The Hotline


Shortly after the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Kennedy White House installed a teletype hotline to be used as a direct link between the heads of Washington and Moscow. It was created on 20 June 1963, and announced to the public on 30 August of that same year.

This device was used for the first time during the 6 Day War of 1967, when Lyndon B. Johnson communicated with Soviet Premier Alexsei Kosygin. Leaders would type their messages in their native languages, and the received communications were then translated.


No, one of these was never used as part of the Kremlin hotline. This one was from the Carter era, probably part of the Defense Red Switch Network.

The teletype system was which was replaced by facsimile units in 1988. Since 2008 the Moscow–Washington hotline has been a secure computer link over which messages are exchanged by email.

The Old Wolf has spoken, and the NSA is listening.

7 responses to “The Hotline

  1. My dad had a red phone like that when we lived in Germany. It was in the den next to the regular phone. When we were moving in, I picked it up, curious to see what would happen. Somebody answered, “Hello.” I got scared and hung up. I don’t remember what happened then!

      • Nope, 1970. I set wheels in motion waaaaaay in advance. 😉 Seriously, I don’t know why, but both the (American) Bad Vilbel houses we lived in when Dad was a one-star general had these red hotline phones.

      • “Beeg trobble wiss Moose and Squeerell!”

        When we lived in Germany in the late ’60s, we were supposed to report cars with license plates of a certain type—we were told that they were Russian plates. I can’t imagine that Russian operatives would have done anything as transparent as driving around West Germany in their Russian-plated cars, but it kept the grown-ups on their toes.

  2. That Red Line phone would work real well without a handset cord… 😉

    PhantomDiver, you got a Switchboard Operator at the nearby military base, and I’ll betcha if you’d have said “Um, Hello?” you would have been answered by name. There would have been a tag over the jack for your line on the switchboard like “General X, Mrs X, and PhantomDiver X” and they would have taken a guess. One son, one daughter max would have made it easier.

    And if you ever had a real household emergency, you would have been better off grabbing the red line.

    The Russian Operatives would have gotten local license plates if they were trying to be undercover, but if they were positioning undercover assets immediately prior to a real invasion they likely wouldn’t bother. The Russians could explain it away as a surge of “Vacationers” into West Germany, and that would be something worth noticing.

    The ITT Telex unit above would have been at the Russian end, but I’ll almost guarantee they would have used a Western Electric Teletype for the White House and Pentagon end. Probably the Model 28, that was the heavy duty Military model, the Model 33 was out but that was the newer mostly plastic one…

  3. Pingback: Hypocrisy unchained. | Playing in the World Game

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