The United States was within seconds of launching a nuclear attack against Russia, not just once but 1,000 times during the Cold War era. Pentagon claimed there were only 32 accidents involving nuclear false alarm but classified documents revealed otherwise. The horrifying close calls were detailed in the book by American author Eric Schlosser, titled “’Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety.”
There were close calls in 1962, 1979 and during President Jimmy Carter’s administration
The book, first reported by the Express, revealed that in 1962, a U.S. B-52 bomber had accidentally dropped a plutonium missile on North Carolina. At the time, U.S. aircraft bombers are patrolling the sky 24/7 in any case an attack from the enemy takes place.
Two hydrogen bombs were being carried by the B-52 bomber. The bombs created a weight imbalance on the plane. The plane started to disintegrate and the bombs were released by mistake. Thankfully, the pilot did not activate the switch that could have propelled the bombs unto the ground. If that switch was activated, a full-scale thermonuclear explosion could have happened right there and then, the Express reported, citing details from the book.
In 1979, defence officials stationed at the North American Aerospace Defense Command in Colorado received information that the Soviet forces are conducting an attack. The information was retrieved by the defense’s computer system. The computers in the defense’s secret base were signaling an attack coming from the then Soviet Union.
However, after a thorough investigation, officials found that the base’s computer programs had glitched, hence sending a false alarm. Thankfully, the glitch was discovered right away and a U.S. official was able to avert the already set up nuclear warheads.
Another major near-miss incident involved another glitch where computer systems were showing that hundreds of Soviet missiles were launched against the U.S. Thankfully, Zbigniew Brzezinski, the national security adviser to US President Jimmy Carter, decided to take a call from other officials who informed him that the signaled attack was a false alarm.
Eric Schlosser remains positive despite discovery of chilling document
Speaking with Australia’s The Age, ahead of his appearance at the Melbourne Writers Festival on August 30 and Sydney’s Festival of Dangerous Ideas on September 5, Schlosser said there is an underlying positive message to all these.
“There were a few times, especially when I was going through the nuclear war plans of the United States, that it did make me question human beings and human nature,” Schlosser said.
“I came out thinking we were really lucky to get through the Cold War, and there’s ground for optimism in that. We came close but common sense prevailed, and if you look at the number of nuclear weapons that the US and Russia have today, it’s a fraction of what we had 40 years ago,” he said.
“It’s reassuring that both in the United States and the Soviet Union there were false alarms that seemed credible but that commanders decided to ignore because of their reluctance to use these weapons,” Schlosser went on saying.
“Good things can happen. History doesn’t have to end badly, but people have to make those good things happen,” Schlosser said with optimism.