When I was a kid, I had recurring nightmares about the world being plunged into a nuclear holocaust. If I had known this, I’m sure I would never have slept at all:
America’s gaggle of Minuteman long-range nuclear missiles went on line for the first time during the Cuban missile crisis in 1960. But the world was supposedly protected from mutual assured destruction by the Permissive Action Links (PALs) which required an 8-digit combination in order to launch. Robert McNamara, then the U.S. Secretary of Defense, personally oversaw the installation of these special locks to prevent any unauthorized nuclear missile launches. He considered the safeguards to be essential for strict central control and for preventing nuclear disaster. But what Secretary McNamara didn’t know is that from the very beginning, the Strategic Air Command (SAC) in Omaha had decided that these locks might interfere with any wartime launch orders; so in order to circumvent this safeguard, they pre-set the launch code on all Minuteman silos to the same eight digits: 00000000.
Are you kidding me? According to the rest of the article, anyone who had enough clearance to get down in the silo had access to manuals that had the code printed in them!
Unbelievable. The article doesn’t mention it, but whoever countermanded Secretary McNamara’s orders should have been shot and then court-maritialed.
In that order.