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In 1983, Nearly 100 Million American's Witnessed What a Nuclear War Would Look Like

“It’s very effective and left me greatly depressed … My own reaction was one of our having to do all we can to have a deterrent and to see there is never a nuclear war.”

In Dutch, Edmund Morris’ memoir of Reagan, the author depicts a president who remained depressed for days after watching the film. Morris speculated that the film led Reagan to pursue the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with the Soviet Union.

The treaty called for the elimination of all mid-range nuclear missiles, defined as arms aimed at targets 300 to 3,400 miles away. It was an important step that led to the destruction of more than 2,500 nuclear weapons.

Almost 100 million Americans watched The Day After when it aired. ABC showed no commercials during its last hour. The studio set up crisis hotlines to take calls from concerned citizens, and hosted a special debate that evening dealing with the issue of nuclear war.

Carl Sagan, William F. Buckley, Henry Kissinger, Brent Scowcroft, former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara and author Elie Wiesel debated nukes on live TV.

The Day After was an event—one a little less than half the country shared. Today’s most popular television programs are lucky to hit 20 million viewers. In 1983, this film was inescapable.

It terrified and depressed almost all who watched it, including the president of the United States.

This first appeared in WarIsBoring here
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