Can we really count on luck to keep us safe?

Hair Trigger incorporates real-life close calls that brought the world too close to nuclear disaster.

Hawaii panics after alert about incoming missile sent in error

January 13, 2018

An early-morning emergency alert mistakenly warning of an incoming ballistic missile attack was dispatched to cellphones across Hawaii on Saturday, setting off widespread panic in a state already on edge because of escalating tensions between the United States and North Korea.


Faulty computer chip almost starts World War III

June 3, 1980

Hours before dawn on June 3, 1980, President Carter’s national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski was awakened with the news that Soviet submarines had launched 220 missiles at the United States. Brzezinski asked for confirmation; seconds later, he was told that not 220 but 2,200 missiles were on their way. As Brzezinski was calling the President to recommend a retaliatory strike, fresh data came. The incident was declared a false alarm. The culprit? A defective computer chip that was replaced for under a dollar.


Officers in charge of nuclear missiles left blast door open

October 23, 2013

US Air Force officers entrusted with the launch keys to long-range nuclear missiles have been caught twice this year leaving open a blast door that is intended to help prevent a terrorist or other intruder from entering their underground command post, Air Force officials said.


Drunken free-for-all gets high-ranking official overseeing nuclear weapons fired

December 19, 2013

A high-level U.S. nuclear commander assigned to oversee three wings of nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missiles engaged in a range of personal misconduct during an official trip to Moscow. He engaged in heavy drinking, was rude to his hosts, and persistently pursued two “suspect” foreign national women. Then he was fired.


U.S. jets intercept Russian bombers capable of carrying nuclear weapons

July 4, 2015

Two Russian bombers heading to the United States West Coast were intercepted by the US Air Force before reaching U.S. sovereign air space. The bombers that were intercepted had the capability of carrying nuclear weapons, but it was not revealed whether they were armed or not.


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