Imagine sitting on top of a Soviet sub carrying enough nuclear arsenal to launch a third world war. Ted Schmid does not have to imagine. He lived it at age 17.
The Brevard County resident was front and center during a particularly scary time in American history as the United States came face-to-face with the Soviet Union in 1962.
A native of Steubenville, Ohio, Schmid enlisted in the Navy right out of high school, choosing to go “anchors aweigh” primarily because his father had been a seaman.
Trained as a quartermaster in navigation, Schmid first saw active duty in December 1959. He worked at a radar picket ship, one of the converted Liberty ships, in the Pacific Ocean before being deployed to the Caribbean, where instead of the fun and sun associated with these golden islands, he found a world on the brink of a war.
Offshore from Havana, Cuba, Schmid was part of the crew of the destroyer USS Blandy, which encountered merchant marines from the Soviet Union attempting to smuggle missiles onto the island. The ships were stopped and sent back home. The next job was the sub. Schmid’s ship floated on top of the submerged Soviet submarine for a couple of days until the vessel was forced to return to the surface for air.
“We did not know it at the time, but it was later documented (that) the sub was carrying nuclear weapons that the captain had been ordered to deploy on command,” Schmid said.
Fortunately, the Russians did not get that message. The sub turned around and headed home, closely observed by American ships.
“We didn’t realize at the time how close it was to nuclear war,” Schmid said.
Schmid only served for four years. His later careers included positions in the aircraft industry with Pratt & Whitney and as a civilian contractor with the Navy Air Rework Facility in Rhode Island.
He volunteered to help with aircraft repairs around the world, including Vietnam, Okinawa and the Philippines.
He later worked at Quonset Point Naval Air Station, but when that facility closed, laying off more than 1,000 workers, Schmid headed to Jacksonville to join Southern Bell for the next 27 years. He started as a lineman and progressed to engineer after attending business and engineering schools.
He thought he would retire, and that first retirement lasted for a year, before the itch to return to employment had to be scratched and he launched a new career as a handyman.
His second retirement was held. He now volunteers his time as treasurer for the Brevard Veterans Memorial Center and Museum on Merritt Island.