This could potentially have been a sitcom-worthy awkward situation. Tom Ricks and Hugh Shelton’s memoirs:
First, he reports, a bit mysteriously, that late in the Clinton administration, the president’s authorization codes to use nuclear weapons strike were lost. He doesn’t really explain what happened or who knew about it, except that the guy who was supposed to make sure once a month that an aide to the president had the codes kept getting the runaround, and putting up with it. It turned out that an aide to the president had misplaced the codes, and had no idea where they were. The situation only came to light when it was time to collect the old codes and replace them with new ones, and the aide apparently confessed. Shelton tells the story a bit oddly — I had to read this section a few times. I am guessing that the story is about the nuclear “football” that a military aide carries. It made me wonder what happened to that aide. Also, what would have happened if the president had decided to launch a nuclear strike? (392-393)
What happens to you after you lose the nuclear launch codes? I appreciate that a President doesn’t need them often, but they seem like the sort of thing that’s really, really important to have on hand.