Fifty years ago... October 22, 1962, President John F. Kennedy ordered a Naval blockade of Cuba in response to the discovery of a Russian long-range missile installation under construction on that island. USS Gearing DD-710 and many other ships scrambled to set up and enforce the blockade.

In October 2012 USS Gearing shipmates were invited by this "USS Gearing Salute" website owner/operator to submit their recollections of the Gearing's role in that historic event.

Many thanks to those who emailed us a couple of paragraphs detailing what they remember best about those several weeks that made history.

Read below the emailed responses, printed in the order received and only slightly edited for clarity.
Don Provost (LTjg 64-67)

******************************************************

10/21/2012 7:12 PM
William S. McFadden (SK3 62-64, CWO4 Ret.)

Don,

I remember being in Mayport, Florida in October 1962. I was a Seaman. We were tied up at the pier and many crewmembers were on liberty or just going ashore. It was a nice sunny afternoon and a great day for liberty. I was on the pier getting ready to head into town when I was told I had to get back onboard. The next thing I knew the Shore Patrol was rounding everyone up and bringing them back to the ship. A couple of tug boats showed up to tow the destroyer tender on the pier across from us out to sea. She could not get steam up fast enough to get underway immediately on her own power. We had a feeling it had to be something to do with Cuba. Once we got enough sailors on board we got underway.

A few miles out to sea, Captain Lyons announced to everyone on board that he had orders to report to a certain latitude and longitude. He did not have any other information. As we headed to our coordinates we noticed a lot of other ships close buy including an aircraft carrier. My duty station was on the bridge and I learned that each ship was given a section of ocean to patrol. There were several top secret messages on the navigator's chart table.

If we had to board and take control of a ship Lieutenant Kay would be in charge of the prize ship. The gunners mates and assigned petty officers practiced firing rifles and hand guns off the stern.

After taking station and patrolling in our assigned waters, I remember being on the bridge as the starboard lookout when we started to close in on a merchant ship. As we got closer I could read the name with my binoculars. It was the M/V Bucharest. She had a black hull with a white superstructure. We came right alongside a few hundred yards away and held the same course and speed. I looked over the ship and could see vehicles that were similar to our army jeeps and trucks. There was also other military equipment on deck. All the equipment was painted with the Russian green color and the large red star on them.

There were no missiles or anything that could be considered a threat to the United States and we let the ship proceed to Cuba. Later there was a newspaper article in the U.S. papers showing Fidel Castro with his arm around the captain of the Bucharest with a champagne bottle. The captain was being congratulated for breaking through the naval blockade.

At a later date, while we were on patrol, a plane was approaching us from the our stern at 180 degrees. It was moving slowly. We went to battle stations. The guns were tracking it. Fortunately it was identified and we did not fire. It was a civilian propeller plane that buzzed us. The pilot of that plane had no idea how close he came to being blown out of the air. After that incident we went to Condition 3 cruising where we had to stay at our battle stations 24/7. Food was brought to us so we did not have to leave our battle stations to eat.

The atmosphere was serious and tense. We were told there were several submarines detected and they were not ours. I thought we would soon have a nuclear exchange and we would all be killed, not only on the Gearing but also many citizens in the U.S. would be killed.

These are the events of that time that I remember. If you have any questions, let me know.

Thank you for all your hard work.

CWO4(RET.)
William S. McFadden

******************************************************

10/21/2012 5:11 PM
Edward Kettner (SM1 62-66)

I was in Key West during the missile crisis. Was enroute to catch the ship at Key West when I heard about it. The ship was supposed to be there. When it was over they flew a bunch of us to Norfolk where we finally came aboard. I'll never forget it. It was the first time I ever flew and was very apprehensive about it!

******************************************************

10/21/2012 2:46 PM
John Kenney (LT 62-64)

A long time ago. But still quite memorable.

We had pulled into Mayport and were told by megaphone to NOT double up our lines, keep steam up in the boilers and have our captain come to an emergency meeting at the base commander's office. Bummer, as I was to leave the ship there and go to Palm Beach as liaison officer for a ship's visit the following weekend, tough assignment for a single LTjg. Captain Lyons returned within a half hour, called an officers' meeting in the wardroom and had the word passed to set the sea detail and make all preparations for getting underway. The officers' meeting was very brief, as there was nothing much to communicate: "Clear the port, and head due east at 10 knots; further direction to follow." The instructions were not forthcoming until almost sunset that night when word was passed that we were to listen to the President's radio broadcast which followed over the ship's 1MC. This was the same address he made to the country. Shortly thereafter we received instructions to our station patrol area of the blockade; all ahead full.

Fast forward. I was OOD on the midwatch, the morning of 10-25, after having a few days and nights going back and forth, coordinating with the ships on either adjoining leg of the blockade so as to minimize the open areas. We were operating on a lot of assumptions, as practically no intelligence had been supplied as to the particulars of what was going on. What little we did know, however, was that Soviet subs had been reported in the general area, purportedly with Nuc warhead torpedoes. In truth, history seems to have made known that while the U.S. had plans to invade Cuba and other large scale options, there existed no specific details on how to set up and run a blockade.

Of particular interest to me (and I'm sure the captain and several others on board) as the ship's weapons officer, was that, as we were just on our way to GTMO after a two year shipyard FRAM I conversion, to work up our crew and learn how to operate our own new weapons that included nuc-tipped ASROC and torpedoes which could be launched from our MK32 tubes or from our remote controlled DASH helos.

By the time of the above mentioned midwatch, I was mulling over these thoughts and thinking about how they would come together with the Rules Of Engagement we had recently received about encountering a Russian ship attempting to run the blockade: signal them to stop for inspection - a 5" round across their bow - another round through the bridge - sink them. And then what?

About half way through the mid watch, I noticed something on the bridge repeater at maximum range; checked with combat and they had also just picked it up. I immediately awakened Captain Lyons in his sea cabin, told him what was up and requested permission to make course and max speed for intercept. And as the saying goes, this was all she wrote.

GEARING was the first U.S. Navy surface ship to make contact with a Russian vessel bound for Cuba. Little mention is made of this fact in most reports of action on the blockade. It cannot be said with absolute certainty, but the reason for this has always been felt to be that the publicity was intended and delivered to the USS KENNEDY, due to political or other reasons. As dawn crept over the horizon, we gained our first visual on the Bucharest out of Odessa. We were also joined over the next hour or so by Neptunes, fighters and all sorts of company. We had moved into a parallel course with the Russian, a little further off than a replenishing distance and at equal speed. She had no strategic or suspicious cargo and we were told not to attempt to board her by all the brass that had either joined us on scene or were now actively communicating with us. After a half hour or so, and on direction we were told to signal the Russian they were free to go on their way. In doing so, our captain had told the signalman to signal their bridge: "Have a good trip." A prompt reply came back: "You, too, have a good day."

Lots of other stories about the blockade. Some serious; some funny, like the one of our tanker/reefer that was assigned to fuel and provision the tincans on the blockade sectors. They apparently had a full hold of frozen brussel sprouts bound for GTMO before the blockade. They never got rid of a case.
BZ

******************************************************

Mike Mett (LTjg 62-64)

On October 19, 2012, Mike Mett (LTjg 62-64) was interviewed by reporter Joe Crankshaw of Scripps' Treasure Coast Newspapers to get Mike's account of USS Gearing and the Cuba blockade. The article was headlined "Fifty years later, Fort Pierce veteran remembers Cuban missile crisis". It was also published on-line. Click here for the on-line report... http://www.tcpalm.com/news/2012/oct/19/fifty-years-later-fort-pierce-veteran-remembers/

******************************************************

10/19/2012 10:23 AM
Eugene Potts (RDSN 62-64)

Hi Don: Yes, I was on board during the Cuban Missile Crisis. The following is my memorable account.

We sailed from Newport, Rhode Island and were going to Mayport, Florida. We were to spend two weeks in Mayport. We tied up to the pier at about 10:00 a.m. Over half the ship took their dress whites to the mobile cleaner that had come to the pier. About an hour later (11:00 a.m.) our captain came over the speaker system and said, "All hands return to the ship and prepare to get underway."

After preparing, we set sail around 12:00 noon. We spent the next 6 hours sailing due east at 15 knots. At 6:00 p.m. that night President Kennedy gave a nation-wide address which we heard. He said we were putting a blockade around Cuba.

For the next two weeks we were on station, sailing to a certain longitude/latitude, doing a U-turn and sailing to another longitude/latitude. For the first three days on station we had nothing to eat except spaghetti for breakfast, lunch and dinner until we highlined with a supply ship. We were the first ship on the blockade to spot a Russian merchant ship with missiles (disassembled) on deck. I remember this well, because I took the binoculars and had a look.

My understanding was that the captain had the authority to stop any ship and send an armed boarding party aboard. However, he must have been given orders not to, because we shadowed the ship for two or three days and then let it go into Cuba.

This is what I remember of the Cuban Missle Crisis. Even though I ate spaghetti for three days, I still like it. Best regards to you Don.

******************************************************

10/17/2012 5:22 PM
Ronald B. Leach (IC3 1961-1965)

Mr Provost,

Thank you for the information. It has taken me back to memories of the Gearing and crew members during the blockade time.

******************************************************

10/17/2012 4:14 PM
John Sereno (STG2 62-65)

I was on board during the missile crisis in 1962, as a Sonarman. We were involved in surfacing at least one Russian submarine. It was a conventional boat and they had one number on one side of the boat, another number on the other side. Trying to make us think there were more of them than we thought. I believe we had a beard contest because we were at sea so long. Kind of a morale builder. I won second prize in that contest as I recall. The beard contest may have been during our involvement with the Dominican Republic action that occurred in that same general time period. I will look for pictures since I did take some at that time.

******************************************************

10/16/2012 6:42pm
Butch Anderson (ICFN 62-64)

Dear Sir,

My name is Butch Anderson, and I was aboard the Gearing during the Cuban missile crisis in October of 1962. I was an ICFN at the time, and my sea and anchor and GQ station were after engine room electical swithboard watch.

I remember leaving Norfolk enroute to Mayport Florida, and I didn't get to the base for new movies before we got underway. The plan was to get new movies in Mayport.

There was a time problem in Mayport. I and some other eletricians were ready to rig shore power when we were told to man sea and anchor details. I grabbed a hoagie from the gedunk wagon and headed down below to aft engine room, figuring we were going to shift berths. That didn't happen. After a few maneuvering bells we got an all head standard. Something wrong with this picture, we were leaving Mayport in the channel doing standard speed, not one third.

During the midwatch that night Captain Lyons announced we were headed for Cuba. The only movies this ICman had were Horatio Hornblower, and a Yosemite Sam cartoon, with a stupid camel. I showed the crew the movie backwards and forwards, and by the time we came back to Norfolk, we all knew what Yosemite Sam was going to say, my shipmates had memorized the whole movie. Needless to say the officers had death threats against me, for showing Horatio Hornblower for ever how many times. My division officer, Lt Duich, did however stand by me when the officers wanted to keel haul me.

Being at GQ is an understatement, we were at GQ a lot, it seems more on than we were off. It got a little tense at times, and by the time we were leaving the containment area for Norfolk, that didn't come any too soon.

The good news is that I always had the latest of movies, or new releases from that time forward until my tour of duty on the Gearing ended in 1964. I have other memories as well of our time on station.

Sincerely, Butch Anderson ICFN

******************************************************

Ken Baker (ETN3 62-64)

On April 22, 2012 Ken Baker (ETN3 62-64), gave an interview to Tampa Tribune reporter Howard Altman. It was hoped to focus on preparations for our April 25 to 29 USS Gearing Association Tampa reunion, but the reporter found it more interesting to grill Ken on what he remembered about DD-710's part in the October 1962 blockade of Cuba. The newspaper story was headlined "On the Cuban Missile Crisis front lines" and was also published on Tampa Bay Online, www.tbo.com.

Click here to read Ken Baker's interview.
http://www.proflyersinc.com/dd710/dd710reunions/2012tampa/gearingtampabayonlinestory.pdf


******************************************************



BACK TO DD-710 MAIN PAGE