Where strange fact and stranger fiction collide
Today is Stanislav Petrov day. Who is Stanislav Petrov? Why just the man who saved the world. Oh is he someone in one of your comic books Dave? No, he is a real dude who really saved the world, here is how, and why he has a day named after him.
September 26th 1983 the West and the East were in the midst of the Cold War. Three weeks before the Soviets shot down Korean Airliner Flight 007, killing a US congressman, because they thought it was a spy plane. Under this great stress, a rare alignment of sunlight on high altitude clouds, were picked up by CCCP satellites as three American missile launches. Though an error, the Russian response was supposed to be nuclear retaliation.
Fortunately for all of us Stanislav Petrov was on duty at that time at the USSR’s duty officer at Oko’s early warning station. If he reported this as an attack the response was to start World War III. Petrov thought about his duty, he thought about his country and about the world. He thought the American’s have thousands of missiles why would they only launch three? So in an act of rationality he instead reported a technical glitch.
He was right of course, the American’s weren’t attacking. At first he was treated like a hero, but this being Cold War Russia his superiors realize that they are going to get the rightful blame for the events blame everything on Stan. He is given less and less prestigious assignment until he took an early retirement.
Later on the Russians would say that the Red Button that he was supposed to push to launch the missiles never actually worked, because they were afraid of the psychological stress that it would put on an individual officer. They also claim that if he reported the ‘attack’ it would not automatically lead to wide spread nuclear retaliation (but it might have) They also claim he was never persecuted over the event.
I don’t know if Petrov had reported the incident as anything but a technical glitch it would have led to World War III. But I know that he did report it as a malefaction and I and the rest of you are alive. So you know what Stan in my book you deserve your day. Have a good one my friend.