A Russian, Stanislav Petrov, The Man Who Saved the World

A Russian, Stanislav Petrov, The Man Who Saved the World

On the 26th of September 1983, the planet came terrifyingly close to a nuclear apocalypse scenario.

The Soviet Union’s missile attack early warning system displayed, in large red letters, the word “LAUNCH”; a computer screen stated to the officer on duty, Soviet Lt. Col. Stanislav Petrov, that it could say with “high reliability” that an American intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) had been launched and was headed toward the Soviet Union. First, it was just one missile, but then another, and another, until the system reported that 5 ICBMs had been launched.

And Petrov had to make a decision. Report to his superiors about an impending American strike and start a nuclear war? Because the Soviet Union would have reacted immediately and would have launched nukes in retaliation leaving no time to double-check the system or seek negotiations with the US. Even Petrov had reasons to think that the US had launched nukes as relations among the superpowers weren’t exactly friendly and they were at each other’s throats.

But Petrov did not report the incoming strike. He and others on his staff concluded that what they were seeing was a false alarm. And it was; the system mistook the sun’s reflections off clouds for missiles. Petrov thereby prevented a nuclear war between the Soviets, who had 35000 nukes, and the US, which had 23,305.

Studies showed that a full scale Soviet nuclear assault on the US would have killed 35% to 77% of the US population and the US retaliation would have killed 20 to 40% of the Soviet population. In other words, both of the superpowers would have been truly devastated. The combined death total of these two countries would have been between 108 million and 288 million, which is much, much, bigger than the death toll of any recorded war in history.

And that wouldn’t have been all. It’s likely hundreds of millions more would have died once the conflict disrupted global temperatures and severely hampered agriculture and as many as 2 billion people would have died.

Mr. Petrov almost single-handedly saved billions of people from death by not telling his superiors about an incoming nuclear strike. If the strike actually occurred, and he somehow survived, he would have had a very miserable death for treason at the hands of the Soviets. Even then, he was never rewarded and was vigorously interrogated for this incident. He died at the age of 77 from pneumonia without many people acknowledging that he saved the world

A true hero, whom historians and people alike largely forgot, but he single-handedly saved the human race from perpetual ruin. May he rest in peace.

Source – Quora

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Written by Harry Rosen

Harry Rosen is an accomplished explorer, photographer, creative director, speaker, and author.

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