30-Year Veteran Took First Photos Of Cuban Missile Sites In
Richard Stephen Heyser, a retired US Air Force Lieutenant
Colonel and U-2 spy plane pilot who took the first reconnaissance
photos of secret missile launch sites during the 1962 Cuban missile
crisis, died October 6 at a nursing home in Port St. Joe, FL.
A long-time resident of nearby Apalachicola, the
81-year-old Heyser had suffered a series of strokes in recent
years, the Los Angeles Times reported.
In a 2005 interview with the Associated Press, Heyser said that
no one was more relieved than he that the crisis ended peacefully,
stating he did not want to go down in history as the man who
started World War III.
"I kind of felt like I was going to be looked at as the one who
started the whole thing," Heyser said. "I wasn't anxious to have
In October 1962, Heyser was one of 11 Air Force U-2 pilots who
took photos over Cuba, making five reconnaissance flights in nine
With the photos as proof, on October 22, 1962 President Kennedy
announced to the world that the Soviet Union was building secret
launch sites for nuclear missiles just 90 miles south of Key West.
Six days later, the crisis ended when Soviet Premier Nikita
Krushchev agreed to withdraw the missiles.
Born April 3, 1927, Heyser grew up in Apalachicola, a town in
the state's panhandle on the Gulf Coast. As a teenager watching
pilots training for World War II at nearby Tyndall Field, Heyser
decided he wanted to fly and joined the Army Air Forces in
After the war, Heyser graduated from what is now Florida State
In 1952, Heyser began Air Force pilot training. He flew combat
missions during the Korean War, and later served two combat tours
during the Vietnam War. Retiring in 1974 after 30 years of service,
he returned to Apalachicola, the Times said.
Heyser is survived by Jacquelyn, his wife of 54 years, and three
sons, eight grandchildren and a sister.