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Cuban Missile Crisis U2 Pilot Dies

William Kelly

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Richard Stephen Heyser



APALACHICOLA, Florida (AP) — Richard Stephen Heyser, a U-2 spy plane pilot who took the first photos of ballistic missile launch sites during the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, died Monday. He was 81.

Heyser, who lived in Apalachicola, died at a nursing home in nearby Port St. Joe. An Apalachicola funeral home confirmed his death.

The retired Air Force lieutenant colonel said in a 2005 interview with The Associated Press that no one was more relieved than he that the crisis ended peacefully. He said he did not want to go down in history as the man who started World War III.

President John F. Kennedy announced to the world that the photos proved the Soviet Union was building secret sites for nuclear-tipped missiles 90 miles south of Key West. Kennedy then summoned Heyser to the White House after he made five flights over Cuba in nine days.

Heyser later served two combat tours during the Vietnam War. He retired in 1974 after 30 years of service and returned to Apalachicola, where he was born and raised.


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