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20 Mishaps That Might Have Started Accidental Nuclear War
6) October 25, 1962- Cuban Missile Crisis: Intruder in Duluth
At around midnight on October 25, a guard at the Duluth Sector Direction Center saw a figure climbing the security fence. He shot at it, and activated the "sabotage alarm." This automatically set off sabotage alarms at all bases in the area. At Volk Field, Wisconsin, the alarm was wrongly wired, and the Klaxon sounded which ordered nuclear armed F-106A interceptors to take off. The pilots knew there would be no practice alert drills while DEFCON 3 was in force, and they believed World War III had started.
Immediate communication with Duluth showed there was an error. By this time aircraft were starting down the runway. A car raced from command center and successfully signaled the aircraft to stop. The original intruder was a bear.
During the Cuban Missile Crisis he prevented the launch of a nuclear torpedo and therefore a possible nuclear war.
On October 27, 1962, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, a group of eleven United States Navy destroyers and the aircraft carrier USS Randolph trapped a nuclear-armed Soviet Foxtrot class submarine B-59 near Cuba and started dropping practice depth charges, explosives intended to force the submarine to come to the surface for identification. Allegedly, the captain of the submarine, Valentin Grigorievitch Savitsky, believing that a war might already have started, prepared to launch a retaliatory nuclear-tipped torpedo.
Three officers on board the submarine — Savitsky, the Political Officer Ivan Semonovich Maslennikov, and the Second in command Arkhipov — were authorized to launch the torpedo if they agreed unanimously in favour of doing so. An argument broke out among the three, in which only Arkhipov was against the launch, eventually persuading Savitsky to surface the submarine and await orders from Moscow. The nuclear warfare which presumably would have ensued was thus averted.