Secrets of the Dead: The Man Who Saved the World is a fascinating look at just how close the world came to nuclear war in 1962. The Cuban Missile Crisis was much more intense than any account has relayed until now. We were at DEFCON 2, which is one step away from nuclear war. But more alarming than that is the fact that a secret Soviet nuclear-armed sub was one finger away from launching a nuclear missile.
Fifty years ago the world was one small step from nuclear disaster and possibly annihilation. Most students of history know that the Soviet Union was building missile sites in Cuba, with the intent on arming them with nuclear weapons capable of hitting American cities. Students of history also know that in response to this President Kennedy put up a "blockade" of ships heading toward Cuba. Students of history might also know that several Soviet submarines were hiding off the Atlantic coast. What is truly terrifying is that one of these submarines almost launched a nuclear missile at the United States.
The Soviet protocol for launching a nuclear missile, or a "special weapon" as it was referred to by the Soviets, was that it required three people to launch the weapon. One of the subs had two out of three in favor of launching. The fleet commander, Vasili Arkhipov, refused to fire the weapon. This documentary is his story.
Vasili Arkhipov had been aboard the ill-fated K-19 nuclear-powered submarine that experienced a terrible accident in which several submariners were killed and the rest were exposed to high levels of radiation. Arkhipov had seen first hand what radiation can do to people and refused to be a part of unleashing nuclear war on the world. It was his strength and convictions that saved the world from a destructive war. Had he sided with his two comrades, we might not be here today.
Secrets of the Dead: The Man Who Saved the World is a fascinating story of one very intense chapter in world history and deserves to be seen by all ages. It premiers on PBS Tuesday, October 23, 2012.