[lit-ideas] Re: Bet you didn't know Stanislav saved theworld...

  • From: Andy Amago <aamago@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx, lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sun, 23 May 2004 08:16:25 -0400 (GMT-04:00)

-----Original Message-----
From: Carol Kirschenbaum <carolkir@xxxxxxxx>
Sent: May 22, 2004 5:07 PM
To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
Subject: [lit-ideas] Re: Bet you didn't know Stanislav saved the world...

Andy, where did you see/read this McNamara/Kennedy anecdote? Would have been
powerful if McN had said it to Errol Morris in _Fog of War_. Would either
Morris or McN censor themselves and *not* use such a juicy anecdote in such
a relevant context? So I'm curious about the source.

A.A.  The source is in my first sentence, the good old History Channel.  Back 
in November, around the anniversary of Kennedy's assassination, the History 
Channel (truly, one of the few things on television worth watching, although 
tiresome at times with all the war/torture, etc. stories) did a whole slew of 
Kennedy related stories.   Yes, certainly, we dropped the A-bombs on Japan, and 
the effect was evident, but I think their point was that nuclear war, as in 
using nuclear weapons vs. conventional weapons, was virgin territory, even for 
the military.  The PSA's promoting duck and cover as the way to protect one's 
self during a nuclear attack were precisely because the military was playing 
out a conventional war scheme with nuclear weapons.  The Kennedy/McNamara 
meeting was classified.  The HC made the point that one-on-one meetings were 
rare, and this was important enough to merit a one-on-one.  

I find the HC is brutally honest in their coverage, whatever their topic.  They 
paint the U.S. for what it is: sometimes good, often meddlesome and 
destructive, and just as often downright stupid.  Many things that are 
no-brainers in retrospect are not so easy to see in the moment.  They debunk 
what becomes modern day myth, such as the good old days of the 1950's; the 
Kennedy mystique; etc.  (Did you know, BTW, that "spring break" is life 
imitating art, when kids quite literally imitated the beach movies of the 60's, 
which then turned into the "spring break" phenomenon?  Or that the need for a 
daily shower was invented by, yes, the plumbing trade groups to promote wider 
use of their products in the 30's or 40's I believe it was.  But that of course 
is off the subject.)

In any case, I suggest that you email the HC or visit their web site and 
perhaps they can direct you to an archive of this story, or periodically check 
their listings to see when it will be repeated.  I suspect November would again 
be a good time to catch it.  Any questions regarding veracity of content would 
best be taken up with the editorial staff of the History Channel itself.

Regarding _Fog of War_, that thread pre-dated me and don't know what your 
reference is about.

Andy Amago

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Andy Amago" <aamago@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
To: <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>; <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Sent: Saturday, May 22, 2004 5:55 AM
Subject: [lit-ideas] Re: Bet you didn't know Stanislav saved the world...

> According to the good old History Channel, the Soviet Union was
instrumental in avoiding nuclear war several times, going right back to the
standoff between Kennedy and Kruschev.  The American military had been
sporting for a fight, but Kennedy had the wherewithal, after the Bay of
Pigs, to not take their advice.  At the time, nuclear weaponry was
relatively new, and few people, even in the Pentagon, knew the true extent
of its power (sounds amazing, doesn't it?).  Hence the advice by the
government to duck and cover, as if covering one's head under a desk would
prevent incineration.  No one, including Secretary of Defense McNamara, knew
how nuclear weapons compared to conventional weapons.
> In a trip by McNamara to the Soviet Union, the Russians essentially made
clear to him what nuclear war meant.  He returned from the trip, and in a
private one-on-one meeting with John Kennedy (one-on-ones with the President
virtually never happened) told Kennedy that no matter what the Russians do,
not matter what, whether it be invade France, invade Germany, no matter what
they do, do not, under any circumstances, do not use nuclear weapons.  Not
coincidentally, it was the Russians who pulled out during the missile
> Andy Amago
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Scribe1865@xxxxxxx
> Sent: May 21, 2004 4:49 PM
> To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
> Subject: [lit-ideas] Bet you didn't know Stanislav saved the world...
> Ex-Soviet Officer Honored for Prudence
> Ignored Alarm in 1983 that Wrongly Signaled Incoming U.S. Minuteman
> MOSCOW (May 21) - A retired Soviet military officer was honored Friday for
> averting a potential nuclear war in 1983 by ignoring an alarm that said
> United States had launched a ballistic missile, a U.S.-based peace
> said on its Web site.
> Lt. Col. Stanislav Petrov was in charge of the Soviet Union's early
> system when the system wrongly signaled the launch of a U.S. Minuteman
> intercontinental ballistic missile in September 1983.
> Petrov had to decide within 20 minutes whether the report was accurate and
> whether he should launch missiles in retaliation, the Vlast magazine
reported in
> 1998.
> At the time of the incident, tensions between the United States and the
> Soviet Union were high. The Soviet military had recently shot down a
Korean Air
> Lines jet that strayed over Soviet airspace, killing all 269 people on
> Petrov decided the alarm was false and did not launch a retaliatory
> The article said Petrov suffered severe stress after the incident and
> several months in hospitals before being discharged from the military.
> On Friday, the San-Francisco-based Association of World Citizens, a
> organization promoting peace, presented Petrov with the World Citizen
> and launched a campaign to raise $1,000 for the Russian, who receives only
> meager pension.
> "All the 20 years that passed since that moment, I didn't believe I had
> something extraordinary. I was simply doing my job and I did it well,"
> said on Russia's NTV television.
> 05/21/04 12:50 EDT
> Copyright 2004 The Associated Press.
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