- June 25, 1950 – July 27, 1953: Before and after the entry of Chinese reinforcements into the Korean War, with the pushback of South Korean and UN forces, orders and scenarios were developed for the use of nuclear weapons. Supreme Commander MacArthur went so far as to declare he would invade and bomb China to eliminate the threat of communism in East Asia – one of the reasons he was removed from command by President Harry S. Truman.
- July 26, 1956 – March, 1957: In the Suez Crisis, the Soviet Union threatened to intervene on behalf of Egypt in its confrontation with France, the United Kingdom, and Israel over its nationalization of the Suez Canal. Pressure was applied on the three allies by Canadian UN ambassador and future Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson (for which he received the Nobel Peace Prize), and the Eisenhower administration (which threatened to create a currency crisis by dumping US holdings of British debt and to impose sanctions on Israel).
- June 4 – November 9, 1961: Berlin Crisis of 1961 where the Soviets demanded a withdrawal of western troops from Berlin. It culminated in the construction of the Berlin Wall.
- October 15–28, 1962: The Cuban missile crisis, a confrontation on the stationing of Soviet nuclear missiles in Cuba, is often considered as having been the closest to a nuclear exchange. The crisis peaked on October 27, when a U-2 was shot down over Cuba and another almost intercepted over Siberia, after Curtis LeMay (U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff) had neglected to enforce Presidential orders to suspend all overflights, and a Soviet submarine nearly launched a nuclear-tipped torpedo in response to depth charges (with the launch being prevented by an officer named Vasili Arkhipov).
- 1969: According to historian Liu Chenshan, at the height of the Sino-Soviet border conflict, Soviet officials drew up plans for a nuclear attack against China. The United States, however, refused to remain neutral in such a conflict, threatening to launch a full-attack against the Soviet Union in such an event.
- October 24, 1973: As the Yom Kippur War wound down, a Soviet threat to intervene on Egypt's behalf caused the United States to go to DEFCON 3.
- November 9, 1979: The United States made emergency retaliation preparations after NORAD saw on-screen indications that a full-scale Soviet attack had been launched. No attempt was made to use the "red telephone" hotline to clarify the situation with the USSR and it was not until early-warning radar systems confirmed no such launch had taken place that NORAD realized that a computer system test had caused the display errors. A senator inside the NORAD facility at the time described an atmosphere of absolute panic. A GAO investigation led to the construction of an off-site test facility to prevent similar mistakes.
- September 26, 1983: A false alarm occurred on the Soviet nuclear early warning system, showing the launch of American Minuteman ICBMs from bases in the United States. The potential for an erroneous retaliatory nuclear attack on the United States and its Western allies was prevented by Stanislav Petrov, an officer of the Soviet Air Defence Forces, who intuited the scale and recent system upgrades meant the system had simply had a malfunction (which was borne out by later investigations).
- November 2–11, 1983: Amid deteriorating relations between the Soviet Union and the United States and the lack of a functioning General Secretary in the Soviet Politburo (due to Yuri Andropov's failing health), the Able Archer 83 military drill for NATO's nuclear-release procedures was thought of by some Politburo members as a ruse of war. Nuclear weapons and air forces were placed on alert in East Germany and Poland before the exercise ended.
May 29, 2013
The 9 Times the World Almost Entered Nuclear War