TERRE HAUTE — EDITOR’S NOTE: It was 50 years ago today when the world breathed a sigh of relief — an atomic war had been averted. The Cuban Missile Crisis had lasted 13 anxiety-filled days, Oct. 16-28, 1962. Two Terre Haute men were among those who stood between America and what President Kennedy called the “abyss of destruction.” Here’s their story…
Long after graduating from the same high school in Terre Haute, Ray S. Cline and William “Bill” Harvey would play an integral part in the intelligence gathering related to a massive Soviet Union missile buildup in Cuba.
Fifty years ago, the United States of America was on the brink of nuclear war after it was discovered the Soviet Union had placed medium- and intermediate-range missile sites in Cuba.
Harvey, a Central Intelligence Agency officer known as “America’s James Bond,” was often at odds with then-U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy. Harvey didn’t think the attorney general was treating reports of a missile buildup seriously, said Mike McCormick, Vigo County historian and attorney.
On Oct. 19, 1962, while President John Kennedy was making a campaign stop in Chicago, Harvey met with the president, toting documents that McCormick reports were taken from Cuban leader Fidel Castro’s safe.
“The president suddenly contracted an upper respiratory infection and canceled all appearances and returned to Washington,” McCormick said. Two days later, JFK declared a blockade of Cuba, demanding the Soviet Union remove all of its nuclear missiles from Cuba.
Harvey was also known for his role in “Operation Mongoose,” a CIA operation run from Miami that enlisted the aid of Mafia leader John Rosselli to plot an assassination of Cuban leader Castro. That operation was never carried out.
Harvey’s mother, Sara King Harvey, a former professor at Indiana State University (then called Indiana State Teachers College), did not know about his CIA career until 1971, when Rosselli leaked details about his involvement with Harvey.
Harvey died in 1976 at age 61. Information on what happened when Harvey connected with President Kennedy in Chicago is largely based on two interviews McCormick did with Harvey’s widow, CG. (The initials stood for Carla Grace, a name she never used.)
A seat at the table
Ray Cline was deputy director of the CIA and the head of the CIA’s Directorate of Intelligence from 1962 to 1966. Cline was among those who informed President Kennedy of the Soviet missiles.
He later served as the director of the State Department’s Intelligence and Research bureau, from October 1969 to November 1973. He wrote numerous books and served as head of the Center for Strategic and International Studies at Georgetown University.
Cline is referenced in an Oct. 20, 1962, document of meeting minutes now kept on file at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum. A photo shows members of the National Security Council behind closed doors, seated around a long, paper-strewn conference table. President Kennedy is standing, both hands firmly planted on the table. Attorney General Robert Kennedy stands on the opposite side of the table, his arms crossed.
The record of the meeting shows it spanned more than two and a half hours, from 2:30 to 5:10 p.m. During those crucial hours, Cline presented some of the intelligence gathered by American operatives.
“Mr. Ray Cline of the Central Intelligence Agency summarized the report of the Guided Missile and Astronautics Committee, the Joint Atomic Energy Intelligence Committee and the National Photographic Interpretation Center, dated Oct. 19, 1962. Mr. Arthur Lundahl of CIA described the various missile sites and launching pads, displaying enlarged pictures identical to those in the committee report,” the document states.
“In response to the President’s question, Mr. Cline stated that there were no U-2 photographic reconnaissance missions over Cuba from August 29th to October 14th. The gap in photographic coverage was in part due to bad weather and in part a desire to avoid activating the SAM Air Defense installations which the Russians were hurriedly installing in Cuba during this period. Since October 14th, nine high altitude missions have been flown. Information from these missions is not fully processed, but will be available for presentation by Monday,” the record shows.
Harvey was a 1931 graduate of Wiley High School and graduated from Indiana University School of Law. Cline, a 1935 Wiley graduate, ranked first in his class and was captain of the football team. He earned three degrees from Harvard University, including a doctorate.
Of the two, Cline kept in contact more with folks back in Terre Haute, making several visits to his sister, Inalie (Cline) Artis.
Gail Artis, now the principal at Sugar Grove Elementary School, is Inalie’s daughter. Her memories of visits by Uncle Ray span her childhood.
“He would visit Terre Haute every two to three years to visit my mother and visit us,” Artis said of herself and two brothers. “He would sometimes talk about his work, tell humorous stories. My mother was very close to him and very proud of him,” she said.
Artis said her uncle was “not someone who would brag about his accomplishments. He was very soft spoken, very gentle, very intelligent and very warm. When we would have meals together, he would tell us stories at great length of his travels and the people he met.
“He was never somebody who would talk about the idea of military force or weapons or murder, that kind of thing. It was always the people aspect; the qualities that people had or funny things that had transpired or people he had met,” Artis said.
Artis said her uncle had given her mother a photograph of himself with President Kennedy and about 15 people at a long conference table. “She always told us that it was right at the height of the missile crisis and those where JFK’s top advisers assembled to discuss the crisis. That was one of the few things he had given her and shared with her. I don’t know what became of that picture,” Artis said.
“The story told in the family is [Cline] was the first one who coined the term ‘hawks and doves,’ but I don’t know if that is true or just said to be true,” Artis said about the term that refers to knowing friends and enemies.
Artis said it was a big deal each time her uncle would visit or even call on the telephone.
“We always spoke with reverence about Uncle Ray. Or, ssshh, hush, everybody be quite, it is Uncle Ray, if he would call. We stopped knocking the snot out of each other because it was uncle Ray on the phone,” Artis chuckled about herself and her two brothers. “We knew if Uncle Ray called, it was important and it would be important to Mother to be able to hear him,” she said.
Her mother kept many of the books Cline later wrote, such as “Secrets, Spies and Scholars: The CIA from Roosevelt to Reagan.”
Artis said Cline would talk at length “about the human side, about some of the people we would hear about on the news. I remember one time — and I was always shy — and he said, ‘You know, you would really like Pat Nixon.’ I thought, well, OK, if you say so,” Artis said.
Cline’s exploits were limited to this hemisphere. “The story was that they [Cline and his wife, Marjorie] had been in Taiwan a long period of time and became friendly with the family of Chinese leader Chiang Kai-shek, and presumably she [Marjorie] was one that helped them to learn English,” Artis said.
Cline, with Chiang Ching-kuo, son of Chiang Kai-shek, formed Taiwan’s Political Warfare Cadres Academy, which trained nations worldwide in counterinsurgency techniques, according to the 1989 book, “The ‘Terrorism’ Industry: The Experts and Institutes That Shape Our View of Terror,” by Edward S. Herman and Gerry O’Sullivan.
Artis is a single adoptive mother of two daughters, Patricia, now 28, and Susanna, now 19.
Artis said she remembers when Cline visited within 48 hours after Artis had taken in Patricia, who was almost 6, as a foster child before formally adopting her. “Uncle Ray visits were big. An Uncle Ray visit happened just right after I got my daughter. But you know, everything stopped and he took her and he and she spent probably 40 minutes alone and he taught her to yo-yo,” Artis said.
As a young attorney, Mike McCormick had several first-hand discussions with Cline.
McCormick recalls going out to dinner with Cline — first introduced to him by McCormick’s former law partner, Morris Blumberg — on at least three occasions. Only soundbites from those long-ago conversations stuck with McCormick.
“I have to prove ignorance, because I do not remember in the dinner conversations that we had if he discussed the Cuban missile crisis at all. It is embarrassing for me to say that,” McCormick chuckled.
“Here he is the author already of several books and I am not smart enough to ask him questions. In 1968, although I had a passive interest in history and had no idea that would be like a calling later in my life, I was busy with my law firm. I was not married yet and that was the only thing I had in mind. I was intense about building a law practice,” he said.
McCormick does recall their talking about several subjects, including when Cline mentioned he would like to be president of Indiana University, a desire that never materialized.
“I thought he was an extremely bright guy and very friendly,” McCormick said of Cline.
Cline died in 1996 after battling Alzheimer’s disease; he was 77 years old. Harvey died of a heart attack in 1976 at the age of 61.
Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached at (812) 231-4204 or firstname.lastname@example.org.