Flight suit from Cuban missile crisis to be displayed at Smithsonian

The flight suit worn by Navy Capt. William Ecker for his recon mission over Cuba Oct. 23, 1962. (WTOP/Hank Silverberg)

Hank Silverberg, wtop.com

WASHINGTON – A small part of history that changed the world has been donated to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

It’s the flight suit worn by Navy Capt. William B. Ecker as he flew a reconnaissance mission of Cuba on Oct. 23, 1962.

The night before, President John F Kennedy was on national television, a rarity at the time, to tell the world that the United States had detected the construction of Soviet nuclear missile sites on Cuba and that the U.S. would blockade the island nation to prevent the Russians from completing the job.

Ecker flew his R-F8-Crusader low to get better pictures.

“They really needed photos of tree top level type flying that my Dad and his pilots did,” says David Ecker, William Ecker’s son, who donated the flight suit. “These pictures gave very detailed pictures of the Soviet missiles.”

The photos were displayed to the UN two days later by U.S. Ambassador Adlai Stevenson, and eventually the Soviet Union backed down and removed the missile sites.

It was the closest the U.S. and Soviet Union ever came to nuclear war.

For now, only a picture of the flight suit will be displayed at the Air and Space Museum. But curator Alex Spencer says they eventually want to put it with another display involving naval aviators.

David Ecker says his father’s flight suit has no insignia or markings. They were all removed before the flight in case his father was shot down.

Details of the previously classified mission are detailed in a book William Ecker wrote before he died, “Blue Moon Over Cuba.” It was was published earlier this year.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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