Thursday, December 09, 2004

The World On the Brink: John F. Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis

The World On the Brink: John F. Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis - Site for the 40th anniversary exhibit at the John F. Kennedy Library has a chronology and extensive links to documents and audio files.

From the site:

Forty years have passed since the hottest moment of the Cold War: the Cuban missile crisis.

U.S. forces around the world were placed on alert. More than 100,000 troops deployed to Florida for a possible invasion of Cuba. Additional naval vessels were ordered to the Caribbean. B-52s loaded with nuclear weapons were in the air at all times.

The United States had caught the Soviet Union building offensive nuclear missile bases in Cuba, just 90 miles from U.S. soil, and the two superpowers were now joined in the first direct nuclear confrontation in history. Reconnaissance flights over Cuba had begun in the summer of 1962, and surveillance photographs taken on October 14 showed the beginnings of a Soviet medium-range ballistic missile base near San Cristobal. Two days later, the President called together his most trusted advisers to serve as an Executive Committee of the National Security Council (ExComm). They discussed several courses of action -- everything from doing nothing to invading Cuba. After much debate, a naval blockade of the island emerged as the leading choice.

In a televised address on October 22, 1962, President John F. Kennedy informed the people of the United States of the Soviet missiles and of the "quarantine" placed around Cuba by the U.S. Navy.

Tensions mounted over the next few days as the world wondered if there could be a peaceful resolution to the crisis. On October 24 several Soviet vessels turned back from the quarantine line, though construction at the missile sites continued. Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev wrote a long letter to the President on October 26 proposing a settlement. He declared that ships bound for Cuba did not carry armaments and added that if the blockade were lifted and the President gave assurances that the United States would not invade Cuba, the missile sites would be removed.

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