The Brave Decision Of This Russian Officer Averted Nuclear Armageddon And Saved Millions Of Lives

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Images: via Shooting Parrots / U.S. Navy

Conditions aboard the Soviet B-59 submarine are reaching critical levels. The temperature has climbed to over 100 °F, while American destroyers are dropping depth charges that repeatedly rock the vessel. Fearing that World War III has broken out, the captain prepares to fire a nuclear missile. It is at this key moment that one Soviet naval officer takes action that is to change the course of history.

Image: M Yarovskaya, A Labunskaya

That commander was one Vasili Arkhipov, a man born into a poor family in a small town near Moscow in January 1926. Arkhipov underwent naval training at Pacific Higher Naval School before serving in the short-lived Soviet-Japanese War of 1945. He subsequently spent the next 15 years serving on various submarines in the Black Sea, Northern and Baltic fleets.

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Image: via Shooting Parrots

Arkhipov’s first moment to shine came in 1961 when he served as deputy commander aboard the Hotel-class K-19 submarine. In fact, this was one of the earliest nuclear-powered submarines developed by the Soviets. However, the vessel’s coolant system failed, putting the reactor at risk of meltdown. Arkhipov not only helped prevent a mutiny, but he also conducted repair works that exposed him to dangerous levels of radiation.

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