Vasily Arkhipov – The Man Who Saved the World

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In the peak of Cold War between USSR and US, the two superpowers came to the brink of nuclear warfare. It could have sent earth into a thermonuclear response and ended the world as we know it. It all came down to one man’s decision to decide the fate of humanity. His level mindedness and clam resolute ended up saving the world. This unsung hero’s name was Vasily Arkhipov.

Cuban Missile Crisis

On October 22, 1962, President John F Kennedy was presented with Satellite images that showed the Soviet Union was building secret missile bases in Cuba. This meant that the USSR had nukes in United States’ backyard. This heightened the tensions between the 2 countries to levels never seen before. While the politicians tried to find a diplomatic solution to the standoff, everyone was oblivious to the events happening in a USSR B-59 submarine just off the coast of Florida.

The Secret Mission

Four USSR B-59 submarines under the command of Soviet Naval Officer Vasily Arkhipov were sent on a secret mission to infiltrate the waters near the coast of Florida. The US navy had blockaded the waters as a response to the Cuban Missile base discovery. All the submarines were equipped with nuclear torpedo, having the same destruction capability as the one that hit Hiroshima. All the submarine commanders had permission to launch nukes in case of an attack by US , without waiting for response from higher command. But Vasily, being the leader of the fleet, could veto the launch.

Vasily Arkhipov

Upon nearing the coast of Florida, the US Navy detected the 4 submarines. They dropped bombs near the submarines to make them surface and eventually surrender. They were unaware that the Soviet submarines carried nuclear torpedoes.

The bombs severely damaged the submarines and their functionality. Conditions in the submarine became abysmal; temperature climbed above 50 °C, crewmen started fainting and the submarines batteries completely depleted. Fearing that they had been attacked, two of the commanders of the submarines, decided to launch their missiles.

In this mayhem, any man would loose his nerves. But Vasily Arkhipov was made of something else. He kept calm under the situation and refused to give permission of launching the nuclear missiles. He eventually convinced the rest of the submarines to surface.

Although the history books give all the accolades to Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev for diffusing the missile crisis, it was actually the calm disposition of Vasily Arkhipov that saved the entire world from an absolute end.

Inspiration for this article is taken from an episode of the show, ‘The Secrets of the dead‘.

To read about Clash of Civilizations between the West and the East, click here.


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talha farhat
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