"It Would Have Been A Total Holocaust"
Fifty years ago we came within a pushed-button of nuclear war with the Soviet Union.
Dr. Henry Mack, IV remembers it well.
The 81-year-old resident of Sunrise, Florida was one of those with a finger on that button during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Dr. Mack was an Army officer back then, commanding a Nike Missile base in Carleton, Michigan and an order away from launching a nuclear warhead. "It was probably the most challenging assignment that I had in my 20 years of service; knowing that I could be the single individual that started World War III."
According to Mack, the country was an itchy finger away from disaster. "My missiles were at battle stations ready to fire in a minute. My site came very close. I began to follow rules of engagement."
How does it feel to know that you were on the precipice of history? "I never gave it much thought. For me, it was just a part of my duty."
Dr. Mack, who originally served among the famed African American regiment of Buffalo Soldiers, left the Army in the late 1960's, earned a doctorate in business administration and moved to South Florida in 1971. He opened up his own management consulting business, and served 25-years on the Miami-Dade County School Board's audit committee.
But he didn't talk much about his unique role in history in the passing years. Even with his closest friends and family.
"No one even knew about it. Everything was so highly classified back then. You simply didn't talk about it. That restraint remained with me throughout the years."
What does Dr. Mack most remember about those 13 days that nearly changed the world?
"I'm a little fellow, I weigh less than 140 pounds. But during that period, I lost 18 pounds, from simply stress"
And what sticks in his mind the most?
"Seeing four 41-foot Nike Hercules Missiles painted white, pointed skyward is a formidable and frightening sight."