Stanislav Petrov, the Soviet officer credited with saving the world from a potential nuclear war disaster in 1983, has died in Russian Federation. As USA Today and the New York Times report, Petrov was the officer in charge at a command center near Moscow on September 26, 1983, when the unthinkable happened: Alarms went off as the facility's computers warned that the US had launched five ICBMs toward the Soviet Union.
The computer said four USA missiles had been launched, but Petrov knew something wasn't right. "I knew my decision would have a lot of consequences", Petrov told RT in 2010. Russian jets had just shot down Korean Air Lines Flight 007 as it flew from NY to Alaska, killing all 279 passengers.
Then, amplifying the already nightmarish scenario, the radar signalled another warning.
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.
As per protocol, he should have immediately ordered a counter strike but he ignored it and chose to rely on "gut instinct", which said it was a false alarm.
"A minute later the siren went off again".
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He abstained, instead falling back on logic that if the U.S. had actually launched then Washington would have simultaneously fired dozens and dozens of warheads at the Soviets. "I felt like I was sitting on a hot frying pan", he told Britain's national broadcaster. I felt like I couldn't even stand up.
The missiles that never were turned out to be a flaw generated by rays of sunlight that had been reflected off clouds. Since then, the radar officer's actions have been detailed in the 2014 movie "The Man Who Saved the World", starring Kevin Costner.
Petrov was later given the German Media Prize, previously handed to Mandela and the Dalai Lama, and the Dresden Peace Prize, which is awarded for avoiding conflict.
The incident was only made public in 1998 with the publication of the memoirs of General Yury Vontintsev, Mr Petrov's superior at the time.
Moscow, however, was not as effusive in its praise for Petrov as the rest of the worldwide community. On September 26 of that year, he was stationed in a missile detection bunker near Moscow, and it was his job to look for any surprise intercontinental ballistic missile launches from any territory allied with the United States. Instead, he reached Petrov's son, Dmitri, who said his father had died in May.
But Karl Schumacher, a German political activist, said he felt as if he was "struck by thunder" after reading reports of Petrov's fateful decisiveness and flew to Russian Federation to meet him before publicizing his story in the late 1990s.