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The ‘Man Who Saved The World’ From Nuclear Annihilation Has Died

The ‘Man Who Saved The World’ From Nuclear Annihilation Has Died
Updated 8 months ago

While Donald Trump is threatening to bring down "fire and fury" on North Korea, the man who prevented a nuclear war between the U.S. and the Soviet Union thirty years ago has quietly passed away. 

Former Soviet Union military officer Stanislav Petrov died in May, but the world is only now hearing about it.

Petrov was on duty in the Soviet Union some thirty years ago when an early detection system mistakenly warned of an incoming nuclear missile from the U.S. Keeping a cool head, Petrov dismissed the warnings and didn't report them to his superiors. The protocol would have been for the Soviet military to return nuclear fire.

The world owes him a lot of gratitude:

In a 2013 interview with the BBC's Russian Service, Petrov said:

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. A minute later the siren went off again. The second missile was launched. Then the third, and the fourth, and the fifth. Computers changed their alerts from 'launch' to 'missile strike.'
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. 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.

Instead of following protocol and sending the warning to his superiors, Petrov checked for a system malfunction. And then he waited.

Twenty-three minutes later I realised that nothing had happened. If there had been a real strike, then I would already know about it. It was such a relief.

He kept quiet about the incident for ten years, and his story wasn't revealed until after the Soviet Union's collapse.

Still, Petrov never thought of himself as a hero. He told the BBC:

That was my job. But they were lucky it was me on shift that night.

Twitter responded with an outpouring of thanks:

Petrov was 77. Rest in peace, sir.

H/T: BBC, NPR