October 1962 was life-changing for Miami native Charles Carter. Though he was only 16, he skipped school to go to an Army Recruiting Office the morning after President Kennedy's speech revealed Russian missiles in Cuba. Because he was underage, his parents had to give permission for him to enlist. Luckily, they did. And soon Carter found himself manning a missile site in the 'Glades -- one of four hastily erected around South Florida in the fall of '62 (pictured in above photos taken by Carter).
After his Army career, Carter worked in law enforcement in the Atlanta area, and later was an IBM executive. Today he's retired, but spends many hours serving as the official historian for the veterans who manned the Miami-area missile sites 50 years ago. You can read more about the men and missiles at their web page.
Carter had so many vivid memories and historical details about the South Florida Nike sites, we couldn't include them all in the radio piece. So we're featuring them here to give you an even sharper picture of the impact on our area during the darkest days of the Cold War.
- Audio Clip #1: Carter tells the story behind the crash program to build Nike missile bases around South Florida.
"It was the Russian bombers with nuclear-tipped bombs that we still had to defend against. And they were still on the island of Cuba..."
- Audio Clip #2: Carter pinpoints exactly where the Nike bases were located. Chances are there was one close to your neighborhood, or one you're familiar with.
"...permanent sites were built, then those temporary sites that had been temporary for two-and-a-half years... and again, we lived in tents that entire time..."
- Audio Clip #3: A little known part of the '62 missile crisis was the cat and mouse game played by Russian bombers and the Nike missile bases around Miami. Carter remembers it as a relentless series of alerts requiring GI's to man their battle stations at all hours of the day and night; Carter recalls how South Floridians made the men of the Nike missile battalion feel at home, and where they found time for a little fun on Saturday nights.
"...as young, single soldiers, [we] started dating some of the ladies in the community. Of course, some of the young high school guys didn't care a lot for that..."