My fellow Marine and I were trapped. We found out later that they were sending four 12-foot john boats, each equipped with a five horsepower engine. Several hours later they arrived at our position. The first boat went beside the pontoon bridge and a second boat went a short distance farther up the river. The third boat stayed back, and the fourth boat came to the bank, allowing us to board. We all turned slowly and set out for Main Side.
Back at Main Side, my fellow Marine and I were given several large books to look through. From those pictures, we identified the Russian tank.
We had not eaten for several hours, so we went to the Mess Hall and then to our barracks. After some time, the siren sounded. We filed by the utility room, grabbed a haversack and boarded the trucks for the trench lines. We spread out through the lines and the sand bag bunker that we had built previously. We stayed that night and the next day. We were told that the president would make a speech over the radio and television.
A few of us had the old hand-held transistor radios and some of these were able to pick up WWVA Wheeling and listen to music. When evening came and President Kennedy came on the radio, he stated that he had ordered a blockade be placed around the island of Cuba.
Our mission changed after that speech. A lot of things took place. We were issued more ammunition and hand grenades and were briefed on what was happening. Our remaining battalion that had been around the island of Viaques for training was immediately brought back to reinforce us. A great number of aircraft started flying in, and huge amounts of supplies were unloaded. We had been pulled back to allow the Navy's Mobile Construction Battalion 4 to build 18-inch reinforced concrete bunkers for the Marines. After a brief period behind the lines, we went back to the bunkers and remained there until the crisis was past.
At one time, we had been pulled back to another position for what was called R&R. We had makeshift shelters to stay out of the weather, which was unpredictable. We were taken in a detail of about 13 men or three Marine fire teams to an area set up as portable showers. We could shower, put our clothes back on, and go to our positions, allowing other Marines to use the facility. At one time the American Red Cross came and gave us new fatigues, underwear and socks. According to the Red Cross speech, they were from the people back home thanking us for being there.
With our new bunkers and new clothes, we spent the next few months waiting for something to happen. We had all been trained and were ready to complete any mission that our commander-in-chief deemed necessary.
Some time in November we received word that we were going home to Camp Lejeune. There we were given our back pay and went to pick up our leave papers. We found, to our disappointment, that a Red Cross representative was on hand to collect the cost of the clothes that we thought were a gift of the American people. After paying him, we were given our leave papers.
I honor the Marines of Echo Company, 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines, 2nd Marine Division of Camp Lejeune, N.C. I would have liked to thank President John F. Kennedy for taking quick action, when he found that not only missiles but also tanks and other equipment were on the island of Cuba, to avert the possibility of all-out nuclear war. Unfortunately his untimely death prevented it.