Fifty-years ago, on October 22, 1962 I was at sea and headed for a rendezvous with other US Navy destroyers somewhere off the coast of North Carolina. The president of the United States was on national television telling the American public about the presence of Soviet nuclear missiles just ninety-miles from the coast of Key West, Florida and that such was not to be tolerated. The cold war never came closer to becoming the last hot war in human history and thousands of us sailors were headed towards ground zero.
As a radioman with a top-secret cryptography clearance, I was privy to our operational plans and rules of engagement. We were being sent into the waters off Cuba to enforce a naval blockade code-named Walnut Line and for the next several weeks we would run all over the Caribbean chasing Soviet submarines, providing anti-submarine protection for American aircraft carriers, and escorting thousands of US Marines, coming through the Panama Canal on troop ships from California, to the US Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
These fifty-years have been spent far removed from those days as a young sailor but they haven’t diminished my memories of those thirteen days of October, 1962 when the world literally teetered on the brink.