Sunday, October 22, 2006
From a book I reviewed this week, I learned of Vasili Alexandrovich Arkhipov. He was a commander on a Soviet submarine during the Cuban missile crisis. This sub was surrounded and depth-charged by American destroyers in an attempt to force it to the surface. Unknown to the Americans, the sub carried nuclear-tipped torpedoes. Three keys help by commanders needed to be turned to launch these. Two commanders were ready to launch, only Arkhipov refused. As a nuclear explosion would have almost certainly provoked a US retaliation in kind, Arkhipov saved the world. Some of this story is disputed, but not, it seems, the two essentials - the depth-charging and the nuclear torpedoes. I have always known I lived on borrowed time, I just didn't realise my creditor had a name - Vasili.
Posted by Bryan Appleyard at 5:58 am