President Kennedy was the nation’s 35th president between 1961-1963. During his short term in office, he had to show much strength and leadership to the nation, to prove he could be a capable president. The dilemmas that President Kennedy faced during the Cuban Missile Crisis were to resolve a conflict without breaking into war and maintain peace with the Soviet Union. After World War II, a tense relationship between the Soviet Union and the United States was formed. This is often referred to as the Cold War, a rivalry that lasted decades and almost led both “to the brink of nuclear disaster” (“Cold War”). One of the first conflicts arose when Fidel Castro overthrew the dictator Fulgencio Batista on January 1, 1959. The United States started to grow uneasy because they had “owned almost half of Cuba’s sugar plantations and the majority of its cattle ranches, mines and utilities” (“Bay of Pigs Invasion”).
Castro was not a fan of the influence America had over Cuba and decided to ally himself with the Soviet Union. After this, Eisenhower had placed an embargo to forbid the importation of Cuban sugar. The Soviet Union, however, decided to buy Cuba’s sugar so as to prevent it from collapsing. Over the “next two years, officials at the U.S. State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) attempted to push Castro from power” (“Bay of Pigs Invasion”). “Before his inauguration, John F. Kennedy was briefed on a plan by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) developed during the Eisenhower administration to train Cuban exiles for an invasion of their homeland” (“The Bay of Pigs”). However, President Eisenhower left office before the scheduled invasion and it was now up to President Kennedy to continue the program. Early in the year 1920, Eisenhower had approved for the training of 1,400 Cuban exiles in order to overthrow Castro. On January 1961, the United States government “severed” relations with Cuba and continued with their plans for the invasion of the island (“Bay of Pigs Invasion”). President Kennedy “after consultations with his advisors, gave his consent for the CIA-planned clandestine invasion of Cuba to proceed” (United States Department of State). Kennedy had to keep the U.S. involvement a secret, and if the invasion were successful, it would start an uprising in Cuba. So, on April 15, 1961, a group of B-26’s (the U.S. had painted them to look like Cuban planes) took off from Nicaragua and headed towards Cuba. Their goal was to take out Castro’s air force, but the plan took a turn. Castro had known about the bombing and had moved his airplanes to a safer spot. Unfortunately, on April 17, 1961, Brigade 2506 (Cuban exiles) landed along an “isolated spot on the island’s southern shore” called the Bay of Pigs (“Bay of Pigs Invasion”). Once as the brigade stepped foot on the island, the invasion was an immediate disaster. Castro’s troops had killed over 100 men and captured more than 1,000.
After the humiliation in the Bay of Pigs invasion, President Kennedy decided to form a committee “under former Army Chief of Staff General Maxwell Taylor and Attorney General Robert Kennedy to examine the causes of the defeat suffered at the Bay of Pigs” (United States Department of State). Initiated in May 1961, but approved on November 1961, took up the code name Operation Mongoose. Operation Mongoose was designed to make up for what the Bay of Pigs invasion failed to do, remove Castro and the communist regime in Cuba (United States Department of State). While the United States government was busy with Operation Mongoose, the U.S.S.R. premier Nikita Khrushchev and Fidel Castro reached an agreement to place nuclear missiles in Cuba against another invasion attempt. The CIA and Department of Defense worked together and came up with a six-phase schedule. Edward Lansdale (Head of the Department of Defense) presented the plan “to Attorney General Kennedy on February 20, 1962, and President Kennedy received a briefing on the operation’s components on March 16, 1962” (United States Department of State). Unfortunately, Operation Mongoose did not achieve most of their goals planned and was later suspended on October 1962 when they came upon a more serious threat.
During the late summer of 1962, Cuba began to develop several missile sites and the U.S. became aware of a build of arms during a routine surveillance flight. On October 1962, a United States U-2 plane took photos of the several “ sites for medium-range and intermediate-range ballistic nuclear missiles (MRBMs and IRBMs) under construction in Cuba” (United States Department of State). This brought upon what is known as the Cuban Missile Crisis. President Kennedy met with his advisors in order to determine a resolution for the conflict. He decided on October 22 to order a naval “quarantine” on Cuba (United States Department of State). Kennedy also sent a letter on the same day to Nikita and “demanded the removal of the missiles already there and the destruction of the sites” (“Cuban Missile Crisis). Kennedy went on national television that evening to address the nation about the crisis in Cuba. Soon, both leaders came to an agreement where the Soviet Union promised to dismantle the missile sites if the United States promised to not invade Cuba. However, the next day (October 27), Khrushchev sent a second message saying“that any proposed deal must include the removal of U.S. Jupiter missiles from Turkey” but that same day a U-2 plane was shot down over Cuba (United States Department of State).
The president, responding to the first message, gave the “proposed steps for the removal of Soviet missiles from Cuba under the supervision of the United Nations, and a guarantee that the United States would not attack Cuba” (United States Department of State). On the morning of October 28, Khrushchev announced publicly that they would dismantle and remove the Soviet missiles from Cuba (United States Department of State). This was known as the end of the Cuban Missile Crisis, but it wasn’t until November 20, 1962, that the U.S. removed the quarantine. Although the beginning of the tense argument between the nations seemed difficult, President Kennedy demonstrated that he was capable of leading this country and help dissolve a conflict that could have possibly turned into a third world war. His image was weak at first but in the end, the result of the conflict strengthened him.
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