New Memoir by Time-Life Correspondent in Moscow in 1962 Offers Fresh Look at Civilization's Near-Death During the Cuban Missile Crisis
ESCAPE FROM OBLIVION: A Moscow Correspondent's Memoir of the Cuban Missile Crisis, by Donald S. Connery, has just been published as an Amazon e-book in time to mark the 50th anniversary of the Oct. 16-28, 1962 nuclear standoff between the United States and the Soviet Union. The book is unique among the many works on the singular event in human history that almost ended human history.
As one of the most-traveled of the early Cold War reporters, and now the last still-working American journalist based in Moscow during the crisis, Mr. Connery has produced an extraordinary, highly personal eyewitness account of the frightening thirteen days that brought the world to the brink of a thermonuclear war. He sets the near-death moment of civilization against the background of the superpower conflict—and Russia's internal difficulties—that he reported from Asia, Europe and Africa in the 1950s and '60s.
He reveals that the citizens of the Soviet police state, who were kept in ignorance about the near collision between the U.S. and the USSR, remained calm while many Americans were in panic. He tells how Russians, "Americans in disguise" as seen during his far-reaching trips in 1961-1962, believed that they were drawing closer to the U.S. even as the Soviet government under Premier Nikita Khrushchev defied President John F. Kennedy by secretly shipping nuclear weapons and tens of thousands of troops to Cuba.
For the first time in any book about the superpower confrontation, the author offers a detailed look at the preceding but long-forgotten U.S.-USSR cultural honeymoon in the autumn of 1962. Such visiting luminaries as Igor Stravinsky, George Balanchine and Robert Frost were acclaimed by adoring Russian fans in Moscow and Leningrad.
Younger readers unfamiliar with the communist way of life in the Soviet Union half a century ago may be moved by the author's account of the struggles and yearnings of ordinary Russians—"the enemy" in the eyes of many Americans at the time—long before the Soviet state collapsed in 1991. His many interviews reveal the bitter humor people used as a weapon against the rulers who denied them access to the world outside.
A recent visitor to today's Russia during the Putin era, Mr. Connery shatters the myths about who started the Cuban missile crisis and who was the victor after both Khrushchev and Kennedy rejected the advice of the hard-liners that might have led to World War III.
Donald S. Connery, the author of six books, is a World War II veteran and Harvard graduate who was a United Press reporter at the United Nations when the Cold War broke into the open in 1946. In the following decades he roamed the world for TIME and LIFE magazines during the heyday of their global influence. As described in Escape From Oblivion, his 6,000-mile Trans-Siberian Railway journey from the Far East to Moscow in 1961, a postwar first by an American correspondent, led to a world scoop for his magazines. His NBC radio and television reports from Moscow during the missile crisis brought news of the gathering storm into millions of American homes. As an independent journalist since 1960s, Mr. Connery has been a pioneer in investigating "wrong man" cases and exposing the magnitude of major-crime wrongful convictions—tens of thousands each year—in America's "broken" criminal justice system.
More On: Igor Stravinsky, George Balanchine, Robert Frost.