Fail-Safe (1964) - Plot Summary Poster


Plot Summary

  • A series of human and computer errors sends a squadron of American 'Vindicator' bombers to nuke Moscow. The President, in order to convince the Soviets that this is a mistake, orders the Strategic Air Command to help the Soviets stop them.

    - Written by KC Hunt <khunt@eng.morgan.edu>
  • When the United States Air Force's elaborate fail-safe systems fail, a squadron of nuclear-armed bombers crosses the Bering Strait into the USSR to attack. No one is quite sure why it happened but it's left to the President of the United States to try and find a solution with his Soviet counterpart. For some, like political scientist Professor Groetschele, the situation presents opportunities. He argues that they should not dwell on the morality of the attack and simply accept that it has happened. On that basis, he argues in favor of an all-out nuclear attack against the Soviet Union as the only sure way to ensure the survival of American culture and beliefs. The President sees it differently and works with the Soviets to stop the American bombers before they reach their target. When that fails, the President sees only one possible way to prevent global thermo-nuclear war.

    - Written by garykmcd
  • A technical malfunction in the Pentagon's strategic control system causes an erroneous order to be sent to a B-52 squadron on a routine training mission instructing the bombers to fly beyond their fail safe distance. At this point the flight crew are trained to cease communications and prepare to fulfill their objective by bombing Moscow. As the planes near their target, the crisis deepens and together the Americans and Soviets decide on a final, desperate solution.

    - Written by Dave Jenkins <david.jenkins@smallworld.co.uk>
  • Warren Black is a brigader general in the US Air Force who is troubled by a nightmare about a matador. Walter Groeteschele is a professor with some audacious theories about nuclear warfare. Carl Cascio is an Air Force Colonel ashamed of his low-class upbringing and is XO of Strategic Air Command's commanding general Frank Bogan. Jack Grady is an old-school Air Force Colonel who leads a squadron of Vindicator nuclear bombers. Gordon Knapp is head of a defense electronics contractor. Hubert Raskob is a visiting Congressman. Peter Buck is translator to the President of the United States. And all of these men become enveloped in the ultimate accident; when a malfunction damages SAC's fault indicator, the system is changed routinely, but it causes a malfunction in the mainframe that launches Jack Grady's squadron on an attack mission to obliterate Moscow. When the full horror of the accidental attack order becomes clear, SAC and the President must work to recall or stop the bombers, but all efforts are frustrated by the skill and working orders of the pilots involved as well as the power of their planes, and when they penetrate Soviet airspace a running sky battle erupts. But the bombers press on, and through negotiations with the Soviet premier, the President is left with but one hope of averting Armageddon, an order so audacious it even shocks the Soviet premier and leaves the President's subalters speechless.

    - Written by Michael Daly
  • Those in the Pentagon War Room are discussing the tactics, and the pros and cons of nuclear war with the Soviets. In the Room include Professor Groeteschele, the civilian adviser to the Pentagon who has an academic's viewpoint, and Brigadier General Warren Abraham "Blackie" Black. The general has been having a recurrent dream - that of a matador killing a bull - which he believes is some sort of omen relating to his job. Through a series of mechanical, technical and human errors, American bombers are deployed to investigate a potential air threat. Although the threat was non-existent, the bombers, through these errors, are ultimately sent to bomb Moscow. Because of counter-measures designed to protect orders, the bombers cannot be recalled. In addition to negotiations with the Soviet Premier, the President requests the advice of those in the War Room on what to do, the individuals there having differing opinions. But the President will make his decisions based on that advice and his discussions with the Premier. But those in mission control in Omaha, who are removed from the discussion process but are charged with carrying out the orders, may have some issue with the President's orders since they are based on discussions with the "enemy".

    - Written by Huggo
  • 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?

    - Written by Anonymous


Warren Black lives in New York City and suffers a recurring nightmare about attending a bullfight that ends in a piercing shrieking noise...

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