COLUMN: The Musings of a Simple Country Man

Hobie Morris

COLUMN: The Musings of a Simple Country Man

Putin, no: Petrov and Arkhipov, YES

Unless an unexpected miracle happens, the chances for a life like statue of beady eyed Vladimir Putin watching over Main Street, Brookfield is about as remote as this simple country man becoming the second trillionaire in world history and permanently putting all American farmers in the black with lots of green.

Petrov and Arkhipov should have separate life size statues not only in Brookfield but in every American community. All three are Russians, of course. Putin is justifiably notorious while the second two are unknown in this country. But to me they are two incredible heroes who, in farmer terminology, literallly “saved America’s and the world’s bacon!” If it wasn’t for these two anonymous Russians, many of you would not be reading about what you missed—and the world averted.

First, Vasili Arkhipov. Dr. Max Tegmark , a professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology said “Arkhipov was the most important person in modern history.”

This simple country man was a single, graduate student at Syracuse University during the Cuban Missile Crisis over 55 years ago. The post World War II Cold War with the Soviet Union often became an eyeball to eyeball confrontation that was highly dangerous and unpredictable. Soviet missiles in Cuba were aimed at America. Who would blink first?

It happened off the Cuban coast. The US Navy hunted down a nuclear armed Soviet submarine. Depth charges fell and the subs air conditioner failed, leaving the crew on the brink of carbon dioxide poisoning. There was no word from Moscow. The Soviet sub went rogue launching a l0 kiloton atomic torpedo at a U S aircraft carrier—triggering a volley of U S ICBM’s and ushering in World War III.

Everything happened except World War III, thanks to the Soviet’s naval commander Vasily Arkhipov, who countermanded the Sub’s captain’s order to fire. As MIT Professor Tegmark recently observed that Arkhipov’s courageous decision was “an example of how individuals of integrity could prevent technology from unleashing devastation on the world.”

In l998 Arkhipov died in relative obscurity—as veterans often do in every country. His heroism, an example of how close to nuclear catastrophe we have been in the past (and will unfortunately continue in the present and future, with more nations now with nuclear weapons.

Stanislav Petrov is another unknown Russian who probably averted World War III and civilization’s grisly end. A man Kevin Costner said “who didn’t listen to the noise but listened to his heart.”

Petrov was a Soviet military scientist and for being an hour early coming to work may have saved our world. It was September 26, 1983, shortly after midnight. Where were you? My beautiful wife Lois and I were in our third year of living off the grid in the Brookfield hills. No doubt harvesting our garden, gathering firewood and preparing for a long, cold and snowy winter. Our 45th president is a 36 year old New York City business tycoon. Petrov held his future in his “heart” too. Thanks to Petrov we would all live on September 27.

Petrov, a lieutenant colonel in the Soviet Union’s air defense program, arrived early at his secret bunker Serpukhov—15 near Moscow. Petrov was responsible for monitoring early warning Soviet satellites positioned over the US.

Suddenly alarms started ringing in the bunker signaling an attack had been launched. The siren howled. Petrov looked at the big red screen. The word on it “Launch.”

Data reported five Minute men ICBM’s had been launched . probably from an American air base. The modus operandi is for Petrov to quickly notify the Soviet government if it is a real launch and counter launch is decided in Moscow.

Thankfully, Petrov had been taught to trust his instinct and brain, which at this point was seriously questioning the alarm. It was all up to Petrov whether to raise this alarm and possibly begin World War III. The launch didn’t make sense. Why would the Americans only send five missiles? Oddly, Soviet ground based radar had no evidence of an attack.

The bunker staff anxiously and fearfully looked up to him for an answer. After the longest five minutes of his life Petrov decided it was a false alarm and ordered his staff back to work. He courageously reported this incident as a “system malfunctioning.” He admitted it was a 50-50 call, but he didn’t want to start WW III by a mistake! (The man he replaced that early morning was an Army man who was wired to accept orders without question. Petrov had used his brain and instinct, not a gun.)

Petrov was correct. Soviet computer software had mistaken the sun’s reflection off the top of clouds for missiles! Petrov was told by Soviet officials to never speak of that night again. He retired the next year.

In retirement life was often difficult. His wife died of brain cancer. Loneliness ensued. A tiny state pension hardly supported him. It was said one time, without money he was forced to boil his belts to give soup some flavor. Eventually what he did on the early morning of September 26, 1983 was found out. Modestly he said, “I was just in the right place at the right time.” Petrov died in 2017.

Now you can understand why this simple country man should eternally thank these two courageous Russian military men for what they did for all of us. We hope that all of you also appreciate what they did to avert a catastrophe of monumental and possibly permanent effects.

Unfortunately the nuclear sword of Damocles still hangs precariously over all of our heads.

Hobie Morris resides in Brookfield and is a simple country man.

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