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September 23 2012

The Photographs That Prevented World War III


On October 23, 1962, a U.S. Navy commander named William B. Ecker took off from Key West at midday in an RF-8 Crusader jet equipped with five reconnaissance cameras. Accompanied by a wingman, Lt. Bruce Wilhelmy, he headed toward a mountainous region of western Cuba where Soviet troops were building a facility for medium-range missiles aimed directly at the United States. A U-2 spy plane, flying as high as 70,000 feet, had already taken grainy photographs that enabled experts to find the telltale presence of Soviet missiles on the island. But if President John F. Kennedy was going to make the case that the weapons were a menace to the entire world, he would need better pictures.

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