Header image  
CUBAN MISSILE CRISIS  
line decor
  
line decor

OPERATIONS OVER CUBA -- The Cuban Missile Crisis


Updated March 20, 2014
Look for for most recent additions

commendation

Navy Unit Commendation Ribbon
Awarded to VFP-62 by President John F. Kennedy Nov. 29, 1962


    Contributions to this page are welcome.


    Email the Webmaster

    Click this link - Email VFP-62 Webmaster to send a comment, correction, or contribution to this page.

Click to enlarge

Click on photo to enlarge
(1/6/14) Capt. William B. Ecker & Lt. Bruce Wilhelmy's flight over Cuban missile base Oct. 23, 1962
Illustration & Copyright by Mads Bangsų (Denmark)
Prints available via: Aviation Graphic
To see more of Mads' aviation art, CLICK: Mads Bangsų Aviation Art
--Email him at: Mads Bangsų email



Click to enlarge

"The Speed of Heat"
Painting & Copyright by David B. Mueller
Commissioned by Lawrence Plasek

    After reading Blue Moon Over Cuba, Lawrence Plasek, an aviation enthusiast, was inspired to add to his collection of historical aircraft paintings and commissioned Dave Mueller to paint the scene above. (Click to see: Story Behind the Painting) Lawrence then sought technical consultation from VFP-62 pilot Lt. Cdr. Tad Riley and Ken Jack on a two-month endeavor to get the details as historically accurate as is possible. Such details of getting the Bureau Number of the lead aircraft from Riley's logbook leading to the correct side number (925); getting the positions of the VMCJ-2 RF-8A wingman (Captain Fred Carolan) and the pursuing Soviet MiG-21 and the rooster-tail of dust created by the supersonic low-level jets over a Cuban field. Dave Mueller researched the RF-8A's panels and camera bay locations and worked with Riley to get the flight control structures correct.

    The artist will make available 62 (a nod towards VFP-62) signed and numbered Limited Edition prints on Heavy Matte paper (12"x 24", with the title and description of the scene, without the copyright watermark). For more information on obtaining a print: CLICK THIS LINK - Email Dave Mueller (dave@dbmueller.com) (All transactions will be with the artist and not vfp62.com or Ken Jack.)

    Blue Moon over Cuba:
    Aerial Reconnaissance during the Cuban Missile Crisis

    by
    Capt. William B. Ecker, USN (Ret.)
    and
    Kenneth V. Jack


    Full book jacket (click above image to enlarge--use browser "back arrow" to return)


    The Inside Story of VFP-62 & Cuban Missile Crisis
    Click here to see: Book Cover Artwork





    OCTOBER 2012 WAS THE 50TH ANNIVERSARY
    OF THE CUBAN MISSILE CRISIS
    National Archives photo: Griff Montgomery

    Books are available at a discounted price on:

    amazon.com/books

    Click here to order: Blue Moon over Cuba ...


      Amazon Kindle and other e-books NOW AVAILABLE

      Product Details
      File Size: 4806 KB
      Print Length: 320 pages
      Publisher: Osprey Publishing (April 23, 2013)
      Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
      Language: English
      ASIN: B00BABSWLW

      Amazon Best Sellers Rank: [Sample taken on 3/15-16/2014**]
      Out of Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store and Books

      • #1 in Books > History > Military > Aviation
      • #1 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > History > Military > Aviation
      • #1 in Books > History > Military > Naval
      • #1 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > History > Military > Naval
      • #1 in Books > History > Modern (16th-21st Centuries) > 20th Century
      • #1 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > History > World > 20th Century
      • #1 in Books > History > Military Science
      • #2 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > History > Military Science
      • #1 in Books > Engineering & Transportation > Engineering
      • #1 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > History > Americas > United States > Military History
      • **On March 15, Amazon.com and Barnes& Noble had a one-day price reduction on the ebook version. The following day, the price was returned to its normal price. During the following week, Blue Moon Over Cuba maintained high sales in several of the above ebook categories.

    Also available at:

    • Barnes & Noble stores & online
    • Books-A-Million
    • Waterstones.com
    • Thousands of independent book stores worldwide
    • Osprey.com



    Introduction

    About 25 years ago, Capt. William B. Ecker, CO VFP-62 during the Cuban Missile Crisis, wrote a memoir, recording the events of low-level photo recon missions that gave President Kennedy the evidence he needed to evaluate the threat of Soviet nuclear missiles secretly being placed in Cuba. The high-resolution VFP-62 photography directly contributed to our national security. The memoir was never published and has been expanded to cover all of the military intelligence assets and history of the Cold War's most serious confrontation that could have led to general nuclear war.

    Before Capt. Ecker's death in November 2009, he asked me to co-author a revision of his original manuscript to include more of the squadron and its contribution to world peace in October 1962. I have obtained first-hand accounts from squadron members, researched declassified documents, and updated the contents to reveal what we now know about the crisis.
    ---Ken Jack

    To learn more, click on the links below

      On the fiftieth anniversary, new documentary videos that preview the Cuban Missile Crisis &
      Blue Moon Over Cuba

    Although I've never flown a plane in my life, I'm a great fan of those guys who have,
    in combat and recon I never tire of their stories of "wearing"
    a jet fighter and high speed recon. You guys rock.

    Whether the war was hot or cold you hung it out for us and it's never too late to say, Thank You.
    Just a "swabby" on the deck back in '69-'71.
    ---Julian Boone (Quincy IL)

      Listen to MP3 Podcasts of Ken Jack & Capt. Jim Curry discussing "Blue Moon Over Cuba" and VFP-62's role in the crisis


      [Webmaster's Note: John Tintera, Osprey's U.S. Vice-President of Marketing Interviews Ken Jack & Capt. Jim Curry. These files have been recovered (originally lost on an external server). Now they are local to vfp62.com and summaries of their content have been added below. They are not only promotions for the book but have some unusual insights regarding our squadron.]


      • Updated (9/24/13): Introduction Podcast #1 Ken explains how the book was written from Capt. Ecker's memoir; how vfp62.com has been a resource for Cuban Missile Crisis documentaries. Interview #1 with Ken Jack File size: 5.4 MB. MP3 compatible software needed. Turn speakers on.

      • Updated (9/24/13): Podcast #2 Capt. Jim Curry's perspective of flying the RF-8A; summary of Jim's Navy career after VFP-62; Jim explains technical details of the photographic technology in the RF-8A; Jim explains what participation in the blockade aboard the USS Enterprise was like. Interview with Capt. Jim Curry File size: 10.4 MB

      • Updated (9/24/13): Podcast #3 Ken Jack describes VFP-62's culture and role in the Cuban crisis Ken gives more detail about the photographic technology in the RF-8A; He describes the leadership and opportunities in VFP-62 for a young sailor; Descriptions of what it was like working around the Crusader; descriptions of detachments sent to carriers; Ken describes reactions to Blue Moon's publication. File Size 14.5 MB.

      Articles & Events Commemorating the 50th Anniversary

      • (11/28/12) The Cold War Museum and George Mason University
        Cuban Missile Crisis 50th Anniversary Conference


        • YouTube video (approx. 1hr 17 min long): Introductory Panel Discussion

          Sergei Khrushchev, son of Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, U-2 pilot Colonel Buddy Brown (USAF, Ret) and VFP-62 F8U-1P Crusader pilot Lt. Commander Tad Riley (USN, Ret) who overflew Cuban SA-2 missile sites during the crisis will discuss their mission objectives and recollections. Photographic interpreter, Dino Brugioni, author of "Eyeball to Eyeball", who briefed President Kennedy on the photos taken over Cuba, will provide a dramatic first hand account of the behind the scene activities of the Kennedy administration during those tense thirteen days in October 1962.

        • YouTub video (approx. 1hr 17 min long):Panel Discussion #2

          Sergei Khrushchev, son of Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev and author of "Nikita Khrushchev and the creation of a superpower" will provide the keynote address. Martin J. Sherwin, Pulitzer Prize winning author on Robert J. Oppenheimer and GMU History Professor, Michael Dobbs, Washington Post Reporter and author of "One Minute to Midnight," and Svetlana Savranskaya, editor of "The Soviet Cuban Missile Crisis" and National Security Archive's Director for Russian Archives and Institutes will conduct a roundtable discussion following Khrushchev's remarks.

      • EXTERNAL Article (11/1/12: Smithsonian Air & Space Museum Receives Capt. Ecker's Flight Suit Flight suit worn on first mission over Cuba fifty years ago.

      • (11/1/12) Click to see photo of: Capt. Ecker's flight suit _dedicated to the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum, Washington, D.C. Oct. 23, 2012. Note: all patches and identification has been removed. A Geneva Convention card was found in the pocket. Presented by his son, David.

      • (11/2/12) EXTERNAL article (another version & photo) Washington Examiner David Ecker presents his Dad's flight suit to the Smithsonian.

      • (11/1/12) EXTERNAL Article---U.S. Naval Institute: _"The Forgotten Missiles of the Cuban Missile Crisis" ---Oct. 22, 2012--by, Ken Jack

      • (9/21/12) EXTERNAL Smithsonian Article: The Photographs that prevented World War III ..Michael Dobbs writes about low-level photographs.


      • (9/21/12) Interview with Gen. John Hudson USMC (ret): VMCJ-2 pilot's Memories of Flying over Cuba ..Smithsonian Air & Space online

    After you have read Blue Moon Over Cuba
    EMAIL YOUR REVIEW to: Ken Jack

  • Updated(3/20/14) CLICK TO SEE: Blue Moon Reader's Comments ...Add your comments on the book via the link above or "Email to Webmaster" link this page.



  • Photo composition by Larry Plourde,
    former VFP-62 photomate second class


    Thank You, to all who made "Blue Moon Over Cuba" possible.

Click to enlarge

Painting by the movie, "Thirteen Days", storyboard artist. It depicts a couple of VFP-62 photo Crusaders leaving Cuba, low over the water & a Cuban fishing boat. Contributed by Dave Johnson, former F8 pilot, a resource for the film, and webmaster of Gunfighter's Site


In short, we photo-beanies were most appreciative of the fighter guys who were there to cover us in spades...What a wonderful thought it was to know that they were waiting for us at our exit from the beach. And when we did, they would radio to say that our tails were clear. -Capt. Ed. Feeks

    Overview

    During the Cuban Missile Crisis, the United States first learned that Russia was moving nuclear tipped missiles to Cuba by the U2 photo reconaissance plane. The U2 flew at very high altitudes and made the first discovery of the missiles. However, there was a need for closer to the ground photographs to determine with more detail the nature of this threat. This required the supersonic RF-8's capabilities.

    VFP-62 flew missions over Cuba and provided the photographic evidence President Kennedy needed to confront and evenutally eliminate the threat. VFP-62 RF-8s also flew photo missions over Russian ships coming towards Cuba to determine the nature of their cargo. When Russia decided to pull out the missiles, RF-8s followed the ships back to Russia. The RF-8s flew low and fast and none were shot down.

    Crusader overflights of Cuba began on 23 October 1962, under the code name "Blue Moon". Flights of RF-8As from Navy reconnaissance squadron VFP-62, operating in several pairs of aircraft with each pair assigned a different target, left Naval Air Station (NAS) Key West twice each day, to streak in over Cuba at low level, then return to NAS Jacksonville, where the film was offloaded and developed, to be rushed north to the Pentagon. Four Marine pilots were temporarily assigned to VFP-62 for the missions.[See VMCJ-2 story below]



    Pilots & Officers holding DFCs & NAS Boca Chica, Key West
    (L-R):W. Taylor, J. DeChant, W. Ecker, R. Chance?, R. Koch, J. Kauflin, W. Kortge, XO Couthard?, Marine?
    Photo: Capt. Wm Ecker

    VFP-62 pilots received the Distinguished Flying Cross

  • (3/15/13) Click to see: DFCs for Six VFP-62 Pilots Who Flew the First Cuban Missions (Oct. 23, 1962) (L-R)Lt Cdr J. Kauflin, Lt Cdr Tad Riley, Cdr. Ecker, Lt G. Coffee, Lt C. Wilhelmy,Lt j.g. J. Hewitt

  • The following pilots received their DFCs on Nov. 29, 1962

    • LCDR. A. R. Day
    • LCDR. W. N. Kelt
    • LCDR. E. M. Feeks
    • LT. W. L. Taylor
    • LT. R. W. Chance
    • LTJG. T. V. Hallcom
    • Four Marine pilots from VMCJ-2 received the Distinguished Flying Cross (see below):

I served [in VFP-62] from 9-11-61 thru 10-02-62.
I think I was last person to be discharged
before the Cuban missile crisis froze all discharges.
---Bruce T McDade AE3

    ...the Cuban Missile Crisis was no crisis for VFP-62, because we could do anything asked of us...It was truly an exciting time.


    "We did not have much build-up time...[for] The Cuban missile crisis; We had 29 aircraft, 7 Detachments, using 20 of them, and 2 not flyable (cannibalized). We only had 2 or 3 with the new 5 inch format Chicago Aerial Cameras installed, that worked. The mission called for 8 camera ready Birds, and we had 7. I had never seen so many FLASH messages [wartime priority], and near instant supply response.

    We got the word late Monday, and the first mission was set for the following Sunday at 8AM, for 8 camera ready birds to take off from Key West. It took a minor miracle but we did it.

    There is a whole lot more to this story that most folks don?t know. Sunny Jim Curry was a J.O. not yet assigned to a detachment and he flew test hops day and night, checking the latest tweek on camera systems. We had to ensure that everything would work at high speed low level (500 ft,550-600 knots). We didn?t usually operate that way. It was truly an exciting time."

    Cdr. John DeChant, USN Ret and Squadron Maintenance Officer during the Cuban Missile Crisis



    VFP-62 Operations Pictures During
    Cuban Missile Crisis

  • Click this link to see: VFP-62 Cuban Missile Crisis Operations Newsletter Official VFP-62 Release---MULTIPLE PAGES

  • VFP-62 Key West "Rotten Cotton Ball" Detachment Ground Crew
    Click on photo to enlarge

    Presenting the Photo Evidence at the UN (October 25, 1962)
    Photo Contributed by Larry Plourde PH2

  • (2/27/13) Click this link to see Cuban Missile Crisis Photos New photos showing low-level photographs and Hawk missile air defense in Key West Florida--Contributed by Larry Plourde, PH2

  • VFP-62 Low-Level Aerial Reconnaissance Photos

    [Webmaster's Note: These photos were presented at the Smithsonian Seminar held July 10, 2008, where Michael Dobb's presented his book "One Minute to Midnight". A panel included Mr. Brugioni, and Capt. Jim Curry VFP-62 pilot. Mr Brugioni was a Senior Official at the National Photographic Interpretation Center during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Courtesy Dino Brugioni and Contributed by Jim Curry]
  • Adobe (.pdf format) U2 photo that started the crisisUse browser "back arrow" to return to this page.

  • Adobe (.pdf format) VFP-62 photo - fabulous detail Use browser "back arrow" to return to this page.

  • Adobe (.pdf format) VFP-62 photo Use browser "back arrow" to return to this page.

  • Adobe (.pdf format) VFP-62 photo - Smile you're on VFP-62 camera! Use browser "back arrow" to return to this page.

  • Adobe (.pdf format) VFP-62 photo Use browser "back arrow" to return to this page.

  • Adobe (.pdf format) VFP-62 photo - shows VFP-62's superior capabilities Use browser "back arrow" to return to this page.

  • Adobe (.pdf format) VFP-62 photo - JFK presenting Unit Commendation to squadron Use browser "back arrow" to return to this page.
  • Click to enlarge Click to enlarge Click to enlarge Click to enlarge

    Click on photos to enlarge. Note: photo can enlarge further in new window.

    Credits: Dino Brugioni, senior official at the CIA National Photographic Interpretation Center, David and William Ecker

    [Webmaster's Note: These photos are part of an exhibit show case, by the RF-8A Crusader, restored at Battleship Park, Mobile AL. The exhibit case contains memorabilia, donated by VFP-62 squadron members, to inform the public on the role that VFP-62 and the RF-8A played in the Cuban Missile Crisis. Our thanks to Owen Miller, Battleship Park, for scanning these photos for our site.]

    Another Great Book on Cuban Missile Crisis
    Including VFP-62 Missions & Photos

    "One Minute to Midnight"
    by Michael Dobbs

  • Michael Dobbs is the first Cuban missile crisis researcher to make use of the raw intelligence film shot by U.S. Navy Crusader jets over Cuba. Dobbs uses the film to pinpoint the location of Soviet nuclear bunkers in Cuba and to recreate several Blue Moon missions over the missile sites.

    The book, "One Minute to Midnight" also includes a detailed account plus photographs of the missions of Commander William Ecker and Lieutenant Gerald Coffee. Coffee was commended by the Navy for diverting from his planned flight route on October 25, 1962 to take the first photographs of nuclear-capable Soviet FROG missiles. As a result of Coffee's photographs, the Pentagon revised its entire invasion plan for Cuba.

    EXTERNAL LINK: Here is a link to purchase the book: One Minute to Midnight from Amazon.com

    Click for : Book Reviews on "One Minute to Midnight"

  • Click Photo to Enlarge. L-R CDR William Ecker Marine Capt John Hudson Click photo to enlarge. RF8 over Cuba Click photo to enlarge. L-R LT Jerry Coffee, Rear Admiral John Carson, LTjg Art Day
    Click photos to enlarge. L-R: Photo #1: [VFP-62 CO] Commander William Ecker (left) and Marine Captain John Hudson---Note "Castro & dead chicken" stencil denoting a completed mission; Photo #2: This is the only photograph you are likely to see of a Crusader [actually a VMCJ-2 RF-8] over Cuba during the missile crisis (or at any other time). It was shot on October 25 Blue Moon Mission 5010, from raw intelligence film that I discovered at the National Archives. (As you know, the planes flew in pairs, and sometimes shot photographs of each other.) Photo #3: LT Gerald Coffee (left) and LT. Arthur Day (right) being debriefed by Rear Admiral Joseph Carson, Commander of Fleet Air Jacksonville.....Michael Dobbs, author "One Minute to Midnight"
    "Photos contributed by: Michael Dobbs, author of "One Minute to Midnight"
    (3/19/13) (Click photo to enlarge) This photo was most likely taken from a RF-8A oblique camera while on the tarmac at NAS Boca Chica, Key West Florida. Note the VMCJ-2 RF-8A on the right with tail code "CY". On the left and in the distance are VFP-62 RF-8As.

    Photos like this were part of the pre-flight testing of cameras and became part of the mission film processed upon arrival back at NAS Jacksonville, Fleet Air Photo Lab. Note the film roll sprockets and technical data recorded by the camera. Photo taken on October 25, 1962, the first day for VMCJ-2 to fly photo missions.

    Photo courtesy and copyright: Tim Brown, Senior Fellow, Globalsecurity.org

    The Marine Corp (VMCJ-2) Contribution to the Cuban Missile Crisis

  • USMC VMCJ-2 CMC AUGMENTATION DETACHMENT to VFP-62


    Before the October Flights, "We were Watching"

    [Webmaster's Note: VFP-62 pilot, Phillip J. Smith (P.J.) provides this little known history of U2 and VFP-62 RF8 reconnaisance flights over Cuba in the Spring of 1962. We are requesting any additional information.]

    P.J.'s account:

    "Skipper [George] Winslow alerted me that we would be flying that weekend. I had no clue as to where we might be going. He briefed that if either went down, flight was to return to Cecil Field. As we continued out over just south of the Bahamas I recognized that we were headed for Cuba. Skipper had said that we would make some photo runs and they would be done on mike clicks, no voice commands.

    I do not recall altitude of runs that we made over Cuba but we ran out of film and got out of there! We landed at Homestead AFB and film was removed by people I had never seen before, nor have ever known again. What happened to that film?

    Skipper told me not to log flights and do not discuss with anyone! Until recently I have not!

    The irony of it all was that Lt Glen Hyde, [USAF] U2 pilot, also went down during those early days, in addition to Major Rudolph...(See story this page...Webmaster). Only a few years ago Lt Hyde was found still in the cockpit in the Gulf. [Webmaster: we are still trying to determine what brought the U2 down; hostile fire or mechanical problems. Information requested]

    Glen and I were friends from the same neighborhood in La Grange , GA. Our families were close and I am still in touch with his younger brother!

    A few years back I authorized the VFW to look at my service jacket to verify eligibility. It was only then that I discovered the Naval Expeditionary Medal (CUBA) award. Skipper Winslow never told me that he had written that up either, it was news to me."


    Before the Cuban Missile Crisis, There was

    The Bay of Pigs Invasion - April 1961


    Interesting story of VFP-62 "Gray Ghosts": Frank W. Schrader,AE2, Det 41-60 USS Independence, recalls painting their RF-8's (F8U-1P's) all gray and their mysterious mission during the VFP-62 and the Bay of Pigs Invasion



"Any man who may be asked in this century what he did to make his life worthwhile ... can respond with a good deal of pride and satisfaction, 'I served in the United States Navy.'" President John F. Kennedy, 1963, Annapolis MD

jfk

Photo: John F. Kennedy addresses the nation during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

    Contributions to this page are welcome.


    Email the Webmaster

    Click this link - Email VFP-62 Webmaster to send a comment, correction, or contribution to this page.

Click to go to Top of "Cuban Missile Crisis" Page