By: B. Sapoznik
In 1961, in the midst of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union, the US president at the time, John F. Kennedy, decided he wanted to end the conflict. To do so, he launched a trained group of Cuban exiles to a place in Cuba – The Bay of Pigs – an event which took 3 whole days (April 17 – April 20). The invasion of the neighbouring island failed, and the exiles were hit by Cuban bullets. The rest tried to escape by sea, swimming as fast as they could. In the end, about 1200 members of the attack gave in, and almost 100 were killed.
This whole attack was taken very seriously by the Soviet authorities, as the United States was opposing Fidel Castro. So, later in the next year, the USSR loaded Cuba with new nuclear missiles, in case of another attack similar to the Bay of Pigs incident. The date in which this occurred is now known as the start of the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Eventually, factories located around 90 miles off the shores of Florida found the load and immediately took it as a threat. Both huge powers argued about whether detonation was the right decision or not. In July of 1962, now opting to continue the conflict, the President of the United States declared a marine attack on Cuba. By October of that year, the U.S. had dropped explosives on Cuban submarines which contained nuclear bombs, a fact the American government was not aware of.
The Soviets were infuriated and had made a decision to launch nuclear missiles on the US – one that was opposed by the officer Vasili Alexandrovich Arkhipov, who told the government that launching the weapons would cause global-scale terror. His advice was followed, and because of it, the Cuban Missile Crisis finally came to an end.
So now, the question posed is this: what if the officer had not done that?
Well, an attack of that scale by the Soviets would enrage the USA, which could have caused a thermonuclear war, possibly one at such a large scale it would become World War 3. Of course, this one might have not included the Holocaust or Nazis, but the impacts would certainly be as devastating. As the Cold War was rising, both sides had extremely powerful warfare just waiting to be launched into one another and could then escalate to the end of the countries around them, and maybe even the world!
As Albert Einstein once said: “I know not what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones.” This phrase may have actually come into play, since in 1961, the Soviet Union had created the deadliest bomb ever seen – The Tsar Bomba. This weapon had about 3800 times the power of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima on the end of World War II. The impacts of launching these could be as huge as the end of the world.
If officer Vasili Alexandrovich Arkhipov had decided not to do something as simple as speak against the attack, the whole world could have ended, and we should all be glad he didn’t take that road.