Mark Mcdonald of Knight Ridder says, maybe so:
[Petrov] was in the commander’s chair on Sept. 26, 1983, the night the world nearly blew up.
Tensions were high: Weeks earlier, on Sept. 1, Soviet fighters had shot down a Korean airliner, killing all 269 people aboard.
Petrov was in charge of the secret bunker where a team of 120 technicians and military officers monitored the Soviet Union’s early-warning system. It was just after midnight when a new satellite array known as Oko, or The Eye, spotted five U.S. missiles heading toward Moscow. The Eye discerned that they were Minuteman II nuclear missiles.
Petrov’s computer was demanding that he follow the prescribed protocol and confirm an incoming attack to his superiors. A red light on the computer that read START! kept flashing at him. And there was this baleful message: MISSILE ATTACK!
Petrov had written the emergency protocol himself, and he knew he should immediately pick up the hot line at his desk to tell his superiors that the Motherland was under attack.
It’s a fascinating story, and one I’d never read before. It appears, unfortunately, that Petrov’s good deed went entirely unrewarded.
Via Tim Blair, who, by the way, has a new site.
UPDATE: Our friend Steve Hayward writes:
Actually the story of the 1983 false alarm in the Soviet Union has been out and about for a while now; I have two different published accounts of it in my Age of Reagan book files. But this story does add good new detail about the guy at the switch that night; his name has been published before, but never any follow up to this extent.