Newly released papers reveal how a computer glitch brought us to the brink of nuclear war. Today, under the 30-year rule, cabinet and other government papers from 1979 are released revealing astonishing insights into the goings on inside Whitehall.
It was a moment of madness, but the system was mad that allowed it to happen. Out of the blue in November 1979, computer systems in North America and Britain went haywire, showing a massive Soviet nuclear attack was in progress. Throughout the West’s top secret defence establishments alarm bells began screaming, fighter interceptors were scrambled, pilots went rushing to the cockpits of their nuclear-armed bombers.
The world was running full tilt to the brink of annihilation. Then, six minutes into the madness, the all-clear was sounded. It had been a colossal mess-up, begun by a junior officer who had been running a test simulating a Soviet attack. Incredibly, he had fed the tape into the wrong computer.
So the planes were recalled, the missile silos went back to a state of semi-slumber and government spin-doctors went into action to downplay the affair. Armageddon was postponed while the generals and senior civil servants breathed a collective sigh of relief.
The file PREM 19/17 and marked TOP SECRET UK EYES ONLY is covered in Thatchers blue felt-tip pen and contains a one-word demand scrawled in capital letters – HOW? So, over the following days, the details of the near-catastrophe were squeezed from the system.
If only CND had known, maybe the massive danger and waste would have been averted. But its not too late, take action now, ask your MP to sign EDM 144 in support of the Nuclear Weapons Convention.
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