Cuban missile crisis by Greg Zabrodskiy World in 1960s

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By Greg Zabrodskiy

World in 1960s

  • Cold War

    • Ideological war between the West and the Communism
    • Proxy wars (Korea) and stand-offs (Czechoslovakia, Berlin)
  • Nuclear threat

    • Both the US and the Soviet Union possessed nuclear arsenal
    • “Balance of power” was unclear

Cuban Revolution

  • Cuban revolt against dictator Fulgencio Batista lead to Communists taking over Cuba in January 1959

  • Fidel Castro lead the revolutionary government

  • CIA failed to overthrow Castro regime in the Bay of Pigs invasion in April 1961

  • The US was not ready to tolerate a communist state so close to its borders

Cuban – Soviet Alliance

  • Cuba, under imminent threat of new invasion, was looking for protection from the US

  • Soviet Union wanted to get a communist ally near American borders

  • The two country reached strategic alliance against the US

Nuclear Cuba

  • Soviet Union offered to install nuclear missiles on Cuba

    • Cuba: receives protection from further US threats
    • Soviet Union: gains strategic advantage against the US
  • Castro approved the Soviet proposal

Nuclear Plan

  • Building nuclear base was scheduled to late-summer/early autumn

  • About 60 missiles were to be delivered

  • Secret transport – delivering missiles by civil carriers

Looming disaster

  • CIA warns JFK about possible nuclear site in Cuba (Aug 10 1962)

  • U-2 spy flight reveals Surface-to-Air missiles (Aug 23-29 1962)

  • JFK to public: Only defensive missiles are discovered (Sep 4 1962)

  • Another U-2 flight is scheduled for October

Crisis Begins

  • New U-2 flight reveals nukes (Oct 15 1962)

    • First day of Crisis
  • JFK is alerted (Oct 16 1962)

    • Keeps information secret
    • Creates Executive Committee of the National Security Council (EXCOMM) to advise him during the crisis

American Response

  • EXCOMM worked on the strategy for 7 days

    • Was not clear if Soviet Union aware of America’s discovery
  • Naval Quarantine

    • The US warship stopped all the incoming vessels to Cuba
  • JFK publicly announces the Quarantine (Oct 22 1962)


  • American ships prepared for quarantine (Oct 23 1962)

  • Quarantine starts at 500 mile line from Cuba (Oct 24 1962)

  • Military is on the highest alert level in the US history

  • JFK to EXCOMM: Only invasion can resolve the crisis (Oct 26 1962)

Secret Negotiations

  • John Scali (ABC News) meets with the Soviet spy Fomin who asks for contacts in the US government (Oct 26, 1962)

  • The State Department receives 2 offers from Khrushchev

  • 1st letter: Demands freedom for Cuba (Oct 26 1962)

  • 2nd letter: Demands taking US missiles from Turkey (Oct 27 1962)

Crisis Peaks

    • The worst day of crisis, “Black Saturday” (Oct 27 1962)
    • U-2 plane shot down from Cuba
    • US dropped small charges on the Soviet nuclear submarine (unaware of the its nuclear weapons)
    • Another U-2 plane makes accidental flight over Soviet territory
  • EXCOMM considers Khrushchev’s offers

    • Agrees on terms of the 1st letter
    • Agrees “informally” on terms of the 2nd letter
  • Khrushchev announces termination of the missile plan for Cuba (Oct 28 1962)

  • American missiles removed from Turkey on Apr 24 1963

Crisis Summary

  • Closest the world ever been to nuclear war

  • Lasted from October 14 to October 28, 1962

  • Major players

    • JFK – American president
    • Nikita Khrushchev – Soviet leader
    • Fidel Castro – Cuban leader
  • America and Soviet Union had to negotiate to avert new World War


    • Since the second part of agreement was secret, the result was looked as a retreat by the Soviets
    • Khrushchev lost his position 2 years later
    • Cuba considered to be betrayed by the Soviets
    • Cuba received its protection from the US
    • Moscow-Washington telephone hotline was established
    • Nuclear containment: banning air testing of nukes
    • Temporary improvement in the US-Soviet relationship


A. In 1960 the Western world and the Communist bloc were engaged in…

  • Nuclear war

  • Cold war

  • World Cup competition

  • Disarmament dialogue

B. The Soviets were interested in Cuba because…

  • It was the best vacation spot for Politburo members

  • It was the world’s leader in sugar production

  • It was located close to American border

  • It could prove that communism could survive in the Western Hemisphere

C. Americans learned about the Cuban nuke site from…

  • Khrushchev’s letter to the State Department

  • The Soviet spy, Fomin

  • U-2 photos

  • Cuban emigrants

D. Americans tried to defeat the Cuban revolution by…

  • Invasion at the Bay of Pigs

  • Killing all Cuban pigs

  • Embargo on Cuban pork

  • Building a nuclear site at Guantanamo Bay

E. During the Cuban Crisis JFK was looking for advice from…


  • Ex-wife

  • X-MEN

  • ABC News

F. The US established the naval quarantine to…

  • Keep the Soviet missiles away from Cuba

  • Prevent the spread of swine flu that started at the Bay of Pigs

  • Destroy Cuban economy by keeping the tourists off

  • Prevent Cuba to send sugar to the Soviet Union

G. Khrushchev offered to stop nuclear shipment in exchange for assurance that…

  • Cuba is not going to be invaded

  • Castro has the first pick in the baseball draft

  • America stops nuclear testing in the air

  • The US frees Fomin, the Soviet spy

H. Khrushchev’s second letter demanded removal American nukes from Turkey. It was relevant because…

  • Turkey was a great vacation spot, just as Cuba

  • Turkey was trying to establish communistic government similar to Cuba’s

  • Turkey was as close to the Soviet border as Cuba to American

  • Turkey’s size is very close to Cuba’s

I. One of the consequences of the Cuban Crisis was…

  • A direct flight was established between Washington and Havana

  • America started trading with Cuba

  • A direct telephone line was build between Moscow and Washington

  • Cuban government denounced communism

J. Of the most dangerous incidents during the Cuban Crisis was…

  • Americans’ bombing the Soviet nuclear submarine

  • Castro’s being put in charge of launching nuclear missiles

  • The Soviet spy Fomin’s breaking into the ABC News building

  • JFK’s decision not to alert the public about the quarantine

Short Essay. Imagine Khrushchev did not write his letters to JFK. How do you think the crisis would have ended?

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