Cuban Missile Crisis was a confrontation between
States, the Soviet
Union, and Cuba in October
1962, during the Cold War.
Jupiter IRBM picture
Russia, former Eastern Bloc countries, and other communist
countries (i.e. China and North Korea), it is termed the "Caribbean
Crisis" ( , Karibskiy krizis), while in Cuba it
is called the "October Crisis" ( ).
September 1962, the Cuban and Soviet governments placed nuclear
missiles in Cuba. When United States military intelligence
discovered the weapons, the U.S. government sought to do all it
could to ensure the removal of the missiles. The crisis ranks with
the Berlin Blockade
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 a nuclear war
The tensions were at their height on October 27th, 1962, which was
known as "Black Saturday". On October 14th, United States reconnaissance
observed (with a US Navy F-8
Crusader) missile bases being built in Cuba. The crisis ended two
weeks later on October 28th, 1962, when President John F. Kennedy
and the United Nations
Secretary-General U Thant
agreement with the Soviets to dismantle the missiles in exchange
for a no-invasion agreement. In his negotiations with the Soviet
Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin
General Robert Kennedy informally
proposed that the Jupiter missiles in
Turkey would be removed "within a short time after this
crisis was over".
The last missiles were taken down by April
24th, 1963, and were flown out of Turkey soon after.In the meeting
between Attorney General Kennedy and Ambassador Dobrynin, the
ambassador was caught in a lie. He had told Kennedy previously, on
the basis of what Krushchev said, that the only missiles placed in
Cuba by the Russians were strictly defensive, and were not capable
of reaching the United States. Also discussed in this meeting was
the issue that no action was supposed to be taken on the part of
the Russians until the American Presidential elections were over.
This conversation, held on October 24, 1962, made the Soviet Union
The Americans feared the Soviet expansion of Stalinism
, but for a Latin American
country to ally openly with the
USSR was regarded as unacceptable, given the Russo-American enmity
since the end of the Second World
in 1945. Such an involvement would also directly defy
America's Monroe Doctrine
held that European powers should not get involved in American
The United States had been embarrassed publicly in the failed
Bay of Pigs invasion
which had been launched by the CIA
under President John F. Kennedy
. Afterwards, former President Eisenhower
told Kennedy that
"The failure of the Bay of Pigs will embolden the Soviets to do
something that they would otherwise not do." The halfhearted
invasion left Soviet premier Nikita
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." Covert operations
continued in 1961 in the unsuccessful Operation Mongoose
. Publicly, in February
1962, the United States launched an economic embargo
The United States considered covert action again and inserted
paramilitary officers from their Special Activities Division
General Curtis LeMay presented to
Kennedy a pre-invasion bombing plan in September, while spy flights
and minor military harassment from the United States Guantanamo Naval
Base were the subject of continual Cuban diplomatic
complaints to the U.S. government.
In September 1962, the Cuban government saw what it perceived to be
significant evidence that the U.S. would invade, including a joint
U.S. Congressional resolution authorizing the use of military force
in Cuba if American interests were threatened, and the announcement
of a U.S. military exercise in the Caribbean planned for the
following month (Operation
Khrushchev and Cuban leader Fidel
agreed to place strategic nuclear missiles secretly in
Cuba. Like Castro, Khrushchev felt that a U.S. 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 Soviet leadership believed that Kennedy would
avoid confrontation and accept the missiles as a fait
, based on Kennedy's perceived lack of confidence
during the Bay of Pigs invasion. The Soviet missiles in Cuba could
also been seen as a counter to the US Jupiter IRBMs in
President Kennedy gave a key warning in his first public speech on
the crisis (October 22, 1962):
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 on the United States, requiring a
full retaliatory response upon the Soviet Union.
This speech included another key policy:
To halt this offensive buildup, a strict quarantine on
all offensive military equipment under shipment to Cuba is being
All ships of any kind bound for Cuba from whatever
nation and 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.
ordered intensified surveillance, and cited cooperation from the
foreign ministers of the Organization of American States (OAS).
Kennedy "directed the Armed Forces to
prepare for any eventualities; and I trust that in the interest of
both the Cuban people and the Soviet technicians at the sites, the
hazards to all concerned of continuing the threat will be
recognized." He called for emergency meetings of the OAS and
United Nations Security
to deal with the matter.
U-2 reconnaissance photograph of Soviet nuclear missiles in
Shown are the transports and tents for fueling and
The first consignment of SS-3 MRBMs (medium range ballistic
missiles) arrived on the night of September 8, followed by a second
on September 16. The Soviets were building nine sites ‚ÄĒ six for
and three for SS-5s
with a 4,000 kilometer-range
(2,400 statute miles). The planned arsenal was forty
launchers, a 70% increase in first
capacity. The Cuban populace readily noticed it, with
over one thousand reports reaching Miami, which U.S.
intelligence considered spurious.
On October 7th, Cuban President Osvaldo Dortic√≥s
(1959-1976) spoke at
the U.N. 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". Several unrelated
problems meant the missiles were not discovered by the U.S. until
an October 14th Lockheed U-2 flight
showed the construction of an SS-4 site at San
Crist√≥bal, Pinar del
R√≠o Province, in western Cuba.
Planning an American Response
When President Kennedy saw the photographs on October 16th, he
assembled the Executive Committee of the National
(EXCOMM), fourteen key officials and his
brother Robert, at 9.00 a.m. The U.S. had no plan for dealing with
such a threat, because U.S. intelligence was convinced that the
Soviets would not install nuclear missiles in Cuba. The EXCOMM
quickly discussed five possible courses of action:
- #Do nothing.
- #Use diplomatic pressure to get the Soviet Union to remove the
- #An air attack on the missiles.
- #A full military invasion.
- #The naval blockade of Cuba, which was redefined as a more
Unanimously, the Joint Chiefs of
agreed that a full-scale attack and invasion was the only
solution. They agreed that the Soviets would not act to stop the
U.S. from conquering Cuba; Kennedy was skeptical, saying:
They, no more than we, can let these things go by
without doing something.
They can't, after all their statements, permit us to
take out their missiles, kill a lot of Russians, and then do
If they don't take action in Cuba, they
certainly will in Berlin.
Kennedy concluded that attacking by air would signal the Soviets to
presume "a clear line" to conquer Berlin. Adding that in taking
such an action, the United States' allies would think of the U.S.
as "trigger-happy cowboys" who lost Berlin because they could not
peacefully resolve the Cuban situation.
President Kennedy and Secretary of
Defense McNamara in an EXCOMM meeting.
The EXCOMM then discussed the effect on the strategic balance. The
Joint Chiefs of Staff believed that the missiles would seriously
alter the balance, but Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara
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 circa 5,000 strategic
warheads, whilst the Soviet Union only had 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 did agree, however, that the missiles would affect the
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,
U.S. credibility amongst their allies, and amongst the American
people, would have been damaged if they had 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."
A full-scale invasion was not the first option, but something had
to be done. Robert McNamara supported the naval blockade
as a strong but limited military action
that left the U.S. in control. According to international law
a blockade is an act of
war, but the Kennedy administration did not feel itself limited,
thinking that the USSR would not be provoked to attack by a mere
By October 19th, 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
was sent to Georgia, and five army divisions were alerted for maximal
The Strategic Air
(SAC) distributed its shorter-ranged B-47 Stratojet medium bombers
to civilian airports and sent
aloft its B-52 Stratofortress
In customary international practice, a blockade stops all shipments
into the blockaded area, and is considered an act of war.
Quarantines are more selective, as, in this case, being limited to
offensive weapons. While the original U.S.
paper did use the term
"blockade,"This initially was to involve a naval
blockade against offensive weapons within the framework of the
Organization of American
States and the Rio
Such a blockade might be expanded to cover all
types of goods and air transport. The action was to be backed up by
surveillance of Cuba. The CNO's scenario was followed closely in
later implementing the quarantine.
Kennedy made an address to the Nation in which he said "To halt
this offensive buildup, a strict quarantine on all offensive
military equipment under shipment to Cuba is being initiated."
"1962 Year In Review: Cuban Missile
differentiating between the quarantine of offensive weapons and all
materials, indicated that a classic blockade was not the original
intention. Since it would take place in international waters,
President Kennedy obtained the approval of the OAS for military
action under the hemispheric defense provisions of the Inter-American
Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance
(i.e., the Rio Treaty).
Latin American participation in the quarantine now
involved two Argentine destroyers which were to report to the
Commander South Atlantic [COMSOLANT] at Trinidad on
An Argentine submarine and a Marine battalion with lift
were available if required.
In addition, two Venezuelan destroyers and one
submarine had reported to COMSOLANT, ready for sea by November
The Government of Trinidad and Tobago
offered the use of Chaguaramas Naval Base to warships of any OAS nation for the
duration of the quarantine.
The Dominican Republic had made available one escort
Colombia was reported ready to furnish units and had
sent military officers to the U.S. to discuss this
The Argentine Air Force informally offered three SA-16
aircraft in addition to forces already committed to the quarantine
At 7 p.m., on October 22nd, President Kennedy delivered a televised
radio address announcing the discovery of the missiles. As part of
the context of the speech a directive went out to all US forces
worldwide placing them on DEFCON 3. The world wide US Forces DEFCON
3 status was returned to DEFCON 5 on November 20th, 1962.
On the 23rd of October at 11:24 a.m. a cable drafted by George Ball
to the U.S. Ambassador in Turkey and
the U.S. Ambassador to NATO notified them that they were considering making an
offer to withdraw missiles from Italy and Turkey in exchange for a
withdrawal from Cuba.
Later, on the morning of October 25th,
journalist Walter Lippman
the same thing in his syndicated column. For many years, this has
been interpreted as a trial balloon
floated by the Kennedy administration, although the historical
record suggests this is not the case.
At the time the crisis continued unabated, and that evening
on an exchange of telegrams between Khrushchev
and Bertrand Russell
, in which Khrushchev
warned that the United States' "pirate action" would lead to war.
However, this was followed at 9:24 p.m. by a telegram from
Khrushchev to Kennedy which was received at 10:52 p.m., 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
On the night of October 23rd, the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Strategic Air Command
to go to
, for the only confirmed time in
history. The message, and the response, were deliberately
transmitted uncoded, unencrypted, in order to allow Soviet
intelligence to intercept them. Operation Falling Leaves
quickly set up three radar bases to watch for missile launches from
Cuba. The radars were experimental models ahead of their time.
was connected with a hotline to NORAD control.
At 1:45 a.m., on October 25th, Kennedy responded to Khrushchev's
telegram, stating that the U.S. 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."
A recently declassified map used by the U.S.
Navy's Atlantic Fleet showing the position of American and
Soviet ships at the height of the crisis.
At 7:15 a.m., the USS
attempted to intercept the Bucharest
but failed to do so. Fairly certain the tanker did not contain any
military material, it was allowed through the blockade.
that day, at 5:43 p.m., the commander of the blockade effort
ordered the USS Kennedy to intercept and board the Lebanese freighter
This took place the next day, and the
was cleared through the blockade after its cargo
At 5:00 p.m., 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 the first air strikes on the Soviet Union).
The next morning, Kennedy informed the executive committee 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
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 U.S. 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.
At 1:00 p.m., John A. Scali
of ABC News
lunch with Aleksandr Fomin
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 U.S. 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 U.S. that it would never
invade Cuba. The U.S. responded by asking the Brazilian government to pass a message to Castro that the
U.S. would be "unlikely to invade" if the missiles were
At 6:00 p.m., the State Department started receiving a message that
appeared to be written personally by Khrushchev. 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 p.m., 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.
Castro, on the other hand, was convinced that an invasion was soon
at hand, and he dictated a letter to Khrushchev
which appeared to call for a
preemptive strike on the U.S. He also ordered all anti-aircraft
weapons in Cuba to fire on any U.S. aircraft, whereas in the past
they had been ordered only to fire on groups of two or more. At
6:00 a.m., on October 27th, 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
At 9 a.m., Radio Moscow
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
from Italy and Turkey.
At 10 a.m., 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
, was about 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
at the UN.
Air Force U-2 high altitude reconnaissance aircraft of the type
shot down over Cuba.
The aircraft in 1962 was painted overall gray.
While the meeting progressed, at 11:03 a.m. a new message began to
arrive from Khrushchev. The message stated, in part, "You are
disturbed over Cuba. You say that this disturbs you because it is
ninety miles by sea from the coast of the United States of America.
But... you have placed destructive missile weapons, which you call
offensive, in Italy and Turkey, literally next to us... I therefore
make this proposal: We are willing to remove from Cuba the means
which you regard as offensive... Your representatives will make a
declaration to the effect that the United States ... will remove
its analogous means from Turkey ... and after that, persons
entrusted by the United Nations Security Council could inspect on
the spot the fulfillment of the pledges made." 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,
while it is now known that Italy's Prime Minister Fanfani, who was also Foreign Minister
ad interim, offered the withdrawal of the missiles
deployed in Apulia as a
bargaining chip, entrusting the general manager of RAI-TV Mr. Ettore Bernabei, one of his most trusted
friends, who at the time was in New York to attend an international
conference on satellite TV broadcasting, to convey the message to
Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.
, which later
informed him of the President's agreement.
morning, a U-2 piloted by USAF Major Rudolf Anderson, departed its forward
operating location at McCoy
AFB, Florida, and at approximately 12:00 p.m.
Standard Time, he was shot down and killed by an S-75 Dvina (NATO designation
SA-2 Guideline) SAM launched from an
emplacement in Cuba.
The stress in negotiations between the
USSR and the U.S. intensified, and only later was it learned that
the decision to fire was made locally by an undetermined Soviet
commander acting on his own authority. Later that day, at about
3:41 p.m., several U.S. Navy RF-8A
reconnaissance aircraft on low-level photo
reconnaissance missions were fired upon, and one was hit by a
37 mm shell but managed to return to base.At 4 p.m., Kennedy
recalled the executive committee to the White House and ordered that a message immediately be sent to U
Thant asking if the Soviets would "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 leave the matter unless another
attack was made. In an interview 40 years later, McNamara remembers
(Note that he dates, from memory, the shooting down of the U-2 to
Friday, October 26):
We had to send a U-2 over to gain reconnaissance
information on whether the Soviet missiles were becoming
operational. We believed that if the U-2 was shot down that‚ÄĒthe
Cubans didn't have capabilities to shoot it down, the Soviets
did‚ÄĒwe believed if it was shot down, it would be shot down by a
Soviet surface-to-air-missile unit, and that it would represent a
decision by the Soviets to escalate the conflict. And therefore,
before we sent the U-2 out, we agreed that if it was shot down we
wouldn't meet, we'd simply attack. It was shot down on Friday
[...]. Fortunately, we changed our mind, we thought "Well, it might
have been an accident, we won't attack." Later we learned that
Khrushchev had reasoned just as we did: we send over the U-2, if it
was shot down, he reasoned we would believe it was an intentional
escalation. And therefore, he issued orders to Pliyev, the Soviet
commander in Cuba, to instruct all of his batteries not to shoot
down the U-2.
Drafting the response
Emissaries sent by both Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev agreed to
meet at the Yenching Palace Chinese restaurant in the Cleveland
Park neighborhood of Washington D.C. 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
USSR Ambassador in Washington to discover whether these intentions
were genuine. The EXCOMM was generally against the proposal because
it would undermine NATO, 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 argued that he
might accept it anyway. White House Special Counsel and Advisor
Ted Sorensen 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. 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.
An EXCOMM meeting during the Cuban
President Kennedy, Secretary of State Rusk, and Secretary of
Defense McNamara, in the White House Cabinet Room.
At Juan Brito'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
U.S. 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 U.S. 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 base 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 p.m., the letter drafted earlier in the day was delivered.
The message read, "As I read your letter, the key elements of your
proposals‚ÄĒwhich seem generally acceptable as I understand them‚ÄĒare
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‚ÄĒupon 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 p.m., 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 a.m., on October 27th, the U.S. 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 a.m.
the CIA reported that all missiles in Cuba were ready for
On October 27th, the US Navy dropped a series of "signaling depth
charges" (explosives designed to signal submarines) 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" (hole in the hull from depth
charges or surface fire).
Ending the crisis of 1962
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
At 9 a.m., on October 28th, 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
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 U.S. 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 U.S.
territory or from the territory of other countries neighbouring to
The practical effect of this Kennedy-Khrushchev Pact was that it
effectively strengthened Castro's position in Cuba in that he would
not be invaded by the United States. 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. However, 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.
However, 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
The compromise was a particularly sharp embarrassment for
Khrushchev and the Soviet Union because the withdrawal of U.S.
missiles from Italy and Turkey was not made public‚ÄĒit was a secret
deal between Kennedy and Khrushchev. The Russians were seen as
retreating from circumstances that they had started ‚ÄĒ 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
embarrassment at both Khrushchev's eventual concessions to the U.S.
and his ineptitude in precipitating the crisis in the first place.
However, the Cuban Missile Crisis was not solely responsible for
the fall of Khrushchev. The main reason was that rival politicians
such as Leonid Brezhnev believed
that Khrushchev did not have enough "power" to handle international
For Cuba, it was a partial betrayal by the Soviets, given that
decisions on how to resolve the crisis had been made exclusively by
Kennedy and Khrushchev, and certain issues of interest to Cuba,
such as the status of Guantanamo, were not addressed. This caused
deteriorated Cuban-Soviet relations for years to come. On the other
hand, Cuba continued to be protected from invasion.
One U.S. military commander was not happy with the result either.
General LeMay told the President that it was "the greatest defeat
in our history" and that the U.S. should invade immediately.
The Cuban Missile Crisis spurred the Hotline Agreement, which created the
line, 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
Various commentators (Melman, 1988; Hersh, 1997) also suggest that
the Cuban Missile Crisis encouraged U.S. use of military means,
such as in the Vietnam War.
Russo-American confrontation was synchronous with the Sino-Indian War, dating from the U.S.'s
military quarantine of Cuba; historians speculate that the Chinese attack
against India for disputed
land was meant to coincide with the Cuban Missile
Arthur Schlesinger, historian and
adviser to John F. Kennedy, on National Public Radio on October 16,
2002, concluded that Castro had not wanted the missiles but that
Khrushchev had forced them upon Cuba in a bit of political
arm-twisting and "socialist solidarity." However, Castro has said
that although he was not completely happy about the idea of the
missiles in Cuba, the Cuban National Directorate of the Revolution
accepted them to protect Cuba against U.S. attack, and to aid its
ally, the Soviet Union. Schlesinger believed that, having accepted
the missiles, Castro was angrier with Khrushchev than he was with
Kennedy when the missiles were withdrawn, because Khrushchev had
not consulted Castro before deciding to remove them from
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 and
IL-28 bombers, though General Anatoly Gribkov, part of the Soviet
staff responsible for the operation, stated that the local Soviet
commander, General Issa Pliyev, had
predelegated authority to use them if the U.S. had mounted a
full-scale invasion of Cuba. Gribkov misspoke: the Kremlin's authorization remained unsigned and
undelivered. (Other accounts show that Pliyev was given permission
to use tactical nuclear warheads but only in the most extreme case
of a U.S. invasion during which contact with Moscow was lost.
However, when U.S. forces seemed to be readying for an attack
(after the U-2 photos, but before Kennedy's television address,
Khrushchev rescinded his earlier permission for Pliyev to use the
tactical nuclear weapons, even under the most extreme
Castro has stated that he knew during the crisis that the warheads
had indeed reached Cuba, and that he would have recommended their
use in the event of invasion, despite being sure that Cuba would be
completely destroyed should nuclear war break out.
In October 1997, The John F. Kennedy Library released a set of tape
recordings documenting the crisis for the period October 18 to
October 26, 1962. These recordings were made in the Oval Office.
They include President Kennedy's personal recollections of
discussions, conversations with his advisers, meetings with the
Joint Chiefs of Staff and members of the president's executive
Arguably the most dangerous moment in the crisis was unrecognized
until the Cuban
Missile Crisis Havana conference in October 2002, attended by
many of the veterans of the crisis, at which it was learned that on
October 26, 1962 the USS Beale
had tracked and dropped signalling depth charges on the B-39, a
Soviet Foxtrot-class submarine which was armed with a 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-39, including submarine
captain Valentin Savitsky, political officer Ivan Semonovich Maslennikov, and
chief of staff of the submarine flotilla, Commander Vasiliy 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.
At the Cuban
Missile Crisis Havana conference, Robert McNamara admitted that
nuclear war had come much closer than people had thought. Thomas
Blanton, director of the National Security Archive, said that "a
guy called Vasili Arkhipov saved the world."
The short time span of the Cuban Missile Crisis and the extensive
documentation of the decision-making processes on both sides makes
it an excellent case study for analysis of state decision-making.
In the Essence of
Decision, Graham T.
Allison and Philip D. Zelikow use the crisis to illustrate
multiple approaches to analysing the actions of the state.
It was also a substantial focus of the 2003 documentary
The Fog of War, which won an Oscar.
- Allison, Graham and Zelikow, P. Essence of Decision:
Explaining the Cuban Missile Crisis; New York: Longman,
- Blight, James G., and David A. Welch. On the Brink:
Americans and Soviets Reexamine the Cuban Missile Crisis; New
York: Hill and Wang, 1989.
- Chayes, Abram. The Cuban Missile Crisis, International
Crisis and the Role of Law; Oxford University Press, 1974; 2nd
- Diez Acosta, Tom√°s, October 1962: The 'Missile' Crisis As
Seen From Cuba; Pathfinder Press, New York, 2002.
- Divine, Robert A. The Cuban Missile Crisis; New York:
M. Wiener Pub.,1988.
- Dobbs, Michael. One Minute to Midnight: Kennedy,
Khrushchev, and Castro on the Brink of Nuclear War; Alfred A.
Knopf, New York, 2008; ISBN 978-1-4000-4358-3.
- Faria, Miguel, Cuba in Revolution‚ÄĒEscape from a Lost
Paradise(2002); Hacienda Publishing, Macon, Georgia, ISBN
- Frankel, Max, High Noon in the Cold War; Ballantine
Books, 2004; Presidio Press (reprint), 2005; ISBN
- Fursenko, Aleksandr, and Naftali, Timothy; One Hell of a
Gamble - Khrushchev, Castro and Kennedy 1958-1964; W.W. Norton
(New York 1998)
- Fursenko, Aleksandr; Night Session of the Presidium of the Central
Committee, 22-23 October; Naval War College Review, vol.
59, no. 3 (Summer 2006).
- Gonzalez, Servando The Nuclear Deception: Nikita Khrushchev
and the Cuban Missile Crisis; IntelliBooks, 2002; ISBN
- Kennedy, Robert F. Thirteen Days: A Memoir of the Cuban
Missile Crisis; ISBN 0-393-31834-6.
- Khrushchev, Sergei, How my father and President Kennedy
saved the world; American Heritage magazine, October 2002
- May, Ernest R. (editor); Zelikow, Philip D. (editor), The
Kennedy Tapes: Inside the White House during the Cuban Missile
Crisis; Belknap Press, 1997; ISBN 0-674-17926-9.
- Polmar, Norman and Gresham, John D. (foreword by Clancy, Tom)
DEFCON ‚Äď 2: Standing on the Brink of Nuclear War During the
Cuban Missile Crisis; Wiley, 2006; ISBN 0-471-67022-7.
- Pope, Ronald R., Soviet Views on the Cuban Missile Crisis:
Myth and Reality in Foreign Policy Analysis; University Press
of America, 1982.
- Pressman, Jeremy. "September Statements, October Missiles,
November Elections: Domestic Politics, Foreign-Policy Making, and
the Cuban Missile Crisis.‚ÄĚ Security Studies 10, no. 3
(Spring, 2001), pages 80‚Äď114.
- Stern, Sheldon M., Averting the Final Failure: John F.
Kennedy and the Secret Cuban Missile Crisis Meetings; Stanford
University Press, 2003; ISBN 0-804-74846-2
- The Cuban Missile Crisis: Declassified (Television
- The CWIHP at the Wilson Center for International
Scholars Document Collection on the Cuban Missile Crisis
- New Photos (2009) of the Missile Sites of the Cuban
- IV. Chronology of Submarine. Contact During the Cuban Missile Crisis. October 1, 1962 - November 14, 1962. Prepared by Jeremy Robinson-Leon and William
- CIA Documents on the Cuban Missile Crisis,
1962(.pdf, 354 pgs.) U.S. Central Intelligence Agency,
McAuliffe, M. ed., CIA History Staff, 1992.
- Cuban Missile Crisis and Aftermath, 1961 - 1963,
Volume XI of the Kennedy
Administration in the Foreign
Relations of the United States series, U.S. Department of State, Office of the Historian, Keefer, E., Sampson, C.,
& Smith, L., Eds., U.S. Government Printing Office,
Washington, D.C., 1996. The official U.S. documentary historical
- Declassified Documents, etc. - Provided by the
National Security Archive
at The George Washington
- Declassified "Memorandum for the Secretary of Defense" on
"Justification for U.S. Military Intervention in Cuba," from the
Joint Chiefs of Staff,
Washington, D.C., March 13, 1962, html text from Cryptome .pdf from National Security Archive, at
George Washington University.
- Transcripts and Audio of EXCOMM meetings -
Provided by the Miller Center's Presidential Recordings Program,
University of Virginia.
of debates between JFK and his advisors during the crisis
- President Kennedy's Address to the Nation on the
Soviet Arms Buildup in Cuba
- The World On the Brink: John F. Kennedy and the
Cuban Missile Crisis
- 14 Days in October: The Cuban Missile Crisis - a site
geared toward high-school students
- Nuclear Files.org Introduction, timeline and
articles regarding the Cuban Missile Crisis
- Cuba Havana Documentary Bye Bye Havana is a
documentary revealing what Cubans are thinking about today
- Annotated bibliography on the Cuban Missile Crisis
from the Alsos Digital Library.
- October, 1962: DEFCON 4, DEFCON 3
- Spartacus Educational(UK): Cuban Missile
- Latin American Task Force
- What the President didn't know
- Document - Britain's Cuban
- The Cuban Missile War: an alternate history timeline
- No Time to
Talk: The Cuban Missile Crisis
- S.Isaev. The 32nd Guards Air Fighter Regiment in Cuba