By Bordne’s account, at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis, Air Force crews on Okinawa were ordered to launch 32 missiles, each carrying a large nuclear warhead. Only caution and the common sense and decisive action of the line personnel receiving those orders prevented the launches—and averted the nuclear war that most likely would have ensued.
Kyodo News has reported on this event, but only in regard to Bordne’s crew. In my opinion, Bordne’s full recollections—as they relate to the other seven crews—need to be made public at this time as well, because they provide more than enough reason for the US government to search for and release in timely fashion all documents relating to events in Okinawa during the Cuban Missile Crisis. If true, Bordne’s account would add appreciably to historical understanding, not just of the Cuban crisis, but of the role accident or miscalculation have played and continue to play in the Nuclear Age.
What Bordne contends. Bordne was interviewed extensively last year by Masakatsu Ota, a senior writer with Kyodo News, which describes itself as the leading news agency in Japan and has a worldwide presence, with more than 40 news bureaus outside that country. In a March 2015 article, Ota laid out much of Bordne’s account and wrote that “[a]nother former US veteran who served in Okinawa also recently confirmed [Bordne’s account] on condition of anonymity.” Ota has subsequently declined to identify the unnamed veteran, because of the anonymity he’d been promised.
Ota did not report portions of Bordne’s story that are based on telephone exchanges that Bordne says he overheard between his launch officer, Capt. Basset, and the other seven launch officers. Bordne, who was in the Launch Control Center with the captain, was directly privy only to what was said at one end of the line during those conversations—unless the captain directly relayed to Bordne and the other two crew members in the Launch Control Center what another launch officers just said.
With that limitation acknowledged, here is Bordne’s account of the ensuing events of that night: