In my answer, I plan to evaluate the reliability of Source K, which is a film. I will have to look at why it was made, who made it, the date of the film, and its tone. This answer will show the strengths and weaknesses of the films content through this I will determine if the source is biased or not and how it can be trusted. Source K is a British production made by the BBC in 1995. It was part of a series called “Fallout” and it focused on the Atom Bomb and its effects. The fact that the source is a British production made in 1995 after the Cold war had ended; it has no reason to be biased.
Source K was made at the end of the Cold War and reviewed the second half of the 20th century. The video focused on the experiences of the people who were affected by the bomb and the people who worked with nuclear arms and nuclear power. The video considered different perspectives and opinions from the Russians, Americans, Japanese and Americans. This film also showed primary footage of the Cold War between 1950-1980 that was suppressed by the government and not shown up until 40 years later. The information that was given was one sided and reassured the American people.
The films that were suppressed by the government, if released would have made people sympathetic to the victims. The USA government controlled what people saw and what people were told about the bomb, and this affected the reliability of the source as the government did not show the whole picture and many films were not shown. By interviewing people in 1995 and then being shown footage from the time of the Atom Bomb we can see how opinions have changed over time. An example of this is Sheldon Johnson who at the time had a very positive opinion on the Atom bomb demonstrations.
In 1995 his opinion had changed vastly, he blames the nuclear fallout for his baby being born with Down syndrome. This source is based on people’s personal human experiences. Source K is made up of primary, visual material to show the different reactions to the Atom Bomb. This source is set during the Cold War; the majority of the videos shown were made by the government, so we can’t expect what is shown to be fair to both sides. The Americans and Russians despised each other but never went to war. Both countries’ attitudes to the Cold War were polarised. The President of the USA called the Russians “The enemy of freedom”.
These sources can be biased but are useful as primary sources; they give you insights into how people thought at the time and how countries felt about each other. Sources were purposely suppressed to stop people seeing the other viewpoint. The effects of the victims of the Hiroshima bombing are an example of this. Sometimes films were deliberately made to let everyone see it, e. g. a reconstructed film of the founding of plutonium. Actors and actresses were used in these films for example, a woman in one film promotes nuclear energy by telling her friends how much time it saved her now that her kitchen runs on nuclear energy.
The Manhattan Project was a film which was kept secret for reasons of national security. The USA did not want the Germans to find out anything about this project. The making of the bomb was filmed but it wasn’t allowed to be broadcast because it was wartime, the Russians also suppressed footage to protect national security. The Russian government set up 10 atom grad cities after 1945 during the Cold War in a desperate attempt to develop its own Atom Bomb. In wartime conditions all governments imposed strict censorship; they have very understandable reasons for doing this.
The USSR was desperate to catch up with the USA. The details of the developing of each countries latest bomb were kept secret. Each country was worried about the other spying on them as the Cold War progressed after 1945. In the USSR, a man about to be arrested by security police shot himself, he was suspected of passing on secrets. The Russian government didn’t want to reveal the high cost of the programme when its people were suffering great economic hardship. Motives for secrecy were the Cold War and national interests. Reconstructed film was also used to promote a positive image of the Atom Bomb.
The moment Plutonium was discovered was reconstructed and shown to the American public. The military leader, a man named General Groves looked very uncomfortable in the film. This film was made to let the people see and to share in the USA government’s delight at the discovery of the Atom Bomb. America also filmed the dropping of the Atom Bomb. They showed a film of workers signing the bomb before it was used on Hiroshima. Harold Agnew was one of these workers; he was interviewed for “Fallout” in 1995. He commented that the bomb was a “Beautiful great thing”, he also remembered his hatred of the Japanese.
He was very proud of being part of the group that was responsible for dropping the bomb. The USA government used this film to allow Americans to share in its achievement at developing and using the bomb. The cabin crew on board the US planes filmed the dropping of the bomb; the mushroom cloud was widely shown to illustrate its power. The ticker tape celebrations in America at Japan’s surrender were widely shown. The American camera men filmed the aftermath of the bomb in both cities. This footage was filmed in colour; it illustrated the graphic images of devastation. However these images weren’t shown in America for over 40 years.
The American government didn’t want images that showed doubt about the decision to drop the bomb to the American public. The only footage shown in the USA was of the mushroom cloud and all scenes of celebration. One other image that was suppressed was that of Sumiteru Tanaguschi. He spent 18 months in terrible pain lying on his stomach because the skin on his back was flayed. This image would create sympathy for the Japanese as victims. Therefore these images of terrible burns suffered by the Japanese civilians were mot disclosed. The USA authorities wanted to represent the bomb as a deliverer of success and victory and saving American lives.
They didn’t want to promote negative images of the bomb. Pictures of nurses removing the badly burnt bodies and scenes from the hospitals treating victims of radiation sickness weren’t shown on American television. The USA government controlled the information that was to the American public, this affected the reliability of government sources. The governments didn’t show the whole picture. During the 1950’s the dangers of the nuclear arms race were played down. The USA wanted to stay ahead of the USSR; America had the resources to develop the H bomb. They wanted to see its effects; therefore they did tests in the Nevada Desert.
The government ignored the advice of the civilian scientist about the dangers; however the government encouraged soldiers to move closer to the test for the H bomb. They had very limited safety precautions to protect them from radioactive dust and exposure to radiation. After the test, the soldiers were brushed off with a yard brush. “The prevailing thought was that if you got rid of the dust, you got rid of the radiation”. From the experience of Tom Saffir, we learn that during this test, soldiers were instructed to kneel down, put there fore arm over there eyes and close them tightly with their shoulder to the bomb.
When the bomb exploded, Tom Saffir could see the two bones in his fore arm in a bright red light. The government did not disclose the full risks of this test for fear of being brought to court. At the beginning of the test, the soldiers were told “This is not a haphazard manoeuvre” and the only part of the video that was shown, was the bomb itself. A bomb named “Dirty Harry” was tested, the Fallout from this bomb covered St. George, Utah. The government wasn’t open about disclosing information about the dangers to people. It made a propaganda film, using actors to convince the American public that the nuclear fallout was harmless.
The Atomic energy commission was government propaganda, they didn’t tell the full story. Sheldon Johnson lived in St. George and he believed that the AEC didn’t put lives at risk. This was later proved wrong as this area had a higher incidence of cancers and birth defects. Sheldon Johnson’s wife gave birth to a baby with Down syndrome nine months later; Mr Johnson blames the tests for this. The reality of the 1950’s was that the nuclear arms race was progressing rapidly. There was an increase in the range and power of nuclear weapons.
Nuclear bombs were now being fired from missiles. With the USA and Russia still at war, M. A. D became inevitable. Governments made films to reassure the people they were in control. A film made by Russia shows people calmly walking towards a bunker. If a nuclear attack were to happen, people would not react like this. Great Britain also made a film to show what they would do in case of a nuclear attack. In the film, we are shown that church bells, hooters and people shouting were ways to alert people of a nuclear attack. During the nuclear attack this wouldn’t be effective.
A third film made by America teaches people very simple methods of protection “Duck and cover”, this would do nothing to protect them during a real attack. The only reliable film was called “War games”, it was created in 1965 by the BBC and was the only film which attempted to give a realistic interpretation of what would happen if a nuclear attack occurred. It predicted panic and confusion, millions of deaths and third degree burns. Government’s plans would have been very ineffective against nuclear attacks. “War games” was banned for 40 years and seen as alarmist.
The Americans thought that nuclear power was a great new energy source. In the 1950’s governments endorsed nuclear energy and portrayed it very positively. This new source of energy can be recharged and 97% of the spent energy can be reused. The government in the 1950’s presented nuclear energy as a cheap source of reusable fuel. Housewife’s were in awe at how much cleaner nuclear energy was than the fuel they had used previously. Queen Elizabeth opened the first nuclear power station at Sellafield in the 1950’s. The issues about the dangers of power stations were omitted in government videos.