Nearly 50 years ago the Cuban Missile Crisis gripped the nation.
In the fall of 1962, Jim Whitaker was a fresh graduate of the University of Nevada, Reno where he was a football standout. He was drafted by the National Football League's Pittsburgh Steelers and the Oakland Raiders of the American Football League.
After graduation Whitaker was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Army and he was sent to the Everglades of Southern Florida, less than 100 miles from Russian missile sites in Cuba. Whitaker was part of Battery B, 2nd Missile Battalion, 52nd Artillery, which was the only Nike Hercules missile unit in the world.
In preparation for deployment Whitaker's unit was selected to go to Johnston Island in the South Pacific and was the only unit to fire a Hercules missile with a nuclear warhead. For almost two intense years Whitaker's unit remained poised and on alert living in austere conditions ready to provide the nation a nuclear capability and response.
Whitaker will return to campus for a presentation entitled, "The Cuban Missile Crisis -- Within Hours of Global Nuclear War" on Wednesday March 7, at 8 a.m. He will speak in the Military Science Department, Room 200, Cain Hall. In fall 2012, Whitaker will be the keynote speaker at the 50th Anniversary Reunion of all army units that participated in the Cuban Missile Crisis in South Florida.
U.S. Army Major Michael Minaudo, chair of the University's Military Science Department commented that, "The events during the Cuban Missile Crisis are an important part of our nation's history that must be remembered. Jim Whitaker's story highlights the challenge and coming of age of a young Army officer not unlike what has been seen in recent years in Iraq and Afghanistan but with the added dimension of nuclear weapons."