Cuban Missile Crisis

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Cuban missile crisis was a 13-day confrontation in October 1962 between the United States and the Soviet Union over Soviet ballistic missiles deployed in Cuba.

An election was underway in the U.S. and the White House had denied Republican charges that it was ignoring dangerous Soviet missiles 90 miles from Florida.

These missile preparations were confirmed when an Air Force U-2 spy plane produced clear photographic evidence of medium-range and intermediate-range ballistic missile facilities.

The United States established a military blockade to prevent further missiles from entering Cuba.

It announced that they would not permit offensive weapons to be delivered to Cuba and demanded that the weapons already in Cuba be dismantled and returned to the USSR.

In January 1962, General Edward Lansdale described plans to overthrow the Cuban Government in a top-secret report, addressed to President Kennedy and officials involved with Operation Mongoose.

CIA agents or “pathfinders” from the Special Activities Division were to be infiltrated into Cuba to carry out sabotage and organization, including radio broadcasts.

In February 1962, the United States launched an embargo against Cuba, and Lansdale presented a 26-page, top-secret timetable for implementation of the overthrow of the Cuban Government, mandating that guerrilla operations begin in August and September, and in the first two weeks of October: “Open revolt and overthrow of the Communist regime.”

In a TV address on October 22, 1962, President John Kennedy notified Americans about the presence of the missiles, explained his decision to enact a naval blockade around Cuba and made it clear the U.S. was prepared to use military force if necessary to neutralize this perceived threat to national security.

For the American officials, the urgency of the situation stemmed from the fact that the nuclear-armed Cuban missiles were being installed so close to the U.S. mainland–just 90 miles south of Florida.

From that launch point, they were capable of quickly reaching targets in the eastern U.S.

If allowed to become operational, the missiles would fundamentally alter the complexion of the nuclear rivalry between the U.S. and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR), which up to that point had been dominated by the Americans.

The challenge facing them was to orchestrate their removal without initiating a wider conflict–and possibly a nuclear war.

In deliberations that stretched on for nearly a week, they came up with a variety of options, including a bombing attack on the missile sites and a full-scale invasion of Cuba.

But Kennedy ultimately decided on a more measured approach.

First, he would employ the U.S. Navy to establish a blockade, or quarantine, of the island to prevent the Soviets from delivering additional missiles and military equipment.

In 1963, there were signs of a lessening of tensions between the Soviet Union and the United States.

In his commencement address at American University, President Kennedy urged Americans to reexamine Cold War stereotypes and myths and called for a strategy of peace that would make the world safe for diversity.

Two actions also signaled a warming in relations between the superpowers: the establishment of a teletype “Hotline” between the Kremlin and the White House and the signing of the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty on July 25, 1963.