April, 1962– America tries to overthrow Fidel Castro of Cuba in the “Bay of Pigs” invasion.
July, 1962– Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev reaches a secret agreement with Fidel Castro to place Soviet nuclear missiles in Cuba to deter any future invasion attempt.
October 14, 1962– An American U–2 spy plane takes photos of Soviet nuclear missiles being assembled in Cuba, just 90 miles off the coast of Florida.
October 22, 1962– American President John F. Kennedy appears on national television announcing a military quarantine of Cuba, warning the American people of the potential global consequences. “It shall be the policy of this nation to regard any nuclear missile launched from Cuba against any nation in the Western Hemisphere as an attack by the Soviet Union on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon the Soviet Union.”
October 24, 1962– Nikita Khrushchev says the U.S. blockade is an “act of aggression” and Soviet ships bound for Cuba are ordered to proceed.
U.S. forces are placed at DEFCON 2, meaning war involving the Strategic Air Command is imminent.
October 26, 1962 – John F. Kennedy learns that work on the missile bases is proceeding without interruption and that an American U-2 spy plane has been shot down over Cuba, and its pilot, Major Rudolf Anderson, is dead.
The world totters on the brink of nuclear war between superpowers.
Americans everywhere stop in their tracks and look to the skies.
And then two of them wrote a song:
Said the night wind to the little lamb,
“Do you see what I see,
Way up in the sky, little lamb?
Do you see what I see?
A star, a star, dancing in the night
With a tail as big as a kite.
With a tail as big as a kite.”
This was the image of a nuclear missile followed by its fiery tail in the night. But it was also the image of a star poised above Bethlehem, shining its light on a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes.
Said the little lamb to the shepherd boy,
“Do you hear what I hear
Ringing through the sky, shepherd boy?
Do you hear what I hear?
A song, a song, high above the trees
With a voice as big as the sea.
With a voice as big as the sea.”
Said the shepherd boy to the mighty king,
“Do you know what I know
In your palace warm, mighty king?
Do you know what I know?
A Child, a Child shivers in the cold,
Let us bring Him silver and gold.
Let us bring Him silver and gold.”
Said the king to the people everywhere,
“Listen to what I say,
Pray for peace, people everywhere!
Listen to what I say,
The Child, the Child, sleeping in the night,
He will bring us goodness and light.
He will bring us goodness and light.”
During the darkest hours of the Cuban Missile Crisis, a French veteran of WWII living in New York, Noël Regney, wrote the lyrics and his Brooklyn wife, Gloria, wrote the music.
And for as long as they lived, neither of them could sing it all the way through without crying.
Roy and Pennie Williams