Whitesburg KY

A very tense time

I was working on one of my old classic cars in my carport at my quarters at Travis Air Force Base when a staff car pulled up in front of my house. My boss got out and came up to me.

He said, “Van, I want you to report to your printing department with a couple of your printers ASAP.” I had known the General for years. We had served overseas together. He was unshaven, and from the tone of his voice I knew something big was going on. He then told me, “We may be at war as I speak.”

A Major would meet me at the print shop. He was from our war plans and I would be printing top-secret plans to move aircraft and troops to other locations.

I call Staff Sergeant Fields in town and asked him to pick up one of our printers and come to the print shop as fast as he could get there.

The General left, and I went into my house to wash up and get into my work clothes. I did not want to worry my wife and kids and I told my wife that I would call her later. This was not the first time I had been called into work.

When I got to the print shop, the Major was waiting with a box of papers for me to make plates for the offset printing presses. The phone rang; it was the base provost marshal, Colonel Burger, whom I knew well. He said my two men were at the main gate and wanted to enter, and that cars were backed up for miles and no one was coming in or leaving the base at that time.

I told the provost marshal that my boss was going to be very upset. After a pause, he told me my men would be at the shop as soon as they could get there, and I thank him.

During this time, Travis was declared the busiest military air terminal in the world because of military commitments in the Pacific. This period in October 1962 was the closest that the U.S. came to war with the Soviet Union after an Air Force U-2 reconnaissance plane captured photos of Soviet missile bases being built in Cuba on Oct. 14, 1962.

That was a very scary month and eight days for all of us.

Contributing writer Everett Vanover lives in Fairfield, Calif.

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