Through the years, there have been a few men who made a conscious decision not to engage in an act of war. One such officer was submarine officer Vasili Arkhipov, who avoided nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. He wasn’t alone in seeing the insanity of launching a nuclear weapon, however. Another Soviet officer, Lieutenant Colonel Stanislav Petrov, made the same decision not to launch an attack that could have triggered a nuclear exchange on September 26, 1983. These two men basically disobeyed an order to launch their respective nuclear attacks, to their credit.
Petrov was part of the Soviet Air Defense Forces, stationed at the Serpukhov-15 bunker near Moscow. September 26, 1983, started out as a typical Monday, but it would end as anything but a typical day. That day, just three weeks after the Soviet military had shot down Korean Air Lines Flight 007, Petrov was the duty officer at the command center for the Oko nuclear early-warning system. Suddenly, the system reported that a missile had been launched from the United States, followed by up to five more. For anyone who has seen the movie, “War Game” it would seem like a video game gone rouge. Apparently, it seemed much like that for Petrov too, because he judged the reports to be a false alarm.
While Petrov saw that this attack could not be, his superiors could not see that, and they ordered the counterattack. Petrov made the decision to disobey orders, against Soviet military protocol, and this could have meant grave consequences for him. This was Russia, after all. Nevertheless, Petrov is credited with having prevented an erroneous retaliatory nuclear attack on the United States and its NATO allies that could have resulted in a large-scale nuclear war. That war could have wiped out half of the population of the countries involved. Petrov had to truly believe that what he saw with his eyes, was not reality. Every second counted…attack or stand down!! Petrov chose to stand down!! An investigation later confirmed that the Soviet satellite warning system had indeed malfunctioned. There was no attack coming from the United States. The decision Petrov made, not to launch a retaliatory nuclear strike amid this incident, caused Petrov to be credited as having “saved the world” and by refusing to launch an attack, potentially saving millions, if not billions of lives.
I don’t recommend that orders always be disobeyed or taken lightly, but I think it is vital for soldiers, officers, and even civilians, to consider the consequences on both sides, and maybe…just maybe, disasters can sometimes be avoided. Launching nuclear missiles, is truly a last-ditch act. It cannot be reversed, and if these missiles are launched, people will die. And in the case of Petrov, it would have all been for nothing.
My grand nephew, Matthew Masterson has always tried to be a tough guy, but the biggest problem with that whole idea is that he has a soft heart. Matthew doesn’t like to see anyone get hurt or be sad, because all of his tough guy stuff is for fun. Matthew likes to hang out with his cousins, Xander, Zack, and Isaac Spethman, playing all of the tough guy games that boys play, like war games, super hero games and of course, every sport imaginable. He is after all…a boy. As cousins, Matthew and the Spethman boys get to spend quite a bit of time together, and they are always off playing some war game or something.
My niece, Liz Masterson, who is Matthew’s aunt, told me that Matthew talks like a small adult, using big words and sentences that sound like they were spoken by an adult. It happens sometimes. Little kids who seem to have grown up too soon.
Matthew has something in common with my daughter, Amy Royce, too. Last week Matthew and his sisters got to go to breakfast with their Aunt Liz. Liz took them to IHOP. The girls all ordered a traditional breakfast, but not so Matthew. He on the other hand decided to have a cheeseburger. Liz tried to reason with him, but Matthew would have none of it. So, he ordered a cheeseburger and then proceeded to pour Cholula Sauce all over it. What ten year old wants Cholula Sauce on their food. Most ten year olds hate hot sauce. Not Matthew. When, Matthew’s cousin, Amy went to breakfast on a vacation we were on one time, she decided that she wanted Spaghetti for breakfast. We all thought she was half crazy, but she ate every bite…as did Matthew. The only thing was that Amy wouldn’t have ordered a cheeseburger if you paid her. In that one, Matthew was on his own.
Matthew is going into 4th grade this year, and I’m sure he will have a great year, but that is not something he wants to think about right not. I’m sure he is like that little girl on television talking about the back to school sign, who says, “Back off sign people…I’m keeping my summer.” I have to agree with you, Matthew, I’m not ready for fall either. Today is Matthew’s tenth birthday!! Happy birthday Matthew!! Have a great day!! We love you!!