Rockets in Cuba: "combines" and "seeders" for protection of the island of Freedom

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The events connected with Caribbean (Cuban rocket) crisis, are in detail stated in works of the western and Russian authors and became available to a wide range of readers. And still many facts, details of those memorable drama days of fall of 1962 appeared out of sight of historians and memoirists.


In 1961 after Voyenno's termination - air engineering academy of N.E.Zhukovsky I was given assignment in special military unit to a position of the chief of group of assembly and storage of special (nuclear) ammunition. By 1958 specialammunition of various power and appointment began to arrive on arms of Rocket strategic forces, Voyenno - air forces and Voyenno - navy of the USSR. For their assembly, transportation and installation on carriers (rockets, planes), and also storages were created the mobile and stationary is repair - technical bases (PRTB and RTB).

The cover legend - the fictitious name of part, it seems, as usual military warehouse, repair shop or any other rear service was appropriated to each base. In PRTB and RTB the officers most disciplined and professionally prepared in special training center - graduates of military academies and schools were selected. Uchebno - combat training in such parts was directed on maintenance of high readiness, accident-free operation of specialammunition, reduction of time of delivery and installation on the carriers, the most strict observance of privacy and masking. The admission in places of storage and works with specialammunition of foreign persons was strictly forbidden.

The mobile it is repair - technical base where I was recalled from конструкторско - the Air Force technological bureau, I intended for yaderno - the technical providing an aviation engineering regiment of the front cruise missiles (FCM) deployed in the same garrison. By the way, the word "mobile" meant that all PTRB were very mobile. They could plunge in a short space of time on cars together with all the divisions and regular equipment then to follow under the own steam to the preset area.The staff had opportunity to be in field conditions quite long time. The base also could plunge into a railway echelon and quickly be unloaded, and even in an open field. These and others uchebno - fighting tasks, such as, for example, problems of acceptance, storages in field conditions and installation on rockets of specialammunition, protection and masking, were constantly fulfilled in our part during trainings and doctrines.

In the middle of July, 1962 all staff of base was lifted on fighting alarm and received a task: to prepare military equipment for a transfer by rail for performance of especially important governmental task. So for me and my colleagues participation in the unprecedented and unsurpassed military operation "Anadyr" began.

Early in the morning the next day the train with staff and equipment of PRTB started in a way. Soon the echelon arrived on voyenno - sea base to the city of Baltiysk where we among the military ships were expected by the motor ship - the Izhevsk bulk carrier.

It is necessary to emphasize that those years in our country as seaports, and railway stations were extremely badly equipped and a little adapted for loading (unloading) of large-size equipment. Bulk carriers didn't intend at all for transportation of people on long distances. Our regular truck cranes - bulky goods - didn't pass in hold hatches, and we had to fix them directly on the deck. Loading went by means of cargo arrows of a vessel that for us was unusual. We were helped by harmonious work of crew of "Izhevsk". The unusual teams "vira", "mayna", roar at the slightest blow to metal partitions or the vessel case - all this demanded from staff of part of huge tension of all spiritual and physical forces. By the dawn work was complete, freights are reliably fixed. The assessment to our work was given by elements: in the North Sea the six-point storm "checked" equipment fastening. In the top floor of the twin deck plank beds for staff where we should "shake" on waves to the unknown destination were equipped.


From the North Sea "Izhevsk" followed to the Atlantic Ocean on very brisk route through the passage of La - Mansh. In all directions trade and fishery vessels, ferries scurried about. Over us the sports and military planes some several times flew by at different height decreased almost to level of masts and photographed our bulk carrier with the disguised military equipment.The part of the equipment which was directly on the deck of "Izhevsk", was boarded with inscriptions "agricultural machinery" in English. They imitated usual commercial freight. In the conditions of intensive "a transport stream" the team and the captain of our motor ship needed an attention and responsibility maximum: they - that understood what carry "combines" and "seeders".

The captain of a vessel for certain knew and how to react in case of provocations or attack to "Izhevsk". Probably, it had no information on a final point of flight, but near it there was "pilot" from KGB. After passing of the passage of La - Mansh was opened by them a confidential package where it was recommended to go through Atlantic to the equator. In a certain point other package with the order was opened to follow to one of the Cuban ports. This message pleased all: the pier, exotic, tropics, Fidel, "барбудос" about what in the Union read in newspapers and magazines, listened by radio. Nobody assumed, what "exotic" expects all in the next months.

Having collected all staff of part, the chief of an echelon declared that we go to Cuba for protection of revolution that business this difficult and dangerous, will demand from us the limit tension of all forces, and expressed confidence that we with honor will pass the tests which have fallen to our lot. The increased combat readiness on a case of attempt of detention or vessel capture was entered. For its protection created the teams armed with a service weapon. However, despite everything, everyday life on the bulk carrier took its course: classes, educational alarms, party and Komsomol meetings were given, the best Soviet movies of that time were shown.

Transition through the Atlantic Ocean was difficult and dangerous. Even if on passenger comfortable vessels such long swimming was transferred quite hard, on bulk carriers where people settled down in twin decks, it was extremely wearisome. For masking the exit to the deck was limited, and at the way to the Bahamas when flights of "Izhevsk" by the American military planes began and there were ships of Naval Forces of the USA, the exit to the deck was forbidden. Hatches of twin decks became covered by tarpaulin covers, from - for imperfections of ventilation of heat in them sometimes reached 50 degrees and more. The food was given only two times per day in dark time. Many products (butter, meat, vegetables) from - for high temperatures quickly spoiled.

The sun scorched mercilessly.In the afternoon we choked in the heated steel box of the hold, exhausted with rolling, a stench and thirst therefore for night short-term walks on a main deck waited as rescue. Among other things, irritated, pressed on mentality continuous flights of our vessel by the American planes, with a roar carried by over the masts... We had to spend 16 days in these conditions.

The closer we approached to Cuba, the over us the American Air Force scout planes began to fly by more often, persons of crews and operators with movie cameras in hands were distinctly visible. Patrol boats of the USA approached to the motor ship on a short distance, and sometimes the large ships, including an aircraft carrier in the distance were seen. Americans, naturally, at that moment didn't know, what freight is lucky our bulk carrier, and freely passed us further.



And here at last Cuba. "Izhevsk", having reduced turns, slowly I entered the narrow short canal and I cast off. Place it appeared near port Mariel in the north of Cuba. In port we were met by enthusiastic crowd of the armed Cubans: "Russians with us! "

Unloading of two PRTB (commanders Trifonov and Stakhovsky) began. Business went quickly and orderly, despite a strong heat and high humidity. Worked only in a night-time with small respites. It was necessary to sweat fairly, and the relative night cool didn't rescue.

Near us the Cuban military worked, but they didn't understand Russian, and we - Spanish, and it was impossible to communicate without translator. Here I needed knowledge of bases of colloquial English which I strenuously learned during study in academy. Many Cubans knew English, and subsequently the author of these lines had to act more than once in a role "толмача" at the commander of our part (then the Soviet in-house translators in Cuba didn't suffice).

Some hours later loading was complete, the column of cars is built on a roadside of a country road, and we in the dark started in a way. Having passed kilometers 60, again appeared on the seashore, in the Cuban military camp which has taken place in the estate of the fluent Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista. Here we should live indefinite time until when will find suitable storage for tactical nuclear charges which had to arrive later on a separate vessel.

Soon our PRTB relocated in east part of Cuba, to Oriyente's province, is closer to voyenno - sea base of the USA - Guantanamo.Moving made a railway echelon. Again we bore all weight pogruzochno - discharging and arrangement on a new place. Having finished it, we started planned trainings of assembly calculations waiting for motor ship arrival with nuclear warheads.

For maintenance of skills and abilities used educational ammunition and regular processing equipment. Practical classes were given in tropical conditions (temperature to plus of 40 degrees and humidity of 80-90%), however high level of a trenirovannost of all assembly crews of base was supported.

We knew that the main danger to ammunition was constituted by the ambient temperature as taking into account a natural warming up of a nuclear material due to spontaneous process of division of kernels big external heating could break physical setup of the nuclear device. Therefore for us there was a serious problem of providing special storage conditions of tactical warheads - so-called climatic characteristics of the environment of stay of nuclear ammunition.

After a rekognostsirovka in several kilometers from a place of our dislocation, in Syerro's mountains - - the Crystal, near Santiago - - Cuba, for storage of warheads to us released the concreted gallery in which it was possible to hide some tens nuclear charges. The construction where there were warehouses of ammunition of the Cuban army earlier, consisted of two combined rooms with a total area of 650 square meters. In each of them was available on eight air-channels, but on technical characteristics of the room weren't adapted for storage and service of the nuclear weapon. For maintenance of necessary parameters of air conditioners were required. Cubans helped out: according to Fidel Castro's personal order room conditioners of brothels in the city of Santiago - - Cuba were dismantled and delivered in storage. Besides we agreed with Cubans about delivery to us daily 20 kg of food ice with the nearest freezing factory in the city of Santiago - - Cuba. Brought ice stacked in metal trays in storage. Surplus of humidity eliminated with placement of sacks with silica gel which periodically dried in the special furnace. Resolving under way many unforeseen issues, we could bring temperature and humidity of air into demanded limits, and to an established period the base was ready to acceptance of nuclear warheads.


Polk FKR received a task:to keep the American military base on a sight. On it were placed: the mooring front, two airfields, warehouses, floating dock, staff, communication center, workshops and the divisions providing simultaneous parking of 37 ships, including two aircraft carriers. Capacity of the territory didn't allow to hold the large contingents of armies. All objects could be surprised massive fire of artillery, the front cruise missiles located at nearby heights.

To a regiment of FKR there was orderly a watch by one starting group which was in the region of a constant dislocation in readiness for reception of rockets from a technical position and to promotion to beforehand equipped area. Military units, explosive devices and starting powder engines on all a fighting set of KR contained completely equipped and ready to immediate application. By October 27 one group of rockets was removed to the position area and will develop in a fighting order in readiness for firing. Interaction of rocketeers with a motor-shooting regiment which Dmitry Yazov (future Minister of Defence of the USSR) ordered was provided. For this purpose on the MSP command point it was supposed to have the representative from a staff of a rocket regiment with the means of communication.

To Cuba during the operation "Anadyr" delivered from the USSR 80 nuclear warheads for front cruise missiles with power from 2 to 12 of Kt, 6 - for quickly - the 2 tactical Moon complex of Kt, 6 nuclear bombs to front bombers Il - 28, 60 nuclear ammunition to P-12 and P-14 rockets with power up to 1 of Mt. The part of nuclear warheads for our regiment of FKR was transported on the island onboard the diesel - an electrocourse "Indigirka" which arrived to the Cuban port Mariel on October 4, 1962. Vessel sent without the fighting ships that it didn't draw to itself special attention. Freight was protected by 200 marines. The captain of "Indigirka" had the order not to allow transport capture by the opponent and to flood it in urgent cases.

Other part of nuclear warheads to cruise missiles was delivered onboard the Aleksandrovsk bulk carrier which also went to the port Mariel. From radio interception it became known that Naval Forces of the USA look for the Soviet vessel, "specially adapted for transportation of nuclear warheads". It was decided to readdress the bulk carrier to La Isabel's port though there were no special bunkers for YaB warehousing.Ordering Groups of the Soviet armies in Cuba (GSVK) the general Issah Pliyev sent on KGB channels the message that "Aleksandrovsk", "being a main goal of blockade" Americans, safely arrived to the port on October 24. As a part of the persons accompanying this dangerous freight, there were officers of our base Mikhail Mordovsky and Vyacheslav Shalkov (graduates of "Zhukovka").

Group of experts of PRTB (and the author of these lines) in the evening, using cover cars, left to La Isabel's port for unloading and reception of nuclear warheads. By the time of our arrival "Aleksandrovsk" already lay alongside. It all was shined with fires. Unloading began at night after instructing and small preparation. Thus the underwater part of a vessel several times looked round experts - scuba divers regarding absence diversionary min. From the sea supervision over approaches to the diesel - to an electrocourse was constantly carried out. The staff of group of assembly and storage accepted nuclear ammunition and the property put to them. Lifted containers with charges from hold ship arrows. Slingers (our officers) hardly held the containers hanging on cables of cargo arrows at big height from rocking. It is possible to imagine with great difficulty that would occur, once the container broke and to fall: consequences would be catastrophic as all could detonate and explode remained in holds of "Aleksandrovsk" a nuclear arsenal. The staff of the base which has arrived for unloading, tried not to allow the slightest possibility of such outcome. For this purpose we attentively secured each other, made use of all experience pogruzochno - discharging.

By the dawn of the next day containers with nuclear charges were reliably fixed in cars - storages. For masking and misinformation in the same cars well visible economic freights took place also...

After delivery of 10-15 nuclear ammunition in storage the most responsible stage began: it was necessary to diagnose technical condition of warheads, to bring into a condition of storage and readiness for delivery in FKR regiment for fighting application. From this point we were given out for conspiracy the Cuban military uniform and a service weapon which we didn't leave till December, 1962. A half of regular groups of base was on fighting watch directly near storage, and other half - in Mayari Arriba's garrison in readiness at any time to leave them to the aid. Groups were interchanged the position in 3-4 days.The staff of assembly crews of base fulfilled practical interaction with rocketeers, proceeding from specific conditions. We achieved the maximum reduction of time for technological operations of final preparation of the nuclear weapon.


The measures of masking taken by command of GSVK, misled reconnaissance services of the USA. For example, Americans revealed a construction of launching sites for P-12 rockets only on October 14 when they were photographed by the pilot of the scout plane. Meanwhile rockets were in Cuba since September 9. About delivery to the island of tactical nuclear ammunition and nuclear aviation bombs of Washington even didn't suspect...

On October 22 the U.S. Government declared blockade of Cuba, and on October 23 in the Republic the martial law was declared. In the USSR the government suspended dismissal of the military personnel in a stock and stopped planned holidays...

About all this we learned from messages of radio stations of the USA; I hardly managed to translate to colleagues a tongue twister of announcers. Nevertheless we understood that there was extremely dangerous situation when nuclear war at any time can burst, and it will begin with us. The American warplanes made repeated flights of Cuba at small heights (about 100-300 m). Pilots defiantly requested the command points on time of the beginning of bombing in clear.

The situation was heated to a limit. Round our garrison there were weapon emplacements of Cubans with artillery and antiaircraft means. On a position of part the roar of the started engines reaching with voyenno - the sea Guantanamo base was constantly audible. According to the indication of a staff of GSVK we started digging of entrenchments of a full profile for perimeter defense of firing positions, received machine guns, carbines, grenades, strengthened guard, carefully masked military equipment - it was ordered to us to be ready to conducting combat operations, invasion on the island of the American connections was expected.

All of us with alarm expected permission of the Caribbean Crisis. Slept with the weapon, kept fighting watch in storage, at night tried to catch by radio Moscow, but it worked well infrequently.

Only on October 25-28, 1962 the agreement on export of the Soviet rockets with nuclear warheads from Cuba, and American - from Turkey and Italy was reached. Nuclear ammunition was sent from the island on December 1, 1962 from port Mariel onboard the Arkhangelsk motor ship to Severomorsk.

At the beginning of December declared that our body goes home, and the staff of a regiment of FKR remains in Cuba as military advisers for training of the military personnel of national armed forces which it is necessary then to serve independently launchers of rockets with usual (trotyl) charges. It is necessary to tell that Cubans quickly modified FKR abbreviation: it was pleasant to them "Fidel Castro Rus" more. After two years' stay on the island the regiment returned to the USSR and was disbanded.

Having transferred to special team everything the tactical nuclear weapon which was available for us for transportation to the Soviet Union, we began to prepare the equipment for sending. Cars - the storages, the special equipment shipped on the Lgov motor ship in Santiago port - - Cuba with eight members of staff of base, other military personnel of PRTB was delivered by cars to Havana, from where by comfortable motor ship "Admiral Nakhimov" sailed to native coast. (Then anybody also couldn't think that in quarter of the century this vessel will suffer accident on external raid of Novorossiysk and will carry away itself hundreds lives. )

In summary it would be desirable to emphasize the following.

Officers, sergeants and soldiers of our specific part adequately fulfilled the military and international duty in Cuba. They bore an active service far from the Homeland in extreme conditions voyenno - sea blockade of the island and unusual tropical climate, showed human sympathy for the Cuban people, readiness to battle and be lost together with them. Objectives were accomplished with credit. Passed 45 years since then, but I very often with big warmth remember the comrades in arms with whom it was necessary to share adversities and weights of those of historical days …


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