Stanislav Petrov- a true Russian hero

In 1983 Stanislav Petrov was a Lieutenant Colonel in the Soviet Strategic Rocket Force. His duties were to monitor the early warning systems and alert his superiors of any incoming attacks from the USA. His superiors would then launch a retaliatory strike and reduce Europe and America to irradiated rubble.

At 00.40 on the morning of 26 September 1983 Petrov's instruments indicated that the US had launched a missile at the Soviet Union. Petrov's instinct was that it must be a system error. If a strike had been launched, he reasoned, surely the Americans would have launched more than one missile. But the rules, the protocol, that he had been trained to follow, required him to pass the message up the chain of command so his superiors could launch their missiles.

In the paranoid cold war atmosphere of 1983 the decision to launch would have been automatic. (This was just weeks after the Russian Airforce shot down a Korean Airliner after it strayed into their airspace.)

At this point Petrov had, at best, minutes to decide the fate of the world. If he alerted his superiors Soviet Missiles would be launched and the world would descend into a nuclear holocaust from which humanity may never have recovered. On the other hand, if he didn't pass the alert on Russia would be caught on the hop and would have lost World War 3 without firing a shot. For those few moments the fate of the world rested on Petrov's decision.

Petrov chose to go with his instinct. He treated the missile as a false alarm, a system fault. He didn't pass on the alert. He did what he thought was right, not what he had been trained to do.

Over the next few minutes 5 further missiles were detected by his equipment. Again Petrov's instincts told him they were not real. Again he chose to ignore his protocol and treat them as false alarms.

It was minutes later that ground radar stations were able to confirm that no missiles were in the air. For those minutes Petrov must have been torn by the decision he had made, terrified that his instincts were wrong and that he had doomed his nation to destruction.

Unfortunately Petrov was held responsible by the Soviet military for disobeying orders and was reprimanded and moved to a less responsible posting.

The actions of Lt Col Petrov possibly saved the world from total destruction.
Well done that man!

PS. Is that the reaction you want, PP?
I just thought it slightly ironic that his actions (to my limited knowledge at least) have gone relatively unheralded. Still, I suppose that he was grateful not to have been excuted.
Good thinking. He did well, as in the early 80's, the KGB's top priority was to look for proof of the Americans' intentions to launch a first strike. Not whether there was such an intention or not, the fact that the Americans were planning a first strike was taken for granted.

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