The Cuban Missile Crisis

The Cuban Missile Crisis was a 13 day period during which the United States and the Soviet Union nearly engaged in an all-out nuclear war.

Thankfully, the tense negotiations regarding Soviet missiles in Cuba succeeded in narrowly avoiding a nuclear war.

In 1959, Fidel Castro helped lead the overthrow of President Fulgencio Batista, the pro-America and anticommunist dictator of Cuba. As the new political leader, Castro nationalized American interests such as sugar and oil.

He also implemented a communist dictatorship and was friendly with the Soviet Union. As a result, the US, under the newly elected President John F. Kennedy, severed diplomatic relations with Cuba in 1961.

In April of 1961, the US launched the Bay of Pigs invasion, which had been largely planned by President Eisenhower the previous year. The invasion was led by a group of CIA-trained Cuban exiles, known as Brigade 2506, in an attempt to overthrow Castro. However, the invasion immediately failed, with more than 100 killed and more than 1,000 prisoners taken by Cuba. Around the same time, the US had also been deploying nuclear missiles in Italy and Turkey, all within the range of the Soviet Union.

Amid the breakdown of diplomatic relations with Cuba as well as the Cold War, in October of 1962, an American spy plane passing over Cuba photographed a Soviet missile being assembled. The missiles were just 90 miles south of Florida and were within range to attack the East Coast of the US. The Soviet premier, Nikita Khrushchev, had felt that the Soviet Union was surrounded by US bases, and that by deploying missiles to Cuba, it would be able to defend against a potential attack by the US.

In response to the presence of the Soviet missiles in Cuba, Kennedy used a naval blockade to surround Cuba and prevent the Soviets from bringing in more weapons. Khrushchev and Kennedy began a series of communications regarding the missiles that lasted 13 extremely tense days. With both sides recognizing the potential devastation a nuclear war would bring about, Kennedy and Khrushchev struck a deal -- the US would remove its missiles in Turkey if the Soviet Union removed its missiles in Cuba.