JFK+50: Volume 6, No. 2111AMERICAN U-2 SHOT DOWN OVER CUBA 54 YEARS AGO
Washington, D.C. (JFK+50) On the morning of October 27, 1962, fifty-four years ago, the White House Situation Room, located in the basement of the West Wing, was informed that five of six Soviet medium-range nuclear missile sites in Cuba were "fully operational."
The information, which meant most of the southeastern United States was within range of twenty 1 megaton nuclear warheads, was made available to President John F. Kennedy by the Central Intelligence Agency.
Later in an afternoon meeting in the Cabinet Room, General Maxwell Taylor, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, advised President Kennedy to authorize massive air strikes on Cuba by Monday morning.
Adding fuel to the fire for a military response, news came to the afternoon meeting of EXCOM that a U-2 piloted by Major Rudolf Anderson* was shot down by Soviet SAM (surface-to-air) missiles as he was returning from a mission over Cuba.
Anderson, who was 35 years old, died at 11:19 a.m. as a result of shrapnel from the exploding Soviet missile puncturing his pressure suit causing it to decompress at high altitude. Soviet Major Ivan Gerchenov gave the order to shoot down the U-2 after being unable to get a response from higher authorities.
Robert Kennedy later wrote...
"The President....was more disturbed by the death of Major Anderson...than he was worried about Khrushchev. He asked the Defense Department to find out if Anderson had a wife and family."
When JFK received information that Major Anderson was married with 2 sons, ages 3 and 5, he said to Dave Powers...
"He had a boy about the same age as John, Jr."
*Major Rudolf 'Rudy' Anderson (1927-1962), was born in Greenville, SC and graduated from Clemson University. In 1962, he was in the 4080 Strategic Reconnaissance Wing. He was honored after death with the 1st Air Force Cross and the Distinguished Service Medal.
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