Operation Doorstep
Producer: Byron Incorporated
& The Federal Civil Defense Administration

Producers: Jerry Fairbanks Productions &
The National Education Program

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl

Operation Doorstep The ten-minute propaganda short Operation Doorstep (1953) shows us the atomic test "Mike." The film was released very close to the event, as Operation Doorstep was in March, 1953.

We see a lot of the preparation for nuking a whole array of mannikens dressed & posed in all sorts of situations, & a whole lot of automobiles donated by manufacturers, with mannikens as passengers & drivers.

"Children at play unaware of impending disaster!" exclaims the stentorial narrator as we observe the mannikens arranged in various family groups in the test-village.

Later when the mannikens are shown bombed, the narrator calls the fact that they'd be dead if they'd been real people "the result of being unprepared," always with this inane chant that the prepared citizen will get through nuclear holocaust safely.

The condition of mannikens both before & after the flash is just downright macabre yet nobody involved in the project seems to realize it.

One doomed manniken family is admonished for having failed to provide for themselves the "simple boxlike structure" that might've saved their lives.

Operation DoorstepWe're shown a different manniken family's example of the structure which looks like a sturdily built barred jail cell, nothing about it to shield from radiation, but apparently strong enough to keep everyone from being crushed when the building collapses.

It's not a system the government long promoted, as sometimes even the most diehard propagandists had to feel embarrassed by how ridiculously unconvincing all the lying gets.

We see the gathering of news reporters in Las Vegas, preparing to be taken to witness the publicity event. One interesting aside is the reporters had to register all their camera equipment; obviously the military wanted to control exactly what sort of photographs were allowed, though one would've supposed preparing the site specifically to appeal to reporters would've been sufficient.

The reporters are then put on busses & shuttled to Yucca Flats. Though some observers were permitted in a trench two miles from the flashpoint, most of the "news men & magazine writers" were dropped off seven & a half miles away. The next time a test was arranged as a big publicity event, the reporters would be permitted to be irradiated along with military personal, but this time they're kept at a distance.

The detonation was at night to increase its drama lighting up the desert. You'd think the detonation would be the climax but we get it five minutes into the one-reel film.

Some of the footage would be recycled into later films about Operation Cue (1956), as a lot of this test photography became stock footage, hence it might or might not be correct to assume any given film is historically specific to the event presumedly shown.

Operation DoorstepThe ironically named Dr Alvin C. Graves puts in an appearance. He was a kind of Dr. Josef Mengele Lite. He's the guy who in 1954 made all the decisions leading up to the radiation exposure experiments on residents of the Marshall Islands.

A lot of misinformation surrounds Dr. Graves' secret radiation experiments on people, attempting to whitewash the Marshall Islands incident as an accident that provided an opportunity. But it was only one of a number of human experiments begun as early as 1945 & continued until 1974, which remained unknown to the public until the 1990s & to this day not widely commented upon.

The experiments on the Marshallese resulted in a population that afterward gave birth to deformed babies including so-called "jellyfish" babies, & who developed thyroid diseases, leukemia, & sundry cancers.

The government of the Marshall Islands having provided evidence of deliberate premeditation have never yet convinced the US government to admit wrongdoing. And the only "statistic" that mattered to the likes of Dr. Graves was the claim that only one human test subject died specifically of radiation poisoning, therefore exposure was proven predminantly safe.

In this film, of course, he's just a nice expert. But when you see his friendly presence in Operation Cue, think of who this guy really was, & what he would do in the Pacific island tests. Graves saw to it that the natives of Ailuk Island were never evacuated & under pretence that they were not exposed, they were used as a "control group" to show that disease levels were the same in exposed & unexposed islanders.

Formerly classified documents have proven intent from word go & it was well known that the people of Ailuk had one of the highest exposures. Further, when evacuated natives of Rongelap were informed it was now safe to return to their home island, according to the Brookhaven report this was done because it would provide "a most valuable ecological radiation study on human beings."

So in Operation Doorstep, after blaming the bombed mannikens for their stupidity in not preparing adequately, the viewer is admonished to contact your local civil defense office for plans to construct "easy & inexpensive" home shelters like the barred cage or a leanto propped against an inner wall of your house. Thumbs-up from Dr. Mengele Lite!

What Is Communism? The public had to remain convinced communists had already infiltrated America & we were all doomed unless we won the race to stockpile more atom bombs than the commies. So along with all the Atomic Bomb propaganda films there were also Red Scare propaganda films like What Is Communism? (1960).

The film itself has no date on it & has been listed everywhere from 1953 to 1963. But the script, in the University of California special collections, is clearly dated 1960. This is late for such paranoic films, as Joseph McCarthy was by then discredited & dead. But the Cold War was still in full sway & the government continued to finance anti-commy films, & J. Edgar Hoover was carrying the McCarthy banner for some while yet to come.

Plus the House Committee of Un-American Activities blundered onward until 1975, still quite powerful in ruining the lives of Americans in the McCarthy tradition until 1968 when Abbie Hoffmann & Jerry Rubin rather effectively made them look like the sadistic irrational lying goons they were. So we shouldn't be too surprised that a McCarthy-style propaganda machine was still producing films into the 1960s.

It's so over-the-top hate-mongering that it almost seems like a satire. But this sort of film was being shown to children in the public school system at the same time Senator McCarthy was rounding up alleged communists in order to destroy innocent lives.

No one laughed at film's like these. You were either dumb enough to be scared because communists were scary, or you were smart enough to be scared because our own government was drumming up terror & hatred for neighbor & foreigner alike.

What Is Communism? opens with clips of communist government injustices & communist civillian rioting in various parts of the world, including ninety miles off the coast of America in Castro's Cuba, with the ultimate case of, brrrrr, communists in San Francisco. "Look at those faces! The face of communism in America! Is it not high time we ask ourselves What Is Communism?"

Host Herbert A. Philbrick wrote the anti-commy memoire I Led Three Lives: Citizen, "Communist," Counterspy (1952), the book about living undercover as an agent for the FBI spying on Americans, which became an early television series (1953-1956) starring Richard Carlson as Philbrick, each script given the go-ahead by J. Edgar Hoover himself. The series seriously promoted such fearful possibilities as members of the American Communist Party turning vacuum cleaners into rocket-bombs.

I've never seen this series as an adult so only have childhood impressions left. It was rerun a lot, & it gave me nightmares. I had an unforgettable dream in black & white film noir style, about communists infiltrating my elementary school & my favorite teacher replaced by a substitute who was a commie with a birthday cake, informing the class we had no legal right not to celebrate birthdays. A woke up in a chill sweat afraid I was going to have to eat some birthday cake.

What Is Communism?Beats the hell out of me why my subconscious found enforcement of birthday parties scary. Something about making even wonderful things no longer wonderful I suppose.

A child's mind makes what it can out of strange & unlikely information attested by figures of authority. What is a six year old to make of all this godawful fearful propaganda we were being fed, whether at school watching one-reel films provided by the government, or at home watching the film noir paranoia fest I Led Three Lives.

Thick as Philbrick says, "I'll tell you as simply & seriously as I know how. Communism is lying, dirty, shrewd, godless, murderous, determined, & as J. Edgar Hoover says, an international criminal conspiracy."

Philbin goes one by one through the list of faults, Lying, Dirty, etc., giving hysterical paranoid examples, mostly pretty vague, or about meetings in "musty attics or moldy basements."

"In years to come if this government falls, historians are going to look back on this time in which we are now living, & they're going to say, how could any free & intelligent people living in a country like America let a gang of vicious outsiders come in & take over."

I'm sure Philbin didn't realize historians would indeed be saying that, but of McCarthy & his thuggish gang of witchhunters.

We learn that racial unrest between whites & blacks is caused by communists, not by any need for equality & Civil Rights. And many duped Americans were unknowingly enlisted in the Communist Army, which was known by the misleading name, the Abraham Lincoln Brigade.

The real history of this Brigade was that it was predominantly American Communists & Wobblies with no deception about it. No one "accidentally" joined the Brigade. Its leader was a black man (Oliver Law) which upset the FBI more than his being commy.

At the height of their numbers they were not numerous; & they fought & mostly died as American volunteers in the Spanish Civil War. It was legitimately heroic, possibly naive, & absolutely no threat to the American government.

The few who survived to be repatrioted to America certainly were highly regarded by American intellectuals & political radicals. Since they had stood against Spain's fascists who had allied with Hitler, time has been kinder & kinder to these few idealists, & there are war memorials to the Brigade on the University of Washington campus in Seattle, & James Madison Park in Madison, Wisconsin.

They had stood against Spain's victorious Fascists & the Fascists' nazi allies. But in the thinking of the American government, if it came down to a handful of naively idealistic American communists frighting against fascists & nazis in Spain, it was imperative that Mussolini & Hitler rise.

Not to whitewash the Brigade, many did admire socialist Russia, & during the Hitler-Stalin Pact were duped into sentimentality toward whatever Stalin represented. But in the main, Philbrick as the mouthpiece of McCarthy & Hoover comes off as the real traitor to America, undermining freedom & liberty & promoting hatred & division.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl

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