Monday, October 16, 2006

October 1962

Today marks the 44th anniversary of the start of what was to become known to historians as the Cuban Missile Crisis.

On 16 October 1962, US president John F Kennedy was told by his security officials that the Soviet Union was in the process of installing nuclear missile on Cuban soil, barely 90 miles from American territory.

The evidence had been gathered by U-2 spy planes flying over the island and taking amazingly accurate and detailed photographs like the one you see above.

Those photographs set off a chain of events that brought the US and the Soviet Union close to nuclear war.

It was quite a momentous period - and not just in Washington and Moscow and Havana, but even in Banes, the small sugar town in eastern Cuba where I was born.

In fact, for one fleeting moment during the Missile Crisis, the town became the centre of world attention.

On 27 October 1962, a U-2 piloted by US Air Force Major Rudolf Anderson was sent on a reconnaissance mission to photograph military installations in and around the Bahia de Nipe.

While flying over Banes, the plane was hit by shrapnel from Soviet-made surface to air missiles that had been fired from just outside the town by the Cuban air defence and their Russian advisers.

The shrapnel punctured Anderson’s pressure suit, he lost consciousness and was killed on impact when the plane crashed.

The world held its breath: would Kennedy retaliate? Would the US take action against the Soviets? Would the American invade Cuba and set off World War Three?

As they say, the rest is history.

I was only three at the time but my parents certainly remember those days clearly, including the uncertainty (and fear) that followed the downing of the U-2 over Banes. Right over their heads.

It's a long time ago but to them,
it seems like only yesterday.


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