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Nearly Nuked 3 - How Stanislav Yevgrafovich Petrov Saved the World.
Russian Retaliatory Strike? Would That Be a Big Deal?
Well, if it would have launched, I wouldn't be writing this, because this computer, the internet, and probably you and I wouldn't exist. They had enough to destroy the world, but they wouldn't have done that, only a few continents would have been destroyed, that's all.
It was September 26, 1983, Stanislav was the officer on duty at the command center for the Oko nuclear early-warning satellite system that reported that a missile was being launched from the United States. Stanislav judged the report to be a false alarm, His judgment call was made against protocol, which also required two sources for retaliation. Just as he didn't follow protocol, the next officer may not have waited for the second source to launch the attack.
You might say this wasn't as close a call as the others in this series. But in terms of the potential fallout, both figurative and literal, this averted disaster takes the cake.
Soviet Missile Command Defense Display (parody)
Red Hammers and Blue Nails
Great, right? Well, it got worse. The same computers identified four more missiles in the air and above ground radar detection. All five were directed towards the Soviet Union. Our friend Petrov employed more good sense and guessed that the computer system was still malfunctioning, as it had been known to do in the past. There was no other source of information to confirm or deny the authenticity of the information, only his good sense vs. typical human nonsense.
Just think, I was an 8 year-old kid playing war games, pretending to kill the evil Russians whose U.S.S.R. was our mortal enemy. Perhaps at that very moment, a Soviet-Russian Officer employed the most admirable human reasoning skills to prevent a sad series of events ending in mutually-assured destruction. In some ways it seems unimaginable that he would have set war in motion, but when you're a hammer, everything tends to look like a nail.
Petrov Receiving the Dresden Prize in February 2013
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© 2014 Doug DeWalt