Thursday, October 22, 2009

This Day in History- October 22

Cuban Missile Crisis

On October 22, 1962, President Kennedy announced that Soviet Nuclear Missiles had been discovered in Cuba. These were medium range missile capable of hitting most of the cities on the Eastern seaboard, including Washington. Kennedy stated that he was ordering a naval "quarantine" of Cuba to prevent Soviet ships from transporting any more offensive weapons to the island and explained that the United States would not tolerate the existence of the missile sites currently in place. Kennedy made it clear that America would not stop short of military action to end what he called a "clandestine, reckless, and provocative threat to world peace."

The Cuban Missile Crisis actually began on October 15, 1962--the day that U.S. intelligence personnel analyzing U-2 spy plane data discovered that the Soviets were building medium-range missile sites in Cuba. The next day, President Kennedy secretly convened an emergency meeting of his senior military, political, and diplomatic advisers to discuss the ominous development. The group became known as ExCom, short for Executive Committee. After rejecting a surgical air strike against the missile sites, ExCom decided on a naval quarantine and a demand that the bases be dismantled and missiles removed. At the direction of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, U.S. military forces went to DEFCON 2, the highest military alert ever reached in the postwar era, as military commanders prepared for full-scale war with the Soviet Union.

The next day, however, Khrushchev upped the ante by publicly calling for the dismantling of U.S. missile bases in Turkey under pressure from Soviet military commanders. Later that day, a U-2 spy plane was shot down over Cuba, and its pilot, Major Rudolf Anderson, was killed. Waffling, Kennedy forbid a military retaliation unless any more surveillance planes were fired upon over Cuba. Kennedy's advisers convinces him to agree to dismantle the U.S. missile sites in Turkey but at a later date, in order to prevent the protest of Turkey, a key NATO member.

On October 28, Khrushchev announced that he would dismantle and remove all offensive Soviet weapons in Cuba. With the airing of the public message on Radio Moscow, the USSR confirmed its willingness to proceed with the solution secretly proposed by the Americans the day before. The world stepped back from the brink of nuclear war and what became known as the Cuban Missile Crisis was over. By the end of 1962 all the Nuclear missiles had been removed. Soon after, the United States quietly removed its missiles from Turkey.

The removal of obsolete Jupiter missiles from Turkey had no detrimental effect on U.S. nuclear strategy, but the Cuban Missile Crisis convinced a humiliated USSR to commence a massive nuclear buildup. In the 1970s, the Soviet Union reached nuclear parity with the United States and built intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of striking any city in the United States. However, later review of Soviet technology leads many to believe that the design and manufacturing flaws in Soviet ICBM would result in many being unable to launch, and most unable to hit within 50 miles of their targets.

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