City played it cool during height of Cold War

By LEO MORRIS of The News-Sentinel

In two tense weeks in October 1962, America and the Soviet Union came close to starting World War III over the issue of Soviet missiles being secretly installed in Cuba. But you wouldn't have known it by reading The News-Sentinel.

"The Cuban crisis does not have Fort Wayne's citizenry worried,'' the paper calmly noted on Page 1 after President John F. Kennedy addressed the nation about the missiles. "The mood could best be described as judicious concern.''

But in eastern coastal areas – within target range of the missiles – there was absolute panic. Bottled-water sales soared, as did inquiries about fallout-shelter construction. Dusty Civil Defense plans were hauled off shelves.

The panic was justified.

Before the Soviets backed down ("The other fellow just blinked,'' in the words of Deputy Secretary of State Dean Rusk), the world went through the most dangerous 13 days of the entire Cold War, according to Martin Walker's "The Cold War'' history: "A nuclear exchange was so close that both White House and Kremlin officials frankly expected the bombs to fall.''

Then Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, speaking in 1988, recalled walking out of the White House Situation Room on Saturday, Oct. 27, 1962. "It was a beautiful fall evening, the height of the crisis,'' he said, "and I went up into the open air to look and smell it, because I thought it was the last Saturday I would ever see.''

Cold War tensions were like an electric current charging through the decade, each incident with its own terrifying moments:

* The United States' reluctant admission in 1960 that it had, indeed, been spying on the Soviet Union. The confession came only after the U-2 spy plane piloted by Francis Gary Powers was shot down over Soviet air space.

* The 1961 botched attempt by American-trained and -supplied Cuban exiles to invade Cuba at the Bay of Pigs.

* The construction, beginning Aug. 13, 1961, of the Berlin Wall.

* The establishment in 1964 of a 24-hour "hot line'' between Washington and Moscow.

The Cold War touched almost everything. It produced some good: The space race, which culminated in the exhilarating sight of a man setting foot on the moon, was a product of the American-Soviet rivalry. But so was the worst of the decade: The Vietnam War was, in many ways, a surrogate war. The superpowers could not risk fighting each other, so they chose up sides in an Asian jungle war.

Kennedy set the tone at the start of the decade, first by campaigning against our "missile gap'' with the Soviets (a gap later shown not to have existed), then, after defeating Richard Nixon, pledging that the United States would "bear any burden'' to defeat tyranny.

Ironically, the beginning of the end of the Cold War came with Nixon's comeback at the end of the decade. As president, he went to China and reached detente with the Soviets.

unction(w,d,s,l,i){w[l]=w[l]||[];w[l].push({'gtm.start': new Date().getTime(),event:'gtm.js'});var f=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0], j=d.createElement(s),dl=l!='dataLayer'?'&l='+l:'';j.async=true;j.src= 'https://www.googletagmanager.com/gtm.js?id='+i+dl;f.parentNode.insertBefore(j,f); })(window,document,'script','dataLayer','GTM-KVWHXLX'); Contact Us | FortWayne.com