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A Brief Summary, Timeline, and Facts About the Cuban Missile Crisis

Cuban Missile Crisis: Summary, Facts, and Timeline
The Cuban Missile Crisis was an important event in American history, and lasted for 13 days. This post gives you the summary, timeline, and the aftermath of the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Vijith Menon
Last Updated: Sep 25, 2017
Did You Know?
The only casualty during the Cuban Missile Crisis was Major Rudolf Anderson, Jr., who was shot down over Cuban airspace.
The Second World War led to a power gap between countries, with only two superpowers remaining - the Soviet Union and the United States of America. The aftermath of the war had left a bad aftertaste in both countries, and both of them were perpetually on high alert after that. This eventually passed onto the Cold War, with both countries poised for an attack.
The Cuban Missile Crisis was an event that almost led to a nuclear war between the US and the USSR. Here is its basic summary, followed by related important facts.
Cuban Missile Crisis Summary
Cuba had good diplomatic relations with USA, with President Fulgencio Batista allowing US-based industries to have cheap manufacturing facilities there. But all this changed after the overthrow of President Batista, and led to the revolution and reformation of Cuba by Fidel Castro.

Sensing that Fidel Castro would advocate communism instead of socialism, the US decided to overthrow Castro by a CIA-backed plan, called the Bay of Pigs. The mission involved sending Cuban exiles who received CIA training to enter through a pocket near an island called the Bay of Pigs. The mission backfired, with all the militants being either captured or executed. The Kennedy Administration took responsibility for this failed attempt. The Soviet Union persuaded Cuba to stock nuclear warheads to defend against a preemptive strike from the US. Thus, Cuba joined hands with its communist ally and refused any further negotiations with the US.

The missiles were aimed at Florida, which was 90 miles from Cuba. Various appeals to Cuba to remove the warheads failed. This led to a standoff between the Soviet Union and the US, with both parties refusing to budge, and Cuba stuck in the middle of it all. The upcoming sections summarize the events of the Cuban Missile Crisis, a confrontation which lasted for 13 days, and resolved at the behest of the cool-mindedness of two men - President John F. Kennedy and Premier Nikita Khrushchev.
● Oct 15, 1962
A U-2 spy plane takes photographic evidence of medium-range missiles placed in Cuba.

● Oct 16, 1962
The Executive Committee of the National Security Council (EXCOMM) was formed to advise the president on matters relating to Cuba.

● Oct 17, 1962
Photographic evidence of the missile sites are produced before EXCOMM.

● Oct 18, 1962
President John F. Kennedy attends a scheduled meeting with Soviet foreign minister Andrei Gromyko to confirm their actions regarding Cuba.

● Oct 19, 1962
EXCOMM suggests quarantining Cuba.

● Oct 20, 1962
Robert Kennedy, the Attorney General at the time gives EXCOMM's recommendation to President John F. Kennedy.

● Oct 22, 1962
President Kennedy gives a televised speech regarding the missiles in Cuba.

● Oct 23, 1962
Soviet ships on the way to Cuba stop 750 miles before the naval blockade of the US.

● Oct 24, 1962
Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev refuses to remove the missiles placed in Cuba. Pope John XXIII tries to avert a war by passing a message to the embassies of both nations.

● Oct 25, 1962
President Kennedy increases the number of flights from two per day to two every hour to patrol Cuban airspace.

● Oct 26, 1962
The US discusses invasion plans to remove the warheads from Cuba. At the same time, Pope John XXIII's pleas to end the war for the sake of peace are published in every national newspaper.

● Oct 27, 1962
President Kennedy agrees to stop the invasion of Cuba.

● Oct 28, 1962
Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev agrees to remove the missiles, and a nuclear war is averted with the resolving of the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Other Interesting Facts
● The United States had 170 intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM), while the Soviets had only 75. Plus, the US had placed missiles near Turkey and Italy, to defend against any possible threats.

● Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev decided to counter the imbalance in power by placing missiles in Cuba. These missiles were aimed directly at Florida, which was merely 90 miles away from Cuba.
● Another reason of placing missiles in Cuba was to bring war into West Berlin which was considered to be a part of East Germany. This was a bargaining chip considered by the Soviet Premier as a trade-off to remove the missiles in Cuba in exchange for West Berlin.
Post stamp of Fidel Castro
Fidel Castro
● Cuban dictator Fidel Castro secretly agreed to placing missiles inside Cuba. He agreed to join hands with the Soviet Union as an ally, since the Bay of Pigs incident deemed the US impossible to negotiate with.
● The Soviet Union commenced Operation Anadyr, wherein a total of 43,000 troops were brought in, under the guise of agricultural and irrigation specialists.

● Sensitive information concerning the details and placements of the missiles had reached US shores due to a mole in the Glavnoye Razvedyvatelnoye Upravlenie (GRU), Oleg Penkovsky.
● Navy reconnaissance aircraft photographed the presence of surface-to-air missile sites arranged in a pattern to protect ICBM bases. It was similar to the ones utilized by the Soviet Union.

● The US first obtained evidence when a U-2 plane piloted by Major Richard Heyser took photographs of an SS-4 construction site in western Cuba.
Post stamp of John F. Kennedy
U.S. President John F. Kennedy
● National Security Adviser McGeorge Bundy related the same information to US Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, and then to President John F. Kennedy. President Kennedy brought together nine members of the National Security Council and five other key advisers into a group, dubbed as EXCOMM.

● Without the knowledge of the Council, President Kennedy taped all their meetings.
● On October 18, President Kennedy attended a meeting with Soviet minister of foreign affairs Andrei Gromyko, to confirm their position regarding Cuba.

● On October 19, the 1st Armored Division was sent to Georgia, along with five other army divisions.
● The Organization of American States (OAS) agreed on a two-third majority to free Cuba from the clutches of the Soviet Union, giving legal justification to President Kennedy to administer a quarantine of Cuba.

● On October 22, President Kennedy made a televised speech pertaining to the actions of Cuba, and the impending threat of nuclear warheads aimed at the US.
Pope John XXIII
Pope John XXIII
● On October 24, Pope John XXIII's message to avert the war was passed on to both embassies. The Catholic Church was a neutral third party, and played a major part in cooling down tensions on both sides.
● On October 25, the Soviet Union ship Bucharest managed to pass through the quarantine.

● President Kennedy issued Security Action Memorandum 199, which authorized the loading of nuclear weapons onto aircraft.

● On October 26, a personal message arrived from Khrushchev, agreeing to a diplomatic solution on the condition that US would not invade Cuba then or in the future.
Post stamp of Robert Kennedy
Robert F. Kennedy
● On October 27, a U-2F plane was shot down by an undetermined commander.

● Backdoor negotiations between Attorney General Robert Kennedy and the Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin assured that a deal would be possible.

● On October 27, US destroyers forced a Soviet submarine to surface, unaware that it was carrying a nuclear torpedo. Luckily, the launch of the torpedo required the favor of 3 officers, but only two agreed.
● On October 28, both parties agreed to the removal of the missiles, and the quarantine lasted till November, where the American government saw the last components of the missiles leave Cuba.
The world had come very close to the brink of destruction during the Cuba Missile Crisis, but luckily, this was avoided just in time due to a compromise between the two superpowers.