Radioman Wayne Mengel took part in ‘Cuban Missile Crisis’ of 1962
Radioman 3/C Wayne Mengel of Rotonda, Fla. played a small part in the history-making “Cuban Missile Crisis,” the high point in the “Cold War,” between the United States and the Soviet Union, in October 1962.
He was a radioman aboard a P-2V “Neptune” U.S. Navy patrol aircraft that kept a close eye on Russian freighters taking Soviet rockets out of Cuba following the debacle the year before at the Bay of Pigs invasion. A small army of Cuban conscripts funded by the CIA invaded the country.
During the closing months of the Eisenhower administration the CIA cooked up a plan to have Cuban insurgents, hired by the CIA invade Cuba, overthrow Fidel Castro and his Communist government. Castro had recently overthrown the Batista regime, friendly to the U.S.
Before the plan could be initiated John Kennedy became president. He inherited the clandestine invasion of Cuba. It became a dismal flop because the President got cold feet at the 11th hour and withheld supporting U.S. fire power when the Cubans went ashore. The Cuban invaders were captured on the beach by Castro’s troops.
The following year, 1962, Russian Premier Nikita Khrushchev secretly proposed putting Soviet nuclear missiles in Cuba. Castro agreed and unbeknown to officials in the U.S. government, Cuba became a Soviet satellite complete with Soviet nuclear missiles.
An American U-2 spy plane picked up the missile sites under construction in Cuba on Oct. 14, 1962. The U.S. immediately contacted officials in the Soviet Union and informed them they would not permit offensive nuclear missiles there, blockaded the island nation with Navy war ships and ordered them removed.
Khrushchev wrote Kennedy a letter saying that blockading Cuba constituted “an act of aggression,” but behind the scene the Russian ruler negotiated with the President to pull the offensive missiles out of Cuba. He agreed if the U.S. would remove its missiles pointed at Russia along the Turkish border.
While all this was happening the world was on edge. The U.S. and Soviets came within a hair’s breath of World War III.
The crisis was adverted when Khrushchev blinked first and agreed to pull the missiles out of Cuba. This is where Radioman Wayne Mengel of Rotonda entered the picture.
“I started out flying submarine patrol in a P-2V Neptune as a radio operator along the east coast of the United States,” he said. “Mainly we flew from Charleston, S.C to the Caribbean.
“When the ‘Cuban Missile Crisis’ occurred, our squadron, Patrol Squadron 30, in Jacksonville was activated from a training unit to an actual patrol squadron and sent to Roosevelt Rhodes Naval Air Station in Puerto Rico. We had command responsibilities for all of the Navy patrol squadrons flying over the Russian ships pulling the missiles out of Cuba,” Mengel explained.
By the time he was involved in the crisis the U.S. and the Russians had choreographed a plan to pull back from the brink of nuclear annihilation.
“We were told they worked out a deal. In return for pulling the Russian missiles out of Cuba the U.S. agreed to pull its missiles out of Turkey,” he said.
“The way things worked, our P-2V Neptune would fly out of Roosevelt Rhodes and circle the Russian ships carrying the missiles. We would get behind them and wiggle our wings to indicate we were on an official mission,” he said. “Then the Russians would uncover the missiles that were on their decks so we could photograph them.
“Our plane was flying about 1,500 feet above the Russian ships. The Russians would have six missiles strapped to the ship’s deck. A photographer aboard our plane would open a rear window on the plane and take pictures of the missiles.
“Sometimes the skipper of the Russian ship would refuse to uncover his missiles. When that happened a U.S. Navy destroyer would be brought up beside the Russian ship. If they still refused another destroyer was brought up on the other side.
We did encounter several Russian submarines while we were on patrol,” he said. “They were on the surface and we weren’t sure what they were doing out there.
“I don’t think a single shot was fired in anger during the missile crisis,” Mengel said.
“We were only in Puerto Rico for a short time–maybe six weeks. When the crisis was over we went back to Jacksonville and we continued to make flights to train pilots how to fly P-2Vs. I was discharged from the Navy a short time later after four years of service.
“I attended college and got a degree and ended up being an elementary school teacher to start with. I loved it,” Mengel said. “Then I worked for a number of years in school administration in New York state.
My wife, Darlene, and I retired to West Coast Florida three years ago. I have two grown children: Christopher and Jennifer and several grandchildren.
Name: Wayne Pierce Mengel, Jr
D.O.B: 15 Jan 1942
Hometown: Peekskill, NY
Currently: Rotonda West, Fla.
Entered Service: Sept. 1960
Discharged: Sept. 1964
Commendations: Good Conduct medal
Battles/Campaigns: Cuban Missile Crisis
This story was first published in the Charlotte Sun newspaper, Port Charlotte, Fla. on Monday, March 11, 2013 and is republished with permission.
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Reblogged this on kjmhoffman.
I and another Radioman passed all of Sublant Radio traffic to and from all Submarines involved in the Cuban Misille embargo. Qualified Speed Key (Bug) operator…Minimum of 40 WPM…
80% of my radio school class was pulled from school in Bainbrdge Maryland in early Oct.’62 and spread around the caribbean 2 weeks before the blockade.I ended up in Puerto Rico after a stop in Gitmo.
I was an E-5 1st tech radioman and radar/sonar aircrewman on P5M seaplanes (later redesignated SP5B) in VP45, based in Bermuda. We deployed to Cuba for the missile crisis in fall of 1962 and either “swung the hook” (anchored in the bay) or sat on the ramp at the seaplane base at Gitmo. There’s a pic above of one of our planes (LN-9) flying over a sub. I was on the crew of LN-10 and -8. We joked that the P2Vs and P3s visited Cuba for the Crisis; we had to live there! When we flew over the Russian cargo ships to take pictures, the Russian sailors would moon us and their improvised deck guns would follow us. WW3 hung in the balance.
adr3 kennedy was in gitmo.