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LETTERS, FAXES & E-MAIL
The State Journal-Register Springfield, IL
On Our Way To Vieques To Play War Games, Bunch Of Marines Heard Directly From Kennedy
January 29, 2001
I would like to comment on the column of Richard Reeves dated Jan. 18. It is an excellent review of the movie "Thirteen Days," which chronicles the Cuban Missile Crisis. His comment that "presidents do not call Navy captains and Air Force pilots or their families to tell them what to do" is probably correct. However, the president did call a captain and a bunch of Marines to tell them what they might have to do.
As a young Marine with L Company, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines in October 1962 I was at sea with a regimental landing team on our way to Vieques, Puerto Rico, to play war games. At 3 a.m. we were suddenly awakened, which we thought was strange, as reveille in the Navy aboard ship goes at 6 a.m. We were simply told that we were going to be addressed by our commander in chief, President John F. Kennedy. Ten minutes later, while shaving, it seemed surreal, but the president of the United States came on the intercom and simply told us that we may have to go ashore in Cuba to back up a face-off with the Soviets with respect to the removal of the missiles.
He wished us luck but hoped we would not need it. As it turned out he was right; we did not need to go ashore as our forces simply blockaded the Soviet ships from reaching the island. Little did we know then how close to ground zero we were, and how close we were to annihilation. But history has shown the coolness of a great president.