40 years later, Cuban missile crisis sites visited
BY ANITA SNOW
SAN CRISTOBAL, Cuba - Retired U.S. Navy Capt. William Ecker stood
Sunday before the warhead bunker he photographed from 500 feet four decades
ago, giving President John F. Kennedy extra evidence that Soviet missiles were being stockpiled in Cuba.
''I knew there was something there, but I didn't know exactly
what until the film was developed in Florida,'' Ecker, 78, said as a group
of key people
involved in the Cuban missile crisis toured sites related to the Cold War drama.
After the film was developed in Jacksonville, later on that day
of Oct. 23, 1962, Ecker traveled to Washington. There, he was rushed to
a briefing with
Kennedy and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. ''The pictures I took that day were Kennedy's evidence to back down Khrushchev,'' said Ecker, who lives in Punta
Gorda. U.S. Ambassador Adlai Stevenson ``later showed them at the United Nations.''
The black-and-white photograph of the bunker, now whitewashed
and surrounded by towering palm trees, showed several men standing on the
and several in front. What appears to be construction materials are piled up off to the side. ''Probable Nuclear Warhead Bunker Under Construction San
Cristobal Site 1,'' reads the title given by CIA photo analysts.
Other photographs taken by Ecker's team showed an apparent missile
launch site at this military installation about 75 miles west of Havana.
showed large tent-like constructions that CIA analysts said appeared to be sheltering missiles that could travel up to about 1500 miles.
Wearing a black navy pilot cap, Ecker pulled out his wallet to
show the black and white photograph taken the following year when Kennedy
him at the naval base in Key West to award him the Distinguished Flying Cross.
The visits Sunday followed a two-day gathering of American, Cuban and Russian participants in the missile crisis.
The crisis began in mid-October 1962 when President Kennedy learned
that Cuba had Soviet nuclear missiles capable of reaching the United States.
crisis was defused two weeks later when the Soviet Union agreed to remove the missiles.
Former Kennedy aide Ted Sorensen stood next to former Kennedy
aide Arthur Schlesinger Jr. underneath a medium-range Soviet R-2 missile
outside an old Spanish fortress on Havana Bay.
''I have these extremely strong feelings standing on this site
where the photos were taken -- the photos we were shown in the briefing
said. ``It could have been the end of the world, but here we are 40 years later -- Americans, Cubans, Russians.''