On the net since 1994. Still don’t know what I’m doing.
Why hasn't THIS guy been given the Nobel peace prize, eh?
Wednesday 7th October 1998
The Russian Officer whose coolness under pressure saved the world from nuclear
war told yesterday how the incident wrecked his life. Lieutenant Colonel Stanislav
Petrov backed his own judgment against the computer screens telling him the U.S.
had launched a massive strike against his country.
For three terrifying minutes on a September night in 1983 he held firm as alarms
blared and lights flashed across his Soviet control bunker.
Today, his health destroyed by the incredible stress of the incident, Petrov
lives alone in a second-floor flat in the bleak town of Fryanzino, 30 miles east
He said: "Once I would have liked to have been given some credit for what I did.
But it is so long ago and today everything is emotionally burned out inside me.
"I still have a bitter feeling inside my soul as I remember the way I was treated."
Had Petrov, now 59, cracked and triggered a response, Soviet missiles would have
rained down on U.S. cities. In turn, that would have brought a devastating response
from the Pentagon.
Later, it was confirmed that the alarm had indeed been caused by a faulty system.
Petrov should have been praised to the skies by a grateful world.
However, the incident was hushed up and he was sacked by embarrassed superiors.
Only last month did the details emerge.
"The first reaction of my commander-general was ‘We will honour you’. But then
a commission was launched into what had gone wrong. My commanders were blamed. And
if the commanders were to blame, then the subordinates like me could not be innocent.
It’s an old thing we have in Russia. The subordinate can not be cleverer than the
boss, so there was no honour or credit for me".
He recalls 12:14am on September 23, 1983, and the panic-stricken control room
of the Serbukov-15 nuclear command centre. He said "That night the nuclear attack
warning system suddenly showed the launch of five ballistic nuclear missiles within
three minutes from a base on the Atlantic coast of America.
"It was showing a full nuclear attack. I felt as if I’d been punched in my nervous
system. There was a huge map of the States with a U.S. base lit up, showing that
the missiles had been launched.
"I was in command of 200 people, mainly officers. We knew the Americans had twice
almost launched missiles because of a computer error. But we hadn’t had this before."
Petrov knew his equipment was not 100 per cent reliable. His gut instinct was
that this was another mistake. "I reported it was a false alarm, despite what the
screens were showing," he said.
"I just believed in my judgment and experience and I trusted those around me".
As the minutes passed, it was clear he had been correct.
"After it was over, I drank half a litre of vodka as if it were only a glass,
and slept for 28 hours," he said. "In principle, a nuclear war could have broken
out. The whole world could have been destroyed".
When he was forced out, he got one perk, a telephone, without having to wait
years for installation. But now he is so poor that the phone has been cut off. And
his bare kitchen is testimony to the struggle he has to survive. His wife died of
cancer leaving him alone in the flat on the grandly named 60th Anniversary of the
Petrov has only one momento of his time at Serbukov-15. It is a Soviet-era portable
TV set given to him by his workmates who at least remembered him fondly for his cool
judgment in preventing a nuclear war.