The man who saved the world
Posted: December 20, 2005
By Jim Rutz
© 2005 WorldNetDaily.com
You almost died in 1983.
Do you remember what you were doing on Sunday afternoon, Sept. 25, of that year? Not likely. But you came within a whisker of dying that day. Amazingly, the news about this didn't come out until 1998. And only since 2004 has the press actually begun to pick up on the story.
It was just after midnight, Sept. 26, and 120 staff were working the graveyard shift in Serpukhov-15, the secret USSR command bunker hidden in a forest 30 miles northeast of Moscow.
In the commander's chair was Lt. Col. Stanislav Petrov, 44, looking down from his mezzanine desk to the gymnasium-sized main floor filled with military officers and technicians charged with monitoring any U.S. missiles and retaliating instantly.
Petrov was highly aware that Cold War tensions were acute, as USSR fighters had shot down a Korean airliner on Sept. 1. But he was completely shocked when the warning siren began to wail and two lights on his desk console began flashing MISSILE ATTACK and START. "Start" was the instruction to launch, irreversibly, all 5,000 or so Soviet missiles and obliterate America.
If you remember the 1959 movie "On the Beach," starring Gregory Peck and Ava Gardner ? enormously popular in the USSR ? you know that ambient, post-holocaust radiation was expected to wipe out all mankind. But this was no movie, it was the real thing, and Petrov's protocols gave him zero minutes to notify his superiors and President Yuri Andropov, who then would have just 12 minutes to get out of bed, think fast, and order a counterattack.
A new, unproven Soviet satellite system had picked up a flash in Montana near a Minuteman II silo. Then another ? five, all told.
Petrov recalls his legs were "like cotton," as they say in Russian. He stared at the huge electronic wall map of the United States in terror and disbelief. As his staff gawked upward at him from the floor, he had the thought, "Who would order an attack with only five missiles? That big an idiot has not been born yet, not even in the U.S."
The Soviet procedure manual was inflexible, and it demanded he notify his superiors of the attack immediately. But relying on his intuition, Petrov disobeyed. For almost five minutes, he stalled, holding his hotline phone in one hand and his intercom in the other, barking orders to his personnel to get back to their desks. (Reprimanded later for not taking notes during the crisis, he replied, "I don't have a third hand.")
Then he made the decision that saved the world. Summoning up his firmest voice, he called his Kremlin liaison and said it was a false alarm. But today he admits, "I wasn't 100 percent sure. Not even close to 100 percent."
So the world slept on.
Months later, it was determined that sunlight reflecting off clouds in Montana had caused a faulty satellite computer assembly to report a missile launch flash. But by that time, Petrov's excellent military career had been sidetracked. He wasn't fired, but he was transferred ? and never got any medals or recognition. When his wife was found to have a brain tumor in 1993, he retired to take care of her. When she died, he borrowed money to give her a funeral.
Today, Petrov is 67 and lives in a typical dreary, dank flat south of Moscow. His monthly pension is under $200, and his health is not good.