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Old 11-01-2015, 04:51 PM
 
Location: Secure, Undisclosed
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Many of us recall Nikita Khrushchev banging his shoe on the UN podium on October 1960. What I did not know until recently is that it saved his life - and those of many thousand others.

Just prior to October 1960, the US and Canada (collectively, NORAD) deployed a new radar system called "BMEWS" to detect Soviet missile launches against the west. One of the BMEWS sites was erected in Thule Greenland. It was so powerful it could detect a launch signature all the way over in the Soviet Union with a 99.9% accuracy rate.

On October 5, 1960, it tripped.

NORAD got the alarm; NORAD went to Alert Level 5 ('you are under nuclear attack') and we flushed the bombers. The US armed its missiles for flight and the Joint Staff was urgently recalled. Then a Canadian officer attached to NORAD asked, "Where is Nikita Khrushchev?"

He was at the UN, in New York City, preparing for his podium-banging harrang against the west.

Citing the unlikely probability that the Soviets would launch a nuclear strike against America while their boss was in the Big Apple, the powers that be stood things down. Subsequent investigation disclosed that what the BMEWS system detected was not the launching of a Soviet ICBM.

It was the rising moon. BMEWS had overshot its target by some 250,000 miles.

See: Annie Jacobsen, The Pentagon's Brain: An Uncensored History of DARPA, Chapter 5.
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