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General Buck Turgidson

Updated on October 9, 2014

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.

Gen. Buck Turgidson from the movie Dr. Strangelove
Gen. Buck Turgidson from the movie Dr. Strangelove

Turgidson's agenda

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.

Turgidson in the War Room
Turgidson in the War Room

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?"

General Turgidson with his secretary/mistress, Miss Scott
General Turgidson with his secretary/mistress, Miss Scott

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.

But those Christian principles have to take a back seat when it's time for him to get some nookie. He's carrying on an illicit affair with his secretary, and probably lying to her when he says that he plans to marry her someday.

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.

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:

The Muffley vs. Turgidson Debate

Share your stories, sightings, thoughts, rants, raves...

© 2010 Joan Hall

Shout Out For Buck Turgidson!

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      Dave 3 years ago

      Slight error....when discussing the joy Turgidson gets from war you cite the excited description of "fighter planes" when in fact he is talking about B-52s which are the furthest thing from a fighter plane. B-52's are strategic weapons and would not fare well against fighter planes although they have shot down a couple in their history (the largest plane ever to do so).

    • james g pete profile image

      james g pete 4 years ago

      The spirit of Buck lives on! Remember folks the country with a 10% growth rate, which lends money to the U.S., which has four times as many people, is governed by the Chinese Communist Party. Deal with it.

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      anonymous 4 years ago

      It does look like he's a Christian. Remember the scene where he begins to lead the War Room in prayer after the planes are recalled.

    • sweetstickyrainbo profile image

      sweetstickyrainbo 5 years ago

      he sounds like an SOB

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      LuizAvila 5 years ago

      A nice caracter!