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It took the world two major wars, namely the World Wars, to realize the destruction wars bring and the harm it inflicts onto mankind. It was in the wake of this very realization that the United Nations was set up.
But even though strong international agencies have and continue to strive to maintain world peace, there have been moments in the near past when a third World War seemed imminent. While some of the instances are grave, some others are hilarious!
Check them out!
The 9/11 attacks shook the world and galvanized the United States to prepare for World War III, with all sorts of weaponry, including nukes. It was only when Bin Laden claimed responsibility of the attack that the US decided to go after the sole mastermind.
Sometime in 2010, North Korea launched an attack at South Korean troops stationed on the island of Yeonpyeong. An odd 160 missiles bombarded the island, leading to an unspeakable amount of loss of life. The spoilt relations between the two Koreas is an issue of extreme concern that has kept the world in tension for a long time because it may spark off a third World War.
The nine-year-long conflict between the Soviets and the Afghans went very close to starting World War III. It had so happened that the US and the UK were providing financial aid so that the Afghan-Mujahideen had the arms and power to fight local Soviets. So it was basically a case of two countries paying another country to go to war against their common enemy. This situation could have easily matured to the Soviets overlooking the Afghan middlemen and directly go against the source - the US and the UK.
Can you imagine a bear starting a war that could very easily become the worst war ever? Well, this actually happened. It was during the Cuban missile crisis when an intruder set off the alarms at a Duluth American airbase. Thinking it to be set off due to either a spy or missiles, fighter jets began to gear up for take off, but were stopped once the intruder was identified as - a bear! Funny, when you think of it now, that the entire world was in for a tremendous war, just because of a bear!
January 25, 1995, was one more corner in time when the world could have set off on a path towards unspeakable death and destruction. Norway and the US had just launched a research rocket to chart the Aurora Borealis in the Arctic. Norway had tried to inform Russia beforehand about the launching by sending them a message. But apparently, the message never reached Russia. Under such conditions, a misunderstanding was bound to follow. Interpreting the launch to be an attack on Russia, Russian President Boris Yeltsin was awakened, who in turn called for the infamous black suitcase, that would cause the launch of 2,200 rockets straight into the US. Luckily enough for everyone, the president consulted his security advisors, and waited for the rocket to chart off-course.
On November 9, 1979, a NORAD computer glitch made it look like that the Soviet Union was gearing up to make an offensive move at the US. Colorado's North American Aerospace Command received reports saying that the Soviets had launched missiles, which called for the standard response of launching fighter pilots and taking the president up into the air for safety. However, it was soon discovered that a technician had accidentally started a simulation exercise which made it look like the Soviet was attacking.
On September 26, 1983, Stanislav Petrov was in command of a secret bunker owned by the Soviets. All of a sudden, the sirens began to blare, indicating the US had launched five missiles towards the Soviet Union. Petrov had a bare few minutes to respond, and launch missiles to counter the apparent attack, but decided to wait a few minutes to make sure it was not a technical glitch in their new system. As it turns out, it actually was just a glitch, and Petrov thankfully exercised sound judgement.
Just a day before the Cuban missile crisis came to an end, an American U-2 plane accidentally drifted off-course because the Northern Lights had obscured his vision. He ended up flying into Soviet Air Space, alerting the Soviets. Thankfully, his American comrades were able to escort the plane back into safety barely minutes before the Soviet planes arrived. Had that not happened, a chain of unwanted actions would have most definitely led to a third World War.
Able Archer 83 was a harmless game/exercise, but it almost led to a World War. The game basically consisted of an attack on Europe that would be met with a US attack on the Soviet Union. In mood of the game, the US airlifted 19,000 troops and elevated their alert status to DEFCON 1. Now although the Soviets knew it was just a game, they too elevated their alert status, to be prepared, just in case.
On January 21st, 1968, a US Air Force plane, B-52, crashed as it had caught fire. The pilot was unable to alert his base due to the lack of time, and the plane ended up crashing into ice, about 7 miles from Thule. The plane exploded with its fuel and certain nuclear compounds. Had everything exploded, it would have definitely been seen as a nuclear attack, and would have definitely started a war.