Historian’s Almanac for October 28,2013

It was 51 years ago today, 28 October 1962, that the world did not come to an end, and we were granted a reprieve.  Thanks to President John F. Kennedy’s refusal to yield to those around him who were advising him to launch a preemptive strike on the Soviet Union, the world’s two super powers pulled back from the brink of a nuclear holocaust.  At no time in history, either before or since, has the world come so close to unleashing a fiery tempest on earth that would rival the cauldron of hell.

On October 14 pictures taken by U-2 spy planes verified the existence of Soviet medium range missiles on the island of Cuba, just 90 miles from the southern coast of the United States.  President Kennedy informed the American people of the danger in a nationwide television address on the evening of the 21st.  Two days later, on the 23rd, the president ordered a quarantine of Cuba.  Naval vessels were given orders to intercept Soviet ships en route to Cuba.  The following day the Strategic Air Command was put on the highest alert ever.  Nuclear war, and perhaps the end of civilization itself, appeared eminent.

There are various scenarios in literature of the world ending in some great fiery cataclysm.   In Norse mythology it is Ragnarök , the last battle marking the doom of the gods and the end of the world:  “Surtr will fling fire in all directions. Ásgarð and Miðgarð and Jötenheim and Niflheim will become furnaces. The worlds will burn and the gods will die. Men, women, and children will die, giants will die, monsters will die. Birds and animals will die. The earth will sink into the sea.”  Many Christians believe that there will be a great climatic battle between the armies of the Antichrist and the armies of the Lord.

The nuclear holocaust that appeared likely 51 years ago would have rendered the whole world like Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  But it didn’t happen.  The dogs of war were not let loose.  Instead, Aleksandr Feklisov (alias Fomin), a AKGB operative based in the Soviet Embassy, met at the Occidental Restaurant with John Scali, an ABC News correspondent.  Together they worked out an agreement by which the crisis could be ended without either party loosing too much face.

On October 27, President Kennedy assured Khrushchev that the United States would not invade Cuba.  The following day, October 28, Nikita Khrushchev announced that he had reached an agreement allowing for the removal of the missiles.

On this day in 1886, President Grover Cleveland dedicated the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor.  The Hon. William M. Evarts gave the presentation address.  His longwinded and very boring speech was cut mercifully short when the sculptor, Frdéric Bartholdi, who was to pull the lever releasing the veil covering the statue, did so before Evarts finished.  The cheers from the crowed convinced Evarts the sit down.

In 1919 Congress enacted the Volstead Act providing for enforcement of the Eighteenth Amendment which stated that “the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, or the exportation thereof from the United States and all territory subject to the jurisdiction thereof for beverage purposes is hereby prohibited.”  Not until the present Congress have our elected representatives displayed such folly.

In 2009, Angela Merkel was sworn in for her second term as Chancellor of Germany.  Little did she know at the time that the American National Security Agency was listening in on her personal cellphone conversations.  Should she need to settle an argument with her husband over what he or she did or said on any given day or night, she need only check with the clerk on duty at the NSA, likely to be an inexperienced individual without a security clearance working for a private contractor.

It is the birthday of the English novelist Evelyn Waugh, who said, “There is a species of person called a ‘Modern Churchman’ who draws the full salary of a beneficed clergyman and need not commit himself to any religious belief.”

Until next time be good to all of God’s creation and always walk under the mercy.

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