via the three a.m. phone call at the national security archive nuclear vault
Let me assure you, that after our “Captain” told us that the red phone “didn’t work” and that the President couldn’t be found, that my scope partner and I laughed sardonically. The thought that we couldn’t have launched without the authorization of the President was ridiculous to me and I’m guessing to all of us. I cannot say exactly why, except that notifying the President was presented as protocol and that protocol was presented as a courtesy, not a requirement, in the case that we were under attack or had reason to believe we were. No one said this explicitly. I’m not saying that anyone would have ordered a first strike without the President’s orders; but in the case that we thought ourselves under attack, with the policy of MAD; relying on the President for launch authorization was not even a consideration in my mind, even while having no reason to believe that we were not, in fact, under attack— especially then.
As you can see in this document, the President wasn’t notified nor was the Secretary of Defense. One could argue that that was the case because Command believed that it was a false alert from the beginning, as that argument has been made. I’d like to know how it was that they picked up on that from the beginning, because my unit most definitely did not. The accounts I’ve read on-line say “fortunately” or “luckily” someone “thought to check the raw data on the satellite”, which suggests that the attempt to find an error responsible for the signals of a decapitating Soviet strike went beyond the checklist and the obvious and that we were, indeed, hanging by the skin of our teeth, as it has always felt to me. Continue reading