The Cuban Missile Crisis, also known as the October Crisis of 1962, happened when I was 15 years old, and it was probably the first example of the press blowing up a story into a feverish excitement that eventually ended in a wet squib equaled, certainly in the early years of my early political interest anyway.
It was the era when we were almost instantly covered by the news, and it followed McCarthyism, in which, for most of the 1950s, US Senator Joseph McCarthy enthusiastically accused prominent public figures of being sympathizers of Communism – and thereby destroyed many reputations and livelihoods. It also triggered the “reds under the bed” paranoia we still see in the US today, that is, when they find time to hate each other.
The Soviets did not help the situation by deciding to base ballistic missiles in Cuba just 90 miles from the US south coast. This, in turn, was in response to the US deploying its own ballistic missiles in Italy and Turkey and funding the failed Bay of Pigs invasion by anti-Fidel Castro Cuban exiles. What could possibly go wrong? Of course it was inevitable.
One minute to midnight
In the red corner, weighing 254 pounds and wearing red shorts with a hammer and sickle motif, was the West-hating Nikita “The Impaler” Khrushchev, Russia’s leader at the time. I don’t know why I singled him out as a specific hater of the West, I’m sure all Soviet and Russian Presidents hated the West, that seems to be part of the job description. My secret contact in the Kremlin has reliably informed me that in the psychological part of the questionnaire at the top of the application form for Secretary General it states the following:
Q1 Do you hate those imperialist dogs of the West and all their evil, treacherous allies? _ _ _
Q2. ARE YOU READY TO DIE IF YOU GIVE THE WRONG ANSWER? _ _ _
The form also includes an indication of how many letters are in the correct answers.
The only other questions on the form relate to their families and where they live.
And in the blue corner, weighing 185 pounds and wearing red, white and blue pants, was the Hero of the West in the form of John Fitzgerald “Easy-on-the-Eye” Kennedy.
One of the reasons given by the very superficial tabloids that Kennedy must be right was that he was handsome and had a beautiful wife, and Khrushchev wasn’t and didn’t have one. This type of attitude has been around for a long time, far too long in my humble opinion, and shows little sign of going away. The boys get caught in a world of pain, all because of their looks or someone else’s looks or looks they should or shouldn’t like, it must be a nightmare. I’m glad I’m out of there, never really been in it.
Many of Kennedy’s generals advocated a very simple solution, namely “Nuke the Commie Bastards”, but luckily Kennedy was more pragmatic and decided to blockade Cuba with US warships. This in turn was seen as too soft and a sign of weakness by his generals.
These were very dangerous times, we in Britain were ready to support our NATO allies with what we had, which compared to today was quite substantial.
It quickly turned into a Mexican-style standoff, several days passed while both parties threatened each other with their big brother, then both realized they were the big brothers and reverted to a Mexican standoff for a few more anxious days.
Luckily, Khrushchev blinked first and took home his big squibs. This started the arms race.
The end of innocence
Shortly after the Cuban Missile Crisis came The Moors Murders, performed by Ian Brady and Myra Hindley between July 1963 and October 1965. These two murdered five children between the ages of 10 and 17 and buried four of the bodies on Saddleworth Moor between Manchester and Huddersfield.
The couple employed a relative of Hindley’s named David Smith to help dispose of the body of their latest victim, but Smith instead contacted the police and the full horror was eventually exposed.
I was 18 at the time and details of such incidents were only just beginning to be released to the general public and even then it was quite easy to willfully ignore the evil ways of the world unlike today when we have means to learn each dirty detail at our fingertips – whether we want to know or not. Jokes and humor have no place in this story. Saddleworth Moor is a desolate and desolate place made all the greater by its history. I often drive along the A672, A635 and A640 or walk the many footpaths in the area and when I see a sign saying Saddleworth Moor I get a shiver.
The bodies of Pauline Reade (16), John Kilbride (12), Keith Bennett (12) and Lesley Ann Downey (10) were buried on Saddleworth Moor, the body of Edward Evans (17) was recovered by police at Brady’s home and Hindley found.
Even after repeated attempts, Keith Bennett’s body was never found, even taking Brady and Hindley separately to the moor to find the grave proved unsuccessful. Some have suggested it was a cynical attempt by Brady to gain favor or help Hindley with her many appeals against her life sentence.
Every reasonable attempt must be made to find Keith Bennett’s body, but every time new evidence emerges or even a small suggestion that an investigation should be conducted, it opens up another desperate need for closure within the Bennett family. The last attempt to find remains was as recently as October 2022 and again proved unsuccessful.
Many of the details of what these two did and how they did it are no doubt online and in many other places, I have no desire to know more than the above, except perhaps to learn why they did it.
These incidents in the early 1960’s swept me from the relatively gentle and sheltered world of my childhood into a world of potential evil and danger. We were just yesterday with the walking party on the outskirts of Saddleworth Moor and came across a new roadside shrine to Keith near where the surveys had been conducted earlier in October (this month). We are all of a similar age and recall those times with horror, and upon discovering this shrine we all drifted into a quiet moment of reflection.
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