Stanislav Petrov

25 years ago, on September 26, 1983, nuclear war was narrowly averted when a Soviet Air Defenses lieutenant colonel named Stanislov Petrov deviated from standard Soviet Doctrine (and protocols he himself had written) by positively identifying a missile attack warning as a false alarm.

This decision, according to several sources, was a major factor in preventing a retaliatory nuclear attack on the United States.  Investigation of the satellite warning system, which had indicated the launch of five missiles from the U.S., later confirmed that the system had been malfunctioning

With merely 2-3 minutes to react, he later explained his reasoning, “When people start a war, they don’t start it with only five missiles. You can do little damage with just five missiles.”  Petrov retired (or was forced out) several months later and his actions remained secret until 1998. “I just did my job. At the right place. At the right time.”

Chillingly, not only was this neither the first nor last time retaliatory strikes in response to false missile warnings have been averted, but they occured on both sides of the iron curtain.

Explore posts in the same categories: History, Whew

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