The Day After' Was World War III TV That Scared Even Reagan
By | November 18, 2020
In 1983, the TV movie The Day After brought a grim vision of nuclear holocaust into American living rooms when it aired on ABC. In the lead-up to the show, controversy brewed over the graphic depictions of Cold War destruction and its aftermath; in response, ABC set up a hotline for those disturbed by the movie, and convened a panel of celebrity experts to discuss the subject matter afterward. Did the show provide useful catharsis, or was it lurid sensationalism? It was both, though there is some evidence that The Day After made an impression on world leaders, including President Ronald Reagan. Whatever the case, it was a phenomenon unlike anything TV had seen, becoming the highest rated television film in history, a record that it held until 2009.
The War At The Center Of The Film
In the film, the war began when the Soviet Union started to build up the military in East Germany, behavior which the Soviet Union claims are Warsaw Pact exercises, however, the goal is to intimidate the United States, Britain and France, so they will withdraw from West Berlin. The conflict escalates when the United States refuses to back down, leading the Soviets to send armored divisions to the border between East and West Germany. Then, on September 15, rebellion within the East German Army led the Soviets to blockade West Berlin, and when the Soviets refuse to stand down, the United States puts U.S. military forces on DEFCON2 alert. By the next day, all out war has begun and the Soviet Union evacuates Moscow; major cities across the United States begin mass evacuations as well, as the war escalates. It is unclear which country detonated a nuclear weapon first, but in the aftermath, the Northwestern and Midwestern United States has been left devastated.