Cuban Missile Crisis

In October of 1962 the world came the closest it ever has to a nuclear war. If a nuclear war had evolved, the whole of the human race would be destroyed. The Soviet Union had installed nuclear missiles in Cuba. The United States were at their highest state of readiness, and the fate of millions literally hinged upon the ability of two men, President John F. Kennedy and Premier Khruschev. This incident, was the Cuban Missile Crisis.

The Cuban Missile Crisis evolved because in 1962, the Soviet Union was desperately behind the United States in the arms race. Premier Khrushchev feared that if the Soviet Union lost the arms race so badly, it would invite a first-strike nuclear attack from the U.S. The Soviet had missiles that were only powerful enough to be launched against Europe, unlike the United States who had missiles which were capable of striking the entire Soviet Union. In late April 1962, Soviet Premier Khrushchev conceived the idea of placing intermediate range missiles in Cuba. ‘A position in Cuba would double the Soviet strategic ammunition depot and provide a real hindrance to a potential U.S. attack against the Soviet Union.’ 1

Between October 15 and October 28 1962 the world was never closer to a nuclear war, than the events that happened during those thirteen days of the Cuban Missile Crisis. The crisis involved three countries, with three leaders. The United States had John F. Kennedy, the Soviet Union had Nikita Khrushchev, and Cuba had Fidel Castro, a dictator. ‘These three countries are linked together in one of the most amazing movements in the cold war.’ 2 Throughout the late summer and early autumn of 1962, Americans became increasingly disturbed at the rapid buildup of Soviet military assistance to the Republic of Cuba. The Soviet Union and Cuba were together against the United States in hope to damage the United States credibility to other countries, and to gain greater influence over Latin America. The situation increased in intensity because the governments of the United States and the Soviet Union exchanged hostile statements.

For the United States, the crisis began on October 15, 1962 when reconnaissance photographs revealed Soviet missiles under construction in Cuba. Early the next day, President John Kennedy was informed of the missile installations. Kennedy immediately organized the EX-COMM, a group of his twelve most important advisors to handle the crisis. President Kennedy was faced with three possible options for the dilemma: a nuclear strike on the missile sites in Cuba, an air attack with conventional bombs, or a naval blockade to prevent the Russians from transporting more missiles to Cuba. After seven days of guarded and intense debate within the EX-COMM, Kennedy concluded to impose a naval quarantine around Cuba. Kennedy did this because he wanted to prevent the arrival of more Soviet offensive weapons on the island. On October 22, Kennedy announced the discovery of the missile installations to the public, and his decision to quarantine the island. He also proclaimed that ‘“any nuclear missile launched from Cuba would be regarded as an attack on the United States by the Soviet Union and demanded that the Soviets remove all of their offensive weapons from Cuba.”’ 3

Cuba feared strongly that the United States wound invade them. Since Castro had come to power in 1959, it became very obvious that there were several attempts to remove him.

Firstly, was the failed Bay of Pigs invasion by CIA-backed Cuban exiles in 1961. Second, was a U.S. military exercise in 1962. The Armed Forces conducted a mock invasion of a Caribbean island to overthrow a fictitious dictator whose name was Ortsac, was Castro spelled backwards. Additionally, the United States was drafting a plan to invade Cuba (Operation Mongoose). The mock invasion and invasion plan were devised to keep Castro nervous. Finally, the CIA had also been running covert operations throughout Cuba trying to damage the Castro government. Consequently, Castro was convinced the U.S. was serious about invading Cuba. Robert McNamara, the Secreatry of Defense said ‘“If I had been a Cuban leader at that time, I might well have concluded that there was a great risk of U.S. invasion.”’ 3

During the public phase of the Cuban Missile Crisis, tension began to build on both sides. Kennedy eventually ordered low-level