“Fellow Americans, we begin bombing in five minutes.”


24 years ago today, towards the end of the cold war, someone smuggled a recording of a voice test by then president Ronald Reagan to the outside world.

The soundbite is now commonly referred to as Reagan’s “We begin bombing in five minutes” joke[1] and ran like this:

My fellow Americans, I’m pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.

On hearing the news, a leading Parisian newspaper expressed its dismay, and stated that only trained psychologists could know whether Reagan’s remarks were “a statement of repressed desire or the exorcism of a dreaded phantom.”


Reagan’s gaffe was sampled soon afterwards, most notably in 1984 on the appropriately titledWorld Destruction[2] by Time Zone (Laswell, Bambaataa and Lydon) and by Bonzo Goes to Washington, a one-off studio project that released “5 Minutes”[3] (“chopped and channeled by Arthur Russel) in the same year. I have no audio for the latter.

For the vinyl vultures, “World Destruction” is on Celluloid Records, “5 minutes” on Sleeping Bag Records, both cult labels.

“World Destruction” is WMC # 63. Enjoy.

For the record: Reagan was a funny president[4], although he did come over as a religious lunatic when you hear him on his 1984 presidential campaign where he comments on armageddon and mutual assured destruction:

“the biblical prophecies of what would portend the coming of Armageddon and so forth, and the fact that a number of theologians for the last decade or more have believed that this was true, that the prophecies are coming together that portend that.” … “no one knows whether those prophecies mean that Armageddon is a thousand years away or day after tomorrow. So I have never seriously warned and said we must plan according to Armageddon.”

4 thoughts on ““Fellow Americans, we begin bombing in five minutes.”

  1. lichanos

    Having suffered through eight years of Reagonzo’s presidency, I can’t say I ever found him funny. He was immensely destructive. And he was a believer in the imminence of the Last Days, although he was more discreet about it than most evangelicals.

  2. lichanos

    Well, Richard Rhodes has written a history of the arms race, The Arsenals of Folly, that actually made me grant a small amount of grudging respect to The Great Communicator. Apparently, Reagan desperately wanted to go down in history as the man who rescued the world from the threat of nuclear destruction. (He actually BELIEVED in his absurd Star Wars scheme.) It was the movie, The Day After, that got him going, much to the chagrin of his cold warrior advisors. They tried everything to get him to refuse to make a deal with Gorbachev, but he did persevere. I’ll grant him that much.

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