Cuban Missile Crisis: the French Response

Gallery Article by Dave Bailey, aka The Rat on Jan 1 2019

Silly Week 2019



Saturday, October 27, 1962. President Kennedy clasped his fingers, scanned the report on the desk, and then looked his Secretary of Defense directly in the eye. “How dangerous are these things?” “Not very,” replied Mr. McNamara, “Intelligence reports say they’re a few years away from being reliable, right now they’re having problems with just about everything from launch platform to engines to guidance.” “So we should be able to counter them now, and with progress, in the future?” asked the President. “Certainly, Sir, our projections show no indication that they could cause any imbalance of power.” There was a long pause, and Kennedy rose and walked to the window, seeming to draw strength and comfort from the warm shafts of sunlight streaming through. He turned back. “Then we’ll let Mr. Castro have his new toys, but make certain everyone else knows it, no secrets.”

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And thus it was that Cuba was the recipient of a new weapon in the Russian surface-to-air missile arsenal, the 2K12 “Kub” (NATO reporting name: SA-6 "Gainful"). Its protracted development had led to many changes, both in the missile and at the desks in the engineering offices, and it was still months away from its first successful intercept of a target. Cuba already had the capable S-75 “Dvina” (NATO designation SA-2 Guideline), which had brought down Gary Powers in 1960, and Major Rudolf Anderson on the same day as Kennedy’s decision. 

Tensions in the region abated, but there was an immediate change in strategy for local and colonial governments. France was concerned about their territory of French Guiana, and took steps to increase their defence by ordering light bombers to defend it. They decided on the well-proven Douglas A-3 Skywarrior, which also gave them the option of shipboard operations should they proceed with the new and larger ‘Verdun’ class aircraft carriers that were being investigated.

Dave Bailey

Photos and text © by Dave Bailey