[NetBehaviour] Remember the forgotten hero who saved the world.

marc.garrett at furtherfield.org marc.garrett at furtherfield.org
Wed Sep 27 12:57:38 CEST 2006

Remember the forgotten hero who saved the world.

t might seem odd to celebrate a 23rd anniversary but every year since I
heard of this man I go out and raise a glass to his memory. In truth you
can get most journalists to raise a glass to anything but in this case I’m
thanking him for my life.

On 26th September 1983 the hero of the day, Colonel Stanislav Yefgrafovich
Petrov, clocked on for work as normal. Petrov was in charge of the Soviet
Union’s satellite warning systems and this was the height of the cold war.
Everyone was on edge because NATO was carrying out its annual tactical
exercises and two weeks before the Soviets had shot down a Korean airliner
that had wandered into the wrong airspace.

Meanwhile in the wider picture Ronald Reagan was publicly calling the
Soviet Union an ‘Evil Empire’, the warm up man at a UK Conservative party
rally had opened with the call to “Bomb Russia” and we had Andropov, a
former leader of the KGB, as the current ruler of the Kremlin. Things were,
to put it mildly, on a hair trigger.

All in all it was a scary time to be alive. If I hadn’t had the first
Sláine series in the comic 2000AD and Duran Duran’s Rio to distract me I’d
never have made it through the year without digging a fallout shelter –
something plenty of people did.

Anyway, at 40 minutes past midnight on the 26th Petrov looked up and saw a
missile launch from a United States silo had been detected by one of his
satellites. Now you might expect panic at this point but missile command
tends to attract the serious, sober type, probably the type of people who
smoke a pipe and sew leather patches on their jackets, and Petrov kept his

He knew the satellite had been reported as suspect and decided to hold off
on informing the high command. Then a second missile launch was picked up,
and shortly after another, and another and another. Petrov knew that if he
waited until he could confirm the launches with ground radar it would be
too late for his country, he and his family would die and the Yankees would
win the Cold War.

Stanislav Yefgrafovich Petrov:

20 Mishaps That Might Have Started Accidental Nuclear War.
by Alan F. Philips, M.D.

Ever since the two adversaries in the Cold War, the U.S.A. an the U.S.S.R.,
realized that their nuclear arsenals were sufficient to do disastrous
damage to both countries at short notice, the leaders and the military
commanders have thought about the possibility of a nuclear war starting
without their intention or as a result of a false alarm. Increasingly
elaborate accessories have been incorporated in nuclear weapons and their
delivery systems to minimize the risk of unauthorized or accidental launch
or detonation. A most innovative action was the establishment of the "hot
line" between Washington and Moscow in 1963 to reduce the risk of
misunderstanding between the supreme commanders.


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