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Profile in Courage: Goodyear, Ariz. veteran fought in heart of Cuban Missile Crisis

Charles Marshall (Photo: Charles Marshall)
LISTEN: Charles Marshall, Cold War Veteran

All this week, KTAR will be bringing you the lives and stories of the 2015 Phoenix Veterans Day Parade grand marshals in a series entitled A Profile in Courage.

First Class Petty Officer and Cold War veteran Charles F. Marshall of Goodyear, Arizona, is honored to participate in this year’s Phoenix Veterans Day parade.

Marshall said he initially joined the Navy after high school to see the world, selecting nuclear submarine programs before being sent to San Diego.

(Photo: Charles Marshall)

(Photo: Charles Marshall)

“I enlisted and went to San Diego for boot camp,” he said. “(Then I) went from there to submarine school, went from there to missile schools and ended up being on a Polaris Nuclear Submarine from all that.”

One of Marshall’s first missions was the Cuban Missile Crisis when he served on the U.S.S. Argonaut, part of the naval blockade of Cuba in 1962. Marshall said he even won an award for serving during the crisis.

Marshall said eventually, he ended up being the lead of the submarine for the missile program and went out on eight stealth war patrols.

(Photo: Charles Marshall)

(Photo: Charles Marshall)

“When it goes on patrol, everything’s marked out, you can’t tell what it is, so we’re totally stealth,” he said. “We do a dive once we get passed a couple hundred feet, and we don’t come up for another, anywhere from 60 to 90 days.”

Marshall’s crew was recognized as exceptional and was subsequently selected to conduct a drill that involved multiple launches. The drill, Marshall said, became one of his most memorable experiences.

“We would get the word from the Pentagon, it’s time to launch and I would have to open and close the doors,” he said. “Every 16 seconds, another missile would go out.”

(Photo: Charles Marshall)

(Photo: Charles Marshall)

Marshall said he remembered thinking that it was quite the “experience” to see that amount of power.

“This is a real situation,” he said. “We really are powerful and have a mission here to make sure that we can be successful.”

Although Marshall has received countless awards throughout his career, he said there is one that is the most special to him: the Blue Nose, which is given to sailors who cross the Arctic Circle.

“Blue Nose is just (for) any boat that goes above the Arctic Circle, everybody gets an award for that,” he said. “You get to go through a real, fun activity, (but) I can’t talk about it, it’s classified information.”

Marshall’s continued to contribute to national defense for decades, working with companies like McDonald Douglas and Lockheed Martin. He also developed missile technology for Harpoon cruise missiles, Tomahawk cruise missiles and rocket programs including ICBM’s, Titan, Space Shuttle and Single Stage to Orbit programs.

“Every once and while people will say, well, it’s not rocket science,” he said. “And I say, well, for me it was!”

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