Skip to comments.On This Date in 1983, Stanislav Petrov Single-Handedly Prevented Nuclear War
Posted on 09/26/2013 7:43:25 AM PDT by shego
On September 26, 1983, the world came very close to nuclear war. Shortly after midnight, alarms inside Serpukhov-15 -- a bunker in Moscow where the Soviet Union monitored its satellites over the United States -- began to go off. The satellites had detected the launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile from a base in the United States. Then the system reported that five missiles had been launched and were heading toward the Soviet Union from the U.S.
Lieutenant Colonel Stanislav Petrov, who was on duty that night, had no way of knowing that it was a false alarm: The satellites had mistaken the reflections of sunlight off high-altitude clouds as a missile launch. He had only a few minutes to determine if this was a genuine attack. In that case, Soviet protocol was an immediate counterattack.
It was a tense time in U.S.-Soviet relations. On September 1, the Soviets had shot down a South Korean passenger plane that strayed into its airspace, killing a number of Americans. The United States was performing naval maneuvers near key Soviet military sites. And preparations were underway for Able Archer 83, a 10-day NATO exercise in Western Europe that included a simulated DEFCON 1 nuclear alert. Some Soviets thought Archer was a ruse for war that would mask the preparations for a genuine nuclear strike....
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I have seen a television interview with this guy. Living in a crappy little pensioner’s apartment in Moscow. Someone really should take up a collection for him.
He said all his training taught him that if the US ever launched on the Soviets it would be massive, not two or three missiles. So he ignored the false signal. For that he was summarily drummed out of the military.
The Russian BM Subs had a feature that caused the missiles to be fired if the sub crew was disabled. The sub we salvaged in the Pacific had a missile part way out of the tube.
Interesting story and I’ve read about it in the past.
Soviet doctrine may have been an immediate counterattack but Stanislav thought something just didn’t seem right. Why would the U.S. launch 5 ICBMs......and then stop? It didn’t figure to him so he held up a response until it became clear that this was a false alert and that no launches had actually occurred. Thank goodness.
He should have been given a medal. One thing that hampered the effectiveness of the Soviet and Nazi militaries was that their officers were frozen by fear of acting without direction, which meant they were slow to react. Americans always took initiative. This guy was willing to think for himself, and he did it quickly and under intense pressure. We should give him a medal, too.
“...On September 1, the Soviets had shot down a South Korean passenger plane that strayed into its airspace, killing a number of Americans...”
They shot down a jumbo jet with a flashing light on top. Some spy plane! They murdered 269 people including eleven infants.
The most anti-communist and most conservative member of the House of Representatives was on that flight. Congressman Larry McDonald was a thorn in the Soviet side with his constant support of Eastern European dissidents through his Western Goals Foundation. McDonald had recently become the Chairman of the John Birch Society and was bringing that organization back as a player. Would the Soviets shoot down a commercial plane to kill one man? Pablo Escobar did. If it was not done to kill McDonald it was quite a coincidence that their number one enemy in Washington just happened to be aboard.
“ground-based radar cant see over the horizon...” LOL
Yes, thirty years ago, I was stationed at Spangdahlem Air Base, West Germany. We were in an exercise and we were in our chem gear doing our jobs humping ammo and running the bomb dump 24/7. While we were doing this our future leader was smoking his pot and snorting his coke. I guess we were fighting the Cold War while all the marxists leftists were back home reading Alinsky and Marx. Yes, thirty years ago.
Isn’t it strange that only the leaders of countries are the wild eyed crazy ideologues and that the common people who support and elect them are the ones with common sense?
Thank you for posting this. I saw a documentary about this and couldn’t remember the name of the exercise that we were conducting at the time. Thankfully, the article does reference it as AbleARcher83.
I was stationed at SHAPE during Desert Storm as a Crypto Specialist. I was very likely running the same Crypto room in the bunker as was doing the AbleArcher exercises!
Thirty years ago I was working in a very cramped office on the top floor of the old US Embassy in Baghdad. Not only were we concerned about an Iranian SCUD landing on us, I was afraid the KAL007 incident was going to mess up my return to CONUS day.