Fifty years ago I was in the 4th grade at St. Rita’s Catholic School in West Allis, Wisconsin. The big news that dominated even the lives of nine-year-olds was what would become known as the Cuban Missile Crisis.
The Soviets under Khrushchev’s leadership had moved nuclear weapons to Cuba to support Castro and threaten continental America.
It was widely assumed that the missiles could reach us in Wisconsin and one nun in particular told us that is exactly what would happen.
To this day I can sense the fear and remember running home to my mom in tears telling her we all were going to die.
Then President Kennedy ordered the US Navy to blockade Cuba to prevent further missile deployment. Our family had a personal connection to the blockade because mom’s brother was on the USS Providence a guided missile cruiser.
These were the days of bomb shelters being built in basements and drills being held in schools not for tornado warnings but for nuclear war. It is hard to capture what that means today but perhaps the fear of a terrorist attack like 9/11 comes close.
The link takes you to an interesting article that reveals three little known facts about the crisis, including the possibility of a US military coup to remove Kennedy because some within the pentagon did not think a blockade would suffice. 50 years ago today we were on the brink of nuclear war.