The Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962

The Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, lasting 13 days throughout October, saw the world essentially waiting to see if the Cold War would develop into international nuclear warfare. The complexity of the event is widely noted, and even those involved struggled to make sense of it. They had ‘different degrees of knowledge, ignorance, and misinformation about what was happening, but all were surprised by how it unfolded’.[1] The USA and Soviet Union, with leaders John F. Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev, were at conflict due to the Cold War, resulting in high political and military tensions. The Crisis came from America’s knowledge of the existence of Soviet missiles in Cuba through the use of American spy planes (U-2), which was seen as a direct threat to both America but also represented a way in which the Soviet Union could bring offensive measures directly to the western hemisphere.[2] Concerns also rose from this alliance between Fidel Castro, Cuban leader, and Khrushchev as this presented a stronger and unified force against America. The presence of Soviet missiles in Cuba was a further threat, as it demonstrated the end of America’s advantage when it came to long-range missiles. No longer were they superior, which is of importance when considered in the context of the Cold War. America and the Soviet Union were in a constant battle of not just military efforts, but also wanted to be better than the other in areas such as weapon advancement, travel, science etc. Soviet ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin attempted to convince America that Soviet missiles in Cuba were purely defensive at the request of Fidel Castro, and that they would not be used for offensive means.[3] This was not believed by Kennedy, who chose to increase Navy and Marine training, surveillance flights of Cuba and also built up a U.S. Army reserve in the event of emergency.[4] During this time, the Soviet Union continued with their secret missile program in Cuba, but America were uncertain as to whether or not they were also in possession of warheads for this missiles, and how imminent of a threat they were facing. By October 22nd, Kennedy made a publicised speech to the American people stating the severity of the situation and demanded that not only the Soviets dismantle the missile stores but that he was also implementing a Navy blockade around Cuba to try and curb their arrival and reduce the threat.[5] Letters and communications had been kept up between Kennedy and Khrushchev throughout the event, and on the 26th of October the end was within sight.[6] Khrushchev promised to remove Soviet missiles from Cuba as long as America removed theirs from Turkey, as well as promising not to invade Cuba.[7] Both terms were eventually met, and the 28th of October marked the end of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Attempts were also made to ensure hostilities and uncertainties could not occur again, and a direct communication line was established from Washington to the Kremlin in Moscow.[8]

(Image retrieved from https://owlcation.com/humanities/The-Cuban-Missile-Crisis-On-the-Brink-of-Nuclear-War)


[1] Jervis, R. (2015). The Cuban missile crisis: what can we know, why did it start, and how did it end?. In L. Scott, & R . G. Hughes (Eds.) The Cuban Missile Crisis: A Critical Reappraisal. (pp. 1-39) . Abingdon: Routledge, p. 1.

[2] Hillstrom, L. C. (2015). The Cuban Missile Crisis. Detroit, Michigan: Omnigraphics, p. 37.

[3] Hillstrom, L. C. (2015), p. 38.

[4] Hillstrom, L. C. (2015), p. 39.

[5] Hillstrom, L. C. (2015), p. 46.

[6] History.com Editors. (2010). Cuban Missile Crisis. Retrieved from https://www.history.com/topics/cold-war/cuban-missile-crisis.

[7] History.com Editors. (2010).

[8] History.com Editors. (2010).

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