National Archives presents Cuban Missile Crisis exhibit

President John F. Kennedy stunned America with the news that there were nuclear missiles in Cuba, just 90 miles from Florida.

The proof? Reconnaissance photos taken by Air Force Major Rudolf Anderson, known as Cousin Rudy to George Anderson Folsom of Bethesda.

“He went to Greenville High School where my mother went,” Folsom says. “They grew up together as first cousins. He was a very nice guy, very affable. But again, very, very private individual.”

Folsom recalled family reunions in South Carolina, never realizing Rudy would become the only American killed by enemy fire during the missile crisis. President Kennedy got the word Oct. 27, 1962 that the U-2 surveillance plane was shot down.

That dramatic audio is part of a new exhibit at the National Archives chronicling the tense 13-day standoff between Khrushchev and Castro, as Americans readied their basement bomb shelters and Soviet missiles threatened to wipe out much of the U.S.

“The Cuban Missile Crisis was really the most dangerous confrontation in history,” says Exhibit Curator Stacey Bredhoff. “It's the closest the world has ever been to nuclear war.”

The exhibit includes a letter from the president to major Anderson's widow, who was pregnant at the time with the couple's third child, and also{ } includes a personal hand-written note.

George Folsom read the letter.

“Very, very touching,” he says.

The crisis finally ended with Khrushchev removing the missiles, the U.S. promising not to invade Cuba and a 35-year-old pilot with ties to our area making the ultimate sacrifice.

"To the Brink: JFK and the Cuban Missile Crisis"
7th Street and Constitution Avenue NW
10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Exhibit runs through Feb. 4, 2013

Vint Hill, Va.