By Ian Thompson
Navy Lt. Cmdr. Tad Riley and his wingmen’s photo-reconnaisance RF-8A Crusaders cleared the coast of Cuba flying a little more than 50 feet off the ground, their jets’ exhaust sending up rooster tails of dust from the fields of startled Cuban farmers.
Their mission on Oct. 23, 1962, was to take detailed, low-level photos of the sites of missile and other military sites the Soviet Union was setting up in Cuba, sites which had previously been spotted by high-flying U-2s a few days earlier, kicking off the Cuban Missile Crisis.
“We were right on the deck,” the now-retired Navy flier and intelligence officer told the Fairfield High School Air Force Junior ROTC cadets who were interviewing him. “Our primary mission was to figure out if they (the missile sites) were ready yet.”