Today on October 16, 1962, the world anxiously watches as the Cuban Missile Crisis begins.
The Cuban Missile Crisis, also known as the October Crisis, was a climax moment in the Cold War. The crisis between the United States and the Soviet Union only lasted for thirteen days; however, it ultimately threatened to plunge the world into a full-scale nuclear war. It officially began after President John F. Kennedy was informed that reconnaissance pilots discovered nuclear warheads in Cuba. On October 14, an American U-2 spy plane making a high-altitude pass over Cuba photographed a Soviet SS-4 medium-range ballistic missile being assembled for installation. The missiles were less 90 miles away from southern Florida and capable of reaching vast areas of mainland United States.
In 1961, the CIA made a failed attempt to invade Cuba and overthrow the communist regime, known as the Bay of Pigs Invasion. In response, Cuban President Fidel Castro reached out to Nikita Khrushchev for help. He asked the Soviet leader to install nuclear missiles across Cuba to deter any future American invasions. The United States had been installing Jupiter ballistic missiles across Italy and Turkey. In response, Khrushchev finally agreed with Castro's request and began shipping nuclear missiles to Cuba. By the summer of 1962, construction was already well underway on a number of missile launch facilities.
President Kennedy immediately established a naval blockade to prevent further weapons from reaching Cuba. Public tensions rapidly increased with every passing moment. Behind the scenes, Kennedy and Khrushchev were negotiating to avoid an all-out war. An agreement was finally reached on October 28. The Soviets agreed to dismantle all nuclear weapons in Cuba and return them back to their territory. In exchange, the Americans agreed to publicly declare that they would never invade Cuba again. They also secretly agreed to withdraw and remove their Jupiter missiles from Turkey. The Moscow-Washington hotline was established following the crisis, creating a direct communication between the White House and the Kremlin.