The Charlotte News

Friday, October 15, 1937


Site Ed. Note: The pieces for this day are here.

Continuing our chronology of the Cuban missile crisis, the fateful U-2 film taken October 14 of the missile installations around San Cristobal, near Havana, was being developed and inspected during Monday, October 15, 1962. The U-2 flight by Major Rudolph Anderson, who would be killed when his plane was shot down by a surface to air missile on October 27, nearly then finally provoking the confrontation to end all confrontations, recorded medium range ballistic missile installations in process of construction, capable of launching missiles with a thousand-mile range, loaded with a one megaton nuclear warhead. The missiles themselves were also photographed just as they were being trucked into a garage facility. That launching capability embraced an arc from Savannah, Georgia across the Southeast to New Orleans, plus a longer arc, reaching north to anywhere in North Carolina, northwest to Nashville, and west to Houston, albeit with less accuracy in the hunt.

The missiles were calculated at the time by Defense Intelligence, based not only on the photographic evidence but also on the hearsay of cultivated informants within Cuba, to become operational by Sunday, October 28, placing the automatic deadline on any hope for peaceful negotiations with the Soviets.

John Hughes, Special Assistant to the Director of Defense Intelligence, was responsible for interpreting the U-2 photographs, photographs taken from 70,000 feet showing a 5.7 nautical mile square per frame, as medium range missile installations, leading to the call that the country was in a major crisis.

A progressive build-up of Soviet forces in Cuba, including the installation of new surface to air missile launchers and missiles, plus increased personnel and military equipment to go with them, had been monitored by C.I.A. U-2 flights from August 29 to October 5. On October 5, a trapezoid configuration of SAM sites around San Cristobal was spotted, suggesting to the monitors a guardian configuration for a nuclear installation, a configuration previously confirmed as existing within the Soviet Union.

Nevertheless, the belief persisted initially that this site was intended only as part of a short-range defensive strategy, with surface to air missiles capable of only a thirty mile range, not capable therefore of reaching out the 90 miles to the tip of Florida. Increases in delivery of MiG-21 aircraft to Cuba also indicated only a defensive strategy, not necessarily an offensive indication, as these airplanes, while capable of delivering nuclear devices, could not perform with them onboard beyond a 200-mile radius, and only then in daytime, thus not likely to be called upon for such an inevitably suicidal mission, not a characteristic of Soviet military strategy historically.

President Kennedy thus had instructed the U-2 missions by C.I.A. to stop after October 5, out of concern that a surface to air missile would hit one and provoke a confrontation.

Thereafter the Navy and Air Force would fly the reconnaissance missions to enable a cover story of routine flights, in the hope of avoiding confrontations, these flights, after the crucial Texas flight of October 14, originating from Strategic Air Command bases in Florida.

It was not until the October 14 flight’s film was developed on October 15 that the medium range offensive nuclear capability came to light.

The President would be briefed the following morning; the crisis, already being monitored for 45 days by the White House, was now an urgent and major problem requiring immediate action. Missiles capable of striking the United States on a first-strike basis could not be tolerated in this hemisphere. Whether the Soviets intended actual use of them was beside the point; their threatened use would potentially become the source of poker money to seek to annex parts of western Europe and N.A.T.O. interests, namely, for starters, West Berlin.

And, returning to yesterday’s 1937 page for a moment, for an interesting little side trip into milk again, (remember milk?), re the Hunding Dairy Company of Chicago, see U.S. v. Borden Co., et al., 347 US 514 (1954), a case in which a lower Federal District Court’s refusal to grant an injunction to the Government to restrain alleged monopoly and price discrimination practices by ten Chicago area dairies was partially overturned 7-0 by the Supreme Court, the injunction therefore granted under the part of the case seeking restraint of discriminatory price-fixing under the Clayton Act, but affirmed as to the lower court's dismissal, for want of evidence of monopolistic practices, of that part of the case alleging Sherman Act violations; the reason for the refusal of the injunction below having been only that a prior injunction had been granted in a private civil action, considered by the Supreme Court, however, not likely to be enforced with the same disinterest or vigor or economic wherewithal by the purely private competing milk company plaintiffs in the other case, as by the publicly interested protection motivating Government enforcement of the injunction. (Interestingly, counsel for one of the dairies, the Bowman Dairy Company, was future, and still present, Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens. But, God only knows how we should never judge a lawyer or jurist by his or her present or former clients. For were we to do so, the scalding heat of hellfire which might await should reach most hotly most of the profession, as surely as the most substantial portion of the clientele thus engaging it. As we have commented before, in our opinion, Justice Stevens has served his country honorably and well as a jurist since his appointment to the Court 32 years ago, never discernibly veering from the path of intellectually honest jurisprudence into politics.)

And, as we have also made ample mention before, Justice Hugo Black, whose confirmation had just been achieved, followed by a stormy period of press over the revelations of his past membership in the Alabama Klan before becoming a United States Senator, would serve as one of the most liberal and progressive voices for civil rights in the history of the Supreme Court, serving with long distinction until his retirement in 1971 just shortly before his death. His tenure thus serves as a chief exemplar for the notion that the hula-hoopla and consequent public press theater, be they positive or negative, surrounding a justice's confirmation, and his or her apparent personal beliefs based on past affiliations, do not always necessarily serve to predict how a justice-designate will judge once on the Court.

Over time, Justice Black amply vindicated F.D.R.'s judgment, contemporaneously appearing as an appointment politically motivated, a tip of the gentleman Knickerbocker's tophat to the South, on this first of nine F.D.R. appointments to the Court.

It filled the vacancy left by retiring conservative Taft-appointee Willis Van Devanter, one of the "old men" who had gained a reputation from their decisions as being inimical to New Deal policies, giving rise to the controversial and miserably failing 1937 Court-packing plan sought by Roosevelt from the political capital gained, and then by equal measures after the promulgation of the plan immediately squandered, in the wake of his landslide in 1936 over Alf Landon.

And as to "Rocky Joe" and "Aunt Jane", we'll stay out of that battle altogether. Leave that to the Sheriff. We'd rather deal with missiles in Cuba, quite frankly.

The slow one now will later be fast.

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