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he threat of all-out nuclear warfare was at its height during the early stages of the Cold War. With both the United States and the USSR having the capability to wipe out nearly all life on Earth with these heinous weapons, their use had to be strictly controlled. A complicated process was required to authorize such drastic action.

The starting part of this process, at least in the United States, was to be performed by the current acting president. After the creation of the infamous ‘Nuclear Football,’ this first step could be performed from anywhere on the planet at any time. Although this device made sure the process went smoothly, one president decided to simplify this operation by getting rid of the ‘Football’ and replacing it with just a nuclear code which he carried with him at all times. This proved to be a very perilous decision.

The 39th President of the US

Jimmy Carter became the 39th president of the United States on 20 January 1977. His presidential term was marked with misfortune with many disastrous events such as the Three Mile Island incident, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and many more crises.

A Soviet Spetsnaz group prepares for a mission during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, 1988. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

The above-listed events have a large historical footprint due to their widespread impact; thus, I will refrain from going into them too much; instead, I shall explore a lesser-known crisis of the Carter administration, a crisis created by the fool-hardy nature of the 39th president of the United States.

The ‘Nuclear Football’

The ‘Nuclear Football’ was a device created under the Dwight D. Eisenhower administration but was perfected under President Kennedy’s administration. This briefcase was meant to act as a direct connection between the current acting president of the United States and the Joint War Room, regardless of location.

The briefcase also included a set of nuclear launch codes held within “the biscuit,” which would be used to verify that the Joint War Room was actually speaking to the president and authorizing his orders for a nuclear strike.

Ronald Reagan’s presidential portrait from 1981. Regan was the other famous United States president known for carrying ‘the biscuit’ with him rather than leaving it inside the ‘Nuclear Football’. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

The nuclear launch codes were perhaps the most important part of this briefcase as without them, the ‘Nuclear Football’ was useless. Although most presidents liked to keep these vital codes within the briefcase, two acting United States presidents liked to keep these codes on hand at all times. Jimmy Carter was one of these two people.

Carter reportedly carried these destructive codes in his coat at nearly all times. This was a very dangerous endeavor as anyone with access to his coat could feasibly steal either his coat or just the codes within the code. This was probably the worst-case scenario for the president, a scenario that almost happened.

Although no official sources of this scenario have been released, word of mouth from White House officials passed on about an event where president Carter lost this vital ‘biscuit’. During a routine clean of his coat, the president reportedly left ‘the biscuit’ in one of his pockets before handing in the coat to the local dry cleaner.

Little is known about the fate of the codes after the dry cleaners took president Carter’s coat but what could be said for certain is that the establishment definitely got a visit by the American intelligence service shortly after the event!

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