In 1983 the world was enmeshed in a planetary pissing match. It was not a gentle time.
East German machine gun nests dropped the hammer on someone “yearning to be free” roughly once a year. Konstantin Chernenko, (Russia’s head honcho) was desperately trying to preserve an economically unsustainable paper tiger on the brink of implosion. The better part of a century of communism and socialism had bankrupt a colossus and Chernenko was probably aware of it even if our spy networks were not. (The man with his finger on the button in the land of Stalin was pondering his empire’s dissolution. Reassuring no?) Ronald Reagan (interesting note: many Republicans still genuflect when his name is uttered) had plenty to freak out about too. In 1983 we got hammered in Beruit, invaded Grenada, and I’d need a score card just to mention South America. Meanwhile Margaret Thatcher was having a nice cup of tea having having beaten the snot out of rebels in the Falkland Islands. Pretty much everyone was mad at everyone everywhere and mutually assured destruction was not a joke but an actual “plan”.
On the social front, Quiet Riot had just released Cum On Feel The Noize, the closest thing to a decent domestic rally car was the AMC Eagle, and the video game industry crashed and dropped revenues by 97%. (Hint: This is why everyone who called the “dot com” crash of 2000 “unprecedented” should be punched in the dick.)
It’s a miracle any of us survived.
Smack dab in the middle of this global circular firing squad sat a lieutenant colonel of the Soviet Air Defence Forces. His job was at the command center for their nuclear early warning system keeping an eye on the trigger happy Americans. One day radar indicated five missiles incoming from the US. Holy shit! Mother Russia was under attack! Should he ring his superior and recommend that they unleash Armageddon?
Nope! Mr. Pertov had wisdom and balls of steel. He decided it was a malfunctioning system (which it was) and sat on his hands…which is why neither Moscow nor Washington is radioactive.
For a possessing a cool head when everyone was trigger happy I honor Stanislav Petrov for saving all our asses on September 26, 1983. Whew!