Sunday, September 16, 2012

Florida History: Weapons in Florida, response to Cuba Missile Crisis revealed

Nike Hercules Missile - photo from
Redstone Arsenal Historical Info.
By Jane Feehan

The extent of U.S. military buildup in response to the Cuba Missile Crisis (Oct. 16-28, 1962) wasn’t revealed to the world until President John F. Kennedy paid a personal call to the forward area set up in Florida and still in place a month later.

Kennedy visited Homestead Air Force Base Nov. 26 where a war room had been established to coordinate military operations. There, the Tactical Air Command (TAC) made available to the press an account of its response.

Nike-Hercules supersonic ground-to-air missiles were placed in South Dade farmlands. They could hurl atomic warheads 100 miles to counter Russian IL-28 bombers, called “Beagles.” Beagles had a range of 1,100-1,200 miles but only if deployed on a suicide mission. Otherwise, they couldn’t shoot more than a range of 500 miles.

One thousand fast-flying jet fighters and other planes were deployed to Homestead, Boca Chica Naval Air Station in Key West and other areas in the Southeast. TAC revealed that its planes flew combat air patrols as cover for daily reconnaissance missions over Cuban waters. The F-104s and
F-8Us, which could fly 1,000 mph, were ready to deploy if the missions encountered trouble.

Hundreds of Navy planes aboard eight carriers assisted in the blockade or “quarantine” of Castro’s island stronghold. Kennedy flew into Key West and drove past the ships to pay his respects after his stop at the Homestead base.

Seven thousand troops were deployed and still arriving in Florida during early November. They were quartered in ball parks, race tracks, and motels from Fort Lauderdale to Key West. Though the blockade officially ended Nov. 20, 1962, American weapons were not deactivated until September, 1963.

To mark the 50-year anniversary of the crisis, a neutralized 41-foot Nike Hercules missile will be placed at the Nike Missile Base in Everglades National Park Nov. 1. The missile was delivered on the back of a flatbed truck that traveled down I-95 to George T. Baker Aviation School in Miami. There, students refurbished the Cuba Missile Crisis relic for its display.
Copyright © 2013 All rights reserved. Jane Feehan.

FOR INFORMATION ABOUT JFK's Florida bunker during the crisis, see:

Miami News, Nov. 11, 1962
Miami News, Nov. 26, 1962
Sun-Sentinel, Aug. 21, 2012

Tags: Cuba Missile Crisis, military buildup in Florida during missile crisis, 50 year anniversary of Cuba Missile Crisis, Nike Hercules missiles in Florida, IL-28 Beagles, film industry researcher

No comments: