Published: Mon, September 18, 2017
Worldwide | By Isabel Fisher

'Man Who Saved the World' by averting nuclear war is dead

'Man Who Saved the World' by averting nuclear war is dead

Some might disagree though: In 1983, during a huge uptick in tensions between the Soviet Union and Russian Federation, the planet was on the brink yet again, and one single man saved the entire world - and yet, people have probably never heard of him.

Petrov then went with his instinct: He called it a false alarm, though he would say later that he figured it was a 50-50 chance.

Petrov came to light in 1998, when a retired commander of Soviet missile defence, General Yury Votintsev in his memoir talked about him and the incident during the Cold War. Russian jets had just shot down Korean Air Lines Flight 007 as it flew from NY to Alaska, killing all 279 passengers.

A total of five missiles had been launched, according to the system, leaving just 30 minutes for the Soviets to decide to retaliate and only 15 minutes for the military officer to make his determination to relay to senior officers.

However, it was his discerning and timely decision that saved the world from nuclear destruction as he defied the protocol by not launching a retaliatory strike, reasoning that it was a false alarm, though he didn't have any real evidence that this was true.

'The siren went off for a second time.

The world back then was on edge.

"My cosy armchair felt like a red-hot frying pan and my legs went limp". I felt like I couldn't even stand up.


He later said this influenced his decision not to report the incident, believing that a United States strike would be all-out and so this number of missiles didn't make sense as a start.

The missiles that never were turned out to be a flaw generated by rays of sunlight that had been reflected off clouds.

Based on his story, the movie "The man who saved the world" premiered in 2014, featuring actor Kevin Costner. Next year he received another accolade, the Dresden Peace Prize, with the prize given by a 25-year-old Dresden resident, who "belongs to the generation that would not have survived had it not been for Stanislav Petrov".

Back in 1983, he was a Lieutenant Colonel aged 44 in the Soviet Air Defense Forces.

Moscow, however, was not as effusive in its praise for Petrov as the rest of the global community.

It was just past midnight when Petrov, in charge of an early warning radar system in a bunker near Moscow, saw the radar screen showing a single missile inbound from the United States and headed toward the Soviet Union.

A German man named Karl Schumacher had travelled to Russian Federation in the 1990s and shone a light on Petrov's previously untold story.

Petrov's courage was kept secret for years until his commanding officer revealed the incident to a German reporter. Instead, he reached Petrov's son, Dmitri, who said his father had died in May.

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