Thursday, February 02, 2006


The Man Who saved the World

In a meeting held at the UN’s Dag Hammarskjold Auditorium on Jan. 19, the Association of World Citizens (AWC) presented the retired officer with his award.

Retired Russian colonel Stanislav Petrov received a special World Citizen Award at a UN meeting in New York . Petrov was honored as the “Man Who Averted Nuclear War”.

The inscription on the award, which has a granite base with a solid glass hand holding the earth, read: “The single hand that holds the earth symbolizes your heroic deed on September 26, 1983 that earned you the title: The Man Who Averted Nuclear War.” The back of the award read: “May the hand now symbolize humanity united to save our world by eliminating nuclear weapons from the face of the earth.”

Back in 1983 Petrov made a decision that prevented a war that could have destroyed the planet. He was the duty officer at Russia’s main nuclear command center in September 1983 when the system indicated a nuclear missile attack was launched by the U.S. on Russia. It was just after midnight, Sept. 26, and 120 staff were working the graveyard shift in Serpukhov-15, the secret USSR command bunker hidden in a forest 30 miles northeast of Moscow, WorldNetDaily reported. In the commander’s chair was Lt. Col. Stanislav Petrov, 44, looking down from his mezzanine desk to the gymnasium-sized main floor filled with military officers and technicians charged with monitoring any U.S. missiles and retaliating instantly.

Petrov was highly aware that Cold War tensions were acute, as USSR fighters had shot down a Korean airliner on Sept. 1. But he was completely shocked when the warning siren began to wail and two lights on his desk console began flashing MISSILE ATTACK and START. “Start” was the instruction to launch, irreversibly, all 5,000 or so Soviet missiles and obliterate America. A new, unproven Soviet satellite system had picked up a flash in Montana near a Minuteman II silo. Then another — five, all told. Petrov recalls his legs were “like cotton,” as they say in Russian. He stared at the huge electronic wall map of the United States in terror and disbelief. As his staff gawked upward at him from the floor, he had the thought, “Who would order an attack with only five missiles? That big an idiot has not been born yet, not even in the U.S.”

The Soviet procedure manual was inflexible, and it demanded he notify his superiors of the attack immediately. But relying on his intuition, Petrov disobeyed. For almost five minutes, he stalled, holding his hotline phone in one hand and his intercom in the other, barking orders to his personnel to get back to their desks. Then he made the decision that saved the world. Summoning up his firmest voice, he called his Kremlin liaison and said it was a false alarm. But today he admits, “I wasn’t 100 percent sure. Not even close to 100 percent.”

Months later, it was determined that sunlight reflecting off clouds in Montana had caused a faulty satellite computer assembly to report a missile launch flash. But by that time, Petrov’s excellent military career had been sidetracked. He wasn’t fired, but he was transferred — and never got any medals or recognition. When his wife was found to have a brain tumor in 1993, he retired to take care of her. When she died, he borrowed money to give her a funeral. Today, Petrov, 67, lives in Moscow on a monthly pension of less than $200.

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