HERIBERTO SEDENO RECALLS THE
OCTOBER MISSILE CRISIS
Heriberto Sedeno was 16 years old when he left Havana,
Cuba on October 2nd. 1962. During the months preceding his
departure there were rumors spreading all over Cuba that
“something was going on”. It was evident that tighter security
was placed on the civilian population. Military and paramilitary
personnel known as “milicianos’ made their presence felt in the
streets of every town in Cuba.
The most shocking site was that of “eastern European” looking
young tourists visiting the main sites around Havana such as
Parque Central and Old Havana taking pictures wearing dull
summer clothing. They would not buy anything on the few
shops still open nor mingle with the people.
They made their rounds in groups of 5 to 10 with one of them
acting as guide.Months later Mr. Sedeno found out that these
tourists were Russian soldiers sent to Cuba to supervise the
construction and later staff the ICBM missile bases being
placed strategically in the countryside. Mr. Sedeno recalls
reading in Granma, the official newspaper of the Cuban
Communist Party, that the Soviet Union had sent to Cuba a
contingent of agricultural and factory technicians to help the
Cuban people. The government had successfully used the
propaganda at their means to hide the true intentions of these
On October 22nd, , 1962, almost 3 weeks after Mr. Heriberto
Sedeno’s arrival to Camp Matecumbe he felt ill and checked
into the Camp’s infirmary with a high fever and a very serious
skin rash. His neck glands were swollen and achy. The nurse
checked him and advised him to sleep that night in one of the
cots available until the next day he would be checked by the
doctor. That night, when President John F. Kennedy was
addressing the American people and the world informing them
that the Soviet Union had placed missiles in Cuba ready to be
launched to U.S.targets. Mr. Sedeno was in a delirium with
high fever and seriously dehydrated.
Indeed in a global and personal scope those 13 days in
October 1962 were dangerous.The convalescent days of Mr.
Sedeno’s illness and the development of the Missile Crisis was
marked by a lot of fear. Camp Matecumbe was at the
southwest edge of Miami very close to the Everglades National
Park and Homestead Air Force Base. Further down, the
Florida Keys are connected to the mainland by a two way
road. During the day and night the children in the Camp were
able to hear the constant military air traffic and the rumbling of
trucks all heading south. The talk amongst the children and the
Camp’s personnel was very somber. They all thought that
Cuba was on the verge of a U.S.
invasion with atomic weapons and that the lives of their family
members still in Cuba were in grave danger.Of course,
foremost in their minds was that the Russians would attack the
Miami area first.
For 13 days extreme tension and fear enveloped the world. It
was as if life had stood still during those days. Mr. Sedeno
remembers living the stillness of the moment lying on his cot at
Camp Matecumbe’s infirmary. The world survived the worst
crisis it had ever experienced, and in a personal Mr. Sedeno
lived through a very serious infection.