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Leonard Perroots, General Who Defused Nuclear Crisis With Soviets, Dies at 83 NY Times

In early November 1983, after President Ronald Reagan denounced the Soviet Union as the “evil empire” and unveiled his so-called Star Wars missile defense strategy, Kremlin leaders were growing convinced that war games planned by the United States and NATO in Western Europe were, in fact, a disguised prelude to a nuclear first strike on Russia.

Their fear was almost palpable. On Sept. 27, a Soviet early warning station had received signals that five incoming Minuteman intercontinental missiles had been launched from American bases. The duty officer, Col. Stanislav Petrov, made a split-second gut decision that proved correct: He concluded that a satellite glitch had triggered a false alarm.

Six weeks later, as the war games began with realistic precision, fully armed Soviet fighters were placed on alert at Polish and East German bases for the first and only time in the Cold War. Soviet helicopters began ferrying nuclear weapons from storage sites to launching pads. Civilian aircraft in Warsaw Pact nations were grounded while the Soviets launched three dozen spy-plane flights over Western Europe to assess whether the mobilization presaged a sneak attack.

At Ramstein Air Base in West Germany, where the United States Air Force had its European headquarters, Lt. Gen. Leonard H. Perroots, the deputy chief of staff for intelligence there, faced, like Colonel Petrov, a quandary — one with profound potential consequences.

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The war games had already made Moscow jumpy. NATO planes visibly armed with what turned out to be dummy nuclear warheads were seen leaving their hangars. A further tit-for-tat escalation could have provoked war.

But General Perroots, making his own quick judgment call, defused the situation. He saw the signs of an elevated Soviet military alert but decided not to respond.

Conflict was averted, but more than 30 years would pass before his pivotal role in the episode was disclosed. A top-secret presidential advisory board analysis released in 2015 concluded that he had made a “fortuitous, if ill-informed” decision during the training exercise, designated Able Archer 83.

General Perroots died on Jan. 29 in Lake Ridge, Va. He was 83.

“Had Perroots mirrored the Soviets and escalated the situation, the War Scare could conceivably have become a war,” Nate Jones wrote last year in “Able Archer 83: The Secret History of the NATO Exercise That Almost Triggered Nuclear War.”

He added, “Fortunately, Perroots trusted his gut, and Able Archer 83 ended without nuclear incident.”

Mr. Jones is director of the Freedom of Information Project of the National Security Archive at George Washington University, a nongovernment group that focuses on transparency. The organization had sought the declassification of the report, written in 1990.

General Perroots went on to direct the Defense Intelligence Agency from 1985 to 1988 under President Reagan. He also oversaw efforts to find American military veterans still missing in action in Southeast Asia more than a decade after the Vietnam War ended.

Leonard Harry Perroots Sr. was born on April 24, 1933, in Morgantown, W. Va., the son of Phillip Perroots, an Italian-born stone mason, and the former Alma Perrini….

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February 11, 2017 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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