Oct 4

Navy-Marine Corps Photo Reconnaissance Over Cuba

Monday, October 4, 2010 10:51 AM

As Fidel Castro worked furiously to build an offensive missile capability in the Caribbean in the fall of 1962, the Navy/Marine Corps team utilized his folly as an opportunity to demonstrate its inherent synergy.

Navy Light Photographic Squadron Sixty-Two (VFP-62), stationed at Cecil Field, Jacksonville, Florida, received the warning order in early October to have 8 camera-ready RF-8A Crusaders ready to launch from Naval Air Station (NAS) Key West on short notice. The mission was treacherously simple: confirm the presence of Soviet missiles in Cuba.

Shortly thereafter, the Second Marine Aircraft Wing (2d MAW) at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina received tasking to augment VFP-62 with Marine photo Crusaders. After a monumental effort to update the camera suite on the aircraft, a Marine Composite Reconnaissance Squadron Two (VMCJ-2) detachment of four Crusaders linked up with VFP-62 at Cecil Field on 21 October and flew with them to NAS Key West the following day.

Marine photo reconnaissance pilots flew their Crusaders along side the Navy aircraft for the duration of the crisis. The joint service unit documented the operational state of the Russian missiles and confirmed their dismantling during the crucial last week in October. They then documented the retrograde of the Russian ships as they carried the missiles back across the Atlantic.

With one exception, the Marines flew their own aircraft as wingman or lead in section with Navy aircraft. On 10 November Commander Ecker, the squadron Commanding Officer, authorized an all-Marine mission to commemorate the 187th birthday of the Marine Corps. President Kennedy attested to the effectiveness of this powerful Navy/Marine team by personally presenting it the Navy Unit Commendation.