Man Who Saved the World, The (2011)

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This is the story of Vasili Arkhapov. I was only a few months old in October 1962.

The order of the day was mutually assured destruction. I was 5 months old. The US Navy was adept at detecting Soviet submarines. Little did we know, his submarine had a nuclear torpedo. It was a hydrogen bomb. It had 80% odds of working as a hydrogen bomb and since the trigger was based on the Teller-Ulam proven device, it would have definitely wiped out the Navy Kennedy sent to chase them. The Navy dropped some practice depth charges on it. They were just inviting it to surface. His Captain and his KGB political officer were ready for Armageddon and thought it it started. Communications broke down with the Kremlin and except for some incredible coolness on the part of Mr. Arkhipov our children would glow in the dark.

Things could have gone very badly. His Captain and the political officer voted to shoot. Destroying a bunch of Navy ships would have gone badly during the Cuban missile crisis. His sub was a very problematic diesel powered pile of flotsam that had nasty habit of killing it’s crews. Nuclear weapons and horse shoes; you don’t have to be that close.

Starting World War III and a nuclear confrontation with the Soviets would have been almost certain.

They quit showing “Duck and Cover” a while after this. In my day, although I saw “Duck and Cover” in the case of a nuclear attack that became “Bend over and kiss your ass goodbye”. Like a nuclear weapon wasn’t bad enough, we both invented hydrogen bombs. People quit building bomb shelters because it didn’t matter.

Watch it on PBS

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