50 years ago today, 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 torpedos 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.
PS - The PBS documentary, 'The Man who Saved the World', is online here: http://video.pbs.org/video/2295274962
The documentary claims the facts of the matter were only 'recently' revealed. This is not quite true; the Boston Globe reported on it 10 years ago in 2002: http://www.latinamericanstudies.org/cold-war/sovietsbomb.htm
The Wikipedia article was created in 2005, citing a 2004 book by Noam Chomsky: http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Vasili_Arkhipov
by Mike Blackstock