Years before the world learned of Johnny Cash’s musical talents, the U.S. Air Force helped him develop other abilities. The result led to an unexpected rendezvous with a dramatic moment in history.
Having just turned 18, and with the United States suddenly thrust into the Korean War, Johnny Cash chose to enlist in the U.S. Air Force on July 7, 1950. He did his basic training at Lackland Air Force Base and technical training at Brooks Air Force Base, both in San Antonio, Texas.
Cash’s superiors were quick to appreciate his skills with Morse Code. To capitalize on these skills, Cash was assigned to the 12th Radio Squadron Mobile of the U.S. Air Force Security Service at Landsberg, West Germany.
While there, Cash rose to the rank of Staff Sergeant. His assignment was to intercept and decode Soviet military communications. It wasn’t long before he was project leader, responsible for some of the most critical communications.
While stationed at Landsberg, he saw the film Inside The Walls of Folsom Prison. This inspired him to write “Folsom Prison Blues,” which would eventually become a #1 ranked song on the country music charts. It was also while at Landberg that he formed his first band, The Landsberg Barbarians.
Aside from the musical development of this future super star, Landsberg gave Cash an opportunity to achieve something else of historical significance.
Cash was on duty on March 5th, 1953, when he intercepted a very important communique from the Soviets. At the time, Joseph Stalin, Soviet Premier Leader was in a quite poor health condition, and as the first man of the Soviet empire, his health status was very important to the U.S intelligence community. Cash determined that the intercepted message addresses vital details about the Premier’s health and gave it his utmost attention. That is how Johnny Cash became the first American to learn of the death of Joseph Stalin.