Cuban Missile Crisis (2023)

At the height of the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union risked nuclear confrontation in an event known as the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Summary of Event

When Fidel Castro’s revolutionary July 26 Movement assumed power in Cuba in 1959, it marked the end of U.S. political and economic dominance over the island. Ever since the late nineteenth century, the United States, supported by loyal Cuban politicians, had enjoyed control over all Cuba’s commerce and industry. Castro, however, refused to adhere to U.S. interests, and as a result, the United States attempted to overthrow Castro’s government through the use of covert military operations and an economic blockade. Cuban Missile Crisis Cold War;Cuba U.S.-Soviet relations[U.S. Soviet relations];Cuban Missile Crisis Soviet-Western relations[Soviet Western relations];Cuban Missile Crisis Nuclear weapons;brinkmanship [kw]Cuban Missile Crisis (Oct. 22-28, 1962) [kw]Missile Crisis, Cuban (Oct. 22-28, 1962) [kw]Crisis, Cuban Missile (Oct. 22-28, 1962) Cuban Missile Crisis Cold War;Cuba U.S.-Soviet relations[U.S. Soviet relations];Cuban Missile Crisis Soviet-Western relations[Soviet Western relations];Cuban Missile Crisis Nuclear weapons;brinkmanship [g]Caribbean;Oct. 22-28, 1962: Cuban Missile Crisis[07400] [g]West Indies;Oct. 22-28, 1962: Cuban Missile Crisis[07400] [g]Cuba;Oct. 22-28, 1962: Cuban Missile Crisis[07400] [c]Cold War;Oct. 22-28, 1962: Cuban Missile Crisis[07400] [c]Diplomacy and international relations;Oct. 22-28, 1962: Cuban Missile Crisis[07400] [c]Military history;Oct. 22-28, 1962: Cuban Missile Crisis[07400] [c]Government and politics;Oct. 22-28, 1962: Cuban Missile Crisis[07400] Bundy, McGeorge Castro, Fidel Dobrynin, Anatoly Fyodorovich Feklisov, Alexander Keating, Kenneth B. Kennedy, John F. [p]Kennedy, John F.;and Cuba[Cuba] Kennedy, John F. [p]Kennedy, John F.;Cold War Kennedy, Robert F. [p]Kennedy, Robert F.;diplomacy Khrushchev, Nikita S. [p]Khrushchev, Nikita S.;Cold War McNamara, Robert Rusk, Dean Scali, John

In 1960, President Dwight D. Eisenhower Eisenhower, Dwight D. [p]Eisenhower, Dwight D.;and Cuba[Cuba] and the Central Intelligence Agency Central Intelligence Agency;Cuba (CIA) began organizing and training anti-Castro Cuban exiles for a potential invasion. When President John F. Kennedy entered the White House in 1961, he agreed to continue this program, and in April, more than fourteen hundred commandos landed at the Bay of Pigs. U.S. experts believed that the people would rise up and revolt against Castro during this assault, but Castro easily quashed this rebellion. Afterward, Kennedy hatched several assassination Assassinations and attempts;Fidel Castro[Castro] plots against Castro, and he sanctioned the CIA to conduct sabotage raids upon Cuban sugarcane fields, railroad bridges, and oil tanks through Project MONGOOSE []Project MONGOOSE .

(Video) The history of the Cuban Missile Crisis - Matthew A. Jordan

All of these attacks, however, backfired. Threatened with continuous military invasions and the loss of trade, Castro turned toward the Soviet Union for support. Foreign aid;Soviet Union He declared himself a Marxist-Leninist in 1961, and, afterward, Soviet influence substantially increased. By 1962, the Soviet Union had stationed several military advisers in Cuba, and Kennedy feared that communist influence ultimately could undermine U.S. hegemony in Latin America if this relationship continued to grow.

In October, 1962, Senator Kenneth B. Keating of New York startled the United States by alleging that offensive missile bases were under construction in Cuba. Keating did not reveal the source of his information, but a flight by a U.S. U-2 reconnaissance airplane on October 14 substantiated his charges. Long-range nuclear missiles, which had begun arriving in Cuban ports from Russia in September, were being installed at San Cristobal on the western part of the island. An international crisis of potentially catastrophic proportions threatened the safety of the world.

After President Kennedy viewed the U-2 photos on October 16, he called his key military and political advisers to the White House. The initial discussion centered on the issue of whether the missiles were fully armed and ready to fire. After concluding that the United States still had time before the Soviets attained nuclear readiness on Cuba, the president and his executive committee (Ex Comm) discussed various options. General Maxwell Taylor Taylor, Maxwell of the Joint Chiefs of Staff recommended an immediate air strike. Others, including Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara and McGeorge Bundy, the president’s special assistant for national security affairs, suggested that the president resort to diplomacy rather than war.

(Video) The Cuban Missile Crisis Explained In 20 Minutes | Best Cold War Documentary

By Thursday, October 18, a consensus had emerged from the discussions, and the next day, the president indicated that he favored a naval blockade as the first step. He also decided that he would announce his decision to the U.S. people on the evening of Monday, October 22. At 5:00 p.m., he briefed congressional leaders. An hour later, Soviet ambassador Anatoly Fyodorovich Dobrynin was ushered into the office of Secretary of State Dean Rusk, where he was handed a copy of Kennedy’s speech. At 7:00 p.m., the president spoke over nationwide television and radio.

The president then outlined the initial steps the United States would take to deal with the situation: a quarantine on offensive military equipment being shipped to Cuba; an assertion that any missile launched from Cuba would be regarded as an attack by the Soviet Union, requiring a total retaliatory response by the United States; emergency meetings of both the Organization of American States and the United Nations to consider this threat to peace; and an appeal to Nikita S. Khrushchev, premier of the Soviet Union, “to abandon this course of world domination, and to join in an historic effort to end the perilous arms race and to transform the history of man.” The quarantine was to become effective on October 24 at 10 a.m.

On Wednesday, October 24, the Soviet Union officially rejected the U.S. proclamation of quarantine. Late that day, however, some Soviet ships sailing toward Cuba altered course or stopped mid-sea. A direct confrontation between U.S. and Soviet ships could not long be delayed, as this crisis escalated into an international war of brinkmanship. The American Strategic Air Command went to Defense Condition 2, one step away from actual war; B-52 bombers took off with nuclear arsenals; and soldiers were moved to bases in the southeast and briefed for a potential invasion of Cuba.

(Video) The Cuban Missile Crisis (1962)





(Video) The Cuban Missile Crisis: At The Brink (PBS, 1992)

The first real thaw in the crisis occurred on Friday afternoon, October 26, when John Scali, diplomatic correspondent of the American Broadcasting Company (ABC), received a call from Alexander Feklisov (his Soviet State Security Committee, or KGB, cover name was Alexander Fomin), an official of the Soviet embassy who was also a KGB colonel and a personal friend of Khrushchev. At lunch, Feklisov proposed a settlement of the crisis and asked Scali if he could find out from contacts in the Department of State if it would be acceptable. The missile bases in Cuba, Feklisov said, would be dismantled and the Soviet Union would promise not to ship any more offensive missiles in exchange for a U.S. pledge not to invade Cuba. Scali immediately took this proposal to Rusk, who felt it was legitimate. At the same time, a personal letter from Khrushchev confirmed Feklisov’s offer, but it also reminded Kennedy that the Soviet Union’s actions were simply a response to his provocative measures toward Castro’s government.

The next day, the situation deteriorated when Khrushchev seemed to change the proposal markedly when he demanded that the United States abandon its missile bases in Turkey. This angered Kennedy. Despite the fact that the missiles in Turkey were of little strategic value, he felt that U.S. credibility was at stake. Several members of Ex Comm, including U.S. ambassador to the Soviet Union William Averell Harriman Harriman, William Averell , suggested that this provided Khrushchev with a face-saving alternative. The president and his advisers decided to proceed on the basis of the meetings with Feklisov and to ignore Khrushchev’s demand, but at the same time, Kennedy sent his brother, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, to meet with Soviet ambassador Dobrynin and secretly agree to remove the missiles in Turkey if the Cuban crisis were resolved peacefully.

Other news also threatened the peace. The afternoon of October 27, a U.S. U-2 strayed over Soviet airspace; it managed to return home safely, but Kennedy feared that the Soviets would view this as the first step in a preemptive strike. On the same day, another U-2 was shot down over Cuba, and as a result, most members of Ex Comm believed that a nuclear exchange was imminent.

(Video) The Cuban Missile Crisis: How Close Did We Actually Get to Armageddon?


What was the main cause of the Cuban Missile Crisis? ›

In October 1962, an American U-2 spy plane secretly photographed nuclear missile sites being built by the Soviet Union on the island of Cuba. President Kennedy did not want the Soviet Union and Cuba to know that he had discovered the missiles.

Who won the Cuban Missile Crisis and why? ›

Although Kennedy had the option of launching air strikes against the missile construction sites, he decided to come into terms with Khrushchev that would see the Soviets remove the missiles in exchange that the U.S. would not invade the Island. Unmistakably, the U.S. won by giving in to Khrushchev's demands.

What event ended the Cuban Missile Crisis? ›

After several days of tense negotiations, an agreement was reached between Kennedy and 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 to not invade Cuba ...

Why did USSR put missiles in Cuba? ›

Why did the USSR put nuclear missiles on Cuba? To close the missile gap: the Soviet leader, Khrushchev, knew the USA had medium and long-range nuclear missiles aimed at the USSR from bases in Turkey, just on the USSR's 'doorstep'.

How did JFK stop the Cuban Missile Crisis? ›

Kennedy announced that he was ordering a naval “quarantine” of Cuba to prevent Soviet ships from transporting any more offensive weapons to the island and explained that the United States would not tolerate the existence of the missile sites currently in place.

Why did Bay of Pigs fail? ›

When studying reconnaissance photographs, CIA analysts had failed to spot coral reefs in the shallow waters of the Bay of Pigs that impeded the progress of landing craft and disabled a pair of boats. In addition, one of the red signal lights carried by a frogman accidentally flickered offshore.

How did the US get out of the Cuban Missile Crisis? ›

Kennedy called for the Soviet Union to dismantle and withdraw its missiles from Cuba. Soviet Premier Khrushchev refused. The U.S. enacted a naval “quarantine” around Cuba, intercepting all Cuban-bound Soviet ships and turning away those thought to be or confirmed to be carrying weaponry.

Who really solved the Cuban Missile Crisis? ›

The next morning, October 28, Khrushchev issued a public statement that Soviet missiles would be dismantled and removed from Cuba. The crisis was over but the naval quarantine continued until the Soviets agreed to remove their IL–28 bombers from Cuba and, on November 20, 1962, the United States ended its quarantine.

What did the US gain from the Cuban Missile Crisis? ›

The Cuban missile crisis showed that neither the United States nor the Soviet Union were ready to use nuclear weapons for fear of the other's retaliation (and thus of mutual atomic annihilation). The two superpowers soon signed the Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty of 1963, which banned aboveground nuclear weapons testing.

What did Kennedy agree to do to end the crisis? ›

Eventually, Soviet Premier Khrushchev acquiesced to Kennedy's demands, agreeing to remove the missiles from Cuba publically if the United States military would promise not to invade Cuba and secretly remove missiles from Turkey, averting potential disaster and ending the Cuban Missile Crisis.

What was the closest to nuclear war? ›

Many nuclear historians agree that 27 October 1962, known as “Black Saturday”, was the closest the world came to nuclear catastrophe, as US forces enforced a blockade of Cuba to stop deliveries of Soviet missiles.

What were the three impacts of the Cuban Missile Crisis? ›

Kennedy and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev negotiated a peaceful outcome to the crisis. The crisis evoked fears of nuclear destruction, revealed the dangers of brinksmanship, and invigorated attempts to halt the arms race.

What did JFK do during the Bay of Pigs? ›

The Bay of Pigs Invasion in 1961 was a failed attack launched by the CIA during the Kennedy administration to push Cuban leader Fidel Castro from power.

Who holds the most nuclear weapons? ›

Russia has the most confirmed nuclear weapons, with 5,997 nuclear warheads. The United States follows behind with 5,428 nuclear weapons, hosted in the US and 5 other nations: Turkey, Italy, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands.

Does Cuba still have Russian missiles? ›

When the USSR began constructing ballistic missile sites in Cuba in the early 1960s, Cuba became the location of the most heated confrontation of the Cold War between the US and USSR. Since then, it has not been known to possess a nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons program.

Did President John F Kennedy cause the Cuban Missile Crisis? ›

President John F. Kennedy said the missiles would not be tolerated, and insisted on their removal. Khrushchev refused. The stand-off nearly caused a nuclear exchange and is remembered in this country as the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Was the Cuban Missile Crisis the closest the world has ever been to? ›

The Cuban missile crisis was the closest the world has ever come to nuclear war.

When did the Bay of Pigs start? ›

On April 17, 1961, 1,400 Cuban exiles launched what became a botched invasion at the Bay of Pigs on the south coast of Cuba. In 1959, Fidel Castro came to power in an armed revolt that overthrew Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista.

Why did Kennedy not support Bay of Pigs? ›

From the White House, US President John F Kennedy cancelled at the last minute the US air strikes that would have neutralised Castro's aviation. He did so because he felt the United States could not appear to be behind the invasion.

Why did they call it Bay of Pigs? ›

The Bay of Pigs (Spanish: Bahía de los Cochinos) is an inlet of the Gulf of Cazones located on the southern coast of Cuba.
Bay of Pigs
Native nameBahía de los Cochinos (Spanish)
EtymologyCochino meaning both "pig" and "triggerfish"
Part ofGulf of Cazones
Ocean/sea sourcesCaribbean Sea
19 more rows

Why did the US choose the Bay of Pigs? ›

The invasion was originally planned to occur at the city of Trinidad, but President Kennedy thought that they needed a more secluded place. The Bay of Pigs was chosen instead. The idea was that planes would fly in first and destroy the air force. Then the invasion force of 1500 soldiers would land.

What would Nixon have done in the Cuban Missile Crisis? ›

The first step would have been bombing runs to destroy Soviet anti-aircraft emplacements and then the missiles that were poised to destroy cities in the eastern United States. This would have been followed by a full-scale invasion to assure all the missiles had been destroyed and topple the Cuban government.

Was the Cuban Missile Crisis a success or failure? ›

Lauded as a crisis management success, nuclear weapons in Cuba were dismantled and returned to the Soviet Union, and the US agreed not to invade Cuba without direct provocation.

Who is the real hero in the Cuban Missile Crisis? ›

Vasily Aleksandrovich Arkhipov (Russian: Василий Александрович Архипов, IPA: [vɐˈsʲilʲɪj ɐlʲɪkˈsandrəvʲɪtɕ arˈxʲipəf], 30 January 1926 – 19 August 1998) was a Soviet Naval officer who prevented a Soviet nuclear torpedo launch during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

What was the most significant result of the Cuban Missile Crisis? ›

What were the most significant results of the Cuban Missile Crisis? The Soviets offered to remove their nuclear missiles from Cuba if America pledged not to invade Cuba. As a result, the US secretly removed missiles from Turkey and avoided nuclear war.

Why did the US get involved in the Cuban war? ›

The United States had millions of dollars invested in businesses in Cuba and there were many U.S. citizens in residence there. The U.S. also traded goods with Cuba. In 1898, the United States assisted in war to protect its citizens and businesses in Cuba.

What were two consequences of the Cuban Missile Crisis? ›

Consequences of the Cuban Missile Crisis

The Soviets removed their missiles from Cuba. America promised that they would not invade Cuba. America secretly removed their missiles from Turkey in 1963.

What was Kennedy's promise to America? ›

Kennedy spoke of a “new frontier” and promoted the expansion of programs to aid the poor, protect African Americans' right to vote, and improve African Americans' employment and education opportunities.

What were 3 options they came up with for getting rid of the missiles in Cuba? ›

Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara presents JFK with three options: diplomacy with Cuban leader Fidel Castro and Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev, a naval quarantine of Cuba, and an air attack to destroy the missile sites, which might kill thousands of Soviet personnel and trigger a Soviet counterattack on a target ...

What was Kennedy's goal by the end of the decade? ›

In 1961, President John F. Kennedy began a dramatic expansion of the U.S. space program and committed the nation to the ambitious goal of landing a man on the Moon by the end of the decade.

What US cities would be targeted first in nuclear war? ›

Irwin Redlener at Columbia University specialises in disaster preparedness and notes that there are six cities in the US that are more likely to be targeted in a nuclear attack – New York, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington DC.

Where is the safest country if there was a nuclear war? ›

So where is the safest place? Our computer modelling shows that should atomic annihilation be on the cards, one of the safest places to live would be Antarctica. Not only is this sub-zero continent miles from anywhere, it was also the site of the world's first nuclear arms agreement in 1959.

What is the safest state to live in if there was a nuclear war? ›

The safest place in the U.S. for nuclear war is considered to be the state of Maine. Maine is deemed to be safe due to its lack of nuclear plants and urban areas. Other potentially safe areas include Oregon, Northern California, and Western Texas.

Why was the USSR to blame for the Cuban missile crisis? ›

Soviet Premier Khrushchev decided to install nuclear missiles on Cuba to intimidate the United States. This was the catalyst for the Cuban Missile Crisis. The Cuban Missile Crisis was an escalation in the tensions between the two superpowers, which one historian called the 'most dangerous crisis of the Cold War.

What was the Cuban missile crisis for dummies? ›

The Cuban missile crisis was an event that occurred in October 1962. The crisis happened during the period known as the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union. When the Soviet Union placed missiles on the island of Cuba, the two major countries came to the brink of nuclear war.

What are the 3 most important events that occurred during the Cuban missile crisis? ›

Events of the Cuban Missile Crisis 1962
  • An American U2 spy plane discovered Soviet nuclear missiles on Cuba, missile launch sites were being constructed.
  • President Kennedy was informed of missiles on Cuba. ...
  • ExComm was divided – some wanted to attack while others wanted to negotiate.

How many American soldiers died in the Bay of Pigs? ›

The Bay of Pigs invasion ended not with a bang but with a flurry of final shots as the exiles ran out of ammunition. The brigade lost 118 men. They had killed more than 2,000 of Castro's defenders, their countrymen.

What did JFK say after the Bay of Pigs? ›

His press conference performance immediately after the Bay of Pigs, when he famously said that “victory has one-hundred fathers and defeat is an orphan,” helped blunt the political fallout from one of the biggest foreign policy fiascoes in U.S. history.

Did Kennedy support the Vietnam War? ›

In May 1961, JFK authorized sending an additional 500 Special Forces troops and military advisors to assist the pro‑Western government of South Vietnam. By the end of 1962, there were approximately 11,000 military advisors in South Vietnam.

Why did Ukraine give up nukes? ›

In 1994, Ukraine, citing due its inability to circumvent Russian launch codes, reached an understanding to transfer and destroy these weapons, and become a party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).

Does Canada have nukes? ›

Canada does not have nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons or relevant delivery systems, and is a member in good standing of all relevant nonproliferation treaties and regimes.

How many nukes does it take to destroy the US? ›

It will be enough for a nightmare. So only Russia can destroy the United States because they have 4200 nuclear bombs compared to 4000 for the United States.

Why did Russia put nukes in Cuba? ›

In response to these factors, Soviet First Secretary, Nikita Khrushchev, agreed with the Cuban Prime Minister, Fidel Castro, to place nuclear missiles on the island of Cuba to deter a future invasion.

Can Russian missiles reach US? ›

Can Russian missiles reach the US? According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, Russian land-based missiles could reach the U.S. in as little as 30 minutes, with submarine-based missiles striking 10 or 15 minutes after they are launched.

Does US have bases in Cuba? ›

The military facilities at Guantanamo Bay have over 8,500 U.S. sailors and Marines stationed there. It is the only military base the U.S. maintains in a socialist country.


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