The Cuban Missle Crisis

Published: 2021-06-29 07:04:36
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The Cuban Missile Crisis
The closest the world ever came to nuclear war was in the fall of 1962 during the Cuban Missile Crisis. The United States armed forces were at the highest state of readiness ever in those 13 days in October and the Soviet field commanders in Cuba were ready to use battlefield nuclear weapons to defend the island if it was invaded. This was the most serious United States and Soviet Union confrontation of the Cold War. Although short, it was so intense that it absorbed the entire attention of President Kennedy and his closest advisors.
In May 1962, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev placed intermediate-range missiles in Cuba which double the Soviet strategic arsenal and provide a real deterrent to potential United States attack against the Soviet Union. During this period, Fidel Castro was looking for a way to defend his island from a possible attack by the United States. Ever since the failed Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961, Castro felt a second attack was to be expected, this time utilizing U.S. troops rather than Cuban mercenaries. Castro approved Khrushchev's plan to place missiles on the island and in the summer of 1962 the Soviet Union worked swiftly and secretly to build its missile installations in Cuba. They ferried launch equipment and personnel required for the preparation of missiles to Cuba. They had to use civilian vessels instead of military ships so they would not be discovered. .
Rumors began to socialize in Washington as the U.S. monitored the increased shipping traffic to Cuba. This was the start of the most intense period of the Cold War. From the intelligence gatherings to the tough decision making efforts, the Cuban Missile Crisis will be remembered because nuclear was avoided by President John F. Kennedy and Premier Nikita Khrushchev.

In August 1962, John McCone, Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, sent President Kennedy a note signifying he believed that the Soviets would place medium-range ballistic missiles (MRBMs) in Cuba (Wiersma & Larson, 1997, pg. 7). On August 29, a U-2 reconnaissance flight over Cuba discovered the existence of SA-2 Surface-to-Air Missile (SAM) sites. To comfort Congress and the American public, Kennedy announced on September 4 the presence of Soviet defense missiles in Cuba, but stated that there were no offensive weapons and later that day, Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin assured Attorney General Robert Kennedy that no offensive missiles would be positioned in Cuba. Eleven days later, the first Soviet MRBMs arrived and under pressure from Congressmen and intelligence officers, Kennedy ordered another U-2 flight over Cuba. On October 14, Richard Heyser took off in a U-2 from Texas and headed over Cuba. Upon the completion of the reconnaissance mission, Heyser delivered his film to a one-star general awaiting his arrival in Florida.
After analyzing the photos from the Heyser mission, the National Photographic Interpretation Center found what they thought were more surface-to-air missile sites. Closer examination revealed six much larger missiles, each 60 to 65 feet long, in which the photo interpreters had discovered were SS-4 nuclear missiles (Stern, 2005). The next morning, President Kennedy was informed of the missiles in Cuba during his breakfast. He did not react, but it was now clear that for months the Soviets had purposely been deceiving the American president. Kennedy instantaneously took charge and scheduled two meetings for that morning. First, he wanted to see the photographs himself. The missiles he held in his sight had a range of 1100 miles and threatened major population centers in the U.S. including New York, Washington D.C., and Philadelphia. At this point, the missiles were not yet operational, nor were they fitted with nuclear warheads, but as Marshall Carter, Deputy Director of the CIA, so accurately assessed, "They soon would be" (Brugioni, 1991, p.206). The second meeting included a hand-picked a group of trusted government officials to advise him on the crisis. The assembled group was later referred to as the Executive Committee of the National Security Council or EX-COMM.

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