October 16, 1962 - October 28, 1962
The Cuban Missile Crisis was the military confrontation, between the United States, the Soviet Union, and Cuba. The Russians call it the "Caribbean Crisis," while the Cubans call it the "October Crisis." Like the Berlin Blockade it was one of the major confrontations of the Cold War.
On October 14, 1962 U.S. reconnaissance photographs taken by an American U-2 spy plane revealed missile bases were being built in Cuba, in response to similar U.S. bases built at the Turkish-Soviet border.
In an October 22 televised address President John Kennedy announced the discovery of the installations and proclaimed that the United States would "...regard any nuclear missile launched from Cuba against any nation in the Western Hemisphere as an attack by the Soviet Union on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response..." He also placed a naval "quarantine" on Cuba to prevent further Soviet shipments of military weapons from arriving there. On October 23 all non-essential personnel were evacuated from Guantanamo Bay Naval Base. By the end of the day, 180 U.S. Navy ships were prepared for the blockade. On 10 AM on October 24 the blockade went into effect.
Castro was convinced an invasion was soon at hand and ordered all anti-aircraft weapons in Cuba to fire on any U.S. aircraft At 6:00 a.m. on October 27, the CIA reported that three of the four missile sites at San Cristobal and the two sites at Sagua la Grande appeared to be fully operational.
Around noon that day a Lockheed U-2 piloted by Rudolph Anderson was shot down by a SA-2 Guideline SAM. It was later learned that the decision to fire was made by a Soviet commander on his own authority. Later that day several F8U Crusader aircraft on low-level recon missions were fired upon, and one was hit by a 37 mm shell but managed to return to base.
After a bellicose confrontation on October 28, 1962, both U.S. President John F. Kennedy and Soviet General Secretary Nikita Khrushchev, with the United Nations Secretary-General's intercession, agreed to remove their respective nuclear missiles. At 9 a.m. a message from Khrushchev broadcast on Radio Moscow stated "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."
The Cuban Missile Crisis spurred the creation of the "red telephone," link between Moscow and Washington D.C. so as to provide a way for the leaders of the two Cold War countries to communicate directly to better solve crisis' like the one in October 1962.
Side Note #1: On 29 October 1962 Commander Charles P. Rozier, skipper of the U.S.S. Charles P. Cecil began a game of seagoing hide-and-seek that lasted until 31 October when a Russian submarine they had been pursuing was forced to the surface. Commander Rozier ran up the signal "Can we be of assistance?". Commander Rozier was previously stationed on the Little Rock as Operations Officer. Read all the story on our "Famous Crew" page
Side Note #2: On 19 March 1962 Little Rock had entered the drydock at Portsmouth (VA) Naval Shipyard for overhaul, She remained there until February 1963.
The Crew Remembers:
In his "Oral History" RADM Roger Simon (XO on USS Little Rock) recalls his days during the Cuban Missile Crisis:
" The most dangerous world event during my time was the Cuban Missile Crisis and, in a way, I had sort of a ring side seat. It was October, 1962. I had the day watch and about mid afternoon my boss came into the center and said, ”No one is going home tonight, the midnight section will still be coming in, cots are being brought in. You can call your wives and tell them you will not be home tonight, but you cannot tell them why, but they should listen to the President's speech tonight at 6PM”. As the day progressed we were told we will be invading Cuba at first light tomorrow. AT&T techs came into the center who knew their system in Cuba. Many more were in Key West with our Army and Marine units that had moved there. There was at least one carrier off the coast (John McCain was on one) and we had sealift to move our military from Key West. As the night progressed, we kept reading message traffic but it slowed after midnight. As you know we did not invade. Adelai Stevenson, our UN Ambassador, flew down to D.C. that evening to talk the President out of the invasion. On my next assignment, after leaving DCA to join a Battle Group staff, one of the staff officers had been on one of those carriers. He said they were briefed and assigned their targets before they went to bed with a call for 3 AM. The call never came."
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Other Related Links:
Wikipedia Cuban Missile Crisis History
Little Rock Chronological History
Famous Little Rock Crew