[March 31, 1961] Real-world round-up for March

Here’s an end of March, real-world round-up for you before we plunge into the science fiction of April:


President Kennedy devoted a good deal of time to the civil war in Laos at his fifth press conference, March 23.  This three-cornered fight between the nationalists (propped up by the United States), the Communist Pathet Lao (backed by the Soviets and the North Vietnamese), and the neutralists has been going on since the end of last year.  The US Navy Seventh Fleet was recently dispatched to the region along with a contingent of troops.  For a while, it looked as if we were looking at another Korea.

I’m happy to report that both Kennedy and Premier Khruschev have now proposed plans for peaceful solutions to the crisis that involve the invading North Vietnamese disarming and going home.  I fervently hope that this means Southeast Asia won’t be the site of war in the 1960s.

Speaking of Kennedy and war, the President recently asked Congress for a significantly bigger defense package.  This would see the United States armed with 1200 nuclear-tipped missiles by 1965!

On the dove-ish side of the coin, Kennedy also asked for an increase in the NASA budget for development of the mighty “Saturn C-2”, which would facilitate manned flights around the Moon by 1966.

On the subject of space, NASA pilot Joe Walker took the X-15 spaceplane to a record height of 31 miles above the Earth yesterday, more than five miles higher than anyone has flown the craft before.  During a good portion of his 10-minute flight, the plane’s stubby wings and control surfaces had nothing to “bite” into, the atmosphere being so rarefied at that altitude.  For all intents and purposes, it was a flight in space, down to the unwinking white stars that filled the daylight sky. 

And he only got halfway to the rocketship’s expected maximum altitude!

Meanwhile, the Air Force failed to get into orbit the 22nd in their Discoverer series.  These probes are ostensibly for orbiting and returning biological samples, but they really test components for their Samos spy satellites.  There was supposed to be a monkey on this one, but I haven’t read any reports about it.  Perhaps the fly-boys were merciful and just stuffed the spaceship with non-perishable hardware.


Now let’s look ahead at April.  There will, of course, be the three magazines, IF, Analog, and Fantasy and Science Fiction, the monthly The Twilight Zone round-up, and perhaps a trip to the movies.  I have Marion Zimmer Bradley’s The Door Through Space on my bedside table, but it hasn’t gripped me yet.  We’ll see.

We’ll also see more of our new regular columnist, Rosemary Benton, and along those lines, I’ve got another surprise for you ’round mid-month!

S’okay?  S’alright.

6 thoughts on “[March 31, 1961] Real-world round-up for March”

  1. Thank you for the news update. Good news from space certainly: the X-15 – very stirring! – and the Discoverer in different ways.

    Vietnam chewed up the Chinese imperialists in an earlier era. I have hopes they’ll manage it today. Actually, it’s the missiles that worry me. More deadly circuitry, presumably as vulnerable to gremlins as any.

    1. The missiles won’t go off on their own.  I worry more about poor containment for the warhead radioactive material, or perhaps a bomber dropping an armed bomb by accident.

      As for Vietnam, they’ve been free since 1954.  Now the North is playing imperialist in Laos…

  2. I think you know that after the war ended, and I was discharged from the WAVES, I ended up staying in Japan for several years – I was working as a translator for the Lazy B. And while I don’t like writing letters of comment that are so serious…

    Charles de Gaulle was a hero in Europe, he truly was. I would never argue against that. But sadly, he was not a hero in Indochina, and just as sadly, neither was President Truman. A lot of very bad decisions were made, particularly regarding Viet Nam, particularly regarding Ho Chi Minh.

    Laos – and that whole region – is going to be a difficult problem for some time. We’ll be very lucky if it’s just another Korea.

    At least the X-15 news is good. How delightful! I’d love to be able to see the stars during the daytime – it sounds so impossible, and yet it happens! I understand why, but it’s still magical to me.

    Tourist flights in twenty years, perhaps?


      [I think I need an out-of-character note here…

      I’ve built a proper character for my 1961 commenter, including history and background. Like tens of thousands of other women, she served in the WAVES in World War II – it was a way she could help, and on top of that, her family was not exactly wealthy, being Norwegian farmers in Puget Sound. They weren’t poor, not at all, but… they weren’t exactly rolling in it, particularly not after the Depression.

      Unlike most, her language skills got her pulled over into signals intelligence. She was by no means a field agent – she’s no Peggy Carter, I’m not copying that template, even if I love it – but her signals work means she knows… several things, really, that she can’t talk about for another decade or more. She knows that de Gaulle pushed Truman into supporting their attempt to keep their colony, and she’s been mad at Truman for going along with that ever since. And – rightly or wrongly – she’s convinced Ho Chi Minh – who, after all, quoted Jefferson as US airplanes flew overhead in celebration after the liberation of Hanoi – could’ve been an ally. After all, he had been, and to say that Vietnam has no love for China is to put it very mildly. From her POV, a major opportunity was missed.

      But there’s so many things she can’t talk about. I spent hours last night thinking about how she’d reply, and what she could say without revealing things she’s really understands she can’t, because, well, signals intelligence all still very classified.

      And as things go from bad to worse in Vietnam over the next decade, she’ll know that Kennedy’s “Best and the Brightest” got everything, ev-er-y-thing, wrong, because they couldn’t tell the difference between a nationalist war and an ideological one. This was a big deal in fandom in the 1960s, and if this blog goes that long, it’ll be a lot fun to play that out. :D ]

      1. I’d love your insights as time goes on.  I’m just a limited viewpoint on the currents of time, and you clearly have fingers on a pulse I’m but dimly aware of.  Feel free to send me letters both private and public on this issue as it develops!

    2. Reading between the lines of the news, it seems there is a great deal of opportunism and betting on the sides least favorable to the nation, but most favorable to the superpower. 

      I am reminded of Israel, which very well could have become a USSR ally given the incredibly Marxist flavor of their economic sentiments.  It’s too bad that Soviet anti-Semitism and oppressive totalitarianism gets in the way…

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