Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The day Stanislav Petrov saved the world

Today according to Australian Eastern Standard Time when this item was posted
1983 On this day, it is likely that more lives were saved than on any other occasion in history, and it was by a man most of us haven’t heard of, and because he refused to obey orders.

Soviet military officer Stanislav Petrov (b. c. 1939) averted a worldwide nuclear war (because of time-zone differences, the date was September 26 in the Soviet Union, and September 25 in the West). Petrov refused to accept that missiles had been launched against the USSR by the United States of America despite the indication given by his computerised early warning systems.

For three terrifying minutes, Petrov held firm while alarms around him in his bunker were telling him his country was under attack, with five US missiles launched and headed towards Soviet territory.

Petrov's dilemma was this: if he was disregarding a real attack, then the Soviet Union would be devastated by nuclear weapons without any warning or chance to retaliate, and he would have failed at his duty. On the other hand, if he were to report a non-existent attack, his superiors might launch an equally catastrophic assault against their enemies. In either case, millions of people would die.

The experience nearly ruined his health, and his incredible tale was hushed up ...

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