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JFK’s letter promising Santa safe during Cold War goes on display

An eight-year-old girl was concerned that the Russians would kill Santa if they tested a nuclear bomb at the North Pole.

A copy of President John F Kennedy’s 1961 letter reassuring an eight-year-old Michigan girl, who was concerned that Santa would be killed if Russia tested a nuclear bomb at the North Pole, is being featured in December 2019 at the JFK Presidential Library and Museum in Boston (Ron Edmonds/AP)
A copy of President John F Kennedy’s 1961 letter reassuring an eight-year-old Michigan girl, who was concerned that Santa would be killed if Russia tested a nuclear bomb at the North Pole, is being featured in December 2019 at the JFK Presidential Library and Museum in Boston (Ron Edmonds/AP)

By Philip Marcelo, Associated Press

Former US President John F Kennedy’s letter reassuring a young girl that Santa was safe during the Cold War is being featured this month in Boston.

The JFK Presidential Library and Museum is displaying a copy of the letter along with other Christmas-themed artefacts in its lobby.

Mr Kennedy’s 1961 letter was addressed to an eight-year-old girl, who wrote to the president about her concerns that the Russians would kill Santa if they tested a nuclear bomb at the North Pole.

Mr Kennedy said Santa had told him recently that he was fine and was planning to deliver presents at Christmas as usual.

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 the then president, a young Michigan girl was very concerned about the North Pole’s most famous resident.

“Please stop the Russians from bombing the North Pole,” Michelle Rochon, of Marine City, pleaded, according to news reports at the time. “Because they will kill Santa Claus.”

You must not worry about Santa Claus. I talked with him yesterday and he is fine. He will be making his rounds again this Christmas President John F Kennedy in a letter to Michelle Rochon

Mr Kennedy’s brief, but reassuring response to the youngster is part of a trove of Christmas-themed archival materials being featured this month at the John F Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston.

“You must not worry about Santa Claus,” the president wrote on October 28 1961. “I talked with him yesterday and he is fine. He will be making his rounds again this Christmas.”

Mr Kennedy also told Michelle 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 the family’s Christmas cards are among the other keepsakes being highlighted in a seasonal display in the library’s lobby.

Michelle, whose surname is now Phillips, told The Boston Globe in 2014 that she never thought the letter would resonate the way it did back then, when it turned her into something of a national sensation.

“I was just worried about Santa Claus,” she told the newspaper.

The Soviets, meanwhile, made good on their threat to bomb the North Pole.

Two days after Mr Kennedy wrote his letter, they dropped the “King of Bombs”, as it was dubbed in Russian.

Reportedly 1,570 times more powerful than the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined, it shattered windows as far away as Norway and Finland.

It is still considered the most powerful man-made explosive ever detonated.

Mr Kennedy and other world leaders were quick to denounce the bomb test, The Washington Post reported.

None of the official statements, however, addressed Santa’s fate.

PA

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