scenes: Leakage has increased – lone plane – nearest target of opportunity – “If the pilot’s good” – bomb door malfunction – “Where in hell is major kong?” – mineshaft gap – “We’ll Meet Again”
In a short cut to the bomber, we find out that fuel leakage has increased. Back in the War Room again, President Muffley is trying to calm down the Soviet Premier over the phone. Muffley tells the room that the Soviet air staff is claiming that one of the four planes that they thought they destroyed was actually only damaged and is still headed for its target. Turgidson thinks that the Soviets are lying so that they have an excuse to retaliate. Muffley tries to calm down the furious Premier, and tells him to shoot down the plane, focusing all of his air force on the plane’s targets at Laputa and Bordkov.
In the next scene, the navigator on the B-52 tells Major Kong that with the new rate of fuel loss, they will never make it to their primary target at Laputa. Major Kong is determined to still drop the payload. The crew redirects to a new target, an ICBM complex at Kodlosk.
In the War Room again, the President is still on the phone with the Premier, trying to encourage and reassure him. He asks Turgidson if there is a possibility of the plane actually making it to its target, through the Soviet air defense. Turgidson gets excited while explaining that a good enough pilot could make it through, celebrating the idea of it, before realizing that he was celebrating a potential nuclear disaster.
Back on the B-52, the crew is getting ready to drop its payload. The bomb door circuit is damaged, however, and the bomb doors won't open. Major Kong goes down to the bomb compartment to see if he can manually fix the circuit. He tries to fix the circuit and fans it with his stetson while the rest of the crew continues flying toward the target. They get to the drop site, but Major Kong is still down in the bomb compartment. The doors open and Major Kong grabs his hat to keep it from flying off as the bomb is released. Major Kong rides the bomb in its falling arc, waving his hat over his head like a rodeo star and yahoo-ing. The bomb reaches the ground and detonates.
In the War Room, Dr. Strangelove immediately begins advising a network of mine shafts for the survival of a small population. The rest of the people in the War Room get on board with the plan, quickly abandoning any attempt to salvage the unfolding nuclear situation. Led by Muffley, they question Strangelove about his plan, which involves the assurance that everyone in the room would survive and that they would need to reproduce prodigiously, so there would be a ratio of 10 women to each man. Throughout the scene, Strangelove struggles to control his alien hand, which keeps on trying to do a Nazi salute or strangle him. Turgidson and another general worry that the Russians will overcome the Americans with superior mine shaft technology, and warn of a “mine shaft gap.” Strangelove stands up from his wheelchair excitedly, announcing that he has a plan before he realizes that he has stood. The scene ends with Strangelove’s exclamation, “mein fuhrer, I can walk!”
A one and a half minute long montage of nuclear bombs exploding closes the film, with the song “We’ll Meet Again,” by Vera Lynn playing over it.
This final section of the film marks a descent into chaos in which the viewer’s understanding of the unfolding events is always one step ahead of that of the characters. Though the recall code has been acknowledged, we know that the radio gear on Major Kong’s bomber is out, so they could not have acknowledged the code. The revelation that a lone plane is still flying to its target comes sandwiched between two scenes on the bomber, in which a new analysis of the rate of fuel loss shows that they cannot make it to their primary target, and must redirect to a new target. This confusion escalates the conflict, now the problem of stopping a single bomber, and dramatically raises the tension just before the end of the film.
Turgidson’s excitement at the prospect of the pilot making it past Soviet defenses, having forgotten that such an outcome would lead to tragedy, again highlights the stupidity of his obsession with US military strength and outperforming the Russians. As a stand-in for the entire military complex, he represents the problem with seeing war as a competition of manhood between the two nations.
The image of Major Kong riding the bomb down to its target like a rodeo bull has become the most iconic image of the film, and is important for Major Kong’s characterization and that of the US military. Though Major Kong himself seems to struggle with the idea of dropping a nuclear bomb earlier in the film, he is duty-bound to carry out his mission, and adheres to this duty because of his patriotism. His Texan rodeo machismo is a criticism of the type of patriotism in the US during this time and in the military in particular. The message of the imagery is relatively clear—the destruction of the world will come about with the cowboy yawp of the American military. In this way the image is effective as a summary of the way the US military is represented in the film. The image of Major Kong also reiterates the idea of nuclear warfare as sex, with the bomb between his legs symbolizing a phallus.
The final scene in the War Room is the last, and perhaps most cynical, criticism of the US military and political leaders. Their immediate abandonment of attempts to resolve the disaster, and their focus on themselves and their survival, reveals them as self-centered and egotistical. We’ve seen this characterization earlier, with Turgidson and his childish self-preservation, but here we see it with every character in the War Room. In addition to mocking them as self-centered and egotistical, Strangelove’s plan, and everyone’s interest in it, satirizes US leaders as sexist, sex-obsessed, and unconcerned with the welfare of their citizens. Though they are entirely to blame for the destruction of the world, they are some of the only few that they deem worth saving.
Additionally, Strangelove’s ideas on the sex ratio and the physical appearance of the women who will be saved is almost a form of eugenics, reiterating his past as a Nazi. The leaders in the room, however, fail to see the connection here, which highlights that they would do any number of immoral things, including teaming up with a Nazi, to ensure their preservation. This makes the same point, in a more extreme example, as Dr. Strangelove’s employment by the US government at all—they would rather overlook potential war crimes charges and work with a former Nazi than risk falling behind in an arms race. Strangelove’s increasing inability to control his alien hand from raising into a Nazi salute, and repetition of “mein fuhrer” when referring to the President, highlights this descent into immorality that US is undertaking—they are now as bad as Nazis. Earlier in the film, in fact, President Muffley proclaims “I will not go down in history as the greatest mass murderer since Adolf Hitler,” and now we see this history coming to fruition.
Finally, the scene of bombs exploding while “We’ll Meet Again” is played returns to the sexual theme to end the film. The explosion of bombs across the world is the climax and orgasm at the end of the long escalation of the nuclear arms race, an act we have seen compared to sex again and again in the film. The use of “We’ll Meet Again” not only draws out the sexual innuendo in this scene, but also hints at the relationship between the US and the Soviet Union as being akin to a sexual relationship.