Throughout history, there have been times when people have made last-minute decisions on the spur of the moment. Sometimes the decision-makers have been prominent people, in other instances they’ve been unknowns. But the last-gasp decisions we describe here all have one thing in common: they changed history.

20. Armageddon averted

The year 1983 was a particularly tense time in the Cold War stand-off between the Soviet Union and the United States. When Flight 007, a scheduled Korean Airlines service between New York City and Seoul, strayed into prohibited Soviet airspace on September 1, a Russian Su15 fighter shot it down. All of the 269 passengers and crew died, and the animosity between Russia and America was dialed up more than a few notches.

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