The Two Soviets That Saved The World

The Two Soviets That Saved The World


The 1980’s, the decade of Legwarmers, Pac-man
and that time the almost mythical “Computer” was Time’s man of the year. But in 1983 the world also came very close being destroyed, and all because of a computer malfunction. Almost twenty years after the Cuban Missile
crisis, on the 26th of September 1983, a 44 year old Russian Stanislav Petrov was working
as the duty officer at one of Russia’s nuclear warning systems when a report came in that
their arch enemy, the US, had just launched a missile and it was heading straight for
Russia. The alarm went off four more times Telling him that in total 5 nuclear warheads were heading for his home country Both sides in the cold war were MAD, in that
they had a policy of Mutually Assured Destruction. That meant if either one launched a missile
the other would immediately retaliate no matter the consequences. Unfortunately, those consequences we’re
the destruction of at least most of the Northern hemisphere and the entire first world. So, Stanislav had a decision to make. Arguably the toughest decision ever. Either, sit tight and do nothing, hoping that
the warning system is wrong, or, abiding by Russian military protocol, attempt to launch
a retaliatory attack which, if the missile system was in fact wrong, would be Russia
striking first and the USA would go absolutely MAD. Given that you’re still sitting there watching
this video quite happily. You could probably guess what happened. Stanislav reasoned that if the US was to launch
an attack it wouldn’t only send five measly missiles when they, at the time, had more
than 20,000 of them. So, he decided to wait it out. Luckily he was right and the missiles never
appeared. That’s because the detection system that
supposed protected the soviet union from total annihilation was tricked by sunlight bouncing
off some clouds. Stanislav wasn’t commended or rewarded for
his decision, instead, in true Russian fashion they said his “correct actions” were “duly
noted”. It has since been argued that the decision
would have had to have been referred to his superiors and they would have looked for corroborating
reports from other systems before launching the attack. So, maybe Stanislav isn’t the saviour of
all mankind. But he did get a documentary film made about
him. However, there is one Russian who came even
closer to causing a nuclear apocalypse. And an event in his life was made into a film
with Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson so he kinda wins on both levels. People often call October 1962 “the closest
the world has ever come to ending” because it was the month of the Cuban Missile crisis. Super quick run down of that. The Russians and the Americans don’t like
each other. They’ve both got big bombs. Russia wants to put its bombs here. America really doesn’t like that idea one
bit. Then they sat in boats in the sea for a while
until the Russians eventually backed down. And all lived happily ever after. However, you can actually pinpoint a day and
decision that if made incorrectly would have ensured destruction of a large proportion
of the world. And it was made by just 3 people. And they were stuck in a submarine miles below
the ocean. And only one of them made the right choice. Vasili Arkhipov was second in command of the
B-59 submarine off the coast of Cuba. Remember that’s where Americans don’t
want the Russians. So a group of US Navy ships began dropping
depth charges to try and force the submarine to surface. The crew had two options go to the surface
and be sent back to mother Russia with their tail between their legs and probably face
punishment or dive deep and try to evade the Americans. They chose the one that wouldn’t make them
outcasts in their homeland. Unfortunately, at that depth they could no
longer communicate with Russian command or hear US civilian radio signals. This led the Captain to fairly wildly assume
that war had broken out and say that they should launch their nuclear warheads. A move which would have once again made the
Americans very MAD. The political officer on the sub also agreed. Fortunately, Vasili also got a say because
he was the commander of the entire submarine flotilla. Vasili was also well liked among the crew
because of an event the previous year in which a sub he was in was nearing nuclear meltdown. They all evaded certain death by cobbling
together a engineering crew to replace the broken cooling system. Great success. Well, when I said they “all evaded certain
death” the engineering crew are an exception as they all died within the next month from radiation overdose Anyway, Vasili decided to not launch. The decision had to be unanimous and therefore
Vasili prevented an all out nuclear war. They resurfaced and returned home to Russia. However, they, again, weren’t celebrated. One admiral even told them “It would have
been better if you’d gone down with your ship.” This event wasn’t revealed to the world
until 2002. The U.S. Secretary of Defense said “We came
very close” to nuclear war, “closer than we knew at the time.” and an advisor for the
JFK administration continued “This was not only the most dangerous moment of the Cold
War. It was the most dangerous moment in human
history.”

9 Comments on "The Two Soviets That Saved The World"


  1. The real heroes never get recognition or at least not in their lifetime. And one person CAN make a difference.

    Reply

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