Can you imagine to be wiped out at any given moment after knowing that the country you live in is ready for a nuclear war with the enemy?
This was the exact situation back in the days of Cuban Missile Crisis, 1962, when a Soviet submarine was ready to demolish the United States with a nuclear torpedo on board. But a Russian Naval Officer, Vasili Alexandrovich Arkhipov, saved the world that day.
The US army wanted to overthrow the communist government of Cuba. A failed attempt in that cause convinced Cuba to seek help from USSR. The Soviet Union in response to that agreed to deploy nuclear weapons to Cuba for the sake of protecting the island and to also counteract the threat from US missiles in Italy and Turkey. By the time, the US army figured out their plan, it was already too late as missiles were almost ready.
There was panic all around as military advisers then advised to do air strikes from all sides of the island but President John F. Kennedy declined the suggestion and instead ordered for a naval blockade, however, except for basic necessities. With this, the most intense period in the history of cold war began.
The US army continued with their own tricks to invade but the Soviets had already sent a submarine too deep in the Caribbean ocean with three Soviet submarine captains in charge.
Once it was spotted by the American Navy, they started dropping depth charges on its hull causing it to shake heavily. Since then the commanders of the sub, who were way too deep in the ocean to communicate, thought that the war had begun. The temperature of the submarine was already rising above 100 degrees and the ship couldn’t surface without being exposed.
With so much pressure, the consent of all three senior officers was required to launch the nuclear torpedo in the ship. They were almost on the verge to do it as one of the commanders, Valentin Savitsky, forced the remaining two to strike. He got one vote of the political officer but Arkhipov remained calm and refused to agree. Although the exact details of his refusal were never disclosed he was the only one in the ship to believe that there wasn’t any danger for them. Instead he with those depth charges, the American Navy wanted the ship to come to the surface and talk without any harm.
That was it. Arkhipov’s decision saved the world.
The frustration was increasing with every second and US military had already set itself to Def Con 2, which is technically being one step away to defend your country against nuclear war.
But on the other hand, diplomacy took another turn as attorney general Robert Kennedy secretly met with Soviet Ambassador, Anatoly Dobrynin to conclude the war with a proposal that was better for the whole world.
America was forced to remove its missiles from Turkey and Italy with a promise to leave Cuba alone as well. In exchange, the Soviet Union also agreed to withdraw itself from the war. This all was implemented under the inspection of the United Nations. The crisis was over but the respective governments were criticized a lot for the bargain but in reality this a great diplomatic move by both the leaders of US and Soviet Union.
While they took most of the credit, the unsung hero, Vasili Arkhipov still remains unknown to most of the world.
Looking back at the importance of his critical analysis while being in such a pressure situation, Arkhipov was one of the best Soviet commanders ever produced. Later, he also got promoted for showing his great bravery.