Thursday, October 27, 2011

A Time for Choosing: Citizen Reagan’s Viewer Mail


It was forty-seven years ago today that a fading film and television actor named Ronald Reagan injected a much-needed jolt of electricity into the flailing Barry Goldwater presidential campaign. On October 27, 1964 at 9:30 P.M. Reagan appeared on the NBC television network in a pre-recorded thirty-minute address entitled “A Time for Choosing.” The speech (aka “The Speech”) launched the future president’s political career and, among conservatives, has achieved a near mythical status.

For the past year CONELRAD has been researching a comprehensive history of this famous broadcast. And while we are not quite ready to post a completed article, we thought we would observe the occasion of this anniversary by sharing some of the reactions that the Great Communicator received in the days after his televised pitch for the Republican nominee first aired nationally.

Standing O-1

What follows are a few selected telegrams that CONELRAD obtained from the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum. Out of what was purported to be thousands of such responses, only a few dozen were preserved. Of these, all are gushingly admiring (Evidently, the Democrats who might have been inspired to write complaint letters were watching Petticoat Junction on the other channel).

John Ford

We thought we would start our presentation with multi-Academy Award-winning film director John Ford’s succinct rave for Citizen Reagan’s speech:

Lo-John Ford-Reagan-Telegram
Next is conservative icon Phyllis Schlafly’s sister-in-law, Eleanor Schlafly: 


Dean Burch, the Goldwater loyalist who was installed as the Chairman of the Republican National Committee after the Arizona senator won the GOP nomination, weighed in with this praise:



Burch, it appears, was the only member of the so-called Arizona Mafia to thank Reagan for his speech. Other members of the inner circle, namely Denison Kitchel and William J. Baroody, actively tried to stop A Time for Choosing from airing. The motives ascribed to them for this action vary, but most accounts cite their nervousness over Reagan’s remarks on Social Security.

The next telegram comes from F. Clifton White, the architect of Goldwater’s stunning nomination victory. White, who had wanted to become RNC Chairman, found himself inexplicably marginalized during the general election campaign.

Clifton White 

We chose this next missive because we liked the writer’s expression “Uncle Goldie.”

Lo-Uncle Goldie-Reagan-Telegram

And we decided to conclude our sampling with Ms. Wilma Batz of Peoria, Illinois who somehow channeled the improbable future and asked: “…I know you’re an actor but are you running for president?”

It took a while for Reagan to fulfill Ms. Batz’s prophecy, but a little over a year later, on January  4, 1966, the Gipper was back on television announcing his candidacy for the Republican nomination for governor of California.


Ronald Reagan Governor's Papers:
1966 Campaign
Box C35
Folder "66: 'The Speech' 1964 (Telegrams in Response)" 1
Folder "66: 'The Speech' 1964 (Telegrams in Response)" 2
Folder "66: 'The Speech' 1964 (Telegrams in Response)" 3
Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum

Reagan Speech Ad

Sunday, October 23, 2011


Day After Clergyman

The Continuity of Government planners were not stupid. In addition to stocking the “Classified Facility” (Mount Weather[1]) with food, water and every other imaginable accoutrement necessary for surviving a nuclear war, they recognized the need for a full compliment of clergy.

Mount Weather Needs Clergy: 10/21/1960

This fascinating document[2] from the director of the Office of Civil and Defense Mobilization, Leo A. Hoegh (1908-2000), dated October 21, 1960 requests that a priest, rabbi and minister be assigned to Mount Weather in a time of crisis. The bureaucratic language of the missive avoids reference to why clergy would be needed, but the author does note that civilian religious professionals might be otherwise occupied during an emergency. These particular men of God would also be difficult to vet for entrance to the super-bunker. Or, as Hoegh puts it: “The security problems involved in bringing in civilians, as you know, are considerable.”

Leo Hoegh

The solution was to ask the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Manpower, Personnel and Reserve, Charles G. Finucane (1905-1983), for “chaplains from either the Regular or Reserve Corps” of the U.S. military. Hoegh sums up his letter with the data-supported spiritual requirements: “Surveys of the emergency population at the Classified Location indicate that one Protestant, one Jewish and one Catholic clergyman would meet our needs.”

Evidently, Mr. Hoegh’s clergy requisition went directly to the circular file, because more than two years later, the chaplain gap was still an issue of concern in Mount Weather correspondence.[3] We can only pray that Mount Weather now has the religious staff it needs, but it will be up to future historians to find out.


CONELRAD would like to thank historian and author David Krugler for thinking of us when he came across this document in his research files.

[1] The evidence that the document is referring to Mount Weather is the fact that the Classified Location’s Chief, J. Leo Bourassa (1917-2000), is one of the co-signatories. For more on Bourassa and his role at Mount Weather see Ted Gup’s August 10, 1992 Time magazine cover story, “The Doomsday Blueprints.”

[2] Letter to Charles C. Finucane from Leo A. Hoegh RE: Chaplain Service for the Classified Location. October 21, 1960. U.S. National Archives, Records Group 396, Records of the Office of Emergency Preparedness, Selected OCDM Files, 1959-1960.

[3] See Memorandum to Colonel Justice J.M. Chambers from Robert Y. Phillips RE: “Special Facility Preparedness,” November 29, 1962, U.S. National Archives, Records Group 396, Declassified P95 Records, Accession 66A03, Box 6, Folder “Special Facilities Branch.”

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Cuban Missile Crisis Recovered Memories: LBJ’S Helicopter Pick-Up Points


Shortly after the dark storm of the Cuban Missile Crisis had passed, government emergency planners put together a document that detailed the many different places where Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson could catch a helicopter ride to an undisclosed bunker. Some of these locations are predictable (the parking lot of the CIA) and others are more interesting (the athletic field of Wilson High School—go Tigers!).

The Cuban Missile Crisis has always been about the Kennedys, so it is nice to be able to present at least one strange recovered memory in this series about LBJ. 

LBJ Pick-Up Points


“Helicopter Pickup Points in the Event of an Emergency Evacuation of the Vice President,” November 1, 1962, Vice President Security File, Box 5, Emergency Evacuation Instructions Folder, Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Cuban Missile Crisis Recovered Memories: Random Weirdness

Special Report

“When the American people elected Kennedy they made a good choice. Nixon might have been a good president, too, but Kennedy proved that he was. If Kennedy wasn’t killed he might have become the greatest president ever. He also might have started a atomic war and destroyed the world.”

--Excerpt from a letter written by John Compton, eighth grade[1]

“Grab your balls…”

--President John F. Kennedy to press secretary Pierre Salinger regarding news of the Cuban Missile Crisis[2]

We have decided to wrap up our series on “Cuban Missile Crisis Recovered Memories” with some random news snapshots and oddities that caught our attention while reading about the crisis on microfilm, in history books and on the web. We may have more posts on this subject in the future but, for now, this is our fond farewell to that magical period when the end seemed so very close.

We begin with an advertisement from page G9 of the October 28, 1962 edition of the Los Angeles Times. The sales team for the Palley’s chain could not resist offering reduced prices on civil defense equipment “in these critical times.”

Civil Defense Supplies copy 
One of the choices facing local civil defense authorities during the Cuban Missile Crisis was whether or not to test air raid sirens. In Los Angeles, CD officials (at first, anyway) saw no reason to deviate from their normal schedule. Newspapers advised readers not to “panic.”

Dont Panic 
As the fears over Cuba mounted, California state CD authorities thought better of the notion of testing sirens during an international crisis and requested a moratorium. But there were a few overzealous cities that decided to keep to their monthly schedule regardless of the world situation…

Big Siren
In Los Angeles area supermarkets, a two-day wave of “panic buying” was touched off by a civil defense official’s call for Angelenos to stock up.

Gas Up

Los Angeles residents like Mrs. Woronovich of Baldwin Hills took heed of the advisory and spent a whopping $55.85.

Meanwhile, in Houston, Texas, a customer spent $600 on groceries and headed straight for his fallout shelter.

Run for Shelter
In Bakersfield, California, worried consumers were adding firearms to their shopping carts…

Guns-Scouts copy

Others prayed…

Prayer copy 
Protesters took both sides of the issue…

Better Dead-Brightened

In some cases, activists simply got tired and went home…

Texans Ignored copy
Parents were worried about what would happen to their kids if an attack happened…

Parents Deluge

And Los Angeles County was only too happy to oblige with civil defense literature…

What to Do If 
Even the travel industry was concerned about the Cuban Crisis…


As reported in the November 8, 1962 issue of Jet magazine (page 10), panic over the Cuban situation was so great that it led to a declaration by New Orleans Civilian Defense Director Col. Charles W. Erdman that public fallout shelters would be open to everyone, even “negroes.”

Desegrated Shelter copy     
Miamians, arguably the ones most likely to be incinerated, were told to remain calm and treat the imminent threat of atomic attack as they would a hurricane.

Miami-Stay Calm

Cubans, meanwhile, were told that an American invasion would fail (and with ninety tactical nuclear weapons ready to repel the United States military, this headline has the retroactive ring of truth).

Cubans Told

One woman was so frazzled by the Cuban crisis that she evacuated her city without her children. She realized that they were missing when a military policeman directing traffic in Key West, Florida stopped her. During the course of their brief conversation in which the woman referenced her kids, the officer pointed out that he saw no children in her vehicle. “My God, I forgot them!” she exclaimed.

Forgot Them copy  
Perhaps it was the culmination of all the random weirdness and conflicting emotions that the Cuban Missile Crisis unleashed that led a Los Angeles woman named Marion Miller, age 59, to take an overdose of sleeping pills. The Los Angeles Herald-Examiner reported in their October 25, 1962 edition that the distraught woman wrote in a would-be suicide note that “I don’t like the appalling international situation.”

Fortunately, Marion Miller failed in her suicide attempt and so did the two superpowers that so depressed her.


Michael Dobbs, One Minute to Midnight: Kennedy, Khrushchev, and Castro on the Brink of Nuclear War [New York: Knopf, 2008].

Alice L. George, Awaiting Armageddon: How Americans Faced the Cuban Missile Crisis [The University of North Carolina Press, 2003].

Aleksandr Fursenko and Timothy Naftali, One Hell of a Gamble: Khrushchev, Castro, and Kennedy, 1958-1964: The Secret History of the Cuban Missile Crisis [New York: W.W. Norton and Sons, 1997].     

[1] William G. Walsh, Children Write About John F. Kennedy [Brownsville, Texas: Springman-King Publishing, 1964], p. 119.

[2] Pierre Salinger, P.S.: A Memoir [New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1995], p. 115.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Cuban Missile Crisis Recovered Memories: Meet Me at the Reno Reservoir

“This memorandum shall serve as a pass for your dependents to the relocation site pending issuance of a Civil Defense Pass.”

-- Captain Tazewell Shepard, in a memo issued October 26, 1962

At the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis senior aides to President John F. Kennedy began receiving pink identification cards and packets of information instructing them on where to go in the event of an emergency. Special Assistant to the President David Powers asked at the time: “What happens to our wives and kids?” It fell to President Kennedy’s naval aide, Captain Tazewell Shepard, to address the massive morale gap of what to do with the “dependents.”[1]


The young officer responded with a plan to have the family members of select White House staff assemble in a fenced-in area at Washington’s Reno Reservoir for a motorcade ride out of the city to an undisclosed relocation site. The call to convene at the reservoir would have come in the form of a “Civil Defense Alert.”[2] Assuming that the rest of Washington (and the world) would be privy to such an alert, it is interesting to note that Captain Shepard does not include a Plan B to address the inevitable D.C. evacuation gridlock and general panic.

Family Relocation

But, as Robert F. Kennedy (Steven Culp) says of the arrangement in the film, Thirteen Days, “Of course, that’s for morale. The missiles only take five minutes to get here.”

Transcription of Memo:

The White House
Washington                                  26 October 1962


Mrs. Evelyn Lincoln

Subj: Relocation of Dependents of Personnel Involved in the White House Emergency Plan

Previously a packet has been distributed to be opened only in an emergency, which describes the location to which dependents could go at such a time. Because during a Civil Defense emergency, transportation restrictions will be set up and movements may be difficult, a more workable plan appears to be a formation of a motorcade, to move dependents in a group to a relocation site outside of the Washington area. To do this effectively, a fenced area in Northwest Washington which is considered central to the area where most dependents of White House staff members live (those living on the Washington side of the river). This area is within the fenced portion of the Reno Reservoir, with an entrance off of Belt Road, which intersects with Wisconsin Avenue a little more than a block north of Albemarle Street.

In time of a Civil Defense alert, dependents covered by this plan are instructed to proceed to this assembly area. Because a Civil Defense Pass will be required for each individual, only those covered by this memorandum may be included. You are requested to keep current the information filed with the Office of the Naval Aide as to the number and ages of your dependents.

Minimal supplies of food and water will be included in the planning, so that it will not be necessary for dependents to bring any additional equipment. Because of space limitations, they are urged not to attempt to bring personal belongings.

This memorandum shall serve as a pass for your dependents to the relocation site pending issuance of a Civil Defense Pass.

Tazewell Shepard, Jr.
Captain, U.S. Navy
Naval Aide to the President

Citation: Tazewell Shepard, “Memorandum for Mrs. Lincoln,” October 26, 1962, Presidential Office Files, Box 114, Cuba General, 10/24/62-12/31/62 folder, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library.

[1] Michael Dobbs, One Minute to Midnight: Kennedy, Khrushchev, and Castro on the Brink of Nuclear War [New York: Knopf, 2008], pp. 310-311.

[2] Tazewell Shepard, “Memorandum for Mrs. Lincoln,” October 26, 1962, Presidential Office Files, Box 114, Cuba General, 10/24/62-12/31/62 folder, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Cuban Missile Crisis Recovered Memories: The Other Cuban Missile Crisis Speech


President John F. Kennedy’s October 22, 1962 address to the nation on the Cuban missile crisis was a critical Cold War moment that has long since entered the realm of legend. The dramatic televised speech that announced the blockade of Castro’s Cuba was hyped in advance by the media and was seen by 50 million American viewers.[1] People stopped at appliance store windows to witness the young commander-in-chief stand up to Khruschev in glorious black and white.[2] The seminal event of Kennedy’s brief presidency has been written about and analyzed endlessly and re-staged or excerpted for television dramas and major motion pictures. Everyone who lived through those times remembers the speech and everyone else knows about it—even if it is by watching a lame miniseries like The Kennedys.

Not nearly as well known is another televised address on the “Cuban Crisis” that occurred a few days later by Kennedy’s vanquished Republican rival for the White House in 1960, Richard M. Nixon. Two years after his razor-thin defeat for the highest office in the land, the former Vice President was locked in a tight campaign to unseat Democratic incumbent Edmund G. Brown as governor of California. Nixon, of course, would famously lose this race, but at the time of his speech he undoubtedly considered it a part of his grand strategy to earn a re-match with Kennedy in 1964. Governor Brown, meanwhile, was actually being briefed on the Cuban situation by the President in Washington as his opponent was taking to the airwaves.[3]


On Friday, October 26th Nixon announced to the press that he would “interrupt his campaign” because he would have “a statement of major importance regarding Cuba.” Perhaps because the candidate, a private citizen, did not have the power to start a nuclear war, the story only made it to page 4 in the Los Angeles Times. The article added that Nixon’s address would originate from San Diego and would be broadcast throughout the state.[4] Not exactly the stuff of stop-at-the-appliance store appointment viewing.


On Saturday, October 27th at 8:00 P.M. Nixon went up against The Roy Rogers and Dale Evans Show and something called Restless Guy to speak to the people of California.[5] In his remarks he endorsed President Kennedy’s “strong action” in the crisis, assailed Fidel Castro as a “hot blooded maniac,” dismissed the possibility of war (“Mr. Khruschev is not going risk Moscow for Havana”) and urged the rejection of a deal that would remove U.S. missiles from Turkey (a “horse for a rabbit” trade according to the veteran politician).[6]


The next day Governor Brown, back from his trip to Washington, criticized his rival’s speech as a “new turn in a spurious and reckless campaign.” He added that Nixon’s effort to win the governor’s race was “bankrupt and going downhill.” A Democratic backer of the former Vice President was kinder, stating that Nixon’s views on the crisis represented “the realistic maturity of his understanding of the Communist conspiracy at home and abroad.”[7]


Mrs. Patricia Hitt, an Orange County Republican National Committeewoman, haughtily called upon Brown to retract his remarks on Nixon, saying: “Pat Brown is obviously trying to conceal his lack of knowledge on international affairs…These comments by Mr. Brown are so much in violation of the Constitution that I suspect his words must be those given by one of his press agents.”[8]


Mrs. Hitt was no doubt shocked when her candidate lost the race to Governor Brown on November 6th prompting the notorious “last press conference” the following day. Nixon would rise from the ashes six years later and win the White House, but his Cuba speech remains nearly forgotten. CONELRAD is still waiting to hear back from the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum to see if they have a transcript or film of the television special. We will update this post if we are ever able to find more on Richard Nixon’s Cuban Missile Crisis Moment.

[1] Alice L. George, Awaiting Armageddon: How Americans Faced the Cuban Missile Crisis [Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2003], p.93.

[2] Paul Weeks, “Street Crowd Here Listens to President,” Los Angeles Times, October 23, 1962, p. 1.

[3] “Brown Assails Nixon’s TV Talk on Cuba,” Los Angeles Times, October 29, 1962, p.3.

[4] Carl Greenberg, “Nixon to Make Special TV Talk on Cuba Crisis,” Los Angeles Times, October 27, 1962, p. 4.

[5] “Saturday’s TV Programs,” Los Angeles Times, October 27, 1962, p. B5.

[6] “Nixon Endorses Kennedy’s Actions,” New York Times, October 28, 1962.

[7] “Brown Assails Nixon’s TV Talk on Cuba,” Los Angeles Times, October 29, 1962, p.3.

[8] Ibid.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Cuban Missile Crisis Recovered Memories: Programming the Apocalypse

Of course, very few moments in television history can rival President John F. Kennedy’s October 22, 1962 address to the nation on the Cuban missile crisis for suspense and drama. Indeed, so much has been written about the young president’s historic speech on the blockade of Castro’s island that we have chosen to focus instead on more trivial matters here (although, our next installment will concern an interesting and comical unintended consequence of Kennedy’s famous broadcast).

In preparing this series of posts on the recovered memories of the Cuban missile crisis, we got to wondering what was on television and radio during this panicky period. We decided to limit our review to the Los Angeles area since it is where CONELRAD is based and it is where the microfilm of L.A.’s wonderful newspaper past resides.

TV Coverage-Cuban

It should come as no surprise that this end times programming ran the gamut from the boring (KABC had U.N. Ambassador Adlai Stevenson answering letters and telegrams on the crisis) to the frightening (a “what to do if” special entitled “Civil Defense and Common Sense” that was broadcast on radio station KLAC) to the wildly inappropriate: on October 26, 1962 KTTV, channel 11 broadcast the atom bomb / love story Above and Beyond. 

KTTV was not content to simply run this 1952 celebration of the Bomb starring Robert Taylor as the Enola Gay’s stalwart pilot Paul Tibbetts and Eleanor Parker as his long-suffering wife, Lucey (the producers of the film put such little thought into her character that they misspelled her first name). No, they advertised it in large print ads such as the one seen below.


Was Above and Beyond chosen for its potential appeal to the General Curtis LeMay audience (who wouldn’t have had much use for watching Adlai read telegrams from worried peaceniks)? Or was it broadcast because it had been scheduled for months and the TV sales department had already placed the ads?

Probably the latter.