In the past, people have made decisions that saved the world. And even despite this, they stayed humble and weren’t interested in the fame. Those heroes literally saved our lives and proved that sometimes you need to disobey to make the right choice. Their character, logic, and strength of mind played a huge role in stopping a war.
We at 5 Fun Facts are happy to share with you a story about correct decisions that were made not by protocol, but by guided rationality and humanism.
Vasili Arkhipov: “You (and almost everyone you know) owe your life to this man.”
Not many of us know who this man is. But in October of 1962, Vasili Arkhipov likely prevented a nuclear war.
Just imagine the tension. It was the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis. The confrontation between the USA and the Soviet Union was growing rapidly every day.
The chances of a real war were enormous. The US had deployed ballistic missiles in Italy and Turkey, and Soviet ballistic missiles had been deployed in Cuba.
Arkhipov was a Soviet Navy officer and second-in-command of the submarine B-59 during the Cuban Missile Crisis. He was already known as a wise man in arms.
During the Cuban Missile Crisis, on October 27, 1962, a group of 11 United States Navy destroyers located the Soviet submarine B-59 near Cuba. It was in international waters, but the Americans started dropping explosives to force the submarine to come to the surface and be identified.
There had been no contact from Moscow for days. The captain of the submarine thought that a war might have already started and was about to launch a nuclear torpedo.
But the B-59’s captain was required to gain Arkhipov’s approval. An argument broke out because Arkhipov was the only one who was against the launch. Besides, the submarine’s air-conditioning had failed which was causing extreme heat and high levels of carbon dioxide inside the submarine. It was a situation that was not conducive to rationality.
He eventually convinced the captain to surface and wait for orders from Moscow. This decision literally averted nuclear war and because of that, we all owe our life to Arkhipov.
Stanislav Petrov: “A man who single-handedly saved the world from nuclear war.”
As The Cold War continued, tension grew. The possibility of nuclear war was getting even more realistic. That was when the second very wise decision was made. It was September 26, 1983, when Petrov was on duty at the command center for a nuclear warning system.
Suddenly the system reported that there was a missile launched from the United States, followed by 5 more. Petrov figured out that these reports were a false alarm. He made the decision to disobey orders of Soviet military protocol and prevented a nuclear attack from the Soviet side. He knew it could ruin his career but it would save lives.
If Petrov had confirmed incoming American missiles, his commander would’ve launched a nuclear attack against the United States. But Petrov declared the system’s indication to be a false alarm.
Only later was it obvious that he was right. It turned out that the computer detection system had malfunctioned.
Petrov later said that the sending of 5 consecutive missiles would not have been logical and that’s why he made his decision. The launch detection system was new and had yet to be proven 100% trustworthy.
In 2013, Petrov said in an interview that he was never sure that the alarm was malfunctioning. His decision was made with the help of civilian training. That ended up saving the world and preventing a nuclear war.
Have you ever made any fast, great decisions that had a positive outcome? Please leave a comment below and share these stories with your friends!
Preview photo credit National Geographic / Wikimedia Commons