Aug. 30, 1963: Kennedy was frustrated that during the Cuban Missile Crisis, which occurred in the fall of 1962, he could not communicate quickly enough with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev: Each used encrypted messages that had to be relayed by telegraph or radioed between the Kremlin and the Pentagon. JFK feared such a cumbersome system might lead to misunderstandings or delays in communicating during a future crisis. In the wake of the Cuban Missile Crisis, which nearly led to nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union, President John F. Kennedy became the first president to have a direct phone line to the Kremlin in Moscow. The so-called "hotline" was designed to speed up communications between U.S. and Soviet leaders.

The hotline would allow the president to call the Pentagon with a message, which would be immediately typed into a teletype machine and fed into a transmitter. The message could reach the Kremlin within minutes, as opposed to hours. In 1963, it was regarded as a communications marvel — today, not so much.

Quote of the Day

"In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility - I welcome it." -John F. Kennedy

More from West Wing Reports...