1962 - Cuban Missile Crisis

Mullinnix 12 Nov 1962

Left to right: ARV Zulia D-21, USS Mullinnix DD-944, ARA Rosales D-22 (ex-USS Stembel DD-644), ARA Espora D-21 (ex-USS Dortch DD-670), ARV Nueva Esparta (New Sparta) D-11

Pictured above are the warships of the U.S., Argentine, and Venezuelan Navies leave Trinidad on the combined Latin American-United States Quarantine Task Force, 12 Nov, 1962.

During the Cuban Blockade the Mux patrolled the Anegada Passage, which is between the British Virgin Islands and the island of Angilla. The Mux contacted 55 ships during the 9 days she was on station. Also Task Force 137, of which the Mux was flagship for Admiral Tyree, included 11 ships from 6 OAS nations (including the US), many of these ship/subs we had exercised with during Unitas III. The total ship contacts for TF 137 was 153. Also, the reason Mux went to Callao, (Lima) Peru was to drop off Tyree so he could fly back to Trinidad to establish TF 137 and make quarantine plans. That is why the ship was only there a day. The Mullinnix headed towards the Panama Canal the following day. (from Navy scrapbook at the Submarine Museum Library in Groton CT – Ken Robarge (June 2008))

The USS Mullinnix saw action in the Cuban Missile Crisis from 24 October (the day after President Kennedy announced the Naval Blockage) to 5 Dec 1962. Between 24 October and 19 November, Mullinnix was flagship of Task Force (TF) 137, composed of American Argentine, Venezuelan, and Dominican warships, took part in the Cuban quarantine, which brought about the removal of Russian missiles threatening the security of the entire Western Hemisphere.

USS Mullinnix was the first American ship to be a Flagship of an inter-American Naval Force opposing a foreign enemy.

Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal
For participating in designated expeditions after 1 July 1958.
24 October - 5 December 1962
As defined in the Navy and Marine Corps Awards Manual, service for this award was performed in the water area from 12 degrees to 28 degrees North latitude, and from 66 degrees to 84 degrees West longitude.

RM2 Jim McGilvray (July 62 - Jan 66) remembers, "We were on the west side of South America when we got the call for the blockade, we stopped in Panama City for fuel and supplies, then through the canal to Trinidad to drop off ComSoLant. From there we were on the blockade and quarantine, as far as I know there were no boardings. We had a mustang for captain at the time and he and the rest of the crew were very angry about not being allowed to sink one of the Ruskies or even fire a warning shot. So on one occasion we were trying to get one of the commercial ships to turn around and it wouldn't, so we asked for permission to fire on her and once again got a rejection. The old man was so angry that he ordered maximum speed and headed for the Russian fan tail, (I was watching from the port side of the torpedo deck), we kept up speed and turned just at the last minute, I swear the Mux was humming like a speedboat. The Russians were running forward, men and women both, scared s---less. We may not have fired a shot but that one incident was very satisfying.

Ken Fogarty (1962-4) from the USS Lester (DE-1022) remembers, "As a 19 year old SMSN, Unitis III was an experience of a lifetime. It was my first cruise and the first time away from the USA. While in Lima Peru on our Unitis III Cruise, the Lester and USS Mullinnix DD944 were ordered to get underway in the middle of the night and as we passed through the Panama Canal we were told of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Lester participated in the blockade until boiler trouble forced us to return to Newport. The boilers also caused problems early on in the cruise when we were dead in the water for 4 days off the coast of Recife Brazil."

Cuban Missile Crisis Remembered (mpg files)

Kruschev's Plan
Soviet subs head to Cuba
23 Oct: Kennedy Orders Quarantine
Soviet freighters 2 Hours from Quarantine Line
23-24 Oct: USS Decatur DD-936 and USS Essex
USS Edson DD-946; USS Blandy DD-943; USS Kennedy
USS Blandy surfaces 1st Soviet sub
USS Blandy's Radarman Rudolph Rump
USS Blandy surfaces 2nd Soviet sub
USS Blandy launches practice depth charges
USS Blandy; sub launches noise makers
Captain Kelly - USS Blandy
7 Nov: Kruschev allows inspections
Rudolph Rump's hindsight

Video Clip 1 (mpg)
Video Clip 2 (mpg)
                                                 Video Clip 3 (mpg)
                                                 Video Clip 4 (mpg)

Cuban Missile Crisis Documentation

29 Oct: USS Barry DD-933 deck log (pdf)
30 Oct: USS Barry DD-933 looses contact with Soviet sub (pdf)
30 Oct: USS Blandy DD-943 surfaces Soviet sub (pdf)

Cuban Missile Crisis Pictures

USS Blandy DD-943

USS Blandy DD-943

USS Essex and 20 other ships head to Cuba

US Fleet heads to Cuba

US Fleet heads to Cuba

USS Charles P Cecil DD-835 leaves Norfolk D&S Piers

Cuban Missile Crisis Overview

During the missile crisis, U.S. naval officers did not know about Soviet plans for a submarine base (at Mariel Bay, Cuba) or that the Foxtrot submarines were nuclear-armed. Nevertheless, the Navy high command worried that the submarines, which had already been detected in the north Atlantic, could endanger enforcement of the blockade. Therefore, under orders from the Pentagon, U.S. Naval forces carried out systematic efforts to track Soviet submarines in tandem with the plans to blockade, and possibly invade, Cuba.

Of the four submarines that secretly left for Cuba on 1 October, the U.S. Navy detected and closely tracked three: B-36, commanded by Aleksei Dubivko, and identified by the U.S. Navy as C-26 (and later found to be identical with another identified submarine C-20); B-59, commanded by Valentin Savitsky, and identified as C-19, and B-130, commanded by Nikolai Shumkov, and identified as C-18. Only submarine B-4, commanded by Captain Rurik Ketov, escaped intensive U.S. monitoring (although U.S. patrol aircraft may have spotted it). In a major defeat of the Soviet mission, these three submarines came to the surface under thorough U.S. Navy scrutiny.

Some Soviet submarines may have escaped U.S. detection altogether. While the four Soviet Foxtrot submarines did not have combat orders, the Soviet Navy sent two submarines, B-75 and B-88, to the Caribbean and the Pacific respectively, with specific combat orders. B-75, a "Zulu" class diesel submarine, commanded by Captain Nikolai Natnenkov, carried two nuclear torpedoes. It left Russian waters at the end of September with instructions to defend Soviet transport ships en route to Cuba with any weapons if the ships came under attack. Although the Soviets originally intended to send a nuclear-powered submarine for transport ship defense (see document 2), only a diesel submarine was available. Once President Kennedy announced the quarantine, the Soviet navy recalled B-75 and it returned to the Soviet Union by 10 November, if not earlier. Another submarine, B-88, left a base at Kamchatka peninsula, on 28 October, with orders to sail to Pearl Harbor and attack the base if the crisis over Cuba escalated into U.S.-Soviet war. Commanded by Captain Konstatine Kireev, B-88 arrived near Pearl Harbor on 10 November and patrolled the area until 14 November when it received orders to return to base, orders that were rescinded that same day, a sign that Moscow believed that the crisis was not over. B-88 did not return to Kamchatka under the very end of December. While the U.S. Navy detected and surfaced most of the submarines en route to Cuba, it remains to be seen whether it detected any traces of submarines B-75 or B-88.

U.S. aircraft carriers had nuclear depth charges on board, while non-nuclear components (all but the fissile material pit) for more depth charges were stored at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Fortunately, the U.S. and Soviet leadership, from heads of state to naval commanders wanted to avoid open conflict; cool heads, professionalism, and some amount of luck, kept the crisis under control.

1 Oct

Four Soviet submarines secretly leave for Cuba.

25 Oct

U.S. Navy surveillance of first Soviet F-class submarine to surface near the quarantine line (conning tower number 945, Soviet fleet number B-130, commanded by Shumkov).

26 Oct

The U.S. destroyer Joseph P. Kennedy stops, boards and inspects the Marucla, a dry-cargo ship of Lebanese registry under Soviet charter to Cuba.

27 Oct

Soviet ship Grozny crosses the quarantine line, but stops after U.S. Navy ships fire star shells across her bow.

U.S. Navy anti-submarine warfare (ASW) forces surface Soviet submarines B-59 to surface . No one on the U.S. side knew at the time that the Soviet submarines were nuclear-armed; no one knew that conditions in the Soviet submarines were so physically difficult and unstable that commanding officers, fearing they were under attack by U.S. forces, may have briefly considered arming the nuclear torpedoes. The 15 kiloton explosive on each torpedo approximated the bomb that devastated Hiroshima in August 1945.

Communications Intelligence Officer Vadim Orlov recalls the tense and stressful situation when U.S. destroyers lobbed PDCs at B-59. According to Orlov, a "totally exhausted" Captain Valentin Savitsky, unable to establish communications with Moscow, "became furious" and ordered the nuclear torpedo to be assembled for battle readiness. Savitsky roared "We're going to blast them now! We will die, but we will sink them all." Deputy brigade commander Second Captain Vasili Archipov calmed Savitsky down and they made the decision to surface the submarine.

This is one of the most dangerous days of the missile crisis, only hours after the Soviet shoot-down of a U-2 over Cuba and as President Kennedy was intensifying threats to invade Cuba.

30 Oct

U.S. Navy anti-submarine warfare (ASW) forces surfaced Soviet submarine B-130.

With U.S. destroyers pitching PDCs at it, Captain Nikolai Shumkov ordered the preparations of torpedoes, including the tube holding the nuclear torpedo; the special weapon security officer then warned Shumkov that the torpedo could not be armed without permission from headquarters. After hearing that the security officer had fainted, Shumkov told his subordinates that he had no intention to use the torpedo "because we would go up with it if we did."

31 Oct

U.S. Navy forced to the surface a Soviet submarine. This was the third surfacing of a Soviet submarine during the Cuban Missile Crisis. After a day of persistent tracking by the U.S. destroyer, the USS Charles P. Cecil, commanded by Captain Charles Rozier, Soviet submarine B-36, commanded by Captain Aleksei Dubivko, exhausted its batteries forcing it to come to the surface.

When The Russians Blinked (pdf)
Courtesy of Major John M. Young, United States Marine Corps Reserve

Latins Help, Too
Navy League Magazine
January 1963

Another Task Force entered the scene a short time later. While small in size, its political weight was considerable, for this one was the Combined Quarantine Force containing units of South American navies.

On October 23rd, Rear Admiral J. A. Tyree, Commander South Atlantic Forces, was headed up the west coast of South America aboard the destroyer USS MULLINNIX. Since August, the MULLINNIX had been engaged in ASW exercise UNITAS with South American destroyers.

A message arrived ordering Admiral Tyree to fly to Trinidad to establish Task Force 137. MULLINNIX steamed at flank speed to the nearest airport (Lima) then began its long run up the coast and through the canal.

Another run was underway at the same time. The Argentine ROSALES and ESPORA raced 4,500 miles at flank speed to catch up.

“These boys came to fight,” said the MULLINNIX skipper, Comdr. W. H. Shaw. “They were real disappointed when we didn’t move in.”

On the arrival of the ZULIA and the NEUVA ESPARTA from Venezuela, the force was deployed to the Lesser Antilles, which guard the eastern approaches to the Caribbean.

January 1985

Regional naval co-operation has most clearly manifested itself in recent years in the success of the UNTIAS operations, a series of annual, multi-national training exercises conducted by the navies of South America in conjunction with a small United States Task Force.

In the last summer and fall of 1962 the third operation in the series took three United States ships around South America, starting in Trinidad and proceeding south to the Straits of Magellan and north again along the Pacific coast.

The force included the USS MULLINNIX (DD 944), DD, which served as flagship, the USS LESTER (DE 1022) and the submarine PICUDA (SS 382), which joined forces with South American submarines in testing the ASW readiness of the combined task force. In addition, the United States contributed three aircraft to the operation, two P2V-7 “Neptune” patrol planes from squadron VP-18 and an R4Y support plane.

The exercises on the Atlantic side involved the navies of Brazil, Uruguay and Argentina. In the Pacific Chile and Peru took part. Ecuador, Colombia and Venezuela had also been scheduled to participate, but the advent of the Cuban crisis forced cancellation of the last phases of the operation.

Other Exercises

Designed primarily to stimulate ASW proficiency, the exercise had given rise to a number of smaller, regional ones, such as the pre-UNITAS joint maneuvers of the Colombian and Venezuelan navies and others by the Argentine and Uruguayan navies. An active program of midshipman exchanges has also evolved during the last few years. Virtually every type of ship is represented in the American navies, from the aircraft carrier to the river gunboat, and there are even a few four-masted schooners used to train future officers.

Extract from an unknown article:

As President Kennedy spoke on the evening of October 22, Admiral Tyree directed a force of Chilian, Peruvian, and U.S. ships from his flagship the USS Mullinnix (DD 944). They were conducting antisubmarine warfare (ASW) exercises off the northern coast of Chile as part of UNITAS III. On being ordered by CinCLant to establish the combined Latin American-U.S. Quarantine Task Force (TF) 137, Admiral Tyree departed the UNITAS operations on October 24. He flew to his headquarters at the naval base in Chaguaramas, Trinidad. The Mullinnix also proceeded to Trinidad via the Panama Canal.

Offers of assistance soon began arriving from Latin America led by the new military government of Argentina. That country’s navy pledged its single aircraft carrier, ARA Independencia, ex-HMS Warrior, two ex-U.S. destroyers ARA Rosales (ex ) and ARA Espora (ex) ………………
(missing info here) ……….
on board their ships during the quarantine operations. I was aboard the ARV Zulia and Lieutenant Orville R. Whaley to ARV Nueva Esparta.

Admiral Tyree activated Task Force 137 for operations on 7 November when he promulgated ComSoLant/CTF 137 Operation order 9-62. The order stated that the force would “conduct naval quarantine operations in the Lesser Antilles passes into the Caribbean Sea in order to intercept designated shipping and prevent the importation of prohibited material into Cuba.” The operation order further stated that the force would “patrol assigned quarantine stations, maintain surveillance, report sightings of surfaces ships, submarines, and when directed, conduct interception, visit and search, seizure, and diversion of designated shipping.

ARV Zulia and ARV Nueva Esparta patrolled stations that covered the passage between Venezuelan mainland and the island of Granada. ARA Rosales patrolled the passage between the island of Dominica and Guadeloupe. The ARA Espora had to cover two stations, one in the Guadeloupe Passange and the other off of Montserrat Island. The Mullinnix patrolled the northernmost station covering the heavily traveled Anegada Passage between the island of Anegeda and Anguilla.

In the nine days the ships of TF 137 patrolled their stations, they reported 153 ship contacts; the Zulia 40, Nueva Esparta 31, Espora 21, Rosales 6 and the Mullinnix 55. Operations ceased on 20 November when President Kennedy ended the quarantine. But ComSoLant did not officiall dissolve TF 137 until 24 December when the…………………..

Another unknown extract from an article:

On November 12, 1962, a combined naval force of the Organization of American States (OAS) set forth on an operational operation in defense of the Western Hemisphere. When combined Task Foce 137 sortied from the U.S. naval base at Chaguaramas, Trinidad, that morning, it represented 11 warships volunteered by six OAS nations in support of the naval quarantine of Cuba. In addition eight other OAS members offered the use of port facilities and/or airfields.

Task Force 137 evolution and operations have heretofore escaped notice. White House historians of the era obscured data concerning the OAS force along with a great deal of information concerning the astute diplomatic and military preparations made by the Kennedy administration for the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Dependents return to Gitmo - Dec 1962

Cuban Cigar Box (Purchased in Victoric, BC in 2005)

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© 2003 by Frank Wood, All rights reserved.