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Exploring The Secrets Of A ‘Football’ That Could End Life On Earth

You might have heard of it, but you probably don't know what's inside. Exploring The Secrets Of A ‘Football’ That Could End Life On Earth Shutterstock

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When it comes to nuclear war, the threat of eradicating humanity has (thankfully) prevented any country to take that disastrous step, despite the fact that many nations have the capability.

In fact, the U.S. president can launch a strike from anywhere, thanks to the “nuclear football.”

Chances are, you’ve at least heard this phrase in some context … but not too many people know what’s actually inside this mysteriously powerful bag.

Asking the expert

George Washington University’s William Burr serves as a senior analyst at the National Security Archive and knows more about the nuclear football than most folks who haven’t been the commander-in-chief. And he recently sat down for an interview with the Associated Press to provide some interesting details.

  • It dates back to the 1950s when Dwight Eisenhower’s advisers were concerned about being caught off guard by a nuclear attack.
  • It became known as the “football” sometime in the ‘60s, possibly because of John F. Kennedy’s affinity for the sport.
  • It contains certain clandestine presidential decrees, even though there might be no one left to act on them if a strike is declared.

The basic idea behind allowing presidents to travel with this satchel is that it provides direct communication with the Pentagon so that an order can be delivered without haste. But the actual contents of the football remain clouded in secrecy decades after it was first developed.

Who has access?

The president is typically followed by a military aide who carries the briefcase. At first, this was limited to travel outside of the nation’s capital, but its use has since expanded.

When Richard Nixon was vice president, he received a bag. And although Lyndon Johnson didn’t want one, he realized the importance of providing access to the vice president after Kennedy was assassinated.

Chris Agee
Chris Agee July 19th, 2023
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