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Idly following links from one article to another I came across this 2002 article about the 1962 October Cuban Missle crisis. Much has been written about it, and how close the world came to a terrifying nuclear exchange. How close and how dependent on the actions of two men only became known during a symposium in Havana in 2002.

The Joint Chiefs had recommended air strike and invasion of Cuba, as of 4 p.m. The Cubans were firing on all the low-level US recon flights. At the conference, we found out that exactly at that moment, US destroyers were dropping signaling depth charges on a Soviet submarine near the quarantine line that was carrying a nuclear-tipped torpedo — totally unbeknownst to the US Navy. The Soviet captain lost his temper, there could be a world war up there, let’s take some of them down with us, etc. Cooler heads prevailed, specifically the sub brigade deputy commander named Vasily Arkhipov, who was onboard and calmed the captain down. The sub came to the surface about 15 minutes after Soviet ambassador Dobrynin left Bobby Kennedy’s office carrying RFK’s urgent message to Khrushchev, time is running out, invasion in 48 hours, if you take the missiles out, we will pledge not to invade Cuba…

Cuban Missile Crisis

The nuclear torpedoes were the equivalent in destructive power of the US bomb dropped on Hiroshima. Aimed at surface ships, at sea, the human and visibile destruction would have been far less than Hiroshima. Ships further than 1 mile from the blast likely would have survived, structurally. Fallout would have followed the prevailing winds and more likely contaminated Cuba than Florida. The extreme damage would have been the follow up. The US would not have held its nuclear trigger finger knowing the USSR had already begun. The missles in place in Cuba would likely have been fired in response to, or in anticipation of, the US firing. The USSR itself would not have been far behind and the US to the USSR. Bye Bye.

It’s interesting that what stopped the initial launch were words, arguments, not guns, not even threats of court martial or torture…

As one commenter asks: Where is the Nobel Peace Prize for Vasily Arkhipov?

You can see more of Blanton’s comments at the National Security Archives. (Do a search for “Vasili” to find a similar claim.