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Top 5 Apocalyptic Nuclear Bomb Facts

VO: Chris Masson
Written by Q.V. Hough Their unimaginably destructive potential makes them uncomfortable to think about… but they sure are interesting. Welcome to WatchMojo’s Top 5 Facts. In this installment, we’re counting down the most interesting facts about nuclear bombs. Special thanks to our users acertekin for submitting the idea using our interactive suggestion tool at WatchMojo.comsuggest

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Written by Q.V. Hough

Top 5 Facts About Nuclear Bombs

Their unimaginably destructive potential makes them uncomfortable to think about… but they sure are interesting.  Welcome to WatchMojo’s Top 5 Facts. In this installment, we’re counting down the most interesting facts about nuclear bombs.

#5: The American Nuclear Launch Code Used to Be 00000000

In the early 1960s, President Kennedy ordered the installation of a PAL, or Permissive Action Link on all of America’s nukes that were siloed in other countries, to prevent renegades in those countries from blowing up the world. But there was one major problem with the 23 million dollar project, and that was the code: 00000000. Apparently the Air Force didn’t want not having the code to delay launch in an emergency, which does have some logic to it. Entering the digits wouldn’t have been the only step needed to launch, but still, the not most complex group of numbers. Even so, the generic code is the equivalent of the most basic e-mail password, except this was for, uh, a nuclear BOMB. But, the code remained eight zeroes for nearly two decades anyways.

#4: One Russian Man Prevented Armageddon

In 1983, a Russian lieutenant colonel named Stanislov Petrov trusted his mind over a machine. And by doing so, he essentially prevented World War III. Back then, the Russians and Americans had a few unresolved issues. So, when Petrov looked at his missile detection system he saw that some warheads were headed to the homeland, and thought, well, that’s not good. But then again, only five missiles, America? Surely there had to be more than that. Petrov knew those imperialist dogs would launch hundreds at once if they sent any. And so, Petrov chalked it up to an equipment error. And he was right; the Soviet satellite system had some design flaws to work out. Petrov was commended for preventing the destruction of half the planet, but also reprimanded for not properly filling out his paperwork for the day.  Ah, military bureaucracy.

#3: Not All Nuclear Bombs Are Designed for a Big Bang

Anyone who’s seen our list of the Top 10 Nuclear Bomb Scenes in movies knows this about nukes: the lingering radiation will be bad, but it’s the fiery blast that’ll cause the destruction. But neutron bombs operate a little differently. While they do explode with a bang, they are designed to be deployed on a battlefield and kill soldiers by releasing massive amounts of radiation beyond their blast radius, which is even more terrifying if you ask me. The bomb’s inventor, Sam Cohen, first conceived of it in the late 50s. It’s been discussed as a possible way to deny oncoming forces without damaging as much property– a real capitalism-friendly bomb! It wouldn’t be the initial blast that would kill people, but rather the after effects, as its creator, Sam Cohen, so articulately conveys.

#2: A Harvard Professor Proposed That Presidents Should Kill For the Nuclear Code

During the Cold War, the president would constantly be shadowed by a man carrying a briefcase, nicknamed the “football,” containing the nuclear launch codes the president would need to launch a nuclear strike. Around this time, Roger Fischer, a Harvard law professor and frequent advisor to the secretary of state, was troubled that the president could use those codes in such an impersonal manner. So, he proposed a special volunteer for the President, a man who would have a capsule containing the launch codes implanted under his heart, and carry around a giant butcher knife. To get to those codes, the president would have to cut out this innocent man’s heart. As Fischer put it: “The President says, ‘George, I’m sorry but tens of millions must die.’ He has to look at someone and realize what death is—what an innocent death is.”  The Pentagon wasn’t crazy about the idea.

#1: The U.S. Accidentally Dropped Two Nuclear Bombs on North Carolina

In 1961, just three days after the inauguration of John F. Kennedy, the United States almost nuked itself. The problems started when a B-52 bomber began to break down over North Carolina with two nuclear bombs on board. And these bombs were pretty powerful – in fact, they were 260 times more powerful than those dropped on Hiroshima. Fortunately, one actually got caught in a tree while the other just failed to detonate after striking the American soil at 700 miles per hour. It wasn’t until 2013 that the world learned that three of the four safety mechanisms on one of the bombs had been deactivated in the crash. And if the bombs would have detonated? Well, the JFK conspiracy theories would be quite different.

So, do you think the president should have to murder one man to order the deaths of millions of others? For more explosive top 10s and 00000000 Top 5s, be sure to subscribe to

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