“This essay was written by Michael Dobbs, the author of a cold war trilogy that includes “One Minute to Midnight: Kennedy, Khrushchev, and Castro on the Brink of Nuclear War” and “Six Months in 1945: F.
D. R. , Stalin, Khrushchev, and Truman — From World War to Cold War. ” President John F. Kennedy was informed about the deployment of Soviet medium- range missiles on Cuba shortly after 8 a. m. on the morning of Tuesday, Oct.
16, 1962.His first reaction on hearing the news from National Security Adviser McGeorge Bundy was to accuse the Soviet leader Nikita S. Khrushchev of a double-cross. He can’t do this to me,” he sputtered. Thus began the celebrated “13 days” that brought the world closer than ever before — or since — to a nuclear war, a period now remembered in the West as the Cuban Missile Crisis. The crisis peaked on Oct. 27, “Black Saturday,” when a series of star- tling events, including the shooting down of an American U-2 spy plane over Cuba, suggested that neither Khrushchev nor Kennedy fully controlled their own military machines.
The presidential aide and historian Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. described the October 1962 confrontation as the “most dangerous moment in human history. Khrushchev’s motivations in sending nuclear-tipped missiles to Cuba in the summer of 1962 have been the subject of great debate.
Kennedy administration officials ar- gued afterward that the Soviet leader acted for global strategic reasons. Prior to the missile crisis, the United States had around 3,500 nuclear warheads capable of reach- ing the Soviet Union, a 10-1 advantage over the Soviet Union. By building missile bases in Cuba capable of lobbing 60 nuclear warheads into the United States, ?http://topics. nytimes. com/top/reference/timestopics/subjects/c/cuban_missile_crisis/index. tml Page 1 of 2 Cuban Missile Crisis (1962) – The New York Times 17/3/13 1:11 PM Khrushchev would be able to redress this military imbalance somewhat, although it would have left him far short of achieving first strike capability. In memoirs written after his ouster as Soviet leader in 1964, Khrushchev claimed that he was primarily motivated by the desire to defend the Cuban revolution, and his ally Fidel Castro, from aggression by the United States.
The Kennedy administration had supported an abortive invasion of Cuba by right-wing exiles at the Bay of Pigs in April