The Critical Role of Kotex in the Cuban Missile Crisis

One way to keep things secure during low-level spy flights

A relic R-12 missile from the time of the October 1962 Cuban crisis, at a site near Havana. Martin Trolle Mikkelsen

At a Smithsonian Associates lecture, “Airborne Intelligence Collection,” held at the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C., this morning, speaker S. Eugene Poteat, a retired senior CIA Intelligence Officer, talked about U-2, A-12, and other aircraft ops during the cold war. All good stuff, sure, but the audience tittered like 5th graders at one anecdote in particular.

Seems that a new device to alert RF-8 Crusader pilots to missile launches had a tendency to slip from its moorings and bounce around the cockpit during low-level, high-speed recon passes. Pilots returning from such missions complained they were unsure of what they feared most: bullets, missiles, or getting conked by the launch signal receivers. Poteat and his people found an all-night drugstore, where they loaded up on dog collars (fasteners) and sanitary napkins (protective padding), and strapped the errant receivers to pilots’ thighs.

Would have loved to hear the pilots’ responses. And also the responses of the feminine hygiene industry ad men.

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