On Feb. 3, 1959, Soviet border guards stopped a convoy of four U.S. Army trucks headed from West Berlin, on a routine trip from the free section of the divided German capital, through communist territory to East Germany. After the Americans refused an inspection, the Soviets seized the trucks, along with five American personnel, and held them captive overnight. New York Times correspondent Arthur J. Olsen wrote this kidnapping "appeared to be a planned test" of the U.S. ability to support a garrison in West Berlin [source: Olsen].
It took a high-level official protest from the U.S. embassy in Moscow to get the Soviets to finally release the prisoners and let their trucks through the checkpoint more than two days later [source: Olsen 2].
On a different day, the Soviet provocation might have dominated the newspapers. But a plane carrying Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson also took off from Mason City, Iowa, and crashed, killing the rock 'n' roll stars and their pilot, Roger Peterson. Feb. 3 became known as "The Day the Music Died," not a day when Cold War tensions simmered [source: Mead].