I have been asked why “death wears bunny slippers.” [See patch below] Since there is a very short and simple reason, I will use an unnecessarily long story to explain.
As you may or may not know, Missile Combat Crews pull alert (the time when we are actively in charge of ICBMs in a flight area) for approximately 24 hours. This excludes driving time, briefings, some inspections, etc. We show up for work at 0730 hrs (7:30 a.m. for the non-military types) or 0830 (8:30 a.m.) depending on the time of year. If all goes well, we get home around 1400 (2 p.m.) the following day.
There are always two of us in the capsule, and most of the time it is permitted for one individual to be in rest status (sleeping). This is perfectly logical. You don’t want Air Force officers hallucinating launch messages or damaging the system in some other way due to sleep deprivation. Work with nuclear weapons isn’t as error forgiving as say serving cold fries at a fast food establishment – but I digress.
Because we will be sleeping in the launch control center (LCC) and are hidden away behind two very large, very heavy blast doors, after changing over with the offgoing crew we change into what we call our “alert gear” (that is assuming that there is no maintenance, tours, or anything of that nature going on in the LCC). Prime alert gear is usually something comfortable to sit and sleep in which you don’t mind getting smelly and probably wouldn’t be caught dead in out in public. There are many hard surfaces and sharp angles to catch the unwary crewmembers toe and cause him or her to cry out in pain and speak in tongues. Consequently, padded slippers are a vital addition to any proper crew member’s outfit. Bunny slippers, although not the most popular among the male types, have been known to rear their little fuzzy heads now and again while on alert.
Ultimately then, if the world is ever destroyed by a nuclear holocaust, it is a fair bet that somewhere there is a steely-eyed war fighter turning a launch key and dealing instant death… all while wearing cute little fuzzy pink bunny slippers. Hence, “death wears bunny slippers.”
Wry humor is one of the few defenses we have against the knowledge, however slim the chances may be, that we may one day have to be responsible for taking the lives of many people we don’t even know. Our primary mission is nuclear deterrence – don’t shoot at us and we won’t shoot back, but Heaven help us if deterrence fails.