Vasili Arkhipov: ‘The Man Who Saved The World’ (Updated)

Vasili Arkhipov: ‘The Man Who Saved The World’ (Updated)

Feb 04

Vasili-Arkhipov

Vasili Arkhipov

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The Man Who Saved the World
PBS
October 24, 2012

Original Link

In October 1962, the world held its breath. On the edge of the Caribbean Sea, just a few miles from the Florida coast, the two great superpowers were at a stand-off. Surrounded by twelve US destroyers, which were depth-charging his submarine to drive it to the surface, Captain Vitali Grigorievitch Savitsky panicked. Unable to contact Moscow and fearing war had begun, he ordered the launch of his submarine’s nuclear torpedoes. As the two sides inched perilously close to nuclear war — far closer than we ever knew before — just one man stood between Captain Savitsky’s order and mutually assured destruction.

Set over four hours on October 27, 1962, the tensest moments of the Cuban Missile Crisis, this program tells the powerful but forgotten story of Vasili Arkhipov and Soviet submarine B-59. With most of the action set in a claustrophobic submarine running out of air, “The Man Who Saved the World” combines tense drama with eyewitness accounts and expert testimony about some of the most critical events in the Cold War.

A Bedlam Production for THIRTEEN in association with WNET
Director: Eamon Fitzpatrick
Executive Producer, Bedlam: Simon Breen
Executive Producer, Thirteen: Steve Burns
Executive in Charge, WNET: Stephen Segaller

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Movie Trailer

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Complete Movie

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THE MAN WHO SAVED THE WORLD
By Emily Fairbairn
The Sun
September 24, 2012

Original Link

For thirteen days in October 1962, the world held its breath as the USSR and the USA stood on the brink of nuclear war.

But a new documentary to be shown on Tuesday reveals that it was the actions of one man alone which saved the planet from utter destruction.

Vasili Arkhipov, a Soviet submariner, died humiliated and outcast, despite single-handedly averting World War Three.

Now, to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis, Channel 5 documentary ‘The Man Who Saved The World: Revealed’ will tell his fascinating story.

It begins in the midst of the 1960s Cold War paranoia, when relations between Washington and Moscow had all but collapsed.

In America, ordinary people were stockpiling rations and building bomb shelters in their gardens, while in schools children were learning how to shelter under their desks.

Then there was a revolution in Cuba, and the tension escalated. Now the USSR had a communist ally sitting right on America’s doorstep. Missiles stationed in Cuba had the ability to annihilate Washington and New York in ten minutes.

The only thing stopping sworn enemies the USA and USSR firing on each other was the policy of mutually assured destruction.

One torpedo fired by either side would get a mirror response from the other — triggering a shower of destruction that could wipe out human life.

Thomas Blanton, the Director of the National Security Archive in the US, explains: “Everybody had a nuke in their pocket. One spark could set it off.”

It was in this atmosphere of suspicion and fear that four submarines secretly set sail from Russia. Only a handful of the submariners on board knew that their ships carried nuclear weapons, each with the strength of the bombs dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima in 1945.

The journey to Cuba was fraught with danger. Helicopters, aeroplanes and battleships were scouring the ocean for Russian subs.

The American hunt for the Soviet submarines became a game of cat and mouse — and it wasn’t long before the mouse was spotted.

Arkhipov’s sub, B59, was forced to make an emergency dive. As the submariners tried to stay hidden from their American hunters, conditions in the sub deteriorated.

For a week they stayed under water, in sweltering 60 degree heat, rationed to just one glass of water a day.

Above them, the US navy were “hunting by exhaustion” — trying to force the Soviet sub to come to the surface to recharge its batteries. They had no idea that on board the submarines were weapons capable of destroying the entire American fleet.

Gary Slaughter, a signalman on board the USS Cony battleship, said: “We knew they were probably having trouble breathing. It was hot as hell in there, they were miserable, they were cramped together and they had been under great stress for a long time.

“Basically what we were trying to do was apply passive torture. Frankly I don’t think we felt any sympathy for them at all. They were the enemy.”

The Americans decided to ratchet up the pressure, and dropped warning grenades into the sea. Inside the sub, the Soviet submariners thought they were under attack.

Valentin Savitsky, the captain of B59, was convinced the nuclear war had already started. He demanded that the submariners launch their torpedo — and save some of Russia’s pride.

In any normal circumstances, Savitsky’s orders would have been followed — and World War 3 would have been unleashed.

But Savitsky hadn’t counted on Arkhipov. As commander of the fleet, Arkhipov had the last veto. And although his men were against him, he insisted that they must not fire — and instead surrender to the Americans.

It was a humiliating move — but one that saved the world. The Soviet submariners were forced to return to their native Russia, where they were given the opposite of a hero’s welcome.

Historian Thomas Blanton explains: “What heroism, what duty, they fulfilled to go halfway across the world and come back, and survive. But in fact, one of the Russian admirals told the submariners; ‘It would have been better if you’d gone down with your ship.’ Extraordinary.”

It took years before the story of what really happened on the B59 sub was discovered — and by then, Arkipov was dead.

But to his widow Olga, he was always a hero.

She said: “The man who prevented a nuclear war was a Russian submariner. His name was Vasili Arkhipov. I was proud and I am proud of my husband, always.”

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RELATED LINK:

• Stanislav Petrov: The Other Russian ‘Who Saved The World’

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3 comments

  1. Thanks to Arkipov, and praise be to God, that one of his had the good sense to say NO and avert world disaster. May God bless him and all that are/were near and dear to him. Pease be to me the holy sun of God, peace to my brother who is one with me. Let the whole world be blessed with peace through us.

  2. THANK YOU to all involved in this cooperative effort to awaken humanity about flat brain – flat planet’s ultimate result — if realization of who each one of are within the collective unity of our species. The absurdity of our global situation deserves the humor occasionally given on this URL/NHNE. I can only virtually applaud and share with others.
    8 CHUEN $ donations are not longer an option.

  3. vasu

    All of us know that there are many unknown men and women who do have the guts to put down their foot in time of big dangers. Most will never be known. But surely V Arkhipov be will remembered by many grateful beings for times to come. His reaction to threat has spared us such a bleak future that we can hardly believe that it really did happen some 60 years ago. May be we should have some statures of him in each country of the world.

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