A Man who saved the World by Reporting a Computer Malfunction in 1983


 A Man who saved the World
Photo Credit: NYTIMES

A Man who saved the World:

The time of cold war between the United States and the Soviet Union has been the time of nuclear weaponry. Both of the countries were in the competition of making nuclear weapons just to save themselves from each other. Both of the countries didn’t actually want war but they were in the state of paranoia. In 1983, the Soviets thought that a spy plane has crossed their airbase, they shot down a commercial flight of Korea which killed more than 269 people on board. Among these 269 people was a congressman of Georgia. After this attack, the Soviet Union was declared as an evil empire by President Ronal Reagan.

With the passage of time, the things got worse. Both countries were equally contributing to destroying the other one and it is difficult to defend one among them. They were equally responsible for the destruction. Ronald Reagan and Yuri V. Andropov were equally paranoid. The paranoia didn’t limit to the higher authorities. It spread like a virus among people and people started to carefully look the sea, the sky, and the land to find anything abnormal. They were aware that their enemy can attack them anytime. In such a critical time, Stanislav Petrov saved his country and the world.
Stanislav Petrov was a lieutenant colonel in the Soviet air force. In 1983, he was appointed to the nuclear program in a secret city named Serpukhov-15. He was working on a secret word “Oko” or Eye which was the code name for early warning for the detection of the launch of nuclear attack by the United States. Petrov also helped to design the system’s command center which was located underneath the city in a massive bunker. During his duty as monitoring officer on the night of September 26, all of the computers in the system alerted about the launch of five Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missiles by an American Base. The system also detected four more missiles just a few seconds later.

 A Man who saved the World
Photo Credits: The Aviationist

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Stanislav Petrov saved his country and the world:

It was the duty of Petrov to report his superiors about the incident. These superiors would transfer message to the general military staff who would consult with Yuri Andropov about the counterattack. Petrov had a span of only 25 minutes to report from launch to detonation of the missiles. Petrov was paralyzed. He was not able to move. After the launch of nuclear missiles, every second is valuable for the military as the Soviet Union’s Military had to prepare for the counterattack. Petrov had to reach the phone to report his superiors about the incident but he was not able to do so.
However, Petrov decided to report the alert of ballistic missiles the malfunction of the computer. He told in an interview to Washington Post in 1999, “I had a funny feeling in my gut, I didn’t want to make a mistake. I made a decision, and that was it”. Just imagine what our world would be if Petrov didn’t act on his intuition? What if he would have reported to his superiors? The intuition of Petrov was correct. It was the sun rays whose reflection was on the tops of high-altitude clouds that the satellites mistook as ballistic missiles. The correct and timely decision of Petrov saved his country and the whole world from such a huge leveled destruction.

 A Man who saved the World
Photo Credits: RFERL

The news of Petrov and his correct reporting spread like fire in the country. The Commander of the Soviet Air Defense’s Missile Defense Units, Votintsev praised Petrov on his correct timely decision and promised him for a reward but he didn’t receive anything due to improper filling of paperwork. In 1984, just one year after the indecent, Petrov retired from the military and started serving as a senior engineer in the research institute.
He was forgotten even after his legendary work until 1998 when he was mentioned by Colonel General Votintsev in his retirement speech. After that speech, the world recognized a man who saved the world from possible nuclear war.
Petrov received an award from the Association of World Citizens in 2006. He also won the Dresden Peace Price in 2013. A documentary drama named The Man Who Saved the World by the director Peter Anthony was made on Petrov. He died in May 2017 at the age of 77. His death was not widely reported until September 2017. He believed that besides all his achievements and awards, all he did that night was just part of his job.


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