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First Name: Richard

Last Name: Heyser

Birthplace: Apalachicola, FL, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Air Force (1947 - present)

Middle Name: Stephen

Date of Birth: 03 April 1927

Date of Death: 06 October 2008

Rank: Lieutenant Colonel

Years Served:
Richard Stephen Heyser

•  Korean War (1950 - 1953)
•  Vietnam War (1960 - 1973)


Richard Stephen Heyser
Lieutenant Colonel, U.S. Air Force

Richard Stephen Heyser was born on 3 April 1927 in Apalachicola, FL.

A Reconnaissance Pilot, in 1962 he took the first photographs of Soviet nuclear missile sites under construction on the island nation of Cuba. His discovery during an overflight of the Island on 14 October 1962 triggered an international showdown between the U.S. and the Soviet Union that pushed the two superpowers to the brink of nuclear war.

The conflict, which became known as the Cuban Missile Crisis, lasted from 15 October 1962 until 28 October 1962 and was resolved after Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev agreed to dismantle the missile sites and return the Russian nuclear arsenal to the Soviet Union. During the thirteen-day confrontation, Heyser flew five U-2 reconnaissance missions over Cuba, providing the Department of Defense with thousands of detailed photographs of Russian military activity, and was invited to the White House to meet with President John F. Kennedy during the crisis.

He served as a pilot during the Korean War and also served two combat tours in Vietnam before retiring from the U.S. Air Force in 1974, after completing 30 years of military service.

Medals and Awards

Distinguished Flying Cross (3 Awards)
Air Medal (7 Awards)
Bronze Star Medal
Meritorious Service Medal

In Retirement

In a 2005 interview with The Associated Press, Heyser said that no one was more relieved than he that the crisis ended peacefully. He said he did not want to go down in history as the man who started World War III.

Death and Burial

Lieutenant Colonel Richard Stephen Heyser died on 6 October 2008 in Port St. Joe, FL, at age 81. He is buried at Magnolia Cemetery in Apalachicola, FL.

Honoree ID: 2627   Created by: MHOH




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