History Corner – Samantha Smith
My husband I have been playing Twilight Struggle, a board game centered around the Cold War. One of the cards in the deck is called Yuri and Samantha, and it has the picture above on it. It got me thinking…who is she? So I decided to do a bit of research.
Samantha Smith was born June 29, 1972 in the state of Maine. When she was 10 years old, she wrote a letter to CPSU General Secretary Yuri Andropov, asking him why there was so much tension between the Soviet Union and the United States. She asked him whether or not he was going to vote to go to war with the United States. Her letter reminded him that “God made the world for us to live together in peace and not to fight.” Samantha did not receive a response from Yuri, so she wrote a letter to the Ambassador from the Soviet Union to the United States. She asked him if Yuri intended to respond to her letter and answer her questions.
On April 26, 1983, she received a response from Andropov. The letter included an invitation to visit the Soviet Union. Samantha (along with her parents) flew to Moscow and spent two weeks as Yuri’s guest. When she returned, she was treated as a celebrity. She had become very popular in the United States, not only because of her original letter, but because she had actually received a personal response. In December 1983, she continued her role as “America’s Youngest Ambassador” and went to Japan. In Japan, she met Prime Minister Yasuhiro Nakasone and attended the Children’s International Symposium in Kobe.
Samantha wrote book titled Journey to the Soviet Union, which was published in 1985. (Apparently, copies of this book are scarce. When I checked Amazon, it was over $200 in hardback.)
Samantha hosted a children’s special for Disney Channel titled “Samantha Smith Goes to Washington…Campsign ’84.” On her political show, Samantha interviewed candidates for the 1984 election, including George McGovern and Jesse Jackson. She also guest starred on Charles in Charge that same year. In 1985, she co-starred in a television series called Lime Street with Robert Wagner. She seemed to have everything to live for.
However, on August 25, 1985, Samantha and her father were flying home after filming a segment for Lime Street. They were aboard Bar Harbor Airlines Flight 1808. While landing, the plane struck some trees about 4,000 feet short of the runway and crashed. All six passengers and two crewmen aboard were killed.
Samantha’s funeral was attended by over 1,000 people. Her mother received personal messages of condolence from Mikhail Gorbachev and President Ronald Reagan. The Soviet Union issued a commemorative stamp in Samantha’s likeness.
Have you ever heard of Samantha Smith? I doubt I would have known who she is without playing Twilight Struggle with my husband. I hope you learned something new today!