it has happened, and if it is misunderstood it could…

PREMIER: Does it have to do with the aircraft they are flying toward Russia?

PRESIDENT: Yes, Mr. Chairman.

PREMIER: I suppose it is another of your off-course reconnaissance flights. Mr. President we have warned you again and again that this constant flying of armed aircraft….

PRESIDENT: This is a mistake, a serious mistake. I say it's a mistake.

PREMIER: Very well, tell me the mistake.

PRESIDENT: A group of our bombers, each loaded with two, twenty-megaton bombs is flying toward your country.

PREMIER: We shall watch with great interest while you recall them.

PRESIDENT: So far we have been unable to recall them.

PREMIER: Are the planes being flown by crazy men?

PRESIDENT: We're not sure. It might be a mechanical failure. All I can tell you is it is an accident. It is not an attempt to provoke war; it is not part of a general attack.

PREMIER: How do I know, you do not have hundreds of other planes coming in so low our radar could not pick them up?

PRESIDENT: Because I hope to prove to you that it is an accident. Because we take full responsibility, that we're doing everything we can to correct it.


PRESIDENT: You must have seen that we sent fighter planes to shoot down the bombers?

PREMIER: American fighters to shoot down American bombers?

PRESIDENT: That is correct.

PREMIER: And you gave that order.


PREMIER: How do I know that the planes were not simply diving to a low altitude to escape our radar?

PRESIDENT: On our plotting board, the action could only be interpreted as planes out of control. You have the same equipment we do, what did it tell you?

PREMIER: It did not tell us what is in your mind Mr. President.

PRESIDENT: I'm telling you that.

PREMIER: And you ask me to believe you?

PRESIDENT: You must believe me.

PREMIER: You ask for belief at a curious time.

PRESIDENT: If we don't trust each other now, Mr. Chairman, there may not be another time.

PREMIER: We saw your plane fall into the sea. I wanted only to hear your explanation, and to know whether it was done at your own order. It is a hard thing to order men to their death, is it not?


[The Premier exchanges heated words with someone at his end.]

BUCK: There's someone trying to persuade him it is a trick. They want to strike back at once.

PREMIER: Soviet airspace has still not been violated, Mr. President. But if it is, we will be forced to shoot down our bombers. And then we will come to full alert with all our missiles and planes.

PRESIDENT: I understand that. I hope you're able to shoot down our bombers. But I urge you not to take any steps that cannot be recalled.

PREMIER: You know we must protect ourselves?

PRESIDENT: You also know that if you launch missiles, we must do the same. If that happens there will be very little left of the world.

PREMIER: I understand. Is there anything more you wish to say?

PRESIDENT: If I may make a suggestion, I will arrange to open a conference line between our headquarters in Omaha and your similar officials in the Soviet Union. We will do all we can to help you.

PREMIER: We do not need your help. We are perfectly capable of defending our country.

PRESIDENT: As you wish, but I must tell you what my people tell me. No matter what you do, at least one of one of our planes will get through to the target.

PREMIER: What is the target?


PREMIER: I'll call you back when I see what our fighters do.



[We can see the American Bombers cross Soviet boarders.]

PROFESSOR: Excuse me. Every minute we wait works against us. Now, Mr. Secretary, now is when we must send in the first strike.

GENERAL: We don't go in for sneak attacks; we had that done to us at Pearl Harbor.

PROFESSOR: And the Japanese were right to do it. From their point of view we were their mortal enemy. As long as we existed, we were a deadly threat to them. Their only mistake was that they failed to finish us at the start. And they paid for that mistake at Hiroshima.

GENERAL: You're talking about a different kind of war.

PROFESSOR: Exactly, this time we can finish what we start. And, if we act now, right now, our casualties will be minimal.

BLACK: You know what your saying?

PROFESSOR: Do you believe that communism is not our mortal enemy?

BLACK: You're justifying murder.

PROFESSOR: Yes, to keep from being murdered.

BLACK: In the name of what? To preserve what? Even if we do survive, what are we? Better than we say what they are? What gives us the right to live then? What makes us worth surviving, Groeteschele, that we are ruthless enough to strike first?

PROFESSOR: Yes, those that can survive are the only ones worth surviving.

BLACK: Fighting for your life isn't the same as murder.

PROFESSOR: Where do you draw the line, once you know what the enemy is? How long would the Nazi's have kept it up, General, if every Jew they came after had met them with a gun in his hand? But I learned from them, General Black, oh, I learned.

BLACK: You learned so well, Professor. You learned so well that now there is no difference between you and what you want to kill.

[Cut to the President and Buck.]

PRESIDENT: Contact the Ambassador to Moscow, and the Soviet delegate to the United Nations.

PRESIDENT: Is the touch phone open between Omaha and the Soviet Union?

OPERATOR: Yes, Mr. President.

PRESIDENT: Good. Leave it open.

[President returns to the line with the Secretary of Defense, Professor, General Black and others.]

PRESIDENT: General Black.

BLACK: Yes, Mr. President.

PRESIDENT: Blacky, remember your old testament?

BLACK: A little.

PRESIDENT: Remember the story of the sacrifice of Isaac? Old what's his name used to use it in chapel at least twice a year.

BLACK: I remember sir.

PRESIDENT: Keep it in mind the next few hours.

PRESIDENT: Go out to Andrews field right away. Blacky, are Katherine and the kids in New York?

BLACK: Yes, sir.

PRESIDENT: I may be asking a great deal of you.

BLACK: Yes, sir. I'll do whatever you say.

[General Black exits.]

PRESIDENT: Good luck, Blacky.



[The telephone operator speaks to the President.]

OPERATOR: The premier is coming back on the line, sir. The Ambassador and the Soviet delegate are already on.

PRESIDENT: Have they been told?

OPERATOR: Yes, sir. As you said.

PRESIDENT: Jay, Where are you?

AMBASSADOR: On the top floor of the embassy in Moscow, Mr. President.

PRESIDENT: Where are you Mr. Lentoff?

DELEGATE: At the UN building in New York.

PREMIER: I suppose, I suppose there is a reason for your ambassador and comrade Lentoff to join us?

PRESIDENT: There is Mr. Chairman.

PREMIER: Then, let's get on with it.

BUCK: Its final, he's made up his mind.

PREMIER: In a few minutes, the bombs might be falling. I have brought our forces to a condition of full readiness, unless we can satisfy each other, I must release those forces, Mr. President.

PRESIDENT: Do your people still think there is a chance of bringing down the bombers?

PREMIER: There is always a chance. But I am asking you what if they cannot? What will you do? Have you made a decision?

PRESIDENT: Yes, it's my decision and I take full responsibility.

PRESIDENT: Mr. Swenson, are you on the line?

SECRETARY: Yes, Mr. President.

PRESIDENT: General Bogan?

BOGAN: Yes, Sir.

PRESIDENT: This is what will happen if even one of the bombers gets through: It will drop two, twenty-megaton bombs on Moscow. Jay?

AMBASSADOR: Yes, Mr. President.

PRESIDENT: You might hear the sound of the engines, just before the bombs drop. Maybe not, in any case, you'll hear the defensive missiles going off. Right after that, the bombs will explode. I am told that what we will hear at this end will be a high, shrill sound. That will be the Ambassador's phone melting from, the from the heat of the fireball. When we hear that sound the Ambassador will be dead. You understand, Mr. Ambassador, you are to stay exactly where you are.

AMBASSADOR: Yes, Mr. President.

PROFESSOR: He's got to attack.

PREMIER: Is this your proposal, to sacrifice one American for 5 million Russians?

PRESIDENT: No, no, no. Listen to me, listen. I've ordered a Vindicator bomber to the air from Washington. In minutes it will be flying over New York City. It is carrying 2, 20 megaton bombs. The moment I know that Moscow's been hit. I will order that plane to drop its bombs. It will use the Empire State building for ground zero. When we hear the shriek of Mr. Lentof's phone melting, you will know that he is gone, and with him, New York.

BUCK: Holy Mother of God.

[Cut to the Pentagon]


[Cut to the Strategic Air Command]

KNAPP: He can't do it.

RASKOB: What else can he do?

[Cut back to the President]

PRESIDENT: I don't know any other way Mr. Chairman, unless you think the offer itself is enough, knowing our intentions.

PREMIER: Would you think it enough if Soviet bombers were flying against New York? Could you accept my good intentions?


PREMIER: I believe this was an accident, but I also believe your action is the only way out. I ask you to believe, I wish it were not so.

PRESIDENT: Yes, well we can still hope I won't have to take that action.



[The Soviets, even with American assistance from Omaha are unable to shoot down all the bombers. At the end of the scene, General Black commits suicide, swallowing what appears to be a cyanide pill. His final words refer back to a dream he has in the first scene of the film.]

PRESIDENT: Yes, Mr. Chairman.

PREMIER: Mr. President, I have ordered our long-range missiles to stand down from their alert. And yet, this was nobody's fault. No human being did wrong. No one is to be blamed.

PRESIDENT: Accidents will happen, Mr. Chairman? I won't accept that.

PREMIER: All I know…

PRESIDENT: All I know is that men are responsible. We're responsible for what happens to us.

PRESIDENT: What do we do, Mr. Chairman? What do we say to the dead?

PREMIER: I think if we are men, we say, this will not happen again. But do you think it possible, with all that stands between us….

PRESIDENT: We put it there, Mr. Chairman, we put it there and we're not helpless.

AMBASSADOR: Mr. President.


AMBASSADOR: I can hear the sound of explosions from the Northeast, the sky is very bright, all lit up.

[Shrill sound. Moscow is destroyed.]

PRESIDENT: Put me through to General Black.

[Cut to General Black, who is now in his airplane above New York City.]

OPERATOR: Yes, Mr. President.


BLACK: Yes, Mr. President.

PRESIDENT: Moscow's been destroyed. Drop your bombs according to plan.

BLACK: Yes, sir. Yes, sir.

We've all been briefed on our mission, so there is nothing else to say. I have only one last order. Nobody else is to have anything to do with the dropping of the bombs. I will release the bombs.

FLYER: Approaching target.

BLACK: Count down from ten. Give me the signal.

FLYER: 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, Mark.

FLYER: General Black.

BLACK: The dream, the dream. The matador, the matador. Me.


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