Did you know the world came very closer to a nuclear war in 1962 which is known as the Cuban Missile Crisis or Caribbean Crisis or Missile Scare. It was a peak time in the cold war era where the United States and the Soviet Union were juggling for world dominance. During the crisis, the US and the USSR stood face to face with thousands of Nuclear missiles in their arsenal.

What Was Cuban Missile Crisis?

From 16 October to 28 October, the United States and the Soviet Union were engaged in a 13 day military and political confrontation over the deployment of Soviet nuclear-armed missiles on Cuba, just 145 km from the US. Then President of the United States John F. Kennedy on October 22, 1962 confirmed the Cuban Missile Crisis on Television. After the news, everyone was scared because a full scale nuclear war was about to happen, and which could potentially wipe off the human race from the face of Earth. But fortunately, the disaster was averted. A nuclear missile was nearly launched due to some miss understanding and one man named Vasily Arkhipov saved us from nuclear armageddon.

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Why Cuban Missile Crisis Happened?

At first we need to know that Cuba and The Soviet Union both were Communist Country and they had many things in common. After the World War II World was divided into two power blocs. One was headed by the US with its European allies and their main agenda was democracy and capitalism. Whereas another bloc was headed by then Soviet Union or USSR (Which later disintegrated into 15 new countries including today’s Russia) with its small allies compared to the US and their main agenda was Communism and Socialism.

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What Was Cuban Missile Crisis? When A Nuclear War Was Imminent
What Was Cuban Missile Crisis? When A Nuclear War Was Imminent. In picture Jupiter Missile

During that time US also formed intergovernmental military alliance called NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) to counter the Soviet Union. US had installed military base and Nuclear missile in Western Europe and Turkey, which raise insecurity in the minds of Soviets.

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Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev saw an opportunity to level the playing ground with the US in Cuba. It was a very small communist country roughly 145 km from the US shore staring daringly at the United States but didn’t give in to US pressure on democracy and liberalisation, and resisted the US fully. Khrushchev promised to defend Cuba with Soviet arms. By installing missiles in Cuba, the Soviet Union would be minutes away from hitting US targets which would give Soviets an edge over the United States.

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Unknow Lockheed U-2 pilot / Public domain
How Cuban Missile Crisis Happened?
  • The US learned about Soviets’ arms supply to Cuba in July 1962.
  • In August US spying plane U 2 Spotted Soviet machinery, military installation, and missile launching pad in Cuba working on full scale.
  • The US first considered a military invasion of Cuba but then it settled with naval blockade around the entire zone covering Cuba.
  • They were targeting inbound Soviet ships with missile equipment and arms and would seize them.
  • Soviet ships than altered their course from the blockade area.
A near launching of a Nuclear Missile

In October 27 1962, which was also known as ‘Black Saturday’ Us first informed its NATO allies to get ready to take any military as necessary as US was going to attack Cuba because it was in its interest as time was running out. Same day Fidel Castro Cuban leader write a letter to the Soviet leader Khrushchev to take decisive nuclear action against the US if Cuba was attacked. This letter was now known as ‘Armageddon Letter’

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The same day at the blockade line, the US Navy dropped a series of “signaling” depth charges on a Soviet submarine (B-59). The Submarine equipped with a nuclear-tipped torpedo. Which had orders that allowed it to use the torpedo if it was damaged by depth charges or surface fire on the submarine. The submarine was too deep radio transmission. Captain Valentin Grigorievich Savitsky of the B-59 thought that the war may have already started on the ground and tried to launch a nuclear torpedo. The decision to launch the torpedo required consent from all three officers on board, but one of them, Vasily Arkhipov, objected, thus narrowly averting the nuclear launch.

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How Cuban Missile Crisis Ended?

In the following days during the standoff, diplomacy took the front seat and a catastrophic disaster was avoided. The US president Kennedy and Soviet leader Khrushchev started talks and negotiations. On 28th October 1962, Khrushchev Said USSR will stop military military constructions and leave Cuba but they have some conditions which the US agreed. And that was how one of the greatest military or nuclear standoff ended.

Result or aftermaths of Cuban Missile Crisis

As we have said in the previous paragraph both sides had made some promises to each other which ended the crisis.

  • Removal of nuclear missiles from Cuba by the Soviet Union.
  • The US would never attack Cuba without prior provocation as a retaliatory measure to the missile crisis.
  • U.S. would withdraw nuclear missiles from Turkey and Italy.
  • Establishment of a U.S. and the Soviet Union nuclear hotline.
  • Fidel Castro Cuban leader was very unhappy about Soviet Union’s withdrawal.
  • There was a single combatant fatality during the crisis.

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