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 to a fever pitch of excitement that eventually amounted to a damp squib, certainly in the early years of my early political interest anyway.
It was the age when we were getting almost instant news coverage and it came hot on the heels of McCarthyism, whereby US Senator Joseph McCarthy enthusiastically accused prominent public figures throughout most of the 1950s of being communist sympathisers – destroying many reputations and livelihoods on the way. It also whipped up the ‘reds under the bed’ paranoia that we still see in the US today, that is if they find time between hating each other.
The Soviets didn’t help the situation by deciding that they would place ballistic missiles in Cuba just 90 miles from the U.S. southern coastline. This was, in turn, a response to the US stationing their own ballistic missiles in Italy and Turkey and also the US financing the failed ‘Bay of Pigs’ invasion by Cuban exiles opposed to Fidel Castro. What could possibly go wrong? Of course, it inevitably did.
One minute to midnight
In the red corner weighing in at 254 pounds and wearing red shorts complete with hammer and sickle motif was West-hating Nikita “The Impaler” Khrushchev, the Russian leader at the time. I don’t know why I’ve singled him out for a particular hater of the West, I’m sure all Soviet and Russian presidents have hated the West, it seems to be part of the job description. My secret contact in the Kremlin has reliably informed me that the psychological section of the questionnaire at the very top of the application form for General Secretary, states as follows:
Q1. DO YOU HATE THOSE IMPERIALIST DOGS OF THE WEST AND ALL THEIR EVIL, TRAITOROUS ALLIES? _ _ _
Q2. ARE YOU PREPARED TO DIE IF YOU GIVE THE WRONG ANSWER ? _ _ _
The form also includes a clue on how many letters there are in the correct answers.
The only other questions on the form are about their families and where they live.
And in the blue corner weighing in at 185 pounds, wearing the red, white and blue trunks was the hero of the West in the shape of John Fitzgerald “Easy-on-the-Eye” Kennedy.
One of the reasons that the very shallow tabloid press gave that Kennedy must be in the right was that he was handsome and had a beautiful wife and Khrushchev was not and did not. This sort of attitude has been going on a long time, and far too long in my humble opinion, and there are little signs of it going away. The young are getting themselves into a world of pain all because of their appearance, or someone else’s appearance, or the look that they should be like or not like, it must be a nightmare. I’m glad I’m out of it, never was in it really.
Many of Kennedy’s generals were advocating a very simple solution which was ‘nuke the commie bastards’ but luckily Kennedy was more pragmatic and decided to blockade Cuba with US warships. This in turn was seen by his generals as being too soft and showing signs of weakness.
These were very dangerous times, we in Britain were ready to back our NATO allies with what we had, which unlike now was quite considerable.
It quickly became a standoff of the Mexican type, several days passed while both parties threatened the other with their big brother, then both realising that they were the big brothers so reverted back to a Mexican standoff for several more anxious days.
Luckily Khrushchev blinked first and took his big squibs back home. Thus the arms race kicked off.
The end of innocence
Soon after the Cuban Missile Crisis came The Moors Murders, carried out by Ian Brady and Myra Hindley between July of 1963 and October of 1965. These two murdered five children between the ages of 10 to 17 years, burying four of the bodies on Saddleworth Moor between Manchester and Huddersfield.
The couple employed a relation of Hindley named David Smith to help dispose of the body of their final victim, but Smith instead contacted the police and the full horror was eventually exposed.
I was 18 years old at this point and details of incidents like this were only just becoming widely circulated to the general public, and even then it was fairly easy to be deliberately ignorant of the world’s evil ways, unlike now when we have means of learning every sordid detail at our fingertips – whether we want to know or not. There is no space for jokes and humour in this story. Saddleworth Moor is a bleak and desolate place, made all the more so by its history. I often travel along the A672, A635 and A640 or walk on the many footpaths in that area, and when I see a sign saying Saddleworth Moor it will give me a silent 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 found by the police at the home of Brady and Hindley.
Even after repeated attempts, the body of Keith Bennett has never been found, even separately taking Brady and Hindley onto the moor in an attempt to find the grave have proved fruitless. Some have suggested that it was a cynical attempt by Brady to gain favour, or to 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 carried out, it opens up another desperate need for closure within the Bennett family. The latest attempt to find remains was as recent as October 2022, again proving fruitless.
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 learn more than the above except perhaps to learn why they did it.
These incidents in the early 60s dragged me out of the relatively gentle and protected world of my childhood and into a world of potential evil and danger. We were on the outskirts of Saddleworth Moor only yesterday with the walking group, and we came across a new shrine to Keith at the side of the road near where the investigations had been carried out in early October (this month). We are all of a similar age and can remember these times with horror, and after discovering this shrine we all drifted into a silent moment of reflection.