Three Times during the Cold War that the World Nearly Ended

The Cold War ran from 1947 – 1991, and during those years the world sat on tenterhooks waiting for what at points seemed like imminent nuclear annihilation. During this period there were a few points that the cold war risked turning hot and it came close to a global nuclear exchange. These are three of the cold wars points that nearly saw the end of the world…

The Tank Standoff at Checkpoint Charlie

In August 1961, an American diplomat attempted to pass through Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin to go to the East. After an argument with border guards, the diplomat was not allowed through, and the Americans sent in a fleet of tanks to stand at the checkpoint. In retaliation, the Soviets sent in an equal number of their own tanks and for 16 hours the world stood at the brink of nuclear war before the situation was diffused by John F Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev. Today you can experience tank driving days without the risk of war at

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The Cuban Missile Crisis

One year after the stand off in Berlin, the world once again faced the threat of annihilation, this time with Cuba as the flashpoint. When the Soviets started to move intermediate range nuclear missiles in Cuba, the Americans knew that these would be able to reach the Eastern United States in just minutes.  The Americans sent ships out to stop the Soviets from entering Cuba and as the Soviet fleet of ships headed for the island it seemed that war was inevitable. But at the last minute and some last-minute decisions, the two sides once again backed away from the brink.

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Operation Able Archer – In 1983, Nato forces decided to hold some training exercises in Europe. Involving over 40,000 troops, this was a massive exercise which even saw UK air bases involved, including Brize Norton and Greenham Common. Tensions between the two sides were already running high, with US president Ronald Reagan having made his ‘Evil Empire’ speech that same year. Because of this, the USSR thought that this war game was possibly the real thing and ordered its planes to be equipped with nuclear weapons and stand by for take-off. Fortunately, the order was never given to use these weapons, but the documents from this time show how close the world came to nuclear war.