5 little misunderstandings that nearly killed the whole world
1. Cheap Computer Chip Declares Nuclear War
At 2 am on June 3, 1980, a NORAD staff member checked the instrument readings and found that the instrument, which had always displayed "0 attacking missiles" before, was now displaying "2 attacking missiles." This was already enough to panic, but the next second the device reported "220 attack missiles."
Alarms sounded all over America. Bombers with atomic bombs on board began to take off one by one. The launch preparation team has arrived at the ICBM launchers. For ten minutes the world was teetering on the brink of a nuclear Apocalypse.
Fortunately, before the Americans could press the launch, someone noticed that hundreds of suspected warheads never showed up on radar screens. The alarm was declared false, the bombers returned to their airfields and everyone exhaled.
It took three days to find out the reasons for the strange incident. It turned out that the fault was a defective computer chip, worth 46 cents.
2. Telephone accident nearly led to nuclear war
In the 1950s, the US Air Force built a network of early warning radars to report Soviet missiles in flight as soon as possible. These stations, using special communication lines, were connected with the main directorate of the Strategic Air Command of the Air Force in Nebraska, with Air Force bases, missile bases and the Joint Air Defense Command of the North American continent, located in Wyoming.
So when on November 24, 1961, communications with the air command and the radar stations were suddenly interrupted, a real panic began. It seemed that these stations were suddenly erased from the face of the Earth.
They tried to contact the stations via the backup line - it was useless. We tried to call ordinary city phones - long beeps and no answer.
There could be only one logical explanation for all this - the Soviet Union bombed all radar stations, and at the same time the air defense command, and this, apparently, the first wave of deadly attacks, which can only be followed by the end of the world. Crews of B-52 strategic bombers across America took their seats in their planes. Over the next 12 minutes, the US Air Force waited for an order to begin the global extermination of the human race.
Fortunately for future generations, one of the B-52 aircraft was already in the air at that moment, and was just flying over one of these radar stations. Instead of the supposed smoking ruins, he saw the usual peaceful landscape with intact radars in its usual place. The pilot immediately reported this to the right place and everyone calmed down.
Here's what happened: For some ridiculous technical reason, absolutely all the telephone lines connecting the air command with the aforementioned bases and stations, including reserve and civil, were served by the same relay station located in Colorado. That night, there was an accident there, and all possible lines of communication between those in whose hands were nuclear weapons and those who could order not to use them were severed.
3. The North American Continent Joint Air Defense Command (NORAD) informs America of the end of the world
An emergency alert system is commonly used to alert citizens of an impending danger, such as a hurricane or tornado. In the United States, such a system was created during the Cold War in the event of a nuclear attack from the Soviet Union. Every Saturday it was tested, sending meaningless teletype messages to all radio stations in America - just to check that the connection was there and everything was working. It was a common practice, and no one paid much attention to these messages until ...
On February 20, 1971, at 9:33 a.m., Weiland Eberhard, an ordinary civilian radioteletype operator, absentmindedly sent the wrong message into the emergency notification system. Instead of saying "This is just a test, " NORAD sent a chilling message across the cities and towns of America that in a few minutes the president himself is going to address the nation.
For the average American during the Cold War, there was only one reason why a president could wedge himself into an urgent message show beloved by millions. This could mean only one thing: atomic bombs are already flying from Russia.
Radio broadcasters across the country repeated the announcement of a mystical emergency, people rushed to call their relatives and friends, say all sorts of words in case of the end of the world and ask each other for forgiveness for all sorts of sins.
NORAD employees realized what had happened almost instantly, but despite all desperate efforts to cancel the alarm, for a long time they could not find the correct code to authenticate the canceling message. So for about 45 minutes the nation was preparing for imminent death.
In the end, the code was found, the error message was sent and everyone breathed a sigh of relief.
There was another serious danger in this story. The fact is that the USSR and the USA closely watched each other for any signs of a possible nuclear attack. If, for example, the Americans suddenly, for no reason at all, began to shove their citizens into bomb shelters, in Russia this could easily be regarded as a sign of ill-intentioned intentions and would respond accordingly. So if the panic lasted a little longer, it could really end very sadly.
4. Virtual warfare is mistaken for a terrifying reality
This story began on November 9, 1979 at 9 am. One low-ranking Air Force officer sat down at a computer and downloaded a tutorial that simulated the launch of thousands of Soviet nuclear missiles. Towards America, of course.
The officer did not know that this computer was connected to the central unit of the air defense command's apparatus. When he launched his program, computers from NORAD to the Pentagon began reporting that all Russian atomic bombs were on their way to America. "They were absolutely sure the missiles were about to be here, " Senator Charles Percy recalled.
Announcements of the attack and orders to prepare to launch were sent to every missile silo in America. Military aircraft began to take off, preparing to shoot down Soviet bombers. The presidential air command post was ready to go and could not take off just because no one could find Jimmy Carter.
Fortunately, the NORAD commander decided to double-check the information about the reality of the Soviet attack before giving the go-ahead and arranging Armageddon. He called the radar stations and asked what was going on there. They reported that nothing suspicious was observed and everything was clean.
It is a great happiness that at least the phones worked normally that day.
5. Russia takes a scientific experiment for the beginning of the Third World War
On January 25, 1995, scientists from Norway launched an absolutely harmless rocket to study the northern lights. And although the Cold War had ended several years by then, when Russian radar detected something similar to an American ballistic missile, panic began.
According to the scenario developed for such an event, then-President Boris Yeltsin had 10 minutes to resolve the issue of a retaliatory strike against the United States. As you know, the Russian president always has a nuclear suitcase with a secret code, with which he can arrange the end of the world at any time. This was the first time the suitcase had been opened.
Fortunately, Yeltsin could not believe in the reality of the threat and was in no hurry to press the red button. A few minutes later, it was reported that the rocket fell into the ocean without causing any harm to anyone.
It later turned out that Norwegian scientists had warned 30 countries, including the Russian Federation, about the planned launch three weeks in advance. But this information was ignored.