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McCook man played key role in Cuban missile crisis -- documentary airs Oct. 23

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

(Photo)
Gen. Jerry McIlmoyle
McCOOK, Nebraska -- A 1948 McCook High School and 1950 McCook Community College graduate, Jerry McIlmoyle, will be part of a PBS documentary to air on Tuesday, Oct. 23 at 8 p.m.

The documentary, "Cuban Missile Crisis -- Three Men Go to War," marks the 50th anniversary of what many consider to be the most dangerous 13-day period in the history of mankind. The film focuses on the three central figures in the crisis -- President John F. Kennedy, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, and Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro. The decisions of the three men pushed the world to the brink of nuclear war in a battle to see who would blink first, according to the video promos for the film.

Jerry McIlmoyle enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in 1951, rising to the ranks of Brigadier General and serving as one of 400 members of the extended Joint Chiefs of Staff throughout his 30-year Air Force career. When he retired in 1981, Gen. McIlmoyle had been awarded a Distinguished Service Medal, two Legions of Merit, two Distinguished Flying Crosses, a Bronze Star and three Air Medals.

In October of 1962, the then Capt. McIlmoyle was chosen as one of 11 pilots to fly U-2 reconnaissance forays over Cuba, providing pictures and other information of the construction of Soviet nuclear missile sites just 90 miles off the shores of Florida. His service helped to avert the crisis, allowing President Kennedy to negotiate a secret agreement between Kennedy and Khrushchev in which Kennedy promised to remove U.S. missiles from Turkey if Khrushchev would first take down the Cuban sites and keep the deal secret.

McIlmoyle flew a total of four of the reconnaissance forays between Oct. 14 and Oct. 27, 1962. He received a personal thank-you from President Kennedy for his service, a life-changing event for McIlmoyle.

"I met four presidents during my years in the military. Eisenhower was the first, followed by Kennedy, Johnson and Reagan. All were special occasions, but none compares with the moments I shared with President Kennedy. The president was assassinated a year later, but my memories of our meeting will last as long as I live," McIlmoyle told the Gazette in a 2007 interview.

McIlmoyle was inducted into the Bison Alumni Wall of Fame in 2011.

He was flown to Washington, D.C. by PBS to be interviewed for the film as one of only four of the U-2 pilots still living. Jerry and his wife, 1950 McCook High School graduate Patty (McBrien) McIlmoyle, will celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary in December of this year.


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