The Soviet Union had secretly stationed nuclear weapons on the island of Cuba, and when the government of the United States discovered them, and demanded their withdrawal, the most dangerous confrontation of the Cold War followed. A single miscalculation made either in the White House or the Kremlin could have precipitated catastrophe.
How did this standoff arise? How did the Superpowers extricate themselves from it? Was anything learned from the crisis? Should any party be held more at fault than the other?
The nuke on this missile had roughly the power of the bomb at Hiroshima. Temperatures in the submarine had climbed above degrees.
The captain felt doomed. We will die, but we will sink them all—we will not become the shame of the fleet. Had Savitsky launched his torpedo, had he vaporized a U. He was 34 at the time. Good looking, with a full head of hair and something like a spit curl dangling over his forehead.
What he said to Savitsky we will never know, not exactly. The exact details are controversial. On his sub, Savitsky gave the order and got one supporting vote, but Arkhipov balked. The official Soviet debriefs are still secret, but a Russian reporter, Alexander Mozgovoi , an American writer , and eyewitness testimony from intelligence officer Orlov suggest that Arkhipov told the captain that the ship was not in danger.
It was being asked to surface. Dropping depth charges left then right, noisy but always off target—those are signals, Arkhipov argued.
The Real Story Of The Cuban Missile Crisis, When The World Was On The Brink Of Nuclear Annihilation
Identify yourselves. Come up and talk. We intend no harm. Orlov, who had lived in America, heard from American radio stations that Russia had secretly brought missiles to the island, that Cuba had shot down a U.
JFK and the Cuban Missile Crisis | Miller Center
Navy to surround the island and let no one pass through. When Americans had spotted the sub, Savitsky had ordered it to drop deeper into the ocean, to get out of sight—but that had cut them off. For all they knew, the war had already begun. We do know that the nuclear weapons the Russians carried each ship had just one, with a special guard who stayed with it, day and night were to be used only if Russia itself had been attacked.
Or if attack was imminent. Savitsky felt he had the right to fire first.
From the outset of the crisis, Kennedy and ExCom determined that the presence of Soviet missiles in Cuba was unacceptable. The challenge facing them was to orchestrate their removal without initiating a wider conflict—and possibly a nuclear war. In deliberations that stretched on for nearly a week, they came up with a variety of options, including a bombing attack on the missile sites and a full-scale invasion of Cuba. But Kennedy ultimately decided on a more measured approach. First, he would employ the U.
Navy to establish a blockade, or quarantine, of the island to prevent the Soviets from delivering additional missiles and military equipment.
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Second, he would deliver an ultimatum that the existing missiles be removed. In a television broadcast on October 22, , the president notified Americans about the presence of the missiles, explained his decision to enact the blockade and made it clear that the U.
Following this public declaration, people around the globe nervously waited for the Soviet response. Some Americans, fearing their country was on the brink of nuclear war, hoarded food and gas. A crucial moment in the unfolding crisis arrived on October 24, when Soviet ships bound for Cuba neared the line of U. An attempt by the Soviets to breach the blockade would likely have sparked a military confrontation that could have quickly escalated to a nuclear exchange.
But the Soviet ships stopped short of the blockade.
Russia warns of repeat of 1962 Cuban missile crisis
Although the events at sea offered a positive sign that war could be averted, they did nothing to address the problem of the missiles already in Cuba. The tense standoff between the superpowers continued through the week, and on October 27, an American reconnaissance plane was shot down over Cuba, and a U. The year-old pilot of the downed plane, Major Rudolf Anderson, is considered the sole U. Despite the enormous tension, Soviet and American leaders found a way out of the impasse.
During the crisis, the Americans and Soviets had exchanged letters and other communications, and on October 26, Khrushchev sent a message to Kennedy in which he offered to remove the Cuban missiles in exchange for a promise by U. The following day, the Soviet leader sent a letter proposing that the USSR would dismantle its missiles in Cuba if the Americans removed their missile installations in Turkey.
Officially, the Kennedy administration decided to accept the terms of the first message and ignore the second Khrushchev letter entirely.