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Facts About The Cuban Missile Crisis For Kids


The Cuban missile crisis—known as the October crisis in Cuba and the Caribbean crisis in the USSR—was a 13-day confrontation between the Soviet Union and Cuba on one side and the United States on the other; the crisis occurred in October 1962, during the Cold War. In August 1962, after some unsuccessful operations by the US to overthrow the Cuban regime (Bay of Pigs, Operation Mongoose), the Cuban and Soviet governments secretly began to build bases in Cuba for a number of medium-range and intermediate-range ballistic nuclear missiles (MRBMs and IRBMs) with the ability to strike most of the continental United States.

  • This action followed the 1958 deployment of Thor IRBMs in the UKand Jupiter IRBMs to Italy and Turkey in 1961 – more than 100 US-built missiles having the capability to strike Moscow with nuclear warheads.
  • On October 14, 1962, a United States Air Force U-2 plane on a photoreconnaissance mission captured photographic proof of Soviet missile bases under construction in Cuba.
  • Not only does the ensuing crisis rank with the Berlin Blockade, the Suez Crisis and the Yom Kippur War as one of the major confrontations of the Cold War, it is generally regarded as the moment in which the Cold War came closest to turning into a nuclear conflict, or WWIII.
  • The US announced that it would not permit offensive weapons to be delivered to Cuba and demanded that the Soviets dismantle the missile bases already under construction or completed in Cuba and remove all offensive weapons.
  • The Kennedy administration held only a slim hope that the Kremlin would agree to their demands, and expected a military confrontation.
  • On the Soviet side, Premier Nikita Khrushchev wrote in a letter to Kennedy that his blockade of “navigation in international waters and air space” constituted “an act of aggression propelling humankind into the abyss of a world nuclear-missile war”.
  • Publicly, the Soviets would dismantle their offensive weapons in Cuba and return them to the Soviet Union, subject to United Nationsverification, in exchange for a US public declaration and agreement never to invade Cuba.
  • Only two weeks after the agreement, the Soviets had removed the missile systems and their support equipment, loading them onto eight Soviet ships from November 5–9.
  • In January 1962, General Edward Lansdale described plans to overthrow the Cuban Government in a top-secret report, addressed to President Kennedy and officials involved with Operation Mongoose.
  • On September 7, Soviet Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Dobrynin assured United States Ambassador to the United NationsAdlai Stevenson that the USSR was supplying only defensive weapons to Cuba.
  • That evening, the CIA notified the Department of State and at 8:30 pm EDT, National Security Adviser McGeorge Bundy elected to wait until morning to tell the President.
  • At 6:30 pm EDT, Kennedy convened a meeting of the nine members of the National Security Council and five other key advisers, 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.
  • 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.
  • Unknown to most members of the EXCOMM, Robert Kennedy had been meeting with the Soviet Ambassador in Washington to discover whether these intentions were genuine.
  • Although General Curtis LeMay told the President that he considered the resolution of the Cuban missile crisis the “greatest defeat in our history”, his was a distinctly minority position.