The Cuban Missile Crisis 50 years later

Posted September 24, 2012

It really wasn't that long ago – just 50 years. President John F. Kennedy was still alive. The U.S. and Russia were at the height of the Cold War. The fate of the world hung in the balance as the two superpowers teetered on the brink of nuclear war. Missile bases across the mid-West, including right here in Abilene, were on high alert as Kennedy and Russia's Nikita Khrushchev squared off over the possible placement of nuclear warheads in Cuba, a short 103 miles off the Florida coast.

On Sunday, October 14, Abilene Christian University's Department of Political Science and Missile Base Enterprises will host a look back at 13 fateful days in 1962 that changed history.

On Sunday, October 14, the ACU Department of Political Science in partnership with the Lawn Atlas Missile Base will co-host an event to mark the 50th anniversary of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. Missile veterans, professors, military officials, selected college students and media are invited to 1990 FM 604, 2.4 miles East of Lawn, Texas for the 3 p.m. ceremony.

The anniversary will commemorate the crisis in which the U.S. and Russia found themselves the push of a button away from all-out nuclear war. In 1962, Atlas F missiles located at then high-security locations around Abilene were raised above ground on DEFCON 2 alert, ready to be launched against the USSR.

“Few conflicts in humanity’s history have taken us so close to the edge of total annihilation,” says Larry Sanders, Lawn Atlas Missile Base preservationist. “While the events that took place during the 13 fateful days of the Cuban Missile Crisis were extremely frightening, we must also realize the Big Country has much to be proud of. Our region played an important role in helping win a victory for freedom over totalitarianism.”

Speakers for the event include veterans of the 578th Strategic Missile Squadron, civic leaders from the Crisis era, Atlas F experts and military representatives. The event is one of the few historical crisis events in Texas and the only such event in the United States hosted inside and underground one of the critical missile bases during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Dr. Neal Coates, chair and professor of the ACU Department of Political Science says the university has a historic link to the Atlas F Missile System.

“While acting as Mayor Pro-tem, ACU Dean Garvin Beauchamp traveled to SAC Headquarters in Omaha to visit General Curtis LeMay. He requested the Atlas ICBM be located near Dyess Air Force Base. Just as Abilene chose the base, chose SAC, chose the B-47, chose the B-52, and eventually chose the B-1B, Abilene also chose the Atlas ICBM and influenced the history of mankind,” says Coates.

Students from his American Foreign Policy course are facilitating the anniversary tribute. “This event will help my students understand how their university and this city influenced world politics during the Cold War,” adds Coates.

Learn more about ACU’s Department of Political Science.