Vasily Arkhipov

Arkhipov, c.February, 1955. Soviet Navy photo, in the Arkhipov family collection.

Born: 1926
Years of Service

Vasily Aleksandrovich Arkhipov was born in Zvorkovo, Moscow, Russia, in 1926. He attended the Pacific Higher Naval School, graduating in time to see service against Japan in August, 1945, aboard a minesweeper. Arkhipov he then received follow-on schooling at the Caspian Higher Naval School, graduating in 1947. Joining the submarine service, Arkhipov sailed with the Northern, Baltic, and Black Sea fleets. In 1961, he became executive officer of the new nuclear powered ballistic missile submarine K-19. Which immediately suffered one of his many meltdowns. Arkhipov was irradiated, but survived, and was assigned to the diesel-powered sub B-59 the following year, again as executive officer. In October, B-59 sailed for Cuba, with Arkhipov in his position, but also serving as Flotilla Commander, overseeing four subs. B-59 was discovered by US Navy warships on 27 October, 1962, which began dropping practice depth charges to force the sub to surface. The captain, Valentin Savitsky, decided that war must have broken out between the superpowers, and wanted to launch B-59's nuclear torpedo. However, a unanimous decision between the top three officers on board was required, since Arkhipov was the Flotilla Commander, and Arkhipov refused to consent. After a heated argument, he prevailed, helped by his reputation from K-19, and B-59 surfaced, returning to Russia. Despite the furious reaction from the substitute Russian defense minister, Marshal Andrei Grechko, Arkhipov continued in the submarine service, commanding submarines and submarine squadrons. He was promoted to Rear Admiral in 1975, and took command of the Kirov Naval Academy, and advanced to Vice Admiral in 1981. After retiring in the mid-1980s, he settled in Kupavna with his wife Olga, and daughter Yelena. Arkhipov died at age 72 in 1998, of kidney cancer, likely stemming from the catastrophe on K-19.