Image of the Air Force wings with the museum name underneath

Open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. 
FREE Admission & Parking

Cuban Missile Crisis

The Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 dramatically proved the importance of the U-2 and aerial reconnaissance. On Oct. 14, 1962, two USAF U-2s photographed portions of Cuba, revealing Soviet offensive nuclear missiles based only 90 miles from U.S. shores. President John F. Kennedy placed U.S. forces on alert, and USAF U-2 and RF-101 reconnaissance flights over Cuba continued, the latter aircraft sometimes flying at treetop level. On Oct. 22, President Kennedy publicly announced details of the critical situation and ordered a naval blockade of Cuba.

Meanwhile, USAF aircraft kept the island and surrounding waters under constant surveillance, providing the U.S. Navy with data on scores of ships at sea apparently en route to Cuba. On Oct. 27, USAF Maj. Rudolf Anderson Jr. was shot down and killed flying a U-2 mission over Cuba. The superpowers were then very close to war. The next day, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev -- faced with U.S. resolve to prevent Soviet strategic weapons being placed so close to the United States -- agreed to remove the offensive missiles as well as medium range bombers being assembled in Cuba. USAF U-2s and RF-101s then monitored communist compliance in removing this threat to American security.

Click here to return to the U-2 Overview.


Find Out More
Related Fact Sheets
Lockheed U-2A
Note: The appearance of hyperlinks does not constitute endorsement by the National Museum of the USAF, the U.S. Air Force, or the Department of Defense, of the external website, or the information, products or services contained therein.