Cuban Missile Crisis
Overview
 
The Cuban Missile Crisis (known as the October Crisis in Cuba
Cuba
The Republic of Cuba is an island nation in the Caribbean. The nation of Cuba consists of the main island of Cuba, the Isla de la Juventud, and several archipelagos. Havana is the largest city in Cuba and the country's capital. Santiago de Cuba is the second largest city...

 or Caribbean Crisis (Russ: Kарибский кризис) in the USSR) was a confrontation among the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

, Cuba and the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 in October 1962, during the Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

. In August 1962, after some unsuccessful operations by the US to overthrow the Cuban regime (Bay of Pigs
Bay of Pigs Invasion
The Bay of Pigs Invasion was an unsuccessful action by a CIA-trained force of Cuban exiles to invade southern Cuba, with support and encouragement from the US government, in an attempt to overthrow the Cuban government of Fidel Castro. The invasion was launched in April 1961, less than three months...

, Operation Mongoose), the Cuban and Soviet governments secretly began to build bases in Cuba for a number of medium-range
Medium-range ballistic missile
A medium-range ballistic missile , is a type of ballistic missile with medium range, this last classification depending on the standards of certain organizations. Within the U.S. Department of Defense, a medium range missile is defined by having a maximum range of between 1,000 and 3,000 km1...

 and intermediate-range ballistic
Intermediate-range ballistic missile
An intermediate-range ballistic missile is a ballistic missile with a range of 3,000–5,500 km , between a medium-range ballistic missile and an intercontinental ballistic missile...

 nuclear missiles (MRBMs and IRBMs) with the ability to strike most of the continental United States.
Encyclopedia
The Cuban Missile Crisis (known as the October Crisis in Cuba
Cuba
The Republic of Cuba is an island nation in the Caribbean. The nation of Cuba consists of the main island of Cuba, the Isla de la Juventud, and several archipelagos. Havana is the largest city in Cuba and the country's capital. Santiago de Cuba is the second largest city...

 or Caribbean Crisis (Russ: Kарибский кризис) in the USSR) was a confrontation among the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

, Cuba and the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 in October 1962, during the Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

. In August 1962, after some unsuccessful operations by the US to overthrow the Cuban regime (Bay of Pigs
Bay of Pigs Invasion
The Bay of Pigs Invasion was an unsuccessful action by a CIA-trained force of Cuban exiles to invade southern Cuba, with support and encouragement from the US government, in an attempt to overthrow the Cuban government of Fidel Castro. The invasion was launched in April 1961, less than three months...

, Operation Mongoose), the Cuban and Soviet governments secretly began to build bases in Cuba for a number of medium-range
Medium-range ballistic missile
A medium-range ballistic missile , is a type of ballistic missile with medium range, this last classification depending on the standards of certain organizations. Within the U.S. Department of Defense, a medium range missile is defined by having a maximum range of between 1,000 and 3,000 km1...

 and intermediate-range ballistic
Intermediate-range ballistic missile
An intermediate-range ballistic missile is a ballistic missile with a range of 3,000–5,500 km , between a medium-range ballistic missile and an intercontinental ballistic missile...

 nuclear missiles (MRBMs and IRBMs) with the ability to strike most of the continental United States. This action followed the 1958 deployment of Thor IRBMs in the UK (Project Emily
Project Emily
Project Emily was the deployment of American-built PGM-17 Thor Intermediate-range ballistic missiles in the United Kingdom between 1959 and 1963....

) and Jupiter IRBMs to Italy and Turkey in 1961 – more than 100 US-built missiles having the capability to strike Moscow
Moscow
Moscow is the capital, the most populous city, and the most populous federal subject of Russia. The city is a major political, economic, cultural, scientific, religious, financial, educational, and transportation centre of Russia and the continent...

 with nuclear warheads. On October 14, 1962, a United States Air Force U-2
Lockheed U-2
The Lockheed U-2, nicknamed "Dragon Lady", is a single-engine, very high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft operated by the United States Air Force and previously flown by the Central Intelligence Agency . It provides day and night, very high-altitude , all-weather intelligence gathering...

 plane on a photoreconnaissance mission captured photographic proof of Soviet missile bases under construction in Cuba.

The ensuing crisis ranks with the Berlin Blockade
Berlin Blockade
The Berlin Blockade was one of the first major international crises of the Cold War and the first resulting in casualties. During the multinational occupation of post-World War II Germany, the Soviet Union blocked the Western Allies' railway and road access to the sectors of Berlin under Allied...

, the Suez Crisis
Suez Crisis
The Suez Crisis, also referred to as the Tripartite Aggression, Suez War was an offensive war fought by France, the United Kingdom, and Israel against Egypt beginning on 29 October 1956. Less than a day after Israel invaded Egypt, Britain and France issued a joint ultimatum to Egypt and Israel,...

 and the Yom Kippur War
Yom Kippur War
The Yom Kippur War, Ramadan War or October War , also known as the 1973 Arab-Israeli War and the Fourth Arab-Israeli War, was fought from October 6 to 25, 1973, between Israel and a coalition of Arab states led by Egypt and Syria...

 as one of the major confrontations of the Cold War and is generally regarded as the moment in which the Cold War came closest to turning into a nuclear conflict
Nuclear warfare
Nuclear warfare, or atomic warfare, is a military conflict or political strategy in which nuclear weaponry is detonated on an opponent. Compared to conventional warfare, nuclear warfare can be vastly more destructive in range and extent of damage...

. It also marks the first documented instance of the threat of mutual assured destruction
Mutual assured destruction
Mutual Assured Destruction, or mutually assured destruction , is a doctrine of military strategy and national security policy in which a full-scale use of high-yield weapons of mass destruction by two opposing sides would effectively result in the complete, utter and irrevocable annihilation of...

 (MAD) being discussed as a determining factor in a major international arms agreement.

The United States considered attacking Cuba via air and sea, and settled on a military "quarantine" of Cuba. The US announced that it would not permit offensive weapons to be delivered to Cuba and demanded that the Soviets dismantle the missile bases already under construction or completed in Cuba and remove all offensive weapons. The Kennedy administration held only a slim hope that the Kremlin would agree to their demands, and expected a military confrontation. On the Soviet side, Premier Nikita Khrushchev
Nikita Khrushchev
Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev led the Soviet Union during part of the Cold War. He served as First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1953 to 1964, and as Chairman of the Council of Ministers, or Premier, from 1958 to 1964...

 wrote in a letter to Kennedy that his quarantine of "navigation in international waters and air space" constituted "an act of aggression propelling humankind into the abyss of a world nuclear-missile war".

The Soviets publicly balked at the US demands, but in secret back-channel communications initiated a proposal to resolve the crisis. The confrontation ended on October 28, 1962, when President John F. Kennedy
John F. Kennedy
John Fitzgerald "Jack" Kennedy , often referred to by his initials JFK, was the 35th President of the United States, serving from 1961 until his assassination in 1963....

 and United Nations Secretary-General
United Nations Secretary-General
The Secretary-General of the United Nations is the head of the Secretariat of the United Nations, one of the principal organs of the United Nations. The Secretary-General also acts as the de facto spokesperson and leader of the United Nations....

 U Thant
U Thant
U Thant was a Burmese diplomat and the third Secretary-General of the United Nations, from 1961 to 1971. He was chosen for the post when his predecessor, Dag Hammarskjöld, died in September 1961....

 reached a public and secret agreement with Khrushchev. Publicly, the Soviets would dismantle their offensive weapons in Cuba and return them to the Soviet Union, subject to United Nations verification, in exchange for a US public declaration and agreement never to invade Cuba. Secretly, the US agreed that it would dismantle all US-built Thor and Jupiter IRBMs deployed in Turkey.

Only two weeks after the agreement, the Soviets had removed the missile systems and their support equipment, loading them onto eight Soviet ships from November 5–9. A month later, on December 5 and 6, the Soviet Il-28
Ilyushin Il-28
The Ilyushin Il-28 is a jet bomber aircraft of the immediate postwar period that was originally manufactured for the Soviet Air Force. It was the USSR's first such aircraft to enter large-scale production. It was also licence-built in China as the Harbin H-5. Total production in the USSR was 6,316...

 bombers were loaded onto three Soviet ships and shipped back to Russia. The quarantine was formally ended at 6:45 pm EDT on November 20, 1962. Eleven months after the agreement, all American weapons were deactivated (by September 1963). An additional outcome of the negotiations was the creation of the Hotline Agreement and the Moscow–Washington hotline, a direct communications link between Moscow
Moscow
Moscow is the capital, the most populous city, and the most populous federal subject of Russia. The city is a major political, economic, cultural, scientific, religious, financial, educational, and transportation centre of Russia and the continent...

 and Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C.
Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as Washington, "the District", or simply D.C., is the capital of the United States. On July 16, 1790, the United States Congress approved the creation of a permanent national capital as permitted by the U.S. Constitution....


Earlier actions by the United States

The Americans feared the Soviet expansion of Communism
Communism
Communism is a social, political and economic ideology that aims at the establishment of a classless, moneyless, revolutionary and stateless socialist society structured upon common ownership of the means of production...

, but for a Latin America
Latin America
Latin America is a region of the Americas where Romance languages  – particularly Spanish and Portuguese, and variably French – are primarily spoken. Latin America has an area of approximately 21,069,500 km² , almost 3.9% of the Earth's surface or 14.1% of its land surface area...

n country to ally openly with the USSR was regarded as unacceptable, given the Soviet-American enmity since the end of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 in 1945. Such an involvement would also directly defy the Monroe Doctrine
Monroe Doctrine
The Monroe Doctrine is a policy of the United States introduced on December 2, 1823. It stated that further efforts by European nations to colonize land or interfere with states in North or South America would be viewed as acts of aggression requiring U.S. intervention...

; a United States policy which, while limiting the United States' involvement with European colonies and European affairs, held that European powers ought not have involvement with states in the Western Hemisphere
Western Hemisphere
The Western Hemisphere or western hemisphere is mainly used as a geographical term for the half of the Earth that lies west of the Prime Meridian and east of the Antimeridian , the other half being called the Eastern Hemisphere.In this sense, the western hemisphere consists of the western portions...

.

The United States had been embarrassed publicly by the failed Bay of Pigs Invasion
Bay of Pigs Invasion
The Bay of Pigs Invasion was an unsuccessful action by a CIA-trained force of Cuban exiles to invade southern Cuba, with support and encouragement from the US government, in an attempt to overthrow the Cuban government of Fidel Castro. The invasion was launched in April 1961, less than three months...

 in April 1961, which had been launched under President John F. Kennedy
John F. Kennedy
John Fitzgerald "Jack" Kennedy , often referred to by his initials JFK, was the 35th President of the United States, serving from 1961 until his assassination in 1963....

 by CIA-trained forces of Cuban exile
Cuban exile
The term "Cuban exile" refers to the many Cubans who have sought alternative political or economic conditions outside the island, dating back to the Ten Years' War and the struggle for Cuban independence during the 19th century...

s. Afterward, former President Eisenhower
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Dwight David "Ike" Eisenhower was the 34th President of the United States, from 1953 until 1961. He was a five-star general in the United States Army...

 told Kennedy that "the failure of the Bay of Pigs will embolden the Soviets to do something that they would otherwise not do." The half-hearted invasion left Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev
Nikita Khrushchev
Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev led the Soviet Union during part of the Cold War. He served as First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1953 to 1964, and as Chairman of the Council of Ministers, or Premier, from 1958 to 1964...

 and his advisers with the impression that Kennedy was indecisive and, as one Soviet adviser wrote, "too young, intellectual, not prepared well for decision making in crisis situations ... too intelligent and too weak." US covert operations continued in 1961 with the unsuccessful Operation Mongoose.

In addition, Khrushchev’s impression of Kennedy’s weakness was confirmed by the President’s soft response during the Berlin Crisis of 1961
Berlin Crisis of 1961
The Berlin Crisis of 1961 was the last major politico-military European incident of the Cold War about the occupational status of the German capital city, Berlin, and of post–World War II Germany. The U.S.S.R...

, particularly the building of the Berlin Wall
Berlin Wall
The Berlin Wall was a barrier constructed by the German Democratic Republic starting on 13 August 1961, that completely cut off West Berlin from surrounding East Germany and from East Berlin...

. Speaking to Soviet officials in the aftermath of the crisis, Khrushchev asserted, "I know for certain that Kennedy doesn’t have a strong background, nor, generally speaking, does he have the courage to stand up to a serious challenge." He also told his son Sergei
Sergei Khrushchev
Sergei Nikitich Khrushchev , son of former Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, now resides in the United States where he is a Senior Fellow at the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island.-Career:...

 that on Cuba, Kennedy "would make a fuss, make more of a fuss, and then agree".

In January 1962, General Edward Lansdale
Edward Lansdale
Edward Geary Lansdale was a United States Air Force officer who served in the Office of Strategic Services and the Central Intelligence Agency. He rose to the rank of Major General and was awarded the Distinguished Service Medal in 1963. He was an early proponent of more aggressive US actions in...

 described plans to overthrow the Cuban Government in a top-secret report (partially declassified 1989), addressed to President Kennedy and officials involved with Operation Mongoose. CIA agents or "pathfinders" from the Special Activities Division
Special Activities Division
The Special Activities Division is a division in the United States Central Intelligence Agency's National Clandestine Service responsible for covert operations known as "special activities"...

 were to be infiltrated into Cuba
Cuba
The Republic of Cuba is an island nation in the Caribbean. The nation of Cuba consists of the main island of Cuba, the Isla de la Juventud, and several archipelagos. Havana is the largest city in Cuba and the country's capital. Santiago de Cuba is the second largest city...

 to carry out sabotage and organization, including radio broadcasts. In February 1962, the United States launched an embargo against Cuba
United States embargo against Cuba
The United States embargo against Cuba is a commercial, economic, and financial embargo partially imposed on Cuba in October 1960...

, and Lansdale presented a 26-page, top-secret timetable for implementation of the overthrow of the Cuban Government, mandating that guerrilla operations begin in August and September, and in the first two weeks of October: "Open revolt and overthrow of the Communist regime".

Balance of power

When Kennedy ran for president in 1960, one of his key election issues was an alleged "missile gap
Missile gap
The missile gap was the term used in the United States for the perceived disparity between the number and power of the weapons in the U.S.S.R. and U.S. ballistic missile arsenals during the Cold War. The gap only existed in exaggerated estimates made by the Gaither Committee in 1957 and United...

", with the Soviets leading. In fact, the United States led the Soviets. In 1961, the Soviets had only four intercontinental ballistic missile
Intercontinental ballistic missile
An intercontinental ballistic missile is a ballistic missile with a long range typically designed for nuclear weapons delivery...

s (ICBMs). By October 1962, they may have had a few dozen, although some intelligence estimates were as high as 75.

The United States, on the other hand, had 170 ICBMs and was quickly building more. It also had eight George Washington
George Washington class submarine
The George Washington class was a class of nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines deployed by the United States Navy. The Navy ordered a class of nuclear-powered submarines armed with long-range strategic missiles on 31 December 1957, and tasked Electric Boat with converting two existing...

 and Ethan Allen
Ethan Allen class submarine
The Ethan Allen class of fleet ballistic missile submarine was an evolutionary development from the George Washington class. The Ethan Allen, together with the , , , and classes comprise the "41 for Freedom."...

 class ballistic missile submarine
Ballistic missile submarine
A ballistic missile submarine is a submarine equipped to launch ballistic missiles .-Description:Ballistic missile submarines are larger than any other type of submarine, in order to accommodate SLBMs such as the Russian R-29 or the American Trident...

s with the capability to launch 16 Polaris
UGM-27 Polaris
The Polaris missile was a two-stage solid-fuel nuclear-armed submarine-launched ballistic missile built during the Cold War by Lockheed Corporation of California for the United States Navy....

 missiles each with a range of 2200 kilometres (1,367 mi).

Khrushchev increased the perception of a missile gap when he loudly boasted that the USSR was building missiles "like sausages" whose numbers and capabilities actually were nowhere close to his assertion. However, the Soviets did have medium-range ballistic missile
Medium-range ballistic missile
A medium-range ballistic missile , is a type of ballistic missile with medium range, this last classification depending on the standards of certain organizations. Within the U.S. Department of Defense, a medium range missile is defined by having a maximum range of between 1,000 and 3,000 km1...

s in quantity, about 700 of them.

In his memoirs published in 1970, Khrushchev wrote, “In addition to protecting Cuba, our missiles would have equalized what the West likes to call ‘the balance of massive nuclear missiles around the globe.’”

Soviet deployment of missiles in Cuba

Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev persuaded in May 1962 the idea of countering the United States' growing lead in developing and deploying strategic missiles by placing Soviet intermediate-range nuclear missiles in Cuba. Khrushchev was also reacting in part to the Jupiter intermediate-range ballistic missiles which the United States had installed in Turkey during April 1962.

From the very beginning, the Soviet's operation entailed elaborate denial and deception, known in the USSR as Maskirovka. All of the planning and preparation for transporting and deploying the missiles were carried out in the utmost secrecy, with only a very few told the exact nature of the mission. Even the troops detailed for the mission were given misdirection, told they were headed for a cold region and outfitted with ski boots, fleece-lined parkas, and other winter equipment. The Soviet code name, Operation Anadyr
Operation Anadyr
Operation Anadyr was the code name used by the Soviet Union for their Cold War secret operation of deploying ballistic missiles, medium-range bombers, and a division of mechanized infantry in Cuba to create the army group that would be able to prevent an invasion of the island by U.S. forces...

, was also the name of a river
Anadyr River
Anadyr is a river in the far northeast Siberia which flows into Anadyr Bay of the Bering Sea and drains much of the interior of Chukotka Autonomous Okrug. Its basin corresponds to the Anadyrsky District of Chukotka....

 flowing into the Bering Sea
Bering Sea
The Bering Sea is a marginal sea of the Pacific Ocean. It comprises a deep water basin, which then rises through a narrow slope into the shallower water above the continental shelves....

, the name of the capital
Anadyr (town)
Anadyr is a port town and the administrative centre of Chukotka Autonomous Okrug, the extreme north-eastern region of Russia. It is at the mouth of the Anadyr River, on the tip of the southern promontory that sticks out into Anadyrskiy Liman...

 of Chukotsky District
Chukotsky District
Chukotsky District is an administrative and municipal district , one of the six in Chukotka Autonomous Okrug, Russia. It is the easternmost district of the autonomous okrug and the closest part of Russia to the United States. It borders with the Chukchi Sea in the north, the Bering Sea in the...

, and a bomber base in the far eastern region. All these were meant to conceal the program from both internal and external audiences.

In early 1962, a group of Soviet military and missile construction specialists accompanied an agricultural delegation to Havana. They obtained a meeting with Cuban leader Fidel Castro
Fidel Castro
Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz is a Cuban revolutionary and politician, having held the position of Prime Minister of Cuba from 1959 to 1976, and then President from 1976 to 2008. He also served as the First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba from the party's foundation in 1961 until 2011...

. The Cuban leadership had a strong expectation that the US would invade Cuba again and they enthusiastically approved the idea of installing nuclear missiles in Cuba. Specialists in missile construction under the guise of "machine operators", "irrigation specialists" and "agricultural specialists" arrived in July. Marshal Sergei Biryuzov, chief of the Soviet Rocket Forces, led a survey team that visited Cuba. He told Khrushchev that the missiles would be concealed and camouflaged by the palm trees.

The Cuban leadership was further upset when in September Congress approved US Joint Resolution 230, which expressed Congress's resolve to prevent the creation of an externally-supported military establishment. On the same day, the US announced a major military exercise in the Caribbean, PHIBRIGLEX-62
Operation Ortsac
Operation Ortsac was the project name of a possible invasion of Cuba planned by the United States military in 1962. The codename was derived from former Cuban President Fidel Castro by spelling his surname backward....

, which Cuba denounced as a deliberate provocation and proof that the US planned to invade Cuba.

Khrushchev and Castro agreed to place strategic nuclear missiles secretly in Cuba. Like Castro, Khrushchev felt that a US invasion of Cuba was imminent, and that to lose Cuba would do great harm to the communist cause, especially in Latin America. He said he wanted to confront the Americans "with more than words... the logical answer was missiles". The Soviets maintained their tight secrecy, writing their plans longhand, which were approved by Rodion Malinovsky
Rodion Malinovsky
Rodion Yakovlevich Malinovsky was a Soviet military commander in World War II and Defense Minister of the Soviet Union in the late 1950s and 1960s. He contributed to the major defeat of Nazi Germany at the Battle of Stalingrad and the Battle of Budapest...

 on July 4 and Khrushchev on July 7.

The Soviet leadership believed, based on their perception of Kennedy's lack of confidence during the Bay of Pigs Invasion, that he would avoid confrontation and accept the missiles as a fait accompli. On September 11, the Soviet Union publicly warned that a US attack on Cuba or on Soviet ships carrying supplies to the island would mean war. The Soviets continued their Maskirovka program to conceal their actions in Cuba. They repeatedly denied that the weapons being brought into Cuba were offensive in nature. On September 7, Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin
Anatoly Dobrynin
Anatoly Fyodorovich Dobrynin was a Russian statesman and a former Soviet diplomat and politician. He was Soviet Ambassador to the United States, serving from 1962 to 1986 and most notably during the Cuban Missile Crisis. He was appointed by Nikita Khrushchev....

 assured US Ambassador to the United Nations Adlai Stevenson that the USSR was supplying only defensive weapons to Cuba. On September 11, the Soviet News Agency TASS announced that the Soviet Union has no need or intention to introduce offensive nuclear missiles into Cuba. On October 13, Dobrynin was questioned by former Undersecretary of State Chester Bowles
Chester Bowles
Chester Bliss Bowles was a liberal Democratic American diplomat and politician from Connecticut.-Biography:...

 about whether the Soviets plan to put offensive weapons in Cuba. He denied any such plans. And again on October 17, Soviet embassy official Georgy Bolshakov brought President Kennedy a "personal message" from Khrushchev reassuring him that "under no circumstances would surface-to-surface missiles be sent to Cuba.

As early as August 1962, the United States suspected the Soviets of building missile facilities in Cuba. During that month, its intelligence services gathered information about sightings by ground observers of Russian-built MiG-21
Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21
The Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21 is a supersonic jet fighter aircraft, designed by the Mikoyan-Gurevich Design Bureau in the Soviet Union. It was popularly nicknamed "balalaika", from the aircraft's planform-view resemblance to the Russian stringed musical instrument or ołówek by Polish pilots due to...

 fighters and Il-28
Ilyushin Il-28
The Ilyushin Il-28 is a jet bomber aircraft of the immediate postwar period that was originally manufactured for the Soviet Air Force. It was the USSR's first such aircraft to enter large-scale production. It was also licence-built in China as the Harbin H-5. Total production in the USSR was 6,316...

 light bombers. U-2
Lockheed U-2
The Lockheed U-2, nicknamed "Dragon Lady", is a single-engine, very high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft operated by the United States Air Force and previously flown by the Central Intelligence Agency . It provides day and night, very high-altitude , all-weather intelligence gathering...

 spyplanes found S-75 Dvina
S-75 Dvina
The S-75 Dvina is a Soviet-designed, high-altitude, command guided, surface-to-air missile system...

 (NATO designation SA-2) surface-to-air missile sites at eight different locations. CIA director John A. McCone was suspicious. On August 10, he wrote a memo to President Kennedy in which he guessed that the Soviets were preparing to introduce ballistic missiles into Cuba. On August 31, Senator Kenneth Keating
Kenneth Keating
Kenneth Barnard Keating , was a United States Representative and a U.S. Senator from New York, and in later life, an appellate judge and a diplomat representing the United States as ambassador to India and later to Israel.-Life:...

 (R-New York), who probably received his information from Cuban exiles in Florida, warned on the Senate floor that the Soviet Union may be constructing a missile base in Cuba.

Air Force General Curtis LeMay
Curtis LeMay
Curtis Emerson LeMay was a general in the United States Air Force and the vice presidential running mate of American Independent Party candidate George Wallace in 1968....

 presented a pre-invasion bombing plan to Kennedy in September, while spy flights and minor military harassment from US forces at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base
Guantanamo Bay Naval Base
Guantanamo Bay Naval Base is located on of land and water at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba which the United States leased for use as a coaling station following the Cuban-American Treaty of 1903. The base is located on the shore of Guantánamo Bay at the southeastern end of Cuba. It is the oldest overseas...

 were the subject of continual Cuban diplomatic complaints to the US government.

The first consignment of R-12 missiles arrived on the night of September 8, followed by a second on September 16. The R-12 was the first operational intermediate-range ballistic missile, the first missile ever mass-produced, and the first Soviet missile deployed with a thermonuclear warhead. It was a single-stage, road-transportable, surface-launched, storable propellant fueled missile that could deliver a megaton-class
TNT equivalent
TNT equivalent is a method of quantifying the energy released in explosions. The ton of TNT is a unit of energy equal to 4.184 gigajoules, which is approximately the amount of energy released in the detonation of one ton of TNT...

 nuclear weapon. The Soviets were building nine sites—six for R-12 medium-range missiles (NATO designation SS-4 Sandal) with an effective range of 2000 kilometres (1,242.7 mi) and three for R-14 intermediate-range ballistic missiles (NATO designation SS-5 Skean) with a maximum range of 4500 kilometres (2,796.2 mi).

Cuba positioning

On October 7, Cuban President Osvaldo Dorticós spoke at the UN General Assembly: "If ... we are attacked, we will defend ourselves. I repeat, we have sufficient means with which to defend ourselves; we have indeed our inevitable weapons, the weapons, which we would have preferred not to acquire, and which we do not wish to employ."

Missiles reported

The missiles in Cuba allowed the Soviets to effectively target almost the entire continental United States. The planned arsenal was forty launchers. The Cuban populace readily noticed the arrival and deployment of the missiles and hundreds of reports reached Miami. US intelligence received countless reports, many of dubious quality or even laughable, and most of which could be dismissed as describing defensive missiles. Only five reports bothered the analysts. They described large trucks passing through towns at night carrying very long canvas-covered cylindrical objects that could not make turns through towns without backing up and maneuvering. Defensive missiles could make these turns. These reports could not be satisfactorily dismissed.

U-2 flights find missiles

Despite the increasing evidence of a military build-up on Cuba, no U-2 flights were made over Cuba from September 5 until October 14. The first problem that caused the pause in reconnaissance flights took place on August 30, an Air Force Strategic Air Command
Strategic Air Command
The Strategic Air Command was both a Major Command of the United States Air Force and a "specified command" of the United States Department of Defense. SAC was the operational establishment in charge of America's land-based strategic bomber aircraft and land-based intercontinental ballistic...

 U-2 flew over Sakhalin Island
Sakhalin
Sakhalin or Saghalien, is a large island in the North Pacific, lying between 45°50' and 54°24' N.It is part of Russia, and is Russia's largest island, and is administered as part of Sakhalin Oblast...

 in the Far East by mistake. The Soviets lodged a protest and the US apologized. Nine days later, a Taiwanese-operated U-2 was lost over western China, probably to a SAM
Surface-to-air missile
A surface-to-air missile or ground-to-air missile is a missile designed to be launched from the ground to destroy aircraft or other missiles...

. US officials were worried that one of the Cuban or Soviet SAMs in Cuba might shoot down a CIA U-2, initiating another international incident. At the end of September, Navy reconnaissance aircraft photographed the Soviet ship Kasimov with large crates on its deck the size and shape of Il-28 light bombers
Ilyushin Il-28
The Ilyushin Il-28 is a jet bomber aircraft of the immediate postwar period that was originally manufactured for the Soviet Air Force. It was the USSR's first such aircraft to enter large-scale production. It was also licence-built in China as the Harbin H-5. Total production in the USSR was 6,316...

.

On October 12, the administration decided to transfer the Cuban U-2 reconnaissance missions to the Air Force. In the event another U-2 was shot down, they thought a cover story involving Air Force flights would be easier to explain than CIA flights. There was also some evidence that the Department of Defense and the Air Force lobbied to get responsibility for the Cuban flights. When the reconnaissance missions were re-authorized on October 8, weather kept the planes from flying. The US first obtained photographic evidence of the missiles on October 14 when a U-2
Lockheed U-2
The Lockheed U-2, nicknamed "Dragon Lady", is a single-engine, very high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft operated by the United States Air Force and previously flown by the Central Intelligence Agency . It provides day and night, very high-altitude , all-weather intelligence gathering...

 flight piloted by Major Richard Heyser took 928 pictures, capturing images of what turned out to be an SS-4 construction site at San Cristóbal
San Cristóbal, Cuba
San Cristóbal is a municipality and city in the Artemisa Province of Cuba. Before 2011 belonged to Pinar del Río Province.-Demographics:In 2004, the municipality of San Cristóbal had a population of 70,830. With a total area of , it has a population density of ....

, Pinar del Río Province
Pinar del Río Province
Pinar del Río is one of the provinces of Cuba. It is at the western end of the island of Cuba.-Geography:The Pinar del Río province is Cuba's westernmost province and contains one of Cuba's three main mountain ranges, the Cordillera de Guaniguanico, divided into the easterly Sierra del Rosario and...

, in western Cuba.

President notified

On October 15, the CIA's National Photographic Intelligence Center reviewed the U-2 photographs and identified objects that they interpreted as medium range ballistic missiles. That evening, the CIA notified the Department of State
United States Department of State
The United States Department of State , is the United States federal executive department responsible for international relations of the United States, equivalent to the foreign ministries of other countries...

 and at 8:30 pm EDT, National Security Adviser
National Security Advisor (United States)
The Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, commonly referred to as the National Security Advisor , serves as the chief advisor to the President of the United States on national security issues...

 McGeorge Bundy
McGeorge Bundy
McGeorge "Mac" Bundy was United States National Security Advisor to Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson from 1961 through 1966, and president of the Ford Foundation from 1966 through 1979...

 elected to wait until morning to tell the President. Secretary of Defense
United States Secretary of Defense
The Secretary of Defense is the head and chief executive officer of the Department of Defense of the United States of America. This position corresponds to what is generally known as a Defense Minister in other countries...

 Robert McNamara
Robert McNamara
Robert Strange McNamara was an American business executive and the eighth Secretary of Defense, serving under Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson from 1961 to 1968, during which time he played a large role in escalating the United States involvement in the Vietnam War...

 was briefed at midnight. The next morning, Bundy met with Kennedy and showed him the U-2 photographs and briefed him on the CIA's analysis of the images. At 6:30 pm EDT, Kennedy convened a meeting of the nine members of the National Security Council
United States National Security Council
The White House National Security Council in the United States is the principal forum used by the President of the United States for considering national security and foreign policy matters with his senior national security advisors and Cabinet officials and is part of the Executive Office of the...

 and five other key advisers, in a group he formally named the Executive Committee of the National Security Council
ExComm
The Executive Committee of the National Security Council was a body of United States government officials that convened to advise President John F. Kennedy during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962...

 (EXCOMM) after the fact on October 22 by the National Security Action Memorandum 196.

Responses considered

The US had no plan in place because US intelligence had been convinced that the Soviets would never install nuclear missiles in Cuba. The EXCOMM quickly discussed several possible courses of action, including:
  1. No action.
  2. Diplomacy: Use diplomatic pressure to get the Soviet Union to remove the missiles.
  3. Warning: Send a message to Castro to warn him of the grave danger he, and Cuba were in.
  4. Blockade: Use the US Navy to block any missiles from arriving in Cuba.
  5. Air strike: Use the US Air Force to attack all known missile sites.
  6. Invasion: Full force invasion of Cuba and overthrow of Castro.


The Joint Chiefs of Staff
Joint Chiefs of Staff
The Joint Chiefs of Staff is a body of senior uniformed leaders in the United States Department of Defense who advise the Secretary of Defense, the Homeland Security Council, the National Security Council and the President on military matters...

 unanimously agreed that a full-scale attack and invasion was the only solution. They believed that the Soviets would not attempt to stop the US from conquering Cuba. Kennedy was skeptical.
Kennedy concluded that attacking Cuba by air would signal the Soviets to presume "a clear line" to conquer Berlin. Kennedy also believed that United States' allies would think of the US as "trigger-happy cowboys" who lost Berlin because they could not peacefully resolve the Cuban situation.

The EXCOMM then discussed the effect on the strategic balance of power, both political and military. The Joint Chiefs of Staff believed that the missiles would seriously alter the military balance, but Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara
Robert McNamara
Robert Strange McNamara was an American business executive and the eighth Secretary of Defense, serving under Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson from 1961 to 1968, during which time he played a large role in escalating the United States involvement in the Vietnam War...

 disagreed. He was convinced that the missiles would not affect the strategic balance at all. An extra forty, he reasoned, would make little difference to the overall strategic balance. The US already had approximately 5,000 strategic warheads, while the Soviet Union had only 300. He concluded that the Soviets having 340 would not therefore substantially alter the strategic balance. In 1990, he reiterated that "it made no difference...The military balance wasn't changed. I didn't believe it then, and I don't believe it now."

The EXCOMM agreed that the missiles would affect the political balance. First, Kennedy had explicitly promised the American people less than a month before the crisis that "if Cuba should possess a capacity to carry out offensive actions against the United States...the United States would act." Second, US credibility amongst their allies, and amongst the American people, would be damaged if they allowed the Soviet Union to appear to redress the strategic balance by placing missiles in Cuba. Kennedy explained after the crisis that "it would have politically changed the balance of power. It would have appeared to, and appearances contribute to reality."
On October 18, President Kennedy met with Soviet Minister of Foreign Affairs, Andrei Gromyko
Andrei Gromyko
Andrei Andreyevich Gromyko was a Soviet statesman during the Cold War. He served as Minister of Foreign Affairs and as Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet . Gromyko was responsible for many top decisions on Soviet foreign policy until he retired in 1987. In the West he was given the...

, who claimed the weapons were for defensive purposes only. Not wanting to expose what he already knew, and wanting to avoid panicking the American public, the President did not reveal that he was already aware of the missile build-up.

By October 19, frequent U-2 spy flights showed four operational sites. As part of the blockade, the US military was put on high alert to enforce the blockade and to be ready to invade Cuba at a moment's notice. The 1st Armored Division
1st Armored Division (United States)
The 1st Armored Division—nicknamed "Old Ironsides"—is a standing armored division of the United States Army with base of operations in Fort Bliss, Texas. It was the first armored division of the U.S...

 was sent to Georgia
Georgia (U.S. state)
Georgia is a state located in the southeastern United States. It was established in 1732, the last of the original Thirteen Colonies. The state is named after King George II of Great Britain. Georgia was the fourth state to ratify the United States Constitution, on January 2, 1788...

, and five army divisions
Division (military)
A division is a large military unit or formation usually consisting of between 10,000 and 20,000 soldiers. In most armies, a division is composed of several regiments or brigades, and in turn several divisions typically make up a corps...

 were alerted for maximal action. The Strategic Air Command
Strategic Air Command
The Strategic Air Command was both a Major Command of the United States Air Force and a "specified command" of the United States Department of Defense. SAC was the operational establishment in charge of America's land-based strategic bomber aircraft and land-based intercontinental ballistic...

 (SAC) distributed its shorter-ranged B-47 Stratojet
B-47 Stratojet
The Boeing Model 450 B-47 Stratojet was a long-range, six-engined, jet-powered medium bomber built to fly at high subsonic speeds and at high altitudes. It was primarily designed to drop nuclear bombs on the Soviet Union...

 medium bomber
Medium bomber
A medium bomber is a bomber aircraft designed to operate with medium bombloads over medium distances; the name serves to distinguish them from the larger heavy bombers and smaller light bombers...

s to civilian airports and sent aloft its B-52 Stratofortress
B-52 Stratofortress
The Boeing B-52 Stratofortress is a long-range, subsonic, jet-powered strategic bomber operated by the United States Air Force since the 1950s. The B-52 was designed and built by Boeing, who have continued to provide maintainence and upgrades to the aircraft in service...

 heavy bomber
Heavy bomber
A heavy bomber is a bomber aircraft of the largest size and load carrying capacity, and usually the longest range.In New START, the term "heavy bomber" is used for two types of bombers:*one with a range greater than 8,000 kilometers...

s.

Operational Plans

Two Operational Plans (OPLAN) were considered. OPLAN 316 envisioned a full invasion of Cuba by Army and Marine units supported by the Navy following Air Force and naval airstrikes. However, Army units in the United States would have had trouble fielding mechanized and logistical assets, while the US Navy could not supply sufficient amphibious shipping to transport even a modest armored contingent from the Army. OPLAN 312, primarily an Air Force and Navy carrier operation, was designed with enough flexibility to do anything from engaging individual missile sites to providing air support for OPLAN 316's ground forces.

Quarantine

Kennedy met with members of EXCOMM and other top advisers throughout October 21, considering two remaining options: an air strike primarily against the Cuban missile bases, or a naval blockade of Cuba. A full-scale invasion was not the administration's first option, but something had to be done. Robert McNamara supported the naval blockade
Blockade
A blockade is an effort to cut off food, supplies, war material or communications from a particular area by force, either in part or totally. A blockade should not be confused with an embargo or sanctions, which are legal barriers to trade, and is distinct from a siege in that a blockade is usually...

 as a strong but limited military action that left the US in control. According to international law
International law
Public international law concerns the structure and conduct of sovereign states; analogous entities, such as the Holy See; and intergovernmental organizations. To a lesser degree, international law also may affect multinational corporations and individuals, an impact increasingly evolving beyond...

 a blockade is an act of war
Casus belli
is a Latin expression meaning the justification for acts of war. means "incident", "rupture" or indeed "case", while means bellic...

, but the Kennedy administration did not think that the USSR would be provoked to attack by a mere blockade.

Admiral
Admiral
Admiral is the rank, or part of the name of the ranks, of the highest naval officers. It is usually considered a full admiral and above vice admiral and below admiral of the fleet . It is usually abbreviated to "Adm" or "ADM"...

 Anderson, Chief of Naval Operations
Chief of Naval Operations
The Chief of Naval Operations is a statutory office held by a four-star admiral in the United States Navy, and is the most senior uniformed officer assigned to serve in the Department of the Navy. The office is a military adviser and deputy to the Secretary of the Navy...

 wrote a position paper that helped Kennedy to differentiate between a quarantine of offensive weapons and a blockade of all materials, indicating that a classic blockade was not the original intention. Since it would take place in international waters, Kennedy obtained the approval of the OAS for military action under the hemispheric defense provisions of the Rio Treaty
Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance
The Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance was an agreement signed on 1947 in Rio de Janeiro among many countries of the Americas...

.

On October 19, the EXCOMM formed separate working groups to examine the air strike and blockade options, and by the afternoon most support in the EXCOMM shifted to the blockade option.

At 3:00 pm EDT on October 22, President Kennedy formally established the Executive Committee (EXCOMM) with National Security Action Memorandum (NSAM) 196. At 5:00 pm, he met with Congressional leaders who contentiously opposed a blockade and demanded a stronger response. In Moscow, Ambassador Kohler
Foy D. Kohler
Foy David Kohler was an American diplomat and career Foreign Service Officer who was Ambassador to the Soviet Union during the Cuban Missile Crisis.- Early life :...

 briefed Chairman Khrushchev on the pending blockade and Kennedy's speech to the nation. Ambassadors around the world gave advance notice to non-Eastern Bloc
Eastern bloc
The term Eastern Bloc or Communist Bloc refers to the former communist states of Eastern and Central Europe, generally the Soviet Union and the countries of the Warsaw Pact...

 leaders. Before the speech, US delegations met with Canadian Prime Minister John Diefenbaker
John Diefenbaker
John George Diefenbaker, PC, CH, QC was the 13th Prime Minister of Canada, serving from June 21, 1957, to April 22, 1963...

, British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan
Harold Macmillan
Maurice Harold Macmillan, 1st Earl of Stockton, OM, PC was Conservative Prime Minister of the United Kingdom from 10 January 1957 to 18 October 1963....

, West German Chancellor
Chancellor
Chancellor is the title of various official positions in the governments of many nations. The original chancellors were the Cancellarii of Roman courts of justice—ushers who sat at the cancelli or lattice work screens of a basilica or law court, which separated the judge and counsel from the...

 Konrad Adenauer
Konrad Adenauer
Konrad Hermann Joseph Adenauer was a German statesman. He was the chancellor of the West Germany from 1949 to 1963. He is widely recognised as a person who led his country from the ruins of World War II to a powerful and prosperous nation that had forged close relations with old enemies France,...

, and French President Charles de Gaulle
Charles de Gaulle
Charles André Joseph Marie de Gaulle was a French general and statesman who led the Free French Forces during World War II. He later founded the French Fifth Republic in 1958 and served as its first President from 1959 to 1969....

 to brief them on the US intelligence and their proposed response. All were supportive of the US position.

On October 22 at 7:00 pm EDT, President Kennedy delivered a nation-wide televised address on all of the major networks announcing the discovery of the missiles.
Kennedy described the administration's plan:
During the speech a directive went out to all US forces worldwide placing them on DEFCON
DEFCON
A defense readiness condition is an alert posture used by the United States Armed Forces. The DEFCON system was developed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and unified and specified combatant commands. It prescribes five graduated levels of readiness for the U.S...

 3. The heavy cruiser USS Newport News
USS Newport News (CA-148)
The second USS Newport News was a in the United States Navy. Newport News was laid down 1 November 1945; launched on 6 March 1948 by Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Dock Company, Newport News, Virginia. The vessel was sponsored by Mrs. Homer L. Ferguson upon commissioning on 29 January 1949,...

 was designated flagship for the quarantine, with the USS Leary (DD-879)
USS Leary (DD-879)
USS Leary , one of the longest-lasting Gearing-class destroyers, was the second ship of the United States Navy to be named for Lieutenant Clarence F. Leary USNRF , who lost his life in the line of duty...

 as Newport News destroyer
Destroyer
In naval terminology, a destroyer is a fast and maneuverable yet long-endurance warship intended to escort larger vessels in a fleet, convoy or battle group and defend them against smaller, powerful, short-range attackers. Destroyers, originally called torpedo-boat destroyers in 1892, evolved from...

 escort.

Crisis deepens

On October 23 at 11:24 am EDT a cable drafted by George Ball to the US Ambassador in Turkey and the US Ambassador to NATO notified them that they were considering making an offer to withdraw what the U.S knew to be nearly obsolete missiles from Italy and Turkey in exchange for the Soviet withdrawal from Cuba. Turkish officials replied that they would "deeply resent" any trade for the US missile's presence in their country. Two days later, on the morning of October 25, journalist Walter Lippmann
Walter Lippmann
Walter Lippmann was an American intellectual, writer, reporter, and political commentator famous for being among the first to introduce the concept of Cold War...

 proposed the same thing in his syndicated column. Castro reaffirmed Cuba's right to self-defense and said that all of its weapons were defensive and Cuba would not allow an inspection.

International response

Kennedy's speech was not well liked in Britain. The day after the speech, the British press, recalling previous CIA missteps, was unconvinced about the existence of Soviet bases in Cuba, and guessed that Kennedy's actions might be related to his re-election.

Three days after Kennedy's speech, the Chinese People's Daily
People's Daily
The People's Daily is a daily newspaper in the People's Republic of China. The paper is an organ of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China , published worldwide with a circulation of 3 to 4 million. In addition to its main Chinese-language edition, it has editions in English,...

 announced that "650,000,000 Chinese men and women were standing by the Cuban people".

In Germany, newspapers supported the United States' response, contrasting it with the weak-kneed American actions in the region during the preceding months. They also expressed some fear that the Soviets might retaliate in Berlin. In France on October 23, the crisis made the front page of all the daily newspapers. The next day, an editorial in Le Monde
Le Monde
Le Monde is a French daily evening newspaper owned by La Vie-Le Monde Group and edited in Paris. It is one of two French newspapers of record, and has generally been well respected since its first edition under founder Hubert Beuve-Méry on 19 December 1944...

 expressed doubt about the authenticity of the CIA's photographic evidence. Two days later, after a visit by a high-ranking CIA agent, they accepted the validity of the photographs. Also in France, in the October 29 issue of Le Figaro
Le Figaro
Le Figaro is a French daily newspaper founded in 1826 and published in Paris. It is one of three French newspapers of record, with Le Monde and Libération, and is the oldest newspaper in France. It is also the second-largest national newspaper in France after Le Parisien and before Le Monde, but...

, Raymond Aron wrote in support of the American response.

Soviet broadcast

At the time, the crisis continued unabated, and on the evening of October 24, the Soviet news agency Telegrafnoe Agentstvo Sovetskogo Soyuza
Telegraph Agency of the Soviet Union
The Telegraph Agency of the Soviet Union , was the central agency for collection and distribution of internal and international news for all Soviet newspapers, radio and television stations...

 (TASS) broadcast a telegram from Khrushchev to President Kennedy, in which Khrushchev warned that the United States' "pirate action" would lead to war. However, this was followed at 9:24 pm by a telegram from Khrushchev to Kennedy which was received at 10:52 pm EDT, in which Khrushchev stated, "If you coolly weigh the situation which has developed, not giving way to passions, you will understand that the Soviet Union cannot fail to reject the arbitrary demands of the United States" and that the Soviet Union views the blockade as "an act of aggression" and their ships will be instructed to ignore it.

US alert level raised

The United States requested an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council
United Nations Security Council
The United Nations Security Council is one of the principal organs of the United Nations and is charged with the maintenance of international peace and security. Its powers, outlined in the United Nations Charter, include the establishment of peacekeeping operations, the establishment of...

 on October 25. In a loud, demanding tone, US Ambassador to the UN Adlai Stevenson confronted Soviet Ambassador Valerian Zorin
Valerian Zorin
Valerian Alexandrovich Zorin was a Soviet diplomat and statesman.-Biography:After joining the Soviet Communist Party in 1922, Zorin held a managerial position in a Moscow City Committee and the Central Committee of the Komsomol until 1932...

 in an emergency meeting of the SC challenging him to admit the existence of the missiles. Ambassador Zorin refused to answer. The next day at 10:00 pm EDT, the US raised the readiness level of SAC
Strategic Air Command
The Strategic Air Command was both a Major Command of the United States Air Force and a "specified command" of the United States Department of Defense. SAC was the operational establishment in charge of America's land-based strategic bomber aircraft and land-based intercontinental ballistic...

 forces to DEFCON 2. For the only confirmed time in US history, the B-52 bombers were dispersed to various locations and made ready to take off, fully equipped, on 15 minutes notice. One-eighth of SAC's 1,436 bombers were on airborne alert, some 145 intercontinental ballistic missiles stood on ready alert, while Air Defense Command (ADC) redeployed 161 nuclear-armed interceptors to 16 dispersal fields within nine hours with one-third maintaining 15-minute alert status.

"By October 22, Tactical Air Command
Tactical Air Command
Tactical Air Command is an inactive United States Air Force organization. It was a Major Command of the United States Air Force, established on 21 March 1946 being headquartered at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia...

 (TAC) had 511 fighters plus supporting tankers and reconnaissance aircraft deployed to face Cuba on one-hour alert status. However, TAC and the Military Air Transport Service
Military Air Transport Service
The Military Air Transport Service is an inactive Department of Defense Unified Command. Activated on 1 June 1948, MATS was a consolidation of the United States Navy Naval Air Transport Service and the United States Air Force Air Transport Command into a single, joint, unified command...

 had problems. The concentration of aircraft in Florida strained command and support echelons; we faced critical undermanning in security, armaments, and communications; the absence of initial authorization for war-reserve stocks of conventional munitions forced TAC to scrounge; and the lack of airlift assets to support a major airborne drop necessitated the call-up of 24 Reserve squadrons."

On October 25 at 1:45 am EDT, Kennedy responded to Khrushchev's telegram, stating that the US was forced into action after receiving repeated assurances that no offensive missiles were being placed in Cuba, and that when these assurances proved to be false, the deployment "required the responses I have announced... I hope that your government will take necessary action to permit a restoration of the earlier situation."

Quarantine challenged

At 7:15 am EDT on October 25, the USS Essex
USS Essex (CV-9)
USS Essex was an aircraft carrier, the lead ship of the 24-ship built for the United States Navy during World War II. She was the fourth US Navy ship to bear the name. Commissioned in December 1942, Essex participated in several campaigns in the Pacific Theater of Operations, earning the...

 and USS Gearing
USS Gearing (DD-710)
USS Gearing was the lead ship of her class of destroyers in the United States Navy. She was named for three generations of the Gearing family, Commander Henry Chalfant Gearing, Sr., Captain Henry Chalfant Gearing, Jr...

 attempted to intercept the Bucharest but failed to do so. Fairly certain the tanker did not contain any military materiel, they allowed it through the blockade. Later that day, at 5:43 pm, the commander of the blockade effort ordered the USS Kennedy
USS Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. (DD-850)
USS Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. is a of the United States Navy.The ship was named after Lieutenant Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr., a naval aviator, son of the former Ambassador to Britain, Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr., and older brother of future President John F. Kennedy. Kennedy would serve, with interruptions...

 to intercept and board the Lebanese freighter Marucla. This took place the next day, and the Marucla was cleared through the blockade after its cargo was checked.

At 5:00 pm EDT on October 25, William Clements announced that the missiles in Cuba were still actively being worked on. This report was later verified by a CIA report that suggested there had been no slow-down at all. In response, Kennedy issued Security Action Memorandum 199, authorizing the loading of nuclear weapons onto aircraft under the command of SACEUR (which had the duty of carrying out first air strikes on the Soviet Union). During the day, the Soviets responded to the quarantine by turning back 14 ships presumably carrying offensive weapons.

Crisis stalemated

The next morning, October 26, Kennedy informed the EXCOMM that he believed only an invasion would remove the missiles from Cuba. However, he was persuaded to give the matter time and continue with both military and diplomatic pressure. He agreed and ordered the low-level flights over the island to be increased from two per day to once every two hours. He also ordered a crash program to institute a new civil government in Cuba if an invasion went ahead.

At this point, the crisis was ostensibly at a stalemate. The USSR had shown no indication that they would back down and had made several comments to the contrary. The US had no reason to believe otherwise and was in the early stages of preparing for an invasion, along with a nuclear strike on the Soviet Union in case it responded militarily, which was assumed.

Secret negotiations

At 1:00 pm EDT on October 26, John A. Scali
John A. Scali
John Alfred Scali was the United States Ambassador to the United Nations from 1973 to 1975.Scali was an ABC News reporter who became an intermediary in the Cuban Missile Crisis and later a part of the Nixon Administration...

 of ABC News
ABC News
ABC News is the news gathering and broadcasting division of American broadcast television network ABC, a subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company...

 had lunch with Aleksandr Fomin (alias of spy Alexander Feklisov) at Fomin's request. Fomin noted, "War seems about to break out" and asked Scali to use his contacts to talk to his "high-level friends" at the State Department to see if the US would be interested in a diplomatic solution. He suggested that the language of the deal would contain an assurance from the Soviet Union to remove the weapons under UN supervision and that Castro would publicly announce that he would not accept such weapons in the future, in exchange for a public statement by the US that it would never invade Cuba. The US responded by asking the Brazil
Brazil
Brazil , officially the Federative Republic of Brazil , is the largest country in South America. It is the world's fifth largest country, both by geographical area and by population with over 192 million people...

ian government to pass a message to Castro that the US would be "unlikely to invade" if the missiles were removed.
On October 26 at 6:00 pm EDT, the State Department started receiving a message that appeared to be written personally by Khrushchev. It was Saturday at 2:00 am in Moscow. The long letter took several minutes to arrive, and it took translators additional time to translate and transcribe the long letter.

Robert Kennedy described the letter as "very long and emotional". Khrushchev reiterated the basic outline that had been stated to John Scali earlier in the day, "I propose: we, for our part, will declare that our ships bound for Cuba are not carrying any armaments. You will declare that the United States will not invade Cuba with its troops and will not support any other forces which might intend to invade Cuba. Then the necessity of the presence of our military specialists in Cuba will disappear." At 6:45 pm EDT, news of Fomin's offer to Scali was finally heard and was interpreted as a "set up" for the arrival of Khrushchev's letter. The letter was then considered official and accurate, although it was later learned that Fomin was almost certainly operating of his own accord without official backing. Additional study of the letter was ordered and continued into the night.

Crisis continues

Castro, on the other hand, was convinced that an invasion was soon at hand, and he dictated a letter to Khrushchev
Nikita Khrushchev
Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev led the Soviet Union during part of the Cold War. He served as First Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union from 1953 to 1964, and as Chairman of the Council of Ministers, or Premier, from 1958 to 1964...

 that appeared to call for a preemptive strike on the US. However, in a 2010 interview, Castro said of his recommendation for the Soviets to bomb America "After I've seen what I've seen, and knowing what I know now, it wasn't worth it at all." Castro also ordered all anti-aircraft weapons in Cuba to fire on any US aircraft, whereas in the past they had been ordered only to fire on groups of two or more. At 6:00 am EDT on October 27, the CIA delivered a memo reporting that three of the four missile sites at San Cristobal and the two sites at Sagua la Grande appeared to be fully operational. They also noted that the Cuban military continued to organize for action, although they were under order not to initiate action unless attacked.

At 9:00 am EDT on October 27, Radio Moscow
Voice of Russia
Voice of Russia is the Russian government's international radio broadcasting service owned by the All-Russia State Television and Radio Company. Its predecessor Radio Moscow was the official international broadcasting station of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.-Early years:Radio Moscow...

 began broadcasting a message from Khrushchev. Contrary to the letter of the night before, the message offered a new trade, that the missiles on Cuba would be removed in exchange for the removal of the Jupiter missiles from Italy and Turkey. At 10:00 am EDT, the executive committee met again to discuss the situation and came to the conclusion that the change in the message was due to internal debate between Khrushchev and other party officials in the Kremlin. McNamara noted that another tanker, the Grozny, was about 600 miles (965.6 km) out and should be intercepted. He also noted that they had not made the USSR aware of the quarantine line and suggested relaying this information to them via U Thant
U Thant
U Thant was a Burmese diplomat and the third Secretary-General of the United Nations, from 1961 to 1971. He was chosen for the post when his predecessor, Dag Hammarskjöld, died in September 1961....

 at the United Nations.

While the meeting progressed, at 11:03 am EDT a new message began to arrive from Khrushchev. The message stated, in part,
The executive committee continued to meet through the day.

Throughout the crisis, Turkey had repeatedly stated that it would be upset if the Jupiter missiles were removed. Italy's Prime Minister Fanfani
Amintore Fanfani
Amintore Fanfani was an Italian career politician and the 33rd man to serve the office of Prime Minister of the State. He was one of the well-known Italian politicians after the Second World War, and a historical figure of the Christian Democracy .Fanfani and Giovanni Giolitti are still actually...

, who was also Foreign Minister ad interim, offered to allow withdrawal of the missiles deployed in Apulia
Apulia
Apulia is a region in Southern Italy bordering the Adriatic Sea in the east, the Ionian Sea to the southeast, and the Strait of Òtranto and Gulf of Taranto in the south. Its most southern portion, known as Salento peninsula, forms a high heel on the "boot" of Italy. The region comprises , and...

 as a bargaining chip. He gave the message to one of his most trusted friends, Ettore Bernabei
Ettore Bernabei
-Early career:Ettore Bernabei began his career as editor in chief of a Florentine newspaper with Christian Democratic ties called the Giornale del Mattino. Then, from 1956 to 1960, he was editor in chief of another Christian Democratic newspaper Il Popolo...

, the general manager of RAI-TV
RAI
RAI — Radiotelevisione italiana S.p.A. known until 1954 as Radio Audizioni Italiane, is the Italian state owned public service broadcaster controlled by the Ministry of Economic Development. Rai is the biggest television company in Italy...

, to convey to Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.. Bernabei was in New York to attend an international conference on satellite TV broadcasting. Unknown to the Soviets, the U.S regarded the Jupiter missiles as obsolete and already supplanted by the Polaris nuclear ballistic submarine missiles.

On the morning of October 27, a U-2F (the third CIA U-2A, modified for air-to-air refueling) piloted by USAF Major
Major
Major is a rank of commissioned officer, with corresponding ranks existing in almost every military in the world.When used unhyphenated, in conjunction with no other indicator of rank, the term refers to the rank just senior to that of an Army captain and just below the rank of lieutenant colonel. ...

 Rudolf Anderson, departed its forward operating location at McCoy AFB, Florida, and at approximately 12:00 pm EDT, the aircraft was struck by a S-75 Dvina
S-75 Dvina
The S-75 Dvina is a Soviet-designed, high-altitude, command guided, surface-to-air missile system...

 (NATO designation SA-2 Guideline) SAM
Surface-to-air missile
A surface-to-air missile or ground-to-air missile is a missile designed to be launched from the ground to destroy aircraft or other missiles...

 missile launched from Cuba. The aircraft was shot down and Anderson was killed. The stress in negotiations between the USSR and the US intensified, and only much later was it learned that the decision to fire the missile was made locally by an undetermined Soviet commander acting on his own authority. Later that day, at about 3:41 pm EDT, several US Navy RF-8A Crusader aircraft on low-level photoreconnaissance missions were fired upon, and one was hit by a 37 mm shell but managed to return to base.

At 4:00 pm EDT, Kennedy recalled members of EXCOMM to the White House
White House
The White House is the official residence and principal workplace of the president of the United States. Located at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW in Washington, D.C., the house was designed by Irish-born James Hoban, and built between 1792 and 1800 of white-painted Aquia sandstone in the Neoclassical...

 and ordered that a message immediately be sent to U Thant asking the Soviets to "suspend" work on the missiles while negotiations were carried out. During this meeting, Maxwell Taylor delivered the news that the U-2 had been shot down. Kennedy had earlier claimed he would order an attack on such sites if fired upon, but he decided to not act unless another attack was made. In an interview 40 years later, McNamara said:

Drafting the response

Emissaries sent by both Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev agreed to meet at the Yenching Palace Chinese restaurant in the Cleveland Park
Cleveland Park
Cleveland Park is a residential neighborhood in the Northwest quadrant of Washington, D.C.It is located at and bounded approximately by Rock Creek Park to the east, Wisconsin and Idaho Avenues to the west, Klingle and Woodley Roads to the south, and Rodman and Tilden Streets to the north...

 neighborhood of Washington D.C. on the evening of October 27. Kennedy suggested that they take Khrushchev's offer to trade away the missiles. Unknown to most members of the EXCOMM, Robert Kennedy had been meeting with the Soviet Ambassador in Washington to discover whether these intentions were genuine. The EXCOMM was generally against the proposal because it would undermine NATO's authority, and the Turkish government had repeatedly stated it was against any such trade.

As the meeting progressed, a new plan emerged and Kennedy was slowly persuaded. The new plan called for the President to ignore the latest message and instead to return to Khrushchev's earlier one. Kennedy was initially hesitant, feeling that Khrushchev would no longer accept the deal because a new one had been offered, but Llewellyn Thompson
Llewellyn Thompson
Llewellyn E. "Tommy" Thompson Jr. , was a United States diplomat. He served in Sri Lanka, Austria, and for a lengthy period in the Soviet Union where his tenure saw some of the most significant events of the Cold War....

 argued that he might accept it anyway. White House Special Counsel and Adviser Ted Sorensen
Ted Sorensen
Theodore Chaikin "Ted" Sorensen was an American presidential advisor, lawyer and writer, best known as President John F. Kennedy’s special counsel, adviser and legendary speechwriter. President Kennedy once called him his “intellectual blood bank.”-Early life:Sorensen was born in Nebraska, the son...

 and Robert Kennedy left the meeting and returned 45 minutes later with a draft letter to this effect. The President made several changes, had it typed, and sent it.

After the EXCOMM meeting, a smaller meeting continued in the Oval Office
Oval Office
The Oval Office, located in the West Wing of the White House, is the official office of the President of the United States.The room features three large south-facing windows behind the president's desk, and a fireplace at the north end...

. The group argued that the letter should be underscored with an oral message to Ambassador Dobrynin stating that if the missiles were not withdrawn, military action would be used to remove them. Dean Rusk added one proviso, that no part of the language of the deal would mention Turkey, but there would be an understanding that the missiles would be removed "voluntarily" in the immediate aftermath. The President agreed, and the message was sent.

At Juan Brito
Juan Brito
Juan Ramon Brito is a J-BRITo catcher. Brito made his MLB debut with the Kansas City Royals in...

's request, Fomin and Scali met again. Scali asked why the two letters from Khrushchev were so different, and Fomin claimed it was because of "poor communications". Scali replied that the claim was not credible and shouted that he thought it was a "stinking double cross". He went on to claim that an invasion was only hours away, at which point Fomin stated that a response to the US message was expected from Khrushchev shortly, and he urged Scali to tell the State Department that no treachery was intended. Scali said that he did not think anyone would believe him, but he agreed to deliver the message. The two went their separate ways, and Scali immediately typed out a memo for the EXCOMM.

Within the US establishment, it was well understood that ignoring the second offer and returning to the first put Khrushchev in a terrible position. Military preparations continued, and all active duty Air Force personnel were recalled to their bases for possible action. Robert Kennedy later recalled the mood, "We had not abandoned all hope, but what hope there was now rested with Khrushchev's revising his course within the next few hours. It was a hope, not an expectation. The expectation was military confrontation by Tuesday, and possibly tomorrow..."

At 8:05 pm EDT, the letter drafted earlier in the day was delivered. The message read, "As I read your letter, the key elements of your proposals—which seem generally acceptable as I understand them—are as follows: 1) You would agree to remove these weapons systems from Cuba under appropriate United Nations observation and supervision; and undertake, with suitable safe-guards, to halt the further introduction of such weapon systems into Cuba. 2) We, on our part, would agree—upon the establishment of adequate arrangements through the United Nations, to ensure the carrying out and continuation of these commitments (a) to remove promptly the quarantine measures now in effect and (b) to give assurances against the invasion of Cuba." The letter was also released directly to the press to ensure it could not be "delayed".

With the letter delivered, a deal was on the table. However, as Robert Kennedy noted, there was little expectation it would be accepted. At 9:00 pm EDT, the EXCOMM met again to review the actions for the following day. Plans were drawn up for air strikes on the missile sites as well as other economic targets, notably petroleum storage. McNamara stated that they had to "have two things ready: a government for Cuba, because we're going to need one; and secondly, plans for how to respond to the Soviet Union in Europe, because sure as hell they're going to do something there".

At 12:12 am EDT, on October 27, the US informed its NATO allies that "the situation is growing shorter... the United States may find it necessary within a very short time in its interest and that of its fellow nations in the Western Hemisphere to take whatever military action may be necessary." To add to the concern, at 6 am the CIA reported that all missiles in Cuba were ready for action.

Later on that same day, what the White House later called "Black Saturday", the US Navy dropped a series of "signaling depth charge
Depth charge
A depth charge is an anti-submarine warfare weapon intended to destroy or cripple a target submarine by the shock of exploding near it. Most use explosives and a fuze set to go off at a preselected depth in the ocean. Depth charges can be dropped by either surface ships, patrol aircraft, or from...

s" (practice depth charges the size of hand grenades) on a Soviet submarine (B-59) at the quarantine line, unaware that it was armed with a nuclear-tipped torpedo with orders that allowed it to be used if the submarine was "hulled" (a hole in the hull from depth charges or surface fire). On the same day, a US U-2 spy plane made an accidental, unauthorized ninety-minute overflight of the Soviet Union's far eastern coast.

The Soviets scrambled MiG fighters from Wrangel Island
Wrangel Island
Wrangel Island is an island in the Arctic Ocean, between the Chukchi Sea and East Siberian Sea. Wrangel Island lies astride the 180° meridian. The International Date Line is displaced eastwards at this latitude to avoid the island as well as the Chukchi Peninsula on the Russian mainland...

 and in response the American sent aloft F-102
F-102 Delta Dagger
The Convair F-102 Delta Dagger was a US interceptor aircraft built as part of the backbone of the United States Air Force's air defenses in the late 1950s. Entering service in 1956, its main purpose was to intercept invading Soviet bomber fleets...

 fighters armed with nuclear air-to-air missiles over the Bering Sea.

Crisis ends

After much deliberation between the Soviet Union and Kennedy's cabinet, Kennedy secretly agreed to remove all missiles set in southern Italy and in Turkey, the latter on the border of the Soviet Union, in exchange for Khrushchev removing all missiles in Cuba.

At 9:00 am EDT, on October 28, a new message from Khrushchev was broadcast on Radio Moscow. Khrushchev stated that, "the Soviet government, in addition to previously issued instructions on the cessation of further work at the building sites for the weapons, has issued a new order on the dismantling of the weapons which you describe as 'offensive' and their crating and return to the Soviet Union."

Kennedy immediately responded, issuing a statement calling the letter "an important and constructive contribution to peace". He continued this with a formal letter: "I consider my letter to you of October twenty-seventh and your reply of today as firm undertakings on the part of both our governments which should be promptly carried out... The US will make a statement in the framework of the Security Council in reference to Cuba as follows: it will declare that the United States of America will respect the inviolability of Cuban borders, its sovereignty, that it take the pledge not to interfere in internal affairs, not to intrude themselves and not to permit our territory to be used as a bridgehead for the invasion of Cuba, and will restrain those who would plan to carry an aggression against Cuba, either from US territory or from the territory of other countries neighboring to Cuba."

The U.S continued the quarantine, and in the following days, aerial reconnaissance proved that the Soviets were making progress in removing the missile systems. The 42 missiles and their support equipment were loaded onto eight Soviet ships. The ships left Cuba from November 5–9. The US made a final visual check as each of the ships passed the quarantine line. Further diplomatic efforts were required to remove the Soviet IL-28 bombers, and they were loaded on three Soviet ships on December 5 and 6. Concurrent with the Soviet commitment on the IL-28's, the US Government announced the end of the quarantine effective at 6:45 pm EDT on November 20, 1962.

In his negotiations with the Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin
Anatoly Dobrynin
Anatoly Fyodorovich Dobrynin was a Russian statesman and a former Soviet diplomat and politician. He was Soviet Ambassador to the United States, serving from 1962 to 1986 and most notably during the Cuban Missile Crisis. He was appointed by Nikita Khrushchev....

, US Attorney General Robert Kennedy informally proposed that the Jupiter missiles in Turkey
Turkey
Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

 would be removed "within a short time after this crisis was over." The last US missiles were disassembled by April 24, 1963, and were flown out of Turkey soon after.

The practical effect of this Kennedy-Khrushchev Pact was that it effectively strengthened Castro's position in Cuba, guaranteeing that the US would not invade Cuba. It is possible that Khrushchev only placed the missiles in Cuba to get Kennedy to remove the missiles from Italy and Turkey and that the Soviets had no intention of resorting to nuclear war if they were out-gunned by the Americans. Because the withdrawal of the Jupiter missiles from NATO bases in Southern Italy and Turkey was not made public at the time, Khrushchev appeared to have lost the conflict and become weakened. The perception was that Kennedy had won the contest between the superpowers and Khrushchev had been humiliated. This is not entirely the case as both Kennedy and Khrushchev took every step to avoid full conflict despite the pressures of their governments. Khrushchev held power for another two years.

Aftermath

The compromise was a particularly sharp embarrassment for Khrushchev and the Soviet Union because the withdrawal of US missiles from Italy and Turkey was not made public—it was a secret deal between Kennedy and Khrushchev. The Soviets were seen as retreating from circumstances that they had started—though if played well, it could have looked just the opposite. Khrushchev's fall from power two years later can be partially linked to Politburo
Politburo of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union
The Politburo , known as the Presidium from 1952 to 1966, functioned as the central policymaking and governing body of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.-Duties and responsibilities:The...

 embarrassment at both Khrushchev's eventual concessions to the US and his ineptitude in precipitating the crisis in the first place. Taubman (2004) reports that, according to Dobrynin, the top Soviet leadership took the Cuban outcome as "a blow to its prestige bordering on humiliation".

Cuba perceived it as a partial betrayal by the Soviets, given that decisions on how to resolve the crisis had been made exclusively by Kennedy and Khrushchev. Castro was especially upset that certain issues of interest to Cuba, such as the status of Guantanamo, were not addressed. This caused Cuban-Soviet relations to deteriorate for years to come. On the other hand, Cuba continued to be protected from invasion.

Although General Curtis LeMay
Curtis LeMay
Curtis Emerson LeMay was a general in the United States Air Force and the vice presidential running mate of American Independent Party candidate George Wallace in 1968....

 told the President that he considered the resolution of the Cuban Missile Crisis the "greatest defeat in our history", his was a distinctly minority position. LeMay had pressed for an immediate invasion of Cuba as soon as the crisis began, and he still favoured invading Cuba even after the Soviets had withdrawn their missiles.

The Cuban Missile Crisis spurred the Hotline Agreement, which created the Moscow–Washington hotline, a direct communications link between Moscow and Washington, D.C. The purpose was to have a way that the leaders of the two Cold War countries could communicate directly to solve such a crisis. The world-wide US Forces DEFCON 3 status was returned to DEFCON 4 on November 20, 1962. U-2 pilot Major Anderson's body was returned to the United States and he was buried with full military honors in South Carolina. He was the first recipient of the newly-created Air Force Cross
Air Force Cross (United States)
The Air Force Cross is the second highest military decoration that can be awarded to a member of the United States Air Force. The Air Force Cross is the Air Force decoration equivalent to the Distinguished Service Cross and the Navy Cross .The Air Force Cross is awarded for extraordinary heroism...

, which was awarded posthumously.

Although Anderson was the only combat fatality during the crisis, eleven crew members of three reconnaissance Boeing RB-47 Stratojets of the 55th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing were also killed in crashes during the period between September 27 and November 11, 1962. Further, seven crew died when a MATS
Military Air Transport Service
The Military Air Transport Service is an inactive Department of Defense Unified Command. Activated on 1 June 1948, MATS was a consolidation of the United States Navy Naval Air Transport Service and the United States Air Force Air Transport Command into a single, joint, unified command...

 Boeing C-135B Stratolifter delivering ammunition to Guantanamo Bay Naval Base
Guantanamo Bay Naval Base
Guantanamo Bay Naval Base is located on of land and water at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba which the United States leased for use as a coaling station following the Cuban-American Treaty of 1903. The base is located on the shore of Guantánamo Bay at the southeastern end of Cuba. It is the oldest overseas...

 stalled and crashed on approach on October 23.

Critics including Seymour Melman and Seymour Hersh suggested that the Cuban Missile Crisis encouraged US use of military means, such as in the Vietnam War
Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...

. This Soviet-American confrontation was synchronous with the Sino-Indian War
Sino-Indian War
The Sino-Indian War , also known as the Sino-Indian Border Conflict , was a war between China and India that occurred in 1962. A disputed Himalayan border was the main pretext for war, but other issues played a role. There had been a series of violent border incidents after the 1959 Tibetan...

, dating from the US's military quarantine of Cuba; historians speculate that the Chinese attack against India for disputed land was meant to coincide with the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Post-crisis history

Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., a historian and adviser to John F. Kennedy, told National Public Radio in an interview on October 16, 2002 that Castro did not want the missiles, but that Khrushchev had pressured Castro to accept them. Castro was not completely happy with the idea but the Cuban National Directorate of the Revolution accepted them to protect Cuba against US attack, and to aid its ally, the Soviet Union. Schlesinger believed that when the missiles were withdrawn, Castro was angrier with Khrushchev than he was with Kennedy because Khrushchev had not consulted Castro before deciding to remove them.

In early 1992, it was confirmed that Soviet forces in Cuba had, by the time the crisis broke, received tactical nuclear warheads for their artillery rockets
Rocket artillery
Rocket artillery is a type of artillery equipped with rocket launchers instead of conventional guns or mortars.Types of rocket artillery pieces include multiple rocket launchers.-History:...

 and Il-28 bombers
Ilyushin Il-28
The Ilyushin Il-28 is a jet bomber aircraft of the immediate postwar period that was originally manufactured for the Soviet Air Force. It was the USSR's first such aircraft to enter large-scale production. It was also licence-built in China as the Harbin H-5. Total production in the USSR was 6,316...

. Castro stated that he would have recommended their use if the US invaded despite knowing Cuba would be destroyed.

Arguably the most dangerous moment in the crisis was only recognized during the Cuban Missile Crisis Havana conference in October 2002. Attended by many of the veterans of the crisis, they all learned that on October 26, 1962 the USS Beale
USS Beale (DD-471)
USS Beale , a , was the second ship of the United States Navy to be named for Lieutenant Edward Fitzgerald Beale ....

 had tracked and dropped signaling depth charges (the size of hand grenades) on the B-59, a Soviet Project 641 (NATO designation Foxtrot
Foxtrot class submarine
The Foxtrot class was the NATO reporting name of a class of diesel-electric patrol submarines that were built in the Soviet Union. The Soviet designation of this class was Project 641....

) submarine which, unknown to the US, was armed with a 15 kiloton nuclear torpedo. Running out of air, the Soviet submarine was surrounded by American warships and desperately needed to surface. An argument broke out among three officers on the B-59, including submarine captain Valentin Savitsky, political officer Ivan Semonovich Maslennikov, and Deputy brigade commander Captain 2nd rank (US Navy Commander rank equivalent) Vasili Arkhipov. An exhausted Savitsky became furious and ordered that the nuclear torpedo on board be made combat ready. Accounts differ about whether Commander Arkhipov convinced Savitsky not to make the attack, or whether Savitsky himself finally concluded that the only reasonable choice left open to him was to come to the surface. During the conference Robert McNamara stated that nuclear war had come much closer than people had thought. Thomas Blanton, director of the National Security Archive, said, "A guy called Vasili Arkhipov saved the world."

The crisis was a substantial focus of the 2003 documentary, The Fog of War
The Fog of War
The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara is a 2003 American documentary film about the life and times of former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara as well as illustrating his observations of the nature of modern warfare...

, which won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.

See also

  • Bomber gap
    Bomber gap
    The "bomber gap" was the unfounded belief in the Cold War-era United States that the Soviet Union had gained an advantage in deploying jet-powered strategic bombers. Widely accepted for several years, the gap was used as a political talking point in order to justify greatly increased defense spending...

  • Cuba – Soviet Union relations
  • Dino Brugioni
    Dino Brugioni
    Dino A. Brugioni is a former senior official at the CIA's National Photographic Interpretation Center . He was an imagery analyst and also served as NPIC's Chief of Information. During his 35-year career, Brugioni helped establish imagery intelligence as a national asset to solve intelligence...

  • International crisis
    International crisis
    An international crisis is a crisis between states. There are many definitions of an international crisis. Snyder "...a sequence of interactions between the governments of two or more sovereign states in severe conflict, short of actual war, but involving the perception of a dangerously high...

  • Norwegian rocket incident
    Norwegian rocket incident
    The Norwegian rocket incident refers to a few minutes of post-Cold War nuclear tension that took place on January 25, 1995, more than four years after the end of the Cold War...

  • Stanislav Petrov
    Stanislav Petrov
    On September 26, 1983 the Nuclear Early Warning System of the Soviet Union twice reported the launch of American Minuteman ICBMs from bases in the United States. These missile attack warnings were correctly identified as a false alarm by Stanislav Yevgrafovich Petrov, an officer of the Soviet Air...


Media

(listed chronologically)
  • Thirteen Days (book)
    Thirteen Days (book)
    Thirteen Days: A Memoir of the Cuban Missile Crisis is Robert F. Kennedy's account of the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. The book was released in 1969, a year after his assassination....

    , Robert F. Kennedy's account of the crisis, released in 1969
  • The Missiles of October
    The Missiles of October
    The Missiles of October is a 1974 docudrama made-for-television play about the Cuban missile crisis. The title evokes the book The Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman about the missteps among the great powers and the failed chances to give an opponent a graceful way out, which led to the First...

    , 1974 TV docudrama about the crisis
  • The World Next Door
    The World Next Door
    The World Next Door is a 1990 novel by Brad Ferguson, combining in a novel way the sub-genres of Alternate history and of predicting the Third World War....

    , 1990 novel by Brad Ferguson, set in this period
  • Blast from the Past (film)
    Blast From the Past (film)
    Blast from the Past is a 1999 romantic comedy film based on a story and directed by Hugh Wilson and starring Brendan Fraser, Alicia Silverstone, Christopher Walken, Sissy Spacek, and Dave Foley.-Plot:...

    , 1999 American romantic comedy film, set in this period
  • Resurrection Day
    Resurrection Day
    Resurrection Day is a novel written by Brendan DuBois in 1999. It is an alternate history where the Cuban Missile Crisis escalated to a full scale war, the Soviet Union is devastated, and the USA has been reduced to a third-rate power, relying on Britain for aid...

    , 1999 alternate history novel written by Brendan DuBois, set in this period
  • Thirteen Days (film)
    Thirteen Days (film)
    Thirteen Days is a 2000 docudrama directed by Roger Donaldson about the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, seen from the perspective of the US political leadership. Kevin Costner stars, with Bruce Greenwood featured as John F. Kennedy....

    , 2000 docudrama directed by Roger Donaldson about the crisis
  • The Fog of War
    The Fog of War
    The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara is a 2003 American documentary film about the life and times of former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara as well as illustrating his observations of the nature of modern warfare...

    , 2003 American documentary film about the life and times of former US Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara
  • "Meditations in an Emergency", the last episode of season 2 of the television series Mad Men takes place during the crisis
  • The Kennedys (TV miniseries), 2011 production chronicling the lives of the Kennedy family, including a dramatization of the crisis
  • X-Men: First Class
    X-Men: First Class
    X-Men: First Class is a comic book series published by Marvel Comics starring the X-Men.-Publication history:The original series was an eight-issue limited series. It began in September 2006 and ended in April 2007. It was written by Jeff Parker and penciled by Roger Cruz...

    , 2011 superhero film set during the Cuban Missile Crisis

External links

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