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Here’s the convoluted story of a man who single-handedly prevented nuclear bomb fueled World War III from taking place. For those of you who are not aware of this incident, keep in mind that the prior statement is not some sort of over-inflated story or extended fact. This was one man’s choice and no one else’s and he definitely went against the grain.
Stanislav Yevgrafovich Petrov was a lieutenant colonel in the Soviet Air Defence Force and was stationed in front of newly made early warning computer system to alert the U.S.S.R. if American nukes are approaching. This, mind you, happened in 1983 when the Cold War was at its peak so to speak with many contributing geopolitical factors putting a massive strain on the already frail state of the superpowers’ relations. Both sides had a stockpile of nuclear bombs ready to go and the military doctrine was that of mutually assured destruction.
Then, all the lights went off on September 26th, right in front of Petrov’s face.
Knowing the entire early warning system was new and required 30 layers of verification, he judged that the one missile that was reportingly on its way to his homeland was a mistake because it passed the process too quickly. Within minutes, the system reported another four ICBMs were heading his way.
This made him think, “if the United States wanted to destroy the U.S.S.R., they wouldn’t send just five missiles but hundreds to ensure nothing of the country was left.” From a military standpoint, this made perfect sense. Destroy the enemy so they can’t retaliate from any other spot. Speaking of which, Petrov made the decision himself not to immediately report this to his superiors while watching all this unfold in front of him. Had he done so (as is protocol), the decision to retaliate and fire as many nukes as they could before being destroyed themselves would have been a definite order.
This single decision, ladies and gentlemen, is the reason you are able to read this right now.
As for Petrov, he was first praised for making the decision but later reprimanded for not filing the proper paperwork about the incident. Also, he didn’t receive the reward that was promised to him as doing so would mean all the people involved in the making of the early warning system would have to admit to making a mistake. Petrov was then demoted to a “less sensitive” position and faded out of peoples’ minds.
As for the mistake, and we’re not going to get too technical here, the weird angle of the sun, some crazy cloud formation and the alignment of the orbit made some sort of reflections that were picked up by the system and judged them to be nukes.