Cuban Missile Crisis

Cold War Tensions Lead to Cuban Missile Crisis
In the early 1960s, the United States were engaged in a full out Cold War with the Soviet Union. This involved an "arms race" between the two, building up and creating new weapons to one up the other. Nuclear weapons were the most deadly of these weapons created and many threats went back and forth between the US and USSR. The Soviet leader at this time, Nikita Khrushchev, had an idea to plant missiles in Cuba. Khrushchev had his reasons for doing this including:

  1. The US had installed missiles in Turkey, a nation next to the Soviets, so the USSR felt as though they should create some balance,
  2. Fidel Castro, the leader of Cuba, was in the middle a Communist Revolution, and Khrushchev didn't want the US interfering.

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Nikita Khrushchev(USSR's leader) is shown above

US Relations with Cuba

In the end of the 19th Century, the US was involved in the Spanish-American War where they were helping Cuba reach their independence from Spain. The US pushed Spain out of Cuba, and Cuba was made an independent nation. The United States remained allies with Cuba throughout the first half of the 20th Century, using Cuba for its resources, to boost the economy. When Fidel Castro rose to power in Cuba in 1959, he kicked out the US and cut off all the resources. The bond between US and Cuba was weakened.

US Relations with Soviet Union... Cold War

In the time around the Cuban Missile Crisis, the US had been in a full out Cold War with the Soviet Union since 1945. Previous to World War II, United States had occupied some of Western Europe, and had securities in Latin America, Southeast Asia, Australia, New Zealand and Japan, while USSR was expanding their securities to North Korea, Central Asia and Middle East. They were doing this to have strength in case of another world war, but it only created suspicion between the two nations. These suspicions lead to a competition of building up strengths. The Soviet Union was also spreading communism throughout the world, while US was trying to prevent it. This caused much tension, and lead to a competition, also known as the Cold War. It started politically, but moved to military strength, in the buildup of weapons. Both sides spent huge amounts of money in attempt to keep up with the other nation. This included the Space Race, and the buildup of nuclear weapons. The two nations had such powerful nuclear weapons, that one single spark could cause an enormous nuclear war. When the US had missiles located in Turkey, the USSR planted some in Cuba. This was the closest the world had ever been to having a nuclear war between two countries.

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Bay of Pigs

Before Castro took over Cuba, General Fulgencio Batista was in control. Batista was favored and backed by the US and President Kennedy. When Castro took over, the US continually tried to push Castro out. President Kennedy and the CIA had reportedly attempted to assassinate Castro 638 times over the course of his rule. When they had no success, they sent in an army of American trained Cubans to fight. They were outnumbered by Castro's army and were forced to surrender in less than a day. Kennedy then had made a plan to create an anti-Castro in Cuba. This involved secretly taking out Castro's air forces, and then moving exiled Cubans in through an island called the Bay of Pigs. Somehow, Castro caught word of this, and moved his air forces, when the US plan started on April 15, 1961. On April 17, 1961, US moved in at the Bay of Pigs. This invasion turned out to be a disaster and the exiles surrendered. 114 were killed, and 1100 were taken prisoner.

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Fidel Castro, takes over Cuba

Planting of the Missiles

In 1962, Castro accepted Khrushchev's plan and the USSR carried out the planting the missiles in Cuba, which was "United State's backyard." Not until October 16th, 1962 did a US spy realize what was going on in Cuba, and notify President John F. Kennedy with pictures. Through seven days of debating in the US administration, the Soviets continued to deny the planting of the missiles. JFK, on October 22nd, addressed the nation in a speech about the discovery of the weapons and how any attack from Cuba would be considered an attack from the USSR, and would be "responded to accordingly."

President John F. Kennedy addresses the United States when finding out about the Soviet missiles in Cuba.

The US finds out

When the U-2 spies reported home when seeing Soviet air missile land sites in Cuba that could shoot down spy planes, President Roosevelt acted. He immediately complained to USSR, warning them that they would not accept weapons in Cuba. About a month later, Roosevelt found that long-range missiles had been installed in Cuba, putting Roosevelt in an extremely tough position. Kennedy called a series of meeting including 14 men, all part of the Executive Committee of the National Security Council. All of these men were called to make a decision on what to do with the situation. They had six options:

  1. Do Nothing, because of the support the US already has, with military bases and missile sites in necessary areas.
  2. Negotiate with the Soviet Union to remove the missile sites.
  3. Invade Cuba and overthrow Castro's government, so that USSR could no longer stay.
  4. Blockade USSR from reaching Cuba with supplies, by using the US Navy.
  5. Bomb missile bases in Cuba with air strikes.
  6. Use Nuclear weapons against both Cuba and USSR.

At first, the majority of the CIA was for option #5, to bomb the missile bases. President Kennedy wasn't very confident with their decision although, because they also had come up with the Bay of Pigs Invasion plan. Kennedy decided to call another meeting and hold off their decision.

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13 Days of October

The Cuban Missile Crisis took place in thirteen days in October, 1962. At this point, Kennedy and the Executive Committee of the National Security Council were still looking for a decision. After much debate, they finally decided on option #4, to create a US Navy blockade surrounding Cuba, not allowing any Soviet supplies to enter. Kennedy directed the Navy to do so, and also directed the air force to be prepared for an air strike attack on Cuba. Kennedy set up 125,00 men on the coast of Florida, ready to attack upon command. He would send the air attack if Soviet ships refused to turn back, or if a U-2 spy plane was shot down.

President Kennedy found that the plan had work and Soviet ships were stopping before the blockade and turning back. Nikita Khrushchev sent Kennedy angry letters. He eventually proposed to remove missiles in Cuba, if the US did not invade Cuba. He sent another letter also demanding that US removed missiles from Turkey.

When receiving the letter, Kennedy caught news of a spy plane being shot down over Cuba. People were waiting upon his command to attack Cuba, but JFK refused to. He accepted Khrushchev's first proposal, and the missiles were removed from Cuba.

Aftermath between US and USSR

  • They created a Hot Line, hopefully preventing any dangerous confrontations.
  • US secretly removed all missile sites in Turkey and Italy.
  • In August, 1963, a Test Ban Treaty was signed, meaning neither country could test nuclear weapons in the atmosphere.
  • The 1100 prisoners from the Bay of Pigs were released by Cuba in exchange for $60 million in food, drugs, medicine and cash.
  • In 1972, USSR reached goal of building up nuclear forces to that of the US.
  • US believed the Soviet Union would not go to war over communist country.

Works Cited


White, Mark. Missiles in Cuba. Chicago: The AMerican Ways Series, 1997. Print.

Chang, Laurence. The Cuban Missile Crisis 1962. New York: The News Press, Print.


"Spanish-American War." National Museum of Health and Medicine n. pag. Web. 2 May 2011. <>.

"Cuban Missile Crisis." Awesome Stories n. pag. Web. 2 May 2011. <>.

Hopkins, Jude. "The Eleanor Roosevelt Papers."Teaching Eleanor Roosevelt n. pag. Web. 2 May 2011. <>.

"Cuban Missile Crisis." Spartacus Educational n. pag. Web. 2 May 2011. <>.