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On This Day



On This Day... The World Nearly Ended

Written by: George Chittenden : 05 Jun 2019

It was on this day, 26th Sept, back in 1983 when a man named Stanislav Petrov came close to single-handedly saving the world from nuclear war during the 1983 Soviet nuclear false alarm incident. So how did one man save the world? Well, Stanislav was a Lieutenant Colonel of the Soviet Air Defence Forces and was the duty officer at the command centre for the Oko nuclear early-warning system.

Imagine how you’d feel if you noticed that the system reported that a missile had been launched from the United States, followed by up to five more. Thankfully Stanislav kept his cool and didn’t panic, but most importantly he didn’t follow protocol and report the incoming American missiles which may have resulted in an erroneous retaliatory nuclear attack on the United States and it's NATO allies that could have resulted in a large-scale nuclear war.

A young Stanislav Petrov

A young Stanislav Petrov

So how did he know the system was malfunctioning? Stanislav had been informed that a U.S. strike against the Soviet Union would be all-out, so five missiles seemed unusual. So, what caused the malfunction? The false alarm was caused by an alignment of sunlight on high-altitude clouds above North Dakota and the Molniya orbits of the satellites. Believe it or not, Stanislav Petrov was actually reprimanded for the incident as according to the Soviet government he’d insufficiently documented his actions during the crisis. Today we remember the hero Stanislav Petrov, who died in May 2017 from hypostatic pneumonia.

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