Tuesday, September 27, 2011

This man will never be forgotten if I have anything to say about it.

On this day in 1983, Soviet military officer Stanislav Petrov single-handedly averted a worldwide nuclear war when he chose to believe his intuition instead of the computer screen in front of him which indicated the US had launched a nuclear missile attack against the Soviet Union... (This remarkable incident proves one man can make a difference...for the whole world!)
Lieutenant Colonel Stanislav Petrov was the officer on duty at the Serpukhov-15 bunker near Moscow on September 26, 1983, a time when the Cold War was at a peak. Just three and a half weeks prior, the Soviets had shot down Korean Air Flight 007, killing all 269 people on board the Boeing 747. It was Lt. Col. Petrov's responsibility to observe the satellite early warning network and notify his superiors of any impending nuclear missile attack against the USSR. In the event of such an attack, the Soviet Union's strategy was to launch an immediate all-out nuclear counter-attack against the United States, as the doctrine of Mutual Assured Destruction required.
Just past midnight, at 00:40 hrs, the bunker's computers indicated that an American missile was heading toward the Soviet Union. Lt. Col. Petrov reasoned that a computer error had occurred, since the United States was not likely to launch just one missile if it were attacking the Soviet Union -- it would launch many simultaneously. Also, the satellite system's reliability had in the past been questioned, so he dismissed the warning as a false alarm, concluding that no missile had actually been launched by the United States.

However, a short time later the computers indicated that a second missile had been launched, followed by a third, a fourth and a fifth. Petrov still felt that the computer system was wrong, but there was no other source of information with which to confirm his suspicions. The Soviet Union's land radar was not capable of detecting missiles beyond the horizon, so by the time land radar could positively identify the threat, it would be too late.

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.

Understanding that if he were wrong, nuclear missiles would soon be raining down on the Soviet Union, Petrov decided to trust his intuition and declare the system's indications a false alarm. After a short while, it was apparent that his instincts were right. There were no approaching missiles. The crisis put him under immense pressure and stress, yet Petrov's judgement had been sound. A full-scale nuclear war had been averted.

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