snopes.com Post new topic  Post a reply
search | faq | forum home

  next oldest topic   next newest topic
» Hello snopes.com » Urban Legends » Military » Launch codes

 - UBBFriend: Email this page to someone!    
Author Topic: Launch codes
snopes
Return! Return! Return!


Icon 18 posted      Profile for snopes   Author's Homepage   E-mail snopes       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
Comment: For a significant portion of the Cold War, the launch code for the United
States' nuclear missiles was 00000000. It's common to shudder when one
thinks of the volume of nuclear missiles aimed at every major city in the
world. But during the time it seemed most likely those missiles would be
used, they could have been launched by anybody who could punch the 0 key
eight times. In 1961, Defense Secretary Robert McNamara wanted increased
security measures placed on the missiles to prevent accidental launch,
including technical locks that would require eight-digit launch codes for
each missile and could only be entered by knowledgable personnel. Well,
the folks at Strategic Air Command figured that launch codes were for
pussies, so they set the code for every missile as 00000000 (I mean,
really ... what's the big deal if an intercontinental ballistic missile
accidentally gets fired, right?). These codes remained for 16 years before
somebody finally had the sense to change them. No word on whether the
replacement code was 12345678.

Posts: 36029 | From: Admin | Registered: Feb 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
firebraun
I'll Be Home for After Christmas Sales


Icon 1 posted      Profile for firebraun     Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
This article seem to be the source for that story. Hmmmmm, could be true. I know SAC was pretty paranoid back in those days, and they could well have done that in the interest of speeding up launch during an actual war scenario.

What's most amazing was that the world actually made it through the whole Cold War without somebody accidentally (or maliciously) firing one of those suckers off and starting World War III...

Posts: 127 | From: Over the hill and through the woods... | Registered: Jan 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Rick Maize
The Red and the Green Stamps


Icon 209 posted            Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
Amazing that it was kept secret for this long, ( if it is true) but who knew the codes anyway? Did the guys at the Launch control center know the codes?
Or did they receive the codes as alpha characters then translated them to numbers using a predetermined code sheet, then dial in the codes.
( I think I saw that in the movie "War Games" or was it "Damnation Alley")

The guys at the LCC probably didn't even know , the codes were already dialed in. (if it is true). What I have a hard time buying is that no launch team went wacky and did something crazy in a big way. Human Reliability Program worked better than I thought it would. Esp with all the pot smoking goin on back the late 60's/ early 70's
RGM

IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Logoboros
We Three Blings


Icon 1 posted      Profile for Logoboros   E-mail Logoboros   Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
For anyone interested in the possibilities of a less than reliable Launch Code Center officer, you should read Donald Barthelme's classic short story "The Game" -- readable online here.

--Logoboros

--------------------
"If Men were Wise, the Most arbitrary Princes could not hurt them. If they are not wise, the Freest Government is compelld to be a Tyranny."

--William Blake

Posts: 1025 | From: Memphis, TN & Columbia, MO | Registered: Apr 2004  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Jason Threadslayer
Let There Be PCs on Earth


Icon 1 posted      Profile for Jason Threadslayer     Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by firebraun:
What's most amazing was that the world actually made it through the whole Cold War without somebody accidentally (or maliciously) firing one of those suckers off and starting World War III...

CNN Spotlight: Nuclear Close Calls

20 Mishaps That Might Have Started Accidental Nuclear War

(No reports of 99 helium balloons setting off an alarm...)

--------------------
All posts foretold by Nostradamus.

Turing test failures: 6

Posts: 5481 | From: Decatur, GA | Registered: Nov 2002  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
rodh
Deck the Malls


Icon 1 posted      Profile for rodh     Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
There was more to launching a missile than typing in a code. Two people had to turn the keys at the same time as well. I'm quite sure I've seen that in documentaries as well as Hollywood movies.

It wasn't like someone could have leaned on a keyboard and accidentally launched a missile.

Posts: 403 | From: Ontario, Canada | Registered: May 2002  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
nerdymcnerd
Little Sales Drummer Boy


Icon 1 posted      Profile for nerdymcnerd   E-mail nerdymcnerd   Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
Hollywood movies, eh?

--------------------
Skunks hate the sound of industry.

Posts: 2723 | From: Geneva, Illinois | Registered: Jan 2004  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Delta-V
Xboxing Day


Icon 1 posted      Profile for Delta-V     Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by rodh:
There was more to launching a missile than typing in a code. Two people had to turn the keys at the same time as well. I'm quite sure I've seen that in documentaries as well as Hollywood movies.

It wasn't like someone could have leaned on a keyboard and accidentally launched a missile.

It also required concurrence from an outside source, either another launch control center or an airborne command center, to launch.

--------------------
"My neighbor asked why anyone would need a car that can go 190 mph. If the answer isn't obvious, and explaination won't help." - Csabe Csere

Posts: 1225 | From: Wichita, Kansas | Registered: Nov 2003  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
Mad Jay
Let There Be PCs on Earth


Icon 1 posted      Profile for Mad Jay     Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
I am just speculating here. I can understand launch codes being initialized to all-zereos when the system was first developed. Almost all databases initialize fields to 0. Someone will have to go in and setup the launch codes to make it something else . So, it is probable that people started using the system without setting the launch codes up. However, it seems improbable that they would design the system so that you can start using it without going through some sort of setup. Also, it seems improbable that they wouldnt have some procedure that required them to change the launch codes after certain number of days

Hell, even Windows asks you to change your password every 90 days.

--------------------
Nico Sasha
In between my father's fields;And the citadels of the rule; Lies a no-man's land which I must cross; To find my stolen jewel.

Posts: 4912 | From: VA | Registered: Jul 2003  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
petre
Deck the Malls


Icon 1 posted      Profile for petre   E-mail petre       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Mad Love Jay:
However, it seems improbable that they would design the system so that you can start using it without going through some sort of setup.

"Sir, we are go to launch on target immidiately!"

"Then by all means, Fire!"

"Ok sir, firing....what the...Setup Manager?"

W E L C O M E T O U S N M L S

The United States Nuclear Missile Launch System

Do you agree to the following liscencing agreement?...

"No time to read man, just agree. What did it say about spyware? Oh nevermind, just keep going. Default directory is fine. Next, standandard install, next, next, yes, next, next, next. Free AOL trial? No. Installation key? Oh yeah, it's 0000000. Heh, sounds like the code some idiot would use for his luggage. Ok, it's installing now and...what? Original install CD? Where the @#&$! is that thing? Oh, here's the case...oops, it's got the disk for Halo 2 in here. Oh here's the disc, I stuck it in this Culture Club sleeve. All installed now, we just need to reboot and...oh no, it's the blue screen of-"

>----****BOOM****----<

Posts: 257 | From: In front of a computer | Registered: Jul 2004  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
jumpinjonflash2
The Red and the Green Stamps


Icon 1 posted            Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
OK - that's the funniest thing I've read in awhile! Good one! I laughed until it hurt! Thank you!
IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
CR816
Newsqueak


Icon 1 posted      Profile for CR816   E-mail CR816   Send new private message       Edit/Delete post   Reply with quote 
Well, I'm not too sure of the launch code numbers but, as a former member of the submarine force during the cold war, I know that we would get a radio message that would tell us to have a launch drill at a specific time and we would man battle stations. We would then simulate a missile launch. In our after patrol report we would document the drills and if there was any discrepancy, there would be hell to pay. Yes it took two people to verify the message after the radioman verified the message. And yes it took two people to operate the keys to allow the launch. BTW, when a missile is actually launched, it moves the boat up and down by about a couple feet.

--------------------
If the minimum wasn't good enough, they wouldn't establish a minimum.

Posts: 19 | From: Connecticut | Registered: Sep 2004  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
   

Quick Reply
Message:

HTML is enabled.
UBB Code™ is enabled.

Instant Graemlins
   


Post new topic  Post a reply Close topic   Feature Topic   Move Topic   Delete topic next oldest topic   next newest topic
 - Printer-friendly view of this topic
Hop To:


Urban Legends Reference Pages

Powered by Infopop Corporation
UBB.classic™ 6.7.2