While interviewing Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) on Sunday’s "State of the Union," Jake Tapper said he believes many people are glad that President Trump wasn’t watching "Fox & Friends" when news broke about Hawaii’s false alarm missile detection alert:
I don't want to be flip about this. I think there are a lot of people out there who are happy that this at least didn't happen while President Trump was watching "Fox & Friends," and instead it happened when he was out on the golf course, and he was informed about this by layers of advisers and such. Because we know that, historically, misunderstandings and false alarms have almost led to nuclear confrontation, nuclear war.
Tapper’s correct in that the global community has, on multiple occasions, come dangerously close to accidental nuclear war.
Perhaps the most frightening example of an error that could have led to a nuclear confrontation occurred nearly 35 years ago.
History.com reports that on September 26, 1983, Russian satellites "misinterpreted the glint of sunlight off clouds near Montana as a missile launch." The system alerted Lt. Colonel Stanislav Petrov, the officer on duty at Serpukhov-15, a Soviet missile monitoring station south of Moscow, that five ICMBs had been launched from the United States.
Instead of reporting a missile launch to his superiors, Petrov called it a false alarm. The Lt. Colonel believed the alert was due to a malfunction in the satellite detection system. He also came to the conclusion that if the United States were to start a nuclear war, it wouldn’t begin with only five missiles.
"I didn't want to make a mistake. I made a decision, and that was it," Petrov later said.
The story of "the man who saved the world" wasn’t told until after the fall of the U.S.S.R. According to NPR, Petrov was even reproved by Russian authorities following the incident. However, he "received a number of international awards during the final years of his life."