Vasily Arkhipov

Vasily Arkhipov


Vasili Alexandrovich Arkhipov was a Soviet Navy officer credited with preventing a Soviet nuclear strike (and, presumably, all-out nuclear war) during the Cuban Missile Crisis.


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Vasili Alexandrovich Arkhipov was a Soviet Navy officer credited with preventing a Soviet nuclear strike (and, presumably, all-out nuclear war) during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Such an attack likely would have caused a major global thermonuclear response.

As flotilla commander and second-in-command of the diesel powered submarine B-59, Arkhipov refused to authorize the captain's use of nuclear torpedoes against the United States Navy, a decision requiring the agreement of all three senior officers aboard.

In 2002, Thomas Blanton, who was then director of the US National Security Archive, said that Arkhipov "saved the world".

On 27 October 1962, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, a group of eleven United States Navy destroyers and the aircraft carrier USS Randolph located the diesel-powered, nuclear-armed Foxtrot-class submarine B-59 near Cuba. Despite being in international waters, the Americans started dropping signaling depth charges, explosives intended to force the submarine to come to the surface for identification. There had been no contact from Moscow for a number of days and, although the submarine's crew had earlier been picking up U.S. civilian radio broadcasts, once B-59 began attempting to hide from its U.S. Navy pursuers, it was too deep to monitor any radio traffic. Those on board did not know whether war had broken out or not. The captain of the submarine, Valentin Grigorievitch Savitsky, decided that a war might already have started and wanted to launch a nuclear torpedo.

Even though Arkhipov was second-in-command of the submarine B-59, he was in fact Commodore of the entire submarine flotilla, including B-4, B-36 and B-130. According to author Edward Wilson, the reputation Arkhipov had gained from his courageous conduct in the previous year's K-19 incident also helped him prevail. Arkhipov eventually persuaded Savitsky to surface and await orders from Moscow. This effectively averted the general nuclear war which probably would have ensued if the nuclear weapon had been fired. The submarine's batteries had run very low and the air-conditioning had failed, causing extreme heat and high levels of carbon dioxide inside the submarine. They were forced to surface amid the American pursuers and return to the Soviet Union as a result.


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