There is a legend that says humans cannot avoid two things: taxes and death. It gets worse; the IRS has an obscure internal manual directing how taxes can be collected even amid a nuclear war. So, while people can’t avoid death and paying taxes, they can have both simultaneously. That’s on a lighter note, though. Here are more interesting facts about nuclear war to kickstart your day.

1. The United States and the USSR Had “Signal Cities” that They Would Nuke If Necessary

At the height of the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union had “signal cities” in opposing territories. In case hostility between the two regions escalated, they would nuke the identified targets to indicate a strong resolve. The United States’ target was Kyiv, while the USSR’s was Boston.

2. The UK Nuclear Submarines Have Safes With Letters on What to Do In Case of a Nuclear War

Popularly known as the “Letters of Last Resort,” all of the United Kingdom’s nuclear submarines have safes with letters written by the Prime Minister. They stipulate what should be done in case of a nuclear war and are only opened when the region is hit by a nuclear war.

3. A Soviet Naval Officer Probably Saved the World from a Thermonuclear War

Vasily Arkhipov was a Soviet Naval officer who possibly saved the world from a thermonuclear war. Given that he was an executive officer of the B-59 submarine and a flotilla commodore, his vote was critical in deciding whether Russia would attack the United States Navy with nuclear weapons.

Fortunately, he voted against the idea, while the rest (2 of 3) voted for it. The plan was not carried forward because the vote had to be unanimous. Arkhipov is historically considered as “the man who saved the world.”

4. A Bear Almost Caused a Nuclear War in 1962

In 1962, the Cold War between the United States and USSR was very much on. USSR had set their missiles in Cuba strategically, where they could easily hurt the United States. For 13 days, the United States had warned the USSR to remove their stations, but to no avail. So, when a black bear intruded at Duluth Sector Direction Center in Minnesota, the matter was further aggravated.

The alarm that sounded that day only rang when it meant the United States was at war with the Soviet Union. Everything was quickly set in motion. When the calmer heads analyzed the situation and found out it was a bear that had intruded, they had to drive a truck on the flight lane to stop the paths of the fighter jets. Civilization was almost ended that day, and it wasn’t even the only close shave during the Cold War.

5. There Was a Norwegian Rocket Incident That Threatened to Start a Nuclear War in 1995

Although the tension between Russia and the United States had almost died down, “The Norwegian Rocket Incident” almost rekindled it in 1995. For a moment, Russian officials thought that it was a nuclear attack and were ready to counter it. It almost resulted in an accidental nuclear war.

6. NATO’s Able Archer 83 Nearly Caused A Nuclear War

In 1983, NATO used the Able Archer 83, an annual exercise by Europe-based NATO military forces that emphasized the use of chemical and nuclear weapons, to scare the Soviets. True to their mission, the Soviets panicked so much that they were ready to deploy their own nuclear weapons. Historically, this was the closest the two forces came to going into a nuclear war since the Cuban Missile Crisis.

7. A Moon Mission Astronaut Once Claimed that Peace-Loving Aliens Tried to Stop the World from a Nuclear War

Astronaut Edgar Mitchel, the sixth man to walk on the moon, once claimed that there are peace-loving aliens. According to him, the celestial beings were so anti-war that they came to Earth to prevent a nuclear war between the United States and the Soviets.

8. The United States Used the Madman Theory to Prevent a Nuclear War

Especially during the reign of President Richard Nixon, the United States used the madman theory to deter their enemies and possibly stop a nuclear war. The administration portrayed the president as a mad person to make the leaders of hostile Communist Bloc nations think that he was volatile and irrational. As such, the US sold the narrative that provoking them would result in an unpredictable response.

9. Stanislav Petrov Possibly Stopped a Nuclear War By Doing Nothing

Stanislav Petrov was a Soviet Air Defence Forces lieutenant colonel whose decision to disobey orders probably saved the world from a nuclear war in 1983. Three weeks after the Soviet military had shot down Flight 007 from Korea Air Lines, the system reported that there was a missile attack launched by the United States. Fortunately, Petrov judged the reports as false alarms (which they were) and refrained from starting a retaliatory nuclear attack. He disobeyed protocol but for a good course, as it turns out.

10. Nuclear Bunkers in Houses Were Once a Necessity in Switzerland

Following the destructive nature of the nuclear attacks in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the authorities in Switzerland required every house and other dwellings in the region to have nuclear bunkers. The facilities would help protect citizens in case of a nuclear war or a terrorist attack. The rule is no longer applicable.

11. There Are Levels to Nuclear War Alerts

The seriousness of a nuclear war alert state depends on the Defense Readiness Condition (DEFCON). Usually issued by the United States Armed Forces, the levels vary. DEFCON 5 is the lowest, while DEFCON 1 means imminent nuclear war. Usually, the US military does not announce DEFCON levels to the public for security reasons.

12. A Conspiracy Theory Claims an Ancient Nuclear War Lowered Life Expectancy

According to a conspiracy theory, humans used to have a higher life expectancy than what we have today. It only dropped to the current levels when an ancient nuclear war wiped out early, significantly developed earth civilizations.

13. A Huge Underground Secret Bunker Was Revealed in 1974

In 1974, a massive underground secret bunker was discovered and disclosed to the public in Mt. Weather, VA. Apparently, the facility was to host government officials in case a nuclear war erupted. It became public knowledge when TWA Flight 514 slammed into the mountain, close to the bunker’s entrance.

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Last Update: February 29, 2024