On this day 59 years ago…

The Cuban Missile Crisis ended with the concession of Kennedy and Khrushchev. About a week earlier, Kennedy had publicly announced that the Soviet Union had deployed nuclear missiles in Cuba. While his military advisers insisted on air strikes and invasion, the U.S. president kept his cool, instead ordering a naval blockade around Castro’s Cuba for the time being. A letter from Khrushchev quickly made clear what the Soviets hoped to gain from the crisis: a withdrawal of U.S. nuclear missiles from Turkey, which posed a similar threat to the Soviet Union as the missiles in Cuba did to the United States. But Kennedy refused to agree to this at first. Only after, on October 27, a U.S. aircraft was shot down over Cuba and the near-launch of a Soviet nuclear torpedo brought the world one step closer to nuclear war did he agree. To avoid looking like a loser in the crisis, nuclear missiles were secretly withdrawn from Turkey. Publicly, the U.S. pledged not to invade Cuba. In return, the Soviet Union withdrew its nuclear missiles from the Caribbean island.

Never had the world come so close to nuclear war. But the diplomatic solution to the crisis eased tensions between the superpowers; in the future, they wanted to be able to talk directly to each other via the newly established “Red Telephone” in the event of a crisis. Only Castro was not pleased about the withdrawal of the missiles. After the CIA-supported invasion of the Bay of Pigs in 1961, he still feared military intervention by the United States even after the crisis. A diplomatic rift with the Soviets ensued, which was not resolved until many years later.

If you want to learn more about the Cuban Missile Crisis and have 10 hours to kill, we recommend the second season of the “Blowback” podcast: