Cuban Missile Crisis

October 1962 confrontation between the Soviet Union, Cuba and the United States

The Cuban Missile Crisis, also known as the October Crisis, the Caribbean Crisis, or the Missile Scare, was a 13-day (October 16–28, 1962) confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union concerning American ballistic missile deployment in Italy and Turkey with consequent Soviet ballistic missile deployment in Cuba. The confrontation is often considered the closest the Cold War came to escalating into a full-scale nuclear war.

President John F. Kennedy and his Secretary of Defense| Robert McNamara deliberate during the crisis.


... a surprise attack would erode if not destroy the moral position of the United States throughout the world. ~ Robert F. Kennedy
  • It shall be the policy of this nation to regard any nuclear missile launched from Cuba against any nation in the Western Hemisphere as an attack by the Soviet Union on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon the Soviet Union.
  • To halt this offensive buildup, a strict quarantine on all offensive military equipment under shipment to Cuba is being initiated. All ships of any kind bound for Cuba, from whatever nation or port, will, if found to contain cargoes of offensive weapons, be turned back. This quarantine will be extended, if needed, to other types of cargo and carriers. We are not at this time, however, denying the necessities of life as the Soviets attempted to do in their Berlin blockade of 1948.
  • My fellow citizens: let no one doubt that this is a difficult and dangerous effort on which we have set out. No one can see precisely what course it will take or what costs or casualties will be incurred. Many months of sacrifice and self-discipline lie ahead--months in which our patience and our will will be tested--months in which many threats and denunciations will keep us aware of our dangers. But the greatest danger of all would be to do nothing.

    The path we have chosen for the present is full of hazards, as all paths are--but it is the one most consistent with our character and courage as a nation and our commitments around the world. The cost of freedom is always high--and Americans have always paid it. And one path we shall never choose, and that is the path of surrender or submission.

    Our goal is not the victory of might, but the vindication of right- -not peace at the expense of freedom, but both peace and freedom, here in this hemisphere, and, we hope, around the world. God willing, that goal will be achieved.

  • 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.
  • We must respond to this reckless gesture with a joint decision. Otherwise, the Soviet Union will move on to ever more flagrant violations of the requirements for international peace and freedom, until we will be left with no other options but complete capitulation or the outbreak of a nuclear holocaust.
  • It is, therefore, understandable that it deeply displeases the conscience of the Brazilian people any form of intervention in an American State, inspired by the allegation of incompatibility with its political regime, to impose on it the practice of the representative system by external coercive means, which take away its democratic character and validity.

About Cuban Missile CrisisEdit

Fifty years ago, the Cuban missile crisis brought the world to the brink of nuclear disaster. During the standoff, US President John F. Kennedy thought the chance of escalation to war was "between 1 in 3 and even," and what we have learned in later decades has done nothing to lengthen those odds. ~ Graham T. Allison
  • Fifty years ago, the Cuban missile crisis brought the world to the brink of nuclear disaster. During the standoff, US President John F. Kennedy thought the chance of escalation to war was "between 1 in 3 and even," and what we have learned in later decades has done nothing to lengthen those odds. We now know, for example, that in addition to nuclear-armed ballistic missiles, the Soviet Union had deployed 100 tactical nuclear weapons to Cuba, and the local Soviet commander there could have launched these weapons without additional codes or commands from Moscow. The US air strike and invasion that were scheduled for the third week of the confrontation would likely have triggered a nuclear response against American ships and troops, and perhaps even Miami. The resulting war might have led to the deaths of 100 million Americans and over 100 million Russians.
  • Just what Khrushchev intended to do with his Cuban missiles is, even now, unclear: it was characteristic of him not to think things through. He could hardly have expected Americans not to respond, since he had sent the missiles secretly while lying to Kennedy about his intentions to do so. He might have meant the intermediate-range missiles solely for deterrence, but he also dispatched short-range missiles equipped with nuclear warheads that could only have been used to repel a landing by American troops—who would not have known that these weapons awaited them. Nor had Khrushchev placed his nuclear weapons under tight control: local commanders could in response to an invasion, have authorized their use. The best explanation, in the end, is that Khrushchev allowed his ideological romanticism to overrun whatever capacity he had for strategic analysis. He was so emotionally committed to the Castro revolution that he risked his own revolution, his country, and possibly the world on its behalf. "Nikita loved Cuba very much, Castro himself later acknowledged. “He had a weakness for Cuba, you might say—emotionally, and so on—because he was a man of political conviction.” But so too, of course, were Lenin and Stalin, whho rarely allowed their emotions to determine their revolutionary priorities. Khrushchev wielded a far greater capacity for destruction than they ever did, but he behaved with far less responsibility. He was like a petulant child playing with a loaded gun.  
  • But the Cuban missile crisis, in a larger sense, served much the same function that blinded and burned birds did for the American and Soviet observers of the first thermonuclear bomb tests a decade earlier. It persuaded everyone involved in it—with the possible exception of Castro, who claimed, even years afterward, to have been willing to die in a nuclear conflagration—that the weapons each side had developed during the Cold War posed a greater threat to both sides than the United States and the Soviet Union did to each other. This improbable series of events, universally regarded now as the closest the world came, during the second half of the 20th century, to a third world war, provided a glimpse of a future no one wanted: of a conflict projected beyond restraint, reason, and the likelihood of survival.
  • What kept war from breaking out, in the fall of 1962, was the irrationality, on both sides, of sheer terror. That is what Churchill had foreseen when he saw hope in an "equality of annihilation." It is what Eisenhower had understood when he ruled out fighting limited nuclear wars: his strategy left no option than an assurance of total destruction, on the assumption that this, rather than trying to orchestrate levels of destruction while a war was going on, would best prevent any war at all from breaking out.
  • I want to say, and this is very important: at the end we lucked out. It was luck that prevented nuclear war. We came that close to nuclear war at the end. Rational individuals: Kennedy was rational; Khrushchev was rational; Castro was rational. Rational individuals came that close to total destruction of their societies. And that danger exists today.
  • The major lesson of the Cuban Missile Crisis is this: The indefinite combination of human fallibility and nuclear weapons will destroy nations. Is it right and proper that today there are 7500 strategic offensive nuclear warheads, of which 2500 are at 15 minute alert to be launched by the decision of one human being?
  • Pentagon leaders urged Kennedy to attack Cuba -- a possibly dangerous move that could have triggered a nuclear war with Moscow. Assuming nuclear weapons would not be used on the island against American invading forces, war planners expected as many as 18,500 US casualties within the first 10 days of a Cuban invasion, according to a now-declassified top secret Pentagon memo.
  • "Missile crews were placed on maximum alert," Robert F. Kennedy wrote. "Troops were moved into Florida and the southeastern part of the United States. ... The Navy deployed 180 ships into the Caribbean. ... The B-52 bomber force was ordered into the air fully loaded with atomic weapons."
    But the idea of a surprise US attack on Cuba didn't sit well with some of the President's advisers, including his brother.
    "... a surprise attack would erode if not destroy the moral position of the United States throughout the world," Robert F. Kennedy wrote in his book.

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