The European Missile Crisis | Sojourners

The European Missile Crisis


Though only two years old, the story is already a classic. It took place in Bonn, West Germany, shortly before the huge march on October 10, 1981, the first of the series of mass demonstrations against the new missiles in Europe in the "hot autumn" of 1981. The two West German church-related peace organizations responsible for the demonstration held a press conference to announce the program.

When it was announced in the overcrowded pressroom that one of the main speakers would be a representative of the American peace movement, a reporter jumped up and shouted: "Nonsense! There is no such thing as an American peace movement!"

The comment, from John Vinocur, the influential New York Times correspondent in West Germany, embarrassed his colleagues. And it took a while to calm Vinocur down while Randall Forsberg, one of the leaders of the nuclear freeze campaign, addressed the demonstration as the U.S. representative.

This story provides just one example of how the peace movements in Western Europe and the United States had linked up with each other long before most politicians and the media had any idea what was happening. We had been attending each other's meetings since the summer of 1981. In November, 1981, a large delegation of U.S. peace groups attended the World Council of Churches (WCC) hearing on nuclear weapons in Amsterdam, and there at a joint press conference we announced our further cooperation. Most of the Americans present had just participated in the huge march of 400,000 people in Amsterdam on November 21.

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