Historian Kevin Fernlund joins KMOX for timely ‘Whole ’Nother Story’ about Stanislav Petrov

“Where were you on September 26, 1983, the day the world had a close call?” Kevin Killeen asked KMOX (1120 AM) listeners on Monday morning.

UMSL historian Kevin Fernlund

Leading up to the 34th anniversary of Stanislav Petrov’s pivotal decision during the Cold War, Professor of History Kevin Fernlund discussed “The Man Who Stopped World War III” with KMOX reporter and UMSL alumnus Kevin Killeen. (Photo by Joe Martinez)

While most people probably don’t know much about what occurred 34 years ago this week, Killeen’s “Whole ’Nother Story” segment featured someone who remembers the date well – and with good reason.

Killeen reached out to Kevin Fernlund, a professor in the Department of History at the University of Missouri–St. Louis, for insight about this pivotal and newly relevant moment for civilization.

As Fernlund described it for KMOX, the date is important because of a judgment call made by a Soviet military officer late that night. Stanislav Petrov was monitoring Krokus, an early warning system, when the system board suddenly flashed indications that the United States had begun firing missiles from Montana.

But something just didn’t seem right to Petrov, and he decided to tell his superiors that it was a false alarm – which turned out to be accurate.

“What we know now, and what Petrov did not know then, was that the satellite was picking up the sun’s reflections off the top of clouds,” Fernlund explained.

Petrov passed away at the age of 77 earlier this year. But Fernlund hopes that there are other people like Petrov “on the watch” these days, particularly given recent news related to North Korea.

Listen to the full conversation on the KMOX website.

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