The Cold War — during which my father served in the Foreign Service — had its share of characters, and none more colorful than Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev. He (and his wife and children!) traveled to the United States in a “goodwill” tour in the fall of 1959. He was the first Soviet premier to vist our country.
Khrushchev said he had been “curious to have a look at America” when he met with a group of visiting American governors in July. In September, he traveled to Washington, DC, New York, California, Iowa, and Pennsylvania before returning to meet with President Eisenhower at Camp David. Both countries hoped that the visit would help thaw Cold War tensions.
Earlier in 1959, Khrushchev’s path crossed with Eisenhower’s Vice President, Richard Nixon, who traveled to Moscow for the opening of the American National Exhibition of scientific and technological experiments. This first-time color footage of some of ensuing debate over the merits of American capitalism and Soviet communism reflects a much lighter tenor to the countries’ relationship.
Two years later, Nixon would have lost his presidential bid, and Khrushchev would be meeting with a new president, John F. Kennedy, in Vienna. My father, who was on his way to serve as Press Attaché at the American Embassy in Rome, got the nod to work the press tent at the Vienna Summit, coordinating America’s message to the globe about this important juncture in the Cold War. Would the thaw that Einsenhower hoped for continue?
My mother, sister, and I accompanied my father to Vienna from our then-home in Bologna. All I remember is standing on a large, tree-covered boulevard and looking up a two men on a balcony. One of them was Kennedy. Alas, I cannot find that stock footage. Perhaps I dreamed it up.
It’s staying in the book (WHEN THE DICTATOR FLEW OVER OUR HOUSE–AN AMERICAN EMBASSY FAMILY MEMOIR) . Such are memoirs.