Five Times The World Was Pushed To The Brink of Nuclear Annihilation

NORAD space defense 1983
NORAD space defense 1983

3. The 1979 NORAD Glitch

In the classic Terminator movies, a self-aware computer system launched a nuclear attack against Russia. In response, the Russians launched their nukes against the United States, essentially bringing the world to an end. This sci-fi plot is surprisingly close to a few near nuclear wars. Only instead of smart computers, dumb computers and humans have been at fault.

On November 9 1979 NORAD raised a false alarm, believing that their computers were showing an incoming nuclear attack. The command center launched fighter jets, dispatched the President’s “Doomsday Plane”, and began to prepare for a counter strike.

Doomsday planes, by the way, are similar to the normal Air Force One aircraft in service. The biggest difference is that they are equipped to allow the President to continue to run the country in the event of a nuclear war. These aircraft are apparently equipped to withstand nuclear bomb blasts and other catastrophic events.

So yeah, NORAD was pretty serious about the incoming nuclear attack. For everyone in the command center, the world looked it was on the verge of the apocalypse. Yet when NORAD compared its satellite data to the computer data, it didn’t match up. Calmer minds began questioning things, and after double checking the computers, they realized that a technician had accidentally left a training program running. The entire attack was only a simulation.

The incident did become public knowledge rather quickly, and the Soviet Union expressed concerns over how close an accident almost caused the end of the world. Of course, this incident wouldn’t be the last time a simple mistake nearly lead to the destruction of the world.