At the Brink of Nuclear War
In his first speech to the United Nations General Assembly (Sept. 25, 1961), President John F. Kennedy issued this grim warning:
Today, every inhabitant of this planet must contemplate the day when this planet may no longer be habitable. Every man, woman, and child lives under a nuclear sword of Damocles, hanging by the slenderest of threads, capable of being cut at any moment by accident or miscalculation or by madness. The weapons of war must be abolished before they abolish us. …
Soviet Missiles Discovered in Cuba
Fifty years ago this October 14, a U-2 spy plane overflying Cuba discovered that the Soviet Union had smuggled medium range nuclear missiles into Cuba and had set them up at the northwestern end of the island. Twelve days later the Soviet missiles were ready to be fired at American cities within their 1,100 nautical mile range, Washington, D.C., and New York among them.
Between the 14th of October and the 28th, the escalating crisis over the Soviet missiles turned into the hottest, most dangerous moment in the Cold War and perhaps in the world’s history—so far. By Saturday 27 October the United States had a huge invasion force at sea ready to storm Cuba’s beaches. Three Navy task forces had blockaded the island to stop any more military cargoes from reaching Castro’s forces.
Kennedy’s warning very nearly came true. On Saturday, October 27, 1962, at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis, all three of the dangers the President warned against occurred in separate incidents. Any one of them might have triggered a nuclear war.
Had the Kremlin not removed those missiles, I would almost certainly not have survived to write this blog. Those of you alive at the time and anywhere near New York, as I was, or near cities to the south would probably not have survived. Those of you not yet born—who knows?
This blog will try to answer a number of questions, particularly these:
- Why did the Soviet government decide to place those missiles in Cuba—and do it secretly?
- How did the Kennedy administration manage to get the Soviets to withdraw their missiles without starting a war?
What are your questions about the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962?
The National Security Archive (Cuban Missile Crisis): http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/nsa/cuba_mis_cri/index.htm
The Cold War International History Project (Berlin Wall)
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