New Book Blue Moon Over Cuba Unearths Crucial Evidence That Helped Kennedy Gather Intelligence on the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962
Insider's perspective on the aerial reconnaissance missions arrives just in time for the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis
October 16-28, 2012 will mark the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis. One of the forgotten yet crucial details of the crisis are the low-level reconnaissance missions-designated as Operation Blue Moon---flown by US Naval, Marine Corps and Air Force pilots that proved to Kennedy that the Russians had moved missiles onto Cuba.
Blue Moon Over Cuba (Osprey, August 2012) began as the unfinished memoirs of the commander of the naval squadron that flew the top-secret missions, Captain William B. Ecker. Ecker was the lead aviator on the first mission and went on to play a leading role in the reconnaissance flights throughout the crisis. The book was completed by historian Ken Jack.
In the book, Capt. Ecker tells the story of how on October 19, 1962, American military planners quietly ordered his squadron and their state-of-the art RF-8A Crusader jets to a remote airbase in Key West, Florida. (John Glenn had previously set a speed record in a Crusader.) Once there, the pilots and crews waited as CIA analysts made their case to President Kennedy.
Ecker and his team got their orders on October 23rd. Their mission was to enter Cuban airspace at treetop level at a fraction below the speed of sound and photograph suspected missile sites with their suite of high-speed cameras. They flew width-wise across the narrow island and then to Naval Air Station Jacksonville, where the Navy's main photographic lab was located. As soon as the photos were developed and interpreted, they were delivered to the White House.
On October 25th, Adlai Stevenson, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, exhibited prints of Capt. Ecker's photographs to his Russian counterpart and demanded an answer from him.
From October 23rd-November 15th, 168 Blue Moon sorties were flown across Cuba by naval, marine and air force reconnaissance pilots-often under intense enemy fire. Those missions occurring after October 28th were used by Kennedy to verify the dismantling of the missile sites. For their role, the pilots and crews were presented with a Navy Unit Commendation by President Kennedy in November 1962, who said in his remarks, The reconnaissance flights which enabled us to determine with precision the offensive build-up in Cuba contributed directly to the security of the United States in the most important and significant way.
About the Author
The late Captain William B. Ecker USN (retired) was the commanding officer of US Navy Light Photographic Squadron VFP-62 during the Cuban Missile Crisis. His memoir of the squadron's dangerous low-level photographic missions over Cuba was written in 1986, shortly after he was honored by the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum. However, it was never published. It is the only known personally written account of the squadron's reconnaissance missions. Capt Ecker also consulted on the motion picture Thirteen Days, which included dramatic (animated and live) scenes of his first mission over Cuba on 23 October 1962. The book was completed by historian and VFP-62 veteran, Kenneth V. Jack.
"This book is extensively researched: it gives an even-handed and unbiased account of the US, Soviet and Cuban perspectives leading up to, during, and after October 1962."
--Jerry Jackson, BookMark, www.WPSU.org (September 2012)
"Many books have been written about [the Cuban Missile Crisis] and the decisions made by the president and his advisors, but none have covered the details of the Blue Moon aerial reconnaissance missions and the men who flew them ... The photos in the book are superb, and their excellent captions add greatly to bringing the story of CAPT Ecker and his squadron to life ... This is a great book and highly recommended."
--Doug Siegfried, The Hook (Fall 2012)
"This new book is based on the memoir of a recently-deceased CO of the U. S. Navy RF-8 squadron that flew the first, productive low-level missions over Cuba, and refined with material that only personal experience can bring by a former enlisted technician serving with that squadron at that time. The account provides several viewpoints into a highly readable and creditable story of just exactly how the Navy and Marine Corps aviators and gound crews contributed to the American response to the Soviets' highly provocative act of placing nuclear-armed missiles a scant 90 miles from the U. S. ... All in all, this new book is very welcome as the 50th anniversary of the crisis approaches. It is well worth reading from many perspectives, especially as an account of those tension-filled days when the entire world stood so close to the brink of its own destruction."
--Peter Mersky, Wings of Gold (Fall 2012)
"An entirely new perspective on the crisis, and is a "must" for any collection strong in either military topics or American history."
- The Midwest Book Review (November 2012)
"It is no exaggeration to say the book reads like a suspense thriller—no small feat, this being Jack’s first book."