Cuban Missile Crisis: Boarding of the SS Marucla

The only “enemy” ship actually stopped and boarded by US Navy forces during the Cuban Missile Crisis was the Lebanese freighter, Marucla. It had been commissioned by the Soviet Union to transport goods to the nation of Cuba and as it approached the Navy’s quarantine or blockade line around Cuba the decision was made to stop and board her as a show of America’s resolve.

As I’ve written about earlier, the ships chosen for the task were the destroyers, John R. Pierce, DD-753 and Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr., DD-850. On October 26, 1962 a party of six Americans climbed aboard the Marucla to inspect its cargo for contraband or forbidden goods. Included in the party were the executive officers of the Pierce, Dwight G. Osborne, and Kennedy, K.C. Reynolds, the Kennedy’s damage control officer, Edward Mass and communications officer, Paul Sanger, along with radioman Paul J. Arnold and another Kennedy enlisted man.

In 1992, NBC produced and broadcast a 30-year special on the missile crisis titled, One Minute to Midnight: The Real Story of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Paul Sanger was among those interviewed for the program and the following transcripts were found online.

Ensign Paul Sanger of the USS Joseph P. Kennedy says in partial, “They knew they were either going to have a relatively uneventful day or they would be essentially starting the third world war.”

DD-850 was decommissioned and stricken from Navy records in July of 1973. Since then  it has been a museum ship and part of the naval museum at Battle Ship Cove in Fall River, MA. It also houses the Admiral Arleigh Burke National Destroyermen’s Museum.

To mark the 50th anniversary of the Marucla’s boarding a symposium was held in Fall River on October 27, 2012. In attendance were three of the Kennedy’s officers, two of which, Sanger and Mass, had been members of the boarding party. Following is a brief video clip of the two men recounting some of their memories.

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