Cold War documents, kept secret for decades, reveal how startlingly close our planet came to nuclear Armageddon! As the world takes greater and greater risks with weapons of unimaginable ferocity, Bible prophecy reveals the true future ahead of us all.
The Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 nearly brought the world to the unthinkable: a nuclear exchange between the United States and the Soviet Union—in popular parlance, “Armageddon.” Although it was understood to be a close call during those 13 tense days in October, few would learn just how close it was until decades later—and most people still do not know. After all, October 1962 was nearly 60 years ago. That is ancient history to younger generations, and details have faded for those of us who actually lived through that time. And even we did not know the whole story.
We might also add that public schools in the West have de-emphasized the study of history in recent decades, replacing it with “social studies.” This subtle change seemed innocuous enough when I was in school in the late 1950s and early 1960s, but it has continued to evolve. It was a clever sleight of hand. Words have meaning, and social studies is not the same as history!
Students in junior high, high school, and university are being pumped full of propaganda involving “male privilege” (especially white male privilege), women’s rights, LGBTQ+ rights, illegal immigrant rights, socialism, and anything else social engineers may conjure up to destroy long-held morals and values.
How can we prevent ourselves from repeating our mistakes if we don’t pass on the lessons of the past? And how can we blame younger generations for a lack of understanding of events about which they were never taught—and for which they have no context?
If they do learn anything about the Cuban Missile Crisis, they might be taught that the Soviet Union and Cuba were victims of American imperialism! Of course, not all schools are alike, and not all students are in the dark. Many bright young people study on their own and are well-informed, and some schools offer strong courses in both ancient and modern history. Sadly, though, that is far from the norm.
In the years after World War II, newsreels often preceded feature films in American theaters. I still remember how these newsreels often praised Fidel Castro and his Cuban revolutionaries, before—to the dismay of the U.S. government—Castro declared his allegiance to communism and the Soviet Union. An anxious U.S. government, fearing a potential enemy just 90 miles away, authorized support for the infamous Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in 1961, which ended disastrously. Yet, the problem was real—as was demonstrated all too clearly when Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev secretly moved more than 41,000 troops into Cuba between July and October 1962.
Even more troubling to U.S. officials was the discovery that Khrushchev had begun deploying nuclear missiles in Cuba—some medium-range, able to reach New York and Chicago, and others intermediate-range, bringing all of the lower 48 states and even Canada into reach. That was a bridge too far for the United States and a direct challenge to its young leader, President John F. Kennedy. Kennedy consulted with top military brass and advisors and chose what history shows was a wise response—to quarantine Cuba. Diplomats chose that term to avoid the word blockade, which would have amounted to a declaration of war.
Most of this was known to anyone paying attention at the time, but there was far more going on under the surface that would only become known decades later, following the release of formerly Top Secret documents.
Here is something that most people still do not know: The Soviet Union sent four submarines to Cuba, and U.S. Navy ships intercepted submarine B-59 on October 27, 1961, dropping low-powered depth charges (used for naval training, no more powerful than a hand grenade). These were designed to give a warning and coax the sub to the surface, not to destroy it. What the U.S. did not know at the time was that submarine B-59 carried a nuclear-tipped torpedo with about two-thirds the explosive power of the atomic bomb that had been used on Hiroshima—enough to destroy much of the nearby U.S. naval fleet.
The men on that submarine, however, had been underwater and out of communication with Moscow for several days, and they did not know that the depth charge explosions occurring around them were only meant as warnings. Temperatures aboard the diesel-powered submarine were near 100 degrees, and carbon dioxide build-up contributed to foggy thinking. Officers aboard B-59 wondered if a war between the superpowers had already begun—after all, the missile crisis had made this a real possibility. What happened next is bone-chilling in retrospect.
Vadim Orlov, an intelligence officer aboard the submarine, recalled how the American ships “surrounded us and started to tighten the circle, practicing attacks and dropping depth charges. They exploded right next to the hull. It felt like you were sitting in a metal barrel, which somebody is constantly blasting with a sledgehammer.”… Orlov remembered Captain Valentin Savitsky shouting, “We’re going to blast them now! We will die, but we will sink them all—we will not disgrace our Navy!” Political officer Ivan Semonovich Maslennikov agreed that they should launch the torpedo (“Nuclear Close Calls: The Cuban Missile Crisis,” AtomicHeritage.org, June 15, 2018).
Had they launched, you and I might not be here to read this. The aftermath would have touched us all, and our world would be vastly different than it is today. What is generally unknown, and only revealed with the release of documents decades later, is the response America already had planned for such an attack.
President Kennedy’s predecessor, Dwight Eisenhower, understood war only too well and tried during his presidency to hold the line on the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Nevertheless, the U.S. nuclear arsenal grew massively during his eight years as the leader of the free world. Yet Americans were deliberately kept in the dark about their overwhelming superiority in nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them. “According to physicist Pavel Podvig, Soviet bombers at the time ‘could deliver about 270 nuclear weapons to U.S. territory.’ By contrast, the United States had thousands of warheads that it could deliver via 1,576 Strategic Air Command bombers as well as 183 Atlas and Titan intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), 144 Polaris missiles via nine nuclear submarines, and ten newly built Minuteman ICBMs” (AtomicHeritage.org). Each of those Atlas, Titan, Polaris, and Minuteman missiles carried multiple nuclear devices that could each attack independent targets.
Eisenhower believed that there would never be a limited nuclear exchange—once one bomb went off, it would quickly escalate. Therefore, Eisenhower commissioned his generals to put together a “Single Integrated Operational Plan” (SIOP). This would ultimately reflect the mission of the Air Force’s Strategic Air Command (SAC), as created under the leadership of General Curtis LeMay and his successor, General Thomas Powell. Journalist Evan Thomas reports that General Curtis LeMay, who had overseen the destruction of Japanese cities during World War II by means of massive firebombing, “had one war plan, as a naval officer described it in 1954: to leave the Soviet Union ‘a smoking, radioactive ruin in two hours’” (Ike’s Bluff, p. 397).
How many Americans and other inhabitants of our planet knew anything about the response a Soviet nuclear attack, no matter how limited, would have elicited from the United States? Thomas explains that SIOP represented an overwhelming retaliation, designed to “destroy the Soviet Union, Red China and the Soviet satellite states [Eastern Europe] in a single cataclysmic blow if the United States were attacked.”
Under the SIOP, the United States would shoot the works, firing off its entire strategic arsenal of 3,500 weapons. The plan was an exercise in “overkill,” said [George] Kistiakowsky. It would, the science adviser said, “kill four or five times over somebody who is already dead.” Coming back from the briefing for his noon nap, Eisenhower told his naval aide, Captain Pete Aurand, that the SIOP “frightens the devil out of me” (Thomas, p. 394).
Newly elected President Kennedy was briefed on SIOP in December 1960, but he may not have fully comprehended it immediately. Sometime later, after another SIOP briefing, the young president-elect would remark to his Secretary of State Dean Rusk, with a mixture of wonder and disgust, “And they call us human beings.” Yet neither Kennedy nor the presidents who followed him for the next 40 years trimmed back the SIOP. In fact, it grew more complex and fantastically apocalyptic (Thomas, p. 399).
A Top Secret report declassified in 2011 reveals SIOP as it existed in 1962. Those who would be killed by such a massive response were estimated at more than 200 million in the USSR and China, with an additional four million in Poland and other Eastern European countries who were under the rule of the USSR (“U.S. War Plans Would Kill an Estimated 108 Million Soviets, 104 Million Chinese, and 2.6 Million Poles: More Evidence on SIOP-62 and the Origins of Overkill,” Unredacted.com, November 8, 2011).
Radioactivity would no doubt take multiple millions of lives in the aftermath, perhaps the reason one report estimated a figure as high as 600,000,000 deaths. This does not include millions of casualties inflicted on the free world, and although the USSR’s response to SIOP would perhaps have been less overwhelming, anyone who thinks the Soviet planners were any more civilized is naïve. If mankind can think in these terms, actually carrying out such mass destruction is not out of the question.
These casualty figures are even more shocking considering that world population in the early 1960s was just over 3 billion, significantly less than the 7.8 billion alive in 2019. In 1960s terms, when considering losses on both sides and among all their allies, including deaths from resulting radiation poisoning, it would not be unreasonable to believe that such nuclear exchange would have killed one-fourth to one-third of mankind!
So, what was it that prevented a nuclear Armageddon in 1962? As we have already seen, Soviet submarine B-59 was in the dark about the state of the world above the waves. U.S. forces were trying to force it to surface, but Soviet Captain Savitsky and political officer Maslennikov, thinking they were under attack and that war may have already begun between the superpowers, agreed to launch a nuclear-tipped torpedo. Why didn’t they do it? What stopped them?
The Soviet Union was as worried as the United States about an accidental nuclear war. Therefore, their protocol required three assenting voices.
The last remaining officer, Second Captain Vasili Alexandrovich Arkhipov, dissented. They did not know for sure that the ship was under attack, he argued. Why not surface and then await orders from Moscow? In the end, Arkhipov’s view prevailed. The B-59 surfaced near the American warships and the submarine set off north to return to the Soviet Union without incident” (AtomicHeritage.org).
That is how close we came to Armageddon!
We live in a far more dangerous world than most realize. Other classified documents released in recent years fill in details of other near catastrophes. “Broken Arrow” is a military code phrase used for an accidental event that involves a nuclear weapon or components thereof. An April 6, 2019 report revealed that the United States admits to having 32 Broken Arrow incidents. Six of these involved weapons that were never found or were deliberately left undisturbed.
You would probably find one or more of interest depending on where you live, as these incidents took place in British Columbia, Quebec, England, Spain, North and South Carolina, California, Arkansas, Florida, Maryland, Louisiana, and Indiana, to name a few. It is likely that the total number of Broken Arrow incidents is far greater—the Soviet Union is much more secretive, so their own mishaps are not publicly known.
Two American incidents stand out. One was at an airbase in England that occurred a year before my family was transferred there.
On July 27, 1956, a U.S. B-47 bomber was on a training exercise when it crashed into a nuclear weapons storage facility at the Lakenheath Air Base in Suffolk, England. The entire crew of the aircraft was killed. Known as an “igloo,” the storage facility contained three Mark 6 nuclear bombs, one of whose detonators had been sheared off in the accident. Investigators concluded that it was a miracle that the bomb hadn’t exploded (“‘Broken Arrows’—The World’s Lost Nuclear Weapons,” InterestingEngineering.com).
But that wasn’t the only miracle. Here is another incident where “luck” was on our side:
On January 24, 1961, a B-52 carrying two three- or four-megaton nuclear bombs was over Goldsboro, North Carolina when it suffered the structural failure of its right wing. The aircraft broke apart and the two nuclear weapons were released. On one bomb, three of its four arming mechanisms had activated. In 2013, a freedom of information request confirmed that only a single switch out of four had prevented the bomb’s detonation. One of the recovery team recalled, “Until my death I will never forget hearing my sergeant say, ‘Lieutenant, we found the arm/safe switch.’ And I said, ‘Great.’ He said, ‘Not great. It’s on arm’” (ibid.).
Since the end of World War II, mankind has flirted with Armageddon. What if one of the Broken Arrows—or whatever they may be called by the Russians, Chinese, North Koreans, Indians, Pakistanis, or any other states or rogue nations possessing nuclear weapons—detonates by accident near or in enemy territory? What if some state actually foolishly concludes that detonating such a weapon against a foe is in its best interest? Will it start a chain reaction that could imperil human life?
According to the Bible—specifically, according to Jesus Christ—that is exactly where our world is headed apart from His intervention (Matthew 24:21–22), though He will intervene to prevent self-inflicted, human annihilation!
We also know that future wars will be fought with weapons unknown to the public at this time. While new weapons are often kept secret for years before the public becomes aware of them, there may yet be weapons of even more destructive power in our future, so advanced that even scientists in our most secret laboratories have not yet dared to imagine them. Who knows what the mind of man may conceive when it comes to killing on a mass scale?
Revelation describes some kind of weapon that will not kill, but for a period of five months will “torment… like the torment of a scorpion when it strikes a man. In those days men will seek death and will not find it; they will desire to die, and death will flee from them” (Revelation 9:5–6).
Will “Armageddon” involve nuclear weapons? Possibly. But at some point, mankind’s high-tech weapons may be rendered useless or insufficient. How else can we understand the need for an army of “two hundred million” (Revelation 9:13–18)? While God’s word associates this prophesied army with the death of one-third of the earth’s population, this is still not the biblical Armageddon described in Revelation 16:13–16. What we see in Scripture is that all-out, no-holds-barred war will occur in our not-too-distant future.
My generation and those on either side of it lived under the shadow of a mushroom cloud—some of us more than others. As children of military families, growing up on U.S. Strategic Air Command bases, my friends and I understood that we were at ground zero if war should break out. We had our personal nightmares, but rarely shared them. However, while we cannot deny that there will be difficult days ahead, the Bible warns us all that most of us have far greater concerns than nuclear Armageddon.
It might surprise you that Bible prophecy was actually a comfort for me and for many others in those dangerous times. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, I understood there was nothing to worry about, and—though I did not then know about Soviet submarine B-59—my assessment was correct. Yes, it was a tense time of crisis, when one mistake could have blown the world apart. But the Bible told me—and others blessed to be able to understand—that it wasn’t God’s time or place for such a catastrophe. That knowledge gave me peace of mind.
Today, too, despite some awful prophesied events on the horizon, those who zealously look to God can have peace and comfort. There is a way to escape Armageddon. Even more importantly, although we will all die eventually, eternal life will be made available to all who pursue it. As Jesus promised, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die” (John 11:25–26). After He had spoken these words, Jesus asked a question that applies to all of us: “Do you believe this?”
Your Bible reveals much about the end-time, and we at Tomorrow’s World offer many free resources that can help you understand what the Bible reveals. We will encounter twists and turns as history unfolds, but we really can know the overall picture.
Most importantly, we need to know why we were born in the first place—what God’s plan is for us. Life is precious and precarious. We human beings are far more resilient than we sometimes think, but far more fragile in the overall picture. We are temporary, and life is short. However, there is a God, and He gives us the opportunity to live forever.
He is evaluating the decisions we make—whether we love Him with all our heart, mind, and being, or whether we follow the crowd and fear man more than God. How amazing it is that so few spend any time searching to prove whether God is real, that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him, and what His purpose is for us. It seems that most are more interested in what is on television tonight, or whether “their team” will win the game this weekend.
If you want to understand more of what is prophesied for the last days, go to our website to order our free booklets Armageddon and Beyond, The Beast of Revelation: Myth, Metaphor or Soon-Coming Reality?, and Revelation: The Mystery Unveiled! Everything we have to offer is, of course, sent free of charge.
And, if understanding the purpose of life is important to you, request our resource Your Ultimate Destiny, as well. If you would like to become more involved with and learn more about the Living Church of God, the sponsor of Tomorrow’s World—such as what we believe and how you may fellowship with us in one of our many congregations around the world—let us know. We are here to serve!