RIVERSIDE: Cuban Missile Crisis U-2 Spy Gear Donated to March Field Air Museum
Cuban Missile Crisis U-2 Spy Gear Donated to March Field Air Museum
March Field Air Museum
22550 Van Buren Blvd Riverside California
Tuesday –Sunday 9am-4pm
Admission $10 adults $5 youth 5-11 years Child under age 5 free
March Field Air Museum in Riverside California announced the donation of Central Intelligence Agency spy plane pilot Al Rand’s high-altitude pressure suit and helmet worn on Cold War U-2 flights over the Soviet Union and during the secret missions that touched-off the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Recently declassified documents confirm, in the fall of 1962, the CIA, acting on information provided by spies inside Fidel Castro’s Cuba, flew covert surveillance missions over the island nation in an attempt to locate Soviet nuclear-tipped medium range ballistic missiles. In nearly a dozen flights, Al Rand, close friend of legendary U-2 pilot Francis Gary Powers, and fellow CIA pilots located 19 surface-to-air missile batteries positioned to protect newly built, high-security military installations spread throughout Cuba. Analysis by the CIA uncovered specialized construction at the sites clearly revealing Castro’s intent to place nuclear-armed missiles within range of the U.S. heartland.
In a clever ploy, the agency delayed a scheduled U-2 flight to confirm the presence of the nuclear missiles until progress on the Cuban launch facilities could advance to the point the photographic evidence would be irrefutable. At the last moment, acting on the advice of General Curtis LeMay, Air Force Chief of Staff, President Kennedy ordered the replacement of the CIA U-2 pilot with an active duty U.S. Air Force flier. The spy agencies aircraft, with an Air Force pilot in control, brought back conclusive proof of the offensive missiles, beginning the thirteen-day Cuban Missile Crisis widely believed to be the closest the world has ever come to nuclear extinction.
March Field Air Museum plans to have the Rand artifacts join the museum’s SR-71 Blackbird spy-plane as a featured exhibit of their strategic reconnaissance collection. The generous donation by the Rand family includes; a custom fit high-altitude pressure suit, helmet and gloves as well as a specially modified Abercrombie & Finch cold weather parka and overpants designed for escape and evasion use in the bitter winters of the Soviet Union.