October 27, 1962: Black Saturday


October 27, 1962 has gone down in history as Black Saturday.  Three events pushed the world to the very brink of nuclear war.

Major Rudolph Anderson was shot down and killed during a U-2 flight over Cuba.  He was posthumously decorated with the Air Force Cross, the second highest decoration for valor in the United States Air Force.  Soviet Premier Khrushchev was furious when he heard about the shoot down and ordered that no further US planes were to be downed except on personal orders from him.  Here is the citation for Major Anderson.



The President of the United States of America, authorized by Title 10, Section 8742, United States Code, takes pride in presenting the Air Force Cross (Posthumously) to Major Rudolf Anderson Jr., United States Air Force, for extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an armed enemy while serving as Pilot of a U-2 airplane with the 4080th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing, Strategic Air Command (SAC), from 15 October 1962 to 27 October 1962. During this period of great national crisis, Major Anderson, flying an unescorted, unarmed aircraft, lost his life while participating in one of several aerial reconnaissance missions over Cuba. While executing these aerial missions, Major Anderson made photographs which provided the United States government with conclusive evidence of the introduction of long-range offensive missiles into Cuba and which materially assisted our leaders in charting the nation’s military and diplomatic course. Through his extraordinary heroism, superb airmanship, and aggressiveness in the face of the enemy, Major Anderson reflected the highest credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.

The second event occurred when the US destroyer the USS Beale, enforcing the Cuban blockade, dropped warning non-explosive depth charges on nuclear armed Soviet Sub B-59.  The commander of the sub, thinking his ship was doomed, wanted to launch a nuclear torpedo at a nearby US carrier.  The launch required the concurrence of three officers. Captain  Vasili Alexandrovich Arkhipov, who would eventually rise to Vice Admiral in the Soviet Navy, refused to agree and probably saved the world from nuclear annihilation.

The third event involved another U-2 flight became lost and flew into Soviet air space.  Chased by Soviet fighters he flew to Alaska, with the US scrambling nuclear armed fighters.  Ironically, the events of the day probably helped ensure a peaceful resolution of the crisis, convincing both Kennedy and Khrushchev that the situation was careening out of control and that the standoff had to end if nuclear war were to be averted.

Published in: on October 27, 2021 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on October 27, 1962: Black Saturday  
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October 22, 1962: Cuban Missile Crisis Speech


The world came very close to nuclear war just over half a century back.  The above video is of the speech that President Kennedy gave fifty-nine years ago on October 22, 1962.  Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev in placing nuclear missiles in Cuba brought the world to the brink.  The crisis was ultimately resolved with the removal of the Soviet missiles in exchange for two  agreements between the US and the Soviet Union:  1.  No invasion of Cuba by the US and 2.  The removal of obsolete American Jupiter nuclear missiles from Turkey and Southern Italy.  Unsurprisingly the US kept secret the removal of the Jupiter missiles.  Surprisingly the Soviets also kept mum about the removal of the Jupiter missiles which led to the perception abroad and within the Soviet Union that Khrushchev had lost his confrontation with Kennedy, and paved the way for the Central Committee coup led by Leonid Brezhnev which toppled  Khrushchev from power in October 1964.  Here is the text of the speech: (more…)

Published in: on October 22, 2021 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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September 26, 1960: The First Kennedy-Nixon Debate

Sixty-one years ago in the historical rear view mirror, the four Kennedy-Nixon debates were the first presidential debates and set the precedent for presidential debates, although the next would not occur until 1976 between Ford and Carter.  In the first debate Kennedy, who secretly suffered from numerous ailments, radiated health and vigor.  Nixon looked terrible in comparison, having been  hospitalized for two weeks in August over an infected knee and having not regained the weight he lost during his recovery.  Nixon insisted on campaigning until the time of the debate and refused to wear television makeup.  Nixon’s mother called him after the debate and asked him if he was ill. After the debate, polls indicated that Kennedy went from a slight deficit to a slight lead. (more…)

Published in: on September 26, 2021 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on September 26, 1960: The First Kennedy-Nixon Debate  
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June 26, 1963: Ich Bin Ein Berliner

I am proud to come to this city as the guest of your distinguished Mayor, who has symbolized throughout the world the fighting spirit of West Berlin. And I am proud to visit the Federal Republic with your distinguished Chancellor who for so many years has committed Germany to democracy and freedom and progress, and to come here in the company of my fellow American, General Clay, who has been in this city during its great moments of crisis and will come again if ever needed.

Two thousand years ago the proudest boast was “civis Romanus sum”. Today, in the world of freedom, the proudest boast is “Ich bin ein Berliner”.

I appreciate my interpreter translating my German!

There are many people in the world who really don’t understand, or say they don’t, what is the great issue between the free world and the Communist world. Let them come to Berlin. There are some who say that communism is the wave of the future. Let them come to Berlin. And there are some who say in Europe and elsewhere we can work with the Communists. Let them come to Berlin. And there are even a few who say that it is true that communism is an evil system, but it permits us to make economic progress. Lass’ sie nach Berlin kommen. Let them come to Berlin.

Freedom has many difficulties and democracy is not perfect, but we have never had to put a wall up to keep our people in, to prevent them from leaving us. I want to say, on behalf of my countrymen, who live many miles away on the other side of the Atlantic, who are far distant from you, that they take the greatest pride that they have been able to share with you, even from a distance, the story of the last 18 years. I know of no town, no city, that has been besieged for 18 years that still lives with the vitality and the force, and the hope and the determination of the city of West Berlin. While the wall is the most obvious and vivid demonstration of the failures of the Communist system, for all the world to see, we take no satisfaction in it, for it is, as your Mayor has said, an offense not only against history but an offense against humanity, separating families, dividing husbands and wives and brothers and sisters, and dividing a people who wish to be joined together.

What is true of this city is true of Germany – real, lasting peace in Europe can never be assured as long as one German out of four is denied the elementary right of free men, and that is to make a free choice. In 18 years of peace and good faith, this generation of Germans has earned the right to be free, including the right to unite their families and their nation in lasting peace, with good will to all people. You live in a defended island of freedom, but your life is part of the main. So let me ask you as I close, to lift your eyes beyond the dangers of today, to the hopes of tomorrow, beyond the freedom merely of this city of Berlin, or your country of Germany, to the advance of freedom everywhere, beyond the wall to the day of peace with justice, beyond yourselves and ourselves to all mankind.

Freedom is indivisible, and when one man is enslaved, all are not free. When all are free, then we can look forward to that day when this city will be joined as one and this country and this great Continent of Europe in a peaceful and hopeful globe. When that day finally comes, as it will, the people of West Berlin can take sober satisfaction in the fact that they were in the front lines for almost two decades.

All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and, therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words “Ich bin ein Berliner”.

Published in: on June 26, 2021 at 8:19 pm  Comments Off on June 26, 1963: Ich Bin Ein Berliner  
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The Kennedy-Goldwater Debates


The Kennedy-Goldwater debates have been called the seminal political event in modern American history.  Certainly their impact on how American presidential campaigns are conducted has been immense, with debates in the style of the Kennedy-Goldwater debates being conducted in every following presidential contest.  One initial question that puzzles when looking back at those debates is why President Kennedy agreed to them.  Unlike 1960, the 1964 presidential election did not appear to likely be a close contest.  The unemployment rate was five percent, and inflation, at one percent, was a non-factor.  Kennedy had earned quite a bit of popular sympathy due to the death of Mrs. Kennedy in the assassination attempt by Lee Harvey Oswald in Dallas on November 22, 1963.  Kennedy had been shattered by her death, and gave serious thought to not running for reelection in 1964, and retiring after one term.  However, he quickly realized that this would make his vice-president the all but certain Democratic nominee in 1964, a fact that Kennedy found distasteful for two reasons that Kennedy noted to his press secretary Pierre Salinger:  “The thought of Lyndon as the nominee frightens me.  First, he might lose and, second, he might win.”

Kennedy and Goldwater were friends.  Both World War II veterans, they each were elected to the Senate in 1952.  Despite their partisan differences, they quickly became the closest of political adversaries.  In 1963 they began to discuss a series of debates, modeled on the Lincoln-Douglas debates.

The nomination process for each of the parties was a study in contrasts.  Kennedy had no opposition for the Democrat nomination, while Goldwater’s nomination was the culmination of a long going feud in the Republican party between conservative and liberal factions.  By the time of his nomination, Goldwater was the leader of a badly fractured party, and the polls indicated he had no chance to win the election.  Kennedy advisors counseled him not to debate Goldwater at all, and if a debate were held, to do so in the 1960 format that had served Kennedy so well.  Kennedy rejected the advice.  He had promised Goldwater debates in the Lincoln-Douglas format.  Reneging now would cause him to go back on his word, and, perhaps, indicate that he was afraid to face Goldwater, an imputation that Kennedy could not allow.

Goldwater benefited greatly from the debates.  The Republican convention had been a disaster for him, and most of the media was attempting to portray Goldwater as a trigger happy ideologue who might start a nuclear war.  The debate format, where the candidates spent a fair amount of time asking each other questions directly without a moderator, allowed Goldwater’s essentially genial personality to shine through.  Kennedy also stumbled on the question of Vietnam, displaying a fair amount of ambivalence as to what should be done.  Kennedy won decisively, 54% to 46%, but the election was not the rout that the early campaign polls had predicted.  Polls indicated that the public loved the debate format, and the ratings for the debates indicated that the polls were accurate.

The torment of the Kennedy second term is well known, with the radical expansion of government under Kennedy’s New Frontier initiative, increasing racial turbulence over Civil Rights, but most of all Vietnam.  Initially Kennedy increased American involvement in 1965, sending American combat units to shore up the government of South Vietnam.  Kennedy was shocked at the vociferous reaction of his liberal base to this, and in 1966 attempted abortive negotiations with the government of North Vietnam.  His unilateral withdrawal of American troops from South Vietnam in 1967, and the rapid fall of South Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia to Communist insurgents, shocked the nation.  Pictures of desperate Vietnamese fleeing by sea to seek refuge led the nightly news for weeks.  One of the most vociferous critics of President Kennedy’s Vietnam policy was Senator Barry Goldwater.

1968 was the mirror image of 1964.  Goldwater led a united Republican party while Vice President Johnson helmed a badly divided Democratic party, a party whose divisions had been on full display both within and without the Democratic convention in Chicago.  Goldwater had no need to debate Johnson, but he did so in the Lincoln-Douglas debate style of 1954.  Commentators who knew the well earned bombastic reputation of Johnson were shocked that in the debates he came across as very carefully spoken, and quiet.  Wags wondered how many tranquilizer darts had been shot into Johnson.  In any case the debates did not help him, with Goldwater winning with 50% of the vote.  Alabama Governor George Wallace took 13% of the vote and 45 electoral votes in the deep south, running on a populist, and overtly racist, outsider platform.  What Goldwater did as President will be examined on another occasion.



Published in: on April 1, 2020 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on The Kennedy-Goldwater Debates  
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May 25, 1961: Man on the Moon Speech

One of more spectacular kept promises of an American President since World War II.  Tragically JFK would not be alive to see a Americans set foot on the moon in 1969, but with this speech he set the process in motion:

Finally, if we are to win the battle that is now going on around the world between freedom and tyranny, the dramatic achievements in space which occurred in recent weeks should have made clear to us all, as did the Sputnik in 1957, the impact of this adventure on the minds of men everywhere, who are attempting to make a determination of which road they should take. Since early in my term, our efforts in space have been under review. With the advice of the Vice President, who is Chairman of the National Space Council, we have examined where we are strong and where we are not, where we may succeed and where we may not. Now it is time to take longer strides–time for a great new American enterprise–time for this nation to take a clearly leading role in space achievement, which in many ways may hold the key to our future on earth.

I believe we possess all the resources and talents necessary. But the facts of the matter are that we have never made the national decisions or marshaled the national resources required for such leadership. We have never specified long-range goals on an urgent time schedule, or managed our resources and our time so as to insure their fulfillment.

Recognizing the head start obtained by the Soviets with their large rocket engines, which gives them many months of lead-time, and recognizing the likelihood that they will exploit this lead for some time to come in still more impressive successes, we nevertheless are required to make new efforts on our own. For while we cannot guarantee that we shall one day be first, we can guarantee that any failure to make this effort will make us last. We take an additional risk by making it in full view of the world, but as shown by the feat of astronaut Shepard, this very risk enhances our stature when we are successful. But this is not merely a race. Space is open to us now; and our eagerness to share its meaning is not governed by the efforts of others. We go into space because whatever mankind must undertake, free men must fully share.

I therefore ask the Congress, above and beyond the increases I have earlier requested for space activities, to provide the funds which are needed to meet the following national goals:

First, I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish. We propose to accelerate the development of the appropriate lunar space craft. We propose to develop alternate liquid and solid fuel boosters, much larger than any now being developed, until certain which is superior. We propose additional funds for other engine development and for unmanned explorations–explorations which are particularly important for one purpose which this nation will never overlook: the survival of the man who first makes this daring flight. But in a very real sense, it will not be one man going to the moon–if we make this judgment affirmatively, it will be an entire nation. For all of us must work to put him there.

Secondly, an additional 23 million dollars, together with 7 million dollars already available, will accelerate development of the Rover nuclear rocket. This gives promise of some day providing a means for even more exciting and ambitious exploration of space, perhaps beyond the moon, perhaps to the very end of the solar system itself.

Third, an additional 50 million dollars will make the most of our present leadership, by accelerating the use of space satellites for world-wide communications.

Fourth, an additional 75 million dollars–of which 53 million dollars is for the Weather Bureau–will help give us at the earliest possible time a satellite system for world-wide weather observation.

Let it be clear–and this is a judgment which the Members of the Congress must finally make–let it be clear that I am asking the Congress and the country to accept a firm commitment to a new course of action, a course which will last for many years and carry very heavy costs: 531 million dollars in fiscal ’62–an estimated 7 to 9 billion dollars additional over the next five years. If we are to go only half way, or reduce our sights in the face of difficulty, in my judgment it would be better not to go at all.

Now this is a choice which this country must make, and I am confident that under the leadership of the Space Committees of the Congress, and the Appropriating Committees, that you will consider the matter carefully.

It is a most important decision that we make as a nation. But all of you have lived through the last four years and have seen the significance of space and the adventures in space, and no one can predict with certainty what the ultimate meaning will be of mastery of space.

I believe we should go to the moon. But I think every citizen of this country as well as the Members of the Congress should consider the matter carefully in making their judgment, to which we have given attention over many weeks and months, because it is a heavy burden, and there is no sense in agreeing or desiring that the United States take an affirmative position in outer space, unless we are prepared to do the work and bear the burdens to make it successful. If we are not, we should decide today and this year.

This decision demands a major national commitment of scientific and technical manpower, materiel and facilities, and the possibility of their diversion from other important activities where they are already thinly spread. It means a degree of dedication, organization and discipline which have not always characterized our research and development efforts. It means we cannot afford undue work stoppages, inflated costs of material or talent, wasteful interagency rivalries, or a high turnover of key personnel.

New objectives and new money cannot solve these problems. They could in fact, aggravate them further–unless every scientist, every engineer, every serviceman, every technician, contractor, and civil servant gives his personal pledge that this nation will move forward, with the full speed of freedom, in the exciting adventure of space.


Published in: on July 15, 2019 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on May 25, 1961: Man on the Moon Speech  
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October 13, 1960: Third Nixon-Kennedy Debate

In the third Nixon-Kennedy debate some then cutting edge technology was used to make it appear as if Nixon and Kennedy was in the same room.  Nixon was in Los Angeles and Kennedy was in New York.  The use of a split screen gave the illusion that they were in the same room.  Most pundits thought at the time that Nixon won this debate.  Go here to view the debate.

Published in: on October 13, 2016 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on October 13, 1960: Third Nixon-Kennedy Debate  
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Second Debate


I loved the show Rawhide when I was a kid and I imagine that there were more than a few ticked CBS viewers on October 7, 1960 when they tuned in to see the Western only to view two politicians debating!  Nixon wore television makeup for this second ever Presidential debate, unlike the first one, and most pundits at the time thought he won this second debate.  Nixon had spent little time actually practicing law, but he was good at the cut and thrust of verbal warfare, while Kennedy was better at set piece speeches.  Unfortunately for Nixon, viewership fell off by about twenty million viewers after the initial debate that he lost.  In those long ago days before the internet, if the debate wasn’t watched when first broadcast, it wasn’t going to be seen at all, except in the briefest of snippets on the evening news.

Published in: on October 9, 2016 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Second Debate  
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