The forgotten man of the Cuban missile crisis was once its hero — the only American to perish in a conflict that could have killed millions.
Maj. Rudolf Anderson was "the martyr who died for us all," said Eric Sevareid, the CBS Evening News analyst. Future generations would lay flowers at Anderson's grave, he predicted, in thanks for the "hosts of others who did not die."
The crisis, the closest the planet has come to nuclear war, took place over 13 days — Oct. 16-28, 1962. It started after aerial photos showed the Soviet Union was deploying nuclear missiles in Cuba in order to bolster its communist ally, Fidel Castro, and its own ability to strike the United States.
Armed only with a camera, Anderson flew an unescorted U-2 spy plane over the island more times in the crisis than any other pilot. He and his comrades took the photos that the U.S. used to show the world the Soviets had nuclear missiles 90 miles from Florida.