USMC Units Involved in the Cuban Crisis

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By Kristy Tolley

The Cuban Crisis, also known as the Cuban Missile Crisis, was a major international conflict that occurred in October 1962. It was a tense standoff between the United States and the Soviet Union, which nearly escalated into a nuclear war. The crisis was triggered by the discovery of Soviet ballistic missile sites in Cuba.

The United States Marine Corps (USMC), as a branch of the United States Armed Forces, played a significant role in the Cuban Crisis. Several USMC units were involved in the crisis, providing support and conducting operations to prevent the Soviets from establishing a permanent missile presence in Cuba.

One of the primary USMC units involved in the Cuban Crisis was the 2nd Marine Division. The 2nd Marine Division was responsible for planning and executing amphibious landings in case military intervention became necessary. They conducted extensive training exercises and prepared to seize key locations in Cuba along with other U.S. military units.

In addition to the 2nd Marine Division, the 1st Marine Division also played a crucial role in the Cuban Crisis. The 1st Marine Division was ready and prepared to be deployed to Cuba at a moment’s notice. They stood by as a rapid response force, ready to execute any given mission to protect U.S. interests and maintain the peace.

Other USMC units involved in the Cuban Crisis included Marine Aircraft Groups, which provided air support and reconnaissance capabilities, and Marine Security Guard detachments that protected U.S. diplomatic facilities. These units worked together with other military branches and intelligence agencies to monitor the situation, gather intelligence, and maintain a strong deterrent against any hostile actions by the Soviets.

In conclusion, the United States Marine Corps played a vital role in the Cuban Crisis. The 2nd Marine Division, 1st Marine Division, Marine Aircraft Groups, and Marine Security Guard detachments were among the key USMC units involved in the crisis. Their training, readiness, and support were crucial in preventing a potentially catastrophic escalation of the conflict and ultimately resolving the crisis diplomatically.

Background of the Cuban Crisis

The Cuban Crisis, also known as the Cuban Missile Crisis, was a 13-day standoff between the United States and the Soviet Union in October 1962. The crisis arose when the Soviet Union placed nuclear missiles in Cuba, just 90 miles from the coast of Florida. This move was seen as a direct threat to the United States, as it provided the Soviets with a base to launch nuclear attacks.

The crisis began when aerial photographs taken by American spy planes revealed the presence of nuclear missile sites on the island of Cuba. These missile sites were capable of launching missiles with nuclear warheads that could reach major cities in the southeastern United States. The discovery of these missiles sent shockwaves throughout the U.S. government and military.

As news of the missile sites broke, President John F. Kennedy and his advisors deliberated over the best course of action. The options ranged from diplomatic negotiations to a full-scale military invasion of Cuba. Ultimately, Kennedy decided on a naval blockade of Cuba, known as a “quarantine” in order to prevent any further military supplies from reaching the island.

USMC Units involved in the Cuban Crisis:
1st Marine Division
2nd Marine Division
3rd Marine Division
4th Marine Division
6th Marine Division
8th Marine Division
1st Marine Aircraft Wing
2nd Marine Aircraft Wing
3rd Marine Aircraft Wing
4th Marine Aircraft Wing

The involvement of the USMC units played a crucial role in the Cuban Crisis. They were prepared to be deployed if diplomatic efforts failed and a military invasion of Cuba became necessary. The Marines were trained and equipped to provide amphibious assault capabilities and could have played a pivotal role in any potential conflict.

Fortunately, the crisis was resolved through negotiations between the United States and the Soviet Union. The Soviets agreed to remove their missiles from Cuba in exchange for the U.S. pledge to not invade the island and to remove its own missiles from Turkey. The resolution of the crisis is seen as one of the closest moments the world has come to nuclear war.

Marines Deployed to Cuba

During the Cuban Crisis, several units from the United States Marine Corps were deployed to Cuba to support the mission and ensure the security of vital interests in the region. The Marines played a critical role in the overall operation and contributed to the successful resolution of the crisis.

Below is a list of the main Marine units that were involved in the Cuban Crisis:

  • 1st Marine Division: The 1st Marine Division was one of the primary units dispatched to Cuba. Known as “The Old Breed,” this division was responsible for conducting a variety of missions, including securing key objectives and providing force protection.
  • 1st Marine Aircraft Wing: The 1st Marine Aircraft Wing supported the ground forces by providing air support and reconnaissance capabilities. This aviation unit played a crucial role in maintaining air superiority and gathering intelligence.
  • 6th Marine Regiment: The 6th Marine Regiment was another significant unit deployed to Cuba. Comprised of infantry battalions, this regiment conducted operations to establish and maintain a strong presence on the island.
  • 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines: The 2nd Battalion, 8th Marines was one of the infantry battalions within the 6th Marine Regiment. This battalion played a vital role in conducting security operations and engaging with local populations.
  • Marine Corps Intelligence Activity (MCIA): The MCIA supported the operation by gathering intelligence on Cuban military activities, government structures, and potential threats. This unit provided critical information and analysis to aid decision-making.

These Marine units, along with various supporting elements, operated in coordination with other branches of the U.S. military to ensure a swift and successful resolution of the Cuban Crisis. Through their dedication and professionalism, the Marines made significant contributions to the overall mission.

2nd Marine Division

The 2nd Marine Division was one of the key units involved in the Cuban Crisis. It played a crucial role in the overall operation and was responsible for carrying out various tasks.

The division was composed of several key components, including infantry units, artillery, armor, and support elements. These units worked together to support the overall mission and help ensure its success.

During the Cuban Crisis, the 2nd Marine Division was tasked with a range of operations, including establishing a defensive perimeter, providing security at key installations, conducting reconnaissance missions, and being prepared for offensive actions if required.

One of the notable actions of the 2nd Marine Division during the crisis was the establishment of a defensive perimeter around the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base. This important installation was a key point of concern during the crisis, and the division played a crucial role in its defense.

The division also conducted various reconnaissance missions to gather intelligence on Cuban military activities and movements. This information was vital for decision-making and planning by higher-level command.

In addition to their defensive and reconnaissance roles, the 2nd Marine Division was also prepared for offensive actions if needed. This included the capability to execute amphibious assaults to secure key objectives along the Cuban coast.

The 2nd Marine Division’s involvement in the Cuban Crisis demonstrated the readiness and effectiveness of the unit. Their contributions and actions were crucial in helping manage the situation and achieve the overall objectives of the crisis response.

3rd Marine Division

The 3rd Marine Division played a crucial role in the Cuban Crisis. Comprising of various units, this division was tasked with supporting the overall mission of the United States Marine Corps during the crisis.

Some of the units that were involved in the Cuban Crisis as part of the 3rd Marine Division include:

  • 3rd Marine Regiment: This unit, consisting of infantry battalions, was responsible for conducting amphibious assaults on predetermined landing sites in Cuba. They played a crucial role in capturing and securing key areas during the crisis.
  • 12th Marine Regiment: The 12th Marine Regiment provided artillery support to the 3rd Marine Division. They were responsible for providing fire support to the infantry units and played a crucial role in neutralizing enemy defenses.
  • 9th Marine Regiment: This unit comprised of both infantry and artillery battalions. They were responsible for conducting reconnaissance and gathering intelligence on enemy positions. Additionally, they provided fire support to the infantry units during combat operations.
  • 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion: The 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion was tasked with gathering intelligence on enemy movements and positions. They played a crucial role in providing situational awareness to the 3rd Marine Division’s commanders.

These units, along with other supporting elements of the 3rd Marine Division, worked together to ensure the success of the United States’ mission during the Cuban Crisis. Their efforts and sacrifices contributed to the overall victory and resolution of the crisis.

Marine Corps Air Station El Toro

Marine Corps Air Station El Toro, also known as MCAS El Toro, was a United States Marine Corps air station located near Irvine, California. It was one of the largest military air bases on the West Coast during its operational years from 1943 to 1999.

During the Cuban Crisis, Marine Corps Air Station El Toro played an important role in supporting the military efforts. The base served as a strategic aircraft and helicopter hub for both the Marine Corps and the United States Navy.

Several squadrons from MCAS El Toro were involved in the Cuban Crisis, including Marine Aircraft Group 16 (MAG-16), which deployed helicopters for various missions. MAG-16’s CH-53 Sea Stallion helicopters played a crucial role in transporting personnel and supplies. Additionally, Marine Attack Squadron 214 (VMA-214), also known as the “Black Sheep,” provided aerial support with their A-4 Skyhawk aircraft.

In addition to its aviation units, Marine Corps Air Station El Toro was also home to other supporting units that played a vital role during the Cuban Crisis. These included Marine Wing Support Group 37 (MWSG-37), whose members provided logistics support and maintenance services for the aircraft stationed at El Toro.

Squadrons Roles
MAG-16 Helicopter deployment
VMA-214 Aerial support
MWSG-37 Logistics support and maintenance

The involvement of Marine Corps Air Station El Toro and its units in the Cuban Crisis demonstrated the base’s capabilities and the Marines’ readiness to respond to national security threats.


Naval History Magazine Presents: Cuban Missile Crisis

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Kristy Tolley

Kristy Tolley, an accomplished editor at TravelAsker, boasts a rich background in travel content creation. Before TravelAsker, she led editorial efforts at Red Ventures Puerto Rico, shaping content for Platea English. Kristy's extensive two-decade career spans writing and editing travel topics, from destinations to road trips. Her passion for travel and storytelling inspire readers to embark on their own journeys.

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