The Cuban Missile Crisis

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Cuba reconaissance photo
reconnaissance photos which revealed the missile sites

The SS-4, the type of missile being assembled in Cuba

The U-2

The American U-2 reconaissance plane

backyard fallout shelter, early 1960s

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13 Days

Film dramatization of the Cuban Missile CrisisBuy

Thirteen Days
by Robert F. Kennedy


Memoir of Robert Kennedy about the Cuban Missile Crisis - Buy

The Kennedy Tapes
edited by Ernest R. May and Philip D. Zelikow


Transcripts of more than 23 hours of meetings in the White House during the Cuban Missile Crisis - Buy

Castro and Khruschev
Fidel Castro and Nikita Khruschev

The Arms Race became real in 1962. Fidel Castro of Cuba gave permission to the Soviet Union to build missile bases in Cuba. The The United States U2 reconaissance flights photographed the sites under construction (see The Cuban Missile Crisis Briefing Paper). President Kennedy's advisers were divided on the best course of action. Many wanted an air strike to take out the missiles; others wanted a blockade. Kennedy decided on the blockade and US ships surrounded the island, refusing to allow Soviet ships bringing supplies to get through. The world held its breath as the Soviet ships approached the blockade. Many feared that this was "it," the long awaited and much feared nuclear war. After a series of telegrams between Khruschev and Kennedy and a secret promise to remove American missiles in Turkey offered by Robert Kennedy in a meeting with Anatoly Dobrynin, war was avoided, and the missiles were removed from Cuba.

Listen to part of John F. Kennedy's speech to the nation, announcing the presence of Soviet missiles in Cuba

Robert and John Kennedy

Soviet tanks in Cuba
Soviet tanks in Havana, Cuba in 1962

The near miss in Cuba resulted in improved communications between Moscow and Washington. A hot line was established to speed up contact, and there was progress in arms control talks.

Nuclear Test Ban Treaty 1963
Strategic Arms Limitations Talks (SALT 1 and SALT 2) 1972, 1979
Strategic Arms Reduction Talks (START) 1982

Part of M.A.D: The Cold War exhibit

The Cold War

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