New York Times: The Mormon Tabernacle Choir at Mt. Rushmore in 1962

AT 3:30 in the morning on July 23, 1962, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir gathered at the airport here for a flight to a military base in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Preparations for a now nearly forgotten salvo of the cold war, called Operation Telstar, were under way.

It was time to sing.

The 360-member choir, the lyrical voice of Mormonism since pioneer days, was on a mission with multiple levels, historians and surviving singers say. They were to be the featured musical anchor later that day for the first international satellite television program — a blast of American culture and technological prowess aimed at Europe, using a wobbly, 170-pound satellite that had been launched into orbit that month.

Small stories and large ones were interwoven — in the off-camera dreams and fears of the singers and organizers and in the on-camera references to the Kremlin and the arms race. A brash, ambitious television station manager from Rapid City, S.D., named William F. Turner, who happened to know some Mormons — and some Kennedys in the White House — played a part. Darleen Merrihew, then a 32-year-old alto, was three months pregnant with her fourth child.

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