The Cuban Missile Crisis in October of 1962 was the closest the world ever came to nuclear war. It was a showdown between the United States and the Soviet Union, each side fearing what the other was capable of doing. For thirteen long days, everyone in America was extremely tense and nervous about what would happen. If even just one missile was launched at the United States by the Soviet Union, World War III would have started. Thankfully that never happened though. This paper will highlight the details of the Cuban Missile Crisis and explain exactly what happened with the event that almost escalated into nuclear war. First, let’s talk about the events that led up to the crisis.
In January 1959, Fulgencio Batista, the brutal, American-backed Cuban
dictator, was overthrown by the guerrilla army of Fidel Castro. At that time, Dwight D. Eisenhower was president of the United States and his administration welcomed the new leader of Cuba, Fidel Castro. For America, Cuba provided a naval base at Guantanamo; it was an exotic, but conveniently close, tourist resort; and low paid Cuban labor made it an attractive investment area, much of the island's agriculture and industry being American-owned. So to protect American interests, the government of the United States always involved itself with Cuban affairs. Over time, Castro became too powerful and controlling over his island and would always harm American interests when trying to solve his own problems. It was clear that Castro was a communist and because of that, President Eisenhower ordered the CIA to eliminate him.
The CIA launched several operations to try and overthrow Castro. The most well known operation was launched in 1961 called the Bay of Pigs. The CIA’s plan was to use a brigade of about 1,400 anti-Castro Cuban exiles and some of its own air force to invade the island, triggering mass risings and overthrowing Castro’s government. The operation was unsuccessful. Castro saw it coming and was prepared to fight. Everything that could go wrong, did so. Air attacks failed to destroy Castro's air force completely. Most of the ammunition and communications equipment was destroyed before it could be landed. Castro's forces fought well, and enjoyed massive popular support. There were no uprisings, and US forces did nothing to support the exiles. Within two days over 100 exiles had been killed and nearly 1,200 had surrendered.
Along with all the CIA operations launched against Cuba, the United States military also launched its own operation in 1962 called Operation Mongoose. The Armed Forces conducted a mock invasion of a Caribbean island to overthrow a fictitious dictator whose name, Ortsac, was Castro spelled backwards. Additionally, the U.S. was drafting a plan to invade Cuba. The mock invasion and invasion plan were devised to keep Castro nervous. The United States was never able to overthrow Castro, but he did receive a clear picture that America meant business and was serious about invading Cuba. Castro knew he had to protect himself and his island from the United States and the Soviet Union later gave him the perfect option.
In April 1962, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev conceived the idea of placing intermediate-range missiles in Cuba. A deployment in Cuba would mean double the nuclear weapons arsenal for the Soviet Union and for Castro’s sake, it would provide a real deterrent to a potential United States invasion of Cuba. Because of that, Castro thought it was a great idea and accepted Khrushchev's offer. Castro and the Soviet Union knew that they had to be very quiet about what they planned to do. They could not raise the suspicions of the United States or else the plan would fail.
During the late summer and early fall of 1962, the Soviet Union transported equipment and personnel necessary for the preparation of missiles to Cuba. They did not use military ships to transport the items because the United States would easily discover them. So instead,...
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