Among the Apocalypse Part II


A Soviet Early Warning Base

Benjamin Jensen, Columnist

The world can be changed in less than a second. It can be changed by a group of people, or by one person. It can be changed with multiple choices, or with simply one action. When the Cold War was dying down, the world still remained on edge to see who would make the decision to change history forever and end all of humanity.  

September 26, 1983

Occasionally, atomic war was not only feared as an end of the world scenario, but that it can also happen without any warning. Military operations all over the world were alert, waiting to see who would fire first and begin the war to end the world. On the morning of September 26, 1983, an early warning base outside of Moscow was awoken by an alarm. An intercontinental ballistic missile was launched from the United states and would strike Russia in less than twenty minutes. 


The alert quickly worked its way through the chain of command and a panic ensued. However, a substitute officer, Stanislav Petrov, went against his training and did nothing. He reasoned with other personnel that if the United States were to attack the Soviet Union, they would send hundreds of missiles, not just a few. Eventually, four more missiles were detected, however Petrov still did nothing. After twenty minutes past, there was no war, or missiles in the air. As it turns out, sunlight reflecting off of high altitude clouds was the cause for the alarm.


After the event, Petrov was quickly discharged and forced into retirement by the Soviet Union, in fear of news spreading out to the world making them a laughing stock. Petrov’s later life and early life is a story of confusion and rewritten history— so much so, it is safe to say that his story is almost completely unknown. 


In January of 2006, Stanislav Petrov was honored at the United Nations in New York city, and was awarded the Special Worlds Citizens Award. He would be awarded with many other awards, but Petrov died on May 19, 2017. However, it wasn’t widely reported until September. 

Stanislav Petrov

The Cold War was just one of thousands of examples when humanity came very close to going extinct, either naturally, or artificially.  It is also an example of how one person and one action can change the course of history forever. Declassified documents from the United States, shows that there were over one thousand close calls. It is truly a miracle that humanity has survived for this long.