The history of the Cuban Missile Crisis – Matthew A. Jordan


It’s not hard to imagine a world
where at any given moment, you and everyone you know could be
wiped out without warning at the push of a button. This was the reality for millions
of people during the 45-year period after World War II, now known as the Cold War. As the United States and Soviet Union
faced off across the globe, each knew that the other had nuclear
weapons capable of destroying it. And destruction never loomed closer
than during the 13 days of the Cuban Missile Crisis. In 1961, the U.S. unsuccessfully tried to
overthrow Cuba’s new communist government. That failed attempt was known
as the Bay of Pigs, and it convinced Cuba to seek help
from the U.S.S.R. Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev
was happy to comply by secretly deploying nuclear
missiles to Cuba, not only to protect the island, but to counteract the threat from
U.S. missiles in Italy and Turkey. By the time U.S. intelligence
discovered the plan, the materials to create the missiles
were already in place. At an emergency meeting on
October 16, 1962, military advisors urged an airstrike
on missile sites and invasion of the island. But President John F. Kennedy chose
a more careful approach. On October 22, he announced that the
the U.S. Navy would intercept all shipments to Cuba. There was just one problem: a naval blockade was considered
an act of war. Although the President called it
a quarantine that did not block basic necessities, the Soviets didn’t appreciate
the distinction. In an outraged letter to Kennedy, Khrushchev wrote, “The violation
of freedom to use international waters and international airspace
is an act of aggression which pushes mankind toward the abyss
of world nuclear missile war.” Thus ensued the most intense
six days of the Cold War. While the U.S. demanded the removal
of the missiles, Cuba and the U.S.S.R insisted
they were only defensive. And as the weapons continued
to be armed, the U.S. prepared for a possible invasion. On October 27, a spy plane piloted
by Major Rudolph Anderson was shot down by a Soviet missile. The same day, a nuclear-armed Soviet
submarine was hit by a small-depth charge from a U.S. Navy vessel trying
to signal it to come up. The commanders on the sub,
too deep to communicate with the surface, thought war had begun
and prepared to launch a nuclear torpedo. That decision had to be made unanimously
by three officers. The captain and political officer
both authorized the launch, but Vasili Arkhipov,
second in command, refused. His decision saved the day
and perhaps the world. But the crisis wasn’t over. For the first time in history, the U.S. Military set itself
to DEFCON 2, the defense readiness one step
away from nuclear war. With hundreds of nuclear missiles
ready to launch, the metaphorical Doomsday Clock
stood at one minute to midnight. But diplomacy carried on. In Washington, D.C., Attorney General
Robert Kennedy secretly met with Soviet Ambassador
Anatoly Dobrynin. After intense negotiation,
they reached the following proposal. The U.S. would remove their missiles
from Turkey and Italy and promise to never invade Cuba in exchange for the Soviet withdrawal
from Cuba under U.N. inspection. Once the meeting had concluded, Dobrynin cabled Moscow saying
time is of the essence and we shouldn’t miss the chance. And at 9 a.m. the next day, a message arrived from Khrushchev announcing the Soviet missiles would be
removed from Cuba. The crisis was now over. While criticized at the time by their
respective governments for bargaining with the enemy, contemporary historical analysis
shows great admiration for Kennedy’s and Khrushchev’s ability
to diplomatically solve the crisis. But the disturbing lesson was that
a slight communication error, or split-second decision by a commander,
could have thwarted all their efforts, as it nearly did if not for
Vasili Arkhipov’s courageous choice. The Cuban Missile Crisis revealed just how
fragile human politics are compared to the terrifying power
they can unleash.

100 thoughts on “The history of the Cuban Missile Crisis – Matthew A. Jordan

  1. At least we are human enough to talk things through before we decide to exterminate ourself, so everything we’ve built up doesn’t go to waste

  2. 3:15 The Doomsday clock was NOT adjusted for the Cuban missile crisis, it remained at 7 minutes to midnight that year and actually went backwards to 12 minutes to midnight in 1963. It has never been set at one minute to midnight. The closest it has ever been to midnight is 2 minutes, where it was in 1953 and 2018, and where is now in 2019. https://thebulletin.org/2018/01/doomsday-clockwork/

  3. the whole thing about the one guy's decision really hit me hard. it makes me think about all the times it was the extremely close to major injury or death but I just barely made it, but damn that wasn't one person's life that was millions. really happy he said no.

  4. Oof I'm Cuban-American I read this on a book called Who was John F. Kennedy and I did not really pay attention but this hurt meee….

  5. USA needs to stop blaming USSR for the Cuba Crisis. USA had twice as much nuclear bombs and planted them in Turkey against USSR first.

    You Americans are the cause of Cuba Crisis. Stop whining.

  6. Kennedy gets a lot of flak but he also played his part. He defied a unanimous decision by the military to launch air strikes on Cuba, which would have started the war indefinitely. A decision that was just as important as Mr. Arkhipovs. The world was saved twice by two opposing sides – quite poetic, really.

  7. a nice touch would've been if the US and USSR flags were in order of the political spectrum when they were shown at 0:30, i.e. USSR on the left (Communist), USA on the right (Capitalist)

  8. I was 1 when the Cuban crisis DEFCON 2 happened. US had 1000+ nuclear war heads while USSR had 30+ nuke weapons. But the western world and Asia were really thinking WW III nuke war would start. The US Strategical Air Command (SAC) had 1/3 of its bombers in the air 24/7, and the ICBM silos were fully manned, ready o strike within 6 hours. The game of "chicken" was so close to real war, IF a false signal was issued and carried out there was no way to stop it.

  9. reasons i like this channel
    5% its a good educational channel
    95% the sound effects at the beginning and end of the videos

  10. There should be a movie depicting the scenario where the three commanders reached their agreement and launch the missile. Just imagine how catastrophic it would be in that movie

  11. Accused of bargaining with the enemy!? Those ppl who held those accusations must have never thought of the consequences of not negotiating, or they don't care about war which would kill millions. Either way, those ppl should never be in any position of power. Unfortunately many are today.

  12. Don’t kid yourselves folks, one day, we’ll blow ourselves up. It’s just a matter of time. The same trait of being an alpha predator that helped us survive and dominate the world will be our downfall. It’s the nature of man to war, fight, and kill. Just look back at all of recorded human history. Enjoy the time we have remaining before the Earth is a cinder.

  13. I'm very happy I learned this 2 years ago. This is the particular lesson that I always remembered in our history class. Thanks to my teacher who did research and not just based on the books 💖

  14. Fidel Castro didn't want to secretly install nuclear missiles in Cuba. Kruschev did it behind his back.

  15. but didn't JFK wanted to look aggressive to the commies(as they said it at the time) to boost support from the people?

  16. in short all this would not have happened if the US did not interfere with other country's internal affairs. like Iraq,Iran,NK,china,even uk and eu.

  17. By why wasn't US checked by the UN to see if they removed missles from Russia and Turkey… They always get what they want, I'm sick of them

  18. We learned about this in world history and yet it makes so much more sense in a five minute Ted ed video than it did in a week of an hour long class.

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