Monday, August 17, 2009

The Man Who May Have Saved Millions of Lives

In September 1983, Soviet fighter jets shot down a Korean Airliner, killing 269 civilians, including many Americans and a US congressman. President Ronald Reagan described the Soviets actions as "barbaric" and "a crime against humanity that must never be forgotten".

The tension between the US and Russia increased to an all-time high and Soviet aircraft were banned from US airspace.

Strategic Rocket Forces Lieutenant Colonel Stanislav Petrov was filling in for someone else the night he received a computer report that a nuclear missile had been launched from the US to strike Moscow.

Petrov knew that he should immediately launch an all-out nuclear weapons counterattack against the United States, but Petrov thinking it was very odd that only one missle was launched held off.

Seconds later, four more missiles were spotted but Petrov decided to go with his initial instinct and hold off on the counterattack. Upon further investigation it was found the computer error resulted from a very rare sunlight alignment, which the computer read as missile.

Soviet leaders did not find Petrov's decision heroic and he was let go with $200 a month pension. Petrov consequently suffered a nervous breakdown.

This incident was not revealed until a Russian officer who was witness to Petrov's brave decision not to start WW III, wrote a book detailing what happened that night in 1983. In 2008, a documentary film entitled 'The Man who saved the World' is set to be released.

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