Title: The Atomic Cafe
Rating: 3 Stars
This is a documentary from 1982. I’d watched it originally sometime around that time frame. For some reason, the idea came into my head that I should watch it again.
It’s basically about the impact that atomic weapons had on America. It starts off with the first trinity test and then the dropping of Little Boy and Fat Man, the two atomic bombs on Japan, and continues on from there through the fifties.
The dropping of these bombs effectively ended the War in the Pacific. In juxtaposition to the delirious celebration taking place in the US, there was utter devastation and the horrible aftermath in Japan.
The naivety that seemed to take place regarding usage and testing of atomic weapons was actually quite shocking. You see the naivety of the politicians, specifically a very young Lloyd Bentsen (later to become a much distinguished politician, running as vice president on the Dukakis ticket and Secretary of the Treasury under Clinton) advocating dropping multiple atomic weapons on key cities in North Korea.
You see the naivety of the testing and the propaganda surrounding it. After moving everyone off it (to hearty reassurances that the natives are happy to do it), the Bikini Atoll is destroyed in a test. In another Pacific test, the weathermen incorrectly predicted a wind pattern and it blows over another Marshall island, causing serious radiation sickness. A similar test takes place in the US, where again the wind pattern changes and it blows over the town. In a radio announcement, everyone is told to stay inside. I’m sure that’ll keep the radiation out.
There are tests to see how military maneuvers can occur after a blast. Soldiers with no protective gear at all hunker down in trenches. You can actually see the light flash over them. They then launch themselves out of the trenches and start running towards the mushroom cloud.
You see the naivety of the people, again being fed propaganda by the government. If you see a bright flash and you’re out on picnic, simply cover yourself with the blanket. There’s a child size radiation suit that looks like a halloween costume. The little kid puts it on and goes for a bike ride.
It shows people shopping for, buying, and stocking shelters. Apparently the thinking was that you would just sit and hang out in the shelter for about ten days or so and then you could go out and clean everything up.
It ends with a series of clips demonstrating the true force of a hydrogen bomb and the utter devastation that would occur if it was dropped, exposing exactly how naive the people and the government (maybe intentionally so?) were. No picnic blanket is going to save you.
The fifties wasn’t that great of a period to live through.