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Cuban Missile Crisis - You won't believe how close we got.

  • Fter seizing power in the Caribbean island nation of Cuba in 1959, leftist revolutionary Fidel Castro aligned himself with the Soviet Union. Under Castro, Cuba grew dependent on the Soviets for military and economic aid.
  • During this time, the U.S. and the Soviets (and their respective allies) were engaged in the Cold War (1945-91), an ongoing series of largely political and economic clashes.
  • Both superpowers plunged into one of their biggest Cold War confrontations after an American U-2 spy plane making a high-altitude pass over Cuba on Oct 14, 1962, photographed a Soviet SS-4 medium-range ballistic missle.
  • 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 US.If allowed to become operational,the missiles would fundamentally alter the complexion of the nuclear rivalry between the US and USSR
  • The Soviets had long felt uneasy about the number of nuclear weapons that were targeted at them from sites in Western Europe and Turkey, and they saw the deployment of missiles in Cuba as way to level the playing field.
  • In US 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 US Navy to establish a blockade,or quarantine,of the island to prevent the Soviets from delivering additional missiles and equipment.
  • In a television broadcast on Oct 22,1962 the president notified Americans about the presence of the missiles,explained his decision to enact the blockade and made it clear that US was prepared to use military if needed.
  • A crucial moment in the unfolding crisis arrived on October 24, when Soviet ships bound for Cuba neared the line of U.S. vessels enforcing the blockade.
  • An attempt by the Soviets to breach the blockade would likely have sparked a military confrontation that could have quickly escalated to a nuclear exchange. But the Soviet ships stopped short of the blockade.
  • Lthough the events at sea offered a positive sign that war could be averted, they did nothing to address the problem of the missiles already in Cuba. The tense standoff between the superpowers continued through the week.
  • On October 27, an American reconnaissance plane was shot down over Cuba, and a U.S. invasion force was readied in Florida.
  • Despite the enormous tension, Soviet and American leaders found a way out of the impasse.
  • During the crisis,the US and USSR had exchanged letters and other communications,and on Oct 26, Khrushchev sent a message to Kennedy in which he offered to remove missiles in exchange for a promise by US not invade Cuba.
  • The following day, the Soviet leader sent a letter proposing that the USSR would dismantle its missiles in Cuba if the Americans removed their missile installations in Turkey.
  • Officially,the Kennedy administration decided to accept the terms of the 1st message and ignore the 2nd Khrushchev letter entirely.Privately, however,US officials also agreed to withdraw their missile from Turkey.
  • Both the Americans and Soviets were sobered by the Cuban Missile Crisis. The following year, a direct “hot line” communication link was installed between Washington and Moscow to help defuse similar situations.

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