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Missile Crisis Essay, Research Paper

The Cold War produced many confrontations between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. Korea and Vietnam were confrontations between the superpowers in an indirect way because each was supporting a country. Not until 1962 did they really come face to face with one another. The 1962 Cuban Missile Crises, although over Cuba, pitted the U.S. directly against Russia. The decisions between October 14 and 17, 1962 could easily have started WWIII or everyone?s fear at the time, nuclear war. But, calmer heads prevailed while both powers were able to claim victory.

The road to this crises began back in the 1930?s. The U.S. had economic and political interest in Cuba, thus not allowing a government to take control that represented the Cuban people. From Franklin D. Roosevelt to Dwight D. Eisenhower the U.S. controlled Cuba in a round about way. When the Cuban military dictatorship of Batista was filled with corruption and looked badly upon, the U.S. was associated with it. When guerrilla warfare broke out in Cuba, the U.S. stopped supporting Batista. Although the U.S. did not openly support a rebellion by Fidel Castro, the U.S. newspapers were reporting Castro?s ideas and his democratic plans. No one could have guessed what Castro?s real plans were once he was in office. Once his military dictatorship was in power, he looked not to the U.S. for support, but to the Soviet Union. From 1959 to 1961 the Soviet Union sent military and economic aid to support Castro?s communist regime and in July 1960, threatened the U.S. with a nuclear attack if it interfered with Cuba.

1960 was a presidential year for the U.S., so as you can imagine, the Cuban issue was a major factor. The Democratic nominee John F. Kennedy attacked Eisenhower and the democrats by saying that his defense policy was to soft and that there would be a ?missile gap? during the early 60?s giving the Soviet Union an edge in the nuclear race. Eisenhower could disprove this theory but didn?t because of security reasons. Eisenhower was also blamed for the loss of Cuba, and there was already an air of uneasiness because of the Soviet Union?s launching of sputnik, the first earth satellite. Richard Nixon, the vice president and republican nominee, had to defend Eisenhower without divulging secret information, so the cards were stacked against him.

Under Eisenhower the CIA had been training Cuban exiles to overthrow Castro and his Regime. Once Kennedy was elected he continued this training and on April 15, 1961 bombing took place and on the 17, the invasion. Kennedy would only allow use of a few older U.S. B-52 bombers and help getting the exiles to Cuba. He did not want the Soviet Union accusing the U.S. of aggression towards Cuba and getting support from ally countries. From the beginning this invasion (The Bay of Pigs) was helpless. The air attack did not destroy all of its targets and a scheduled second bombing was cancelled crippling the landing force, which was captured soon after reaching the beach. The CIA meanwhile was covering up any leads that would show U.S. involvement with the invasion. Castro though knew differently and together with the Soviet Union began charging the U.S. as an aggressor. The Bay of Pigs gave Castro an even stronger hold on Cuba, but Kennedy said that he would not let Cuba fall to communism.

So as the division between the U.S. and Cuba increased, the Soviet Union gave all that was needed to Castro. By the end of July and through August 1962, the U.S. knew that there was an arms build up by the Cubans, but that no major offensive weapons were found. On September 4th Kennedy told the American people that there was, ?no significant offensive capability by Cuba or directed by the Soviet Union. Were it to be otherwise, the gravest issues would arise?. This was a reassurance to America and a warning to the Soviet Union.

On October 14,1962 Kennedy was given pictures taken by an U.S. U-2 surveillance plane that missile bases were under construction in Cuba. This was the first time the Soviet Union attempted to set up missile sites outside of soviet soil. The previous weapons brought no words out of the U.S., but now Cuba had the capability to reach most of the U.S. as well as Central and parts of South America with nuclear ability.

On the 16th, a group that was to become known as the Executive Committee of the National Security Council or ExCom. This group, comprised of intelligence, Defense and State Departments officials, along with Vice President Johnson, Attorney General Robert Kennedy (President Kennedy?s brother), Secretary of the Treasury Douglas Dillon, and Ted Sorenson (Robert Kennedy and Ted Sorenson being two of President Kennedy?s two most trusted advisors). It was concluded that if they did nothing the U.S. would lose face to the rest of the world and the Soviet Union would look like the winner. If they were to invade Cuba there would be protests by NATO and Khrushchev would have an excuse to counter (even though most believed that Khrushchev did not want war). At first an air strike was favored, but cooler heads prevailed and a naval blockade was decided on.

For the next week the news of the missile sites was kept secret until Monday, October 22. Ambassadors were sent to tell NATO nations of the U.S. plans, and President Kennedy gave a speech to the American people telling them that the, ?provocative and unjustified change in the status quo cannot be accepted?. The NATO allies supported the U.S. and on Wednesday at 10:00 a.m. the blockade went into effect. President Kennedy communicated directly with Navy commanders that allowed him control over the quarantine and who could pass through it.

By 10:15 the first two Soviet ships were to reach the blockade. A report then came in that a Soviet submarine had moved into position between the two ships. At 10:32 everyone was able to relax. The Soviet ships had stopped were they were, and 14 others had either stopped or turned back. The rest of the week went along withh no mishaps, but, the Soviet Union did not officially acknowledge the blockade yet and intelligence data showed that construction on the missile sites was continuing. On Friday Khruhchev had still not indicated any removal of the missiles. The ExCom then met again to talk about a possible air strike and invasion. It was their concern that by the time they did anything, the missile sites would be operational resulting in more casualties.

Later on Friday a letter from Moscow seemed to indicate that the missile sites would be moved, but a second seemed to withdraw the concession. Later that night a U-2 was shot down over Cuba at which point ExCom began to devise an air attack and invasion for the following day. But, Kennedy wanted one more attempt to avoid the American invasion of Cuba. There was almost a disaster though, because the U.S. had earlier stated that they would immediately retaliate by bombing one of the missile sights. Luckily one of the ExCom members realized that the Air Force may be preparing for a retaliation strike and was just able to stop it.

President Kennedy?s patience was worth the risk. On 9:00 a.m. Sunday, October 28, Khrushchev announced the removal of the missiles on the condition that the United States did not invade Cuba. There were talks earlier in the week about the Soviet Union having the U.S. withdraw missiles from Turkey. The U.S. had talked about moving the missiles months before because they were no longer needed, but were not going to now because they did not want it looking like they had to meet Soviet demands. Robert Kennedy did imply that the missiles would not be there much longer, but President Kennedy did not pledge to remove them.

Fidel Castro was of course angry at Khrushchev?s decision. Castro refused to allow UN inspectors into Cuba to supervise the removal of the missiles. The U.S. finally allowed the missiles to be removed under U-2 surveillance photos. Kennedy also demanded the return of Soviet bombers. The Soviet Union agreed and on November 20, the quarantine ended.

Kennedy and Khrushchev both claimed victory in the ordeal. Khrushchev said that an American pledge not to invade Cuba was what he wanted. Most people do agree though that Khrushchev was gambling to attempt and try to equal the U.S. superiority. Kennedy claimed victory because the U.S. stood up to Soviet aggression and the missiles were removed because of Kennedy?s handling of the situation. Everyone though could claim victory because a war was avoided.


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