The Cuban Missile Crisis was a two-week standoff from October 16, 1962 – October 28, 1962. This was fought between two superpowers that left the world anticipating a third world war. There were many events that lead to the crisis.
To begin with, it is important to know the leaders of the opposing nations. The United States cabinet was made up of fifteen men: President John F. Kennedy, Attorney General of the United States Robert F. Kennedy, CIA Director John McCone, Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs Paul H. Nitze, Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara, Secretary of State Dean Rusk, Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson, Secretary of Treasury C. Douglas Dillon, Deputy Secretary of Defense Roswell Gilpatric, Under Secretary of State George W. Ball, Special Counsel to the President Theodore C. Sorenson, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Maxwell D. Taylor, Deputy Under Secretary of for Political Affairs U. Alexis Johnson, Special Assistant to the President for National Security McGeorge Bundy, and United States Ambassador-at-large Llewellyn E. Thompson. And the Soviet Leaders were: Premier of the Soviet Union Nikita Khrushchev, and Prime Minister of Cuba Fidel Castro.
President John F. Kennedy was shown photos taken by a U-2 pilot flying over Cuba of missiles. the United States and the soviet Union entered a proxy war. A proxy is a fight between two nations in which they fight each other through other countries. During this type of fight, each nation supplies the country their fighting through with supplies, training, and weapons. In the case of the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Soviet Union fought through Cuba and the United States fought through Turkey. Photos reached President John F. Kennedy’s office in October showing a picture of missiles. This picture was taken by a U-2 pilot flying over Cuba. In the photo there were pictures of nuclear missiles stationed on the island. These missiles were set up in launch sites and it looked Cuba was preparing an attack. This is a concerning photo to President Kennedy because Cuba is just 90 miles, (144 kilometers) off the coast of Florida. This looked like an attack was being prepared against the United States by Cuba.
The missiles stationed in Cuba were Soviet Union missiles, shipped to the island country from the heart of the U.S.S.R. Cuba and the Soviet Union had gained an alliance during this time. This alliance began following the Cuban revolution in 1959 where Fidel Castro was able to take control of Cuba and take the presidency from the former Cuban president Fulgencio Batista. On January 1, 1959. Cuban President Fulgencio Batista was forced to flee Cuba in order to remain safe. Fulgencio Batista’s dictatorship of Cuba had been full of corruption. But, he was considered as a pro-american ally. He was considered an ally to U.S businesses that had operations set up in Cua. At the time, American businesses owned about half of the Cuban sugar plantations. The United States also owned most of Cuba’s cattle ranches, mines, and utilities. Fulgencio did not do much to stop American businesses from dominating Cuban economy. But Castro on the other hand, he did not like how the American corporations took their businesses to Cuba. He wanted Cubans to rise up against these foreign corporations and regain more control of their country, Once Fidel had gained control of the presidency from Fulgencio, he made plans to reduce the American influence in Cuba. He soon began making efforts to nationalize industries on the island once dominated by American influence. And he told other Latin American governments to take steps to self govern themselves.
During the year 1960, Castro began to form an alliance with the Soviet Union and in response, the United States made an economic decision to cut trade with Cuba. This was bad for Cuba because most of the island’s industries were run by American companies and that is where most of the islands income was made from. In order to stop the Cuban economy from collapsing, the Soviet Union offered to start trading with Cuba. From here he began trading with the Soviet Union. They traded sugar and fuel between each other. Because Cuba began had now formed ties with the U.S.S.R, Castro began to rule Cuba as a dictatorship. A dictatorship is a form of government control in which the leader of the country decides laws without input from their nation’s citizens. The United States did not want to be associated with the communist dictatorship of Cuba because the United States is ruled as a democracy. A democracy is a form of government in which leaders are elected by the citizens of the country. Citizens are also able to vote on proposed laws to elect them or not. Because the United States viewed Cuba and Fidel Castro as a threat, an operation was established with the goal of removing Castro from his military and political control of Cuba. Basically, the mission was to assassinate Fidel Castro and remove communism from the country. This event became known as the Bay of Pigs invasion.
President Kennedy had taken over former president Dwight D. Eisenhower’s plan to with the CIA to train and support an army of Cuban exiles that were meant to overthrow Castro as Dictator of Cuba. Eisenhower had established training camps in Guatemala. By the time November came around, the United States was able to successfully train a small army of exiles ready to overthrow Castro. However, President Kennedy doubted the plan and feared that presence of the American forces in Cuba would be seen as an act of war by the Soviet Union. The last thing that he wished for, he stated, was an, “overt,direct” (Kennedy) intervention by the American military in Cuba. Officers in the CIA on the other hand, told President Kennedy that they would be able to keep their infiltration of the island a secret and if all went well, an anti-Castro spark would ignite and sweep through the island. So, he and the CIA made a plan to get rid of Castro.
“Before we attack Cuba, you’ve gotta be sure the Soviets understand it’s coming. In other words, you need to really escalate this.” (Robert McNamara). Their plan started with a plot to destroy the Cuban air force. This would make it impossible for the Cubans to defend themselves from foreign invaders. Then, an invasion of 1,400 trained exiles would would advance in the darkness of night and launch a surprise attack against the Cuban forces. Paratroopers would also drop over Cuba and would disrupt the transportation of soldiers and supplies. They would also repel Cuban forces. At the same time, a smaller force of soldiers would cause confusion by landing on the east side of Cuba. Following that, the main force would progress across Cuba to Matanzas to set up a defensive position. Led by Jose Miro Cardona, a former member of Castro’s dictatorship turned exile. If the invasion would result in a victory for the United States, then it would be Jose who would take up the presidency. Just as Castro did to Batista. Eventually, the day came. On April 15, 1961, a squadron of B-26 bombers took off from Nicaragua. They were painted to look like stolen Cuban planes to avoid suspicion when flying close to the island. They were preparing to attack Cuban airfields.
However, Castro had found out about the plot to attack the Cuban air force and even learned about the training camps in Guatemala. So, he ordered that the planes would be moved to another airfield. Angered by this failed attempt to destroy the Cuban air force, Kennedy began believing that the plan the CIA had promised would remove Castro and would be, “clandestine and successful.” (CIA) was in fact, “ too large to be clandestine and successful.” (President Kennedy) the worst thing was that at this point it was too late to call off the invasion. The fateful day came on April 17, The Exile brigade began advancing to a desolate location on the south of Matanzas known as the Bay of Pigs. There they began to set up a defensive position. Instantly, the invasion was a massive failure. The CIA wanted to keep the invasion a secret but it all fell apart due to a radio station. The CIA’s reconnaissance team failed to locate a single radio station on the beach.
It broadcasted every single detail of the invasion to people across Cuba. Coral reefs that had not been spotted had also sunken some of the exile ships as they pulled into shore. Paratroopers landed in the wrong spot, failing to cause the confusion they had planned on. Needless to say, Castro’s troops pinned the exiles on the beach. They were outgunned and outnumbered. It took less than a day for them to surrender. 114 exiles died and 1,100 were taken as prisoners. The reason the exiles and the CIA went through with the operation was because they believed that eventually, President Kennedy would give the American military permission to attack Castro for them. But Kennedy was unwavered. As much as he wanted to allow the troops to take charge. He did not want to risk a fight that he thought would have the chance of starting World War 3.
Following the failed invasion, Castro feared another U.S. attack to take him out of power. Due to this, he allowed the Soviet Union to install the missile. “ That’s what the Soviets said these weapons were for: to defend the territorial integrity of Cuba.” (Adlai Stevenson). Once Kennedy found out about the Cuban missiles, he imposed a naval blockade on Cuba. This further increased the tension between the two nations and the world began to feel unease towards the situation. In prepare for a nuclear attack, which was highly possible. Schools began to teach children how to hide underneath their desks to protect themselves from the blasts. And families began to build fallout shelters in their backyards. It seemed like the day was inevitable and this would be the start of World War 3. After the failed Bay of Pigs invasion. Kennedy was determined to stand strong and not falter against the Soviets.
Then, it finally happened. Cuba had their missiles aimed at the United States, the United States had prepared for this and aimed their missiles on Turkey at Cuba. The United States and the Soviet Union entered a standoff. The world waited and watched for the event that would unroll another world war. Due to the United States’ powerful and threatening navy, Khrushchev realized that he would be unable to defend Cuba and needed to find a way out of the standoff. He informed that Kennedy that he would take the missiles out of Cuba so long as the United States withdrew their missiles from Turkey. All in all, Although the two week standoff that could have changed the world forever was a frightening experience for many people. It was an important event. It had a huge impact on other places in the world and would lead to new treaties on nuclear weapons being signed and would show leaders that they needed to communicate with each other better. This event that changed the world will forever be known as, The Cuban Missile Crisis.
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