The Disneyland Khrushchev Story_ A “Propaganda Masterstroke”

Today I’m going to talk about the Nikita Khrushchev Disneyland story. It’s the story of how in 1959 the Premier of the Soviet Union, Nikita Khrushchev, visited the United States and threw a bit of a fit when he found out that he couldn’t go to Disneyland.Upon researching the topic to make my own video on it, I found that it wasn’t as cut and dry as most retellings make it out to be. In fact, one reporter, who was a part of the press junket the entire trip, considered it a “propaganda masterstroke.”

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By the time the trip had begun, the idea of a pitstop at Disneyland was already considered and subsequently ruled out for security and logistical reasons. However the idea once again resurfaced during the trip and it was while Khrushchev and his family were flying to LA that their teams on the ground were tasked with making it happen. Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge, who was Khrushchev’s tour guide for the trip, reached out to LAPD Chief William Parker to arrange the security for it. The issue was, Disneyland was in Anaheim, and so it was outside of his jurisdiction. So he reached out to the Orange County Sheriff to see if the trip was possible. The sheriff felt it would be a difficult trip to police. It was already too late in the day to clear out the park of guests, and with the crowds Disneyland attracted, there weren’t enough officers to ensure Khrushchev’s safety.

This is where the story splits. As most tell it, Parker would ultimately veto the idea and later that day when told it wasn’t happening, Khrushchev would throw his temper tantrum, which we’ll talk about in a bit. However reporter Jim Fain, who was a part of the tour’s press junket, reported that ultimately “the Orange County Sheriff offered to make available all the policemen he could spare” and that the final decision on whether or not to make the impromptu trip was left up to Soviet General Nikolai Zakharov, who was in charge of Khrushchev’s safety. It was Zakharov, alleges Fain, who made the call to veto the trip, which would mean that it was the Soviets who axed it, not the US.

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