The 32nd Guards Regiment in Cuba

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The 32nd Guards Air Fighter Regiment in Cuba (1962-1963)

The chapter from Sergey Isaev's book
Pages of History of the 32nd Guards Vilensky Air Fighter Regiment awarded with Lenin and Kutuzov orders

In February 1950 the 32nd Guards Air Fighter Regiment (32nd GIAP) has been transferred to Kubinka AFB (60 kilometers to the west of Moscow) and was subordinated to the 9th Air Fighter Division (9th IAD). Within 1950th years, the regiment except routine combat training constantly participated (MiG-15/17 and MiG-19 planes) in aviation parades above Moscow. The 32nd GIAP was the first fighter unit of the Soviet AF to be equipped with the newest MiG-21F-13 planes (NATO code MiG-21 Fishbed-C) in 1960. After that, the regiment participated in combat trails of this fighter aircraft. On July 9th, 1961 32nd GIAP in full strength has shown for the first time its MiG-21 planes to public during air parade over Moscow. In July 1962, the 32nd GIAP’s the second aviation squadron on MiG-21F-13 planes under command of CO Major Yuri Nemtsevich has been sent to Indonesia for providing military assistance to the country. After that, flight and ground personnel from another fighter regiment based in Belorussia has completed 32nd GIAP.

Kubinka AFB, Russia. 1961. The 32nd GIAP pilots on a background of MiG-21F-13.
From left to right: Khramov, Sladkov, Teslenko, Mikhailov. Alexey Mikhailov’s archive

In 1962, Colonel Nikolay Shibanov commanded the 32nd Guards Fighter Regiment. His deputies were skilled fighter pilots, true masters of aerobatics: head of the regiment’s political department Lieutenant colonel Nikolay Shcherbina, Lieutenant colonel Sergey Perovsky, Vladimir Grol and Leonid Grigoryev. Lieutenant colonel George Ashmanov was the chief of the regiment headquarters; Lieutenant-colonel Konstantin Zharov headed the air engineering service. First-class pilots were commanders of the squadrons: the first one - Major Anatoly Shod, the second one - Major Alexander Yeliseyev, the third one - originally Captain Larionov, later - Captain Vasily Egorov. The regiment was supported by the 425th Independent Battalion of Ground Technical Maintenance under command of Lieutenant colonel Boris Prusakov and by an Independent Battalion of Lights and Radio Engineering Services commanded by Lieutenant colonel Krivosheev.

The 32nd Guards Air Fighter Regiment commander colonel Nikolay Shibanov

The 32nd GIAP deputy commander, head of the political department lieutenant-colonel Nikolay Shcherbina

The 32nd GIAP deputy commander
lieutenant-colonel Sergey Perovsky

The 32nd GIAP chief of headquarters
lieutenant-colonel George Ashmanov


Nikolay Pakhomov: At the beginning of July 1962, the personnel of the 32nd GIAP and supporting units had a meeting with the commander of the Air Force of the Moscow Military District Lieutenant-general Eugenie Gorbatyuk. He ordered the regiment to be ready to redeploy to an airbase outside the Soviet Union to carry out there training missions. The regiment started to execute the order. All preparations were carried out in strict secrecy. All personnel were checked by special authorities, underwent tough medical tests, and antiepidemic vaccination. We were recommended to take warm clothes, high fur boots, overcoats and warm linen in order to create, as we later understood, an effect of shift to a northern area with low temperatures.

Nikolay Pakhomov,  Lieutenant colonel, retired. In Cuba, he was Major, deputy chief of staff of the regiment. Born in 1923. In 1942 he graduated the pilot's school, flied I-16 and La-5 piston fighters. Served in the Far East. While serving in the 917th IAP he fought against Japanese in 1945. In 1947 due to health reasons, he was written off from flight practice and transferred to staff work. From 1946 till 1955, he served in the Far East. From 1956 till 1965, he was deputy chief of staff of the 32nd GIAP, then chief of staff of the 33rd GIAP at Wittschtok AFB, Germany. Retired in 1971, lived in Kubinka, the Moscow area. Died in October 2005.

Nikolay Pakhomov. Extract from private diary:
July 13, 1962. After lunch, I got to the headquarters of the regiment. They informed me that I immediately had to be in Moscow at the Air Force HQ of the Moscow military district. The reason was unknown. On the airfield, an An-2 liaison aircraft was waiting for me, as well as a car at the central airfield in Moscow. I got to the HQ, reported my arrival. I have been called to a room where I saw the commander General Gorbatyuk, the chief of staff and the HQ heard of political department. How are you? - was the first question. And what about your family? - O.K. - was my answer. - We have decided to send you to a business trip to a hot and humid country. Any objection? – They asked. - I had none, whatsoever. Next day I was ordered to report again to the HQ.
July 14, at the HQ. All officers who had gathered were ordered to a bus that carried us to a sewing workshop where we took off uniforms and footwear, packed them all in hold alls, and marked them. We got then a civil dress. Then we handed over all documents: IDs, party membership card, and got the order to come back next day for instructions.
July 15. After instruction on how to behave abroad, we received foreign currency - 15 US dollars and ordered to start our business trip next day.
July 16. In the morning, the CO of the regiment Colonel Shibanov discharged his personal "Pobeda" ("Victory") car to take my wife, my daughters and me to the HQ in Moscow. There I got my new documents - the passport, which said that I was an "operator of agricultural machinery", and the travel papers to Havana, Cuba. My wife and daughters were waiting for me outside meanwhile. I hardly persuaded an accompanying officer to allow me to say goodbye to my family. One minute was allowed to. I just told them that we were going to Cuba for the time unknown. Then we were placed in a bus that brought us to Vnukovo airport, directly to the gangway.
Before the plane took off, Raul Castro and chief of the Joint Staff of the Soviet Armed Forces Marshal of the Soviet Union Zakharov went up aboard the plane. Raul greeted us through the translator: "Hello, comrades, agriculture workers". He came with us till Havana. Our Il-18 turboprop plane took off at 7.45 p.m. The first landing was in 5 hours and 20 minutes at Presvich airfield near Glasgow (Scotland).
July 17. The second landing and we arrived to Gander airport (Canada). It took us 6 hours and 25 minutes to fly over there. The air terminal looked good. Beer was good.

Victor Sharkov,
Major, retired. When in Cuba he was Captain, chief of group of aircraft technicians of a squadron. Born in 1928. In 1949, he finished the aviation mechanics school. Since 1950 till May 1962, he served as aircraft technician in the 32nd GIAP. Since 1964 - deputy chief of the technical support unit of the regiment. From 1970 till 1974 - Major, chief of a technical support unit of the 787th IAP, Finnov AFB, Germany. From 1974 till 1978 - chief of the technical support unit of the 234th IAP the 9th IAD, Kubinka AFB. Retired in 1978, and lives in Kubinka, the Moscow area.

Victor Sharkov: It took us over a month to disassemble and load our planes – combat MiG-21F-13 and two-seat UTI MiG-15 trainers. It was really a hard month to live: detaching fuselages, preserving engines, draining fuel from tanks, detaching planes, placing fuselages on dummy chassis, disconnecting tail plumage, etc., and packing all that stuff into special containers. The containers were designed for transportation by sea, i.e. were practically tight and robust, upholstered inside with some paper looking like parchment, in two or three layers. It made us think that we would go long and necessarily by sea. The containers were loaded on railway platforms. It was a round the clock job by shifts. The workers from Gorky aircraft assembly plant that produced our MiG-21s helped us.

Nikolay Pakhomov: The 32nd GIAP personnel included 167 commissioned officers (57 pilots among them), 32 warrant officers, and 212 private soldiers, was transferred to Cuba from August 2 till September 22, 1962 first by rail to Baltiysk, then by ships to the destination points. Among the personnel sent out to Cuba there were 42 women, employees of the Soviet Army – medical staff (doctors, nurses), clerks, cooks, and waitresses.

Victor Sharkov: Readiness for departure was declared. However, some time before, the regiment deputy commander, the heard of political department Lieutenant colonel Nikolay Shcherbina had called the officers to write an official report stating their voluntary wish to perform an important duty. Oath-bound, we were obliged to go even to hell and gone to fulfill an order, so we did it. We were young, we trusted in the Communist party piously, and possible consequences reminded everyone that any defeat or failure would be punished. And here was an example, air engineer Major Kolomiyets, a competent and dear expert, a former pilot graduated from Zhukovsky Air Academy, refused to write the official report due to health reasons. So he was lowered in his post as a “coward” and sent out to serve in a distant city of Torzhok. Many people saw us off at the time of departure: wives, children, and division top officers with General Dubinsky at the head. Wives were crying, kissing, saying parting words and hopes to meet us at home, but when would it happen, no one knew.

Mikhail Isaev: By the end of July all containers and special vehicles were placed on railway platforms. I was assigned duties of chief of the ground echelon. Only at the departure of the railway echelon I found out the destination point - Baltiysk. The echelon went fast, without any stops, and in a day we reached the port. We stayed there almost a month loading the equipment, belonging to our regiment and other units, up to ships. The ground equipment was placed in timber carrying vessels or dry-cargo ships. The top circles of holds of dry-cargo ships were equipped along perimeter with two-storey beds for the soldiers to sleep. Field kitchens were then arranged on the deck near forecastle, and the WCs were installed on the forage. The containers with aircraft inside were placed on the covers of holds. An Il-14 transport aircraft was not subject to disassembly, so a dummy superstructure was built on a dry-cargo ship to conceal it. In Baltiysk before boarding the ships, all Cuba-bound personnel changed their uniform clothes for civilian. The officers got woolen suits, shirts with ties, checkered shirts (cowboy type), raincoats and hats. The warrant officers and soldiers got no ties, and they received caps instead of hats. In Cuba, we all dressed in checkered shirts, were called "a hundred-cell” and identified far off as "ruso compañero".

The Guards Red Banner of the 32nd GIAP arrived on the last railway echelon from Kubinka. However, we got the order to send the Banner and documents of the regiment back to Moscow. In addition, the regiment was renamed into the 213th Air Fighter Regiment (213th IAP). It is difficult to tell what purpose was for, but that renaming delivered many troubles to us after we had returned from Cuba.

"Nikolayevsk" passenger ship

At the beginning of September 1962, we boarded "Nikolayevsk" passenger ship registered at the Far East Petropavlovsk-Kamchatski port. The ship was new, built in the Eastern (socialist) Germany, and could take up to 350 passengers aboard. By that time, "Nikolayevsk" had already made a trip to Cuba with the advance party of our regiment. Commissioned officers and women - military servicewomen and civilian employees of the Soviet Army, occupied all places aboard the steam-ship. All passengers were dressed as civilian people, though each had a complete set of the daily, the field and the so-called "Turkestan" (hot climate) uniform. Big bosses took places in the first class cabins on the main decks, and women were sent to the lowermost decks (“rocking was not strong” was the explanation). And what soldiers felt placed in the holds of cargo ships, we found out a later while coming back home in the holds of a dry-cargo ship.

Mikhail Isaev, Major, retired. When in Cuba he was Captain, chief of a technical support group. Born in 1930. In 1952, he finished the military air technical school. He began his service in a fighter regiment of the Group of the Soviet Armed Forces in Germany. From 1958 till 1969, he served in the 32nd GIAP: a technician of an air flight, chief of radio maintenance group of the regiment’s technical support unit, a radio engineer of the regiment. From 1969 till 1974, he served as engineer of the regiment in the 515th IAP of the Soviet Southern Group of Armed Forces (Hungary), then at the Borisoglebsk military pilot’s school. Retired in 1977, and lived in the city of Lobnya of the Moscow area. Died in October 2007.

 Victor Sharkov: We arrived in Baltiysk by a passenger train, and then some days were waiting for our echelon with the planes and equipment, which arrived on August 14. "Volgoles" timber carrying vessel was assigned to carry the equipment – it was 124-meter long and 16.5 meter wide. Its loading went on round the clock, with 2 to 3 hours to sleep. At the beginning, we filled in the bottom part of the bow holds with vehicles, and the fodder hold with ammunition. The bow part of the deck was charged with oil and gas, about 400 pieces of cargo overall. Several containers carrying air equipment, and to containers with MiG-15 aircraft were pulled down to the bottom of the holds.

Containers with combat aircraft were very long to be placed in the hold. It took us a day to decide where containers with MiG-21 aircraft could be put. As a result, it was decided to place 16 containers, i.e. 16 MiG-21F-13 planes, atop the covers of the holds, 4 pieces upon each. Another problem came to light: the containers had in the case the support for only two thirds of their length. Therefore, wooden legs were to be made to balance the containers. All this stuff was fixed with 6 mm wire to the deck and every possible part that could hold them tight. The captain and his senior assistant looked skeptically at our efforts and muttered that in a good storm all the structure would go to the sea within one or two hours. The aircraft of our regiment were boarded on two ships: "Volgoles" timber carrying vessel and "Divnogorsk" dry-cargo ship.

On July 17 32 pilots and we (4 technicians) were lined up on the upper deck of the ship. The Admiral heard the report, gave out instructions and checked the staff. All of a sudden, we missed two pilots – first lieutenant Beloborodov and first lieutenant Olkhovik. We rushed to find them. In a while, they appeared singing and smiling, since both had taken a considerable amount of alcohol “load” before departure. These officers were discussed at the party meeting that was held immediately. Beloborodov, a high, good-natured and phlegmatic guy, knelt down at the meeting and said: “I am a Soviet citizen, and I will die for my Native land, redeem my offence with my blood, just do not leave me ashore”. He was forgiven, and he turned out a very good pilot. Another pilot was expelled from the Communist Party, sent back to Kubinka air base where he was dismissed from the Soviet Army without pension.

"Volgoles" timber carrying ship transporting the Soviet ballistic missiles on the main deck on return trip to Russia
was escorting by a US destroyer. The Caribbean sea, November 1962

We were placed aboard "Volgoles" ship as follows: the pilots were placed in the cabins together with the team of the ship, one cabin for two pilots. And we, four technicians were put a bunkroom. The bunkroom was located in the bow part of the ship; therefore, I was assigned the mission to watch the fastening condition of containers.


Victor Sharkov. Extract from private diary:
August 17, 1962, at 8 p.m. two tows moved "Volgoles" ship out of the port. The steamship gave a farewell lingering hooter. Sailing, we felt sad and somewhat uncertain. What would our future look like?
August 19. The air was grey and cold, we were passing the Northern Sea. In the strong fog, we reduced our speed.
August 20. Meal was arranged well, four times a day: at 8.30 a.m., 12.30 p.m., 6.30 p.m., and at 9.30 p.m. Meal was very good, and we felt as if we were having a rest at some fashionable resort area with quiet hour sleeping, reading, sunbathing, playing chess. Lighthouses on the coasts of England and France were passing away. We got closer to England; its cities on the coast were well visible.
August 21. By the evening, we rounded the Brittany peninsula, and went southwestward. Next morning the sea was restless. It was stormy, up to six points in strength. The Bay of Biscay, it was impressionable, we felt miserable, rolling repeatedly in beds.
August 23. The ocean was very friendly. From 8.00 a.m. till 12.00 p.m. I was watching forward from a navigational officer platform. Except for unlimited ocean, I noticed a group of dolphins, a wooden flank swinging in the water, and a seagull flying from the West. On watching duty we served by shift. It is a good cure against idleness.
August 25. The ocean was quiet. The day was sunny and bright. I asked our radio operator whether a short message could be sent out to families, and got the negative answer. Only reception of messages was allowed.
August 28. “The ocean protects us”. The involuntary phrase heard on the deck. Really so, with all that cargo, and on the open deck!
August 31. The night was stuffy, hot. The ocean was quiet. Many ships and birds in sight. Seemingly, we were approaching the land. We will reach Bahamas at night. Tomorrow a deciding stage will come. Can we break through the American barrier, will we be safe? We hope that submarines accompany us. We heard that that Americans had blocked Cuba.
September 1. We have reached Cuba at last. Within 15 days. I was on forward looking duty from 8.00 a.m. At 6.10 p.m., we got a pilot aboard, and for about an hour, we were sailing through a narrow channel to the bay of Nuevitas. Anchored. Nobody was waiting for us here. A boat has approached, and they found out long who we were and what we arrived for. Waiting for the morning to come.
September 2. It turned out that we got to the wrong port. Anchors up, we turned around and started for the bay of La-Isabella. The sailing took 15 hours; then again, we were waiting for a pilot. A hard day, humid and cloudy, miserable headache. The uttermost apathy.
September 3. At 2.00 p.m., we anchored at a mooring. In an hour, we went ashore to knead muscles. We feel as if the earth is trembling under our foots.
September 4 to 6. We were waiting to launch the unloading. However, there is no crane capable to move containers up from the deck to the mooring. "Divnogorsk" ship has arrived. Korolev, my flat mate, has delivered a letter from my wife, very much delighted. I reread it several times, and felt as if I visited my home.
September 7. The floating crane, designs of times of the first steam machines and steam locomotives has come. It was a mixture of a steam machine, a puffer, and a thick hempen rope. A young Negro operated the crane.
On September 8-12. The unloading of containers from the holds was a very hard job to do. Retaining the containers semi-vertically, we had to move them through the small mouth of the holds, manipulating the cables simultaneously. It was hard to observe the unloading of the ammunition from the fodder hold. With heat and awful humidity in the holds, all boxes were taken out manually to fill up the bag boom.

Mikhail Isaev: On September 8, 1962, "Nikolaevsk" passenger ship sailed from Baltiysk. The route to Cuba we had to pass had been already mastered. The navigation through the Atlantic Ocean turned out smooth as a whole. Being lucky, we reached Cuba with no strong storm on the way behind. About three days before our arrival to Cuba, a number of American aircraft began flying over our ship. US Lockheed P-2 Neptune patrol aircraft were in the sky above us often, extremely low, near the masts. Faces of pilots, their white-toothed smiles were distinguished by naked eyes. When the aircraft appeared, loud speakers announced: “First class passengers and women must go to the deck”. In reply to the Americans’ smiles, our women waved hands.

September 22, two weeks after departure from Baltiysk, "Nikolaevsk" moored to a pier of La-Isabella port, which struck us with its poor view. It looked like a small fishing village, not like a port, whatsoever. As soon as we moored, an order was announced: “No one may leave the ship for the shore!” A representative of the Soviet military command came aboard the ship. All "passengers" were gathered for instructions. The representative drew a picture of “the political moment” and said: “Comrades, you are here not military servicemen; you are agricultural workers, tractor operators, agriculturists, in no way you here belong to the military service. Remember it!” Therefore, we have turned to "tractor operators".

US patrol plane Р-2 “Neptune” was approaching "Nikolayevsk" ship.
The Caribbean sea, September 1962. Photo by Mikhail Isaev

US patrol plane Р-2 “Neptune”. Photo made by Evgueny Vladimirov from deck of “Volgoles” ship.
Caribbean sea, September, 1963


In July - September 1962 a 40,000-men-strong grouping of the Soviet Armed Forces was thrown off in a secretive and stealthy manner from their home base to play their role in the strategic operation named “Anadyr” . The Group of Soviet Armed Forces in Cuba headed by Army General Issa Pliev, a former cavalryman, was formed around the 51st Missile Division of the Strategic Missile Forces – three R-12 missile regiments and one R-14 missile regiment which were armed with ballistic missiles (the range of R-12 - 2000 km, that of R-14 - 4500 km). The Soviet Armed Forces in Cuba also included a Coastal Missile Regiment (armed with "Sopka" ground-to-sea system), a Front-wide Cruise Missiles Regiment (FKR-1 ground-to-ship missiles), a Missile Air Defense Division (equipped with S-75 complex ground-to-air missile), maintenance-and-support units. The ballistic missiles launching sites were guarded against amphibious attacks by four independent motorized infantry regiments.

The Soviet air force grouping in Cuba consisted of:
• 759th Independent Red Banner Tallinn Air Torpedo-bomber Regiment awarded with the Ushakov and Nakhimov orders (commanding officer Colonel Dmitry Ermakov) equipped with Il-28 "Beagle" medium bombers and subordinated to the Group's Navy command;
• 32nd Guards Vilensky Air Fighter Regiment awarded with Lenin and Kutuzov orders (commanding officer Colonel Nickolay Shibanov) equipped with MiG-21F-13 “Fishbed” fighters, subordinated to the Group's Air defense command;
• 437th Independent Helicopter Air Regiment (commanding Colonel Vladimir Lyalinsky) equipped with Mi-4 and Mi-6 helicopters subordinated to the Group’s Air Force command;
• 134th Independent Air Transport Squadron equipped with Il-14 and An-2 transport aircraft, subordinated to the Group’s Air Force command.
The data on actual presence in 1962 in Cuba of an independent air bomber squadron equipped with Il-28 aircraft, carriers of nuclear weapons turned out impossible to be found in the media.

Due to the big extent of areas of prospective operations, the Soviet air defense missile battalions (S-75 ground-to-air complex, known in the West as SA-2 Guideline) were placed 60 to 80 kilometers away from each other that did not allow covering the entire space above Cuba. Therefore, the Soviet command planned to employ the 32nd GIAP and the Cuban Air Force fighters (MiG-17, MiG-19) to control air space between the zones that were covered by the SA missile units. The 32nd GIAP was located in the center of the island at the Santa Clara AFB and could operate in both the westward and the eastward directions. The Soviet fighter regiment was supposed to concentrate its main efforts along the Havana direction and along the most assault-dangerous sites of the northern coast, from Varadero up to Cabañas. Besides, the 32nd GIAP was supposed to operate against sea assault landings in the southwest of the island and in the area of the Isle of Pines. The Navy's 759th Independent Air Torpedo-bomber Regiment was assigned the destruction of hostile combat ships and landing means in case of danger of intrusions. The helicopter regiment was planned for the purpose of transportation of cargo and wounded personnel, reconnaissance of the coastal strip, and to carry combat units to the dangerous areas.

Nikolay Pakhomov. Extract from private diary:
On July 17, 1962. We arrived to the airport of Havana. It took us 7 hours and 10 minutes to fly here from Gander airport. They met us well.
July 18. All the day we were preparing for tomorrow's trip. The sunny day in Cuba turned into an evening strong rain and a thunderstorm.
July 19. Captain Curbelo, Air Force & Air Defense commander of Cuba Armed Forces came in the morning to take us. Il-14 aircraft brought us from the airport of Havana to the east provinces. The first stop was the airport of Santa Clara. Chief of the air base treated us with a dinner. After that, we went on to Camagüe. The air base here was looking better than in Santa Clara. The seaport looked like in Santa Clara. Back to Havana. Captain Curbelo organized a good dinner with cold Czech beer. We spent the night in an excellent house with a shower and a water pool.
July 20. In the morning, after breakfast we took off for the air station of Holguin, which was under construction.
July 22, Sunday. After dinner, we went to a beach but could not swim for the lack of swimming trunks. Therefore, we went out for a tour over Havana. A big city with narrow streets, and soft drinks offered at each corner.
July 24. We are at the “uno” point, i.e. the first, still. We try to do whatever each can - sleeping, reading. It is hot and very humid.
July 25. In the morning, we played cards, as usual. We went to Havana to participate in an evening party devoted to the Day of July 26 – the anniversary of the beginning of the revolution. An official part was translated into Russian. Then a concert, dances, cold beer.
July 26 till August 1. Every day begins and comes to end in the familiar way – we play cards. On July 26, the Soviet embassy first secretary arrived in the evening to give us a lecture about Cuba. Strong heat, raining almost every day with a thunderstorm.
August 1. In the morning, we went out to examine the ways our cargo will be moved along: roads, bridges, crossings. They informed me that our disposition has not been determined yet.
August 4. It seems the disposition area has been determined. By the words of the Soviet air force Lieutenant General Stepan Grechko, deputy commander of the Group of the Soviet Armed Forces in Cuba for air defense, it was Santa Clara.
August 5. An unpleasant message arrived in the morning: one person was dead and three persons were wounded in an accident. We tried very long to find out who were those dead and wounded, since neither the victims nor the rest of our people had any documents (ID). Then came an order to buy notebooks and to write down there surnames, names and middle names, as well as names of close relatives (wife, father, mother) and their addresses. These were our passports to have abroad.
August 8. All the Soviet officers were gathered for a meeting in the evening. Fidel Castro delivered a speech for 1 hour and 20 minutes about the political situation in Latin America, and in Cuba, and the reasons to bring the Soviet forces in.
August 11. The destination points our ships had to reach had been changed. Got an order to be ready to fly off to Santa Clara. Got information about the Soviet cosmonauts Nikolaev (#3) and Popovich (#4) launched into the outer space.
August 13. On board Il-14 transport plane, we have arrived to Santa Clara as a permanent station. Comandante Juan Almeida, the commander of the Cuban Central defense zone, took into account the accommodation of pilots only. When we informed about the total number of the personnel, Almeida clutched his head and got no idea what to do. Afterwards Grechko and Almeida left for Camaguey. We left by a vehicle for the port of La Isabella: the port looked good and the roads too.
August 15. In the morning, Almeida did not deliver anything new on our accommodation. He could not help us with accommodation facilities, since he found only another house to settle down 10 persons.
August 16. Called to Havana. Our ships are late. We have nothing at our disposal to meet them. It is raining day and night.
August 19. Today the forward group of the 425th Independent Battalion of Ground Technical Maintenance arrived. They were placed under tents. It was raining permanently; therefore, to live under tents was hardly comfortable. We searched the city for vacant houses; the Cubans did not want to do anything of the kind. Some houses demanded repair.
August 22. At last, I met in the airport Colonel Nikolay Shibanov, commander of the regiment.
August 23. Shibanov and I examined our possessions, no good. Running out of foodstuff. One meal was that day.
August 24. Shibanov and I left for Havana to meet general Grechko. Having listened to us, promised nothing, since he had nothing to. On the way back we made a stop at Litonar (headquarters of the Soviet missile division). Had supper.
August 25. We visited Almeida’s headquarters. Talked much, asked to help with accommodation. A lot of promising, but doing nothing. Everyone would request Havana. Since that moment, our commander Nikolay Shibanov took the entire burden on his shoulders.

The map of Cuba from the CIA report indicated grouping of the Soviet and Cuban Air Forces.
October 17, 1962. The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

Nikolay Pakhomov: Santa Clara AFB located 5 km to the north-west of the city of Santa Clara was assigned to settle down our regiment in Cuba. The AFB had an excellent runway of 2500 m x 47 m with asphalt concrete covering, taxi lanes, parking spaces and equipped with OSP-48 system of blind landing. In Cuba, our regiment was renamed as the 213th IAP and became part of the AD division.

The regiment HQ. The first at the left – Nikolay Pakhomov.
Cuba, Santa-Clara AFB, October 1962. Nikolay Pakhomov’s archive

As the personnel of the regiment were arriving to Santa Clara, the accommodation issue got hot. Decided to settle the under tents, considering it traditionally normal. However, in Cuba it appeared the hardest test to undergo. Almost daily tropical rains, accompanied with continuous lightning and thunder, filled in the territory of the garrison with water within minutes. Our suitcases were floating under tents; the ground - red earth turned immediately viscous dirty one could hardly pull foots out. Some time later, the clouds would disappear and the sun high above our heads would go on baking with initial force. Heat again, all soared, and to remain under tents, with the cloth lifted, was just impossible. And mosquitoes and other moths drove us mad at night. We could sleep under mosquito nets made of several layers of gauze.

The 32nd GIAP staff. Cuba, 1962. Nikolay Pakhomov’s archive

Victor Sharkov: When we arrived to the air base, a tent camp had been established over there, though the place was no good. First, it was located near the runway - 600 to 800 meters away. Second, in a hollow that guaranteed dampness, there were mosquitoes and every possible moth available. In the strong rain, the water could reach our knees under tents.

Initially, Cuban drivers hauled the aircraft containers only in nighttime. One truck (trailer) carried one container; two the Soviet officers seated in the cabin have accompanied the cargo. The first haulage of containers resulted in troubles. On the way through towns, a container broke off a street electric cable hanging low. Much noise and righteous indignation of the local people. It was decided to haul them in the afternoon, lifting the wires by a barling and placing them on the board lying along the container. The wires were sliding along the board and remained unbroken. So the conflict was thus settled. On September 12, we reached the Santa Clara AFB. The containers were distributed among squadrons located along the taxi lane.

Mikhail Isaev: The containers were placed at the air base on special platforms. Seeing the big boxes, the Cuban comrades we were earlier presented to as "tractor operators", asked: "What is it?" And we answered vigorously - tractors. But when we opened the front and back covers of the first container and rolled out a fuselage and wings of MiG-21 aircraft, the surprise of the Cuban people had no limit. You call it a tractor? - They exclaimed temperamentally.

Valentina Fedotova, a nurse: The female personnel were also placed under tents. Hot, stuffy, especially in the rains. Malicious "enemy" were insects of any sort known, flying over and creeping. Some of them were not only stinging painfully but also poisonous. Due to stings, many women felt bad, and needed medical aid. However, men suffered much from insects too. The climate generated an artful and wearisome illness - dysentery. Many military men and employees went through the treatment in a hospital and sanitary points of combat units. I was not an exception.

Victor Sharkov: As soon as the containers arrived, we started assembling the aircraft. The most labor-consuming job was unpacking containers. They were heated inside up to 60°C, the temperature was intolerable, stuffy, no air to breathe. We felt a suffocating oil smell floating from the heated parchment paper covering.

Under the conditions, we pulled out boxes with demountable equipment, a 500 liter dropped fuel tank, blocks of UB-16 unguided rockets, starting devices, removed all fastenings from a fuselage, planes and the stabilizer, rolled out a fuselage and, at last, took out two planes weighing over a ton by hands. For this purpose, we concentrated all our force, endurance, and management capabilities. When it was very hot, a watering vehicle came over to provide us with shower before and after dinner. Refreshed, we worked cheerfully. At first, our technical staff was engaged in assembling the aircraft, but the time ran short, and the personnel available did not suffice, as part of staff still was on the way. I asked Major Shtoda, CO of my squadron, to help us with the unloading. He agreed willingly, and the next day the pilots arrived to give us helping hands. The pilots unloaded ten containers that helped us a lot.

Nikolay Pakhomov: With the arrival of the main force of the regiment, we hastily started to build wooden barns through an arrangement with the Cuban command of the air base. The regiment HQ staff, the maintenance battalion and the main part of the personnel were settled down in the barns and the aircraft containers. No convenience to live in. The pilots and the commanding officers of the regiment were accommodated better; several houses (we called them "villas") were assigned to them in city. The tents and caponiers accommodated a dining room, a bath, a sanitary unit, a number of warehouses for spare parts, foodstuff and other properties.

Victor Sharkov: When we assembled planes and started to test them in all modes, the first start of an engine was not a success; the attempts to start it resulted in ignition of the fuel left inside. We resorted to fire extinguishers. The reason was defined fast. It turned out that due to high temperatures and humidity, the starters of engines were misadjusted. Preliminary readjustment of each starter helped a lot. However, our troubles did not go away. We found out a mass defect - leak of fuel from the tanks. The tanks when transported were empty, and fine cracks occurred in the folds of the rubberized fabrics. We had to get new tanks from the Soviet Union by air, and immediately.

Nikolay Pakhomov: Despite of the difficulties, the first combat aircraft have been assembled and tested on the ground. Another problem became known. The pilots had an inadmissible break in flights, they had to start flying and the regiment had to take up the combat duty urgently. The USAF planes appeared above our air base daily on a regular basis. They were a pair of McDonnell F-101 Voodoo aircraft, with the USAF identification, the leading was a two seat "photographer" and the single seat was conducted airplane, flew over above our air base, increased their speed and left off leaving a black smoky loop behind. And we were powerless to do something.

USAF McDonnell F-101B Voodoo fighters in flight

CO Colonel Shibanov took a courageous and risky, but the only right decision - to start flights. Lieutenant-colonel Vladimir Grol, the senior navigator of the regiment, took off aboard the first MiG-21 aircraft on September 18, 1962, made several circles, then left the limits of our air base, then went low above the runway. That was the necessary beginning. Everyone who observed this important flight, felt pleasure and pride of the first real success. The commanding officers of the regiment and the squadrons started and then all other pilots took off the next days. All pilots became combat ready. By the end of September 1962, 40 combat MiG-21F-13 and 6 trainers UTI MiG-15 aircraft were assembled tested in the air. The regiment in full strength began to pursue the scheme combat training and started performance of battle watch day and night.

Page “October, 1962” from Dmitry Bobrov’s the Pilot book

Eugenie Vladimirov, Major, retired. In Cuba, he was Captain, a navigator of command post of the regiment. Born in 1928. In 1950, he finished the military aviation school of navigators. In 1950 till 1953 served as navigator of Pe-2 front bomber. Then, due to health reasons, he was written off from flying missions and continued his service as navigator-operator of a ground command post. Upon returning from Cuba, he served as a radio engineer, a teacher at the educational center of the Soviet Air Force training foreign experts to repair aircraft equipment. Has retired in 1974, and now lives in the city of Lyubertsy, the Moscow area.

Eugenie Vladimirov: The paramount task upon the arrival to Cuba was to assembly the aircraft, which was fulfilled by the technical personnel of the regiment. The pilots and the command post officers of the regiment started studying Spanish, since the radio traffic during flights was maintained in Spanish only. A phrase book was urgently developed to carry the most common commands in Spanish: permit to start engines, to run from the parking space, to run to the runway, to take off, etc. Also to intercept a target: course of flight, height, speed, a turn with the certain roll, target orientation, etc.

The command post (CP) of the regiment consisting of four navigators and several chart board readers, soldiers, were directly submitted to chief of staff and carried out a daily combat duty, and during flights, they assisted commander of the regiment and head of flights to maintain control over the aircraft flying along their route or leaving to intercept air targets. CP officer on duty - a navigator – was obliged to keep up the aircraft that were flying along the route, in flight mastering zones, and intercepting air targets, to tape the radio traffic between the pilot on an interception mission, on one side, and head of flights and CP officers, on the other side.

Vladimir Vasilyev, While in Cuba, Captain, flight commander: My flight time in Cuba made up 62 hours, day and night. I stored deep in my mind one mission, which put an end to a riddle concerning the use of concrete plates that covered the decks of "Volgoles" ship that carried us to Cuba. Commander of a squadron planned a mission for me and Captain Markov to take pictures of the launching site. Our aircraft were equipped with photo cameras. Experts charged the camera of captain Markov’s aircraft, and my role was to take care of him. Therefore, we took off, reached the planned area, and against a background of the red earth we saw a flooring made of pentagonal plates, surrounded with palm trees and looking like that we had walked up and down while aboard "Volgoles" ship. This was the launching site. Here was the end to the riddle. Markov began taking pictures, and I left upwards to observe his work and the space around. All was quiet. The work was over. We had no idea as to whom the film was sent to, but the CO said: “Well done”.

Those who flied above Cuba knew that its sky was impossible to forget. One rises up in the sky, and almost all island lies in front. At night at some distance away, there is the glow of lights, it is Florida, and around you to the north and the south there is the infinite blackness - the sea. A beautiful view!

Mikhail Isaev: The fulfillment of combat tasks was accompanied by attempts to solve our household problems. First, it was the problem of meals. We brought from Kubinka all foodstuffs to be used by our field kitchens. In the tropic environment it got spoiled quickly, and beyond use were not only macaroni and groats, but also canned food. Groups of soldiers were assigned to sort out the groats and macaroni. However, despite the shrewdness of our quartermasters, we found worms in our food sometimes. Fresh vegetables and fruits were not delivered to us.

Nikolay Pakhomov: At the end of August, fresh beef visited our dining room. It so happened that a soldier on duty observing the parked aircraft at night heard that somebody was approaching his post from the bog. He acted as he had been taught and shouted out: “Freeze! Who are you? Freeze! I will shoot!” and made a shot in the air. But that someone moved on, then the soldier made a single shot the way he heard the sound from, and something fell down in the bog. When duty officers (a Russian and a Cuban) came up to the place of the incident, they found out a killed cow, the bullet hit the forehead.

In the morning, the regiment CO reported to the Cuban headquarters about the incident. The Cuban commanders were surprised at the soldier who could get the cow precisely in the head with one shot at night. As to the animal, they recommended to “get the cow to your boiler”. Since it was shot down in the restricted zone, the owner had no right to make a claim, whatsoever. By the way, there were no claims. Our meals were cooked for several days from fresh meat.

Mikhail Isaev: Another problem remained – no communication with our families, our homes. We could only guess how our families lived in Kubinka. Once, at the end of November, the Group commander four-star general Pliev arrived to inspect our regiment. After the front review, Pliev traditionally asked: “Are there any questions, complaints, inquiries?” A young second lieutenant took courage and asked when we can expect messages from the Soviet Union since he was worried about his sick mother and the bride. As answer, we heard a long and angry tirade that some "sons of a bitch" were dreaming of bride’s skirt instead of the service. Only at the beginning of December 1962 (i.e. in 3 months after our arrival to the island), first messages from our homes reached us. Our wives informed that they had already known about the arrival of the regiment to the destination point from the Voice of America radio broadcasting in Russian. The Voice informed that the Soviet air fighting regiment under command of colonel Shibanov and commissioner Shcherbina arrived in Cuba.

Rauf Minullin, while in Cuba, Captain, the 2nd squadron pilot: We unloaded our stuff, assembled the aircraft, studied maps and weather conditions, and started to fly. MiG-21 is a fine and a reliable machine – the trouble-free engine, easy control. They were really good in Cuba. To fly there was somewhat unusual - the sea was all around. The island is small, and the distance of 100-120 kilometers is like a matchbox for our MiG-21 to cover. Patrolled usually in pairs. Average flight time was about an hour.

We tried to communicate in the air in Spanish. There was a piece of paper with the most common air commands and phrases attached to the sight: “Allow take off, landing”, “Task fulfilled”, “Release chassis”. Learnt them step by step. And once the control gear failed to operate. I tried to explain in Spanish what was wrong. The flights controller cursed me all over: what were you muttering there? Speak Russian! And my patrolling route went in one place above a crocodile nursery. We always flew above it. If one drops down there – then in no time gobbled up!

We met the Americans in the air, met, but never made a shot. They did not make any provocations. All understood perfectly well, what it smelled. We knew all about the American aircraft - specifications, their numbers and the base. I think that our aircraft were identical. Moreover, I did not consider them our enemies.

Nikolay Pakhomov: Our pilots, other air experts studied area maps and Spanish to a certain degree to perform the plan of combat training and duty day and night. Our pilots worked hard, and they mastered soon the necessary colloquial minimum of the language. The staff of the regiment developed documents for combat activity to come, in particular: an operation plan in view of break in sorties; the combat alert plan; the plan of defense of Santa Clara air base in interaction with the Cuban ground forces in case of foreign intervention, and other documents.

As deputy chief of staff of the regiment, I had to organize interaction with the Cuban staff of the air base with Ernesto Yanis at the head, an extremely intelligent and disciplined officer who knew Russian pretty good. The latter feature allowed him to be a good translator and assistant. In cooperation, we developed a plan of ground defense of the AFB, defined defensive boundaries at distant and near approaches. The Cubans had to defend distant boundaries. However, they only marked them. The Cuban commanders considered that entrenchments, trenches, would be made later, in case of a direct threat. Our concepts considered such an attitude frivolous at least.

The direct defense of the air base was assigned to the technical ground personnel of the regiment; the sectors were allocated in view of aircraft parking places. The control of defense was assigned to the engineers of squadrons and technicians of flights. In addition, the plan of interaction of the regiment with the AD units was developed. It defined zones of operations, sectors, heights and signals of interaction.

On October 22, 1962, the US President John Kennedy announced in his Address to the nation that the Soviet medium-range missiles had been detected in Cuba. He demanded from the USSR to remove the missiles and declared a "strict quarantine" on all offensive military equipment under shipment to Cuba. John Kennedy announced: "It shall be the policy of this nation to regard any nuclear missile launched from Cuba as an attack by the Soviet Union on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon the Soviet Union." The crisis was building up. Next day after the statement made by the US President, the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev sent John Kennedy a letter proving the legality of the measures taken by the two sovereign states – the USSR and Cuba, which were compelled to take measures to provide for the safety of Cuba in reply to the US “barefaced aggressive” actions.

Eugenie Vladimirov: On October 22, in the morning I took over duty. The command came to switch on our surveillance radar and to work outward. Until that day, only the Cuban radars had worked outward, and our radars had just received signals. Transmission was forbidden. As soon as we switched on our radar stations, I saw on the P-35 radar station monitor tens of air targets flying in the northern hemisphere near the peninsula of Florida and along the east coast of the Northern America. By the end of October, we observed on the radar monitor every morning an air target moving from the western part of Cuba, the Cuban AD station tracked it. The air target passed over Santa Clara AFB at approximately 10.00 a.m. at a height of 20 to 22 km at a speed of 800 km/hour. We knew that the plane was US Lockheed U-2 strategic reconnaissance aircraft.

Nikolay Pakhomov: On October 22, the USA declared the full sea blockade of Cuba. The Cuban and Soviet forces on the island, including our regiment and service units, were alarmed. We dispersed quickly our aircraft and vehicles along the border of the air base, disguised them with nets and other improvised means. The staff started digging entrenchments.

On October 24, the order arrived to disperse the 32nd GIAP’s squadron. Lieutenant-colonel Perovsky, the regiment CO deputy, took off for Camague air base to solve the matter of accommodation of the 3rd squadron. The 2nd squadron under Major Yeliseyev’s command was moved to the San Antonio AFB, the regiment HQ and the 1st squadron remained in Santa Clara AFB. The redeployment over the air bases was finished by the middle of October 28. Each air squadron organized alert combat duty teams (pilots were on duty in the cabin of the aircraft): two MiG-21 aircraft in the daytime and one aircraft with the most skilled pilot - at night.

Dmitry Bobrov, Lieutenant general, retired. During the events described, he was a major, chief of reconnaissance of the regiment. Born in 1932. In 1953, he finished the military aviation school of pilots. From 1954 till 1956 served in the 32nd GIAP the 9th IAD, Kubinka AFB. Later he graduated from the Red Banner Military Aviation Academy, command department. Continued to serve in the 32nd GIAP as commander of a flight. Since after the 32nd GIAP returned to Kubinka, he was commander of a squadron, then deputy commander of the regiment, commanding officer of 32nd GIAP. Under his command, the regiment was the first in the Soviet Air Force in 1970 to fly variable-geometry wing MiG-23 fighter. Major-general Bobrov commanded air fighter divisions in 1971 to 1975. Then he served as deputy commander of the air army. In 1979 till 1988, he was commander of the air army. He was flying jet fighters until 1981. In 1980, he became a Lieutenant general. Retired in March 1988. He is a deserved military pilot of the USSR. Now lives in Moscow.

Dmitry Bobrov: At the end of October 1962, the 2nd squadron I served was moved from the Santa Clara AFB to the San Antonio AFB near Havana. It was decided to redeploy 12 MiG-21F-13 aircraft by three flights (4 aircraft in a flight) with suspended combat air-to-air missiles. The regiment CO deputy lieutenant-colonel Sergey Perovsky, the most experienced pilot, the veteran of the Great Patriotic War with the 32nd GIAP, and participant of numerous air parades above Moscow was appointed head of the group. During the flight en route to the combat order of our squadron, I saw visually (about 1 to 1.5 km away) two USAF F-101 "Voodoos" planes which were on an reconnaissance mission over Cuba, meeting no counteraction. Perovsky reported of the US planes to the CP and requested permission to attack them, but the CP’s reply was brief and categorical: “Forbidden”. Therefore, it was our first meeting with the American pilots in the air.

Since after we changed the position, the USAF reconnaissance flights over San Antonio AFB became regular. As head of the duty flight, I repeatedly heard reproaches of the Cuban military men who were together with us at the TCP (take-off command post): why we do not lift the newest MiG-21 planes in the air at the time the Americans make their reconnaissance flights? The matter was that the Cuban pilots were on duty simultaneously with us, but they used MiG-17 and MiG-19 aircraft. Our reply was that we had not received such an order.

Victor Sharkov. From a personal diary:
October 22. Well, it apparently began, no kidding. At 5.00 p.m., we were told that the American sea fleet goes to Cuba to fire against its cities, to attack air bases and other objects. There was no panic, things looked fine, and someone was kidding, apparently, to feel at ease. It took me a second to realize the consequences of the danger coming, unfamiliar cold inside me, the fear, no doubt. I recollected all my life instantly. We got the command to prepare aircraft to full alert take-offs. We filled-up dropped fuel tanks, provided 6 planes of the 1st squadron with two UB-16 unguided rockets pod, 6 others – with two air-to-air missiles. At 7 p.m., the pilots were ready in the cabins. It was all night, total darkness. The MiGs remained along the taxiway in line with an interval of 2 m, as in peacetime. The situation heated up to the breaking point. Heard bell alarm from the city of Santa Clara. The all-clear signal got to us at 9 p.m.

October 27 to 29. Those were the most intensive days. On October 27, three times we were alarmed: at 4.00 a.m., 8.00 a.m., and 7.00 p.m., and at 9 p.m. the day before. They claimed that four hundred US bombers took off with the purpose of bombardment of air bases and other military objects in Cuba. There was an attempt to disperse the aircraft, but there were no ways or shelter to. Several aircraft were moved to concrete shelters where Cuban MiG-17 and MiG-19 aircraft had been placed before, but we could not put MiG-21 in the shelter completely since it was not too high. During the first alarm commands, we had to run from our tent camp to the aircraft, and now we settled down in the shelters and the recesses near the planes. Waiting for commands. Some nights we spent by the aircraft carrying gas masks and handguns on call.

October 27 to 29, 1962 was the "peak" of the Caribbean (Missile) crisis. On October 27 following the order of General Sergey Grechko, the deputy commander-in-chief of Soviet forces in Cuba, a crew of the 1st battalion of the 507th Air Defense regiment commanded by major Ivan Gerchenkov shot down the US strategic reconnaissance aircraft Lockheed U-2 in the air space of Cuba. The American pilot Major Anderson was lost. Fragments of the plane fell down on the island. As soon as the accident was known, Fidel arrived to the place the U-2 fell down, and solemnly congratulated the Cuban military men on the victory over "the American imperialists". The Cuban radio stations and newspapers distributed the news instantly that caused a wave of pleasure and triumph among Cubans. Spontaneous meetings concerning the gained victory against "Yankee" swept all over the country. But the Americans knew perfectly well that Cubans did not possess any anti-aircraft missiles, and that a Soviet missile controlled by the Soviet personals had brought down the U-2 plane that was making flight at the height of 20 thousand meters. The situation heated up to the breaking point.

The US Army, Marines and the Navy were concentrated in the South of the US and in the Caribbean waters. NATO' troops in Europe increased their state of alert. Armed Forces of the USSR and of the Warsaw Treaty countries followed suit. The planet appeared to be on the verge of the thermonuclear conflict.

The Soviet Air Force Colonel-general Vasily Reshetnikov, the former commander of the Soviet Long-range Air Forces, commander of the air corps in October 1962, recollects: "Nuclear bombs have been delivered one day to our strategic bombers (deployed in the USSR). Though the N-bombs were not suspended to any plane, the moment was terrible. Several hours later, the “items” (nuclear bombs) were returned to the vaults by an order from Moscow. It was the first and the only "open use" of nuclear weapons. But one would be enough to resort to another one. Were we lucky then having John Kennedy as the US President, a constrained and sane person? Should Nikita Khrushchev confront a similar person? Too easy were then his words: "You want a nuclear war? You will get it!"

USN Vought RF-8 Crusader before take-off

Eugenie Vladimirov: On October 27, I have arrived to take up duty post, and witnessed the following picture: Cubans from the command post left out to the street, swinging the Granma newspaper excitedly, and everyone tried to show his pleasure - our armies have brought down an American plane. The plane fell down to the island, the pilot was dead. In some days, an American plane arrived to take the dead pilot home. The newspapers carried the picture: a coffin with a body of the pilot was brought by gangway to the plane by six persons. The caption under the photo said: “Pilot of the American Air Force major Anderson, married with three children”. The reconnaissance plane U-2 could be brought down earlier by a command “from above" to do it.

CIA Lockheed U-2 in flight

Photo of the Soviet ballistic missiles site in San Cristobal, Cuba, made by Lockheed U-2 plane.
October 14, 1962. The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

Mikhail Isaev: Certainly, we could not know all details in those October days of 1962. The intensity and alarm were soaring in the air and were felt as some material force. We needed the information badly. Instead, there were rumors. There was no panic, no confusion. The mood was disturbing; all were oppressed with the unpredictable near future. The faces of soldiers got serious and concentrated. Even the known funnymen got silent. The discipline was highly exclusive. The warrant-officers who evaded until that moment from receiving the AK ("Kalashnikov") automatic rifles referring to the PM (“Makarov”) pistols they had already got, demanded to replace the pistols with “Kalashnikov” rifles as soon as they heard about preparations of the American landing to Cuba.

A flight on duty. From left to right: 32nd GIAP pilots Kuganok, Vasiliev, Sergeev, and Bobkov.
San-Antonio AFB, November 1962. Leonid Kuganok’s archive

Nikolay Pakhomov: In these extremely intense October days of the Caribbean crisis 1962, encrypted messages arrived from the Group of the Soviet Armed Forces in Cuba headquarters almost daily. The command informed us that the US Armed Forces were ready to start bombing, and subsequently nuclear attacks across Cuba, and demanded to take corresponding measures. We understood that we had nothing at the air base to really protect the personnel and combat equipment. It was practically impossible to provide shelters in the super hard ground with our own hands; therefore, we had to expect the best possible outcome, a peaceful resolution of the conflict. Commander of the regiment has decided not to inform the personnel about the incoming messages to prevent pumping up of the personnel feelings, the people were in the intense mood.

The USAF tactical fighters F-100 and F-101 appeared in the sky above Cuba regularly from 10.00 a.m. to 11.00 a.m. carrying out reconnaissance missions. These reconnaissance flights went unpunished until October 27 when a Soviet anti-aircraft missile brought down U-2 aircraft. We were ordered not to open fire when meeting the American planes.

Dmitry Bobrov: On November 4, 1962, our squadron carried out training flights. After the task for interception of a training target was accomplished, I approached the air base decreasing the height before the landing. At this moment, I received a radio command from Lieutenant colonel Perovsky, Flights Control Officer at that day: “Do you see two Americans approaching the base on the landing course at the height of 200 m?” Having looked round, I have seen a "foe" pair at the range of about 1500 m, and answered “Affirmative!” Perovsky gave an order “Attack! Frighten them”, – he added. I increased speed, came quickly closer to the two F-101 Wodoo fighters and turned at a distance of 500-700 m just above the air base that would allow launching missiles. The American pilots found out pursuit behind them, boosted and started carrying out vigorous, with black smokes, antimissile maneuvers (turn-away to the left - to the right), and at maximum speed went to the sea, to Florida. My task has been executed, and later scouts stopped passing the space above our air base. For the sake of justice, I should say that sortie was carried out with a training missile suspended, but the radar-tracking sight was on and the F-101s consequently could find out the pursuit.

Many years have passed, and now I can easily tell about that event, but now I got the order to attack the American fighters, through detection and rapprochements, I felt an enormous pressure and the responsibility, though I knew that it was a game. Since my plane carried training missiles, and my 30-mm gun was not charged.

Mikhail Isaev: Next day after Major Dmitry Bobrov had played an "attack" on the American fighters, Cuban comrades retold us an American radio broadcasting which informed in Spanish “the US Air Force aircraft have been attacked by unidentified air pirates in the space above the island of Cuba”. That statement made by “Voice of America” resulted in an urgent task that involved all hands. The order was quick: paint the Cuban ID symbols on all MiG-21 planes (the “Voice” was right in this respect since we had carried our missions with no ID on the planes). All aircraft of the regiment got the blue-white-red signs of Cuba overnight.

A similar story happened to Major Shtoda, commander of the 1st air squadron, one of those days. While en route from Camague air base to Santa Clara, he met two American aircraft appearing in a hemisphere behind them. As soon as they noticed a single MiG at the back, the Americans retreated quickly from the air space of Cuba.

Our families retold us the story heard in Russian over the “Voice of America” almost a year later when we returned to our native Kubinka. They secretly listened to the American radio broadcasting in Russian and passed the received information to their friends. That was the only way they had found out that people of our regiment were alive at least.

32nd GIAP’s top officers, from left to right: the heard of reconnaissance major Dmitry Bobrov,
the deputy commander lieutenant-colonel Leonid Grigoryev, head of the regiment’s political department
lieutenant-colonel Nikolay Shcherbina, the deputy commander lieutenant-colonel Vladimir Grol. Cuba, 1963. Dmitry Bobrov’s archive

The 32nd GIAP the 2nd aviation squadron pilots. Sitting from left to right: Minullin, Romasev, Moeseev, Gerasimov, Bobrov, Eleseev, Tikhonov, Selyak; staying from left ro right: Kuganok, Fadeev, Beloborodov, Bobkov, Sergeev, and Rashidov. San-Antonio AFB, November 1962. Leonid Kuganok’s archive

Victor Sharkov: Our MiG-21s were in alertness with a full unit of fire loaded. Once, after the flights were over, we checked radio, electric and oxygen equipment as routine procedure. A weapons mechanic, a soldier, unaccompanied by an officer, while checking the equipment in the cabin, pressed the launching button of UB-16 unguided rockets. Several rockets launched. One of them, with its tail unit, broke off a side of lieutenant Pyatnitsa, an air technician, who stood at this moment at the left UB-16 unit. The rockets then went over the runway and blew up a wheel of a vehicle. A number of persons got small-scale wounds. It was a clear violation of the Manual on aviation engineering service, which said precisely that all checks must be carried out with the arms removed. Lieutenant Pyatnitsa recovered and returned to his unit soon. The incident was reported to army general Pliev. The witnesses said that the valiant general cavalryman announced an order: “Adhere rockets and fire the commander!”

The 2nd aviation squadron’s MiG-21F-13 aircraft. From left to right: technician
1-st lieutenant Mokhnach, chief technician captain Sharkov. San-Antonio AFB, 1963. Victor Sharkov’s archive

The 32nd Guards (213th) IAP, the only MiG-21 regiment in Cuba, was some times visited by Fidel Castro, his brother Raul Castro, and by other Cuban leaders who were vividly interested in the newest Soviet aviation equipment, and had meetings with the personnel.

Vladimir Vasilyev: I took up combat duty with my partner captain Alexander Markov. The duty planes were placed at the starting command post (SCP); technicians were doing their work near the aircraft. One could see the whole air base through big window from on the second floor of the SCP. Suddenly a green big car appeared moving from the dead area of the air base. Neither Cubans nor we did use that path. The car was moving along the taxi runway directly to the SCP and after a while, it pulled up at the entrance door. I carried on standing up on the second floor and thinking whom they might be. Two doors of the car opened at once. A "beard" got out from behind one door. My God, it was Fidel! Moreover, following him were three good fellows - bearded men, each bearing two enormous holsters with pistols attached to the belts, and automatic rifles in the arms. Meantime, the vehicle of captain Prendez, chief of the AFB, arrived from the side of the garrison positions. Figuratively speaking, I was blown off from the second floor – a must is to report to the head of the state!

It so happened that captain Prendez was moving towards Fidel Castro from one side, and I – from the other one. I remember that I mumbled something like “Comrade Fidel Castro! Here is commander of duty pair captain Vasilyev”. With the eyes peeping at me, Fidel stretched his hand to Prendez, and then shook hands with me. The situation was seemingly managed. Chief of the air base got there in time since he knew Russian and could translate. Fidel Castro moved then to the aircraft, the technicians pulled off covers from canopies quickly. Fidel asked me something and I could not understand it. Prendez rendered help with the translation. There, Fidel was interested in the measurements of our fighters. Then Fidel Castro wanted to see the cabin. We moved off the canopy, checked the catapult safety locks, and seated him smoking a cigar. With Prendez’ help the cigar was taken away. Having carefully examined the cabin Fidel hemmed approvingly and asked someone with a camera to take picture of him near the aircraft. Prendez disapproved of the idea. Regretfully, Fidel waved his hand as if postponing it until some other got into the car and left.

Cuban leader Fidel Castro on a background of a 32nd GIAP’s MiG-21. San-Antonio AFB, April, 1963. Photo by Mikhail Isaev

Victor Sharkov. From private diary:
December 25, 1963. Soldiers undergo all misfortunes courageously, live in barracks, their meal was worse than ours. But they carry out their military duty irreproachably. A big trouble was there with the soldiers to be demobilized, their three-year service had been over but they were still there in Cuba. Nobody knew what was going on or could tell when they would come back home. These soldiers asked many questions on the subject but got no answers, and behaved accordingly. For example, they refused to go for a lunch or dinner went out to work reluctantly. We tried to talk them out of the mood and disobedience, reported their behavior even to the commanders. Some repressive measures were taken, some of them were put in a guardroom, but it was not the way out.

Each of three squadrons of the regiment was on combat duty a week. From 7.00 a.m. until it was dark. Four MiG-21 in every squadron were ready for immediate take-off. The pilots remain in high-level readiness, i.e. sitting in cabins of their planes.

The Americans made their flights over Santa Clara air base regularly. Daily, to be precise, at 3.00 p.m., at low speed, 30 to 50 meters above, strictly along the middle of the runway. Impudently, with reliance, a pilot, chuckling, waved his hand, and we were staring at his face in perplexity: the antiaircraft guns of Cubans were nearby and silent, our duty aircraft likewise. Why after all did we suffer all the tortures resulted from preparations of our planes and our presence there?

Mikhail Isaev: Another mass defect of our equipment was revealed at this time. Under the burning tropical sun the canopy safety glasses began losing its transparency and bursting. Despite all reasonable efforts and shifts of our technical personnel, the process seemed irreversible. Therefore we received by air new glasses from the Soviet Union for all the planes.

Knowing today the chronology of the Caribbean crisis, one can tell that after our missiles were removed from Cuba in December 1962, the threat of an American intrusion on the island went down considerably, and the crisis was solved peacefully. Therefore, the end of 1962 shifted our basic occupation from combat readiness to routine training missions. Small panel board houses delivered from the Soviet Union were under construction, paths were graveled, etc. With improved meals and regular mail deliveries, our life looked more civilized. Moreover, tours to the city and its shops were organized. To tell the truth, with our beggarly cash we had nothing to do where special cards of limited supply were the only currency to buy something. Once we even visited cockfights. Generally speaking, we had more forbidding rules than those allowing - single tours to restaurants, bars and other institutions were restricted.

From left to right: technician 1-st lieutenant Nazarov, chief technician captain Sharkov on a background of Cuban MiG-17.
San-Antonio AFB, 1963. Victor Sharkov’s archive

Dmitry Bobrov: At the end of December 1962, the regiment was assigned a task to participate together with Cuban pilots in an air parade to take place on January 2, 1963, the day of Cuban Revolution celebrations. Our regiment allotted three MiG-21 to close the air parade flying after the Cuban planes (MiG-17 and MiG-19) while passing extremely low (100-150 м) above the main square of Havana and immediately after that to climb attitude with full trust of engines. Our team was determined as follows: the leader – Lieutenant-colonel Grol, senior navigator of the regiment, the left-side pilot - Major Yeliseyev, commander of the 2nd squadron, on the right side – me, Major Bobrov. Responsible preparations began to develop synchronous flying within the dense flight order called wing-to-wing. Besides, we were working out the task to join the Cuban column in the right place and at the right time. Our task was, that by the moment of the pass above the area where the Cuban leaders and thousands of Cubans were settled, we had to shift to boosting and fly, literally speaking, above "the tails" of the MiG-19 column at over 1000 km/hr and upwards. Therefore, everyone was ready to.

In the evening and at night prior to the parade, i.e. on January 1 1963, all San Antonio air base staff celebrated New Year. Till late night there was a shooting all around from all kinds of small weapons; the bullets were piping all round us, and loud appeals and slogans cried out with the Cuban pathos flew out from numerous speakers established everywhere around the small city. And we, participants of the parade, had to have real rest and to sleep with all that noise around. Nevertheless, we fulfilled our task perfectly, and I remembered the turning point of the flight when at some moment I saw medley, dinky masses of people merry-making in the main square of Havana.

Victor Sharkov. From private diary:
January 1, 1963 we celebrated the New Year twice - first it was the Russian New Year, at 4 p.m. We raised glasses to those in Russia who looked our way; we looked eastward and had a drink for 1963, and for those in the Native land. Then we celebrated the local New Year with Cubans. Commander of the regiment Shibanov and chief of political department Scherbina congratulated us. At 5.00 a.m. I gathered the group who were taking over duties, instructed them and checked up the flight’s readiness.
January 2. The parade in Havana was over; Cubans celebrated the Day of Revolution. And the regiment was on alert until 2 p.m. to prevent any surprises.
January 3. It was “awfully cold” at night - +7С. The flight on duty settled down near the Cuban antiaircraft gun. We were wearing shirts and flight jackets. However, the Cuban guards muffled in blankets were looking like scarecrows.
January 7. Today the Soviet cosmonaut #4, Pavel Popovich, who had been a pilot in Kubinka, arrived to visit our regiment. Popovich who had left us as the first lieutenant in 1959 was lieutenant colonel by the time. He went into details about preparations for his space flight, the flight itself and his landing. He told us at the end: "I know that you are here in a situation that is not easier than ours in space". These words caused furor then, all stood up and applauded ardently. He looked that day more solid than in 1959. His speech was simple and good-natured, quirked a little bit. Our general impression was good. The banquet was later good, too.
January 13. Sunday. I stopped on purpose by Cuban barracks. All was order and cleanliness. Inside there were a guard-detail and a number of persons punished that week. The other military persons left at 5 p.m. on Friday for their homes all around Cuba. They would come back to the barracks on Sunday no later that 12 p.m.

From left to right: head of the regiment’s political department lieutenant colonel Nikolay Shcherbina, the Soviet cosmonaut # 4
Pavel Popovich, the regiment commander colonel Nikolay Shibanov. Santa-Clara AFB, January 7. 1963. Nikolay Shibanov’s archive

Cosmonaut Pave Popov and the 32nd GIAP pilots. From left to right: Gerasimov, Kuganok, Popovich, Markov, Perovsky, Fadeev,
Selyak, Vasiliev. At the top of a photo cosmonaut Popovich’s autograph. Santa-Clara AFB, January 7, 1963. Leonid Kuganok’s archive



Nikolay Pakhomov: After the Caribbean crisis had been settled peacefully the decision was taken to train Cuban pilots to master MiG-21F-13 and then transfer the aircraft and serving technical equipment of our regiment to the Cuban Air Force. It was thus stipulated that one squadron of the regiment would be assigned for the purpose, including pilots, engineers, technicians and service personnel.

On February 18, 1963, our regiment got an order to concentrate at San Antonio AFB. Soon Cuban pilots and technical personnel started theoretical studies of MiG-21F-13 and its Tumansky R 11 engine. Our regiment defined a group of pilots-instructors headed by lieutenant colonel Grol, deputy commander of the regiment. All Cubans pilots were divided into two groups. The first one comprised skilled pilots - lieutenants who had mastered MiG-19P aircraft, the second - ordinary pilots who got scant flight experience with jet planes. Then they came over to practical flights. Lieutenant colonel Grol held an interview with everyone in the plane, and then made a circle flight on UTI MiG-15 trainer to be convinced of readiness of pilots to make the first solo sortie on supersonic MiG-21. The sorties were a success, with no breakages or failures happened.

Within April 1963, 22 Cuban pilots were retrained to fly MiG-21F-13 from the first trainee group and eight - from the second one. On April 12, the first Cuban pilot made his first solo sortie by MiG-21. All pilots were mastering piloting, pattern flights, interceptions at medium and high levels, and in a stratosphere, executed shooting at ground targets from guns and by rockets. The program resulted in 29 pilots prepared for single combat missions under day simple meteorological conditions at all heights, and 26 pilots to operate in pairs.

The Soviet and Cuban aviators. The second from left – pilot Rumyantsev. Cuba, 1963. Nikolay Rumyantsev’s archive

Michael Isaev: The air base of San Antonio was determined a place to organize a retraining center for flying and ground engineer personnel. It was the largest air station on the island with three 3-km long concrete harp flight strips, and advanced infrastructure.

The retraining was carried on gradually. Retraining draft programs were developed first, groups of teachers were then determined, and educational and visual stuff was prepared. The would be teachers were assigned individual tasks on profound teaching on MiG-21F-13, on engine R-11, as well as on systems and equipment. As soon as in February 1963 we got an order to retrain Cubans pilots, our regiment went on making sorties just to maintain the necessary level of mastership, and the basic efforts of the regiment was aimed at retraining Cuban personnel. So we turned to teachers and instructors.

As the Soviet command had recommended, the Cuban AF command selected the most skilled pilots and engineers to be retrained, including those who had been already trained in the USSR, Czechoslovakia, and China. The retraining process of the Cuban ground technical personal was organized at the regiment maintenance unit (in Russian called TECH) where the most skilled experts with wide experience and the necessary instrumentation were concentrated.

The Cuban air engineering service was organized similarly to that of ours. I was assigned head of the joint Soviet-Cuban group of radio experts. Cubans were attached to every Soviet mechanic and technician. Among Cubans there were experts who had already been trained in socialist countries. My Cuban colleague Eduardo Martinez underwent retraining in Czechoslovakia and technician Jimeli studied in the Soviet Union and spoke Russian well. Eduardo began learning Russian when we arrived to Cuba, and by the time the retraining process started, we needed no translator to communicate.

To facilitate theoretical studies, each trainee group got translators who arrived from the Soviet Union for the purpose. However, the very first lesson revealed that the Soviet translator had no knowledge of aviation and technical terminology and his translation was quite inadequate. Martinez and Jimeli gave their helping hands. Therefore, they listened to my Russian explanation of technical devices, specified nuances or details, wrote down every detail, and then retold it to colleagues in Spanish. Theoretical studies were secured with practical servicing of technical equipment where the main training principle was the army motto “do as I do”. The retraining studies were over after the Cuban experts passed exams, and certificates were signed to testify their qualifications as independent servicemen for MiG-21F-13 aircraft. By summer of 1963, the retraining of Cubans was completed with no incident or precondition impending.

San-Antonio AFB. April 17, 1963. Photo by Victor Sharkov

Nikolay Pakhomov: April 17, 1963 will be remembered well. Both Cuban and Soviet air units at San Antonio AFB celebrated the Day of aviation of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Cuba. At 9.00 a.m. Fidel Castro, Raul Castro, Curbelo, commander of the Air Force of Cuba and other officials arrived to the base. A ground parade of military units opened the ceremony, and then major Prendez, commander of the base, announced an order promoting about 300 persons to commissioned officer ranks. A speech was delivered by a representative of the Group of the Soviet armed forces, by commander of the Air Force of Cuba; Fidel Castro who spoke about an hour summarized the celebration.

The Soviet and Cuban aviators. San-Antonio AFB, summer 1963. Leonid Kuganok’s archive

Fidel Castro is making speech. San-Antonio AFB, April 17, 1963. Photo by Mikhail Isaev

Michael Isaev: The lieutenant military insignia were handed over by Fidel and Raul Castro. At this moment, I pulled out my FED photo camera and started shooting. I managed to come close to young Cubans Fidel handed over the officer stars to. While focusing the camera, I saw Fidel's eyes and was struck with witticism and depth of his black piercing eyes. I had an impression as if an electric charge had run through me. With the ceremony over, a Soviet soldier Vasily from our regiment told his Cuban colleague that he wanted to be photographed together with Fidel. After a short talk to Fidel Castro the Cuban colleague came back has said: "Vasily, bamos (follow me)." I keep this picture of Russian soldier Vasily Bratusev taken together with Fidel in my family album.

Fidel Castro and the 32nd GIAP soldier Vasily Bratusev.
San-Antonio AFB, April 17, 1963. Photo by Mikhail Isaev

Nikolay Pakhomov: After the speech Fidel had delivered, we saw an air performance made on MiG-19 aircraft by Cuban pilot captain Pino, a low flight of MiG-19 above the ground, then aerial stunt above the air base on MiG-21 demonstrated by lieutenant colonel Scherbina, chief of political department of the regiment. Summarizing the show, Major Carreros, deputy commander of the Air Force of Cuba made a boost take-off and a maneuver above the air base on MiG-21. In the evening commanders of our regiment were invited to a Havana party held at the Army House of. There were no setouts of food or speeches, or toasts. Cubans and we treated personally each other. The same evening there was a wedding of three military couples. The newly married couples passed all over the hall under the crossed rifles and to the stage where grown-ups congratulated them. Then, a dressed groom embattled in the sea, thanks God it was nearby, caused great amusement. Dances were non-stop. All was good.

After a solo flight made by a Cuban pilot ground personel’ is parking MiG-21F-13. San-Antonio AFB, 1963. Leonid Kuganok’s archive

Victor Sharkov: Though we worked much, but sometimes we had time to rest too. Once on a day-off we were walking in Santa Clara, taking pictures looked in bars to have a drink or two. Barmen over there were affable, treated us sometimes at their own expense. We were juiced all right, but hungry, and left for a bus stop, bent and tired. All of a sudden all cheered up, we felt our native, Russian smell hardly perceptible. In no way could we get where it had come from. We made a hundred of steps and understood that it was the smell of a herring (we did not get herring for six months) over streaming out of a shop. We approached it. There was a chow line after goods payable by coupons. Inconvenient to lose time in the line but worthy. “One moment”, Sasha Nazarov said, made his way closer to the counter, while we were watching him from the entrance door, and addressed the people: “Compañerawomen and compañeramen, may we have please uno herring for a ruso team?” A burst of laughter followed, and the seller stretched out a package of two herrings free of charge. We went over the corner of the bar, broke off a herring in three parts and swallowed them heartily. And thoughts about our Native land, which teemed for the fish, came to our easy minds.

The 32nd GIAP officers at excursion in Havana. From left to right: Tikhonov, Pakhomov, Sidorenko, Sherstobitov, Kas’yanov, Isaev.
Havana, 1963. Mikhail Isaev’s archive

On a background of Lockheed T-33 two-seat trainer belonged to Batista AF. The first from left – pilot Leonid Kuganok,
the third from left – pilot Dmitry Bobrov. San-Antonio AFB, summer 1963. Leonid Kuganok’s archive

Eugenie Vladimirov: Within the first years after the Cuban revolution, each province of the country (Cuba was divided into six provinces) was assigned a responsible person to be in charge of. Therefore, Fidel Castro was in charge of the central province Las-Villas, the main city - Santa Clara. There were many people, so-called “enemies” of revolution - "contras". Really, we could quite often hear chaotic shooting from automatic guns or rifle shots at night. As Cuban navigators told me, Fidel treated the "contras" tolerantly, i.e. they should be worked with ideologically and bring up these people to the understanding of the revolution. Fidel’s brother - Raul Castro, Minister of defense, was responsible for the province of Oriente, the main city - Santiago de Cuba. Raul was a stickler of a relatively tough policy towards the “contras”. If caught red-handed, the "contras" would be shot at once. Following the stories told by Cuban navigators, Fidel Castro got information saying that Raul had shot "contras" ruthlessly. Fidel sent a telegram to Raul saying: "Brother, there was too much bleeding in your struggle against counterrevolution, was it not?" The reply sent by Raul Castro said: "Good, Brother, there will be no bleeding any more!" And he stopped shooting "contras", and started gibbeting them.

The 32nd GIAP CO colonel Nikolay Shibanov and Raul Castro. Cuba, 1963. Nikolay Shibanov’s archive

Mikhail Isaev: Once in August of 1963, when the working day was over, my colleagues and I decided to go swimming. We arrived to the beach of Varadero, plunged into warm water, and then lying on the beach sand we talked. All of a sudden, the Cubans who were lying nearby jumped up shouting "Fidel, Fidel!" and ran away. We followed them. The Cuban leader just went out of the sea. His bodyguard thrown a shirt to him, which he could hardly shoulder with before the crowd surrounded him. Cubans asked something, Fidel answered. A man with a kid on his hands stood nearby. The kid reached out and touched Castro’ wet beard, which caused a storm of delight of surrounding people. Fidel chucked the little boy and left for a jeep. I looked around, another car was parked there, and three or four gunners looked attentively sideways. No more guards were noticed.

Fidel Castro on the beach, Varadero, August 1963. Photo by Mikhail Isaev


Nikolay Pakhomov: On August 10, 1963 Colonel Shibanov, commander of the regiment, received the long-awaited order to hand over our combat equipment by August 25 and be ready to leave for the Soviet Union. We were waiting for the order over six months. The planes were handed over to the Cuban side on August 20. Cuban minister Raul Castro arrived to visit us at San Antonio AFB for the purpose. The MiG-21 aircraft, technical equipment and the staff were grouped on a site near the command-and-control center. General Grechko, deputy commander of the Group of Soviet Armed Forces in Cuba, opened the solemn ceremony with an introductory speech. Then commander of the regiment colonel Shibanov handed over a memorable gift to Raul Castro - a traditional breadboard model of MiG-21 aircraft made by Soviet skilled craftsmen. Then the Cuban military and civil leaders inspected technical equipment. After the inspection, MiG-19P and MiG-21F-13 piloted by Cubans flew low above the air base. Raul Castro delivered the closing speech emphasizing that "Cubans would never forget the brotherly help the Soviet soldiers - internationalists rendered to them". The solemn act being over, technicians towed off MiG-21F-13 aircraft to parking space. On September 14, 1963, we waved goodbye to Cuba. We gathered together in San Antonio base, checked the personal, went by buses to the military port of Havana and after another check arranged by "special units" were on a deck of cargo vessel "Yuri Gagarin". At 7 p.m., it left for the port of Baltiysk. "Yuri Gagarin" carried mainly the ground and technical personnel, as well as servicing units of the regiment. The flying staff mainly returned to the Soviet Union by passenger planes of the Soviet airline "Aeroflot", someone – by passenger steamships.

Cuban MiG-21F-13, Armed Forces Museum, Havana. Probably this aircraft was belonged to the 32nd GIAP in 1962-1963.
Photo by Jose Ramon Valero

Mikhail Isaev: We were returning home in holds of cargo ship "Yuri Gagarin ". About 300 servicemen were placed in each of four holds. Deck chairs were spread out in the holds to sleep in and some big tables in the center to place food on. We called hold 2 "an officer's wardroom" with our officers placed, and three other holds carried soldiers. At the approach to Bay of Biscay, we got in a storm and found out what the seasickness was about. After arrival in the port of Riga, we were settled in barracks of local garrison to be in quarantine and to receive some documents since in Cuba we had had no ID at all. Unfortunately, in Riga I had to stay longer than my colleagues did. As chief of the maintenance unit, I had to make out demobilization papers and send home soldiers. Only on October 3, 1963 could I return to native Kubinka.

The 32nd GIAP officers onboard cargo ship "Jury Gagarin " during return trip.
The Northern Sea, September 1963. Nikolay Pakhomov’s archive

“The certificate for returning to the Soviet Union” issued to the 32nd GIAP pilots Nikolay Rumyantsev

Nikolay Pakhomov: A group of the regiment's personnel was awarded government awards for exemplary performance of the mission. Commander of the regiment and chief of political department got Lenin awards; the others received various awards and medals of the Soviet Union "for excellent accomplishing the Government's task".

Victor Sharkov: In October 1963, after returning from Cuba, our regiment that had been on “a special mission” as 213th AFR was disbanded, and the 32nd GAFR had been formally disbanded even earlier, in September 1962. Our future service and life was ignored over three months. Formally, the personnel of the regiment remained "beyond manning table" and "on a holiday". In the long run, somewhere in high places a decision was taken to restore the 32nd GAFR. On January 4, 1964, our regiment was gathered for a solemn meeting at the garrison of Kubinka. Solemn minutes! Deputy Commander of 9th AFD colonel Phillip Onoprienko who had been commander of our regiment for five years read the order of Minister of Defense stating to restore the 32nd GAFR and entrust the regiment with the Guards Red banner. He handed over the Guards banner to a new commander of the regiment - lieutenant colonel Leonid Grigoryev saying: "Grigoryev, take the flag and commanding authorities!" Therefore, the Cuban epic of the 32nd Guards Vilensky Air Fighter Regiment awarded with Lenin and Kutuzov orders came over. The regiment was ready to begin executing new missions.

Only 26 years later the veil of secrecy was officially removed from "Anadyr" operation. Only on December 28, 1988 the decree of Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR had formally admitted the presence of the Soviet troops in Cuba in 1962-63. By the order of the Soviet Minister of Defense № 220 of June 5, 1990 a big group of participants of Cuban events of 1962-63 were given a soldier – internationalist rank "for courage and military valour shown while executing an international mission”. Among the decorated persons were my father and his fellows served with the 32nd Guards Air Fighter Regiment in Cuba. Better later than never.

Breastplate ”Soldier-Internationalist”


© Сергей Исаев 2009

Дата публикации: 22.08.2010
Автор: Сергей Исаев