Tag: Cuban Missile Crisis

The Missiles of October: Group Writing Project

 

In October 1962, I was 10 years old, beginning sixth grade at P.S. 79. Like my classmates, I was surprised to hear that we might not have school the following week, because by then, there might not be a school. Or much else left standing. There have been plenty of books and documentaries and a handful of fictional TV shows and films devoted to this crucial moment in history. This post is a review of what I think were the best of the pack.

One of history’s coincidences was the publication earlier in 1962 of Barbara Tuchman’s “The Guns of August,” about great powers stumbling into a disastrous world war no one really wanted. John F. Kennedy liked the Tuchman book and recommended it to his national security chiefs. They read it a few months before the Cuban missile crisis, or as the Russians have always called it, the Caribbean crisis. That book’s title inspired the best (IMHO) of the screen treatments, 1974’s three-hour ABC television film, “The Missiles of October.” It’s almost forgotten today and hard to find online. Why do I think it was the best? We’ll get to that.

The Cuban Missile Crisis, as Viewed From a Soviet Launch Facility

 

This month marks the 57th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis, which brought the world dangerously close to thermonuclear war.  Several years ago,  I read Rockets and People, the totally fascinating memoir of Soviet rocket developer Boris Chertok, which I reviewed here. Chertok’s career encompassed both military and space-exploration projects, and in late October 1962 he was focused on preparations for launching a Mars probe. On the morning of Oct 27, he was awakened by “a strange uneasiness.” After a quick breakfast, he headed for the missile assembly building, known as the MIK.

At the gatehouse, there was usually a lone soldier on duty who would give my pass a cursory glance. Now suddenly I saw a group of soldiers wielding sub-machine guns, and they thoroughly scrutinized my pass. Finally they admitted me to the facility grounds and there, to my surprise, I again saw sub-machine-gun-wielding soldiers who had climbed up the fire escape to the roof of the MIK. Other groups of soldiers in full combat gear, even wearing gas masks, were running about the periphery of the secure area. When I stopped in at the MIK, I immediately saw that the “duty” R-7A combat missile, which had always been covered and standing up against the wall, which we had always ignored, was uncovered.