Cold War Concern for Santa Included in JFK Exhibit

Russian bombing threat worried president and an 8-year-old girl
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 25, 2019 9:31 AM CST
Cold War Concern for Santa Included in JFK Exhibit
A portrait of former President John F. Kennedy, framed by Christmas decorations, hangs in the White House in 2006.   (AP Photo/Ron Edmonds, File)

In the throes of the Cold War, the Soviet Union was planning to test a massive nuclear bomb in the Arctic Circle. But in a letter to then-President John F. Kennedy, a young Michigan girl was most concerned about the North Pole's most famous resident. "Please stop the Russians from bombing the North Pole," 8-year-old Michelle Rochon, of Marine City, pleaded, according to news reports at the time. "Because they will kill Santa Claus." Kennedy's brief but reassuring response to Rochon is part of a trove of holiday-themed archival materials being featured this month at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston, the AP reports. "You must not worry about Santa Claus," the president wrote on Oct. 28, 1961. "I talked with him yesterday and he is fine. He will be making his rounds again this Christmas."

Kennedy told Rochon that he shared her concern about the Soviet Union’s test, "not only for the North Pole but for countries throughout the world; not only for Santa Claus but for people throughout the world." Photos of the Kennedys celebrating Christmas in the White House and copies of family Christmas cards also are highlighted in a seasonal display in the library's lobby. Rochon, whose last name is now Phillips, told the Boston Globe in 2014 that she never thought the letters would resonate the way they did. "I was just worried about Santa Claus," she told the Globe. The Soviets made good on their threat to bomb the North Pole two days later. Reportedly 1,570 times more powerful than the ones dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined, the bomb shattered windows as far away as Norway and Finland. It's still considered the most powerful man-made explosive ever detonated. (Rochon said the letter helped.)

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