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n4gix

Alas, Babylon

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Several weeks ago there was a thread which touched on many topics, among which were some of the post-apocalyptic movies that have been made. The first one to come to mind was of course Nevil Shute's "On the Beach."

There was another one that took place in a small Florida town that I remember watching on TV back in the early sixties but try as I might I couldn't remember the name of it. I remember having had nightmares for years afterwards. I even had "daymares" every time we had to practice "Duck and Cover" at school!

Well, mystery solved! "Alas, Babylon" by Pat Frank was the title. Apparently Amazon's algorithm was a bit slow on the uptake, but I received an email this morning from Amazon promoting "Alas, Bablyon" as something I'd like to read... 😉

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Fr. Bill    

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I first read this in the late 60’s and have re-read it several times since. Excellent book. One character is a retired admiral who has an HF radio, and uses it to gather intel on the military actions taking place when the conflict is underway, and afterwards. The book was technically accurate regarding various Air Force bases in Florida and elsewhere, 


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Posted (edited)

Retired military guys are  always ready!  :).  I first read the book when it appeared in Reader's Digest Condensed books, and it's excellent.  Things can be learned from it.

Best,

Jim Harnes

 

Edited by Jim Harnes
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Posted (edited)

Actually discovered this a couple of years ago and read it.  Not bad.

Check out Earth Abides by George Stewart.  Written in the 40s.

Another one of my favorites is The Stand by Stephen King.  Reason for the apocalypse?  A superflu!

Dave

Edited by dave2013

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Bill, you have stirred up old memories!  This was also an old "Playhouse 90" TV drama in the late 50s or early 60s.

 

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Charlie Aron

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Can't seem to find the movie anywhere on the internet to watch it. Most of the "trailers" on youtube are fanmade/college projects...


Mark Robinson

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This is about nuclear war I take it.

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Vic green

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40 minutes ago, PATCO LCH said:

This is about nuclear war I take it.

Yes. It was a true "global nuclear war". The little coastal city of Fort Repose, Florida somehow escaped direct destruction, but alas radiation poisoning possibly will mark the inevitable end of mankind...

There was some hope towards the end with what remained of the U.S. receiving assistance from  third-world countries such as Thailand, Indonesia and Venezuela.

See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alas,_Babylon


Fr. Bill    

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3 hours ago, charliearon said:

Bill, you have stirred up old memories!  This was also an old "Playhouse 90" TV drama in the late 50s or early 60s.

I'm nearly certain that is the version I watched with my parents on our black and white television.


Fr. Bill    

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2 hours ago, HighBypass said:

Can't seem to find the movie anywhere on the internet to watch it. Most of the "trailers" on youtube are fanmade/college projects...

I've not found a source either. I thought perhaps Amazon might have it, but if so it is well hidden! " 😞


Fr. Bill    

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15 hours ago, PATCO LCH said:

This is about nuclear war I take it.

Yup, one of several novels from around the same period (late fifties/early sixties) by various authors which cashed in on the (not entirely unfounded) fear of a potential nuclear holocaust. Another book of the same ilk, set in the UK, is Escape to Berkshire by HC Asterley.

Novels from this period do tend to date badly with regard to how survivable a nuclear war would be these days, in the sense that they are from the period before MIRV'ed submarine-launched ICBMs would have been the primary method of delivery for nuclear weaponry, against which there would be little to no defence, since these boomer submarines hide under the ice caps, breaking through to launch their missiles if they ever get the go codes, making it unlikely that their launches could ever be intercepted. The use of aircraft to deliver attacks, making the weapons smaller amongst other things, was of course something which could conceivably be, if not entirely prevented, then at least possibly stopped in fairly large numbers by interceptor aircraft and SAMs, meaning that potentially a nuclear war in the days those books were written, would probably not be entirely devastating, even though it would of course still be horrendous.

So back when books such as these were written, the primary delivery method was the bomber: Boeing B-47 Stratojets in the case of Alas Babylon's SAC, so not even the more capable B-52, making it likely that US attacks might not be especially successful. The B-47 was not a particularly good aeroplane, being tricky to land, prone to metal fatigue owing to the requirement for it to loft its atomic bombs in order to be able to have enough time to get clear of the blast (a maneuver which had to be trained, placing stress on the airframes). The B-47 wasn't particularly good at its operational cruise altitude of 35,000 feet either, being right on coffin corner at that altitude, but it had to go up there in order to give it the necessary range for its intended role. Despite these shortcomings, it was the backbone of SAC for a number of years, since it was the best they had available until the B-52 was around in large numbers.

The Soviet counterpart to the B-47 was the Tupolev Tu-16 'Badger'. The Tu-16 by comparison was a very good aeroplane, as evidenced by the fact that Tu-16s were still operational as recently as 1993 with some nations. The Chinese version of it - the Xian H-6 - is in fact still operational with the PLAAF, whereas the B-47 was retired as a bomber back in 1969 although one or two electronic warfare versions of the B-47 soldiered on until the mid-70s.

Given the disparity in the relative merits of the B-47 and the Tu-16, we can suppose US fears of a nuclear war using these aeroplanes was not entirely unfounded, and practicing for this scenario did lead to worrying some mishaps, for example in the late Fifties: A practice engagement between an F-86 fighter and a B-47 resulted in a mid-air collision over Georgia, whilst the B-47 was carrying a nuclear weapon. In order to make such exercises realistic in terms of weight on board the bombers, B-47s on these exercises would carry an unfused Mark 15 Nuclear bomb (the Mark 15 has a 3.8 megaton yield). The F-86 was destroyed in the collision, with the pilot ejecting safely, but the B-47 kept flying with damage to one of its engines. After several failed attempts to land, the B-47 crew had to drop the unfused Mark 15 nuke over the ocean in order to make their crippled jet controllable enough to then land, which it then did so. The jettisoned nuke was never found.

Although we know that the war usitilising primarily nuclear-armed aircraft never took place, we do have a good idea how the bombers involved in such a scenario would have fared, since several USAF B-47s were shot down by Soviet jet fighters when being used on spying recon missions, but no Frontal Aviation Tu-16s were (as far as we know) ever shot down by NATO aircraft. I say as far 'as we know' because there were several incidents which could potentially have triggered an accidental nuclear confrontation which were, for obvious reasons, kept quiet by both sides for very many years, so it is entirely possible that some Russian jets may have been downed and the incidents covered up. One such incident with a B-47 took place in the mid-50s, when a B-47 overflew the Soviet Union at what was thought to be sufficient altitude to avoid MiG-15s being able to intercept it in time, however, what the USAF did not know was that, as a result of some previous penetration flights by USAF aeroplanes, MiG-17s had been stationed in the area, and these were able to intercept it and attack the B-47, the fight continuing all the way into Finnish airspace. The damaged B-47 was able to escape by overflying Sweden, at which point the MiGs broke off and the B-47 eventually landed at RAF Fairford in the UK. This incident was covered up for years by the Russians, the Americans, the Finnish, the Swedish and the British!

Even more worryingly, in 1968, by which time submarines were well capable of launching nuclear missiles, it is speculated that an American and a Soviet submarine may have actually had a battle in the Atlantic. It's never been admitted by either side, but then of course we know that some similar incidents were covered up, so there is some reason to believe this might indeed have occurred. It is most likely to have involved the US submarine USS Scorpion and the Soviet sub, K-129. The Scorpion reportedly radioed that she was pursuing a Soviet target whilst on patrol in May 1968, and that was the last that was heard from her until she was found in October 1968 in 3,000 feet of water with extensive explosion damage. There is some evidence to suggest that a secret search took place a few days before the Scorpion was due to return to base, which does lend credence to the idea that the US knew about her being lost before she was officially overdue from her patrol, so you never know. Kind of scary to think about that sort of stuff.

These days a more realistic portrayal of how a nuclear war might turn out is probably to be found in the book, When the Wind Blows, by Raymond Briggs, who is of course probably more famous for having written and illustrated the considerably less depressing The Snowman. Like The Snowman, When the Wind Blows was also made into an animated film and it's a good one too, voiced by John Mills and Peggy Ashcroft with a soundtrack which included David Bowie, Roger Waters, Genesis, Squeeze and Paul Hardcastle. It's very poignant, but well worth watching if you get the chance, and the book is worth a look too. Not exactly a cheery subject, but it does get the point across that we'd be unlikely to survive a global nuclear war if there was one with our present weaponry.

Edited by n4gix
Replaced "Russian" with "American" submarine.
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Alan Bradbury

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It was a song almost 35 years ago, but now it looks more like a prediction:

"It's the end of the world as we know it"😪

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As far as I can tell, Alas, Babylon (Playhouse 90 Season 4 Episode 13) only exists in the restoration archive at UCLA.  The last record of a showing there (in their on-site theater) was in 2015.

 

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Bob Scott | AVSIM Forums Administrator | AVSIM Board of Directors

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Bob - I guess the restoration archive won't be uploading it to youtube anytime soon then? :happy:

I'll have to read the book and form my own movie in my head. :cool:

https://www.fadedpage.com/showbook.php?pid=20160905


Mark Robinson

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Forming your own movie in your head by reading the book openes up scenes and characters you won't find in the movie.  I do remember Alas Babylon and now that I have plenty of time to read I just ordered it from Barnes and Noble.

Another good one is Tomorrow by Philip Wylie.  He also wrote The Disappearnce where for al the men on the world the women disappear and vice versa.  So you have two stories, a world where women are running things and a world where men are running things.

Noel

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I'm first generation Norwegian American.  You know what they say about Norwegians.  You can always tell a Norwegian, but you can't tell him much.

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