Written by High Frontier Chairman Henry F. Cooper
Fifty years ago, I was a young Bell Telephone Laboratories engineer on the heels of celebrating with our development team the deployment of Telstar, the first telecommunications satellite — and also a grad student at New York University. I vividly remember the evening of October 22, 1962, watching a student-union black-and-white TV broadcast of President John F. Kennedy’s address to the nation. The president announced that the Soviet Union was deploying nuclear weapons in Cuba, only 90 miles from our Florida coast — and the actions that the United States was taking in response. (For the unedited broadcast, see this.)
For the rest of the Cuban Missile Crisis’s fateful 13 days (which were already at midstream), we and all Americans reviewed our “duck and cover” preparations for what seemed to be a looming holocaust. Kennedy declared the highest nuclear alert short of launch, DEFCON 2, which, among other things, may have involved plans to deploy NATO aircraft (among others) to bomb Soviet targets. We now know from Soviet records of those fateful events, publicly released in the early 1990s, that we were even closer to that brink than we then realized.