With so many differing opinions, it can be easy to feel like whatever you do will not make a difference. However, one person truly can change the course of history. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, avoiding WWIII and absolute chaos can be attributed to one Soviet Navy officer, Vasili Aleksandrovich Arkhipov.
Cuban Missile Crisis
Captain Arkhipov was under an incredible amount of pressure to launch on the United States. However, he refused to launch on the U.S. Navy.
He was the only one. Because of his refusal on October 27, Arkhipov was credited with saving the world.
To say that tensions were high at the time would be putting it lightly. Since the U.S. had put missiles in Italy and Turkey, the Soviet Union decided to put missiles in Cuba. The chance of a nuclear war was highly likely.
A Foxtrot-class B-59 Soviet submarine was deep in the ocean near Cuba, and there was a U.S. Naval sub close by. The Navy sub dropped some signaling depth charges into international waters, alarming the Soviets. The Soviet sub was deep in the water, did not have a radio signal, and had not checked in with Moscow for days.
They had no idea if they were at war or not, and since the charges are used for forcing enemy subs up to the surface, many thought they were waring with the U.S.
The captain took the charges to mean they were at war and wanted to strike the U.S. vessel with a nuclear torpedo immediately. However, the Soviets had a protocol saying that the three officers in charge had to agree unanimously.
Arkhipov was second in command of the sub and the only one who did not agree to launch the nuclear torpedo. Instead, he lobbied the captain to surface the sub.
No Good Deed...
Moscow was less than thrilled that the sub surfaced. Soviet superiors were furious that Arkihipov gave their position away. They said it would have been better if they just sunk the sub.
The year before, Arkihipov was an officer on a K-19. The subs cooling system failed, and the crew successfully figured out a way to cool it off before it melted down.
Many years later, U.S. officials let on that we were even closer to nuclear war than anyone knew at the time, which was avoided because of the actions of one man.