Posted to OGR on 10/17/2010
This week marks the 48th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis during the cold war. Back in 1962 I was in high school in Jacksonville Florida, less than 750 miles from Cuba, well within the range of the medium and intermediate-range ballistic nuclear missiles that the Soviets sent there. On October 14, 1962, a United States U-2 photoreconnaissance plane captured photographic proof of Soviet missile bases under construction in Cuba. The US considered attacking Cuba via air and sea and settled on a military quarantine of Cuba. On October 16th, the U.S. announced that it would not permit offensive weapons to be delivered to Cuba and demanded that the Soviets dismantle the missile bases already under construction or completed in Cuba and remove all offensive weapons. For the next 13 days the US and the Soviet Union were on the brink of war. The Cuban Missile Crisis is generally regarded as the moment in which the Cold War came closest to turning into a nuclear conflict.
My home was only about 4 miles as the crow flies from the runways at Mainside Naval Air Station and seven miles from Cecil Field, the largest naval fighter base on the east coast. We were only about 20 miles from Mayport Naval Air Station, the home to several aircraft carriers and their battle groups. It was not lost on me that if any missiles were launched, Jacksonville and Tampa, the home of McDill Airforce Base would be primary targets. Our awareness of the Cuban situation was heightened by the recall of many of my friend’s fathers back into active service by the Navy after Fidel Castro declared that Cuba was a Communist Country. That year, my high school hosed about 25 Cuban boys who had fled Cuba since 1959. They filled our heads with tales of hardships under Castro. On the evening of October 22, 1962, we hung on every word of President Kennedy’s address to the nation. The skies overhead were filled with Navy P2 Neptunes from VP-18 and other patrol squadrons who were flying out to intercept the Soviet freighters inbound to Cuba. The comforting chatter in the neighborhood about happenings at the naval bases suddenly stopped. The public rhetoric between the US and the Soviets continued to escalate. After much deliberation with the Soviet Union, Kennedy secretly agreed to remove all missiles set in southern Italy and in Turkey which was on the border of the Soviet Union, in exchange for Khrushchev removing all missiles in Cuba. At 9:00 a.m. EDT, on Monday, October 29, a message from Khrushchev was broadcast on Radio Moscow. Khrushchev stated that, "the Soviet government, in addition to previously issued instructions on the cessation of further work at the building sites for the weapons, has issued a new order on the dismantling of the weapons which you describe as 'offensive' and their crating and return to the Soviet Union." I can remember like it was yesterday the cheers and tears of relief on everyone’s face when the announcement was read over the public address system at school that the crisis was over. No one thought much about school work that day. We were all thinking about what almost happened. Oh MY!
Copyright 2010 Rick Wrigley