“I knew things were getting serious when they issued us corpsmen morphine as we got off the C-130 transport at Guantanamo Bay,” Bob Pulver of Heritage Lake condominiums in Port Charlotte, a former Marine corpsman during the Cuban Missile Crisis said.
He was serving with the 1st Marine Division, the first ground unit sent to Cuba in October 1962 just about the time the missile crisis began heating up between the Cubans, Russians and the United States.
After the U.S. put nuclear missiles along the Turkish border aimed at the Soviet Union, the Russians reciprocated by sneaking medium-range nuclear missiles into Cuba. They were discovered by an American U-2 spy plane charged with keeping an eye on Cuba. They spotted the rocket launching facilities under construction on the island.
This sparked a standoff in the United Nations that resulted in President John Kennedy and Premier Nikita Khrushchev going toe-to-toe over the location of nuclear missiles 90 miles from the coast of Florida.
For the better part of two weeks, in October 1962, the world was on the verge of World War III because of the missiles sneaked into Cuba. President Kennedy’s generals were advising him to send troops into Cuba and run the Russians and their nuclear weapons out of the island nation. Such action could have probably launched World War III.
After blockading Cuba, to keep more missiles from being taken to the island by the Russians, the President spoke to the nation on TV. He explained the situation to the public on Oct. 22. Kennedy demanded the removal of the Russian rockets and the destruction of the missile launching sites.
Both leaders understood the consequences if nuclear war broke out between their two countries. They decided to cool the confrontation down.
Khrushchev agreed to remove the missiles and dismantle the rocket launching sites in Cuba. Quietly, without making a pubic announcement, Kennedy agreed to removed the nuclear missiles aimed at the Soviet Union along he Turkish border.
The Cuban Missile Crisis was over.
News of the settlement was slow reaching Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Pulver camped out in the mountains with the 1st Marine Division on the east end of the island of Cuba. 2nd Marine Battalion,1st Division thought they were going to war.
“We were there from October through April and most of it was pretty boring. We did have Perry Como and Ed Sullivan come down and give us a show, “Pulver said. “And Margaret Chase Smith (a U.S. Senator from Maine) talked to me during a photo op.
“My biggest service to the Corps was that I spent the bulk of my time patching up Marines who got in bar fights with Navy personnel in Cuba.”
Four months after he returned with his unit to Camp La Jeune, N.C. he completed his four years of military service and was discharged.
During the time Pulver was in the Marines one of his buddies saw an ad in the paper that said the federal government was looking for people who had served as medics in the service. After he was out he called the number in the ad and it wasn’t long afterwards he went to work as a medical service officer for the Central Intelligence Agency.
“I worked for the agency for five years. However, my wife didn’t like traveling so after five years with the CIA I resigned,” Pulver explained.
It wasn’t long after that he opened his own photography studio in Mount Pleasant, Mich. When he and his wife moved to Florida a dozen years ago he sold his business to one of his sons. The couple moved to this area of Florida in 2002.
They have four children: Kelly, Daniel, Tanya, Carrie and eight grandchildren.
“You might tell your readers I couldn’t tell you any more about what I did for the CIA. If I told you those stories I’d have to kill you,” Pulver said with smile.
D.O.B: 17 April 1941
Hometown: Newburg, Ny.
Currently: Punta Gorda, Fla.
Entered Service: 1959
Discharged: April 1963
Rank: Corpsman 3rd Class
Unit: 1st Marine Division, 2nd Marine Battalion
Actions: Cuban Missile Crisis
This story was first published in the Charlotte Sun newspaper, Port Charlotte, Fla. on Monday, Dec. 2, 2013 and is republished with permission.
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