A New Glimpse into How Close we Came to Global Nuclear War
By now we all know that the world was perilously close to a nuclear Armageddon at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, but a new account has just now surface that shows exactly how close we came.
A veteran who was the commanding officer in one of a group of underground nuclear missile launch sites in Okinawa during the crisis has come forward and broken a 50-year silence about an incident that nearly spelled doom from the planet. The full account of the incident is lengthy, but I’ll try to boil it down, here.
At one point during the crisis the US armed forces were at DEFCON 2. For a nuclear attack to be authorized, the normal protocol would be that the forces would move to DEFCON 1, and then they’d get a sequence of three codes that would indicate to them that it was time to launch their nukes (sort of like the three horn blasts for White Walkers, for all the Game of Thrones fans out there).
So the forces were at DEFCON 2 when they got a routine weather report transmission, and lo and behold tacked onto the end of that transmission were all three of the codes indicating that they should fire their nukes. There was immediate alarm and suspicion, because this was only supposed to happen at DEFCON 1, which they weren’t at, and also, why put these on the end of a weather report? Plus there were a few other red flags, like the target list included some non-Russian sites.
The commanding officer who is now telling the story says that he called the other bunkers on the island and confirmed that they got the codes, too. So they took some preliminary steps to launch, and the officer tried to confirm with HQ that this was indeed supposed to be happening. While he was trying to get confirmation, one of the launch officers in one of the bunkers decided that he was going to ignore his superior and launch anyway. He argued the commander was wrong to question the order, so he was just going to take matters into his own hands.
Well, the commander reaffirmed his order to this guy not to launch until he had confirmation, and then when he hung up the phone he ordered two of the men in his bunker to run over to the other bunker with guns and shoot anyone who tried to launch those missiles without his authorization.
Eventually his suspicions were confirmed. This was indeed an epic screwup, and he and the rest of the bunkers were told to stand down.
If it hadn’t been for the critical eye, quick thinking, and steel spine of this one guy in this one moment, none of us would be here, today.
And right now, as we speak, both the US and Russia are escalating their nuclear preparations at a tempo not seen since the Cold War. Plus we’ve got China fully in the mix as a third, very powerful and advanced belligerent.
In terms of SHTF events, I worry far more these days about a nuclear exchange than I do any sort of cyberattack, EMP, or natural disaster. And this is, in fact, the case as of late for most professionals in both the public and private sectors who are paid to think and worry about catastrophe. We are racing furiously back to the point where the world is again on a nuclear knife edge, and that means as a species we’re going backwards–maybe even all the way backwards.