Year
1962

Kennedy press secretary misleads press

On this day in 1962, the White House press corps is told that President John F. Kennedy has a cold; in reality, he is holding secret meetings with advisors on the eve of ordering a blockade of Cuba.

Kennedy was in Seattle and scheduled to attend the Seattle Century 21 World’s Fair when his press secretary announced that he had contracted an “upper respiratory infection.” The president then flew back to Washington, where he supposedly went to bed to recover from his cold.

Four days earlier, Kennedy had seen photographic proof that the Soviets were building 40 ballistic missile sites on the island of Cuba—within striking distance of the United States. Kennedy’s supposed bed rest was actually a marathon secret session with advisors to decide upon a response to the Soviet action. The group believed that Kennedy had three choices: to negotiate with the Russians to remove the missiles; to bomb the missile sites in Cuba; or implement a naval blockade of the island. Kennedy chose to blockade Cuba, deciding to bomb the missile sites only if further action proved necessary.

The blockade began October 21 and, the next day, Kennedy delivered a public address alerting Americans to the situation and calling on Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev to remove the missiles or face retaliation by the United States. Khrushchev responded by sending more ships—possibly carrying military cargo—toward Cuba and allowing construction at the sites to continue. Over the following six days, the Cuban Missile Crisis, as it is now known, brought the world to the brink of global nuclear war while the two leaders engaged in tense negotiations via telegram and letter.

By October 28, Kennedy and Khrushchev had reached a settlement and people on both sides of the conflict breathed a collective but wary sigh of relief. The Cuban missile sites were dismantled and, in return, Kennedy agreed to close U.S. missile sites in Turkey.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

MacArthur returns

After advancing island by island across the Pacific Ocean, U.S. General Douglas MacArthur wades ashore onto the Philippine island of Leyte, fulfilling his promise to return to the area he was forced to flee in 1942. The son of an American Civil War hero, MacArthur served as chief ...read more

Sydney Opera House opens

After 15 years of construction, the Sydney Opera House is dedicated by Queen Elizabeth II. The $80 million structure, designed by Danish architect Jørn Utzon and funded by the profits of the Opera House Lotteries, was built on Bennelong Point, in Sydney, Australia. Famous for its ...read more

Mao’s Long March concludes

Just over a year after the start of the Long March, Mao Zedong arrives in Shensi Province in northwest China with 4,000 survivors and sets up Chinese Communist headquarters. The epic flight from Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalist forces lasted 368 days and covered 6,000 miles, nearly ...read more

Battle of Navarino

During the Greek War for Independence, a combined Turkish and Egyptian armada is destroyed by an allied British, French, and Russian naval force at the Battle of Navarino. In 1821, the first nationalist uprisings by the Greeks against their Turkish rulers touched off a wave of ...read more

Last Volvo PV rolls off the assembly line

Trackmagazine said in 1963, “the Volvo PV544 is such a practical car. Volvo’s most attractive appeal lies in its solidity and its quality in every single respect. There is nothing slapdash or under-dimensioned about any part of the car and that is more than enough to compensate ...read more

Congress investigates Reds in Hollywood

On October 20, 1947, the notorious Red Scare kicks into high gear in Washington, as a Congressional committee begins investigating Communist influence in one of the world’s richest and most glamorous communities: Hollywood. After World War II, the Cold War began to heat up ...read more

Watergate special prosecutor dismissed

Solicitor General Robert Bork dismisses Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox; Attorney General Richardson and Deputy Attorney General Ruckelshaus resign in protest. Cox had conducted a detailed investigation of the Watergate break-in that revealed that the burglary was ...read more

Fosbury flops to an Olympic record

On October 20, 1968, 21-year-old Oregonian Dick Fosbury wins gold—and sets an Olympic record—when he high-jumps 7 feet 4 1/4 inches at the Mexico City Games. It was the first American victory in the event since 1956. It was also the international debut of Fosbury’s unique jumping ...read more

U.S. Senate ratifies the Louisiana Purchase

On this day in 1803, the U.S. Senate approves a treaty with France providing for the purchase of the territory of Louisiana, which would double the size of the United States. At the end of 18th century, the Spanish technically owned Louisiana, the huge region west of the ...read more

French poet Arthur Rimbaud is born

On this day, Arthur Rimbaud is born in Charleville, France. His father, an army officer, deserted the family when Rimbaud was six. Rimbaud was a brilliant student, and his first poem was published in a French review when he was 16. The following year, he rebelled and ran away to ...read more

Burt Lancaster dies

On this day in 1994, Burt Lancaster, a former circus performer who rose to fame as a Hollywood leading man with some 70 movies to his credit, including From Here to Eternity and Atlantic City, in a career that spanned more than four decades, dies of a heart attack at the age of ...read more

Natural gas explosions rock Cleveland

Two liquid gas tanks explode in Cleveland, Ohio, killing 130 people, on this day in 1944. It took all of the city’s firefighters to bring the resulting industrial fire under control. At 2:30 p.m., laboratory workers at the East Ohio Gas Company spotted white vapor leaking from ...read more

The Red Scare comes to Hollywood

The House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) of the U.S. Congress opens its investigation into communist infiltration of the American movie industry on October 20, 1947. Chaired by Congressman Parnell Thomas, the subsequent hearings focused on identifying political ...read more

Union General Daniel Sickles is born

On this day in 1819, Daniel Sickles, one of the most colorful generals in the Union army, is born in New York City. Sickleswas a member of theNew York StateAssembly and New York State Senate before servingin the U.S. House of Representatives as a Democrat from New York from 1857 ...read more