Cuban missile crisis, 1962, value of photo intelligence,

Previous Next

The JRC         
     crew members. That same day, of a Soviet SA-2 GUIDELINE missile brought down a U-2 over Cuba flown by Major Rudolf Anderson, the pilot of the U-2 flight on 14 October that had filmed the discovery of the Soviet MRBMs. Anderson was killed, and the pressure to retaliate intensified.
The nerve center for the US reconnaissance effort was the Joint Reconnaissance Center (JRC) in the Pentagon, under the direction of then Colonel Ralph D. Steakley, USAF. The JRC had been created to provide the JCS, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Department of State and the White House with a focal point for policy decisions on the US reconnaissance missions being undertaken worldwide long before the Cuban missile crisis. The Intelligence Community, the Unified and Specified Commands and others would identify reconnaissance requirements. The JRC would clear mission plans through the appropriate policy level of the government, and, with approval received, authorize the reconnaissance missions.   
  An Effective Cycle   
  We felt this pressure in our support to Secretary McNamara and the JCS. The work cycle began with the delivery of hundreds of feet of new photography in Washington, usually each evening, which had to be analyzed around the clock. I would arrive at either the Pentagon or NPIC early each morning to review the findings and to prepare to brief McNamara and the JCS, usually before the start of the morning Executive Committee sessions at the White House. Current intelligence for targeting of SAM sites was fed to the military planners for inclusion in the target folders. There was a growing consensus that the US would have to act.
 We fed our reconnaissance targeting requirements to Steakley. He had assigned liaison officers from the Center to the Tactical Air Command and SAC. The JRC and the operational planners of the Air Force and Navy drew up detailed flight plans to fulfill the latest intelligence requirements. The work proceeded around the clock. Steakley had a cot in his office, where he lived throughout the crisis. He was under relentless operational pressure. He had received a telephone call from President Kennedy's secretary with the message, "The President has directed that you not be away from your phone for more than three rings...." Secretary McNamara had made it clear that he personally wanted to be certain that each mission flown was in accordance with a determined plan and a predetermined approval cycle. Steakley was regularly summoned to the White House to brief the President on the planned flights.   
   The gravity of the situation was confirmed by the results of the low-level reconnaissance missions. The JRC worked with Air Force and Navy planners in drawing up the final flight plans. The pilots agreed that flight tracks for each missions were flyable, and that they were the best tracks to achieve coverage of the requested targets. This success was matched by the cycle we had developed of film processing, readout and feedback to both the national level and the operators. The results of each day's reconnaissance were available to feed into the following day's planning and execution.
 The President and the Executive Committee were seeing explicit details of the Soviet nuclear offensive buildup. They were following the advances of the MRBMs and IRBMs toward operational status with each day's low-level recce take. The missions, as the President knew, were dangerous and might escalate the crisis beyond the control of either side.      
   White House Statement  
   O n 26 October, the President approved the release of a statement updating the American people on the status of the Soviet missile sites. It reported that development of the IRBM sites was continuing, with bulldozers and cranes observed clearing new areas within the sites. It noted that MRBMs had been observed, with cabling running from missile-ready tents
 A Bad Day     
 On 27 October, an Air Force RB-47 flying maritime surveillance missions against Soviet shipping crashed on takeoff from Bermuda with the loss of all four      



Previous Next

Posted: May 08, 2007 08:59 AM
Last Updated: May 08, 2007 08:59 AM