cuban missile crisis

The Cuban Missile Crisis



align Cold War back yard (2)
oust embolden destroyer (2)
exile attempt deterrent
tight face (2) intelligence
afoot alarming reconnaissance
launch assemble conclusive
option determine determined
brink quarantine joint staff
strict announce Western Hemisphere
regard full scale hemisphere
deem blockade let me down
ally squarely it’s up to you
burden en route intercept
ashore offensive spearhead (2)
tip (3) airborne confrontation
vice diligent amphibious (2)
poise dismantle place (2)
crisis disengage hold their breath (2)
readily maintain press the advantage
alter weigh (2)





In 1962, the Cold War was heating up in America’s back yard. Since aligning himself with the Soviet Union, Cuban dictator Fidel Castro was an object of growing US concern.

A failed attempt to oust him from power in April 1961 through the use of Cuban exile forces emboldened both Castro and his Kremlin supporters.

In May 1962, Soviet Premier, Nikita Krushchev, offered to install offensive nuclear weapons in Cuba.

Castro readily agreed, viewing the missiles as a deterrent against another US attempt to force him from power.

Missiles began to arrive that summer under the tightest secrecy.

Krushchev’s plan depended on getting the missiles operational before the Americans discovered they were there.

But US intelligence quickly learned that something unusual was afoot on the island nation.

In early October, U-2 and Navy reconnaissance flights provided alarming but conclusive evidence that the Soviets were constructing missile-launch sites throughout Cuba.

President Kennedy immediately assembled his national security team, including military members of the joint staff, to determine a course of action.

After several days in which all the options were weighed, the administration announced a strict naval “quarantine” of Cuba in which US Navy ships would prevent any further offensive military weapons from being delivered to Cuba.

President Kennedy: “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.”

While this policy was deemed less risky than a full-scale strike against Cuba, it was not without risk: a blockage was, after all, an act of war.

But by calling it a “quarantine”, and limiting it to offensive military weapons, the US gained support from key Allied governments.

“It looks like it’s up to the Navy,” Kennedy said to Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral George W. Anderson.

“Mr. President, the Navy will not let you down,” Anderson replied.

Indeed, the burden fell squarely on the US Navy.

Naval forces under US Atlantic command headed by Admiral Robert L Denison, steamed out to sea, intercepting not only merchant shipping en route to Cuba, but Soviet submarines operating in the area as well.

One of the first destroyers on the scene, USS Blandy, diligently tracked a Soviet Foxtrot submarine, eventually forcing it to surface.

We now know these submarines were carrying nuclear-tipped torpedoes, and were the spearhead of a Soviet effort to establish a naval base on Cuba.

US destroyers maintained the quarantine. Radar picket ships supported by navy fighters and airborne early-warning planes assisted the US Air Force’s Air Defense Command in preparing to defend American airspace from Soviet and Cuban forces.

The aircraft carriers, cruisers, destroyers and Marine forces of the Second Fleet under Vice-Admiral Alfred G. Ward were poised to launch air, naval gun fire and amphibious strikes against Soviet and Cuban forces ashore if the quarantine failed.

For thirteen days in late October — the world held its breath.

Radio: “This is Radio Moscow. Premier Krushchev has sent a message to President Kennedy today. The Soviet government has ordered the dismantling of weapons in Cuba as well as their cratings and returned to the Soviet Union.”

The Soviet ships turned back.

The crisis was over.

Krushchev, faced with the armed might of the United States and its Allies, had little choice but to find some way out the difficult situation in which he has placed himself and his country.

President Kennedy did not press the advantage that the strength of the US and Allied naval and military forces gave him.

That allowed the Soviet leader to peacefully disengage his nation from this most serious of confrontations.

For the rest of the Cold War, the US and Soviet Union never again reached the brink of what would have been a world-altering, nuclear conflict.

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1. During the Cold War, the United States and Soviet Union were rivals. Is this correct or incorrect? Which side was Cuban on? Who was Cuban leader Fidel Castro allied with?

2. Soviet Premier Nikita Krushchev installed nuclear missiles on Cuba. Why did he install nuclear missiles on the island nation?

3. Did Krushchev announce his intentions to the media? How did the United States find out?

4. Kennedy was not concerned about the missile installments in Cuba. True or false? What was his reaction? What did he do? Did he decide and act alone?

5. Was the operation officially called a blockade or a quarantine? Why was it dubbed a “quarantine”? What happened?

6. Only transport ships from the Soviet Union were involved. Yes or no?

7. “For thirteen days in late October — the world held its breath.” What does this mean? What was at stake?

8. What happened in the end? Why did Krushchev “blink”?

9. How have historians described the Cuban Missile Crisis?

10. Do you think this documentary is completely objective, somewhat or very biased?
A. Have you learned about the Cuban Missile Crisis in school or heard about it? Did your grandparents talk about it?

B. What could have happened?

C. Is there a lesson to be learned from this?

D. What should people and politicians do?


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