Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Man Who Saved The World



Came across the following from a post on Facebook, from one Mike Blackstock (whom I do not know):

50 years ago today [October 26, 1962], at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis, second-in-command Vasilli Arkhipov of the Soviet submarine B-59 refused to agree with his Captain's order to launch nuclear torpedoes against US warships and setting off what might well have been a terminal superpower nuclear war. 

The US had been dropping depth charges near the submarine in an attempt to force it to surface, unaware it was carrying nuclear arms. The Soviet officers, who had lost radio contact with Moscow, concluded that World War 3 had begun, and 2 of the officers agreed to 'blast the warships out of the water'. Arkhipov refused to agree - unanimous consent of 3 officers was required - and thanks to him, we are here to talk about it.

His story is finally being told - the BBC is airing a documentary on it.

Raise a glass to Vasilli Arkhipov - the Man Who Saved the World.

So I checked Wikipedia.  It's apparently true.

On October 27, 1962, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, a group of eleven United States Navy destroyers and the aircraft carrier USS Randolph located the diesel-powered nuclear-armed Soviet Foxtrot-class submarine B-59 near Cuba. Despite being in international waters the Americans started dropping practice depth charges, explosives intended to force the submarine to come to the surface for identification. There had been no contact from Moscow for a number of days and, although the submarine's crew had earlier been picking up U.S. civilian radio broadcasts, once B-59 began attempting to hide from its U.S. Navy pursuers, it was too deep to monitor any radio traffic, so those on board did not know whether war had broken out.[5]. The captain of the submarine, Valentin Grigorievitch Savitsky, believing that a war might already have started, wanted to launch a nuclear-tipped torpedo.[6]
Three officers on board the submarine – Savitsky, the political officer Ivan Semonovich Maslennikov, and the second-in-command Arkhipov – were authorized to launch the torpedo if agreeing unanimously in favor of doing so. An argument broke out among the three, in which only Arkhipov was against the launch.[7] 
Although Arkhipov was only second-in-command of submarine B-59, he was actually Commander of the flotilla of submarines including B-4, B-36, and B-130, and of equal rank to Captain Savitsky. According to author Edward Wilson, the reputation Arkhipov gained from his courageous conduct in the previous year's K19 incident also helped him prevail in the debate. [3] Arkhipov eventually persuaded Savitsky to surface the submarine and await orders from Moscow. This presumably averted the nuclear warfare which would have ensued had the torpedo been fired.[8] The submarine's batteries had run very low and the air-conditioning had failed, so it was forced to surface amidst its U.S. pursuers and head home.[9] Washington's message that practice depth charges were being used to signal the submarines to surface never reached B-59, and Moscow claims it has no record of receiving it either....
When discussing the Cuban missile crisis in 2002, Robert McNamara stated that we came "very close" to nuclear war, "closer than we knew at the time."[10]
Indeed. Salut!

ADDENDUM:

Reader Alex Pendjurin reminds me also of the story of Vasili Arkhipov, a nuclear launch monitor in the Soviet Union, who, in 1983, was "told" by the Soviet launch detection system that the Americans had released five missiles against the USSR. Having no confirmation of the launch he put the kibosh on further passage of the data up the chain of command. It is possible that he too likely stopped a nuclear war. His story is found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Vasili_Arkhipov .


1 comment:

  1. Thank you for acknowledging a person with convictions and a conscience.

    ReplyDelete

Keep it clean for gene.