Written by Ellis Ian Fields
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Friday, 25 February 2011

image for Cuban Missile Crisis: It Was About Socks, Papers Reveal
Kennedy feared Soviet imports

Paperes released this week reveal that one of the most dramatic moments of the Cold War was about socks.

Since 1962, when US President John F Kennedy faced down Soviet chief Nikiti Kruschev, the world has believed that the issue was about the construction of Russian missiles sites on Cuba.

But now an archive of personal diaries and correspondence of a chief White House aide of the period tell a different story.

Launceston B Grimbergen III was a senior aide in the Kennedy administration. He died in 1999, but his papers were recently handed to Smithsonian in Washington DC.

They reveal a fascinating picture of the tensions between the two superpowers over the global sock industry.

In a diary entry for October 1962, Grimbergen writes: "Rec photos from flights over C. No doubt Sovs intent on disguising sock factories as missile units."

He goes on to explain that Kennedy was appalled at the idea of cheap Soviet-made nylon socks flooding the US market from Cuba.

"JF fears the stink of millions of nylon-clad feat obnoxious."

Head of History at the University of Thames Valley East, Ken Lucid, told us; "This is fascinating stuff and gives more credence to the theory that socks have played a major but unheralded part in history.

"We now know, for example, that the Wars of the Roses were, in fact a struggle between magnates for the control of the medieval English sock industry.

"Spain got her great wealth partly by cornering the supply of socks to South American civilizations and the global conflict between England and France, which finally ended at Waterloo in 1815, was, more often than not, about the acquisition and disposal of socks.

"Probably the greatest mistake of the Second World War saw Hitler divert his Sixth Army to Stalingrad to capture the huge sock-making plants in the city."

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