Daily Archives: 27 October 2014

October 27, 1943 (a Wednesday)

Gay love letter

On this date, the letter below was written by one World War II soldier to another. It is a love letter between two servicemen on the occasion of their anniversary. The letter was originally published in September 1961 by ONE Magazine — an early gay magazine based out of Los Angeles. In 2000, Bob Connelly, an adjunct professor of LGBT studies at American University, found a copy of the letter in the Library of Congress. He brought the letter to the attention of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network in April 2010. They sent the text of the letter to President Obama as part of their campaign against “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

I sincerely thank Mr. Connelly for his research and the ONE National Gay & Lesbian Archives for granting permission for the letter to be republished.

Dear Dave,

This is in memory of an anniversary — the anniversary of October 27th, 1943, when I first heard you singing in North Africa. That song brings memories of the happiest times I’ve ever known. Memories of a GI show troop — curtains made from barrage balloons — spotlights made from cocoa cans — rehearsals that ran late into the evenings — and a handsome boy with a wonderful tenor voice. Opening night at a theatre in Canastel — perhaps a bit too much muscatel, and someone who understood. Exciting days playing in the beautiful and stately Municipal Opera House in Oran — a misunderstanding — an understanding in the wings just before opening chorus.

Drinks at “Coq d’or” — dinner at the “Auberge” — a ring and promise given. The show 1st Armoured — muscatel, scotch, wine — someone who had to be carried from the truck and put to bed in his tent. A night of pouring rain and two very soaked GIs beneath a solitary tree on an African plain. A borrowed French convertible — a warm sulphur spring, the cool Mediterranean, and a picnic of “rations” and hot cokes. Two lieutenants who were smart enough to know the score, but not smart enough to realize that we wanted to be alone. A screwball piano player — competition — miserable days and lonely nights. The cold, windy night we crawled through the window of a GI theatre and fell asleep on a cot backstage, locked in each other’s arms — the shock when we awoke and realized that miraculously we hadn’t been discovered. A fast drive to a cliff above the sea — pictures taken, and a stop amid the purple grapes and cool leaves of a vineyard.

The happiness when told we were going home — and the misery when we learned that we would not be going together. Fond goodbyes on a secluded beach beneath the star-studded velvet of an African night, and the tears that would not be stopped as I stood atop the sea-wall and watched your convoy disappear over the horizon.

We vowed we’d be together again “back home,” but fate knew better — you never got there. And so, Dave, I hope that where ever you are these memories are as precious to you as they are to me.

Goodnight, sleep well my love.

Brian Keith

For anyone to say that Gay love is any less passionate, any less real, any less committed, has no idea what love is to start with.

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October 27, 1962 (a Saturday)

Vasili Arkhipov, the Russian who saved the world from nuclear war in 1961.

On this date, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, Vasili Alexandrovich Arkhipov, a Soviet naval officer, prevented the launch of a nuclear torpedo and almost certainly a nuclear war. His story is to this day unknown to the wider public, although in 2002 Thomas Blanton (then director of the National Security Archive, an independent non-governmental research institute and library located at The George Washington University) expressed it when he remarked that “a guy called Vasili Arkhipov saved the world.”

Since President John F. Kennedy’s October 22 address warning the Soviet Union to cease its reckless program to put nuclear weapons in Cuba and announcing a naval “quarantine” against additional weapons shipments into Cuba, the world had held its breath waiting to see whether the two superpowers would come to blows. U.S. armed forces were ordered to DEFCON 3 on October 22 and the Strategic Air Command went to DEFCON 2 (one step away from nuclear attack) on October 23. On October 24, millions waited to see whether Soviet ships bound for Cuba carrying additional missiles would try to break the U.S. naval blockade around the island.

DEFCONs are stages of U.S. military alert.

U.S. destroyers under orders to enforce a naval quarantine off Cuba did not know that the submarines the Soviets had sent to protect their ships were carrying nuclear weapons. A group of eleven United States Navy destroyers and the aircraft carrier USS Randolph trapped the nuclear-armed Soviet Foxtrot-class submarine B-59 near Cuba and started dropping practice depth charges, explosives intended to force the submarine to come to the surface for identification. Washington’s message that practice depth charges were being used to signal the submarines to surface had never reached B-59, and Moscow claimed they had no record of receiving it either. (The incident occurred prior to establishment of the so-called Hot Line between the two superpowers.) The B-59 was also too deep to spy on U.S. Navy radio traffic, so those on board could not know if war had broken out.

28 October 1962: The U.S. Navy shadows the second Soviet F-class submarine to surface, after repeated rounds of signaling depth charges on 27 October.

The captain of the submarine, Valentin Grigorievitch Savitsky, believing that a war might already have started, wanted to launch a nuclear-tipped torpedo, whose 15 kiloton explosive-yield approximated the bomb that devastated Hiroshima in August 1945. Around 5 p.m., he gave the order to prepare to fire. “We’re going to blast them now! We will die, but we will sink them all. We will not disgrace our navy,” a Soviet intelligence report quotes the Soviet captain as saying.

Although three officers on board the submarine — Savitsky, the political officer Ivan Semonovich Maslennikov, and the second-in-command Arkhipov — were authorized to launch the torpedo, they had to agree unanimously in favor of doing so. An argument broke out among the three, in which only Arkhipov was against the launch, eventually persuading Savitsky to surface the submarine and await orders from Moscow. The nuclear warfare which presumably would have ensued was thus averted. Although Arkhipov was only second-in-command of submarine B-59, he was actually Commander of the flotilla of submarines including B-4, B-36, and B-130 and of equal rank to Captain Savitsky.

“There are lessons to be learned,” Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., a former Kennedy aide and a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian, has said. “This was not only the most dangerous moment of the Cold War. It was the most dangerous moment in human history.