[This was my weekly column for GlobalNews.ca and was adapted from the much more in-depth Ongoing History of New Music program/podcast on the subject. Check out Unsung Heroes of Music on any plaftform. – AC]
Chances are you’ve never heard the name Vasili Arkhipov, but he could be the reason you’re alive. Back during the Cuban Missile Crisis, he stopped his commander from accidentally firing nukes on the US when things heated up. It’s possible that he prevented the entire planet from plunging into a nuclear war. Talk about an unsung hero.
I’ve always had a soft spot for people like this: those who made tremendous contributions to the world but have never received the appropriate credit. That includes the history of music.
1. Maj. Jack Mullin
Mullen was a major in the U.S. Army Signal Corps during World War II. At the end of hostilities in Europe, he stumbled upon a couple of strange Nazi machines. They were reel-to-reel tape decks using magnetic tape that the Nazis had deployed in radio broadcasts to confuse the Allies about Hilter’s actual whereabouts. How could he deliver different hours-long speeches simultaneously in Berlin, Munich, and Hamburg? And how were those Nazi orchestras able to play through the night nonstop? The answer was everything was on tape.
Because the war invalidated all patents held by the Axis powers, Mullin was able to take the machines he found back to the U.S. in a couple of duffel bags and after getting out of the army, he started demonstrating the new state-of-the-art high-fidelity technology for potential investors.