True heroes are often those you rarely hear of. In 1983, on a night he will never forget, Lt. Col. Stanislav Petrov was at work as a duty officer monitoring the Soviet Union’s early-warning satellite system, when the alarm bells went off. One of the satellites signalled Moscow that the United States had launched five ballistic missiles at Russia.
Tension was high at the time between the two countries – NATO military exercises had just begun and Russians had just shot down a South Korean airliner that had wandered into Soviet air space. So Petrov could have been forgiven for believing the signal was accurate and with all the electronic maps flashing around him – it must have been really scary.
Petrov said “I had a funny feeling in my gut” that this was a false alarm. And he was right. We all should thank him for his intuitive leap of faith which averted a potential nuclear holocaust.
Petrov lives today on his army pension in a village outside of Moscow.