What term invented during the Cold War is associated with August 30?
OK, I don’t really expect you to know the answer. If everybody knew that kind of language trivia there wouldn’t be any reason for this blog.
The answer is that on August 30, 1963, the “hot line” between the White House and the Kremlin first went into service.
News about this new tool for avoiding nuclear war cemented the term into our language and added it and the image of the red phones into movies and TV shows.
Two of my favorite examples were released not long after the new hot line was established: Fail-Safe (1964) and Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964).
The term “hot line” had existed in some other contexts, but not in the political context we know today. That idea is generally credited to Jess Gorkin (1936-1985). Gorkin was the respected and influential editor of Parade Magazine, the widely circulated Sunday newspaper insert.
In the March 20, 1960 issue of Parade, Gorkin published an open letter to President Dwight D. Eisenhower and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev. In it, he advocated “the establishment of a direct telephone line between you...to prevent the possibility of an accidental war.” He ended it with the rhetorical question: “Must a world be lost for want of a telephone call?”
Gorkin didn’t use the term “hot line” in that open letter, but he did in a subsequent editorial in Parade, promoting the idea to presidential candidates John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon.
After Kennedy was elected President, Gorkin ran more editorials encouraging the hot line idea. And, after reaching the brink of nuclear Armageddon during the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, Kennedy and Khrushchev decided it was a pretty good idea. On June 20, 1963, in Geneva, they signed an agreement to create the crisis communication link system Gorkin had suggested.
The Washington-Kremlin “hot line” officially went live on August 30, 1963 and Kennedy publicly gave credit for proposing it.
But despite what we’ve seen in the movies, forget the red phones. The “hot line” was actually a secure teletype link. Sorry, movie fans.
NOTE: Gorkin’s open letter to Eisenhower and Khrushchev, his later editorials, and thousands of other news articles dating back to the 1700s are available on NewspaperArchive.com, an indispensible tool for history and genealogy buffs.