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General Buck Turgidson
Buck Turgidson -- Commie-Hating General
This page is devoted to General Buck Turgidson, the fictional head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff portrayed by George C. Scott in the 1964 Stanley Kubrick film Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb.
Background information on Buck Turgidson
Turgidson is an Air Force General and is the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for the United States. It is not known what part of the country he is from originally. He is unmarried and involved in what is apparently a secret relationship with his secretary, Miss Scott.
Turgidson's character is said to be based on a real-life Air Force General, Curtis Lemay, fifth Chief of Staff of the USAF.
Turgidson's name, of course, is chosen for its humor and also reflects his personality. If you're not familiar with the slang meaning of the word "turgid", it's basically this definition, turgid, but related to the male anatomy.
General Buck Turgidson knows a lot about war. He knows how to execute a war, but lacks the perspective to decide whether or not we should have a war in the first place.
At the same time that he understands the President's policy against unprovoked nuclear strikes, he jumps at the chance to nullify that policy and wipe Russia off the map. His glee is obvious when he presents the idea of unleashing the most destructive attack we can possibly muster against an enemy that has done nothing.
The crisis the government is facing in Dr. Strangelove was caused by a terrible mistake. But for Turgidson, it seems to be the moment he had been waiting for. And he's ready for it! In the exchange below, check Turgidson out at the 1:04 mark. Without the President's permission or even knowledge, he had been doing "unofficial" studies about how we could carry out a full-scale nuclear attack. The report is already complete and printed.
The love of war
Many people theorize about possible psychosexual motivations and gratifications related to war. In his book WAR, Sebastian Junger describes and tries to analyze the pseudo-sexual thrill soldiers experience during combat.
Buck Turgidson is the poster boy for getting your jollies through warfare. You can tell that he's tingling all over when he gets going talking about fighter planes.
The only good Commie is a . . .
Gen. Turgidson expresses a strong belief that people who are associated with communist governments have no redeeming qualities whatsoever. He is the ultimate in the Us vs. Them mentality. In his view, not only are communists immoral and untrustworthy, they are also less intelligent and less capable in any endeavor than us red-blooded Americans. (I wonder what color he thinks communist blood is . . .)
His complete contempt for communists causes him to think that anything that happens that is unexpected or difficult to explain is probably "a load of Commie bull and an obvious Commie trick." In the middle of a nerve-wracking moment when all of the US bomber planes have been recalled except one and everyone is desperate to find a solution (a solution, by the way, that would have meant that we don't get to have a nuclear war with the USSR), Turgidson's suspicions have him trying to derail the whole process: "Mr. President, I'm beginning to smell a big fat Commie rat. I mean, supposin' Kissof is lyin' about that fourth plane, just lookin' for an excuse to clobber us?"
He believes in morals as long as they don't get in his way
Turgidson says that one of the reasons we are so much better than the Commies is because we believe in God and they don't. And if you ask him what his religion is, I'll betcha he says Christian.
And his enthusiasm is obvious when he hears about the underground sexual paradise that Dr. Strangelove says will be necessary to save America.
Along with the pseudo-sexual thrill that some find in the very acts of war, Turgidson also relishes the actual sexual prizes that are associated with making wars and winning wars. To the victors belong the spoils.
Buck Turgidson on the internet
- Turgidson's IMDB listing
IMDB describes Turgidson as "not 'all there' and more than a tad ignorant."
- A list of Turgidson quotes, also from IMDB
My favorite is, "Mr. President, I'm not saying we wouldn't get our hair mussed. But I do say no more than ten to twenty million killed, tops. Uh, depending on the breaks."
But what about Turgidson's war strategy?
If there hadn't been a Doomsday Machine, would Turgidson's plan have been the right one? Debate it!
General Turgidson obviously had a bias in favor of war. But in the bizarre circumstances presented in Dr. Strangelove, some people might feel that an all-out attack actually would be in our best interests.
President Muffley, on the other hand, wanted to work in collaboration with the Russians to deal with the crisis. Who had the best plan?
If you want to debate the question, you can go to:
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© 2010 Joan Hall