A lot of us don’t know who Petrov was… Perhaps he is the reason we all are alive today.
On September 26, 1983, Soviet lieutenant colonel Stanislav Petrov received a message on his computer that five nuclear missiles had been launched by the United States and were heading towards Moscow. However, he didn’t launch a retaliatory strike, believing “correctly” that it was a false alarm. And with that, his wisdom saved the world from a nuclear war.
Sadly, it’s being reported that Petrov died this year’s May at the age of 77.
At that time, the United States and the Soviet Union were entangled in the Cold War. Each one stockpiled tens of thousands of nuclear weapons and no one could imagine how horrific this nuclear war could have been.
Karl Schumacher, who was one of the first people to publicize the Petrov’s story back in the 1990s, is a political activist in Germany. Howe, er Schumacher reportedly learned about Petrov’s death after contacting Petrov’s home. Petrov’s son Dmitry told that the man who saved the world from a horrific war had died on May 19, 2017.
Lt. Col. Stanislav Petrov was only 44 years old when he was working at a missile detection bunker south of Moscow. When the word “Launch” appeared on his computer screen he used his common sense while keeping those crucial 20 minutes on hold to launch a counter attack.
It was his job, his duty, to alert his senior officer —however, something seemed off
He sat there thinking what should be done. He reasoned that if the Americans were going to launch their first strike they would probably send more than six missiles, despite the fact they still had the potential to do an enormous amount of damage. He also believed that the alert system was relatively new to him, and it seemed that it could be sending a false alarm.
Although he had absolutely no real proof to support his wisdom — this is a true fact that saved millions of lives.
“The siren howled, but I just sat there for a few seconds, staring at the big, back-lit, red screen with the word ‘launch’ on it,” Petrov told to the BBC’s Russian Service back in 2013.
“I had all the data [to suggest there was an ongoing missile attack]. If I had sent my report up the chain of command, nobody would have said a word against it,” Petrov said.
“There was no rule about how long we were allowed to think before we reported a strike. But we knew that every second of procrastination took away valuable time; that the Soviet Union’s military and political leadership needed to be informed without delay,” he added.
Most importantly, Petrov said that in those days, he was the only officer who had received a civilian education while everyone else was a professional soldier. He believed that in his place they would have simply reported about the attack at face value. Those men around him were “ simply taught to give and obey orders.” But luckily, Petrov disobeyed as he did what he felt right.
“All I had to do was to reach for the phone; to raise the direct line to our top commanders—but I couldn’t move. I felt like I was sitting on a hot frying pan,” Petrov said.
If he had been wrong, perhaps he would have become the reason for millions of lives lost and certainly would have compromised the Soviet Union’s ability to retaliate against the nuclear strike. However, if he was right, World War III was averted and it seems he was…
It’s truly amazing that his wit helped the world survive the Cold War.
Rest in peace, Stanislav Petrov. Though you may not have got the deserved recognition in life, from now on, humanity will always remember you. All of us who’re living in the 21st century owe you a tremendous debt. And the best thing we can do is to hope the nuclear powers of the world will learn an important lesson from your heroism.