[LBJ Library photo #A4256-11a by Yoichi Okamoto]

Hot Line: Even without a Cold War, the Washington-Moscow link is still up

Aug 01, 2013

by Michael K. Bohn
[published on July 31, 2013 in The Washington Post]

At 7:15 on the morning of June 5, 1967, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara reached for a handset, one connected to a secure telephone line to a military switchboard at the White House. He asked the operator to ring the Air Force sergeant on duty outside President Lyndon Johnson’s bedroom.

“Sergeant, this is Secretary McNamara, and I want to talk to the president.”

“He’s asleep, sir.”

“Hell, I know he’s asleep, but wake him.”

After a few minutes, Johnson came on the line.

“God----it, Bob, what are you calling me for at this time in the morning?”

“Mr. President, Prime Minister Kosygin’s on the Hot Line. How do you wish to respond?”

“What did you say?”

Walt Rostow, Johnson’s national security adviser, had already awakened the president that morning at 4:35 with news reports of Israeli military attacks on Egypt, Syria and Jordan. Johnson also had spoken with Secretary of State Dean Rusk, but Alexei Kosygin’s attempt to reach him was a surprise. The Hot Line had never been used before. read more