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A little background about the author of the piece below, James Whitaker.

In the years around 2000, James Whitaker used to come to Nike Reunions at SF-88. He would be in full captain's uniform, and would spread out two tables of Nike memorabilia and pictures. And he would talk of being a lieutenant in the mobile Nike Hercules units in Ft. Bliss, Texas, and their mobilization onto trains bound for Florida during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Apparently he had previous experience with bulldozers, caterpillar tractors equipped to push dirt, and operated one to help set up his Nike site in Florida.

I (Ed Thelen, enlisted) figured that any lieutenant who had the nerve to drive a bulldozer, in front of troops, had to be OK ;-))

22 October 2003
University of Nevada, Reno
ROTC Department
Presentation by: Jim Whitaker


  1. The Cold War

    • Nuclear arms development after 1945
    • Norad and Aradcom (Army Air Defense Command)
    • Air defense of the continental United States, Hawaii, Alaska, Europe and Southeast Asia
      • Nike Missile System
      • Hawk Missile System

  2. Events Leading up to the Crisis

    1. 1952 -1959: The Cuban Revolution
      • Castro and Guerrillas oust U.S.-friendly dictator Fulgencio Batista
      • Seizure of American assets throughout Cuba

    2. February 1960: Russia and Cuba establish military and trade assistance agreements; communism was introduced to the Cuban people; President Eisenhower bans all trade and diplomatic relations with Cuba.

    3. May 1960: U2 spy plane incident over Russia

    4. January 1961: President Kennedy takes office; exiled Cubans train for invasion of their homeland in Guatemala under CIA direction.

    5. April 1961: Disastrous "Bay of Pigs" invasion launched from Nicaragua

    6. July 1961: Vienna Summit; President Kennedy and Premier Khrushchev immediately are at odds and warn each other of a potential war. Building the Berlin Wall is initiated by Russia in August and the Cold War is in full force.

    7. July 1962: Massive Russian military build-up in Cuba

    8. September 1962: U.S. Congress authorizes the use of force to protect U.S. assets and our population in the Western Hemisphere, including the invasion of Cuba, if necessary.

  3. 1 October 1962 - Positioning of Forces

    1. Russian/Cuban Coalition:

      • 250,000 Cuban soldiers heavily armed, anticipating an American invasion

      • 40,000 Russian soldiers and technicians

      • Thirty-six SS4 offensive medium-range nuclear missiles capable of striking most cities in the U.S. with a force equal to 2,400 Hiroshima nuclear bombs

      • Fifty-four tactical nuclear warheads carried in short-range cruise-type and Luna missiles

      • Over 100 new MIG fighters and 50 Russian bombers strategically positioned at several Cuban airfields (primarily flown by Russian pilots)

      • Four Russian submarines in the Caribbean with 22 nuclear torpedoes each

      • Thirty defensive (SAM) anti-aircraft missile sites on the island along with 100 anti- aircraft guns (40mm, 75mm, and 90mm)

      • Over 300 Soviet nuclear warheads, either airborne in long-range bombers or in Russian homeland missile sites, ready to launch an attack against cities in the United States and Europe

    2. American Forces:

      Over 5,000 American nuclear warheads, either airborne on many of the 1,600 U.S. B52's or in missile sites in the northern hemisphere and in Europe, ready to strike major Russian cities, bases, and industrial sites

      • More than 300 batteries of Hercules missiles in the continental United States; Alaska, Hawaii, Europe and Southeast Asia

      • 140 long-range Titan and Atlas nuclear nussiles

      • 160 medium-range nuclear armed Jupiter missiles in Europe and Turkey

      • Over 1,000 tactical fighters transferred to Florida bases

      • Sixty ships positioned in the Caribbean with hundreds more en route from various parts of the world in anticipation of a possible blockade and invasion

      • More than 250,000 attack forces including an initial invasion force of 20,000 soldiers and 6,000 marines

  4. The Crisis: 13 October 1962 - 28 October 1962
    (Exhibit presentation and discussion)
    14 October: First U. S. spy plane pictures of SS4 sites in Cuba
    16 October: Kennedy meets with Joint Chief advisors and National Security Council (EXCOMM)
    • Military Hawks, including World War II hero, General Curtis LeMay, advise an air strike and invasion of Cuba
    21 October: Extensive invasion exercises conducted near Puerto Rico
    22 October: President Kennedy addresses the nation on television
    • Americans are told to prepare for the possibility of a nuclear war
    • Cuban "quarantine", or blockade announced and set in motion
    • All American forces around the world brought to DEFCON THREE
      (added on web site by Ed Thelen - Nike Hercules Batteries A, C and D of 2nd Missile Battalion, 52nd Air Defense Artillery Group were in rapid deployment mode in Ft. Bliss, Texas. They receive orders to load onto trains for Florida.)
    23 October: President Kennedy receives 100% support on the quarantine from the "Organization of American States".
    24 October: United States tests hydrogen bomb above Johnston Island in the South Pacific;
    26 Russian ships reach quarantine line (after initial confrontation with Russian submarine, 20 ships turn and proceed back to Russia).
    • U. S. forces bought to DEFCON TWO (including Hercules sites).
    25 October: United Nations confrontation between Ambassador Stephenson from the U.S. and Ambassador Zorin from the Soviet Union.
    26 October: By telegraph (9 hours to receive), Khrushchev sends plea to Kennedy to negotiate the crisis, fearing an imminent attack.
    27 October: Without Moscow approval, a U. S. U2 plane is shot down over Cuba.
    • U. S. military advisors again urge President Kennedy to invade Cuba immediately.
    • Kennedy summons Soviet Ambassador Dobrynin to White House and gives ' the USSR 24 hours to initiate the dismantling and removal of the SS4s or the United States will attack Cuba.
    28 October: Khrushchev sends desperate Soviet response agreeing to President Kennedy's terms. Message is broadcast over Moscow radio with only a few hours to spare.

  5. Post Script: The Soviet Union was deeply humiliated by the near catastrophe set in motion by Premier Khrushchev. He was deposed months later and banished to a small cottage in the mountains as a non-person and later died there with no acknowledgment or funeral service.