ABSTRACT

Within Kennedy’s Ex Comm, there was agreement on one importantissue: The time had arrived for the quarantine line-150 ships, 250 aircraft, and about 30,000 men-to show some teeth by stopping and searching at least one vessel bound for Cuba.1 Officials chose the Marucla precisely because it was unlikely to carry Soviet weapons. It was a Lebanese freighter with a Greek crew, and its port of departure was in Latvia, one of the Baltic nations absorbed by the Soviet Union. By stopping the Marucla, the United States could add meaning to the quarantine without risking direct contact with a Soviet ship. The USS John R. Pierce started pursuing the freighter on the previous night, but naval authorities chose a more symbolic vessel to stop and board the Marucla. They opted for the USS Joseph P. Kennedy Jr., a destroyer named after the president’s older brother who had been killed in World War II. The executive officer of the Pierce joined six officers and men from the Kennedy when they boarded the Marucla. Ironically, the Navy had authorized a $200 expenditure to provide items such as candy, magazines, and lighters to be given to the crews of each apprehended ship.2 In return for those inexpensive gifts, the Greek crew offered the boarders hot coffee. The search was quick-and no missile parts were found. Later in the day, a Swedish freighter under a Soviet charter refused to stop at the quarantine line. The ship was carrying general cargo from Leningrad. The captain of the closest U.S. destroyer sent an urgent message to Washington asking for instructions. He was advised to let the ship pass.