World History Moment: Washington-Moscow Hotline

The White House Kremlin “hot line” providing direct communication for emergency use by the Chief of Staff in Washington and Moscow, became operational August 30, 1963. Air Force Sgt. John Bretoski, left, and Army Lt. Col. Charles Fitzgerald, man the equipment in the Pentagon during a test run. The Pentagon is the U.S. operating terminal for both the land line-transocean circuit and the alternate radio circuit, with a direct relay to the White House. (AP Photo)
The White House Kremlin "hot line" providing direct communication for emergency use by the Chief of Staff in Washington and Moscow, became operational August 30, 1963. Air Force Sgt. John Bretoski, left, and Army Lt. Col. Charles Fitzgerald, man the equipment in the Pentagon during a test run. The Pentagon is the U.S. operating terminal for both the land line-transocean circuit and the alternate radio circuit, with a direct relay to the White House. (AP Photo)
The White House Kremlin “hot line” providing direct communication for emergency use by the Chief of Staff in Washington and Moscow, became operational August 30, 1963. Air Force Sgt. John Bretoski, left, and Army Lt. Col. Charles Fitzgerald, man the equipment in the Pentagon during a test run. The Pentagon is the U.S. operating terminal for both the land line-transocean circuit and the alternate radio circuit, with a direct relay to the White House. (AP Photo)
The White House Kremlin "hot line" providing direct communication for emergency use by the Chief of Staff in Washington and Moscow, became operational August 30, 1963. Air Force Sgt. John Bretoski, left, and Army Lt. Col. Charles Fitzgerald, man the equipment in the Pentagon during a test run. The Pentagon is the U.S. operating terminal for both the land line-transocean circuit and the alternate radio circuit, with a direct relay to the White House. (AP Photo)

World History Moment: Washington-Moscow Hotline

The 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis brought the world as close to all-out nuclear war as it has ever been.

At the height of the drama, it took 12 hours for Washington D.C. and Moscow to receive, decode and translate communications. Afterwards, both the U.S. and Soviet Union agreed that the two capital cities needed real-time communication capability.

For our World History Moment, historian John Schmidt explains the creation of the “Washington-Moscow Hotline.” (Contrary to popular belief, it was not a red phone.)