It’s a Miracle We Haven’t Nuked Ourselves to Extinction
Podcast — why nuclear war feels inevitable
by MATTHEW GAULT
There’s an apocryphal story that Jimmy Carter once lost the nuclear launch codes when he sent his jacket to the dry cleaners. After John Hinckley Jr. shot Ronald Reagan, the surgeons who saved his life stripped him of his clothes and dumped them in a hospital bag. The launch codes nestled in Reagan’s jacket sat in the bag for hours before the Secret Service found them.
In 2012, peace activists broke into the Oak Ridge nuclear facility and got deep inside before guards caught them. The activists — who included a nun in her 80s — wanted to send an anti-nuclear message.
It sent a message, but not quite the one they intended. The break-in sent shockwaves through the Pentagon’s nuclear priesthood and revealed the fragile security surrounding America’s deadliest weapon.
If a group of peaceniks could get so close to America’s nuclear arsenal, what might an enemy be able to do? This week on War College, we talk to journalist and author Dan Zak about his new book, Almighty, and all the times the world nearly avoided nuclear disaster.