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The Cuban Missile Crisis

John Swift examines the events that led the world to the brink of nuclear catastrophe.

President Kennedy and Secretary of Defense McNamara in an EXCOMM meeting.For 14 days in October 1962 the world stood on the brink of nuclear war. The Soviet Union had secretly stationed nuclear weapons on the island of Cuba, and when the government of the United States discovered them, and demanded their withdrawal, the most dangerous confrontation of the Cold War followed. A single miscalculation made either in the White House or the Kremlin could have precipitated catastrophe. How did this standoff arise? How did the Superpowers extricate themselves from it? Was anything learned from the crisis? Should any party be held more at fault than the other?

The Cuban Revolution

In January 1959, Fulgencio Batista, the brutal, American-backed Cuban dictator, was overthrown by the guerrilla army of Fidel Castro. Initially president Dwight D. Eisenhower’s administration welcomed the Cuban revolution, for Batista had long been an embarrassing ally, and a friendly, democratic government in Cuba, addressing urgent social reform, would be far more stable and reliable. Yet such views did not last long.

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