Cuban Missile Crisis
WHEN: The Cuban Missile Crisis occurred over thirteen days, in October of 1962.
WHERE: Cuba, a communist country only 90 miles away from the US coastline.
WHO: The crisis involved three main parties, led by three main leaders. The Soviet Union, lead by Premier Khrushvhev in alliance with the Cuban Government and military lead by Castro. The opposing side was the US, lead by President Kennedy.
WHY: A deployment in Cuba doubled the Soviet Union’s strategic arsenal and greatly deferred a potential attack from the US.
The Cuban Missile Crisis occurred in October 1962 and involved Cuba, The Soviet Union and the United States. At this time the Soviet Union was desperately behind the US in the arms race. After the Bay of Pigs operation was unsuccessful in 1961, Castro was anticipating a second attack from the US and needed help from the Soviet Union in order to defend his island nation. The Soviet Union in team with the Cuban Government built a military base in Cuba. This was a strategic move as Cuba is within intermediate range for ballistic nuclear missiles. This posed a huge threat to the US, with all of their capital cities in severe danger of being wiped out!
When operating a routine spy-plane surveillance, the US gained intelligence of the missile base under construction in Cuba. Kennedy immediately organized the EX-COMM, a team of his twelve most important advisors. They debated for seven days on what action to take, however acted swiftly in performing a military quarantine, posed ready to attack. This operation consists of surrounding the country by air and sea, not allowing anyone or thing to come in or out.
Photographic evidence taken by the US military of missile base under construction in Cuba.
On October 22, Kennedy announced to the public their awareness of the missile installations in Cuba, and their decision to quarantine. He also made it clear that any missile launched from Cuba would be seen as an attack from the Soviet Union on the United States. The EX-COMM received am impassioned letter from Khrushchev on the 26th announcing he would remove all missiles from Cuba if the US would guarantee not to invade Cuba. The US debated their reply.
October 27 was the worst day of the crisis; an American U-2 plane was shot down over Cuba and a second letter was received from Khrushchev, demanding the removal of all US missiles in Turkey in exchange for the removal of missiles in Cuba. To view these letters from Khrushchev and other important documents from the Crisis please click here.
By the 28th, tension had eased as Khrushchev announced he would dismantle all missile installations in Cuba.
Fortunately for all sides, the Soviet Union agreed to this and did remove all missiles. Although it may seem like nothing eventuated from this crisis, it was the closest moment to when the Cold War almost turned into a nuclear war. To learn more about the world on brink, please click here to get a day-by-day reconstruction of this event.
1. 1. After Kennedy was informed of the operation in Cuba, what action did he decide to take? Why do you think he chose this?
2. 2. Why do you think the Cuban Missile Crisis was such a threatening event to all parties involved?
3. 3. Do you think it was a wise decision for the Soviet Union to agree to the removal of all missiles in Cuba? Or would it have been more beneficial to the Soviet Union and Cuba to use the missiles for their intended purpose?