AUBURN, Maine -- Samantha Smith was called the country's youngest ambassador after she visited the Soviet Union at the invitation of President Yuri Andropov on a child's crusade for peace.
Samantha, of Manchester, Maine, gained celebrity status in 1983 when at the age of 11, she wrote Andropov of her concerns about the possibility of nuclear war between the superpowers. Andropov replied by inviting Smith to meet with him in Moscow.
'From his letter, to me he's just like a grandfather or an uncle,' Smith once said of the late Soviet leader.
Smith's letter and trip made her an international celebrity and she appeared on television talk shows such as 'The Tonight Show' with Johnny Carson. She recently launched an acting career and was to star with Robert Wagner in a television sitcom this fall.
A year after her trip, Smith was working on a 128-page book about her experiences behind the Iron Curtain. It was to be titled: 'Samantha Smith: My Trip to the Soviet Union.'
The one-page letter Andropov wrote assured Samantha that the Soviets were doing everything possible to avoid a nuclear war, Smith said at the time.
'Today, we want very much to live in peace, to trade and to cooperate with all our neighbbors on the globe ... and certainly with such a great country as the United States of America,' Andropov wrote.
During Smith's two-week visit to the Soviet Union, she never got a chance to meet with Andropov, who was believed ill at the time. She had planned to ask him to promise her he would never start a nuclear war.
The Kremlin footed the bill for the July 1983 trip for Smith and her parents, including $10,000 for the family's first-class plane tickets.
Upon arrival in Moscow, Smith told a group of Soviet children: 'The Americans are not going to start a war, either. So why are we still making all these bombs and pointing them at each other?'
Her mother, Jane Smith, called her 'a good example of American youth,' and said at the time of the trip it 'will be good for Russians to get to know her.'
At the time of the Moscow trip, her father, Arthur Smith, was an English instructor at the University of Maine.
The Smiths stuffed suitcases full of mementos from Maine -- tote bags, college T-shirts, pennants -- and gave them as presents to the Soviets.
Smith also brought hundreds of letters from Russian emigrees living in the United States who were seeking exit visas for their relatives and gave them to Russian authorities. No visas were issued as a result of those letters.
During her visit, she participated in many activities with Russian children, including going to carnivals, the circus, the Bolshoi ballet, beaches and attending classes.
She also spent time at the Artek, a Soviet Young Pioneer youth camp in the Crimea.
She was followed throughout the country by a press corp of more than 50 journalists, and her trip received top play on all the major networks.
Smith made a second trip abroad in the name of peace during the 1984 showing of the controversial television film 'The Day After,' which depicted the state of the world after a nuclear holocaust.
'I hope it made heads of state think that it would be better not to have bombs -- because there might be a mistake,' she said after the movie aired while visiting the Hiroshima nuclear bomb site in Japan.