I never knew. The world owes an enormous debt to a quiet, steady Russian naval officer who probably saved my life. And yours. And everyone you know. Even those of you who weren’t yet born.

I urge to read this interesting article in the National Geographic by Robert Krulwich, about the Cuban missile crisis, and how Vasili Alexandrovich Arkhipov, stepped in to avoid a Russian submarine to launch its nuclear missile with roughly the power of the Hiroshima bomb.

Vasili Alexandrovich Arkhipov. Photo courtesy of M. Yarovskaya and A. Labunskaya

Vasili Alexandrovich Arkhipov. Photo courtesy of M. Yarovskaya and A. Labunskaya

What Vasili Arkhipov said to the exhausted, nervous Russian submarine commander named Valentin Savitsky, who just ordered the nuclear-tipped missile readied, we will never know, not exactly.

But, says Thomas Blanton, the former director of the nongovernmental National Security Archive, simply put, this “guy called Vasili Arkhipov saved the world.”

Arkhipov, 34 at the time, described by his wife as a modest, soft-spoken man, simply talked Savitsky down.

Photograph courtesy of U.S. National Archives, Still Pictures Branch, Record Group 428, Item 428-N-711199

Photograph courtesy of U.S. National Archives, Still Pictures Branch, Record Group 428, Item 428-N-711199

The exact details are controversial.

Read the entire story at the National Geographic.