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Weapons & Gadgets

Nuclear Energy - Ever since the dropping of atomic bombs over the Japanese cities of Hiroshima (8/6/45) and Nagasaki (8/9/45), the existence of nuclear power and its capabilities have been ever present on the minds of society especially events that mirror the tremendous destructive power of the atom.

Nuclear Bomb Explosion

The first "telecast" of an atomic explosion was made by KTLA, Los Angeles on February 1, 1951 when a camera positioned atop Mount Wilson telecast the results of Operation Ranger an atomic blast at Frenchman Flats, Nevada some 300 miles away.

KTLA, a division of Paramount television also broadcast the first "network" coast-to-coast atomic bomb explosion telecast from News Nob, Nevada on April 22 and later May 1, 1952.

Marine helicopters and tractors built (in 6 days) a 314 mile microwave relay from Las Vegas to Los Angeles, the nearest point of the transcontinental hook up.

The microwave equipment was placed atop three mountains, Charleston Peak, Mount San Antonio, and finally Mount Wilson. The event was known as Operation Tumbler Snapper.

The potential abuse of the atomic bomb has been a favorite topic of script writers. Programs like THE ATOM SQUAD/NBC/1953 hyped the exploits of the Atom Squad, a secret organization established to safeguard America's top secret nuclear plans/weapons from falling into the hands of the Communist Menace.

The program was produced the same year that electrical engineer, Julius Rosenberg and his wife Ethel were found guilty of providing top-secret atomic information to the Russians.

The espionage series I LED THREE LIVES/SYN/1953-57 about an FBI mole working with Communists also helped fan the flames of the Red Scare and the fear of nuclear annihilation...a fear which spawned such rituals as Civil Defense drills and underground concrete bunkers to house survivors of an atomic holocaust.

The spy series THE MAN CALLED X/SYN/1955-56 starred Barry Sullivan as Agent Ken Thurston (code name "X") who outwitted enemy agents trying to kidnap brilliant scientists possessing the secrets of the "Bomb."

In 1962, a major Cold War confrontation (and media event) between the USA and the U.S.S.R. began when the Americans discovered the Russians were secretly building missile launching sites in Cuba.

When President John F. Kennedy demanded the withdrawal of the missiles, the world was teetering on the edge of nuclear war. The words of Russian Premier Nikita Khrushchev (1894-1971) "We will bury you" took on ominous overtones. Thankfully, on October 28, the Soviets agreed to dismantle the missile sites.

In the aftermath of near atomic annihilation, the Cold War theme was alive an well. In 1964, negative political TV advertising is born with the "Daisy" spot produced for Lyndon Johnson's presidential candidacy, in which an exploding mushroom cloud (imposed over the image a little girl holding a daisy) suggests GOP candidate Barry Goldwater would not hesitate to use nuclear warfare.

Hollywood, too, jumped on the nuclear bandwagon with a series of successful "James Bond" films starring Sean Connery as agent 007. Bond's fourth film Thunderball (1965) featured an evil worldwide organization known as S.P.E.C.T.R.E. that captured nuclear bombs and threatened the world with destruction.

Television copied the success of these films with THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E/NBC/1964-68 about two superagents, Napoleon Solo (Robert Vaughn) and Russian Illya Kuryakin (David McCallum) fighting a similar group called T.H.R.U.S.H. who also threatened the world with nuclear annihilation.

The espionage series MISSION IMPOSSIBLE/CBS/1966-73 extolled the exploits of an elite group of operatives that thwarted various foreign powers out to create problems for America, among them stealing plutonium to be used in terrorist activities.

A variation on the atomic energy theme occurred with the comic-book inspired adventure THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN/1978 offered a web-faced superhero named Spider-Man (Nicholas Hammond) who obtained super powers a radioactive spider bite.

Gamma-radiation was the culprit in THE INCREDIBLE HULK/CBS/1978-1982 when a blast of gamma radiation transformed research scientist Dr. David Bruce Banner (Bill Bixby) into a huge rampaging green monster.

The movie World War III (1982) was the first full-out made-for-TV film spectacular dedicated to the nuclear destruction of the planet Earth. It starred Rock Hudson as a newly elected US President who ordered a grain embargo on the USSR.

This scenario caused the starving Russians to send a group of commandos to blow-up the Alaskan pipeline, which in turn forced the Russians to send Backfire Bombers equipped with nuclear bombs to the US which in turn forced the President to destroy the Russians with our own nuclear arsenal.

The PBS network aired Testament in 1983 on AMERICAN PLAYHOUSE about a small town family who contended with the nuclear holocaust.

A follow up to this holocaust was the 1983 made-for-TV movie The Day After which concluded there could be life after a nuclear war. (Noted scientist Carl Sagan, said nuclear war was similar to two men each holding a match in a gasoline-soaked room with no exits.)

On April 12, 1985 a roundtable discussion on CNN entitled Avoiding Nuclear War featured Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford, Robert MacFarlane, and Anatoly Dobrynin.

On the lighter side of atomic holocaust there was the sitcom WOOPS!/FOX/1992, a post-apocalyptic tale of nuclear war survivors who took shelter in Midwestern farmhouse. They included a feminist (Meagen Fay); a homeless man (Fred Applegate); a teacher (Evan Handler); a stock analyst (Lane Davies); a pathologist (Cleavant Derricks); and a manicurist (Marita Geraghty). The show was sort of a GILLIGAN'S ISLAND for the radiation set.

In 2006, the apocalyptic series JERICHO/CBS/2006-2008  followed the small town residents of Jericho, Kansas as they struggled amidst the aftermath of a nuclear attack on 23 major US cities.


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