7 Times the US Almost Stumbled Into War With Russia



In light of current events in places like the Ukraine and Syria, the risk of America and Russia fighting a proxy war or even a real war is growing. Here are seven other times when U.S. troops lined up opposite Russian troops:

1. Russian and Americans shot each other in Korea


Photo: National Museum of the US Air Force

In the Korean War, U.S. pilots were officially flying against Chinese and Korean pilots, but they knew Soviets were in the mix. In 1952, the number of Soviet personnel in Korea had climbed to 26,000 counting both pilots and air defense soldiers.

Both sides hid the fact that the Soviets were involved so that neither country was forced into a larger war. American forces didn’t report hearing Russian voices on signal intercepts between Soviet fighters while the Russians put Chinese markings and uniforms on all of their forces.

2. Russian anti-aircraft experts shot down U.S. planes in Vietnam


Like in North Korea, Russia wanted to affect the outcome of a war America was in but they didn’t want to accidentally create a new world war. So, they originally claimed that no Soviet troops were present, then said some military experts were sent, and after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 they finally admitted they had deployed 3,000 troops to stop American air raids. 13 Russian soldiers were killed by American bombers.

3. The Cuban missile crisis almost went hot multiple times


Photo: US Navy

During the Cuban missile crisis, both sides had generals looking for an excuse to wage a conventional or nuclear war. The 12th day of the crisis was probably the worst, with four separate incidents nearly providing the spark. On Oct. 27, 1962, a low-level reconnaissance flight was fired upon by Cuban forces. Later that same day, a U-2 pilot taking high-altitude radiation samples near the Arctic accidentally wandered into Russian airspace and was nearly shot down. A Russian sub was struck with depth charges by the Navy destroyer USS Beale. Then, U-2 pilot Maj. Rudolf Anderson Jr. was shot down and killed over Cuba.

Rudolf’s death may have been what ended the conflict. With the situation clearly deteriorating, both Kennedy and Khrushchev voiced concern that war was becoming unavoidable. Robert Kennedy was sent to the Soviet embassy to speak with the ambassador and they brokered the deal that ended the conflict.

4. Tanks faced off in Berlin


Photo: US Army

After East German officials tried to block Western diplomats’ access to East Berlin multiple times, Gen. Lucius Clay dispatched 10 tanks and three armored vehicles to the main crossing point for U.S. diplomats, Checkpoint Charlie. The Soviets responded by sending their armored forces to the checkpoint and the tanks stared each other down for 16 hours. Neither side was willing to fight a full-scale war for Berlin, so Moscow and Washington opened backdoor channels to end the standoff.

5. Nuclear false alarms nearly caused real war four times


Photo: US Navy Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Bryan Niegel

In four separate incidents in the Cold War, nuclear war almost began due to technical glitches and false alarms. First in 1979 and then in 1980, U.S. computers showed a Soviet missile attack due to technical glitches. The third incident was in Sep. 1983 when a Soviet satellite read sunlight reflected off clouds as American missile launches. The fourth incident took place in 1995 when a Norwegian scientific rocket launch appeared similar to a nuclear missile on Russian radar.

6. A NATO war game nearly turned into the real thing


Photo: US Army

Able Archer 83 was a NATO exercise in Nov. 1983 to train for a conventional war and nuclear with the Soviet Union. With 19,000 U.S. troops participating, the exercise was so large that the Soviet Union was worried that it was a cover for a real attack. They were especially sensitive since it came on the heels of the Sep. 1983 false alarm from above. The Soviet Union put its own troops on high alert, kept jets ready to take off, and readied their nuclear arsenal. Luckily, there were no incidents during the exercise and it ended peacefully Nov. 11.

7. The Soviet Navy rammed U.S. ships in the Black Sea

In 1988, two U.S. Navy ships tested the Soviet Union’s territorial waters by sailing into contested territory. The Soviet Union claimed 12 miles from their coast while the U.S. only recognized 3 miles. Two Soviet Navy vessels responded by ramming the U.S. ships. To prevent American helicopters from lifting off, two Soviet helicopters hovered over them during the incident. All four ships were damaged and the U.S. ships departed the area after an hour.


classedit2 David Nye – Staff Writer at We Are The Mighty

David is a former Fort Bragg paratrooper who deployed with the 82nd Airborne Division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team.


5 Seldom-Told Tales About Air Force Legends

8 haunting photos from an abandoned Air Force Base

4 urban myths with military roots

We Are The Mighty (WATM) is dedicated to serving the military community with authentic entertainment and original content. With a team of military veterans and civilian military supporters, WATM features premium original and curated video programming of all genres as well as photography, stories, quizzes, lists and much more. For more, visit the We Are the Mighty site.

  • Juanito

    Too many young Soldier think the Cold War was about drinking bier in West Germany. During much of that period, Germany (both West & East) was an armed camp & sitting on a hair trigger. In the early 1960s, U.S. Army had five combat Divisions (3rd Inf., 8th Inf., 24th Inf., 3rd Arm’d., & 4th Arm’d.) plus a couple Armored Cavalry Regiments & numerous Corps & Army-level units in West Germany — maintaining semi-alert status.

    • big daddy

      Sorry but I was there and we had a job to do. But the beer was great, I could never drink a Bud again.

    • Richard Christiansen

      I do not believe the young people today have a clue about the COLD WAR or anything that happened during those years.
      (I also believe the COLD WAR did not end, but simply went dormant and is now trying to raise it’s ugly head again).

  • Guest

    The American People DON’T want a war with Russia. As a matter of fact, most Americans are sick of wars after the Iraq disaster.

  • robert crawford

    I see,with Russia, a balance of power. The u.s.a.and russia should be allies,in the war on terror.


  • Wm. Graser

    I was on the Korean DMZ 1966-67 when the Quiet War began on 2 November 1966.

  • skypilot1992

    Also USS Kretchmer (DER-329) came close off Cienfuegos Cuba as gunboat approached manned and ready as we went to GQ but two screaming F-8s in burner seemed to change “somebody’s” mind. NMCC (modern term) had a tense time. For a time, our last transmission was “Have gone to GQ” on HF. Had a “CO’s eye’s only” handwritten note….essentially said won’t be another Pueblo in the US NAVY. Russian task force (CGs, DDs, SSNs and SSs in number) was fresh in that port

  • ColdWarVet75

    The Cold War was primarily fought between NATO/SEATO (principally the U.S.) and the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China and their underlings. Russia did not exist and the author should know better. It was the Soviet Union. That was a big problem with their military. A majority of draftees did not speak Russian. The VFW said documents in their book on the Cold War there were 382 deaths reported among American military. This number does not include clandestine deaths, civilian, Korean or Vietnam conflicts. I remember being on an LST in the Med watching a movie on our flight deck when a Soviet cruiser ran full speed through our task force and had every light on her activated. That was the first time I heard “This is not a drill” after hearing the GQ alarm.

    • Juanito

      From 1917 – 1991, Russia was part of the Soviet Union (which included Ukraine & a number of other now independent states). Increasingly, historians are viewing the conflicts in Korea & South Vietnam as elements of the Cold War.

      • ColdWarVet75

        Yes but my point was the article refers to Russia which was only on republic of the USSR. Also it was still Russia until 1922. Then it became the USSR.

      • Richard Christiansen

        The Korean War up to now, in MY belief, was / is part of the Cold War.
        The COLD WAR did not end, really, it just lay somewhat dormant except in Korea.

  • Wm. Graser

    Coming in the next two months is a book entitled Veterans’ Reflections that tells the story of over 70 years of military history. The is written around 60 firsthand accounts of veterans who served from World War II to Afgan campaign.

  • Hank

    Something fakey about those soldiers exiting the APC, they are not wearing camoflage, and they are not carrying over half their body weight in gear and body armor. No one can practice for war without camoflage, while wearing armor and lots and lots of load carrying gear.

    • Richard Christiansen

      When was the last time you saw an M-113 (APC)? Those troops are wearing FATIGUES, O.D. GREEN which were in use until the early 1980’s when the Battle Dress Uniforms (BDUs – camouflage) came out.
      I wore both of these uniforms between 10 / 1971 till 11 / 1993.

    • Richard Christiansen

      The weapons those troops are carrying are M-16A1s.

  • I agree, there were a lot of incidents. Many times the world was on the verge of destruction in the fire of nuclear war. But, characteristically from the adduced examples, that the U.S. armed forces were, shall we say – initiators shown “incidents”. The reasons for their fairly well-known. And now it is quite possible incident between Russia and the United States – in Syria, or in the former Ukraine, where under the guidance of the CIA had carried out a coup and civil war between West Ukraine and the former Eastern part of it.

  • Richard Christiansen

    I was a part of the September 1983 ABLE ARCHER Exercise and a target for the Soviet missiles.
    I was stationed at Royal Air Force (R.A.F.) Alconbury, United Kingdom (mentioned in Tom Clancy’s book, “RAINBOW SIX” and worke across the street from the U.S.A.F. Intelligence shop mentioned). I was part of a small U.S. Army Military Intelligence unit doing Imagery Intelligence Analysis with the 10th Reconnaissance Squadron there. We were working with imagery from RF-4Cs and some German F-101s. Being a RECCE BASE we were targeted by the Soviets along with a couple other bases there in the U.K.
    Good times and great assignment!