Few Ships Remain as Legacies
Of the Cuban Missile Crisis
By DAVID F. WINKLER
In a climactic moment during the Cuban Missile Crisis, on Oct. 26, 1962, a party with participants
from the destroyers USS Joseph P. Kennedy and John R.
Pierce boarded what is often described as the Soviet
freighter Marucla. The boarding occurred four days
after President John F. Kennedy’s announcement that
the U.S. Navy would implement a quarantine around
the island of Cuba in response to the Soviet introduction of medium-range ballistic missiles there.
Though the Soviets did charter the ship to haul
materials to Cuba, Marucla carried the flag of Lebanon,
was British owned, and actually had been constructed
during 1943 in Baltimore and placed into service as
Ben H. Miller, one of more than 2,700 Liberty ships
built to transport allied materials during the struggle
against the Axis powers.
In 1947, Ben H. Miller was acquired by the Ellerman
& Bucknall Steamship Co. of London and flew the
British merchant marine flag as City of Shrewsbury. In
1959, another London shipping firm, Marcou and
Sons, acquired the ship, renamed it Marucla, and
placed it under the flag of Lebanon.
After the U.S. Navy boarding party found no missile
components or suspicious materials during its search,
Marucla was allowed to continue to Cuba, but U.S.
forces had demonstrated that they did indeed intend to
enforce the quarantine.
Fifty years later, it is possible to visit Joseph P. Kennedy,
one of a few Cuban Missile Crisis veterans that are preserved in America’s naval historic ships fleet. Now designated a National Historic Landmark and member of the
Historic Naval Ships Association, Kennedy is open to the
public at Battleship Cove, Fall River, Mass.
Another Cuban Missile Crisis veteran vessel available for touring is the display ship Barry, which rests
pierside at the Washington Navy Yard. As with Joseph
P. Kennedy, it was homeported at Newport, R.I. Its
duties during the crisis included operating as a screening vessel and plane guard for the aircraft carrier Essex,
doing anti-submarine warfare surveillance on a
Foxtrot-class submarine, and performing an inspection
on the Soviet-registered Metallurg Anosov following the
Soviet decision to withdraw its missiles from Cuba.
The destroyer The Sullivans, located at the Buffalo and
Lake Erie County, N.Y., Naval and Military Park, also
participated as one of the quarantine ships during the
Cuban Missile Crisis. It, too, had been homeported in
Another major combatant that played a role in the crisis is awaiting disposal at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard
at Bremerton, Wash., is the aircraft carrier Independence.
It, however, is not available for public touring.
One mothballed ship that may one day be open to
the public is Charles F. Adams, which currently is located at the Navy’s Inactive Ships Maintenance Facility in
Philadelphia. Adams is being sought as a floating museum by a group in Jacksonville, Fla. The Navy’s first
keel-up built guided-missile destroyer, it had been
involved in the recovery of astronaut Walter Schirra in
Mercury 8 in early October 1962 before being reassigned to support the Cuban Missile Crisis quarantine
And though Marucla was cut up in a Hong Kong
scrapyard in 1969, it is possible to tour World War II-vintage Liberty ships at three locations. Overseas,
Hellas Liberty is on display near Athens. It had been
laid up by the Maritime Administration for decades in
Virginia’s James River as SS Arthur M. Huddel and was
acquired by Greece in 2008 to serve as a museum ship
to tell the story of Greece’s merchant marine heritage.
In the United States, both the Baltimore-based John W.
Brown and San Francisco-ported Jeremiah O’Brien enable
visitors to walk the decks of sister ships of Marucla.
These two historic ships are unique in that both still are
operational and offer excursions to the public.
As with Marucla, John W. Brown traces its lineage to
Baltimore’s Bethlehem-Fairbanks Shipyard.
One other major combatant involved in the Cuban
Missile Crisis is not available to the public because it is
still serving — at least for now. USS Enterprise, the
other attack aircraft carrier involved in the crisis, will
be returning to homeport in Norfolk, Va., following its
final deployment to the Fifth Fleet in the Middle East.
Enterprise is scheduled for inactivation on Dec. 1. A
final opportunity for Enterprise Sailors, family, fans and
friends to visit and tour the aircraft carrier will be Nov.
To register for the first-come, first-served tours, visit
Dr. David F. Winkler is a historian with the Naval Historical