Why did the Soviet Union put nuclear missiles in Cuba? Were the actions of the Kennedy administration responsible for the Cuban Missile Crisis?
Bay of Pigs – Invasion of Cuba On April 17, 1961, Cuban exiles invaded Cuba with U.S. government backing in a failed effort to overthrow Fidel Castro. The invasion made Castro wary of the U.S. He was convinced that the Americans would try to take over the island again. From the Bay of Pigs on, Castro had an increased fear of a U.S. incursion on Cuban soil. Whom does Castro turn to for help?
JFK and Turkish President Celal Bayar sign agreement for the deployment of 15 nuclear-tipped Jupiter missiles in Turkey. Missiles are to be aimed at the Soviet Union. (June of 1961) U.S. Nuclear Missiles – Aimed at USSR
Who had the most nuclear bases? NATO = USSR = USA = Warsaw Pact = Why was Khrushchev so interested in Cuba? He desired the placement of Soviet nuclear missiles in Cuba to match the US missile placement along the Soviet border.
May, 1962: Khrushchev makes veiled references to a plot (How would the U.S. feel to have missiles pointing at them, as they have missiles pointed at us?) September: JFK and Congress issue warnings to USSR that US will deal harshly with any threats to national security A Game of Chicken?
October 14: U2 recon. flight over Cuba spots sites installing nuclear missiles October 15: Presence of missiles is confirmed EVIDENCE
In October 1962, after the Soviet Union stationed nuclear missiles in Fidel Castro's Cuba, President John F. Kennedy called upon Dean Acheson for advice. With typical self-assurance, the grand old man of the Cold War bellowed his recommendation at a meeting of the so- called ExComm of top Kennedy aides: a swift U.S. airstrike to take out the nukes. When asked what the result would be, Acheson replied that Moscow would then destroy a cache of NATO nuclear missiles in Turkey. Then what? he was asked. Under our NATO obligations, Acheson said, Washington would have to attack a nuclear base within the Soviet Union itself. And then? Acheson paused. "That's when we hope," the magisterial wise man said, "that cooler heads will prevail, and they'll stop and talk." How do you think Kennedy responded to this reply?
This map shows the range of the Soviet missiles which caused the American people such fear and shock. The Monroe Doctrine was definitely in jeopardy! The Strike Zone
What could the USA do? President Kennedy organized ExComm (the Executive Committee). This was group of political and military advisors including Robert Kennedy and Theodore Sorensen. They debated what to do day and night for nearly seven days! The wrong decision would lead to nuclear war.
do nothing launch a full-scale invasion of Cuba send US troops into Berlin undertake a ‘surgical strike’ on the missile bases blockade the island order the CIA to assassinate Castro. Put yourself in the position of ExComm. Consider each of the below proposals. Suggest positive and negative reasons for acting on each. What decision should ExComm have taken?
What did the USA do? On 22 October, Kennedy announced a “strict quarantine on all offensive military equipment under shipment to Cuba”. If Soviet vessels did not stop, US ships had orders to fire. Why do you think Kennedy took this decision? At the same time, Kennedy ordered his forces to be ready for war. The world had never been closer to nuclear conflict. Kennedy stated that if the blockade is ‘forced’, the USA will be at war. The Soviet ships continued to sail towards Cuba. Nuclear catastrophe was hanging by a thread... and we weren't counting days or hours, but minutes.“ -Soviet General and Army Chief of Operations, Anatoly Gribkov
During and after the crisis, Americans were treated to this “ironic” parlor game which pits both leaders in a Yahtzee like dice game. The reality was far more terrifying as Americans planned for the worst.
They were told to make temporary fallout shelters in their basements. Stockpile food and essential supplies. All military personnel were placed on alert and SAC bombers were in the air 24 hours a day.
The government published pamphlets which explained to everyday Americans the dangers of nuclear fallout.
The impact of the blockade Click on the arrows to move through the timeline.
Turkey missile deal remained secret. WHY? Test-ban treaty signed in 1963 – ban on testing nuclear weapons. Cold War never became as serious again. Despite future tensions, there was a major change in attitude. Is this fair? Why should Khrushchev be praised? Both superpowers realized how close they had come to nuclear war. Kennedy appeared to have stood up to communism – massive public opinion boost. Khrushchev came out of the crisis badly – criticized both for trying to place missiles in Cuba, and also for giving into the USA. Impact of the Cuban Missile Crisis, 1962 The Impact of the Crisis Telephone hotline set up in 1963.
Consider the impact of the crisis. Arrange these statements in order of importance.