Speaking of Heroes
In 1962, three Russian submarines were sitting in the Caribbean when they suddenly became bombarded by missiles exploding to the right and then to the left of their vessels. On board each of the subs was a nuclear torpedo, and each torpedo separately had the destructive power equal to the bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima. Believing they were under attack, the captain of one submarine ordered that the nuclear torpedo be ready to fire. All he needed was the consent of the other two captains aboard the other two submarines. He got that consent from one of the two other captains but the third captain, Captain Vasili Arkhipo, refused. Vasili reasoned that the missiles were obviously meant to miss the subs and were simply a signal from the U.S. Navy asking them to come to the sur-face and be identified, nothing more. And he was exactly right. The exchange took place at the height of the Cuban missile crisis and the Navy just wanted to ensure there wasn’t eminent danger with the subs. Because of Vasili’s refusal to give his consent, he kept three nuclear torpedoes from being launched, causing unimaginable damage and loss of life within hundreds of miles. But the fact that those submarines were carrying nuclear torpedoes was not found out for fifty years. For all the Navy knew, their fired depth charges simply caused the subs to surface, be identified and then be on their merry way. They had no idea how close their lives (and thousands of others) had come to ending.