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American planes are sent to deliver a nuclear attack on Moscow, but it's a mistake due to an electrical malfunction. Can all-out war be averted?
Prof. Groeteschele: Excuse me. Every minute we wait works against us. Now, Mr. Secretary, now is when we must send in a first strike. Gen. Stark: We don't go in for sneak attacks. We had that done to us at Pearl Harbor. Prof. Groeteschele: 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. Gen. Stark: You're talking about a different kind of war. Prof. Groeteschele: Exactly. This time, *we* can finish what *we* start. And if we act now, right now, our casualties will be minimal. Brigadier General Warren A. Black: You know what you're saying? Prof. Groeteschele: Do you believe that Communism is not our mortal enemy? Brigadier General Warren A. Black: You're justifying murder. Prof. Groeteschele: Yes, to keep from being murdered. Brigadier General Warren A. Black: In the name of what? To preserve what? Even if we do survive, what are we? Better than what we say they are? What gives us the right to live, then? What makes us worth surviving, Groeteschele? That we are ruthless enough to strike first? Prof. Groeteschele: Yes! Those who can survive are the only ones worth surviving. Brigadier General Warren A. Black: Fighting for your life isn't the same as murder. Prof. Groeteschele: Where do you draw the line once you know what the enemy is? How long would the Nazis 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. Brigadier General Warren A. Black: You learned too well, Professor. You learned so well that now there's no difference between you and what you want to kill.
Prof. Groeteschele: [after recommending an unprovoked attack by the U.S. on Moscow] And the Lord said, gentlemen, "He who is without sin, let him cast the first stone."
US Ambassador: [over the phone] I can hear the sound of explosions from the north east. The sky is very bright. All lit up. [phone melts and high pitched whining sound starts]
[last lines] Brigadier General Warren A. Black: The Matador, the Matador... me... me
Prof. Groeteschele: [viciously slapping a beautiful young woman who has tried to seduce him after a cocktail party] I'm not your kind.
Gen. Stark: They're good men, we've seen to that. If their orders are attack, the only way you're going to stop them is to shoot them down. Brigadier General Warren A. Black: We've got no alternative! This minute the Russians are watching their boards, trying to figure out what we're up to. If we can't convince them it's an accident we're trying to correct by any means, we're going to have something on our hands that nobody bargained for, and only a lunatic wants!
Defense Secretary Swenson: The President says he may have to order our fighters to shoot down Group Six. He wants our opinion. Prof. Groeteschele: I oppose it, sir, on the grounds that it's premature. Our planes have not yet reached Soviet territory, they're still hundreds of miles away. Brigadier General Warren A. Black: We've got to do it, and fast! Right now before it's too late! Gen. Stark: It might be too late anyway. Those fighters swung away from the bombers when they got the all-clear signal, they've been flying in opposite directions.
The President: How did you get to be a translator, Buck? You don't seem the academic type. Buck: [nervously] I guess I have a talent for languages, sir. I hear a language once I pick it right up. I don't even know how. They found out about it in the Army. The President: You sound sorry they did. Buck: No, sir. It's a very interesting job. [pauses] Buck: That is, most of the time. The President: Well, you did a good job today, Buck. Buck: Thank you, sir. All I did was repeat what he said. The President: You didn't freeze up. Another man might have. Buck: You're the one who didn't, sir. The President: I wonder what it's like outside? Looked like rain before. Buck: The radio said it would clear by the afternoon.
Defense Secretary Swenson: General Stark, are there any papers or documents in New York which are absolutely essential to the running of the United States? General Stark? Gen. Stark: No sir. There are important documents, but none of them absolutely essential. Admiral Wilcox: Will there be any warning given? A lot of lives could be saved if people had a few minutes. Defense Secretary Swenson: On this short notice, an alert to a big city would do more harm than good. It only produces panic. Admiral Wilcox: What about this? [Wilcox tosses a newspaper onto the table, showing the First Lady in NYC, prominently featured on the main page. Swenson sees it, then gives the paper to General Stark] Gen. Stark: Maybe... maybe he doesn't know his wife is there. Defense Secretary Swenson: [shaking his head] He knows. [Groeteschele finishes writing something onto some paper] Prof. Groeteschele: Gentlemen, we are wasting time. Prof. Groeteschele: [walking to the podium] I've been making a few rough calculations based on the effect of two twenty megaton bombs dropped on New York City in the middle of a normal workday. I estimate the immediate dead at about three million. I include in that figure those buried beneath the collapsed buildings. It would make no difference, Admiral Wilcox, whether they reached a shelter or not. They would die just the same. Add another million or two who will die within about five weeks. Now our immediate problem will be the joint one of fire control and excavation. Excavation not of the dead, the effort would be wasted there. But even though there are no irreplaceable government documents in the city, many of our largest corporations keep their records there. It will be necessary to... rescue as many of those records as we can. Our economy depends on this. Prof. Groeteschele: [walking disgustedly back to his seat before noisily opening and closing his briefcase] Our economy depends on this. [after closing briefcase] Prof. Groeteschele: And the Lord said, gentlemen, "He who is without sin, let him cast the first stone."
Gen. Bogan: Sergeant Collins! On the double! [Collins races to General Bogan at the main communication board of SAC headquarters] Gen. Bogan: You're backup man on fire control, aren't you? TSgt. Collins: Yes sir. Gen. Bogan: Do our Vindicator missiles have both infrared and radar-seeking capacity? TSgt. Collins: [tentatively] Yes sir. Gen. Bogan: [grabbing Collins forcefully toward the radio mike] Loud and clear! They've got to know we're on the level! TSgt. Collins: [fearfully] It has both capacities, sir! Marshall Nevsky: [Over the radio] Can the radar-seeking mechanism be overloaded by increasing the strength of the signal? Gen. Bogan: Tell him! TSgt. Collins: [fearfully] Yes, sir. It can be overloaded, by increasing the power output and sliding through radar frequencies as fast as possible, what happens is the firing mechanism reads the higher amperage as proximity to the target, and detonates the warhead. Marshall Nevsky: [Over the radio] Thank you General Bogan, we will get back to you. Gen. Bogan: [quietly] That's all, Sergeant. [Collins slowly returns to his station within the mammoth bunker, head bowed down in shame] Congressman Raskob: What does it mean? Gordon Knapp: We've told them how to blow up our air-to-air missiles, and with them our planes.
Prof. Groeteschele: In my opinion they will take no action at all. Gen. Stark: They're not going to just sit there, Professor Prof. Groeteschele: I think if our bombers get through the Russians will surrender. Gen. Bogan: Who's this professor, Mr. Secretary? What's he doing there? Defense Secretary Swenson: Professor Groeteschele is a civilian advisor to the Pentagon, General. Will you explain your statement, Professor? Prof. Groeteschele: 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 would leave the Soviet Union utterly destroyed. Therefore, they would surrender. Gen. Stark: But suppose they feel they can knock us off first? Prof. Groeteschele: They know we might have a doomsday system, missiles that would go into action days, even weeks after a war is over and destroy an enemy even after that enemy has already destroyed us. Brigadier General Warren A. Black: Maybe they'll think that even capitalists aren't that insane, to want to kill after they themselves have been killed. Prof. Groeteschele: These are Marxist fanatics, not normal people. They do not reason they way you reason, General Black. They're 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. Defense Secretary Swenson: Then you suggest doing what? Prof. Groeteschele: [leans forward] Nothing. Defense Secretary Swenson: Nothing? Prof. Groeteschele: The Russians will surrender, and the threat of Communism will be over, forever. Gen. Bogan: That's a lot of hogwash. Don't kid yourself, there'll be Russian generals who will react just as I would - the best defense is a good offense. They see trouble coming up, take my word for it, they'll attack, and they won't give a damn what Marx said. Prof. Groeteschele: 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 our chance. We never would have made the first move deliberately, but Group 6 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.