Saturday, May 22, 2004

Stanislav Petrov, the Guy Who Didn't Push the Button

It's right out of a movie trailer. The deep, booming voice-over intones: "The only thing that can prevent the end of civilization . . . is one man!" Unrealistic? Sure. Except for this one guy: Lt. Col. Stanislav Petrov. In 1983, he saw an alarm that said the U.S. had launched a nuclear missile at the U.S.S.R.

Colonel Petrov recalls that fateful night when alarms went off and the early warning computer screens were showing a nuclear attack launched by the United States. "I felt as if I'd been punched in my nervous system. There was a huge map of the States with a U.S. base lit up, showing that the missiles had been launched."

For several minutes Petrov held a phone in one hand and an intercom in the other as alarms continued blaring, red lights blinking, and the computers reporting that U.S. missiles were on their way. In the midst of this horrific chaos and terror, the prospect of the end of civilization itself, Petrov made an historic decision not to alert higher authorities, believing in his gut and hoping with all that is sacred, that contrary to what all the sophisticated equipment was reporting, this alarm was an error.

And since it was in fact a false alarm, he prevented a real nuclear war from starting. Thanks!

Wait a minute . . . "thanks?" That's it? There should be a statue of this guy in every city that is still standing because of him. His face should be on our coins! There should be a Ford Petrov S.U.V., and a Mt. Petrov. He saved the world and got what? Nothing? We don't even know his name? Wow . . . so much for how it works in the movies.

(story via Exclamation Mark)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

There's a website that tells about the incident involving Stanislav Petrov, with articles, photos, an audio recording plus links to many other sites: