Cuban Crisis 1962

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Who was involved in the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis?

The Crisis started when the Soviets informed Cuba of the danger for a new attack from the United States, eight months after the failed CIA backed invasion at Playa Girón, known as the Bay of Pigs invasion. The U.S.A. feared the expansion of Communism in Latin America and prepared invasion plans whereby they announced U.S.military excercices in the Caribbean.

Soviet missiles - museum of the revolution Havana

Soviet missiles used during the Cuban Crisis
Museum of the Revolution in Havana.

Cuban Missile Crisis Started

Fidel Castro and the Soviet premier Khrushchev agreed to install nuclear missiles to protect the island. In October 1962 a U-2 spy plane from the U.S.A. detected the nuclear missile installations in Cuba.
A few days later the crisis started. When on October 26th a low flying U-2 spy plane was shot down by Soviet missiles from a Cuban base, the US reacted with a naval blockade of the island.
An incident with a Soviet nuclear submarine near the country, brought the world on the brink of a nuclear war.
After several tense days both super powers came to an agreement. In compensation for the withdrawal of the Soviet missiles out of the island, the U.S. agreed on the removal of their missiles out of Turkey. Cuba was offered securities that the U.S. would not invade the island. Although Cuban leaders felt betrayed by the Soviets, the crisis strengthed the position of Fidel Castro on the island.

Cuban Missile Timeline

  • January 1 1959 - Cuban Revolution - Fidel Castro seizes power
  • April 1961 - The Bay of Pigs Invasion
    A group of Cuban exiles backed by the US invade the island.
    The Bay of Pigs invasion failed.
  • June 1961 - Kennedy and Khrushechev hold talks on Cuba in Vienna.
  • October 1962 - A US spyplane makes photographs of missile sites on the island.
  • October 22 1962 - President Kennedy announces the presence of Soviet missiles in Cuba.
  • October 22 1962 - President Kennedy announces a US naval blockade of the country.
  • October 23 1962 - Soviet minister Gromyko assures that the aid to the island is only defensive.
  • October 26 1962 - Khrushchev send a letter to Kennedy and asks for a public declaration that the US will never invade the island.
  • October 27 1962 - A U2 spyplane is shotdown over Cuba by Soviet SAM missiles.
  • October 27 1962 - On the brink of a nuclear war. Soviet submarines encounter with US destroyers. Soviet Captain Savitsky ordered the nuclear torpedo to be assembled for readiness.
  • October 28 1962 - End of the Cuban crisis. Kennedy and Khrushchev agrees to dismantle the missiles on the island and to withdraw the US missile from Turkey.
    Source: National Security Archive

    JFK and the Cuban Missile Crisis

    After the failed Bay of Pigs Invasion, relations between the US and Cuba worsened. President Kennedy had important meetings with Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara and the Joint Chiefs of Staff about what to do. When the Joint Chiefs unanimously agreed that a full-scale invasion of the island was the only viable solution, but McNamara disagreed, President Kennedy had to make the call. He decided that a naval blockade of the island was the best choice. This was the first major decision of JFK in the crisis. Instead of a full-on invasion of the island, he took a more moderate approach.

    Kennedy Talks to Khrushchev

    Over the course of this series of events, President Kennedy and Premier Khrushchev exchanged multiple telegrams and indirect messages (Dobbs, p.144). Some historians speculate that the Soviet Union placed the missiles in Cuba in the first place as retaliation for the US having missiles in Turkey, very close to the Soviet border. This proved to be true, as can be seen from the nature of the conversations between Kennedy and Khrushchev. The Soviet Union wanted the US to publicly promise that it would not ever invade Cuba, and that the US would remove its missiles from Turkey. The US wanted the Soviet Union to dismantle and remove the missiles from the island.

    Final Events and Resolution

    While Kennedy and Khrushchev were discussing the crisis, Fidel Castro was urging the Soviet Union to use the nuclear missiles in Cuba against the United States. Despite these requests, President Kennedy and Premier Khrushchev made a secret agreement to take out all missiles in Turkey and Cuba. As a result, Khrushchev announced the removal of the missiles from the island, much to the disappointment of Che Guevara. For JFK, a time of relative peace was at hand.

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