"A guy called Vasili Arkhipov saved the world." and WWIII.

He was a minority, going against the captain. In the end he was successful, but I want this topic to assume he went along with it, and a nuclear weapon was used.

Given that, what would have happened next (based on statements by officials and declassified plans)? Would the US respond with an immediate mass nuclear strike on the USSR, with the Soviets then responding in kind? If so, which cities would get the axe, who might survive, and would the war continue after the initial strikes? Would the US use nuclear weapons, but only in the immediate battlefield at sea? Would the US hold off, realizing that one loss isn’t worth the collapse of most of the populated world? Basically, would it definitely lead to war, and how would the war have gone down at the time? I think the US was ahead at the time, but…

What is the cite for this?

No local commander is going to have command authority over nuclear weapons. Any order to launch is going to come from the very top.

It’s a cut and past from the wikipedia page on Vasili Arkhipov. Note that the article is flagged as not being sufficiently backed up by citations. I didn’t follow any of the cites given.

I mentioned him in GQ thread asking if anyone had literally saved the world?

@treis, from what I’ve read it wasn’t the full ICBM deal but rather a nuclear-tipped torpedo, in retaliation against U.S. cruisers. Given how volatile the situation was back in the Cuban Missile Crisis it’s not hard to see how this could escalate, the incident is already frequently mentioned as the nearest the world came to an all-out nuclear exchange.

Link to a 1983 incident where a guy probably saved the world.

Escalate? Sure. Escalate by a sub captain unilaterally deciding to launch a nuclear torpedo at some ships? Not bloody likely.

These stories (like the one The Second Stone mentioned) are always directed at the other side. It’s always, those wacky Soviets almost blew us all to hell based on evidence and accounts gathered by the West. It just smacks of exaggeration and vilifying the enemy.

Not bloody likely, true, but not impossible either. Given the stakes it’s probably just as well we never had to find out.

Agreed, there is a certain romanticism in thinking that one cool head saved us all as opposed to the delicate game of nuclear brinkmanship. Maybe it was somewhere inbetween.

The alternate scenario is the basis for an alternate history story;

The discussion regarding the accuracy of rumors about Arkhipov are interesting, but I would note that the OP and the requested debate already assume a counter-factual history. The prposed debate is in regards to a hypothetical situation that we already know did not happen.

We might consider actually entertaining that scenario rather than the hijack.

[ /Modding ]

What’s a “practice” depth charge? Does it sink to a certain level and yell “BANG!” ?

Normally , it was a hand grenade that was wrapped in toilet paper, with the pin pulled. The TP would disolve and the spoon would float off and boom.

The deeper you wanted to go boom, the more toilet paper you wrapped it in.


I believe that the soviets were going to roll over west berlin, they never really could have supported Cuba, if it came to blows. Use of nukes would have depended on Kennedy for an appropriate response, and I doubt that there would be a soviet counter strike.

That would have never entered into it (bolded) It was a different time and a different America, the folks ordering the bomb dropping were most likely flying B-17 and B-24’s over Europe in WW2, they were used to the idea of lots of casualties and destroyed cities.

Most of Europe probably would have been toast from England to Euro Russia, once the ball started rolling, but I dont think North America would have been badly damaged, the ICBM was just starting to come up in numbers, and both sides were more bomber dependent at the time, than in the future.


So, the hypothetical has a Soviet nuclear weapon being used in anger against US forces. I’m having a hard time seeing how that could not escalate. Wasn’t the whole geopolitical situation at the time founded on the assumption that any use of nuclear weapons must immediately and decisively be answered in kind?

I’m not sure the weapon being a nuke would have made much difference. If the Russian sub fired a conventional torpoedo that damaged/sank an American ship during the Cuban Missile Crisis, I think the shit hits the fan. Same if a Russian fighter attacks an American plane or ship., Or, for that matter, an American plane/ship/sub attacking a Russioan asset could do it. Things were* tense* then. Any tiny spark could have been enough to start WWIII.

Thanks everyone, interesting insights. I’ve read books about the Cold War, watched probably 40+ hours of documentaries on it, even had a class on it, but I was born the year it ended, probably making me younger than most people here.

I live in an age where shelling an island and sinking a warship won’t start a war, neither will unauthorized military intrusions, covert bombings of nations, and the only powers threatening nuclear war these days are those least capable of following through. No matter how much I try and learn about it I don’t think I’ll ever understand the mindset of the time; constant propaganda, countless proxy wars, and thousands of bombs on a hair-trigger alert.

Also, wasn’t a U2 shot down while the official policy was that were it shot down the US would invade Cuba? I may be wrong, I’m getting that from the movie Fog of War I think. Either way, it was shot, and the US didn’t invade. That’s one of the reasons why I wasn’t sure a Soviet torpedo in response to depth charges would necessarily trigger something.

Yet it was the Americans that folded in this crisis, thank God, and 2 out of 3 Russians that were actually prepared to launch.

I think your mistaking the politicians for the military. If you want to say that the Americans folded, fine. It really should never have escalated to that point to begin with, but had war broke out over it, the soviet union would have been a smoking hole.


Yes, and the US would have been the same. Wars always have losers, but they don’t always have winners.

That’s true. Maybe that comparison is not totally fair. I’m certain the US had plenty military that would push the button. I seriously wonder, however, if the Soviet leadership would have backed down had Kennedy not promised to remove those missiles from Turkey.

He is mentioned in Crackeds’ articles “6-people-youve-never-heard-who-probably-saved-your-life” and 5 People You've Never Heard Of Who Saved the World | Cracked.com