ELKHART — On the brink of a nuclear disaster on Oct. 23, 1962, a C135 Stratolifter jet carrying more than 75,000 pounds of fuel and 31,200 pounds of class A explosives left from an air force base in Charleston, S.C., with Guantanamo Bay as its destination.
It was the same day U.S. President John F. Kennedy signed a proclamation authorizing the naval quarantine of Cuba. A day earlier the president had told the country the Soviet Union was building missile bases on Cuban territory.
Because of the quarantine, U.S. planes were prohibited from flying over Cuban territory, and in a last-minute readjustment of paths, the plane that departed from Charleston with seven men on board was ordered to make two 90 degree turns to land on the Guantanamo Bay U.S. Base. Officials at McGuire Air Force Base in N.J. had reported the landing approach was steep and difficult.
The plane crashed on the ground at Leeward Point Field, killing all men on board, including 1st Lt. Jack Douberteen, 24, of Elkhart.
“They had to make two sharp turns and the plane was heavy,” said Bill Riblet, who was a close friend of Douberteen.
Riblet and Douberteen graduated from Elkhart High School in 1956. Douberteen went to Indiana University and graduated in 1960. During college, Douberteen enlisted to the ROTC and after he graduated he was sent to McGuire Air Force Base in N.J.
He enjoyed doing his service for the Air Force, Riblet said.
“He did, absolutely.”
Douberteen was an only child, and was president of the class of 1956. His family lived on East Jackson Boulevard in Elkhart. Two months before the accident, Douberteen was the best man at Riblet’s wedding.
Riblet served at a U.S. Marine Corps. Infantry company in Camp Lejoune, and for two months, between March and May, he went to Guantanamo Bay as extra security along the fence line of the U.S. base. Riblet ended his service in August of 1962, before his wedding.
The other men on the plane who died Oct. 23 were Capt James Bailey, of Lexington, Tenn.; Capt. John Baird, of Fall Brook, Calif.; Cat. Edward Connard, of Milton, Del.; 1st Lt. Hahl Hogge, of Nampa, Idaho; T. Sgt. Lester Elliott, of Duenweg, Mo.; and S. Sgt. Booker Rigsby, of Kingston, N.C. Douberteen was the co-pilot in the plane when the accident happened.
“He was a great friend, he was very popular,” said Riblet. “An outstanding person.”
In a letter, Riblet wrote Douberteen’s “memory has never been forgotten by the many close friends and Elkhart High School classmates in the 1950s.”