DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) — For 13 days in October of 1962, the U.S. and the Soviet Union — and the world for that matter — stood at the threshold of nuclear war. One Miami Valley veteran recounts his story as he was stationed at one of the most active sites in the world during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Navy veteran Ray Seibel said he was just a young kid when he decided to join to join the military. “A chance to learn something, serve my country… And draw a check,” said Ray. “All $76 a month.”
The newbie Navy sailor was setting his course on adulthood, but he could not have imagined the rough political waters ahead. Stationed on Cecil Field in Jacksonville, Florida, Ray Seibel was a structural mechanic, and those were good times in the early ’60’s.
“Happy-go-lucky. Get your work done, and then we’ll have fun.”
But everything changed in October of 1962. The Cuban Missile Crisis had the world on the precipice of war.
The Soviet Union was Cuba’s support and Cuba was the real estate close enough to put America in the crosshairs of Soviet ballistic/nuclear capable missiles. America was on full alert and in fear of nuclear annihilation.
Cecil Field was transformed into the most active air field in the world. “You went from normal to there were some planes at the end of the runway, running ’round the clock.”
F4D fighter planes and A4D attack planes sat at the head of the runway waiting for the orders to strike.
“I remember going through there and like ‘wait a minute — that plane has damage on it.’ Come to find out, it hadn’t been shot down, but it had been hit by something.”
On October 27, Ray’s 22nd birthday, the crisis came to a head. An American reconnaissance pilot was shot down.
“We were pretty well isolated from news. I mean, yeah, we had TVs, but I don’t know. Maybe we weren’t even watching TV at that time. I mean, we were watching those planes.”
The next day, October 28, the Soviets stood down and the threat of imminent nuclear war was over.
“I remember before going in as a kid seeing some tests on TV,” said Ray. “Out in the desert. And you get flashbacks. Is that what we stopped? I don’t know.”
A few months later, President Kennedy visited Cecil Field, awarding the Photographic Squadron a “Navy Unit Commendation Award” for the dangerous missions showing Soviet missiles being prepared.
Ray Seibel plays down his role saying that he played just a small part, but he admits there is a sense of pride.