Back during the Cold War, it was thought that one little slip up could cause mass panic or worse — launch a barrage of nuclear warheads that would trigger mutually assured destruction. Well, on a Saturday morning in February, 1971, a mistake did happen.
Wayland S. Eberhardt, a civilian who already had 15 years under his belt as a teletype operator at National Emergency Warning Center at Cheyenne Mountain in Colorado, accidentally ran the real deal instead of a national warning. It was as simple as putting in the wrong tape that sent a weekly broadcast out to radio stations across America. As the stations received the warning they ceased all normal transmissions and put American listeners on alert. For the listeners, World War III could have already started.
For the next 40 minutes, radio station personnel were no doubt thinking that they were about to tell the American public that the Russians had invaded, or that Washington DC had been nuked, or something terrible. Still, broadcasters kept it cool, as you can hear below from WOWO-AM in Fort Wayne, Indiana, just after "Doesn't Somebody Want To Be Wanted" by The Partridge Family fires up. You should also check out blogger Conelrad Adjacent full account of these hellish 40 minutes.