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Was the UN critically involved in defusing the Cuban Missile Crisis?

Was the UN critically involved in defusing the Cuban Missile Crisis?

Is there any evidence to show that the Cuban Missile Crisis was scaled back because of the actions of UN personnel acting in their UN role?

The topic came up recently about precedent for UN having impact on crises. The Cuban Missile Crisis is probably the last major situation on the globe, followed by Kosovo, Georgia, Sudan, and Iraq/Afghanistan.


First of all, seeing as to how more than one SE user has questioned the seriousness of the Cuban missile crisis, let me try to outline how tense things were at the time.

  1. The Cuban missile crisis is the only time ever that any section of the US military has mobilised to DEFCON 2. The erstwhile SAC was at DEFCON 2 while the rest of the armed forces were at DEFCON 3.
  2. Kennedy had informed his military advisers (who were champing at the bit to invade Cuba and depose Castro) that if any of the recon flights were attacked, that he would authorise (a planned) invasion of Cuba. Kennedy eventually preferred to "quarantine" the island instead even after a U-2 was shot down. Also,

    Kennedy had explicitly promised the American people less than a month before the crisis that "if Cuba should possess a capacity to carry out offensive actions against the United States… the United States would act."

  3. The Soviet commanders in control of the nukes on Cuba were authorised to launch if the US ever invaded Cuba. Castro himself advocated their use if the invasion happened and as the crisis deepened, tacitly-in a letter to the Soviets-encouraged a first strike against the "perfidious imperialists".

    At the height of the missile crisis, on Oct. 27, when the world seemed poised on the edge of nuclear holocaust, Castro had appeared to urge Moscow to launch a first-strike nuclear attack on America.

    "If the imperialists invade Cuba," Castro wrote in a letter to Khrushchev, "the danger that that aggressive policy poses for humanity is so great that following that event, the Soviet Union must never allow the circumstances in which the imperialists could launch the first nuclear strike.

    "If they actually carry out the brutal act of invading Cuba… that would be the moment to eliminate such danger forever through an act of legitimate self-defense, however harsh and terrible the solution would be."

So, it's safe to conclude that this was a brink-of-war crisis.

There were at least two reasons for the Soviets to want to arm Cuba:

  • Cuba wanted defensive capabilities and, as was later revealed, offensive capabilities as well.
  • The USSR were not too taken with the presence of Jupiter MRBMs in Turkey and Italy.

This was also not long after the failed Bay of Pigs invasion which was an abject failure for the Kennedy government and provided Castro with a lot of political currency and sympathy.

When the crisis broke in mid-October, the American ambassador to the UN, Adlai Stevenson argued for a diplomatic compromise with the USSR and Cuba by:

  • withdrawing the Jupiter missiles from Turkey and Italy.
  • demilitarising Guantanamo Bay.

Nobody really openly supported his idea and many of the members of the executive committee were openly against it preferring to take a harder line which included a naval quarantine and a possible invasion of Cuba.

When Stevenson put forth his plan for the missile trade to the ExComm, including the evacuation of Guantánamo, he did not reject the possibility that U.S. military action might still be required. Stating his position in a letter to the president, Stevenson emphasized that "the national security must come first." However, the military "means adopted have such incalculable consequences that I feel you should have made it clear that the existence of nuclear missile bases anywhere is NEGOTIABLE before we start anything… " (italics in original). Despite his hope for a diplomatic solution, Stevenson also acknowledged that "we can't negotiate with a gun at our head" and "if they won't remove the missiles [from Cuba] and restore the status quo ante we will have to do it ourselves."

According to Stevenson's biographer, the ambassador defended his approach to the situation to Kenneth O'Donnell at a party during the crisis: "I know that most of those fellows will probably consider me a coward for the rest of my life for what I said today. But perhaps we need a coward in the room when we are talking about nuclear war."

The preference for a political settlement rather than an air-strike and an invasion of Cuba was due to the fact that the US, at the time, did not have any concrete proof that the missiles in Cuba were anything but defensive. Cuba had plenty of reasons to defend herself from her capitalistic neighbour and in the UN, the Soviets stubbornly stuck to the position that they were simply helping their communist brethren defend themselves.

With Kennedy hesitant to launch any sneak attacks on Cuba, Stevenson was asked to exert pressure on the Soviets via the UN.

Robert Kennedy nevertheless sent Arthur Schlesinger to the UN with Stevenson, instructing him, "We're counting on you to watch things in New York. That fellow is ready to give everything away."

Stevenson did everything but that. On the 25th of October, armed with new evidence, he set out to trap his Soviet counterpart in the UN, Vladimir Zorin.

That afternoon at an emergency meeting of the Security Council, Ambassador Zorin assured his fellow delegates that the Soviet Union had not placed missiles in Cuba: “Falsity is what the United States has in its hands, false evidence.” The United States, he argued, was manufacturing a threat that could have “catastrophic consequences for the whole world.

Stevenson listened impassively as the Soviet ambassador laced into the United States. When it was finally his turn to speak, he dispensed with the standard diplomatic niceties. He instead went immediately for the jugular: “I want to say to you, Mr. Zorin, that I do not have your talent for obfuscation, for distortion, for confusing language, and for doubletalk. And I must confess to you that I am glad that I do not!” Stevenson went on to denounce the Soviets for lying, treating Zorin in a way that the Soviet ambassador likened to an American prosecutor browbeating a defendant. Stevenson pressed on:

All right, sir, let me ask you one simple question: Do you, Ambassador Zorin, deny that the U.S.S.R. has placed and is placing medium- and intermediate-range missiles and sites in Cuba? Yes or no-don't wait for the translation-yes or no?

When Zorin refused to answer, Stevenson snapped:

You can answer yes or no. You have denied they exist. I want to know if I understood you correctly. I am prepared to wait for my answer until hell freezes over, if that's your decision. And I am also prepared to present the evidence in this room

With Zorin still continuing to refuse to answer, Stevenson's aides proceeded to produce large photos of the Soviet missiles in Cuba. The delegates in the room, and everyone watching on television, saw the Soviets unmasked as liars. Zorin could only simmer. The mild-mannered Stevenson had scored an enormous political and diplomatic victory for the United States.

The rather exaggerated last paragraph notwithstanding, this exchange tilted world opinion in favour of the United States.

In the meantime, the Secretary General of the UN, U Thant, who had been functioning as a mediator, pressed Premier Khrushchev to negotiate.

The newspapers of the day recognized and lauded Thant for his contribution, but US historians later glossed over his role. Nevertheless, State Department and UN archival documents as well as presidential recordings, show that Thant's mediation was vital in helping Kennedy and Khrushchev move away from nuclear Armageddon. Indeed, after the crisis, the president said: "U Thant has put the world deeply in his debt."

That said, it was on the 27th of October, two days later, that the worst of the crisis came to pass as a U-2 plane was shot down over Cuba. But eventually, cooler heads prevailed and negotiations continued with an agreement finally reached to dismantle and withdraw missiles from Cuba, Turkey and Italy which was essentially the same plan suggested by Stevenson to JFK and his team.

While I am not suggesting that Stevenson and Thant were the only people responsible for solving the crisis, it is my considered opinion-based on the above evidence-that they each, as UN officials, played critical roles in defusing it.

From The Guardian:

The "Adlai Stevenson moment" has become shorthand in Washington for the elusive conclusive proof that Iraq is concealing weapons of mass destruction.


Recommended reading: Thirteen Days: A Memoir of the Cuban Missile Crisis by Robert F. Kennedy (1969)


One Step from Nuclear War

By Martin J. Sherwin

The Executive Committee of the National Security Council (ExComm), meeting in the White House Cabinet Room, sorted through intelligence and advised the President during the Cuban Missile Crisis. (Kennedy Library, ST-A26-1-62)

The Cuban Missile War was the most devastating war in world history.

The estimated number of North American deaths was upwards of 200 million. Double, perhaps even quadruple that number of Soviet, Eastern European, and Chinese citizens perished, and no one had any reliable data on how many Western Europeans, Africans, Asians, Australians, and others were killed by the radioactive fallout as it enveloped the globe.

Cuba instantly became a wasteland, and there were few structures left standing in Moscow and Washington, D.C.

It was an unthinkable war, but not an unimagined one: In 1957 Australian writer Neville Shute described its denouement in his eerily tranquil apocalyptic novel, On the Beach. Adapted for the screen by Stanley Kramer in 1959, On the Beach premiered simultaneously in major U.S. cities and Moscow. There were reports of viewers sobbing as Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, Fred Astaire, and Anthony Perkins stoically prepared for the arrival over Australia of the deadly radioactive fallout from a nuclear war in the northern hemisphere. They were the last surviving humans, going quietly into the endless night.

The Pentagon, opposed to any film that might undermine public enthusiasm for nuclear weapons, refused to cooperate.

But the Cuban Missile Crisis did not replicate On the Beach, and so thoughts about a Cuban Missile War passed unobtrusively into history. While participants and historians of the crisis never tire of recalling its details and its dangers, the majority of the generation that lived through it, and subsequent generations, never became emotionally engaged with its potential consequences. It was neither Vietnam nor Watergate, nor was it Dallas on November 22, 1963.

It was just the most devastating event in world history . . . that somehow didn't happen.


Was the UN critically involved in defusing the Cuban Missile Crisis? - History

UPDATE MAY 2017: FOR MORE, SURPRISING INFORMATION LIKE THIS, DOWNLOAD A FREE PDF OF MY NEW BOOK AND SEE THE SECTION ON CUBA.

How would the Cuban Missile Crisis have played out if, instead of a naval blockade, President Kennedy had ordered air strikes to destroy the missiles, followed by an invasion of Cuba? Would I be here to write this post, or you to read it?

No one knows for sure, but the Soviet battlefield nuclear weapons on Cuba – unknown to Kennedy’s advisers, and designed to repel an American invasion – indicate that the risk of a nuclear war would have been even greater than with our naval blockade. While there have been reports, and even tidbits, of the “airstrike speech” that JFK would have given in that event, only recently did the Kennedy Library release the entire speech. Unfortunately, it is part of a 166 page collection, and in a form that makes it very hard to find the speech. Mr. Reid Pauly, research assistant to Stanford Prof. Scott Sagan, has gone through the laborious effort of extracting the speech and has kindly given permission for it to be reproduced here. The speech starts out:

My fellow Americans:

With a heavy heart, and in necessary fulfillment of my oath of office, I have ordered – and the United States Air Force bas now carried out – military operations, with conventional weapons only, to remove a major nuclear weapons build-up from the soil of Cuba. This action has been taken under Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations and in fulfillment of the requirements of the national safety. Further military action has been authorized to ensure that this threat is fully removed and not restored.

A separate blog post (coming here soon) explores who wrote this “airstrike speech,” and reaches a surprising conclusion.

You can also download this airstrike speech as a PDF.

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To learn more about the level of nuclear risk we bear, visit my related web site.


Contents

Fulbright was born on April 9, 1905 in Sumner, Missouri, the son of Roberta Fulbright (née Waugh) and Jay Fulbright. [1] In 1906, the Fulbright family moved to Fayetteville, Arkansas. His mother was a businesswoman, who consolidated her husband's business enterprises and became an influential newspaper publisher, editor, and journalist.

Fulbright's parents enrolled him in the University of Arkansas's College of Education's experimental grammar and secondary school. [2]

University of Arkansas Edit

Fulbright earned a history degree from the University of Arkansas in 1925, where he became a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity. He was elected president of the student body and a star four-year player for the Arkansas Razorbacks football team from 1921 to 1924. [3] [4]

Oxford University Edit

Fulbright later studied at Oxford University, where he was a Rhodes Scholar at Pembroke College and graduated in 1928. Fulbright's time at Oxford made him into a lifelong Anglophile, and he always had warm memories of Oxford. [5]

At Oxford, he played on the rugby and lacrosse teams, and every summer, Fulbright decamped for France ostensibly to improve his French but really just to enjoy life in France. [6]

Fulbright credited his time at Oxford with broadening his horizons. In particular, he credited his professor and friend R. B. McCallum's "one world" philosophy of the world as an interlinked entity, where developments in one part would always impact on the other parts. [5] McCallum was a great admirer of Woodrow Wilson, a supporter of the League of Nations, and a believer that multinational organizations were the best way to ensure global peace. [6] Fulbright remained close to McCallum for the rest of his life and regularly exchanged letters with his mentor until his death in 1973. [6]

Fulbright received his law degree from The George Washington University Law School in 1934, was admitted to the bar in Washington, DC, and became an attorney in the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Fulbright was a lecturer in law at the University of Arkansas from 1936 to 1939. He was appointed president of the school in 1939, making him the youngest university president in the country. He held that post until 1941. The School of Arts and Sciences at the University of Arkansas is named in his honor, and he was elected there into Phi Beta Kappa. He was a member of the Founding Council of the Rothermere American Institute, University of Oxford. [7] In September 1939, Fulbright, as president of the University of Arkansas, issued a public declaration declaring his sympathy with the Allied cause and urged the United States to maintain a pro-Allied neutrality. [5] In the summer of 1940, Fulbright went a step further and declared it was in America's "vital interest" to enter the war on the Allied side and warned that a victory by Nazi Germany would make the world a much darker place. [5] The same year, Fulbright joined the Committee to Defend America by Aiding the Allies. [5]

In June 1941, Fulbright was suddenly fired from the University of Arkansas by the Governor, Homer Martin Adkins. [5] He learned that the reason for his sacking was that Adkins had been offended that a newspaper owned by Fulbright's mother had supported the governor's opponent in the 1940 Democratic primary, and that was the governor's revenge. [5] Upset at the way that the governor's caprice had ended his academic career, Fulbright became interested in politics. [5]

Fulbright was elected to the United States House of Representatives as a Democrat in 1942, where he served one term. During this period, he became a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. During World War II, there was much debate about the best way to win the peace after the Allies presumably won the war, with many urging the United States to reject isolationism. The House adopted the Fulbright Resolution, which supported international peacekeeping initiatives and encouraged the United States to participate in what became the United Nations in September 1943. That brought Fulbright to national attention.

In 1943, a confidential analysis by Isaiah Berlin of the House and Senate foreign relations committees for the British Foreign Office identified Fulbright as "a distinguished new-comer to the House." [8] It continued:

A young (age 38) wealthy ex-Rhodes scholar, whose major experience so far has been of farming and business. He has already shown versatile competence and ability in business as special attorney in the Anti-Trust Division of the Justice Department and as president of the University of Arkansas. An alert and intelligent member of the committee who recently drew a comparison between the British practice of making grants to her allies and America's World War practice of making loans on fixed financial terms, to show that it was America which had departed from the general international practice in the matter. Fulbright would like to see the United States obtain only non-material benefits from Lend-Lease, namely, political commitments from the countries receiving it, that would enable a system of post-war collective security to be set up. An internationalist. [8]

Fulbright's career in the Senate was somewhat stunted, his tangible influence never matching his public luminescence. For all his seniority and powerful committee posts, he was not considered part of the Senate's inner circle of friends and power brokers. He seemed to prefer it that way: the man who Harry S. Truman had called an "overeducated SOB" was, in the words of Clayton Fritchey, "an individualist and a thinker," whose "intellectualism alone alienates him from the Club" of the Senate. [9]

1944 election Edit

He was elected to the Senate in 1944 and unseated incumbent Hattie Carraway, the first woman ever elected to the U.S. Senate. He served five six-year terms. In his first general election to the Senate, Fulbright defeated the Republican Victor Wade of Batesville by 85.1% to 14.9%.

Establishment of Fulbright program Edit

He promoted the passage of legislation establishing the Fulbright Program in 1946 of educational grants (Fulbright Fellowships and Fulbright Scholarships), sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the United States Department of State, governments in other countries, and the private sector. The program was established to increase mutual understanding between the peoples of the United States and other countries through the exchange of persons, knowledge, and skills. [10] It is considered one of the most prestigious award programs and operates in 155 countries.

Truman administration and Korean War Edit

In November 1946, immediately following the midterm elections in which Democrats lost control of both houses of Congress amidst Truman's plummeting popularity in the polls, Fulbright suggested the President resign. Truman responded by saying he did not care what Senator "Halfbright" said. (Dallek, Robert (2008). Harry S. Truman. New York: Times Books. ISBN 978-0-8050-6938-9. pp. 48-50)(McCoy, Donald R. (1984). The Presidency of Harry S. Truman. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas. ISBN 978-0-7006-0252-0. p.91)

In 1947, Fulbright supported the Truman Doctrine and voted for American aid to Greece. [11] Subsequently, he voted for the Marshall Plan and to join NATO. [11] Fulbright was very supportive of the plans for a federation in Western Europe. [11] Fulbright supported the 1950 plan written by Jean Monnet and presented by French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman for a European Coal and Steel Community, the earliest predecessor to the European Union. [ citation needed ]

In 1949, Fulbright became a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

After China's entry into the Korean War in October 1950, Fulbright warned against American escalation. On January 18, 1951, he dismissed Korea as a peripheral interest not worth the risk of World War III and condemned plans to attack China as reckless and dangerous. In the same speech, he argued that the Soviet Union, not China, was the real enemy and that Korea was a distraction from Europe, which he considered to be far more important. [11]

When President Harry S. Truman fired General Douglas MacArthur for insubordination in April 1951, Fulbright came to Truman's defense. When MacArthur appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at the invitation of Republican senators, Fulbright embraced his role of Truman's defender. When MacArthur argued communism was an inherent mortal danger to the United States, Fulbright countered, "I had not myself thought of our enemy as being Communism I thought of it as primarily being imperialist Russia." [11]

Eisenhower administration and conflict with Joe McCarthy Edit

Fulbright was an early opponent of Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin, an ardent anti-communist. Fulbright viewed McCarthy as an anti-intellectual, demagogue, and a major threat to American democracy and world peace. [12] Fulbright was the only senator to vote against an appropriation for the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations in 1954, which was chaired by McCarthy. [13]

After Republicans gained a Senate majority in the 1952 elections, McCarthy became chairman of the Senate Committee on Government Operations. [14] Fulbright was initially resistant to calls, like that of his friend William Benton of Connecticut, [15] to openly oppose McCarthy. Though sympathetic toward Benton, who was among those Senators defeated in 1952 by anti-communist sentiment, Fulbright followed Senate Minority Leader Lyndon B. Johnson's lead in restraining from criticism. Fulbright was alarmed by McCarthy's attack on the Voice of America (VOA) and the United States Information Agency, the latter agency then supervising educational exchange programs. [15]

Fulbright broke from Johnson's party line in summer 1953, following the State Department withdrawal of a fellowship for a student whose wife was suspected of communist affiliation and a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing which appeared to put the Fulbright Program at stake. [15] In this hearing, McCarthy aggressively questioned Fulbright over the composition of the board clearing students for funding and on a policy that bars communists and their sympathizers from receiving appointments as lecturers and professors. [15] Fulbright stated that he had no such influence over the board. [15] After McCarthy insisted to be authorized to release statements of some Fulbright Program students both praising the communist form of government and condemning American values, Fulbright countered that he was willing to submit thousands of names of students who had praised the US and its way of government in their statements. The encounter was the last time McCarthy made a public assault on the program. The leading historian and original Fulbright Program board member Walter Johnson credited Fulbright with preventing the program from being ended by McCarthyism. [15]

1956 re-election campaign Edit

In 1956, Fulbright campaigned across the country for Adlai Stevenson II's presidential campaign and across Arkansas for his own re-election bid. Fulbright emphasized his opposition to civil rights and his support for segregation. He also noted his support for oil companies and consistent votes for more farm aid to poultry farmers, a key Arkansas constituency. He easily defeated his Republican challenger. [16]

Kennedy administration Edit

Fulbright was John F. Kennedy's first choice for Secretary of State in 1961, but opponents to the choice within Kennedy's circle, led by Harris Wofford, killed his chances. Dean Rusk was chosen instead. [17]

In April 1961, Fulbright advised Kennedy not to go forward with the planned Bay of Pigs invasion. He said, "The Castro regime is a thorn in the flesh. But it is not a dagger at the heart." [18] [19] In May 1961, Fulbright denounced the Kennedy administration's system of having diplomats rotate from one position to another as an "idiot policy." [20]

Fulbright provoked international controversy on July 30, 1961, two weeks before the erection of the Berlin Wall, when he said in a television interview, "I don't understand why the East Germans don't just close their border, because I think they have the right to close it." [21] [22] His statement received a three-column spread on the front page of the Socialist Unity Party of Germany newspaper Neues Deutschland and condemnation in West Germany. The U.S. embassy in Bonn reported that "rarely has a statement by a prominent American official aroused so much consternation, chagrin and anger." Chancellor Willy Brandt's Press Secretary Egon Bahr was quoted, "We privately called him Fulbricht [a] ." [23] Historian William R. Smyser suggests that Fulbright's comment may have been made at President Kennedy's behest, as a signal to Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev that the wall would be an acceptable means of defusing the Berlin Crisis. Kennedy did not distance himself from Fulbright's comments, despite pressure. [24]

In August 1961, as the Kennedy administration held firm in its commitment to a five-year foreign aid program, Fulbright and Pennsylvania U.S. Representative Thomas E. Morgan accompanied Democratic congressional leadership to their weekly White House breakfast session with Kennedy. [25] In delivering opening statements on August 4, Fulbright spoke of the program introducing a new concept of foreign aid in the event of its passage. [26]

The President is hobbled in his task of leading the American people to consensus and concerted action by the restrictions of power imposed on him by a constitutional system designed for an 18th century agrarian society far removed from the centers of world power. He alone, among elected officials can rise above parochialism and private pressures. He alone, in his role as teacher and moral leader, can hope to overcome the excesses and inadequacies of a public opinion that is all too often ignorant of the needs, the dangers, and the opportunities in our foreign relations. It is imperative that we break out of the intellectual confines of cherished and traditional beliefs and open our minds to the possibility that Basic Changes in Our System may be essential to meet the requirements of the 20th century.

Fulbright met with Kennedy during the latter's visit to Fort Smith, Arkansas in October 1961. [27]

After the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, Fulbright modified his position on the Soviet Union from "containment" to détente. [28] His position drew criticism from Senator Barry Goldwater, now the leader of anti-communists in the Senate. In response to Goldwater's call for a "total victory" over communism, Fulbright argued that even "total victory" would mean hundreds of millions of deaths and an impossible, prolonged occupation of a ravaged Soviet Union and China. [29]

Chicken war Edit

Intensive chicken farming in the United States led to a 1961–64 "chicken war" with Europe. With inexpensive imported chicken available, chicken prices fell quickly and sharply across Europe, radically affecting European chicken consumption. U.S. chicken overtook nearly half of the imported European chicken market. Europe instituted tariffs on American chicken, to the detriment of Arkansan chicken farmers. [30] [31]

Senator Fulbright interrupted a NATO debate on nuclear armament to protest the tariffs, going so far as to threaten cutting US troops in NATO. [32] The U.S. subsequently enacted a 25% tariff on imported light trucks, known as the chicken tax, which remains in effect as of 2010.

One of Fulbright's local staffers in Arkansas was James McDougal. While he worked for Fulbright, [ when? ] McDougal met the future Arkansas Governor and US President Bill Clinton and the two of them, along with their wives, began investing in various development properties, including the parcel of land along the White River in the Ozarks that would later be the subject of an independent counsel investigation during Clinton's first term in office. [33]

Johnson administration Edit

On March 25, 1964, Fulbright delivered an address calling on the U.S. to adapt itself to a world that was both changing and complex, the address being said by Fulbright to have been meant to explore self-evident truths in the national vocabulary of the U.S. regarding the Soviet Union, Cuba, China, Panama, and Latin America. [ further explanation needed ] [34]

In May 1964, Fulbright predicated that time would see a cessation in the misunderstanding within the relationship between France and the United States and that French President Charles de Gaulle was deeply admired for his achievements despite confusion that might arise in others from his rhetoric. [ further explanation needed ] [35]

In 1965, Fulbright objected to President Lyndon B. Johnson's position on the Dominican Civil War. [36]

Vietnam War Edit

Gulf of Tonkin resolution Edit

On 4 August 1964, Defense Secretary Robert McNamara accused North Vietnam of attacking an American destroyer, the USS Maddox in international waters in what came to be known as the Gulf of Tonkin incident. [37] The same day, President Johnson went on national television to denounce North Vietnam for "aggression" and to announce that he had ordered retaliatory air raids on North Vietnam. [37] In the same speech, Johnson asked Congress to a resolution to prove to North Vietnam and its ally China that United States was united "in support of freedom and in defense of peace in southeast Asia." [37] On 5 August 1964, Fulbright arrived at the White House to meet Johnson, where Johnson asked his old friend to use all his influence to get the resolution passed by the widest possible margin. [38] Fulbright was one of the senators whom Johnson was most anxious and keen to have support the resolution. [39] Fulbright was too much an individualist and intellectual to belong to the "Club" of the Senate, but he was widely respected as a thinker on foreign policy and was known to be a defender of Congress's prerogatives. From Johnson's viewpoint, having him support the resolution would bring many of the waverers around to voting for the resolution, as indeed proved to be the case. [40]

Johnson insisted quite vehemently to Fulbright that the alleged attack on the Maddox had taken place, and it was only later that Fulbright became skeptical about whether the alleged attack had really taken place. [38] Furthermore, Johnson insisted that the resolution, which was a "functional equivalent to a declaration of war," was not intended to be used for going to war in Vietnam. [38] In the 1964 presidential election, the Republicans had nominated Goldwater as their candidate, who ran on a platform accusing Johnson of being "soft on communism" and by contrast promised a "total victory" over communism. Johnson argued to Fulbright that the resolution was an election-year stunt that would prove to the voters that he was really "tough on communism" and so dent the appeal of Goldwater by denying him of his main avenue of attack. [38] Besides for the internal political reason that Johnson gave for the resolution, he also gave a foreign policy reason that argued that such a resolution would intimidate North Vietnam into ceasing to try to overthrow the government of South Vietnam and so Congress passage of the resolution would make American involvement in Vietnam less likely, rather than more likely. [38] Fulbright's longstanding friendship with Johnson made it difficult for him to go against him, who cunningly exploited Fulbright's vulnerability, his desire to have greater influence over foreign policy. [38] Johnson gave Fulbright the impression that he would be one of his unofficial advisers on foreign policy and that he was very interested in turning his ideas into policies if he voted for the resolution, which was a test of their friendship. [38] Johnson also hinted that he was thinking about sacking Rusk if he won the 1964 election and would consider nominating Fulbright to be the next Secretary of State. [38] Finally, for Fulbright in 1964, it was inconceivable that Johnson would lie to him, and Fulbright believed the resolution "was not going to be used for anything other than the Tonkin Gulf incident itself," as Johnson had told him. [38]

On 6 August 1964, Fulbright gave a speech on the Senate floor that called for the resolution to be passed as he accused North Vietnam of "aggression" and praised Johnson for his "great restraint. in response to the provocation of a small power." [41] He also declared his support for the Johnson administration's "noble" Vietnam policy, which he called a policy of seeking "to establish viable, independent states in Indochina and elsewhere which will be free and secure from the combination of Communist China and Communist North Vietnam." [41] Fulbright concluded that the policy could be accomplished via diplomatic means and, echoing Johnson's argument, argued that it was necessary to pass the resolution as a way to intimidate North Vietnam, which would presumably change its policies towards South Vietnam once Congress passed the resolution. [41] Several senators, such as Allen J. Ellender, Jacob Javits, John Sherman Cooper, Daniel Brewster, George McGovern, and Gaylord Nelson, were very reluctant to vote for a resolution that would be a blank check for a war in Southeast Asia, and in a meeting, Fulbright sought to assure them by saying that passing such a resolution would make fighting a war less likely and claimed that the whole purpose of the resolution was intimidation. [41] Nelson wanted to insert an amendment to bar the president from sending troops to fight in Vietnam unless he obtained the permission of Congress first and said that he did not like the open-ended nature of this resolution. [42] Fulbright persuaded him not to do so by arguing the resolution was "harmless" and saying that the real purpose of the resolution was "to pull the rug out from under Goldwater." He went on to ask Nelson whether he preferred Johnson or Goldwater to win the election. [42] Fulbright dismissed Nelson's fears of giving Johnson a blank check by saying that he had Johnson's word that "the last thing we want to do is become involved in a land war in Asia." [40]

On August 7, 1964, a unanimous House of Representatives and all but two members of the Senate voted to approve the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which led to a dramatic escalation of the Vietnam War. Fulbright, who sponsored the resolution, would later write:

Many Senators who accepted the Gulf of Tonkin resolution without question might well not have done so had they foreseen that it would subsequently be interpreted as a sweeping Congressional endorsement for the conduct of a large-scale war in Asia. [43]

Fulbright hearings and opposition to war Edit

By his own admission, Fulbright knew almost nothing about Vietnam until he met in 1965 Bernard B. Fall, a French journalist who often wrote about Vietnam. [44] Speaking to Fall radically changed Fulbright's thinking about Vietnam, as Fall asserted that it simply not true that Ho Chi Minh was a Sino-Soviet "puppet" who wanted to overthrow the government of South Vietnam because his masters in Moscow and Beijing had presumably told him to do so. [44] Fall's influence served as the catalyst for the change in Fulbright's thinking, as Fall introduced to the writings of Philippe Devillers and Jean Lacouture. [44] Fulbright made it his mission to learn as possible about Vietnam and indeed he had learned so much that at a meeting with the Secretary of State Dean Rusk, Fulbright was able to correct several mistakes made by the former about Vietnamese history, much to Rusk's discomfort. [44] In January 1966, Fulbright invited Johnson to appear before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to explain why America was fighting in Vietnam, an offer that Johnson refused. [45]

As chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Fulbright held several series of hearings on the Vietnam War. Many of the earlier hearings, in 1966, were televised to the nation in their entirety, a rarity until C-SPAN. Starting on 4 February 1966, Fulbright held the first hearings about the Vietnam War, where George F. Kennan and General James M. Gavin appeared as expert witnesses. [46] The hearings had prompted by Johnson's request for additional $400 million to pay for the war, which gave Fulbright an excuse to hold them. [47] Kennan testified that the Vietnam War was a grotesque distortion of the containment policy that he had outlined in 1946 and 1947. The World War II hero Gavin testified that it was his opinion as a soldier that the war could not be won as it being fought. [47] On 4 February 1966, in an attempt to upstage the hearings Fulbright was holding in Washington, Johnson called an impromptu summit in Honolulu in the hope that the media would play more attention to the summit that he had called than to the hearings Fulbright was holding. [46] Johnson's two rebuttal witnesses at the hearings were General Maxwell Taylor and Secretary of State Dean Rusk. [47] Fulbright's reputation as a well-informed expert on foreign policy and his folksy Southern drawl, which made him sound "authentic" to ordinary Americans, made a formidable opponent for Johnson. [48] During his exchanges with Taylor, Fulbright equated the firebombing of Japanese cities in World War II with the Operation Rolling Thunder bombings of North Vietnam and the use of napalm in South Vietnam, much to Taylor's discomfort. [48] Fulbright condemned the bombing of North Vietnam and asked Taylor to think of the "millions of little children, sweet little children, innocent pure babies who love their mothers, and mothers who love their children, just like you love your son, thousands of little children, who never did us any harm, being slowly burned to death." [48] A visibly-uncomfortable Taylor stated that the United States was not targeting civilians in either Vietnam. [48] Johnson called the hearings "a very, very disastrous break." [48]

As Fulbright had once been Johnson's friend, his criticism of the war was seen as a personal betrayal and Johnson lashed out in especially vitriolic terms against him. [46] Johnson took the view that at least Senator Wayne Morse had always been opposed to the Vietnam War, but Fulbright had promised him to support his Vietnam policy in 1964, causing him to see Fulbright as a "Judas" figure. [46] Johnson liked to mock Fulbright as "Senator Halfbright" and sneered it was astonishing that someone as "stupid" as Fulbright had been awarded a degree at Oxford. [46]

In April 1966, Fulbright delivered a speech at Johns Hopkins University, where Johnson had delivered a forthright defense of the war just a year earlier. Fulbright was sharply critical of the war. [46] In his speech delivered in his usual folksy Southern drawl, Fulbright stated that the United States was "in danger of losing its perspective on what exactly is within the realm of its power and what is beyond it." [46] Warning of what he called "the arrogance of power," Fulbright declared "we are not living up to our capacity and promise as a civilized power for the world." He called the war a betrayal of American values. [46] Johnson was furious with the speech, which he saw a personal attack from a man who had once been his friend and believed the remark about the "arrogance of power" to be about him. [46] Johnson lashed out in a speech in which he called Fulbright and other critics of the war "nervous Nellies," who knew the war in Vietnam could and would be won but were just too cowardly to fight on to the final victory. [46]

In 1966, Fulbright published The Arrogance of Power, which attacked the justification of the Vietnam War, Congress's failure to set limits on it, and the impulses that had given rise to it. Fulbright's scathing critique undermined the elite consensus that the military intervention in Indochina was necessitated by Cold War geopolitics.

By 1967, the Senate was divided into three blocs. There was an antiwar "dove" bloc, led by Fulbright a pro-war "hawk" bloc, led by the conservative Southern Democrat Senator John C. Stennis, and a third bloc consisting of waverers, who tended to shift their positions about war in tune with public opinion and moved variously closer to doves and hawks as they followed the public opinion polls. [49] In contrast to his hostile attitudes towards Fulbright, Johnson was afraid of being labeled as soft on communism and so tended to try to appease Stennis and the hawks, who kept pressuring for more-and-more aggressive measures in Vietnam. [49] In criticizing the war, Fulbright was careful to draw a distinction between condemning the war and condemning the ordinary soldiers fighting the war. After General William Westmoreland gave a speech in 1967 before a joint session of Congress, Fulbright stated, "From the military standpoint, it was fine. The point is the policy that put our boys there." [50] On 25 July 1967, Fulbright was invited with all of the other chairmen of the Senate committees to the White House to hear Johnson say that the war was being won. [51] Fulbright told Johnson: "Mr. President, what you really need to do is stop the war. That will solve all your problems. Vietnam is ruining our domestic and our foreign policy. I will not support it anymore." [51] To prove that he was serious, Fulbright threatened to block a foreign aid bill before his committee and said that it was the only way to make Johnson pay attention to his concerns. [52] Johnson accused Fulbright of wanting to ruin America's reputation around the world. [53] Using his favorite tactic of seeking to divide his opponents, Johnson told the other senators: "I understand all of you feel you under the gun when you are down here, at least according to Bill Fulbright." [53] Fulbright replied: "Well, my position is that Vietnam is central to the whole problem. We need a new look. The effects of Vietnam are hurting the budget and foreign relations generally." [53] Johnson exploded in fury: "Bill, everybody doesn't have a blind spot like you do. You say, 'Don't bomb North Vietnam', on just about everything. I don't have simple solution you have. I am not going to tell our men in the field to put their right hands behind their backs and fight only with their lefts. If you want me to get out of Vietnam, then you have the prerogative of taking the resolution which we are out there now. You can repeal it tomorrow. You can tell the troops to come home. You can tell General Westmoreland that he doesn't know what is doing." [53] As Johnson's face was red, Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield decided to calm matters down by changing the subject. [53]

In early 1968, Fulbright was deeply depressed as he stated: "The President, unfortunately, seems to have closed his mind to the consideration of any alternative, and his Rasputin-W.W. Rostow-seems able to isolate him from other views, and the Secretary [of State] happens to agree. I regret that I am unable to break this crust of immunity." [54] However, after Robert McNamara was fired as Defense Secretary, Fulbright saw a "ray of light" as the man who replaced McNamara, Clark Clifford, was a longstanding "close personal friend." [54] Johnson had appointed Clifford Defense Secretary because he was a hawk, but Fulbright sought to change his mind about Vietnam. [54] Fulbright invited Clifford to a secret meeting in which he introduced the newly appointed Defense Secretary to two World War II heroes, General James M. Gavin and General Matthew Ridgway. [54] Both Gavin and Ridgway were emphatic that the United States could not win the war in Vietnam, and their opposition to the war helped to change Clifford's mind. [54] Despite his success with Clifford, Fulbright was close to despair as he wrote in a letter to Erich Fromm that this "literally a miasma of madness in the city, enveloping everyone in the administration and most of those in Congress. I am at a loss of words to describe the idiocy of what we are doing." [54]

Seeing that the Johnson administration was reeling in the wake of the Tet Offensive, Fulbright in February 1968 called for hearings by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee into the Gulf of Tonkin incident, as Fulbright noted that there were several aspects of the claim that North Vietnamese torpedo boats had attacked American destroyers in international waters that seemed dubious and questionable. [55] McNamara was subpoenaed, and the televised hearings led to "fireworks" as Fulbright repeatedly asked difficult answers about De Soto raids on North Vietnam and Operation 34A. [56] On 11 March 1968, Secretary of State Dean Rusk appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. [57] Fulbright made his sympathies clear by wearing a tie decorated with doves carrying olive branches. [58] Through Rusk was scheduled to testify about the Gulf of Tonkin incident, the previous day in The New York Times had appeared a leaked story that Westmoreland had requested for Johnson to send 206,000 more troops to Vietnam. [59] During Rusk's two days of testimony, the main issue turned out to be the troop request with Fulbright insisting for Johnson to seek congressional approval first. [59] In response to Fulbright's questions, Rusk stated that if more troops were sent to Vietnam, the president would consult "appropriate members of Congress." [60] Most notably, several senators who had voted with Stennis and the other hawks now aligned themselves with Fulbright, which indicated that Congress was turning against the war. [59]

In late October 1968, after Johnson announced a halt in bombing in North Vietnam in accordance with peace talks, [61] Fulbright stated that his hopefulness that the announcement would lead to a general ceasefire. [62]

Nixon administration Edit

In March 1969, Secretary of State William P. Rogers testified at a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on the Nixon administration's foreign policy, Fulbright telling Rogers that the appearance was both useful and promising. [63] In April 1969, Fublright received a letter from a former soldier who served in Vietnam, Ron Ridenhour, containing the results of Ridenhour's investigation into the My Lai massacre, said that he had heard so many stories from other soldiers about a massacre that had happened in March 1968 at a village that the soldiers knew only as "Pinkville." [64] In May 1969, Fulbright delivered a speech at National War College that advocated for a U.S. withdraw from Vietnam in spite of possibly having to settle for something less than a standoff against the communists. He spoke for overhauling foreign policy to concentrate it less on the power of the executive branch. [65] On 15 October 1969, Fulbright spoke at one of the rallies held by the Moratorium to End the War in Vietnam. [66] As all of the rallies held on 15 October were peaceful, Fulbright taunted a reporter who was hoping there would be violence: "I am sorry that you thought the demonstrations of 15 October were 'subversive and hysterical'. They seemed to me to be extremely well-behaved and a very serious demonstration of disapproval of the tragic mistake. in Vietnam." [66] In response to the Moratorium protests, President Nixon went on national television on 3 November 1969 to give his speech asking for the support of the "silent majority" towards his Vietnam policy. [67] On 4 November, Fulbright told a journalist that Nixon had "fully and truthfully taken upon himself Johnson's war." [67] Fulbright called for the second round of the Moratorium protests scheduled for 15 November to be canceled for fear that Nixon was planning to start a riot to discredit the antiwar movement. [68] The protests in the 15th went ahead and were peaceful, but the success of Nixon's "silent majority speech" left Fulbright depressed as he wrote at the time that "it is very distressing, indeed, to think that we eliminated LBJ only to end up with this, which is almost more than the human spirit can endure." [69] However, on 12 November 1969 appeared in The New York Times an article by Seymour Hersh revealing the My Lai Massacre on 16 March 1968. [69] Fulbright was deeply shocked when he learned about what happened at May Lai: "it is a matter of the greatest importance and emphasizes in the most dramatic manner the brutalization of our society." [69]

In 1970, Daniel Ellsberg offered Fulbright his copy of the Pentagon Papers to ask him to insert them into the Congressional Record, which would allow the media to cite them without fear of prosecution for publishing secret documents. [70] Fulbright declined and instead sent a letter to Defense Secretary Melvin Laird asking him to declassify the Pentagon Papers. [70] In 1971, Fulbright held another set of hearing about the Vietnam. The Fulbright Hearings included the notable testimony of Vietnam veteran and future Senator and Secretary of State John Kerry.

In February 1970, South Dakota Senator George McGovern accused the former Viet Cong detainee James N. Rowe of being dispatched by the Pentagon to criticize him, Fulbright, and Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield, who had indicated their opposition to continued American involvement in Vietnam. [71] On March 11, Fulbright introduced a resolution regarding the commitment of American troops or air forces for combat in Laos by Nixon, who, under the guidelines of the resolution, would not be able to combat forces in or over Laos without congressional affirmative action. In his address introducing the resolution, Fulbright said, "The Senate must not remain silent now while the President uses the armed forces of the United States to, fight an undeclared and undisclosed war in Laos." [72] The following month, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted to repeal the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. Fulbright admitted the repeal would now have little to no legal impact and described the action as one intended to be part of an ongoing process of clearing out legislation that was now out of date. [73] On August 22, Fulbright stated his support for a bilateral treaty to grant the United States authority to use military force to guarantee both "territory and independence of Israel within the borders of 1967" and that the proposed measure would obligate Israel not to violate those frontiers, which had been created prior to the Six-Day War. [74] In October, Defense Department officials disclosed publication of testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee showing the United States entered a 1960 agreement supporting a 40,000-man Ethiopian army in addition to beginning Ethiopia's opposition to threats against its territorial integrity. Fulbright responded to the disclosure by saying the wording seemed to go "much further than saying a good word in the United Nations" and suggested the U.S. had agreed to aid the Ethiopian Emperor if the possibility of facing an internal insurrection arose. [75]

On February 28, 1971, Fulbright announced his intent to submit a bill compelling the Secretary of State and other Nixon administration officials to appear before Congress to explain their position on Vietnam. Fulbright said that the measure would be warranted by the refusal of William P. Rogers, Henry A. Kissinger, and other officials to appear before Congress. He reasoned that that they would not appear because "they know there are a number of people who don't agree with them, and it makes it embarrassing and they don't like it they especially don't like to have it in front of television." [76] On October 31, Fulbright pledged his support to less-controversial aspects of foreign aid such as refugee relief and military aid to Israel and predicted the Nixon administration would be met with defeat or contention in the event of proposed aid for Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, and Greece. Fulbright said a meeting between the Foreign Relations Committee the following day would see "that some kind of interim program will probably be devised" and expressed his disdain for "the continuing resolution approach." [77]

In March 1972, Fulbright sent a letter to Acting Attorney General Richard G. Kleindienst to request to the Justice Department not to use the Information Agency documentary Czechoslovakia 1968 for use in New York. He stated that it appeared to violate the 1948 law that created the agency, which he stated "was created for the purpose of the dissemination abroad of information about the United States, its people, and policies." [78] In April, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee announced the end of an inquiry into a drinking incident involving United States Ambassador to France Arthur K. Watson. Fulbright said that he did not expect the committee to pursue the matter and published a letter on the subject from Rogers. [79] On August 3, the Senate approved the treaty limiting defense missiles for the United States and the Soviet Union. [80] The following day, Fulbright held a closed meeting with members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to form a strategy against the Nixon administration's attempts to attach additional reservations to the intercontinental missile agreement signed by Nixon the previous May. [81]

On July 11, 1973, during a speech at an American Bankers Association meeting, Fulbright criticized Capitol Hill attempts to block trade concessions to the Soviet Union until it allowed the emigration of Jews and other groups: "Learning to live together in peace is the most important issue for the Soviet Union and the United States, too important to be compromised by meddling — even idealistic meddling — in each other's affairs." [82] In August, Nixon announced his choice of Kissinger to replace the retiring Rogers as Secretary of State. [83] Ahead of the hearings, Kissinger was expected to have the advantage of cultivating relationships with members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Vermont Senator George Aiken noting that Kissinger "met with us at Senator Fulbright's house for breakfast at least twice a year." [84]

In November 1973, Fulbright endorsed the Middle East policy of Secretary of State Kissinger in a Senate speech, arguing for the central requirement of a peace requirement prior to "another military truce hardens into another untenable and illusory status quo" and added that both sides would need to make concessions. Fulbright stated that Washington, Moscow, and the United Nations were responsible for spearheading the peace settlement. [85]

He also led the charge against confirming Nixon's conservative Supreme Court nominees Clement Haynsworth and Harold Carswell. [86]

In May 1974, Fulbright disclosed the existence of a weapon stockpile for South Korea, South Vietnam, and Thailand, and the Defense Department released a statement three days later that confirmed Fulbright's admission. [87] Throughout 1974, Kissinger was investigated for his possible role in initiating wiretaps of 13 government officials and four newsmen from 1969 to 1971. [88] [89] In July, Fulbright stated that nothing significant had emerged from the Kissinger testimony during his nomination for Secretary of State the previous fall, and Fulbright indicated his belief that opponents of détente with the Soviet Union were hoping to unseat Kissinger from the investigation into his role in the wiretapping. [90]

Defeat and resignation Edit

Fulbright left the Senate in 1974, after being defeated in the Democratic primary by then-Governor Dale Bumpers. His well-documented stances on Vietnam, the Middle East, and Watergate were out of step with the Arkansan majority, and his campaign powers had atrophied. Bumpers won by a landslide. [91] Speaking to congressmen in the weeks after Fulbright's primary loss, Nixon mocked the defeat. [92]

At the time that he left the Senate, Fulbright had spent his entire 30 years in the Senate as the junior senator from Arkansas, behind John Little McClellan who entered the Senate two years before him. Only Tom Harkin, who served as junior Senator from Iowa from 1985–2015 (to senior Senator Chuck Grassley), was a junior Senator for longer. [ citation needed ]

American foreign policy Edit

In The Arrogance of Power, Fulbright offered his analysis of American foreign policy:

Throughout our history two strands have coexisted uneasily a dominant strand of democratic humanism and a lesser but durable strand of intolerant Puritanism. There has been a tendency through the years for reason and moderation to prevail as long as things are going tolerably well or as long as our problems seem clear and finite and manageable. But. when some event or leader of opinion has aroused the people to a state of high emotion, our puritan spirit has tended to break through, leading us to look at the world through the distorting prism of a harsh and angry moralism.

Fulbright also related his opposition to any American tendencies to intervene in the affairs of other nations:

Power tends to confuse itself with virtue and a great nation is particularly susceptible to the idea that its power is a sign of God's favor, conferring upon it a special responsibility for other nations—to make them richer and happier and wiser, to remake them, that is, in its own shining image. Power confuses itself with virtue and tends also to take itself for omnipotence. Once imbued with the idea of a mission, a great nation easily assumes that it has the means as well as the duty to do God's work.

He was also a strong believer in international law:

Law is the essential foundation of stability and order both within societies and in international relations. As a conservative power, the United States has a vital interest in upholding and expanding the reign of law in international relations. Insofar as international law is observed, it provides us with stability and order and with a means of predicting the behavior of those with whom we have reciprocal legal obligations. When we violate the law ourselves, whatever short-term advantage may be gained, we are obviously encouraging others to violate the law we thus encourage disorder and instability and thereby do incalculable damage to our own long-term interests.

Cold War and communism Edit

Like his friend Adlai Stevenson II, Fulbright was regarded as a "Cold War liberal." [93]

Fulbright viewed the Cold War as a struggle between the United States and a new imperialist Russia. To that end, he advocated vigorous aid and armament for Europe as opposed to a global anti-communist policy, which would include opposition to the People's Republic of China. [94]

Fulbright additionally believed that conflict with the Soviet Union would almost certainly lead to nuclear war and potentially global annihilation. He initially favored the policy of containment of the Soviet Union, instead of the more aggressive rollback policy. [12] Fulbright saw the Cold War as more of a political struggle than a military struggle and criticized excessive military spending as a means of . [12] After the Cuban Missile Crisis, he further modified his position toward the Soviets to détente. [28]

Segregation and civil rights Edit

In 1950, Fulbright cosponsored an amendment, which, if enacted, would allow soldiers to choose whether or not to serve in a racially-integrated unit. [95] In 1952, Fulbright assisted with blocking an Alaska statehood bill entirely because of his view that legislators from the state would support civil rights bills. [95] [ dubious – discuss ]

According to biographer Randall Bennett Woods, Fulbright believed the South was not yet ready for integration but that education would eventually eradicate prejudice and allow blacks to "take their rightful place in American society." [95] In 1954, Fulbright signed Strom Thurmond's Southern Manifesto in opposition to the Brown v. Board of Education decision. [96] In a letter to a constituent at the time, he compared the Manifesto favorably to the alternative of secession. [95] Privately, he assured aides that signing the Manifesto was his only means of maintaining influence with the Southern delegation. He, along with John Sparkman, Lister Hill, and Price Daniel, submitted a version that acknowledged theirs was a minority position and pledged to fight the Brown ruling through legal means. In later years, he insisted his intervention had led to a more moderate version of the Manifesto than Thurmond originally proposed, and his claims were generally accepted by Arkansan black leadership. [95]

Fulbright was one of only two Southern members of Congress to condemn the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Ala., in 1963 by white supremacists that killed four girls and injured between 14 and 22 other people. [97]

With other southern Democrats, Fulbright participated in the filibuster of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and opposed the 1965 Voting Rights Act. [98] However, in 1970, Fulbright voted for a five-year extension of the Voting Rights Act. [99]

Israel and Zionism Edit

In 1963, Fulbright claimed that $5 million tax-deductible from philanthropic Americans was sent to Israel and then recycled back to the U.S. for distribution to organizations seeking to influence public opinion in favor of Israel. [100]

On April 15, 1973, Fulbright said on Face the Nation, "Israel controls the U.S. Senate. The Senate is subservient to Israel, in my opinion much too much. We should be more concerned about the United States interest rather than doing the bidding of Israel. This is a most unusual development." [101] [102]

After his retirement, Fulbright practiced international law at the Washington, D.C. office of the law firm Hogan & Hartson from 1975–1993. [103]

On May 5, 1993, President Bill Clinton presented the Presidential Medal of Freedom to Fulbright at his eighty-eighth birthday celebration from the Fulbright Association. [104]

Fulbright died of a stroke in 1995 at the age of 89 in Washington, DC. A year later, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary dinner of the Fulbright Program held June 5, 1996 at the White House, President Bill Clinton said, "Hillary and I have looked forward for some time to celebrating this 50th anniversary of the Fulbright Program, to honor the dream and legacy of a great American, a citizen of the world, a native of my home state and my mentor and friend, Senator Fulbright." [105]

Fulbright's ashes were interred at the Fulbright family plot in Evergreen Cemetery in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

Fulbright's sister, Roberta, married Gilbert C. Swanson, the head of the Swanson frozen-foods conglomerate, and was the maternal step grandmother of media figure Tucker Carlson. [106] [107] [108]

In 1996, The George Washington University renamed a residence hall in his honor. The J. William Fulbright Hall is located 2223 H Street, N.W., at the corner of 23rd and H Streets. It received historic designations as a District of Columbia historic site on January 28, 2010 and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on June 18, 2010. [109] [110] [111]

On October 21, 2002, in a speech at the dedication of the Fulbright Sculpture at the University of Arkansas, fellow Arkansan Bill Clinton said,

I admired him. I liked him. On the occasions when we disagreed, I loved arguing with him. I never loved getting in an argument with anybody as much in my entire life as I loved fighting with Bill Fulbright. I'm quite sure I always lost, and yet he managed to make me think I might have won. [112]

Other honors Edit

  • 1982 awarded an honorary degree, doctor honoris causa, at the Norwegian Institute of Technology, later part of Norwegian University of Science and Technology. [113]
  • 1992 awarded a doctor honoris causa degree at the University of Tampere, Finland. (AAS), 1985 Award for Distinguished Contributions to Asian Studies [114]
  • 1987 Foreign Language Advocacy Award. [115]

Fulbright Program Edit

The Fulbright Program was established in 1946 under legislation introduced by then-Senator J. William Fulbright of Arkansas. The Fulbright Program is sponsored by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the United States Department of State.

Approximately 294,000 "Fulbrighters", 111,000 from the United States and 183,000 from other countries, have participated in the Program since its inception over sixty years ago. The Fulbright Program awards approximately 6,000 new grants annually.

Currently, the Fulbright Program operates in over 155 countries worldwide.

The Thank You Fulbright project was created in April 2012 to provide an annual opportunity for alumni and friends of the Fulbright program to celebrate Fulbright's legacy.


The Cuban Missile Crisis Revisited Why It Matters Who Blinked By James A. Nathan and Graham Allison October 11, 2012

The Cuban Missile Crisis Revisited
Why It Matters Who Blinked
By James A. Nathan and Graham Allison
October 11, 2012

DIPLOMACY, NOT DERRING-DO
James A. Nathan

Graham Allison ("The Cuban Missile Crisis at 50," July/August 2012) seems to believe that U.S. President John F. Kennedy's handling of the Cuban missile crisis was an unalloyed success. He also contends that the Kennedy administration's response to the crisis forms a template for the kind of steadfast resolve that U.S. policymakers should adopt today, specifically with regard to Iran and North Korea. But the Cuban missile crisis was hardly a triumph of presidential fortitude. At the core of Kennedy's strategy was a deal: the United States pledged to remove its missiles from Turkey within six months in exchange for the Soviet Union's withdrawal of its nuclear forces from Cuba.

The Soviet side of the bargain was public, but the central U.S. concession was kept secret. The Kennedy administration feared that it would appear weak if its agreement on the missiles in Turkey came to light. But the missile swap was hardly a mere "sweetener," as Allison claims it was the main reason the Cuban missile crisis ended peacefully.

The facts of the compromise were long veiled. It was not until 1989 that Kennedy's former speechwriter, Theodore Sorensen, confessed that he had edited out the details of the missile swap from the published version of Attorney General Robert Kennedy's diary. It is now clear that President Kennedy engaged in two sets of negotiations: one with Moscow and the other with his ad hoc team of high-ranking advisers, the Executive Committee of the National Security Council (ExComm). And in his negotiations with the latter, Kennedy made sure that only his few most trusted advisers were privy to the crucial missile concession.

The ExComm barely contemplated a diplomatic solution to the Cuban missile crisis, putting forward a series of military plans ranging from a blockade to a preemptive strike. Unbeknownst to many other members of the ExComm, however, the president, Robert Kennedy, and Secretary of State Dean Rusk were striving for a deal involving the removal of U.S. missiles from Turkey. The president even authorized Rusk to announce the missile swap at the United Nations if the Soviets would not accept a secret agreement. To Kennedy's relief, Moscow agreed to keep the understanding secret.

Without full knowledge of how the crisis was settled, U.S. policymakers exalted in an apparently unqualified victory. In this view, it was the Kennedy administration's gumption, not its deft diplomacy, that had compelled the Soviets to stand down. "We were eyeball to eyeball, and the other fellow just blinked," said Rusk of the crisis' resolution. This false characterization had unfortunate consequences-"resolve" became the watchword of Washington's Cold War policy, and a succession of administrations discarded the classic repertoire of diplomacy: international law, a respect for negotiation, and a prudent definition of the national interest.

Allison's narrative underscores the utility of threats, as long as they are credible. But straining to appear more determined, genuine, and fearsome can lead to miscalculation and heighten danger. Moreover, as Allison correctly notes, threats that are not carried out-even ones that initially appear credible-can seriously undermine policy. Each successive idle threat invites an adversary to test boundaries even more than the last time, and so the consequences of bluffing grow increasingly perilous. Allison is wrong, however, to conclude that it is necessary to risk war to achieve lasting peace.

The real lesson of the Cuban missile crisis is not that the measured use of threats is the key to defusing crises it is that the essential challenge of crisis resolution is crafting an acceptable compromise to silence the drumbeat of war. This challenge is particularly critical in cases such as Cuba in 1962 and Iran today, when the price of failure is a potentially catastrophic confrontation.

Kennedy well understood this lesson. In nearly every international crisis of his presidency, he opted for diplomacy and dealmaking over force. In June 1961, he reached an agreement with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev that maintained Laos' neutrality rather than risk the military action the Joint Chiefs of Staff had advocated. Later, in July 1961, Kennedy signaled to the Soviets that Washington would accept a divided Berlin, thus unwinding a confrontation that was just as dangerous as the Cuban missile crisis. And after the Cuban crisis was resolved, Kennedy began a public campaign to temper the arms race. Yet Allison's account of the crisis as a case study of presidential resolve emphasizes the calculated use of threats over the more fundamental task of structuring a bargain.

Based on his reading of the Cuban missile crisis, Allison suggests that parts of an eventual U.S.-Iranian deal might also have to be kept secret. But surely, it would have been better for the Kennedy administration to reveal the truth about the settlement that ended the crisis instead, Rusk and U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara repeatedly lied to Congress. The long mischaracterization of how the Cuban missile crisis really ended not only taught a generation of U.S. policymakers a faulty lesson about the importance of threats but also damaged the American people's trust in official foreign policy narratives. A public deal to end the United States' protracted confrontation with Iran would be better than a secret one.

Against the backdrop of increasingly stiff U.S. and European sanctions on Iran and an incipient civil war in Syria, the Islamic Republic's sole ally in the Middle East, a diplomatic agreement could still end the standoff over the Iranian nuclear program. It would be folly for Washington to allow misplaced analogies to shape a decision that could lead to a third open-ended war in this still-young century.

JAMES A. NATHAN is Khaled bin Sultan Eminent Scholar in Political Science and International Policy at Auburn University at Montgomery.

James Nathan disputes my interpretation of the central lessons of the Cuban missile crisis. Unfortunately, Nathan misreads my argument. He asserts that I consider presidential resolve and threats to be the essence of successful crisis management, arguing instead for compromise and restraint. In fact, my article contends that all these components are required for success.

President John F. Kennedy's resolution of the 1962 crisis involved a subtle mix of threat and compromise, candor and ambiguity, coercion and inducement. If Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev had not accepted Kennedy's demand that he announce the withdrawal of Soviet missiles from Cuba within 24 hours, would Kennedy have ordered the air strike he threatened? The answer will never be known, but what seems certain is that Khrushchev would not have removed the missiles without the threat of force.

Resolving today's slow-motion confrontation over Iran's nuclear program will demand a similarly subtle mix. First, the United States needs to accept the irreversible realities of the situation: Tehran already knows how to build centrifuges and enrich uranium, and no U.S. policy is going to change that. Washington should work to place constraints on these activities so as to keep Iran as far from the development of a nuclear weapon as feasible, implement verification and transparency measures that maximize the likelihood that cheating will be discovered, and, finally, unambiguously threaten Tehran with a regime-ending attack in the event that it moves to construct nuclear weapons. Although Nathan may disagree, in my view, unless Iran's leadership believes that the costs of building nuclear weapons will be greater than the benefits those weapons would provide, the Islamic Republic will become a nuclear-armed state.

Ironically, U.S. actions in the Middle East over the past decade have taught regimes in the region both the value of nuclear weapons programs and the dangers of giving them up. Former Libyan leader Muammar al-Qaddafi, who ended his country's nuclear program under U.S. pressure, wound up on the wrong side of U.S. air strikes last year former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, who didn't even have a nuclear weapons program in 2003, faced a full-scale invasion. As Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, summarized in an address to his people: "Qaddafi gathered up all his nuclear facilities and gave them to the West. And now, you can see the conditions our nation is living in versus their conditions." Given recent examples, Tehran has no reason not to want nuclear weapons if it could acquire them without triggering an attack.

Nathan correctly notes that the Kennedy administration embraced-indeed, exaggerated-news headlines emphasizing the president's steely resolve in forcing Khrushchev to back down. And no one in the administration said anything for many years to cast doubt on Secretary of State Dean Rusk's oft-quoted line, "We were eyeball to eyeball, and the other fellow just blinked." But in fact, Kennedy knew better. After a celebratory victory lap, the president identified what he believed was the central lesson of the Cuban missile crisis: "Nuclear powers must avert those confrontations which bring an adversary to a choice of either a humiliating retreat or a nuclear war."

In other words, having peered over the nuclear precipice, Kennedy took away a simple lesson: Never again. He used the crisis as a learning experience to clarify what he called the "rules of the precarious status quo." After October 1962, neither superpower dared surprise the other with provocative actions that might risk nuclear war. Together with the Berlin crisis of 1961, then, the Cuban missile crisis became a turning point in the Cold War. In the immediate aftermath of these events, Washington and Moscow established a hot line for direct communications, signed the Limited Test Ban Treaty to stop nuclear weapons tests in the atmosphere, and began negotiations that culminated in the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, which limited the spread of nuclear weapons.


Contents

Cuba and Berlin Wall Edit

With the end of World War II and the start of the Cold War, the United States had grown concerned about the expansion of communism. A Latin American country openly allying with the Soviet Union was regarded by the US as unacceptable. It would, for example, defy the Monroe Doctrine, a US policy limiting US involvement in European colonies and European affairs but holding that the Western Hemisphere was in the US sphere of influence.

The Kennedy administration had been publicly embarrassed by the failed Bay of Pigs Invasion in April 1961, which had been launched under President John F. Kennedy by CIA-trained forces of Cuban exiles. Afterward, former President Dwight Eisenhower told Kennedy that "the failure of the Bay of Pigs will embolden the Soviets to do something that they would otherwise not do." [5] : 10 The half-hearted invasion left Soviet first secretary Nikita Khrushchev and his advisers with the impression that Kennedy was indecisive and, as one Soviet adviser wrote, "too young, intellectual, not prepared well for decision making in crisis situations. too intelligent and too weak". [5] US covert operations against Cuba continued in 1961 with the unsuccessful Operation Mongoose. [6]

In addition, Khrushchev's impression of Kennedy's weaknesses was confirmed by the President's response during the Berlin Crisis of 1961, particularly to the building of the Berlin Wall. Speaking to Soviet officials in the aftermath of the crisis, Khrushchev asserted, "I know for certain that Kennedy doesn't have a strong background, nor, generally speaking, does he have the courage to stand up to a serious challenge." He also told his son Sergei that on Cuba, Kennedy "would make a fuss, make more of a fuss, and then agree". [7]

In January 1962, US Army General Edward Lansdale described plans to overthrow the Cuban government in a top-secret report (partially declassified 1989), addressed to Kennedy and officials involved with Operation Mongoose. [6] CIA agents or "pathfinders" from the Special Activities Division were to be infiltrated into Cuba to carry out sabotage and organization, including radio broadcasts. [8] In February 1962, the US launched an embargo against Cuba, [9] and Lansdale presented a 26-page, top-secret timetable for implementation of the overthrow of the Cuban government, mandating guerrilla operations to begin in August and September. "Open revolt and overthrow of the Communist regime" would occur in the first two weeks of October. [6]

Missile gap Edit

When Kennedy ran for president in 1960, one of his key election issues was an alleged "missile gap" with the Soviets leading. Actually, the US at that time led the Soviets by a wide margin that would only increase. In 1961, the Soviets had only four intercontinental ballistic missiles (R-7 Semyorka). By October 1962, they may have had a few dozen, with some intelligence estimates as high as 75. [10]

The US, on the other hand, had 170 ICBMs and was quickly building more. It also had eight George Washington- and Ethan Allen-class ballistic missile submarines, with the capability to launch 16 Polaris missiles, each with a range of 2,500 nautical miles (4,600 km). Khrushchev increased the perception of a missile gap when he loudly boasted to the world that the Soviets were building missiles "like sausages" but Soviet missiles' numbers and capabilities were nowhere close to his assertions. The Soviet Union had medium-range ballistic missiles in quantity, about 700 of them, but they were very unreliable and inaccurate. The US had a considerable advantage in total number of nuclear warheads (27,000 against 3,600) and in the technology required for their accurate delivery. The US also led in missile defensive capabilities, naval and air power but the Soviets had a 2–1 advantage in conventional ground forces, more pronounced in field guns and tanks, particularly in the European theatre. [10]

Justification Edit

In May 1962, Soviet First Secretary Nikita Khrushchev was persuaded by the idea of countering the US's growing lead in developing and deploying strategic missiles by placing Soviet intermediate-range nuclear missiles in Cuba, despite the misgivings of the Soviet Ambassador in Havana, Alexandr Ivanovich Alexeyev, who argued that Castro would not accept the deployment of the missiles. [11] Khrushchev faced a strategic situation in which the US was perceived to have a "splendid first strike" capability that put the Soviet Union at a huge disadvantage. In 1962, the Soviets had only 20 ICBMs capable of delivering nuclear warheads to the US from inside the Soviet Union. [12] The poor accuracy and reliability of the missiles raised serious doubts about their effectiveness. A newer, more reliable generation of ICBMs would become operational only after 1965. [12]

Therefore, Soviet nuclear capability in 1962 placed less emphasis on ICBMs than on medium and intermediate-range ballistic missiles (MRBMs and IRBMs). The missiles could hit American allies and most of Alaska from Soviet territory but not the Contiguous United States. Graham Allison, the director of Harvard University's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, points out, "The Soviet Union could not right the nuclear imbalance by deploying new ICBMs on its own soil. In order to meet the threat it faced in 1962, 1963, and 1964, it had very few options. Moving existing nuclear weapons to locations from which they could reach American targets was one." [13]

A second reason that Soviet missiles were deployed to Cuba was because Khrushchev wanted to bring West Berlin, controlled by the American, British and French within Communist East Germany, into the Soviet orbit. The East Germans and Soviets considered western control over a portion of Berlin a grave threat to East Germany. Khrushchev made West Berlin the central battlefield of the Cold War. Khrushchev believed that if the US did nothing over the missile deployments in Cuba, he could muscle the West out of Berlin using said missiles as a deterrent to western countermeasures in Berlin. If the US tried to bargain with the Soviets after it became aware of the missiles, Khrushchev could demand trading the missiles for West Berlin. Since Berlin was strategically more important than Cuba, the trade would be a win for Khrushchev, as Kennedy recognised: "The advantage is, from Khrushchev's point of view, he takes a great chance but there are quite some rewards to it." [14]

Thirdly, from the perspective of the Soviet Union and of Cuba, it seemed that the United States wanted to increase its presence in Cuba. With actions including the attempt to expel Cuba from the Organization of American States, [15] placing economic sanctions on the nation, directly invading it in addition to conducting secret operations on containing communism and Cuba, it was assumed that America was trying to overrun Cuba. As a result, to try and prevent this, the USSR would place missiles in Cuba and neutralise the threat. This would ultimately serve to secure Cuba against attack and keep the country in the Socialist Bloc. [16]

Another major reason why Khrushchev planned to place missiles on Cuba undetected was to "level the playing field" with the evident American nuclear threat. America had the upper hand as they could launch from Turkey and destroy the USSR before they would have a chance to react. After the transmission of nuclear missiles, Khrushchev had finally established mutually assured destruction, meaning that if the U.S. decided to launch a nuclear strike against the USSR, the latter would react by launching a retaliatory nuclear strike against the U.S. [17]

Additionally, placing nuclear missiles on Cuba was a way for the USSR to show their support for Cuba and support the Cuban people who viewed the United States as a threatening force, [15] as the latter had become their ally after the Cuban Revolution of 1959. According to Khrushchev, the Soviet Union's motives were "aimed at allowing Cuba to live peacefully and develop as its people desire". [18]

Deployment Edit

In early 1962, a group of Soviet military and missile construction specialists accompanied an agricultural delegation to Havana. They obtained a meeting with Cuban prime minister Fidel Castro. The Cuban leadership had a strong expectation that the US would invade Cuba again and enthusiastically approved the idea of installing nuclear missiles in Cuba. According to another source, Castro objected to the missiles' deployment that would have made him look like a Soviet puppet, but he was persuaded that missiles in Cuba would be an irritant to the US and help the interests of the entire socialist camp. [19] Also, the deployment would include short-range tactical weapons (with a range of 40 km, usable only against naval vessels) that would provide a "nuclear umbrella" for attacks upon the island.

By May, Khrushchev and Castro agreed to place strategic nuclear missiles secretly in Cuba. Like Castro, Khrushchev felt that a US invasion of Cuba was imminent and that to lose Cuba would do great harm to the communists, especially in Latin America. He said he wanted to confront the Americans "with more than words. the logical answer was missiles". [20] : 29 The Soviets maintained their tight secrecy, writing their plans longhand, which were approved by Marshal of the Soviet Union Rodion Malinovsky on July 4 and Khrushchev on July 7.

From the very beginning, the Soviets' operation entailed elaborate denial and deception, known as "maskirovka". All the planning and preparation for transporting and deploying the missiles were carried out in the utmost secrecy, with only a very few told the exact nature of the mission. Even the troops detailed for the mission were given misdirection by being told that they were headed for a cold region and being outfitted with ski boots, fleece-lined parkas, and other winter equipment. The Soviet code-name was Operation Anadyr. The Anadyr River flows into the Bering Sea, and Anadyr is also the capital of Chukotsky District and a bomber base in the far eastern region. All the measures were meant to conceal the program from both internal and external audiences. [21]

Specialists in missile construction under the guise of "machine operators", "irrigation specialists", and "agricultural specialists" arrived in July. [21] A total of 43,000 foreign troops would ultimately be brought in. [22] Chief Marshal of Artillery Sergei Biryuzov, Head of the Soviet Rocket Forces, led a survey team that visited Cuba. He told Khrushchev that the missiles would be concealed and camouflaged by palm trees. [10]

The Cuban leadership was further upset when on September 20, the US Senate approved Joint Resolution 230, which expressed the US was determined "to prevent in Cuba the creation or use of an externally-supported military capability endangering the security of the United States". [23] [24] On the same day, the US announced a major military exercise in the Caribbean, PHIBRIGLEX-62, which Cuba denounced as a deliberate provocation and proof that the US planned to invade Cuba. [24] [25] [ unreliable source? ]

The Soviet leadership believed, based on its perception of Kennedy's lack of confidence during the Bay of Pigs Invasion, that he would avoid confrontation and accept the missiles as a fait accompli. [5] : 1 On September 11, the Soviet Union publicly warned that a US attack on Cuba or on Soviet ships that were carrying supplies to the island would mean war. [6] The Soviets continued the Maskirovka program to conceal their actions in Cuba. They repeatedly denied that the weapons being brought into Cuba were offensive in nature. On September 7, Soviet Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Dobrynin assured United States Ambassador to the United Nations Adlai Stevenson that the Soviet Union was supplying only defensive weapons to Cuba. On September 11, the Telegraph Agency of the Soviet Union (TASS: Telegrafnoe Agentstvo Sovetskogo Soyuza) announced that the Soviet Union had no need or intention to introduce offensive nuclear missiles into Cuba. On October 13, Dobrynin was questioned by former Undersecretary of State Chester Bowles about whether the Soviets planned to put offensive weapons in Cuba. He denied any such plans. [24] On October 17, Soviet embassy official Georgy Bolshakov brought President Kennedy a personal message from Khrushchev reassuring him that "under no circumstances would surface-to-surface missiles be sent to Cuba." [24] : 494

As early as August 1962, the US suspected the Soviets of building missile facilities in Cuba. During that month, its intelligence services gathered information about sightings by ground observers of Russian-built MiG-21 fighters and Il-28 light bombers. U-2 spy planes found S-75 Dvina (NATO designation SA-2) surface-to-air missile sites at eight different locations. CIA director John A. McCone was suspicious. Sending antiaircraft missiles into Cuba, he reasoned, "made sense only if Moscow intended to use them to shield a base for ballistic missiles aimed at the United States". [26] On August 10, he wrote a memo to Kennedy in which he guessed that the Soviets were preparing to introduce ballistic missiles into Cuba. [10]

With important Congressional elections scheduled for November, the crisis became enmeshed in American politics. On August 31, Senator Kenneth Keating (R-New York) warned on the Senate floor that the Soviet Union was "in all probability" constructing a missile base in Cuba. He charged the Kennedy administration with covering up a major threat to the US, thereby starting the crisis. [27] He may have received this initial "remarkably accurate" information from his friend, former congresswoman and ambassador Clare Boothe Luce, who in turn received it from Cuban exiles. [28] A later confirming source for Keating's information possibly was the West German ambassador to Cuba, who had received information from dissidents inside Cuba that Soviet troops had arrived in Cuba in early August and were seen working "in all probability on or near a missile base" and who passed this information to Keating on a trip to Washington in early October. [29] Air Force General Curtis LeMay presented a pre-invasion bombing plan to Kennedy in September, and spy flights and minor military harassment from US forces at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base were the subject of continual Cuban diplomatic complaints to the US government. [6]

The first consignment of R-12 missiles arrived on the night of September 8, followed by a second on September 16. The R-12 was a medium-range ballistic missile, capable of carrying a thermonuclear warhead. [30] It was a single-stage, road-transportable, surface-launched, storable liquid propellant fuelled missile that could deliver a megaton-class nuclear weapon. [31] The Soviets were building nine sites—six for R-12 medium-range missiles (NATO designation SS-4 Sandal) with an effective range of 2,000 kilometres (1,200 mi) and three for R-14 intermediate-range ballistic missiles (NATO designation SS-5 Skean) with a maximum range of 4,500 kilometres (2,800 mi). [32]

On October 7, Cuban President Osvaldo Dorticós Torrado spoke at the UN General Assembly: "If. we are attacked, we will defend ourselves. I repeat, we have sufficient means with which to defend ourselves we have indeed our inevitable weapons, the weapons, which we would have preferred not to acquire, and which we do not wish to employ." [33] On October 10 in another Senate speech Sen. Keating reaffirmed his earlier warning of August 31 and stated that, "Construction has begun on at least a half dozen launching sites for intermediate range tactical missiles." [34]

The missiles in Cuba allowed the Soviets to effectively target most of the Continental US. The planned arsenal was forty launchers. The Cuban populace readily noticed the arrival and deployment of the missiles and hundreds of reports reached Miami. US intelligence received countless reports, many of dubious quality or even laughable, most of which could be dismissed as describing defensive missiles. [35] [36] [37]

Only five reports bothered the analysts. They described large trucks passing through towns at night that were carrying very long canvas-covered cylindrical objects that could not make turns through towns without backing up and manoeuvring. Defensive missiles could turn. The reports could not be satisfactorily dismissed. [38]

Aerial confirmation Edit

The United States had been sending U-2 surveillance over Cuba since the failed Bay of Pigs Invasion. [39] The first issue that led to a pause in reconnaissance flights took place on August 30, when a U-2 operated by the US Air Force's Strategic Air Command flew over Sakhalin Island in the Soviet Far East by mistake. The Soviets lodged a protest and the US apologised. Nine days later, a Taiwanese-operated U-2 [40] [41] was lost over western China to an SA-2 surface-to-air missile. US officials were worried that one of the Cuban or Soviet SAMs in Cuba might shoot down a CIA U-2, initiating another international incident. In a meeting with members of the Committee on Overhead Reconnaissance (COMOR) on September 10, Secretary of State Dean Rusk and National Security Advisor McGeorge Bundy heavily restricted further U-2 flights over Cuban airspace. The resulting lack of coverage over the island for the next five weeks became known to historians as the "Photo Gap". [42] No significant U-2 coverage was achieved over the interior of the island. US officials attempted to use a Corona photo-reconnaissance satellite to obtain coverage over reported Soviet military deployments, but imagery acquired over western Cuba by a Corona KH-4 mission on October 1 was heavily covered by clouds and haze and failed to provide any usable intelligence. [43] At the end of September, Navy reconnaissance aircraft photographed the Soviet ship Kasimov, with large crates on its deck the size and shape of Il-28 jet bomber fuselages. [10]

In September 1962, analysts from the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) noticed that Cuban surface-to-air missile sites were arranged in a pattern similar to those used by the Soviet Union to protect its ICBM bases, leading DIA to lobby for the resumption of U-2 flights over the island. [44] Although in the past the flights had been conducted by the CIA, pressure from the Defense Department led to that authority being transferred to the Air Force. [10] Following the loss of a CIA U-2 over the Soviet Union in May 1960, it was thought that if another U-2 were shot down, an Air Force aircraft arguably being used for a legitimate military purpose would be easier to explain than a CIA flight.

When the reconnaissance missions were reauthorized on October 9, poor weather kept the planes from flying. The US first obtained U-2 photographic evidence of the missiles on October 14, when a U-2 flight piloted by Major Richard Heyser took 928 pictures on a path selected by DIA analysts, capturing images of what turned out to be an SS-4 construction site at San Cristóbal, Pinar del Río Province (now in Artemisa Province), in western Cuba. [45]

President notified Edit

On October 15, the CIA's National Photographic Interpretation Center (NPIC) reviewed the U-2 photographs and identified objects that they interpreted as medium range ballistic missiles. This identification was made, in part, on the strength of reporting provided by Oleg Penkovsky, a double agent in the GRU working for CIA and MI6. Although he provided no direct reports of the Soviet missile deployments to Cuba, technical and doctrinal details of Soviet missile regiments that had been provided by Penkovsky in the months and years prior to the Crisis helped NPIC analysts correctly identify the missiles on U-2 imagery. [46]

That evening, the CIA notified the Department of State and at 8:30 pm EDT, Bundy chose to wait until the next morning to tell the President. McNamara was briefed at midnight. The next morning, Bundy met with Kennedy and showed him the U-2 photographs and briefed him on the CIA's analysis of the images. [47] At 6:30 pm EDT, Kennedy convened a meeting of the nine members of the National Security Council and five other key advisers, [48] in a group he formally named the Executive Committee of the National Security Council (EXCOMM) after the fact on October 22 by the National Security Action Memorandum 196. [49] Without informing the members of EXCOMM, President Kennedy tape recorded all of their proceedings, and Sheldon M. Stern, head of the Kennedy library transcribed some of them. [50] [51]

On October 16, President Kennedy notified Robert Kennedy that he was convinced Russia was placing missiles in Cuba and it was a legitimate threat. This officially made the threat of nuclear destruction by two world superpowers a reality. Robert Kennedy responded by contacting the Soviet Ambassador, Anatoly Dobrynin. Robert Kennedy expressed his "concern about what was happening" and Dobrynin "was instructed by Soviet Chairman Nikita S. Khrushchev to assure President Kennedy that there would be no ground-to-ground missiles or offensive weapons placed in Cuba". Khrushchev further assured Kennedy that the Soviet Union had no intention of "disrupting the relationship of our two countries" despite the photo evidence presented before President Kennedy. [52]

Responses considered Edit

The US had no plan in place because its intelligence had been convinced that the Soviets would never install nuclear missiles in Cuba. EXCOMM, of which Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson was a member, quickly discussed several possible courses of action: [53]

  1. Do nothing: American vulnerability to Soviet missiles was not new.
  2. Diplomacy: Use diplomatic pressure to get the Soviet Union to remove the missiles.
  3. Secret approach: Offer Castro the choice of splitting with the Russians or being invaded.
  4. Invasion: Full force invasion of Cuba and overthrow of Castro.
  5. Air strike: Use the US Air Force to attack all known missile sites.
  6. Blockade: Use the US Navy to block any missiles from arriving in Cuba.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff unanimously agreed that a full-scale attack and invasion was the only solution. They believed that the Soviets would not attempt to stop the US from conquering Cuba. Kennedy was skeptical:

They, no more than we, can let these things go by without doing something. They can't, after all their statements, permit us to take out their missiles, kill a lot of Russians, and then do nothing. If they don't take action in Cuba, they certainly will in Berlin. [54]

Kennedy concluded that attacking Cuba by air would signal the Soviets to presume "a clear line" to conquer Berlin. Kennedy also believed that US allies would think of the country as "trigger-happy cowboys" who lost Berlin because they could not peacefully resolve the Cuban situation. [55]

The EXCOMM then discussed the effect on the strategic balance of power, both political and military. The Joint Chiefs of Staff believed that the missiles would seriously alter the military balance, but McNamara disagreed. An extra 40, he reasoned, would make little difference to the overall strategic balance. The US already had approximately 5,000 strategic warheads, [56] : 261 but the Soviet Union had only 300. McNamara concluded that the Soviets having 340 would not therefore substantially alter the strategic balance. In 1990, he reiterated that "it made no difference. The military balance wasn't changed. I didn't believe it then, and I don't believe it now." [57]

The EXCOMM agreed that the missiles would affect the political balance. Kennedy had explicitly promised the American people less than a month before the crisis that "if Cuba should possess a capacity to carry out offensive actions against the United States. the United States would act." [58] : 674–681 Also, credibility among US allies and people would be damaged if the Soviet Union appeared to redress the strategic balance by placing missiles in Cuba. Kennedy explained after the crisis that "it would have politically changed the balance of power. It would have appeared to, and appearances contribute to reality." [59]

On October 18, Kennedy met with the Soviet Minister of Foreign Affairs, Andrei Gromyko, who claimed the weapons were for defensive purposes only. Not wanting to expose what he already knew and to avoid panicking the American public, [60] Kennedy did not reveal that he was already aware of the missile buildup. [61] By October 19, frequent U-2 spy flights showed four operational sites. [62]

Two Operational Plans (OPLAN) were considered. OPLAN 316 envisioned a full invasion of Cuba by Army and Marine units, supported by the Navy following Air Force and naval airstrikes. Army units in the US would have had trouble fielding mechanised and logistical assets, and the US Navy could not supply enough amphibious shipping to transport even a modest armoured contingent from the Army.

OPLAN 312, primarily an Air Force and Navy carrier operation, was designed with enough flexibility to do anything from engaging individual missile sites to providing air support for OPLAN 316's ground forces. [63]

Kennedy met with members of EXCOMM and other top advisers throughout October 21, considering two remaining options: an air strike primarily against the Cuban missile bases or a naval blockade of Cuba. [61] A full-scale invasion was not the administration's first option. McNamara supported the naval blockade as a strong but limited military action that left the US in control. The term "blockade" was problematic. According to international law, a blockade is an act of war, but the Kennedy administration did not think that the Soviets would be provoked to attack by a mere blockade. [65] Additionally, legal experts at the State Department and Justice Department concluded that a declaration of war could be avoided if another legal justification, based on the Rio Treaty for defence of the Western Hemisphere, was obtained from a resolution by a two-thirds vote from the members of the Organization of American States (OAS). [66]

Admiral Anderson, Chief of Naval Operations wrote a position paper that helped Kennedy to differentiate between what they termed a "quarantine" [67] of offensive weapons and a blockade of all materials, claiming that a classic blockade was not the original intention. Since it would take place in international waters, Kennedy obtained the approval of the OAS for military action under the hemispheric defence provisions of the Rio Treaty:

Latin American participation in the quarantine now involved two Argentine destroyers which were to report to the US Commander South Atlantic [COMSOLANT] at Trinidad on November 9. An Argentine submarine and a Marine battalion with lift were available if required. In addition, two Venezuelan destroyers (Destroyers ARV D-11 Nueva Esparta" and "ARV D-21 Zulia") and one submarine (Caribe) had reported to COMSOLANT, ready for sea by November 2. The Government of Trinidad and Tobago offered the use of Chaguaramas Naval Base to warships of any OAS nation for the duration of the "quarantine". The Dominican Republic had made available one escort ship. Colombia was reported ready to furnish units and had sent military officers to the US to discuss this assistance. The Argentine Air Force informally offered three SA-16 aircraft in addition to forces already committed to the "quarantine" operation. [68]

This initially was to involve a naval blockade against offensive weapons within the framework of the Organization of American States and the Rio Treaty. Such a blockade might be expanded to cover all types of goods and air transport. The action was to be backed up by surveillance of Cuba. The CNO's scenario was followed closely in later implementing the "quarantine."

On October 19, the EXCOMM formed separate working groups to examine the air strike and blockade options, and by the afternoon most support in the EXCOMM shifted to the blockade option. Reservations about the plan continued to be voiced as late as the October 21, the paramount concern being that once the blockade was put into effect, the Soviets would rush to complete some of the missiles. Consequently, the US could find itself bombing operational missiles if the blockade failed to force Khrushchev to remove the missiles already on the island. [69]

Speech to the nation Edit

At 3:00 pm EDT on October 22, President Kennedy formally established the Executive Committee (EXCOMM) with National Security Action Memorandum (NSAM) 196. At 5:00 pm, he met with Congressional leaders who contentiously opposed a blockade and demanded a stronger response. In Moscow, Ambassador Foy D. Kohler briefed Khrushchev on the pending blockade and Kennedy's speech to the nation. Ambassadors around the world gave notice to non-Eastern Bloc leaders. Before the speech, US delegations met with Canadian Prime Minister John Diefenbaker, British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, French President Charles de Gaulle and Secretary-General of the Organization of American States, José Antonio Mora to brief them on the US intelligence and their proposed response. All were supportive of the US position. Over the course of the crisis, Kennedy had daily telephone conversations with Macmillan, who was publicly supportive of US actions. [71]

Shortly before his speech, Kennedy called former President Dwight Eisenhower. [72] Kennedy's conversation with the former president also revealed that the two were consulting during the Cuban Missile Crisis. [73] The two also anticipated that Khrushchev would respond to the Western world in a manner that was similar to his response during the Suez Crisis and would possibly wind up trading off Berlin. [73]

On October 22 at 7:00 pm EDT, Kennedy delivered a nationwide televised address on all of the major networks announcing the discovery of the missiles. He noted:

It shall be the policy of this nation to regard any nuclear missile launched from Cuba against any nation in the Western Hemisphere as an attack by the Soviet Union on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon the Soviet Union. [74]

Kennedy described the administration's plan:

To halt this offensive buildup, a strict quarantine on all offensive military equipment under shipment to Cuba is being initiated. All ships of any kind bound for Cuba, from whatever nation or port, will, if found to contain cargoes of offensive weapons, be turned back. This quarantine will be extended, if needed, to other types of cargo and carriers. We are not at this time, however, denying the necessities of life as the Soviets attempted to do in their Berlin blockade of 1948. [74]

During the speech, a directive went out to all US forces worldwide, placing them on DEFCON 3. The heavy cruiser USS Newport News was designated flagship for the blockade, [67] with USS Leary as Newport News ' s destroyer escort. [68]

Crisis deepens Edit

On October 23, at 11:24 am EDT, a cable, drafted by George Wildman Ball to the US Ambassador in Turkey and NATO, notified them that they were considering making an offer to withdraw what the US knew to be nearly-obsolete missiles from Italy and Turkey, in exchange for the Soviet withdrawal from Cuba. Turkish officials replied that they would "deeply resent" any trade involving the US missile presence in their country. [77] Two days later, on the morning of October 25, American journalist Walter Lippmann proposed the same thing in his syndicated column. Castro reaffirmed Cuba's right to self-defense and said that all of its weapons were defensive and Cuba would not allow an inspection. [6]

International response Edit

Three days after Kennedy's speech, the Chinese People's Daily announced that "650,000,000 Chinese men and women were standing by the Cuban people." [78] In West Germany, newspapers supported the US response by contrasting it with the weak American actions in the region during the preceding months. They also expressed some fear that the Soviets might retaliate in Berlin. In France on October 23, the crisis made the front page of all the daily newspapers. The next day, an editorial in Le Monde expressed doubt about the authenticity of the CIA's photographic evidence. Two days later, after a visit by a high-ranking CIA agent, the newspaper accepted the validity of the photographs. Also in France, in the October 29 issue of Le Figaro, Raymond Aron wrote in support of the American response. [79] On October 24, Pope John XXIII sent a message to the Soviet embassy in Rome to be transmitted to the Kremlin in which he voiced his concern for peace. In this message he stated, "We beg all governments not to remain deaf to this cry of humanity. That they do all that is in their power to save peace." [80]

Soviet broadcast and communications Edit

The crisis was continuing unabated, and in the evening of October 24, the Soviet news agency TASS broadcast a telegram from Khrushchev to Kennedy in which Khrushchev warned that the United States' "outright piracy" would lead to war. [81] That was followed at 9:24 pm by a telegram from Khrushchev to Kennedy, which was received at 10:52 pm EDT. Khrushchev stated, "if you weigh the present situation with a cool head without giving way to passion, you will understand that the Soviet Union cannot afford not to decline the despotic demands of the USA" and that the Soviet Union views the blockade as "an act of aggression" and their ships will be instructed to ignore it. [76] After October 23, Soviet communications with the USA increasingly showed indications of having been rushed. Undoubtedly a product of pressure, it was not uncommon for Khrushchev to repeat himself and send messages lacking simple editing. [82] With President Kennedy making his aggressive intentions of a possible air-strike followed by an invasion on Cuba known, Khrushchev rapidly sought a diplomatic compromise. Communications between the two super-powers had entered into a unique and revolutionary period with the newly developed threat of mutual destruction through the deployment of nuclear weapons, diplomacy now demonstrated how power and coercion could dominate negotiations. [83]

US alert level raised Edit

The US requested an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council on October 25. US Ambassador to the United Nations Adlai Stevenson confronted Soviet Ambassador Valerian Zorin in an emergency meeting of the Security Council, challenging him to admit the existence of the missiles. Ambassador Zorin refused to answer. The next day at 10:00 pm EDT, the US raised the readiness level of SAC forces to DEFCON 2. For the only confirmed time in US history, B-52 bombers went on continuous airborne alert, and B-47 medium bombers were dispersed to various military and civilian airfields and made ready to take off, fully equipped, on 15 minutes' notice. [84] One eighth of SAC's 1,436 bombers were on airborne alert, and some 145 intercontinental ballistic missiles stood on ready alert, some of which targeted Cuba, [85] and Air Defense Command (ADC) redeployed 161 nuclear-armed interceptors to 16 dispersal fields within nine hours, with one third maintaining 15-minute alert status. [63] Twenty-three nuclear-armed B-52s were sent to orbit points within striking distance of the Soviet Union so that it would believe that the US was serious. [86] Jack J. Catton later estimated that about 80 percent of SAC's planes were ready for launch during the crisis David A. Burchinal recalled that, by contrast: [87]

the Russians were so thoroughly stood down, and we knew it. They didn't make any move. They did not increase their alert they did not increase any flights, or their air defense posture. They didn't do a thing, they froze in place. We were never further from nuclear war than at the time of Cuba, never further.

By October 22, Tactical Air Command (TAC) had 511 fighters plus supporting tankers and reconnaissance aircraft deployed to face Cuba on one-hour alert status. TAC and the Military Air Transport Service had problems. The concentration of aircraft in Florida strained command and support echelons, which faced critical undermanning in security, armaments, and communications the absence of initial authorization for war-reserve stocks of conventional munitions forced TAC to scrounge and the lack of airlift assets to support a major airborne drop necessitated the call-up of 24 Reserve squadrons. [63]

On October 25 at 1:45 am EDT, Kennedy responded to Khrushchev's telegram by stating that the US was forced into action after receiving repeated assurances that no offensive missiles were being placed in Cuba, and when the assurances proved to be false, the deployment "required the responses I have announced. I hope that your government will take necessary action to permit a restoration of the earlier situation."

Blockade challenged Edit

At 7:15 am EDT on October 25, USS Essex and USS Gearing attempted to intercept Bucharest but failed to do so. Fairly certain that the tanker did not contain any military material, the US allowed it through the blockade. Later that day, at 5:43 pm, the commander of the blockade effort ordered the destroyer USS Joseph P. Kennedy Jr. to intercept and board the Lebanese freighter Marucla. That took place the next day, and Marucla was cleared through the blockade after its cargo was checked. [88]

At 5:00 pm EDT on October 25, William Clements announced that the missiles in Cuba were still actively being worked on. That report was later verified by a CIA report that suggested there had been no slowdown at all. In response, Kennedy issued Security Action Memorandum 199, authorizing the loading of nuclear weapons onto aircraft under the command of SACEUR, which had the duty of carrying out first air strikes on the Soviet Union. Kennedy claimed that the blockade had succeeded when the USSR turned back fourteen ships presumably carrying offensive weapons. [89] The first indication of this came from a report from the British GCHQ sent to the White House Situation Room containing intercepted communications from Soviet ships reporting their positions. On October 24, Kislovodsk, a Soviet cargo ship, reported a position north-east of where it had been 24 hours earlier indicating it had "discontinued" its voyage and turned back towards the Baltic. The next day, reports showed more ships originally bound for Cuba had altered their course. [90]

Raising the stakes Edit

The next morning, October 26, Kennedy informed the EXCOMM that he believed only an invasion would remove the missiles from Cuba. He was persuaded to give the matter time and continue with both military and diplomatic pressure. He agreed and ordered the low-level flights over the island to be increased from two per day to once every two hours. He also ordered a crash program to institute a new civil government in Cuba if an invasion went ahead.

At this point, the crisis was ostensibly at a stalemate. The Soviets had shown no indication that they would back down and had made public media and private inter-governmental statements to that effect. The US had no reason to believe otherwise and was in the early stages of preparing for an invasion, along with a nuclear strike on the Soviet Union if it responded militarily, which was assumed. [91] Kennedy had no intention of keeping these plans a secret with an array of Cuban and Soviet spies forever present, Khrushchev was quickly made aware of this looming danger.

The implicit threat of air strikes on Cuba followed by invasion allowed the United States to exert pressure in future talks. It was the possibility of military action that played an influential role in accelerating Khrushchev's proposal for a compromise. [92] Throughout the closing stages of October, Soviet communications to the United States indicated increasing defensiveness. Khrushchev's increasing tendency to use poorly phrased and ambiguous communications throughout the compromise negotiations conversely increased United States confidence and clarity in messaging. Leading Soviet figures consistently failed to mention that only the Cuban government could agree to inspections of the territory and continually made arrangements relating to Cuba without the knowledge of Fidel Castro himself. According to Dean Rusk, Khrushchev "blinked", he began to panic from the consequences of his own plan and this was reflected in the tone of Soviet messages. This allowed the US to largely dominate negotiations in late October. [93]

At 1:00 pm EDT on October 26, John A. Scali of ABC News had lunch with Aleksandr Fomin, the cover name of Alexander Feklisov, the KGB station chief in Washington, at Fomin's request. Following the instructions of the Politburo of the CPSU, [94] Fomin noted, "War seems about to break out." He asked Scali to use his contacts to talk to his "high-level friends" at the State Department to see if the US would be interested in a diplomatic solution. He suggested that the language of the deal would contain an assurance from the Soviet Union to remove the weapons under UN supervision and that Castro would publicly announce that he would not accept such weapons again in exchange for a public statement by the US that it would not invade Cuba. [95] The US responded by asking the Brazilian government to pass a message to Castro that the US would be "unlikely to invade" if the missiles were removed. [77]

— Letter From Chairman Khrushchev to President Kennedy, October 26, 1962 [96]

On October 26 at 6:00 pm EDT, the State Department started receiving a message that appeared to be written personally by Khrushchev. It was Saturday at 2:00 am in Moscow. The long letter took several minutes to arrive, and it took translators additional time to translate and transcribe it. [77]

Robert F. Kennedy described the letter as "very long and emotional". Khrushchev reiterated the basic outline that had been stated to Scali earlier in the day: "I propose: we, for our part, will declare that our ships bound for Cuba are not carrying any armaments. You will declare that the United States will not invade Cuba with its troops and will not support any other forces which might intend to invade Cuba. Then the necessity of the presence of our military specialists in Cuba will disappear." At 6:45 pm EDT, news of Fomin's offer to Scali was finally heard and was interpreted as a "set up" for the arrival of Khrushchev's letter. The letter was then considered official and accurate although it was later learned that Fomin was almost certainly operating of his own accord without official backing. Additional study of the letter was ordered and continued into the night. [77]

Crisis continues Edit

Direct aggression against Cuba would mean nuclear war. The Americans speak about such aggression as if they did not know or did not want to accept this fact. I have no doubt they would lose such a war.

Castro, on the other hand, was convinced that an invasion of Cuba was soon at hand, and on October 26, he sent a telegram to Khrushchev that appeared to call for a pre-emptive nuclear strike on the US in case of attack. In a 2010 interview, Castro expressed regret about his earlier stance on first use: "After I've seen what I've seen, and knowing what I know now, it wasn't worth it at all." [98] Castro also ordered all anti-aircraft weapons in Cuba to fire on any US aircraft: [99] the orders had been to fire only on groups of two or more. At 6:00 am EDT on October 27, the CIA delivered a memo reporting that three of the four missile sites at San Cristobal and the two sites at Sagua la Grande appeared to be fully operational. It also noted that the Cuban military continued to organise for action but was under order not to initiate action unless attacked. [ citation needed ]

At 9:00 am EDT on October 27, Radio Moscow began broadcasting a message from Khrushchev. Contrary to the letter of the night before, the message offered a new trade: the missiles on Cuba would be removed in exchange for the removal of the Jupiter missiles from Italy and Turkey. At 10:00 am EDT, the executive committee met again to discuss the situation and came to the conclusion that the change in the message was because of internal debate between Khrushchev and other party officials in the Kremlin. [100] : 300 Kennedy realised that he would be in an "insupportable position if this becomes Khrushchev's proposal" because the missiles in Turkey were not militarily useful and were being removed anyway and "It's gonna – to any man at the United Nations or any other rational man, it will look like a very fair trade." Bundy explained why Khrushchev's public acquiescence could not be considered: "The current threat to peace is not in Turkey, it is in Cuba." [101]

McNamara noted that another tanker, the Grozny, was about 600 miles (970 km) out and should be intercepted. He also noted that they had not made the Soviets aware of the blockade line and suggested relaying that information to them via U Thant at the United Nations. [102]

While the meeting progressed, at 11:03 am EDT a new message began to arrive from Khrushchev. The message stated, in part:

"You are disturbed over Cuba. You say that this disturbs you because it is ninety-nine miles by sea from the coast of the United States of America. But. you have placed destructive missile weapons, which you call offensive, in Italy and Turkey, literally next to us. I therefore make this proposal: We are willing to remove from Cuba the means which you regard as offensive. Your representatives will make a declaration to the effect that the United States. will remove its analogous means from Turkey. and after that, persons entrusted by the United Nations Security Council could inspect on the spot the fulfillment of the pledges made."

The executive committee continued to meet through the day.

Throughout the crisis, Turkey had repeatedly stated that it would be upset if the Jupiter missiles were removed. Italy's Prime Minister Amintore Fanfani, who was also Foreign Minister ad interim, offered to allow withdrawal of the missiles deployed in Apulia as a bargaining chip. He gave the message to one of his most trusted friends, Ettore Bernabei, the general manager of RAI-TV, to convey to Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. Bernabei was in New York to attend an international conference on satellite TV broadcasting. Unknown to the Soviets, the US regarded the Jupiter missiles as obsolete and already supplanted by the Polaris nuclear ballistic submarine missiles. [10]

On the morning of October 27, a U-2F (the third CIA U-2A, modified for air-to-air refuelling) piloted by USAF Major Rudolf Anderson, [103] departed its forward operating location at McCoy AFB, Florida. At approximately 12:00 pm EDT, the aircraft was struck by an SA-2 surface-to-air missile launched from Cuba. The aircraft was shot down, and Anderson was killed. The stress in negotiations between the Soviets and the US intensified it was only later believed that the decision to fire the missile was made locally by an undetermined Soviet commander, acting on his own authority. Later that day, at about 3:41 pm EDT, several US Navy RF-8A Crusader aircraft, on low-level photo-reconnaissance missions, were fired upon.

On October 28, 1962, Khrushchev told his son Sergei that the shooting down of Anderson's U-2 was by the "Cuban military at the direction of Raul Castro". [104] [105] [106] [107]

At 4:00 pm EDT, Kennedy recalled members of EXCOMM to the White House and ordered that a message should immediately be sent to U Thant asking the Soviets to suspend work on the missiles while negotiations were carried out. During the meeting, General Maxwell Taylor delivered the news that the U-2 had been shot down. Kennedy had earlier claimed he would order an attack on such sites if fired upon, but he decided to not act unless another attack was made. Forty years later, McNamara said:

We had to send a U-2 over to gain reconnaissance information on whether the Soviet missiles were becoming operational. We believed that if the U-2 was shot down that—the Cubans didn't have capabilities to shoot it down, the Soviets did—we believed if it was shot down, it would be shot down by a Soviet surface-to-air-missile unit, and that it would represent a decision by the Soviets to escalate the conflict. And therefore, before we sent the U-2 out, we agreed that if it was shot down we wouldn't meet, we'd simply attack. It was shot down on Friday. Fortunately, we changed our mind, we thought "Well, it might have been an accident, we won't attack." Later we learned that Khrushchev had reasoned just as we did: we send over the U-2, if it was shot down, he reasoned we would believe it was an intentional escalation. And therefore, he issued orders to Pliyev, the Soviet commander in Cuba, to instruct all of his batteries not to shoot down the U-2. [note 1] [108]

Ellsberg said that Robert Kennedy (RFK) told him in 1964 that after the U-2 was shot down and the pilot killed, he (RFK) told Soviet ambassador Dobrynin, "You have drawn first blood . . [T]he president had decided against advice . not to respond militarily to that attack, but he [Dobrynin] should know that if another plane was shot at, . we would take out all the SAMs and antiaircraft . . And that would almost surely be followed by an invasion." [109]

Drafting response Edit

Emissaries sent by both Kennedy and Khrushchev agreed to meet at the Yenching Palace Chinese restaurant in the Cleveland Park neighbourhood of Washington, DC, on Saturday evening, October 27. [110] Kennedy suggested to take Khrushchev's offer to trade away the missiles. Unknown to most members of the EXCOMM, but with the support of his brother the president, Robert Kennedy had been meeting with the Soviet Ambassador Dobrynin in Washington to discover whether the intentions were genuine. [111] The EXCOMM was generally against the proposal because it would undermine NATO's authority, and the Turkish government had repeatedly stated it was against any such trade.

As the meeting progressed, a new plan emerged, and Kennedy was slowly persuaded. The new plan called for him to ignore the latest message and instead to return to Khrushchev's earlier one. Kennedy was initially hesitant, feeling that Khrushchev would no longer accept the deal because a new one had been offered, but Llewellyn Thompson argued that it was still possible. [112] White House Special Counsel and Adviser Ted Sorensen and Robert Kennedy left the meeting and returned 45 minutes later, with a draft letter to that effect. The President made several changes, had it typed, and sent it.

After the EXCOMM meeting, a smaller meeting continued in the Oval Office. The group argued that the letter should be underscored with an oral message to Dobrynin that stated that if the missiles were not withdrawn, military action would be used to remove them. Rusk added one proviso that no part of the language of the deal would mention Turkey, but there would be an understanding that the missiles would be removed "voluntarily" in the immediate aftermath. The president agreed, and the message was sent.

At Rusk's request, Fomin and Scali met again. Scali asked why the two letters from Khrushchev were so different, and Fomin claimed it was because of "poor communications". Scali replied that the claim was not credible and shouted that he thought it was a "stinking double cross". He went on to claim that an invasion was only hours away, and Fomin stated that a response to the US message was expected from Khrushchev shortly and urged Scali to tell the State Department that no treachery was intended. Scali said that he did not think anyone would believe him, but he agreed to deliver the message. The two went their separate ways, and Scali immediately typed out a memo for the EXCOMM. [113]

Within the US establishment, it was well understood that ignoring the second offer and returning to the first put Khrushchev in a terrible position. Military preparations continued, and all active duty Air Force personnel were recalled to their bases for possible action. Robert Kennedy later recalled the mood: "We had not abandoned all hope, but what hope there was now rested with Khrushchev's revising his course within the next few hours. It was a hope, not an expectation. The expectation was military confrontation by Tuesday (October 30), and possibly tomorrow (October 29) . " [113]

At 8:05 pm EDT, the letter drafted earlier in the day was delivered. The message read, "As I read your letter, the key elements of your proposals—which seem generally acceptable as I understand them—are as follows: 1) You would agree to remove these weapons systems from Cuba under appropriate United Nations observation and supervision and undertake, with suitable safe-guards, to halt the further introduction of such weapon systems into Cuba. 2) We, on our part, would agree—upon the establishment of adequate arrangements through the United Nations, to ensure the carrying out and continuation of these commitments (a) to remove promptly the quarantine measures now in effect and (b) to give assurances against the invasion of Cuba." The letter was also released directly to the press to ensure it could not be "delayed". [114] With the letter delivered, a deal was on the table. As Robert Kennedy noted, there was little expectation it would be accepted. At 9:00 pm EDT, the EXCOMM met again to review the actions for the following day. Plans were drawn up for air strikes on the missile sites as well as other economic targets, notably petroleum storage. McNamara stated that they had to "have two things ready: a government for Cuba, because we're going to need one and secondly, plans for how to respond to the Soviet Union in Europe, because sure as hell they're going to do something there". [115]

At 12:12 am EDT, on October 27, the US informed its NATO allies that "the situation is growing shorter. the United States may find it necessary within a very short time in its interest and that of its fellow nations in the Western Hemisphere to take whatever military action may be necessary." To add to the concern, at 6:00 am, the CIA reported that all missiles in Cuba were ready for action.

On October 27, Khrushchev also received a letter from Castro, what is now known as the Armageddon Letter (dated the day before), which was interpreted as urging the use of nuclear force in the event of an attack on Cuba: [116] "I believe the imperialists' aggressiveness is extremely dangerous and if they actually carry out the brutal act of invading Cuba in violation of international law and morality, that would be the moment to eliminate such danger forever through an act of clear legitimate defense, however harsh and terrible the solution would be," Castro wrote. [117]

Averted nuclear launch Edit

Later that same day, what the White House later called "Black Saturday", the US Navy dropped a series of "signalling" depth charges (practice depth charges the size of hand grenades) [118] on a Soviet submarine (B-59) at the blockade line, unaware that it was armed with a nuclear-tipped torpedo with orders that allowed it to be used if the submarine was damaged by depth charges or surface fire. [119] As the submarine was too deep to monitor any radio traffic, [120] [121] the captain of the B-59, Valentin Grigorievitch Savitsky, decided that a war might already have started and wanted to launch a nuclear torpedo. [122] The decision to launch these required agreement from all three officers on board. Vasily Arkhipov objected and so the nuclear launch was narrowly averted.

On the same day a U-2 spy plane made an accidental, unauthorised ninety-minute overflight of the Soviet Union's far eastern coast. [123] The Soviets responded by scrambling MiG fighters from Wrangel Island in turn, the Americans launched F-102 fighters armed with nuclear air-to-air missiles over the Bering Sea. [124]

On Saturday, October 27, after much deliberation between the Soviet Union and Kennedy's cabinet, Kennedy secretly agreed to remove all missiles set in Turkey and possibly southern Italy, the former on the border of the Soviet Union, in exchange for Khrushchev removing all missiles in Cuba. [125] There is some dispute as to whether removing the missiles from Italy was part of the secret agreement. Khrushchev wrote in his memoirs that it was, and when the crisis had ended McNamara gave the order to dismantle the missiles in both Italy and Turkey. [126]

At this point, Khrushchev knew things the US did not: First, that the shooting down of the U-2 by a Soviet missile violated direct orders from Moscow, and Cuban anti-aircraft fire against other US reconnaissance aircraft also violated direct orders from Khrushchev to Castro. [127] Second, the Soviets already had 162 nuclear warheads on Cuba that the US did not then believe were there. [128] Third, the Soviets and Cubans on the island would almost certainly have responded to an invasion by using those nuclear weapons, even though Castro believed that every human in Cuba would likely die as a result. [129] Khrushchev also knew but may not have considered the fact that he had submarines armed with nuclear weapons that the US Navy may not have known about.

Khrushchev knew he was losing control. President Kennedy had been told in early 1961 that a nuclear war would likely kill a third of humanity, with most or all of those deaths concentrated in the US, the USSR, Europe and China [130] Khrushchev may well have received similar reports from his military.

With this background, when Khrushchev heard Kennedy's threats relayed by Robert Kennedy to Soviet Ambassador Dobrynin, he immediately drafted his acceptance of Kennedy's latest terms from his dacha without involving the Politburo, as he had previously, and had them immediately broadcast over Radio Moscow, which he believed the US would hear. In that broadcast at 9:00 am EST, on October 28, Khrushchev stated that "the Soviet government, in addition to previously issued instructions on the cessation of further work at the building sites for the weapons, has issued a new order on the dismantling of the weapons which you describe as 'offensive' and their crating and return to the Soviet Union." [131] [132] [133] At 10:00 am, October 28, Kennedy first learned of Khrushchev's solution to the crisis with the US removing the 15 Jupiters in Turkey and the Soviets would remove the rockets from Cuba. Khrushchev had made the offer in a public statement for the world to hear. Despite almost solid opposition from his senior advisers, Kennedy quickly embraced the Soviet offer. "This is a pretty good play of his," Kennedy said, according to a tape recording that he made secretly of the Cabinet Room meeting. Kennedy had deployed the Jupiters in March of the year, causing a stream of angry outbursts from Khrushchev. "Most people will think this is a rather even trade and we ought to take advantage of it," Kennedy said. Vice President Lyndon Johnson was the first to endorse the missile swap but others continued to oppose the offer. Finally, Kennedy ended the debate. "We can't very well invade Cuba with all its toil and blood," Kennedy said, "when we could have gotten them out by making a deal on the same missiles on Turkey. If that's part of the record, then you don't have a very good war." [134]

Kennedy immediately responded to Khrushchev's letter, issuing a statement calling it "an important and constructive contribution to peace". [133] He continued this with a formal letter:

I consider my letter to you of October twenty-seventh and your reply of today as firm undertakings on the part of both our governments which should be promptly carried out. The US will make a statement in the framework of the Security Council in reference to Cuba as follows: it will declare that the United States of America will respect the inviolability of Cuban borders, its sovereignty, that it take the pledge not to interfere in internal affairs, not to intrude themselves and not to permit our territory to be used as a bridgehead for the invasion of Cuba, and will restrain those who would plan to carry an aggression against Cuba, either from US territory or from the territory of other countries neighboring to Cuba. [133] [135] : 103

Kennedy's planned statement would also contain suggestions he had received from his adviser Schlesinger Jr. in a "Memorandum for the President" describing the "Post Mortem on Cuba". [136]

Kennedy's Oval Office telephone conversation with Eisenhower soon after Khrushchev's message arrived revealed that the President was planning to use the Cuban Missile Crisis to escalate tensions with Khrushchev [137] and in the long run, Cuba as well. [137] The President also claimed that he thought the crisis would result in direct military confrontations in Berlin by the end of the next month. [137] He also claimed in his conversation with Eisenhower that the Soviet leader had offered to withdraw from Cuba in exchange for the withdrawal of missiles from Turkey and that while the Kennedy Administration had agreed not to invade Cuba, [137] they were only in process of determining Khrushchev's offer to withdraw from Turkey. [137]

When former US President Harry Truman called President Kennedy the day of Khrushchev's offer, the President informed him that his Administration had rejected the Soviet leader's offer to withdraw missiles from Turkey and was planning on using the Soviet setback in Cuba to escalate tensions in Berlin. [138]

The US continued the blockade in the following days, aerial reconnaissance proved that the Soviets were making progress in removing the missile systems. The 42 missiles and their support equipment were loaded onto eight Soviet ships. On November 2, 1962, Kennedy addressed the US via radio and television broadcasts regarding the dismantlement process of the Soviet R-12 missile bases located in the Caribbean region. [139] The ships left Cuba on November 5 to 9. The US made a final visual check as each of the ships passed the blockade line. Further diplomatic efforts were required to remove the Soviet Il-28 bombers, and they were loaded on three Soviet ships on December 5 and 6. Concurrent with the Soviet commitment on the Il-28s, the US government announced the end of the blockade from 6:45 pm EST on November 20, 1962. [62]

At the time when the Kennedy administration thought that the Cuban Missile Crisis was resolved, nuclear tactical rockets stayed in Cuba since they were not part of the Kennedy-Khrushchev understandings and the Americans did not know about them. The Soviets changed their minds, fearing possible future Cuban militant steps, and on November 22, 1962, Deputy Premier of the Soviet Union Anastas Mikoyan told Castro that the rockets with the nuclear warheads were being removed as well. [19]

In his negotiations with the Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin, Robert Kennedy informally proposed that the Jupiter missiles in Turkey would be removed "within a short time after this crisis was over". [140] : 222 Under an operation code-named Operation Pot Pie, the removal of the Jupiters from Italy and Turkey began on 1 April and was completed by 24 April 1963. The initial plans were to recycle the missiles for use in other programs, but NASA and the USAF were not interested in retaining the missile hardware. The missile bodies were destroyed on site, warheads, guidance packages, and launching equipment worth $14 million were returned to the United States. [141] [142]

The practical effect of the Kennedy-Khrushchev Pact was that the US would remove their rockets from Italy and Turkey and that the Soviets had no intention of resorting to nuclear war if they were out-gunned by the US. [143] [144] Because the withdrawal of the Jupiter missiles from NATO bases in Italy and Turkey was not made public at the time, Khrushchev appeared to have lost the conflict and become weakened. The perception was that Kennedy had won the contest between the superpowers and that Khrushchev had been humiliated. Both Kennedy and Khrushchev took every step to avoid full conflict despite pressures from their respective governments. Khrushchev held power for another two years. [135] : 102–105

By the time of the crisis in October 1962, the total number of nuclear weapons in the stockpiles of each country numbered approximately 26,400 for the United States and 3,300 for the Soviet Union. At the peak of the crisis, the U.S. had some 3,500 nuclear weapons ready to be used on command with a combined yield of approximately 6,300 megatons. The Soviets had considerably less strategic firepower at their disposal (some 300–320 bombs and warheads), lacking submarine-based weapons in a position to threaten the U.S. mainland and having most of their intercontinental delivery systems based on bombers that would have difficulty penetrating North American air defence systems. The U.S. had approximately 4,375 nuclear weapons deployed in Europe, most of which were tactical weapons such as nuclear artillery, with around 450 of them for ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, and aircraft the Soviets had more than 550 similar weapons in Europe. [145] [146]

United States Edit

  • SAC
    • ICBM: 182 (at peak alert) 121 Atlas D/E/F, 53 Titan 1, 8 Minuteman 1A
    • Bombers: 1,595 880 B-47, 639 B-52, 76 B-58 (1,479 bombers and 1,003 refuelling tankers available at peak alert)
    • 112 UGM-27 Polaris in seven SSBNs (16 each) five submarines with Polaris A1 and two with A2
    • 4–8 Regulus cruise missiles
    • 16 Mace cruise missiles
    • 3 aircraft carriers with some 40 bombs each
    • Land-based aircraft with some 50 bombs
    • IRBM: 105 60 Thor (UK), 45 Jupiter (30 Italy, 15 Turkey)
    • 48–90 Mace cruise missiles
    • 2 U.S. Sixth Fleet aircraft carriers with some 40 bombs each
    • Land-based aircraft with some 50 bombs

    Soviet Union Edit

    • Strategic (for use against North America):
      • ICBM: 42 four SS-6/R-7A at Plesetsk with two in reserve at Baikonur, 36 SS-7/R-16 with 26 in silos and ten on open launch pads
      • Bombers: 160 (readiness unknown) 100 Tu-95 Bear, 60 3M Bison B
      • MRBM: 528 SS-4/R-12, 492 at soft launch sites and 36 at hard launch sites (approximately six to eight R-12s were operational in Cuba, capable of striking the U.S. mainland at any moment until the crisis was resolved)
      • IRBM: 28 SS-5/R-14
      • Unknown number of Tu-16 Badger, Tu-22 Blinder, and MiG-21 aircraft tasked with nuclear strike missions

      Soviet leadership Edit

      The enormity of how close the world came to thermonuclear war impelled Khrushchev to propose a far-reaching easing of tensions with the US. [147] In a letter to President Kennedy dated October 30, 1962, Khrushchev outlined a range of bold initiatives to forestall the possibility of a further nuclear crisis, including proposing a non-aggression treaty between the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the Warsaw Pact or even disbanding these military blocs, a treaty to cease all nuclear weapons testing and even the elimination of all nuclear weapons, resolution of the hot-button issue of Germany by both East and West formally accepting the existence of West Germany and East Germany, and US recognition of the government of mainland China. The letter invited counter-proposals and further exploration of these and other issues through peaceful negotiations. Khrushchev invited Norman Cousins, the editor of a major US periodical and an anti-nuclear weapons activist, to serve as liaison with President Kennedy, and Cousins met with Khrushchev for four hours in December 1962. [148]

      Kennedy's response to Khrushchev's proposals was lukewarm but Kennedy expressed to Cousins that he felt constrained in exploring these issues due to pressure from hardliners in the US national security apparatus. The US and the USSR did shortly thereafter agree on a treaty banning atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons, known as the "Partial Nuclear Test Ban Treaty". [149]

      Further after the crisis, the US and the Soviet Union created the Moscow–Washington hotline, a direct communications link between Moscow and Washington. The purpose was to have a way that the leaders of the two Cold War countries could communicate directly to solve such a crisis.

      The compromise embarrassed Khrushchev and the Soviet Union because the withdrawal of US missiles from Italy and Turkey was a secret deal between Kennedy and Khrushchev. Khrushchev went to Kennedy as he thought that the crisis was getting out of hand, but the Soviets were seen as retreating from circumstances that they had started.

      Khrushchev's fall from power two years later was in part because of the Soviet Politburo's embarrassment at both Khrushchev's eventual concessions to the US and this ineptitude in precipitating the crisis in the first place. According to Dobrynin, the top Soviet leadership took the Cuban outcome as "a blow to its prestige bordering on humiliation". [150]

      Cuban leadership Edit

      Cuba perceived the outcome as a betrayal by the Soviets, as decisions on how to resolve the crisis had been made exclusively by Kennedy and Khrushchev. Castro was especially upset that certain issues of interest to Cuba, such as the status of the US Naval Base in Guantánamo, were not addressed. That caused Cuban–Soviet relations to deteriorate for years to come. [151] : 278

      Romanian leadership Edit

      During the crisis, Gheorghe Gheorghiu-Dej sent a letter to President Kennedy dissociating Romania from Soviet actions. This convinced the American Administration of Bucharest's intentions of detaching itself from Moscow. [152]

      US leadership Edit

      The worldwide US Forces DEFCON 3 status was returned to DEFCON 4 on November 20, 1962. General Curtis LeMay told the President that the resolution of the crisis was the "greatest defeat in our history" his was a minority position. [55] He had pressed for an immediate invasion of Cuba as soon as the crisis began and still favoured invading Cuba even after the Soviets had withdrawn their missiles. [153] Twenty-five years later, LeMay still believed that "We could have gotten not only the missiles out of Cuba, we could have gotten the Communists out of Cuba at that time." [87]

      At least four contingency strikes were armed and launched from Florida against Cuban airfields and suspected missile sites in 1963 and 1964, although all were diverted to the Pinecastle Range Complex after the planes passed Andros island. [154] Critics, including Seymour Melman, [155] and Seymour Hersh [156] suggested that the Cuban Missile Crisis encouraged the United States' use of military means, such as the case in the later Vietnam War.

      Human casualties Edit

      U-2 pilot Anderson's body was returned to the US and was buried with full military honours in South Carolina. He was the first recipient of the newly created Air Force Cross, which was awarded posthumously. Although Anderson was the only combatant fatality during the crisis, 11 crew members of three reconnaissance Boeing RB-47 Stratojets of the 55th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing were also killed in crashes during the period between September 27 and November 11, 1962. [157] Seven crew died when a Military Air Transport Service Boeing C-135B Stratolifter delivering ammunition to Guantanamo Bay Naval Base stalled and crashed on approach on October 23. [158]

      Schlesinger, a historian and adviser to Kennedy, told National Public Radio in an interview on October 16, 2002 that Castro did not want the missiles, but Khrushchev pressured Castro to accept them. Castro was not completely happy with the idea, but the Cuban National Directorate of the Revolution accepted them, both to protect Cuba against US attack and to aid the Soviet Union. [151] : 272 Schlesinger believed that when the missiles were withdrawn, Castro was more angry with Khrushchev than with Kennedy because Khrushchev had not consulted Castro before deciding to remove them. [note 2] Although Castro was infuriated by Khrushchev, he planned on striking the US with remaining missiles if an invasion of the island occurred. [151] : 311

      In early 1992, it was confirmed that Soviet forces in Cuba had already received tactical nuclear warheads for their artillery rockets and Il-28 bombers when the crisis broke. [159] Castro stated that he would have recommended their use if the US invaded despite Cuba being destroyed. [159]

      Arguably, the most dangerous moment in the crisis was not recognised until the Cuban Missile Crisis Havana conference, in October 2002. Attended by many of the veterans of the crisis, they all learned that on October 27, 1962, USS Beale had tracked and dropped signalling depth charges (the size of hand grenades) on B-59, a Soviet Project 641 (NATO designation Foxtrot) submarine. Unknown to the US, it was armed with a 15-kiloton nuclear torpedo. [160] Running out of air, the Soviet submarine was surrounded by American warships and desperately needed to surface. An argument broke out among three officers aboard B-59, including submarine captain Valentin Savitsky, political officer Ivan Semonovich Maslennikov, and Deputy brigade commander Captain 2nd rank (US Navy Commander rank equivalent) Vasily Arkhipov. An exhausted Savitsky became furious and ordered that the nuclear torpedo on board be made combat ready. Accounts differ about whether Arkhipov convinced Savitsky not to make the attack or whether Savitsky himself finally concluded that the only reasonable choice left open to him was to come to the surface. [161] : 303, 317 During the conference, McNamara stated that nuclear war had come much closer than people had thought. Thomas Blanton, director of the National Security Archive, said, "A guy called Vasili Arkhipov saved the world."

      Fifty years after the crisis, Graham T. Allison wrote:

      Fifty years ago, the Cuban missile crisis brought the world to the brink of nuclear disaster. During the standoff, US President John F. Kennedy thought the chance of escalation to war was "between 1 in 3 and even", and what we have learned in later decades has done nothing to lengthen those odds. We now know, for example, that in addition to nuclear-armed ballistic missiles, the Soviet Union had deployed 100 tactical nuclear weapons to Cuba, and the local Soviet commander there could have launched these weapons without additional codes or commands from Moscow. The US air strike and invasion that were scheduled for the third week of the confrontation would likely have triggered a nuclear response against American ships and troops, and perhaps even Miami. The resulting war might have led to the deaths of over 100 million Americans and over 100 million Russians. [162] [163]

      BBC journalist Joe Matthews published the story, on October 13, 2012, behind the 100 tactical nuclear warheads mentioned by Graham Allison in the excerpt above. [164] Khrushchev feared that Castro's hurt pride and widespread Cuban indignation over the concessions he had made to Kennedy might lead to a breakdown of the agreement between the Soviet Union and the US. To prevent that, Khrushchev decided to offer to give Cuba more than 100 tactical nuclear weapons that had been shipped to Cuba along with the long-range missiles but, crucially, had escaped the notice of US intelligence. Khrushchev determined that because the Americans had not listed the missiles on their list of demands, keeping them in Cuba would be in the Soviet Union's interests. [164]

      Anastas Mikoyan was tasked with the negotiations with Castro over the missile transfer deal that was designed to prevent a breakdown in the relations between Cuba and the Soviet Union. While in Havana, Mikoyan witnessed the mood swings and paranoia of Castro, who was convinced that Moscow had made the agreement with the US at the expense of Cuba's defence. Mikoyan, on his own initiative, decided that Castro and his military not be given control of weapons with an explosive force equal to 100 Hiroshima-sized bombs under any circumstances. He defused the seemingly intractable situation, which risked re-escalating the crisis, on November 22, 1962. During a tense, four-hour meeting, Mikoyan convinced Castro that despite Moscow's desire to help, it would be in breach of an unpublished Soviet law, which did not actually exist, to transfer the missiles permanently into Cuban hands and provide them with an independent nuclear deterrent. Castro was forced to give way and, much to the relief of Khrushchev and the rest of the Soviet government, the tactical nuclear weapons were crated and returned by sea to the Soviet Union during December 1962. [164]

      The American popular media, especially television, made frequent use of the events of the missile crisis and both fictional and documentary forms. [165] Jim Willis includes the Crisis as one of the 100 "media moments that changed America". [166] Sheldon Stern finds that a half century later there are still many "misconceptions, half-truths, and outright lies" that have shaped media versions of what happened in the White House during those harrowing two weeks. [167]

      Historian William Cohn argued in a 1976 article that television programs are typically the main source used by the American public to know about and interpret the past. [168] According to Cold War historian Andrei Kozovoi, the Soviet media proved somewhat disorganised as it was unable to generate a coherent popular history. Khrushchev lost power and was airbrushed out of the story. Cuba was no longer portrayed as a heroic David against the American Goliath. One contradiction that pervaded the Soviet media campaign was between the pacifistic rhetoric of the peace movement that emphasises the horrors of nuclear war and the militancy of the need to prepare Soviets for war against American aggression. [169]


      Cuban Missile Crisis: 50 years ago, the world held its breath for two weeks

      U.S. Ambassador Adlai Stevenson, seated at right, describes aerial photographs of launching sites for intermediate range missiles in Cuba during an emergency session of the United Nations Security Council Oct. 25, 1962, at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

      This article was published more than 8 years ago. Some information in it may no longer be current.

      For 13 agonizing days a half century ago, nuclear Armageddon was only minutes away. American warships and Soviet submarines with nuclear-tipped torpedoes played out a tense high-seas standoff.

      American spy planes had spotted Soviet missiles – capable of being tipped with nuclear warheads and only a few minutes flight time from incinerating U.S. cities – being deployed in Cuba.

      U.S. President John F. Kennedy, who had rashly ordered the ill-fated Bay of Pigs invasion of the Communist-controlled Caribbean island a year earlier – made a dramatic televised address: putting the United States on a war footing, announcing a blockade of Cuba and threatening to sink any Soviet ship that crossed a 500-mile "quarantine" line. Hawks in Congress and close to the president called for immediate air strikes.

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      As the days of excruciating tension played out in October, 1962, the world lurched closer and closer to nuclear war. Another high-flying U.S. spy plane was shot down over Cuba. Both President Kennedy and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev publicly bluffed and threatened both feared the war would start by accident both fought off hawks inside their own inner circles both ultimately backed down.

      Never before, or since, has the spectre of thousands of mushroom clouds rising cratered cities and spewing deadly plumes of radioactivity sufficient to send man back to the stone age – or perhaps extinction – been so terrifyingly close. Fifty years on, the Cuban Missile Crisis – a hot showdown in the Cold War era when Canadian schoolchildren learned "duck and cover" as air-raid sirens wailed, seems ancient history. But new, sometimes startling, aspects of the crisis that challenge long-held, and only half-true, versions of the superpower standoff have emerged from historians in Canada and elsewhere.

      And there are still lessons to be learned.

      UN Secretary-General U Thant : The forgotten player in the crisis

      Mostly forgotten, the United Nations untested Secretary-General U Thant played a pivotal role in defusing the Cuban Missile Crisis.

      Half a century later, with the UN regarded almost with contempt by many, including Canada's outspoken Foreign Minister John Baird, the key role of diplomacy in averting nuclear doomsday has emerged from dusty archives, perhaps as a lesson worth remembering.

      "In the historical record, U Thant has largely been written out of the crisis," says Walter Dorn, who heads the Security and International Affairs department at Canadian Forces College, in Toronto. The Kennedy camp preferred to portray their man as a gutsy Cold Warrior, not a President so unnerved by the hawks in his own camp that he sought mediation by the UN.

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      Yet at one critical juncture, American diplomats woke U Thant at midnight and begged him to deliver a face-saving solution to the Russians. And long before the term "shuttle" diplomacy was in vogue, the obscure Burmese diplomat who became Secretary-General almost by accident following the death of Dag Hammarskjöld in a Congo plane crash, was defining it.

      "Hardly anybody know about what U Thant did … but at one point there were separate teams on the 38th floor of the UN building – a U.S. team and a Soviet team – and U Thant was literally shuttling between the two rooms," Mr. Dorn said in an interview.

      In his paper, just published in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, Mr. Dorn contrasts the bombastic swaggering in the early American versions of the crisis, with the reality of quiet diplomacy. "The popular understanding is that a U.S. show of military force compelled the Russians to back down, or as Secretary of State Dean Rusk euphemistically put it: 'We went eyeball to eyeball [with the Russians], and… the other fellow just blinked,'" writes Mr. Dorn, adding: "Rusk's verbal bravado conceals how the Cuban Missile Crisis, much more than a mere contest of wills, was also a mediated settlement."

      U Thant went to Havana, brought back the body of the downed American pilot, calmed Fidel Castro and – months later – after it was all over, was quietly thanked by both Mr. Kennedy and Mr. Khrushchev.

      There's even a minor Canadian postscript among the tales untold. While Canadian military historians (like their American counterparts) tend to portray the crisis as a military showdown and focus on efforts of Canadian warships in hunting Soviet submarines in the North Atlantic, there was also a little-known UN aspect to Canada's involvement.

      Near the end of the crisis, Ottawa offered to paint white some of Canada's Voodoo fighter-bombers, put UN markings on them and provide them to verify that the Soviets had made good on their promise to pull missiles from Cuba. That mission was turned down.

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      Risks of brinksmanship

      Miscalculation, the grave risks of brinks-manship and the unpredictable behaviour of leaders under stress all remain real and present dangers even as the Cuban Missile Crisis – the closest the Cold War ever came to erupting into a full-blown nuclear conflagration that would have turned both the United States and the Soviet Union into wastelands – fades into history.

      "It's not the Cold War anymore, so people don't go to bed at night fearing they will be incinerated," says David Welch, the CIGI Chair of Global Security at the Balsillie School of International Affairs and Professor of Political Science at the University of Waterloo. But the dangers remain, even as the grim calculus of mutually assured destruction in a world dominated by two superpowers armed with thousands of nuclear-tipped missiles, has been eclipsed.

      "There's still lots of nuclear weapons around and people need to be reminded that we could still have a catastrophe," said Prof. Welch, a leading expert on the Cuban Missile Crisis and critical leadership issues in moments of confrontation.

      While no pair of superpowers are ranged in a nuclear standoff, there are plenty of asymmetrical but no less fraught confrontations, he said in an interview: unpredictable, and now nuclear-armed, North Korea the looming confrontation between nuclear-armed Israel and Iran over the latter's murky and controversial nuclear program the long-standing, and nuclear, India-Pakistan standoff. Even seemingly minor confrontations, like the current one between China-Japan jockeying over tiny islets, can spiral out of control, he said.

      It isn't the nature of the arsenals that poses the gravest risk but rather the dangers of miscalculation and of events spiralling out of control, Prof. Welch said.

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      As the full truth has slowly emerged about the October, 1962, crisis, the reality is that it wasn't cold-eyed brinksmanship that averted war, nor a secret deal in which Soviet missiles would be moved from Cuba while American ones would be taken out of Turkey. Luck and fear played major roles over a chaotic – and dangerous – few weeks.

      "It was an incredibly messy, dangerous, interaction" Prof. Welch said. "Some of the time [the leaders] didn't know what their own folks were doing." Both Mr. Kennedy and Mr. Khrushchev, he added, were "scared to death of their own militarys." War could have started almost by accident as local commanders overreacted, he said.

      In a multipolar, unstable 21st-century world, where even non-state actors wield powerful, if unconventional, weapons like fuel-laden jetliners turned into martyr-guided missiles, the most enduring Cuban-crisis lesson may be the overriding need to defuse confrontation.

      Fidel Castro: The most dangerous man in the world

      Fidel Castro, the fiery, headstrong Communist revolutionary who had ousted the Americans from Cuba and was transforming the Caribbean island into his personal vision of a modern socialist paradise, was – for a few weeks in October, 1962 – the most dangerous man in the world.

      "Kennedy thought he had Castro and the Cubans under control, but he didn't. And Khrushchev thought he had Castro, under control, but, as he would learn to his horror, he didn't. Cuba was the intervening variable, the 'X-factor,' the outlier, the loose cannon that nearly exploded in the faces of the superpowers in October 1962."

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      That except from The Armageddon Letters, a dramatic account of the interplay between three powerful leaders, all of whom failed to understand each other, provides a sometimes chilling, new look at the Cuban Missile Crisis

      At one point, Mr. Castro, convinced that the confrontation will inevitably end in a massive nuclear confrontation, pressed his Soviet patron to act, actually pushing for a nuclear first-strike.

      Written by James Blight and janet Lang, both at the Balsillie School of International Affairs at the University of Waterloo, the account is based on the exchanges of letters and cables among the three leaders, and presents the psychological imperatives that drove them in the midst of the crisis.

      The book is part of an ambitious, multimedia effort to reassess the crisis.

      "Given his belief in the inevitability of a U.S. invasion, Castro's focus on Armageddon is not a nightmare, but a kind of dream. After centuries of irrelevance, Cuba. will matter fundamentally to the fate of the human race," the authors write.

      That sort of megalomania seems more dangerous than the nuclear weapons. Mr. Castro emerges as a nightmare, for both the U.S. and Soviet leaders.

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      For Mr. Kennedy, dogged by the failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion the previous year, looking weak in the face of Communist expansion represents the gravest danger to his presidency. As for the Soviet premier, The Armageddon Letters reveals his darkest moments come when he realizes his Cuban client is out of control.

      Mr. Blight and Ms. Lang write: "This is not a normal situation, with both superpowers poised on the brink of nuclear war. [Khrushchev] becomes convinced at that moment that the situation in Cuba is slipping out of control – out of his control and out of Kennedy's control. If today a Soviet general violated standing orders and shot down an unarmed U.S. spy plane, then perhaps tomorrow the same general, or another general, might violate standing orders and launch a strategic missile at the United States, thus initiating Armageddon."

      The Cuban Missile Crisis Timeline: "The 13 Days"

      The 13-day Cuban Missile Crisis, also known as the October Crisis, spanned from Monday, Oct. 16 until Sunday, Oct. 28. It began when photos take via a U-2 reconnaissance aircraft, piloted by Richard Heyser, reveals several SS-4 nuclear missiles in Cuba.

      Tuesday, October 16: After learning of the missiles during breakfast, President Kennedy convenes his Executive Committee (EX-COMM) to consider America's options.

      Wednesday, October 17: Amid scheduled campaign trips to Connecticut and the Midwest, President Kennedy meets with and advises Soviet Foreign Minister, Andrie Gromyko, that America will not tolerate Soviet missiles in Cuba. Gromyko denies the presence of any Soviet weaponry on the island.

      Thursday, October 18: After an evening meeting, President Kennedy spends about four minutes recording his personal recollections of discussions that day. He states that throughout EX-COMM's discussions, most argued for an air strike against Cuba, but says opinions tended to move away from that after discussion of a blockade was brought up.

      Friday, October 19: Unwillingly, Kennedy departs Washington for scheduled campaign speeches in the Midwest and West Coast.

      Saturday, October 20: Under the public excuse of an "upper respiratory infection," President Kennedy returns to Washington from Chicago after being told by Robert Kennedy of the discovery of additional Soviet missiles in Cuba. Throughout EX-COMM's discussions, they strongly argue for an air strike and invasion of Cuba.

      Sunday, October 21: After learning that an air strike against the missile sites could result in 10,000 – 20,000 casualties, and that another U-2 flight discovered bombers and cruise missile sites along Cuba's northern shores, President Kennedy decides on a naval blockade of Cuba. When confronted with questions regarding rumours of offensive weapons in Cuba, Kennedy asks the press not to report the story until after he addresses the American public.

      Monday, October 22: Despite being urged by Senate leaders to call for air strikes, President Kennedy addresses the American public and announces his decision to implement a naval blockade only. U.S. military alert is set at DEFCON 3 and Castro mobilizes all of Cuba's military forces. Kennedy sends a letter to Khrushchev.

      Tuesday, October 23: By the end of the day, all naval vessels are in place, forming a 500 mile circle around Cuba. Stunning reconnaissance photos reveal that Soviet missiles are poised for launch.

      Wednesday, October 24: Soviet ships reach the blockade line, but receive radio orders from Moscow to hold their positions. United States and Soviet warships are literally just a few hundred yards apart, each pointing their weapons at one another. American military forces are instructed to set DEFCON 2 - the highest ever in U.S. history.

      Thursday, October 25: U.S. representative Adlai Stevenson confronts the Soviets at a United Nations conference, but the Soviet representative refuses to answer.

      Friday, October 26: EX-COMM receives a letter from Khrushchev stating that the Soviets would remove their missiles if President Kennedy publicly guarantees the U.S. will not invade Cuba.

      Saturday, October 27: A new letter from Khrushchev arrives, proposing a public trade of Soviet missiles in Cuba for U.S. missile in Turkey. An American U-2 is shot down over Cuba killing the pilot, Major Rudolf Anderson. U-2 accidentally strays into Soviet airspace near Alaska nearly being intercepted by Soviet fighters. Kennedy writes Khrushchev a letter stating that he will make a statement that the U.S. will not invade Cuba if Khrushchev removes the missiles from Cuba.

      Sunday, October 28: In a speech aired on Radio Moscow, Khrushchev announces the dismantling of Soviet missiles in Cuba. The crisis is over.


      The Cuban Missile Crisis, October 1962

      The Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962 was a direct and dangerous confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War and was the moment when the two superpowers came closest to nuclear conflict. The crisis was unique in a number of ways, featuring calculations and miscalculations as well as direct and secret communications and miscommunications between the two sides. The dramatic crisis was also characterized by the fact that it was primarily played out at the White House and the Kremlin level with relatively little input from the respective bureaucracies typically involved in the foreign policy process.

      After the failed U.S. attempt to overthrow the Castro regime in Cuba with the Bay of Pigs invasion, and while the Kennedy administration planned Operation Mongoose, in July 1962 Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev reached a secret agreement with Cuban premier Fidel Castro to place Soviet nuclear missiles in Cuba to deter any future invasion attempt. Construction of several missile sites began in the late summer, but U.S. intelligence discovered evidence of a general Soviet arms build-up on Cuba, including Soviet IL–28 bombers, during routine surveillance flights, and on September 4, 1962, President Kennedy issued a public warning against the introduction of offensive weapons into Cuba. Despite the warning, on October 14 a U.S. U–2 aircraft took several pictures clearly showing sites for medium-range and intermediate-range ballistic nuclear missiles (MRBMs and IRBMs) under construction in Cuba. These images were processed and presented to the White House the next day, thus precipitating the onset of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

      Kennedy summoned his closest advisers to consider options and direct a course of action for the United States that would resolve the crisis. Some advisers—including all the Joint Chiefs of Staff—argued for an air strike to destroy the missiles, followed by a U.S. invasion of Cuba others favored stern warnings to Cuba and the Soviet Union. The President decided upon a middle course. On October 22, he ordered a naval “quarantine” of Cuba. The use of “quarantine” legally distinguished this action from a blockade, which assumed a state of war existed the use of “quarantine” instead of “blockade” also enabled the United States to receive the support of the Organization of American States.

      That same day, Kennedy sent a letter to Khrushchev declaring that the United States would not permit offensive weapons to be delivered to Cuba, and demanded that the Soviets dismantle the missile bases already under construction or completed, and return all offensive weapons to the U.S.S.R. The letter was the first in a series of direct and indirect communications between the White House and the Kremlin throughout the remainder of the crisis.

      The President also went on national television that evening to inform the public of the developments in Cuba, his decision to initiate and enforce a “quarantine,” and the potential global consequences if the crisis continued to escalate. The tone of the President’s remarks was stern, and the message unmistakable and evocative of the Monroe Doctrine: “It shall be the policy of this nation to regard any nuclear missile launched from Cuba against any nation in the Western Hemisphere as an attack by the Soviet Union on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon the Soviet Union.” The Joint Chiefs of Staff announced a military readiness status of DEFCON 3 as U.S. naval forces began implementation of the quarantine and plans accelerated for a military strike on Cuba.

      On October 24, Khrushchev responded to Kennedy’s message with a statement that the U.S. “blockade” was an “act of aggression” and that Soviet ships bound for Cuba would be ordered to proceed. Nevertheless, during October 24 and 25, some ships turned back from the quarantine line others were stopped by U.S. naval forces, but they contained no offensive weapons and so were allowed to proceed. Meanwhile, U.S. reconnaissance flights over Cuba indicated the Soviet missile sites were nearing operational readiness. With no apparent end to the crisis in sight, U.S. forces were placed at DEFCON 2—meaning war involving the Strategic Air Command was imminent. On October 26, Kennedy told his advisors it appeared that only a U.S. attack on Cuba would remove the missiles, but he insisted on giving the diplomatic channel a little more time. The crisis had reached a virtual stalemate.

      That afternoon, however, the crisis took a dramatic turn. ABC News correspondent John Scali reported to the White House that he had been approached by a Soviet agent suggesting that an agreement could be reached in which the Soviets would remove their missiles from Cuba if the United States promised not to invade the island. While White House staff scrambled to assess the validity of this “back channel” offer, Khrushchev sent Kennedy a message the evening of October 26, which meant it was sent in the middle of the night Moscow time. It was a long, emotional message that raised the specter of nuclear holocaust, and presented a proposed resolution that remarkably resembled what Scali reported earlier that day. “If there is no intention,” he said, “to doom the world to the catastrophe of thermonuclear war, then let us not only relax the forces pulling on the ends of the rope, let us take measures to untie that knot. We are ready for this.”

      Although U.S. experts were convinced the message from Khrushchev was authentic, hope for a resolution was short-lived. The next day, October 27, Khrushchev sent another message indicating that any proposed deal must include the removal of U.S. Jupiter missiles from Turkey. That same day a U.S. U–2 reconnaissance jet was shot down over Cuba. Kennedy and his advisors prepared for an attack on Cuba within days as they searched for any remaining diplomatic resolution. It was determined that Kennedy would ignore the second Khrushchev message and respond to the first one. That night, Kennedy set forth in his message to the Soviet leader proposed steps for the removal of Soviet missiles from Cuba under supervision of the United Nations, and a guarantee that the United States would not attack Cuba.

      It was a risky move to ignore the second Khrushchev message. Attorney General Robert Kennedy then met secretly with Soviet Ambassador to the United States, Anatoly Dobrynin, and indicated that the United States was planning to remove the Jupiter missiles from Turkey anyway, and that it would do so soon, but this could not be part of any public resolution of the missile crisis. The next morning, October 28, Khrushchev issued a public statement that Soviet missiles would be dismantled and removed from Cuba.

      The crisis was over but the naval quarantine continued until the Soviets agreed to remove their IL–28 bombers from Cuba and, on November 20, 1962, the United States ended its quarantine. U.S. Jupiter missiles were removed from Turkey in April 1963.

      The Cuban missile crisis stands as a singular event during the Cold War and strengthened Kennedy’s image domestically and internationally. It also may have helped mitigate negative world opinion regarding the failed Bay of Pigs invasion. Two other important results of the crisis came in unique forms. First, despite the flurry of direct and indirect communications between the White House and the Kremlin—perhaps because of it—Kennedy and Khrushchev, and their advisers, struggled throughout the crisis to clearly understand each others’ true intentions, while the world hung on the brink of possible nuclear war. In an effort to prevent this from happening again, a direct telephone link between the White House and the Kremlin was established it became known as the “Hotline.” Second, having approached the brink of nuclear conflict, both superpowers began to reconsider the nuclear arms race and took the first steps in agreeing to a nuclear Test Ban Treaty.


      Spanish abstract

      Este artículo utiliza un ensamblaje internacional de recursos para recuperar la historia del involucramiento de la Organización de Estados Americanos (OEA) y las Naciones Unidas (ONU) en la crisis de los misiles de Cuba. Señala que a través de mecanismos de la OEA y la ONU, ciudadanos y funcionarios latinoamericanos ayudaron a configurar el resultado pacífico de la crisis. El artículo desafía los relatos que otorgan poca importancia tanto a los países latinoamericanos como a organismos multilaterales, y, al hacerlo, se une a la creciente literatura que muestra cómo los supuestamente débiles países latinoamericanos han usado a las organizaciones internacionales para influenciar en los acontecimientos mundiales.


      Khrushchev’s Relationship With Foreign Leaders

      Khrushchev had a complicated relationship with the West. A fervent believer in communism, he nonetheless preferred peaceful coexistence with capitalist countries. Unlike Stalin, he even visited the United States. Relations between the two superpowers deteriorated somewhat in 1960 when the Soviets shot down an American U-2 spy plane deep inside their territory. The following year, Khrushchev approved the construction of the Berlin Wall in order to stop East Germans from fleeing to capitalist West Germany.

      Cold War tensions reached a high point in October 1962 when the United States discovered Soviet nuclear missiles stationed in Cuba. The world appeared to be on the brink of nuclear conflict, but, after a 13-day standoff, Khrushchev agreed to remove the weapons. In return, U.S. President John F. Kennedy, who one year earlier had authorized the failed Bay of Pigs invasion, publicly consented not to attack Cuba. Kennedy also privately agreed to take American nuclear weapons out of Turkey. In July 1963, the United States, the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union negotiated a partial nuclear test ban.

      One of the sharpest thorns in Khrushchev’s side was fellow communist Mao Zedong, the leader of China. Starting around 1960, the two sides engaged in an increasingly vindictive war of words, with Khrushchev calling Mao a “left revisionist” who failed to comprehend modern warfare. The Chinese, meanwhile, criticized Khrushchev as a “psalm-singing buffoon” who underestimated the nature of Western imperialism.


      Frequently Asked Questions

      What was the Cuban Missile Crisis?

      “The Cuban Missile Crisis was a thirteen-day confrontation from October 15 to October 28, 1962 between the United States and the Soviet Union over the positioning of nuclear missiles in Cuba. In 1962, the Soviet Union secretly placed nuclear-tipped missiles on the Communist-led island of Cuba. After discovering the missiles in October, the U.S. responded by blockading Cuba. Following a period of intense discussions and fear of a nuclear catastrophe, President John F. Kennedy made a proposal to Premier Nikita Khrushchev that the Soviet leader accepted The Soviets withdrew the missiles after the U.S. pledged publicly never to invade Cuba and promised privately to withdraw its own nuclear missiles from Turkey.

      What was the Cold War?

      The Cold War was a political struggle between the Western world, represented by the United States and NATO allies and the Eastern Bloc, organized by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (sometimes referred to as the Soviet Union or USSR) and its allies. From roughly the end of World War II in 1945 until 1991, the U.S. and the Soviet Union competed against each other to demonstrate the superiority of each one’s politico-economic system: democracy and capitalism vs. authoritarianism and communism, During the Cold War, neither side directly engaged in all-out war with each other. However, they competed through proxy conflicts, whether political (supporting democratic or communist parties), economic (development aid), or military (supporting opposing forces in the “Third World”). Initially, the superpowers focused on post-World War II Europe as they tried to win over states to their sides. As the Cold War progressed and dividing lines in Europe were consolidated, the superpowers increasingly focused on the developing world in South America, Asia, and Africa.

      Who were the American and Soviet leaders during the Cuban Missile Crisis?

      John F. Kennedy was President of the United States, having been elected in 1960. Nikita Khrushchev assumed control of the Soviet Union in 1953 following the death of the previous leader Joseph Stalin.

      What was EXCOMM?

      The Executive Committee of the National Security Council, or EXCOMM, was a group of American officials within the White House who were consulted during the Cuban Missile Crisis. EXCOMM served as an advisory council to Kennedy during the Crisis. The book The Kennedy Tapes, edited by Ernest May and Philip Zelikow, provides a transcript of the group’s deliberations. Click here for a list of EXCOMM members.

      Who was Fidel Castro?

      Fidel Castro was a revolutionary who in 1959 overthrew the government of Cuba, an island state 90 miles away from the U.S., and became its new leader. Castro first began his revolutionary struggle in 1953 after an initial defeat, he regrouped and launched a successful insurgency that caused President Fulgencio Batista to flee and allowed Castro to seize power.

      Why was Castro’s Cuba hostile to the U.S.?

      The Cuban government was initially neutral to the superpower competition. The Soviet Union initially was at first uninterested in Cuba, and Castro even toured the U.S. in 1959. Yet Castro frayed the relationship with America when he threatened, and ultimately undertook, reforms that would harm American-owned property in the country. The increasingly hostile relationship with the U.S. provided an opening for the Soviet Union. Castro formed trade ties with Moscow and as Cuba grew closer to the USSR, relations with Washington deteriorated further. The U.S. revoked its diplomatic recognition of Cuba at the beginning of 1961.

      What is NATO? What was the Warsaw Pact?

      The North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO, is an alliance of countries formed initially from a core of Western European and North American states (the U.S., Canada, the UK, and others). Founded in 1949, the alliance aimed to deter a Soviet invasion of Western Europe. The alliance provided for collective defense, meaning that an attack against one member state was an attack against all members of the alliance. NATO still exists and has added many ex-Communist countries in Europe as part of the alliance.

      The Warsaw Pact was the Soviet version of NATO: it was an alliance of the Soviet Union and its Eastern European satellites. The alliance was formed to deter a Western invasion of the member states that were part of the USSR’s sphere of influence. It was founded in 1955, in part due to West Germany’s accession to NATO, and was sometimes referred to as the Eastern Bloc. The decline and fall of the Soviet Union led to the Warsaw Pact’s dissolution in 1991.

      What was the Berlin Blockade of 1948?

      During the negotiations ending World War II, the Allies agreed to split Germany into four parts: three parts in the western half of the country, controlled by the Western allies (the U.S., France, and the United Kingdom) and one part in the east controlled by the Soviet Union. The Western allies established a democratic, capitalist government in their portion while the Soviets put in place a communist government in the territory they controlled. Eventually, the territories split into two new countries: democratic West Germany and communist East Germany. Yet the former capital city of Berlin, situated in East Germany had also been divided into Western and Eastern zones. Therefore, due to the Western occupation of half of Berlin, an exclave of West Germany was surrounded by East Germany. For further information, consult this map and publication here.

      In 1948, the Soviet Union tried to force the Western powers out of Berlin by blockading all land routes to West Berlin until full control of the city was handed over to the Soviets. The Western powers overcame this by airlifting supplies to Berlin, until the Soviets ended the blockade in 1949.

      What was the Berlin Crisis of 1958 to 1961?

      In 1958, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev issued an ultimatum to NATO demanding that it relinquish West Berlin to East Germany. Khrushchev originally gave a six-month deadline, but this was continually pushed back until the crisis escalated in 1961.

      During the summer of 1961, Khrushchev met Kennedy in Vienna and demanded yet again that NATO hand over control of West Berlin to East Germany. This summit preceded the Soviet/East German decision to seal off West Berlin by building the Berlin Wall. Beginning on August 13, the Soviets and East Germans built a wall that bisected the city and prevented free passage between the Western and Eastern zones. Beginning on October 27, American and Soviet forces faced off at “Checkpoint Charlie,” an access point controlling passage across the wall.

      The Berlin Crisis was eventually resolved when the United States acquiesced to the wall’s construction in November 1961. However, Khrushchev had not yet achieved his objective of establishing East German control over West Berlin. Khrushchev believed that the installation of Soviet missiles in Cuba could be used as leverage in negotiations over Berlin. Khrushchev thought that Washington might trade the removal of Soviet missiles from Cuba missiles for NATO’s retreat from West Berlin.

      Why did the Soviet Union put missiles in Cuba?

      The Soviet Union put missiles in Cuba for two primary reasons: (1) to boost the Soviet Union’s power, threatening the U.S. with nuclear attack from the Caribbean and (2) to bolster the Soviet Union’s bargaining position in its attempts to force West Berlin to join East Germany. Additional reasons included defending Cuba from American invasion and bolstering Soviet prestige.

      Why did the U.S. place missiles in Turkey?

      The U.S. had prepared for a possible war in Europe by placing nuclear weapons in allied countries. Bombers and ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons were intended as a deterrent against a Soviet invasion of Germany and other NATO countries. Nuclear missiles were placed in Turkey, a NATO member that shared a border with two Soviet republics, because of its proximity to the Soviet Union.

      Why did the U.S. blockade Cuba?

      Many members of EXCOMM argued in favor of a military strike to destroy the nuclear missiles in Cuba before they became operational. President Kennedy, however, did not want to escalate to war so quickly. Instead, he decided to blockade Cuba to prevent the installation of additional Soviet nuclear missiles. While this step did not defuse the crisis, it bought the President time and avoided a direct attack against Cuba.

      What were the Soviet forces in Cuba?

      The Soviets installed 36 to 42 medium SS-4 medium-range ballistic missiles (MRBMs) in Cuba. Six of the missiles were decoy versions to deceive a potential American attack or for use in training. The missiles had a range of 1,100 nautical miles (1,266 miles) and could reach New Orleans, Miami, and Washington, DC. Each missile’s warhead had an explosive capacity of about 1 megaton (the equivalent of one million tons of explosive), more than 60 times the destructive power of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima (which was only 16 kilotons, or the equivalent of 16,000 tons of explosive).

      Twelve short-range, Luna tactical nuclear missiles were also in Cuba. They had a range of about 17 nautical miles (20 miles) and were designed for use in battle: the Soviets would only use them in the event of an American invasion. Each missile’s warhead was delivered to Cuba: these had an explosive capacity of 2 kilotons (an eighth the size of the weapon used at Hiroshima). Soviet commanders were initially authorized to use these weapons with no further input from Moscow. That changed on October 27, when the Soviet government instructed them not to be fired without authorization from Moscow.

      The Soviets also had 80 Sopka-variant cruise missiles in four missile batteries arrayed along the Cuban coast. Many, if not all, of the warheads for these missiles were delivered to Cuba by the beginning of the Missile Crisis on October 14, 1962. Each missile’s warhead had an explosive capacity of 12 kilotons (three-quarters of the yield of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima). These missiles had a range of 40 nautical miles (46 miles): they were to be used to counter an American invasion of Cuba.

      There were also 42 unassembled IL-28 bombers (NATO codename: “Beagle) in Cuba (only seven were assembled by the end of the crisis). These bombers had a range of 600 nautical miles: from their airbases, the bombers could hit Jacksonville, Tampa, and Miami. There were six nuclear bombs in Cuba capable of being carried by the IL-28s, each with a 12 kiloton yield.

      The Soviets had over 40,000 troops in Cuba.

      Were there any Soviet weapons that did not make it to Cuba?

      Yes. 24 intermediate-range ballistic missiles (IRBMs) were also intended to be installed in Cuba. These had a range of 2,200 nautical miles (2,532 miles). These missiles could have hit as far away as Chicago, Boston, and even Newfoundland. The U.S. blockade prevented these from being delivered to Cuba.

      Were the missiles in Cuba capable of nuking American cities?

      Yes. 45 warheads suitable for use on the 36 MRBMs arrived on October 4, 1962. Just before the blockade took effect on October 21, 24 warheads for the IRBMs had arrived however, the missiles to carry those warheads were never delivered because of the blockade. Had the Americans discovered the missile sites two weeks later, the MRBMs would have been armed and ready for launch against the United States. Had the IL-28s successfully penetrated America’s air defenses in the southeast, they could have hit American cities.

      If the U.S. had invaded Cuba, the local commander had been authorized to use tactical nuclear weapons in defense of the island. President Kennedy and his advisers were not aware of this. If tactical nuclear weapons had been used against U.S. forces, escalation to full nuclear war between the superpowers would have been very likely.

      What did the United States know about the Cuban missiles at the time of the crisis?

      The Americans identified 40 missile launchers in Cuba: these were the apparatuses necessary to launch a missile. There were 24 MRBM launchers and 16 IRBMs launchers.

      At the time, according to Robert McNamara, the Americans did not believe there were nuclear warheads in Cuba. They also only estimated that there were 10,000 Soviet soldiers in Cuba, not the 40,000 that were actually there.

      What was the “Secret Deal” between Robert F. Kennedy and Anatoly Dobrynin?

      On October 27, President Kennedy dispatched his brother Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy to make an offer to the Soviet ambassador to the U.S., Anatoly Dobrynin, in the hope of defusing the crisis. Kennedy offered Dobrynin two things in exchange for Soviet removal of the Cuban missiles: (1) the U.S. would publically pledge never to invade Cuba and (2) the U.S. would secretly withdraw missiles from Turkey. The U.S. refused to publically admit to removing the Turkish missiles because it did not want to appear weak. The Soviet Union accepted this offer the next day.

      Why did the Soviets withdraw the missiles?

      The reasons why Khrushchev withdrew missiles from Cuba are still somewhat uncertain. Scholars conclude that two major factors were at play in the Soviet decision: (1) Khrushchev knew that war over Cuba could quickly escalate into nuclear war that would destroy both superpowers and (2) the Soviet government won what Khrushchev considered significant concessions from the U.S: the pledge never to invade Cuba and to remove American missiles from Turkey.

      Who was in EXCOMM, the advisory council to Kennedy, during the crisis?

      1. President John F. Kennedy

      2. Attorney General Robert Kennedy

      3. Secretary of State Dean Rusk

      4. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara

      5. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Maxwell Taylor

      6. CIA Director John McCone

      7. Secretary of the Treasury C. Douglas Dillon

      8. National Security Adviser McGeorge Bundy

      9. Special Counsel Theodore Sorensen

      10. Undersecretary of State (Rusk’s deputy) George Ball

      11. Deputy Secretary of Defense Roswell Gilpatric

      12. Deputy Undersecretary of State U. Alexis Johnson

      13. Ambassador at Large for Soviet Affairs Llewellyn “Tommy” Thompson

      14. Assistant Secretary of State Edwin Martin

      15. State policy planner Walt Rostow

      16. Assistant Secretary of Defense Paul Nitze.

      Others involved in Cuban Missile Crisis:

      1. Vice President Lyndon Johnson attended almost all of the key White House meetings.

      2. UN ambassador and former presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson traveled to Washington and joined a few of the White House sessions, as did former Secretary of Defense Robert Lovett.

      3. Former Secretary of State Dean Acheson gave private advice and attended some meetings at the State Department.

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