I was a naval aviator deployed aboard the USS Ranger (CV-61) when I first saw this film. The show had aired back in the States some time before the film reels (this was before video tape decks were commonplace) were flown out to our Battle Group, so we knew that the telecast had had a big impact on the American public before we had the chance to view it. That didn't matter. The film had as great, and possibly even more of, an impact on those of us out on the "tip of the spear" as it did on those back home. The military characters seen in the film were not actors -- they were contemporaries of ours, some even familiar faces -- so we felt a true connection to the story. The tension between the US and the Soviet Union was real and nobody knew better than we how nasty things could get in a short period of time. Even as we watched the film over the ship's closed circuit television system, Soviet military units were intent on locating and targeting our Battle Group. Our job, our daily routine, was part of the story, which emphasised the point that we were responsible for keeping the peace and to not allow events to escalate as we all feared could happen. The reaction I remember most from this film was worry for family back home. -SPOILER- The one airman who left the silo area to reach his family before the missiles arrived displayed a sentiment that we all felt. No one aboard our ship would shirk his duty, but we all understood the sentiment that once duty is done, family is foremost in mind. The argument could be made that the film was rife with error, but I maintain that it ultimately succeeded in what it was designed to do...make people seriously consider the consequences of nuclear war. That point was not lost on those of us aboard the Ranger at the time. While I watched the film again just recently (21 years after the first viewing), the lesson was still not lost. We may or may not be vulnerable to such a massive strike as what was feared back in the 1980s, but nuclear terror is still a very real possibility. It is as imperative now, as it was then, that we ensure that this type of calamity is never visited upon anyone, especially those about whom we love and care. Yes, better special effects would make from some jaw-dropping images, but would that improve upon the film's message? In my opinion, no.
The Day After
The Day After
The effects of a devastating nuclear holocaust on small-town residents of eastern Kansas.
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April 4, 2019