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Students Restore Missile to Commemorate Cuban Crisis

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To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the peaceful resolution of the Cuban Missile Crisis, students at one Miami school are restoring an American missile (unarmed).

Students at George T. Baker Aviation School have for the past few weeks been sanding the wings, repainting the U.S. Army markings, and replacing the sheet metal on a Nike Hercules missile that in 1962 was equipped with a nuclear warhead and aimed at Cuba. The 41-foot, 5-ton missile arrived at the school after a flatbed truck delivery from a U.S. Army depot in Alabama, where the missile had been gathering cobwebs and dust. Once the missile is finished, it will head to its permanent home in a former missile base in what is now Everglades National Park. The base, known as HM60 Nike Missile Base, is now owned by the National Park Service. The base offers tours to the public.

The students, many of whom are Cuban, have been learning about the two weeks in October 1962 in which the U.S. and the Soviet Union narrowly averted World War III. Missiles such as the one they are refinishing dotted the landscape in the 1960s, and some were armed and pointed at Cuba. Similarly, Soviet missiles were to be found on the ground in Cuba, with their noses pointed toward American shores and inland. At the time, many people in the U.S. and elsewhere thought it a very real possibility that the nuclear-tipped missile would be launched. A secret deal between American and Soviet leaders ended the crisis.

The missile restoration is part of a larger project to remind people today about the momentous events that took place 50 years ago and the famous people at the center of those events. Commemoration programs have been scheduled across the U.S., including a National Archives exhibition titled "To the Brink: JFK and the Cuban Missile Crisis," at which visitors can hear recordings of meetings between then-President John F. Kennedy and his advisers as they discuss strategies for confronting then-Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev.

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