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Cuban Missile Crisis: 50th Anniversary Countdown

This is the opening post of a series exploring the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, during which the world stood at the brink of nuclear war.

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. …

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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:

  1. Why did the Soviet government decide to place those missiles in Cuba—and do it secretly?
  2. 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?

Online Sources

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)

http://www.wilsoncenter.org/article/the-rise-and-fall-the-berlin-wall

To reach the blogger: mailto:phufstader@sbcglobal.net

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Louisa Hufstader March 01, 2012 at 12:52 AM
Everybody! Meet my Dad! He's not the most local guy in our Local Voices section, but he taught me to write and he is going to fill us in on a pivotal moment in world history that has affected all of us to varying degrees. Please give him a warm Napa Patch welcome and any questions you may have. Another post is coming tomorrow. Welcome to the blogosphere, Dad.
Louisa Hufstader March 09, 2012 at 12:46 AM
Visuals! Just added a video from the U.S. Navy Heritage mini-series on YouTube.
Jessie Sawyer March 21, 2012 at 10:37 PM
Louisa, hello from Avon Patch in Connecticut. I'm enjoying running your dad's blog posts out here. They're very well researched. Anyways, just wanted to say hi because we don't get to interact with our west coast Patchers much. Cheers! Jessie Sawyer Editor, Avon Patch (CT)
Louisa Hufstader March 21, 2012 at 11:01 PM
Hello, Jessie! It's good to hear from you. I am enjoying my Dad's blog too, as well as the treasure hunt to find an illustration for each one. There's a lot of stuff on YouTube, fortunately. I also created a Pinterest pinboard to pull them all together: http://pinterest.com/louisahufstader/peter-hufstader/ I am proud of him and I thank you for your kind words! Come on out and visit us, we'll show you a good time in Napa.
Tot Balay March 22, 2012 at 01:53 AM
The photos are a wonderful addition to the narrative. Thanks for going the extra mile to find them!

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