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World News of August, 1962

1962 News of the World

August just finished, so it’s a good time for Roadtrip-'62 ™ to look back on what happened in August…of 1962. Unfortunately, the headlines of the time remind me of the headlines of today! We have sex scandals among the Catholic clergy, revolutions and other changes of national governments around the world, and Presidential press conferences. There are also major infrastructure projects around the world, and some surprises. Because it’s 1962, there is also space news. So sit back and we’ll show some stories you might have seen on the TV news.

First up is some bad news from the Catholic Diocese of Ogdensburg, New York. Father Thomas Rogers was alleged to have attempted sexual assault against a high school boy, and the claim was found to be supported by evidence and witnesses. Because the accused was a priest, police did not follow their usual procedures and Father Rogers was allowed to leave town the day that he was interviewed by the police. In a pattern we recognize today, Bishop William Connare perceived a need to "…proceed cautiously to protect his [Roger's] reputation…" and no further action was taken by the church. A review by another Bishop found that the matter had been handled well, and Father Rogers apparently continued to perform as a priest, just at different churches, at least through 1998. In a belated action, a later Bishop ordered Mr. Rogers to stop presenting himself publicly as a priest in 2002. Sounds too much like the kind of cover-up we are reading about in today’s news.

Russian stamp of Vostok 3 and Vostok 4, 1962
Russian stamp commemorating the 1962 flights of Vostok 3 and Vostok 4 (photo from an online auction)

There were two major airline disasters during August of 1962. On August 1st, a Nepal Airlines plane from Kathmandu, Nepal to New Delhi, India crashed. The wreckage was not found until eight days later, confirming that all four crew members and six passengers were killed, including Nepal's ambassador to India. The plane was found on a mountain at about the 11,200 foot elevation. Another crash occurred on August 20th in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. A Panair do Brasil flight skidded off the runway during takeoff, killing 15 people. The good news there was that 90 people were rescued from the burning airplane.

The manned spaceflight news from August all came from the Soviet Union. The Soviets made history by launching two orbiting capsules, with Vostok 3 launched on August 11th and Vostok 4 the next day. This was the first time that two manned spacecraft were in orbit at the same together. They then manuevered within 4.0 miles of one another and ship-to-ship radio communication was established. This was all the more amazing because it was only the Soviet Union’s fourth manned spaceflight and required a level of coordination that the United States was not know to be capable of yet. As with all Soviet space launches of the period, no announcement was made beforehand. In another first, Vostok 3 provided live video of Soviet Cosmonaut Andriyan Nikolayev in orbit. Both capsules safely landed in Kazakhstan just a couple of days later.

Stamp of Netherlands New Guinea overprinted U.N.T.E.A., 1962
Stamp of Netherlands New Guinea overprinted U.N.T.E.A. for use in 1962 (photo from an online auction)

Rebels, revolutions, and wars continued to make news in August. The capture of the leader of the Darul Islam rebellion in Indonesia led to the end of that effort. Sekarmadji Maridjan Kartosuwirjo would be executed just a month later. Also during 1962, Indonesia undertook successful military actions in Netherlands New Guinea (also known as West Irian), which was the only part of the former Dutch colonies in the area not previously turned over to Indonesian administration. This gave the Indonesians a good position in United Nations sponsored negotiations, and Netherlands finally agreed to hand over the territory later in the year, and a United Nations joint administration was established in the interim. The territory would finally become a province of Indonesia in May 1963.

Elsewhere around the world, Argentina had a confusing year. It began with a coup in March of 1962, a disputed election thereafter, backroom maneuvering and cabinet resignations, and culminated in a minor fight between competing factions of the country’s military in August. Most of the shooting occurred in the capital, Buenos Aires, around August 12th. By mid-September, a group known as the Blue Group appeared to be in control of the government. Also in August, the four former colonies of French India were formally transferred to the Indian government by the French parliament. The four French territories of Pondicherry, Karaikal, Yanam and Mahé merged to form the Union Territory of Puducherry. By December, the India army would occupy the Portuguese colonies and they would also be incorporated into India.

Nelson Mandela on cover of his 1962 speeches pamphlet
Nelson Mandela, on cover of his 1962 pamphlet of trial speeches (public domain photo, source unknown)

Here’s some 1962 bits and pieces of news:

  • August 3, 1962: An elephant at the Oklahoma City Zoo, Tusko, was injected with the hallucinogen LSD in an ill-fated experiment on aggressive behavior and rage in male elephants. Tusko collapsed minutes later and died.
  • August 5, 1962: Nelson Mandela begins 27 years of incarceration in South Africa, after being arrested with the apparent help of the United States CIA. He had been involved in steadily escalating opposition to the South African government and was seen to be a danger to stability. His 1962 arrest lead to a trial for inciting workers' strikes and leaving the country without permission, from which he was originally sentenced to only five years. But subsequent government raids and seizure of paperwork at his group’s meeting places documented his participation in sabotage. It was a second trial on four counts of sabotage and conspiracy to violently overthrow the government that led to his 27-year incarceration.
  • August 13, 1962: Three minutes of silence were intended to mark the first anniversary of the building of the Berlin Wall. However, angry crowds began throwing stones across the border at East Berlin police and troops, who responded with water cannon and tear gas grenades into the crowd on the west side of the wall. West Berlin police responded with their own tear gas across the border and after about an hour, the class ended with no serious injuries. However, the next day East German border guard captain, Rudi Arnstadt, was shot by a West German border guard and died.
  • August 22, 1962: French President Charles De Gaulle narrowly escaped an assassination attempt in Paris. Gunmen attacked his limousine, shooting out the rear window and two tires and causing De Gaulle to be hit by flying glass. No one was injured and the leader of the gunmen, former French Air Force Lt.Col. Jean Bastien-Thiry, was arrested and executed the next year.
Italian portal to Mount Blanc Tunnel
Italian portal to Mount Blanc Tunnel (Photo by François Trazzi from Wikimeida Commons, licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.)

Several big engineering projects were completed around the world in 1962. The boring for the Mont Blanc Tunnel between France and Italy was completed on August 14th. It took about 400,000 blasts to get from one end to the other and when opened for travel in 1965, the tunnel would be the longest in the world at 7.25 miles. The tunnel is a single tube, and has a single lane in each direction for traffic. Elsewhere, bridges were the infrastructure of choice. The General Rafael Urdaneta Bridge in Venezuela was opened to traffic on August 24th. This bridge was designed by the same engineer using the same technology as the Morandi Bridge in Genoa, Italy that collapsed in August 2018. This 1962 bridge is older than the Italian bridge and has had no inspection or maintenance of its structural components for the past two decades. Is it next to collapse? Meanwhile, the second deck of the George Washington Bridge opened in New York City on August 29th. This added six lanes to the bridge, bringing the total to a record-breaking 14 lanes!

President John F. Kennedy press conference, August 29, 1962
President John F. Kennedy speaks during press conference on August 29, 1962 (Public domain photo by Abbie Rowe of the National Park Service.)

To close out this look at the news of August 1962, let’s listen in on President John F. Kennedy’s news conference of August 29th. In addition to domestic subjects, he covers a wide range of worldwide subjects. One of the first subjects the President brought up was that the Soviet Union had proposed, “…a cutoff time for all nuclear weapon tests and that this date should be set as of January 1, 1963.” He noted, “I'm happy to say that the United States Government regards this as a reasonable target date and would like to join with all interested parties in a maximum effort to conclude effective agreements which can enter force on next New Year's Day. To accomplish this purpose the governments involved must accelerate their negotiations looking toward an agreed treaty.” Such a treaty was not reached, but the Partial Test Ban Treaty (PTBT) was negotiated and signed by August 5, 1963. The PTBT was first signed by the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States and has eventually been signed and ratified by 123 other countries. The treaty is considered partial, because it did not ban all testing, but it did ban nuclear weapons testing in the atmosphere, in outer space, under water, or in any other environment if such explosions cause radioactive debris to be present outside the territorial limits of the State that conducts the test. That’s why we only conduct underground tests today.

Regarding the tensions in Berlin, the President responded to a question about whether the Soviet Union was interested in holding meetings of the four powers occupying Berlin, to discuss the situation. The president responded, “No, I'm not familiar with any proposal by the Soviet Union to discuss. No, I have seen nothing about that. I've seen no recent proposal by the Soviet Union that there should be a four-power conference in Berlin to discuss the future of Berlin. We've had no indication that the Soviet Union has made that proposal.” Considering what was happening in Berlin, that was unfortunate.

Missile site, Los Palacios, Cuba, October 1962
Missile site at Los Palacios, Cuba in October 1962 (Public domain photo from United States Department of Defense.)

President Kennedy also highlighted the need for a robust foreign aid program, as a counterbalance to expenditures by the Soviet Union. For example, he noted, “I was looking at some figures today which showed that the Soviet Union had given in economic and military assistance to one country, Indonesia, over $300 million in the last 12 months. They are giving, as we all know, substantial military and economic assistance to Cuba, as well as many other countries.” He listed many other countries where he thought we should spend money in addition to building our military capabilities, including, “…particularly those in Latin America, which have many economic, serious economic problems, those countries in Africa which are newly emerging, those countries along the Soviet Union border beginning with Greece, Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, India, Thailand, and the others, South Viet-Nam, many of them are hard pressed, South Korea, the Republic of China. They depend upon the United States to assist them in maintaining their freedom. It seems to me to be the height of folly to appropriate these large sums of money for military organization, and let these very vital countries pass into the Communist bloc.”


Near the end of the press conference, he answered questions that pointed ominously to the Cuban Missile Crisis that would unfold in October, 1962. A reporter asked about reports that the Communists were sending troops into Cuba, not technicians and noted that Senator Capehart called for a United States invasion of Cuba to stop the flow of troops and supplies. The President commented that, ”We've no evidence of troops. And I must say that I know that this matter is of great concern to Americans and many others. The United States has obligations all around the world, including West Berlin and other areas, which are very sensitive, and, therefore, I think that in considering what appropriate action we should take, we have to consider the totality of our obligations, and also the responsibilities which we bear in so many different parts of the world. In response to your specific question, we do not have information that troops have come into Cuba, number one. I'm not for invading Cuba at this time. I think it would be a mistake to invade Cuba, because I think it would lead to--that it should be very--an action like that, which could be very casually suggested, could lead to very serious consequences for many people.” Fortunately, events played out favorably and Roadtrip-'62 ™ can be back with a new post soon!

General Rafael Urdaneta Bridge, Lake Maracaibo, Venezuela
General Rafael Urdaneta Bridge over Lake Maracaibo, Venezuela (photo from unknown source)

All photos by the author and Copyright © 2018 - Milne Enterprises, Inc., except as noted.

All other content Copyright © 2018 - Milne Enterprises, Inc.

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