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Critical time for nation, military members

Sixty years ago today, North Dakotans and all of the nation heard President John F. Kennedy inform the country in a televised address of the presence of missile sites in Cuba.

For 35 days the Cuban Missile Crisis was a direct and dangerous confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. The U.S. put a naval blockade in place around Cuba and the tensions mounted. The world wondered if there would be a peaceful resolution to the crisis.

It was a time when Minot Air Force Base was in its early years, and personnel there were called upon to respond to the potential crisis.

Bill Sims said he remembers the Cuban Missile Crisis very well. A retired Air Force lieutenant colonel from Yuba City, California, Sims, who was at Minot Air Force Base at the time, said, “We were flying airborne alert at that time – 23-25 hour flights. Two (B-52 bombers) at a time.” He said the B-52s were carrying nuclear weapons. Sims recalled each unit of B-52s across the country had at least two B-52s in the air at all times during the missile crisis. He said the Minot AFB B-52s could not fly over Canada so they flew a route from Maine, Greenland to Alaska before heading back to Minot AFB, refueling en route.

Sims and Brad Foote of Annapolis, Maryland, also a retired lieutenant colonel, visited Minot AFB in 2018. They were crew members with one of the first B-52 bombers to arrive at the Minot base in 1961.

The late Col. Jack Broughton, who arrived at the Minot base in 1962, was the 5th Fighter Interceptor Squadron’s commander when President Kennedy informed the world that Russia was placing secret missiles in Cuba and the Russians had a supply ship heading for Cuba. The entire 5th Fighter Squadron was on alert, and Broughton was requested to send four alert planes with all weapons on board, including hot nukes to Fargo, to pull alert there.

It was a tense time but eventually the supply ship turned around. The crisis was over.

Whether it was the Cuban Missile Crisis or other major events in the past or present day, we know Minot Air Force Base personnel as they did years ago stand ready to provide strategic deterrence and global strike and support to this nation and our state at a moment’s notice.

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