John ‘Duke' Barrientos Jr.
MA1, U.S. Navy
Served from 1956 to 1975 aboard USS Douglas A. Munro, USS Jenkins, USS Walker, USS Independence, USS Strong, USS Franklin D. Roosevelt, USS Chukawan, USS Shreveport
Memory: While onboard the USS Douglas A. Munro as a radioman seaman in 1958, President Eisenhower ordered our ship to the Taiwan Strait to protect the islands from invasion by China, whose mainland was a few miles from the islands. While patrolling the straits, we were fired upon but, because we were out of distance, all we could see were the shells skipping and splashing into the water.
“We found out later that President Eisenhower had authorized the use of nuclear weapons if China invaded the islands.
“I was a radioman second class on the USS Independence when we were ordered to the Caribbean Sea to set up a blockade around Cuba. President Kennedy and Premier Khrushchev ... communicated by letters because telecommunications was in its infancy. In the last two days, their letters were read to each other over radio stations.
“During our patrols, we encountered a Russian ship trying to run the blockade, and our ships were dispatched to attempt to turn him back. They ignored our warnings, and we were ordered to engage him with firepower if he continued in his route. At the very last minute, the ship slowed and turned around.''