The United States Considers Cuba a Threat Totalitarian regime in Cuba: In 1959, a socialist revolutionary named Fidel Castro overthrew Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista and set up a totalitarian regime. The United States considered the communist regime in Cuba, supported by the Soviet Union and close to the U.S. mainland, a threat to national security. Bay of Pigs invasion: Believing that an invasion of Cuba by exiled Cubans would cause a revolt against Castro, the United States financed and helped organize a military assault at the Bay of Pigs in southern Cuba. The invasion was a total disaster, with Cuban troops routing the invaders.
The Cuban Missile Crisis Soviet missiles in Cuba: In 1962, Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev ordered the placement of nuclear missiles in Cuba in an attempt to counteract the threat posed by U.S. nuclear weapons in Turkey. The United States blockaded Cuba to prevent Soviet ships carrying missiles from reaching Cuba. Nuclear war averted: Khrushchev agreed to turn back the fleet and remove Soviet missile launchers from Cuba if the United States removed its missiles from Turkey and pledged not to invade Cuba. Kennedy agreed. Realizing how close they had come to nuclear war, the two countries set up a hotline between Moscow and Washington to facilitate communications.
Discussion Why did the U.S. government see Castro as a threat to national security? Castro was a socialist and had ties with the Soviet Union. The United States saw this as a potential threat to their security from a country close to its mainland.
Discussion How was nuclear war averted during the Cuban Missile Crisis? Both sides agreed to remove missiles from neighboring countries and the United States agreed not to invade Cuba.
Predictable Misunderstanding You may be confused by the event called "The Bay of Pigs." The Bay of Pigs had nothing to do with pigs. It was the name of a bay located along the southern coast of Cuba. In 1961, Cuban exiles, who were trained and supported by the CIA, attempted an invasion to overthrow the Communist government led by Fidel Castro. The invasion failed.
The Domino Theory U.S. government influenced by theory: The United States government feared that other Asian countries would fall like dominoes to communism if communists succeeded in taking over South Vietnam. This "domino theory" had a strong influence on U.S. foreign policy in the 1950s and 1960s.
The Vietnam War Vietnam—a divided country: In 1954, Vietnam was divided into two parts with the North under the control of Communists and the South under non-Communists. They would remain divided until the end of the Vietnam War. U.S. troops to Vietnam: In 1965, President Lyndon Johnson sent troops to Vietnam to prevent the Communist regime in the North from invading and gaining control of non-communist South Vietnam. Unwinnable war: During the course of the conflict, neither side made significant gains. In 1973, President Richard Nixon reached an agreement with North Vietnam and withdrew U.S. troops. Within two years, the Communists controlled all of Vietnam.
Discussion In what way did the domino theory affect U.S. policy during the Cold War? The United States supported governments in several countries in Southeast Asia that were fighting against communist takeover.
Background The domino theory was popularized by President Eisenhower in 1954 in arguing for U.S. involvement in Vietnam: "Finally, you have broader considerations that might follow what you would call the 'falling domino' principle. You have a row of dominoes set up, you knock over the first one, and what will happen to the last one is the certainty that it will go over very quickly. So you could have a beginning of a disintegration that would have the most profound influences."
Discussion What common factor led to the "hot wars" that broke out in Asia during the Cold War? Korea and Vietnam had both been divided after they were controlled by other countries. The North in each country was ruled by communists and the South by anti-communists, which led to internal wars that involved major superpowers.