Manuscripts/Mixed Material Interview with Charles Lahiguera
LAHIGUERA: It was the only time there was a serious possibility that I was going to see military action. I can still remember the OP order, the operations order that we received and we went out. We were instructed how to proceed and how to block ships going into Cuba and how to handle those leaving Cuba. The OP order was very specific on ships coming in. We were instructed how to approach them and signal them and tell them to turn around especially if they had missiles. I still recall reading this operations order that went through all the procedures where you give them a warning and you told them to turn around and if they didn't, you would do something else. If they didn't do what you told them, you have to radio the Pentagon to get permission to do whatever was next. I remember turning the page of the OP order and it said if they don't do all the above, you sink them. It really startled me that we had instructions in writing. We were authorized to sink them. That was the revelation, but fortunately, once we deployed they did turn around. All we did was photograph ships leaving Cuba. We had cameras. I was also the federal officer in my squad. We had cameras aboard our aircraft. We had S-2 trackers and we photographed a lot of missiles leaving.
Q: I guess many of those pictures that often did show up on the front pages of major newspapers later on.
LAHIGUERA: Only if the Pentagon released them.
Q: Well, I'm sure they did. But, was the feeling that this may be it or?
LAHIGUERA: Well, when we went to sea it had felt that way. But as soon as we got there and the ships started to turn around, then we knew it was all over. So, that was a great relief.
Q: I'm sure it was. How did you like navy life?
LAHIGUERA: I enjoyed it, but I was also looking forward to getting out. I took the Foreign Service exam while I was in the navy.
Q: Did you pass it?
LAHIGUERA: I didn't pass it the first time. Actually I took it the first time as a practice anyhow because I couldn't have gone in even had I passed it. I'm a great believer of taking exams to see what they're like. I think it helps a lot. So, I didn't pass it the first time, but I did pass it the second time in April of, let's see, '63.