Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Stansilav Petrov saved the world

This year, 77-year-old Stansilav Petrov passed away. His obituary should have said he saved the world. It happened in September, 1983. The cold war was warming up with the election of Ronald Reagan. The Soviet Union had just shot town South Korean Jetliner 007 when it wandered into Soviet air space. One passenger was a member of the U. S. House of Representatives. Tensions were high and Petrov was manning radar in Moscow on September 26 when it showed America had launched five ICBM missiles toward his homeland. It recommended retaliation. From the first alarm, he had 15 minutes to decide whether or not to report the attack, and 30 minutes to decide whether or not to counter-attack.

After thinking a moment, Petrov decided that if America was going to attack the Soviet Union it would launch more than five missiles. So he reported the alarm as a dud. Then he had 20 minutes two wait and see if he was right or wrong. He was right. He later learned the radar reading was generated by sunbeams reflecting off clouds. He kept his secret until the fall of the Soviet Union. Even his wife never knew, but let's hope that late at night, in their modest Moscow apartment, he kissed him on the cheek, for all of us.  (This crumb was contributed by a reader in Indiana.)

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