Stanislav Petrov - The man who saved the World
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Thread: Stanislav Petrov - The man who saved the World

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    Registered User Full Member recon228's Avatar
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    Stanislav Petrov - The man who saved the World



    The date is September 1st, 1983, and the Cold War between the Soviet Union and United States is in full-gear when Korean Air Lines Flight 007 departs from JFK International in New York, en route to Seoul, South Korea.

    In the middle of the flight, while accidently passing through Soviet air space, Soviet fighter jets appear, moving in close to the aircraft. The Soviets, who didn't know the plane contained civilians, warned the pilot that they would shoot down the aircraft if it didn't identify itself. The pilot, for some unknown reason, doesn't respond.

    Reports say the pilot never actually received the information, although theories about this are still unclear. An hour passes as the fighter jets still accompany the aircraft. Just as the plane was about to leave Soviet airspace, orders came in from Soviet military command to shoot down the aircraft.

    The Soviet fighter jets shot down the plane, with the aircraft plunging 35,000 feet in less than 90 seconds, killing 269 civilians, including a US congressman.

    All hell broke loose as the Soviets tried to defend their 'mistake'. President Ronald Reagan described the Soviet's actions as "barbaric" and "a crime against humanity that must never be forgotten".

    The tension between the two super-powers hit an all-time high and, on September 15th, 1983, the US administration banned civilian Soviet aircraft from operating within US airspace. With the political climate in dangerous territory, both US and Soviet governments were on high-alert' believing an attack was imminent.

    It was a cold night at the Serpukhov-15 bunker in Moscow on September 26th, 1983 as Strategic Rocket Forces Lieutenant Colonel Stanislav Yevgrafovich Petrov resumed his duty, monitoring the skies of the Soviet Union, after taking a shift for someone else who couldn't go to work.

    Just past midnight, Petrov received the computer report he'd dreaded his entire military career; the computer captured a nuclear ICBM being launched from the US... destination: Moscow.

    In the event of such an attack, the Soviet Union’s strategy protocol was to launch an immediate all-out nuclear counterattack against the United States, and immediately afterwards inform top political and military figures. From there, the Soviet government would make a decision on whether to further the military offensive against America with follow-up attacks or a ground invasion.

    The bunker was in full-alert as the missile was captured by the Soviet satellites via computers. Petrov wasn't convinced though. He believed that if the US attacked, they would have attacked all-out, not just sending one missile and giving a chance for them (the Soviets) to attack back.

    Petrov figured something didn't make sense as just one missile from the US would be a strategic disaster. He took some time to think and decided not to give the order for a nuclear attack against America since, in his opinion, one missile didn't make sense and could easily have been a computer error.

    But then, seconds later, the situation turned dire; a second missile was spotted by the satellite. The pressure by the Officers in the bunker to commence responsive actions against America started growing. A third missile was spotted, followed by a fourth. A couple of seconds later, a fifth one was spotted... everyone in the bunker was convinced that the Soviet Union was under missile attack...

    ...everyone but Petrov.

    The Lt. Colonel had two options: go with his instinct and dismiss the missiles as computer errors, therefore breaking military protocol in the process, or take responsive action and commence full-scale nuclear retaliatory actions against America, killing millions outright and potentially poisoning the Earth for centuries to come.

    He decided it was a computer error, understanding deep down that if he was wrong, missiles would be raining down on Moscow in minutes.

    Seconds turned to minutes, and as time passed it became clear that Petrov was right; it was a computer error after all. Lt. Colonel Stanislav Petrov had prevented a worldwide nuclear war... a doomsday scenario that would have annihilated entire nations. He was a hero. Those around him congratulated him for his superb judgment.

    Upon further investigation it was discovered that the error came from a very rare sunlight alignment, which the computer misread as missiles.

    Of course, top brass in the Kremlin didn't find it so heroic, as he had broken military protocol in his actions and, if he had been wrong, risked millions of Russian lives. He was forced into early retirement with a measly $200-a-month pension and suffered a nervous breakdown as a result.

    Due to military secrecy, nobody knew about Petrov's heroic judgment until 1998, when a book written by a Russian Officer present in the bunker revealed that on that day, World War III was closer than people had ever imagined, and a nuclear holocaust was avoided by a close shave.

    Even though the Russians have little sympathy for the man who saved millions of American lives, the United Nations and a number of US agencies honored the man who could have started a nuclear war, but didn't.

    In 2008, a documentary film entitled 'The Man who saved the World' is set to be released, perhaps giving Petrov some financial help and thanking him for the incredible part he had in keeping the US and the USSR out of a full-blown nuclear war.

    Without knowing it, on that cold Moscow night back in 1983, a badly-paid 44 year old military officer saved the world, and made himself one of the most influential persons of the century in the process... saving more lives than anyone ever did.

    Most of the people today don't know it, but this world we currently live in is likely because of Lieutenant Colonel Stanislav Yevgrafovich Petrov.
    "I do not know with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones." - Albert Einstein

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    Registered User Exalted Member kyojikasshu's Avatar
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    ... wow.

    Monday, September 26th, 1983... I was beginning my fifth week of fourth grade on that day. I do remember the Korean Air incident, and that tensions were certainly high for a while, but... dang.

    I salute you, Colonel Petrov.

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    Registered User Exalted Member Fireand'chutes77's Avatar
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    I knew the thread title seemed familier - I'd read about Petrov through Wikipedia hyperlinking.

    It's usually considered Hollywood hyperbole when it's stated that the fate of the world rests with one man... But on Sept. 26th, 1983, it was no exaggeration.

    Funny. I was born after the USSR fell, so when I see the date "1983," in hindsight I'm able to think, "Oh, that was right near the end of the Cold War." But from the view of someone living during the time period, it could've seemed right in the middle, with no end in sight. After all, "2001" portrays Russian spacecraft bearing the Red Star...

    What a decision... Could you or I have done the same?
    Carpe Navi: Because you never know when you'll get to go boating at government expense again.

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    Registered User Full Member recon228's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fireand'chutes77 View Post
    Funny. I was born after the USSR fell, so when I see the date "1983," in hindsight I'm able to think, "Oh, that was right near the end of the Cold War." But from the view of someone living during the time period, it could've seemed right in the middle, with no end in sight. After all, "2001" portrays Russian spacecraft bearing the Red Star...

    What a decision... Could you or I have done the same?
    It's funny, 'chutes, but due to the fact that you always make such mature and intellectual posts, I tend to forget you're still so young. It's too bad the rest of America's youth don't follow in kind.

    I wasn't even three years old when this happened, so even if it hadn't been classified, I would have been far too young to remember any of it anyway. I was, however, born early enough to grow up understanding the threat that both nations (Ours and Theirs) posed to the world. I was also old enough to fully understand the significance of the Berlin Wall coming down.

    Don't let the fact that the Cold War was almost over fool you into thinking that meant a decrease in hostility between super-powers... as incidents such as this one and Able Archer 83 illustrate!
    "I do not know with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones." - Albert Einstein

  5. #5
    I was born after the USSR fell
    Well, now I feel really old. :P

    When I think back and remember what I was doing in 1983, and then now learn how close things had come to being drastically different and how my life--everyone's life--would have changed, I find it extremely sobering.

    Makes me wonder how much fate, destiny, luck and chance actually play in our lives.
    Why is everyone who drives slower than me an idiot, and everyone who drives faster a maniac?

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    Moderator Venerated Elder TransWarpDrive's Avatar
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    Thanks for posting this, recon. It's something I never knew before now.
    But you're right; Colonel Petrov is a hero, and deserves to be honored for what he did back then. I hope the documentary does good box-office business when it's released, so Col. Petrov gets that much-needed financial help. I know I plan to go see that film when it's released. (Can you keep us posted as to when that'll happen? Please and thank you!)
    Your post reminds me of something I heard on the cable news a few years ago regarding a reunion of the US and Russian sailors involved in the naval blockade of Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis of October, 1962. There were Soviet subs shadowing the U.S. Navy's surface vessels stationed around Cuba, and several of those subs had nuclear-tipped torpedoes. The captain of one such sub was so enraged at the Americans' blockade that he wanted to fire a nuke torpedo at our ships. It took the combined efforts of two other officers on that sub (most likely the first officer and the political officer) to dissuade the captain from launching that weapon. If this story is true, then those two Soviet sub officers were also unsung heroes for saving the world from a nuclear holocaust.
    EDIT: It just sunk in to me how lucky we all are that Col. Petrov had such common sense and guts. Living close to O'Hare Airport like we do, my family and I would have been incinerated by whatever bombs were targeted at that airfield...
    Oh, wow...

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    Registered User Exalted Member lunchmeat's Avatar
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    The right guy at the right time, past any shadow of a doubt. One of many near misses from those days. Unfortunately President Putin seems to be trying to ramp it all up again. Hopefully they've still got some Petrov's in the deck and they aren't all lost in some Stalinesque purge.
    But hey, the world is a completely safe place now, we've got the peace dividend and all

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    Administrator Honored Elder jeriddian's Avatar
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    I was in the middle of my training at UTMB Galveston. I had briefly heard about this around 2000, but never understood the implication. Where is Colonol Petrov now? Have things been made better for him?
    "Say the Word"

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    Registered User Regular Member Molloy's Avatar
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    This really hits close to home. In 1983 I was eleven, and very, very, very concerned about the prospect of nuclear war.

    It's good to know that a purely human "gut feeling" could supersede the regulations and protocol of a multi-tiered system that, while technically geared for "defense" of a nation, could had led to the desturction of everything.
    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC] Freedom involves being able truly to care about other people & to sacrifice for them over and over in myriad petty, unsexy ways every day. --David Foster Wallace

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    Registered User Exalted Member Fireand'chutes77's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Molloy View Post
    This really hits close to home. In 1983 I was eleven, and very, very, very concerned about the prospect of nuclear war.

    It's good to know that a purely human "gut feeling" could supersede the regulations and protocol of a multi-tiered system that, while technically geared for "defense" of a nation, could had led to the desturction of everything.
    It's weird... Twenty-four years ago today, the world could have vanished under a mushroom cloud... and I wouldn't exist, nor would a little Disney show called Kim Possible, and many of the members here would probably be little more than radioactive dust....
    Carpe Navi: Because you never know when you'll get to go boating at government expense again.

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