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Old 10-05-2012, 08:37 AM   #1
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Cuban Missile Crisis 1962

This happened fifty years ago this month. As a boy of seven I remember being quite nervous about it at the time. I was annoyed with Kennedy and finally relieved that the bald Russian leader (Kruschev) was sensible about it. Remarkably I haven't really changed my opinion much since then.
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Old 10-06-2012, 09:54 AM   #2
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Re: Cuban Missile Crisis 1962

This a great example of American double standards.

The US had nukes in Turkey pointed at USSR then cried wolf when the USSR put nukes in Cuba.

Standoff was portrayed as US victory at the time but the nukes in Turkey were quietly removed...
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Old 10-06-2012, 11:27 AM   #3
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Re: Cuban Missile Crisis 1962

It was a victory for all of us as there was no nuclear war. It was a unique period as everyone was aware that we were pretty close to the destruction of the world. Neither side was blameless.
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Old 10-06-2012, 06:03 PM   #4
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Re: Cuban Missile Crisis 1962

I used to tell people at work when they were "stressed" to go home and watch 'Thirteen Days' and see what being stressed is all about. I don't have much knowledge wrt the details of this event, but I really appreciate any perspectives this thread may generate.

It is my understanding that this is the closest mankind has come to destroying itself.
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Old 10-06-2012, 08:13 PM   #5
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Re: Cuban Missile Crisis 1962

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Originally Posted by longmissedblind View Post
It is my understanding that this is the closest mankind has come to destroying itself.
Hard to say... I think Petrov's close call might have been closer. The reason I say this is that everyone assumes that a US attack on Cuba would have definitely escalated to nuclear war. I'm not entirely sure that's true. I propose the following scenario:

(1) Soviets refuse to back down, US launches a massive air strike on Cuba to destroy Soviet missile sites, presumably setting the stage for an invasion of Cuba within the week.
(2) Soviets retaliate by attacking Allied sections of Berlin and seizing the remainder of East Germany for the Communist bloc, taking American POWs in the process.

At that stage, there are several possible outcomes:
(a) Under NATO agreements, US and Allies attack Warsaw Pact nations with air strikes to forestall Soviet ground attacks.
(b) Kennedy and Khrushchev, both irritated with the hawks in their cabinets, decide to attempt a detente that likely leaves Berlin in the Soviet sphere and Cuba in the American sphere, but forestalls further war (this scenario is complicated by the prospect of a military coup deposing either or both leaders).
(c) The US launches a preemptive nuclear strike on the USSR, hoping they can destroy enough missile sites to prevent MAD, and knowing a European WW3 scenario is highly undesirable.
(d) The USSR pairs its attack on Berlin with a preemptive nuclear strike on the United States or NATO.

I think those are the prospects in the order of likelihood. Only (c) and (d) necessarily result in nuclear war. In the event of (a), there may or may not be a nuclear exchange, since both sides are still aware of the MAD prospect. In that case, what follows is a massive tank battle across Central Europe and WW3 casualty figures in the hundreds of thousands to tens of millions range. (b) is probably not as unlikely as one might think, given how history actually turned out, where the US agreed to a (albeit "secret") quid pro quo that was previously deemed unthinkable anyway.
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Old 10-07-2012, 05:23 AM   #6
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Re: Cuban Missile Crisis 1962

With regards to the possible outcomes above would it not have been more likely for the USSR to respond to an American attack on Cuba by launching an attack on Turkey?
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Old 10-07-2012, 12:16 PM   #7
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Re: Cuban Missile Crisis 1962

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With regards to the possible outcomes above would it not have been more likely for the USSR to respond to an American attack on Cuba by launching an attack on Turkey?
Not really, because Turkey wasn't the key local ally. The missile site thing was floated by the Americans. The Soviets had not made it a major issue the way they had with Berlin, which was a much easier target.
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Old 10-07-2012, 01:38 PM   #8
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Re: Cuban Missile Crisis 1962

Yeah I'm just thinking in terms of them going for a like by like in terms of where the missiles are sited rather than the relationship of the alliance between the countries involved. I just think that Soviet aggression in Berlin would be a further and more serious escalation which would basically be crossing the rubicon on the way to WW3.
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Old 10-07-2012, 10:40 PM   #9
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Re: Cuban Missile Crisis 1962

The current issue of The Smithsonian (October) has an excellent article on the Cuban Missile Crisis, Title: The Photographs That Prevented World War III. These were aerial reconnaissance photos taken at great risk by daring pilots out of the Key West Naval Air Station.

The photographs were essential for the interpreters and analysts (mostly CIA personnel) to brief the President on the extent and capabilities of the launch sites in Cuba and whether they were at a ready to fire stage. They proved critical for the diplomatic steps and the timing of negotiations Kennedy and his staff had with the Soviets. They were also critical for monitoring the dismantling of the sites once a deal had been made.


The President used the information in various ways, and he told the fat bald one (through the Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin) that the US would launch military action in Cuba, but he also offered the carrot of pulling US medium-range missiles out of Turkey. This averted the start of a conventional war that had the potential to escalate into a nuclear confrontation. I was alive when all this happened being the happy age of 9 years old. I was playing with my toy soldiers and Tonka toy trucks behind the woodshed when this was going on, perfectly content. War only scares the faint of heart.
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Old 10-08-2012, 04:59 PM   #10
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Re: Cuban Missile Crisis 1962

In October of 1962 a group of United States Navy destroyers an aircraft carrier the Randolph trapped a nuclear-armed Soviet submarine in the waters near Cuba and started dropping practice depth charges, intended to force the submarine to come to the surface for identification. US destroyers under orders to enforce a naval quarantine off Cuba did not know that the submarines the Soviets had sent to protect their ships were carrying nuclear weapons. So the Americans began firing depth charges to force the submarines to the surface, a move the Soviets on the sub interpreted as the possible start of World War III.

The captain of the sub, Valentin Savitsky, believing that a war might already have started, wanted to launch a nuclear-tipped torpedo. This clearly would have escalated events if he had hit a major US city with the weapon. He was well in range of US mainland.

''We're going to blast them now! We will die, but we will sink them all. We will not disgrace our navy,'' the Soviet intelligence report quotes the first Soviet captain as saying before his co-officer calmed him down.

Officers on board the submarine were authorized to launch the torpedo if agreeing unanimously in favor of doing so. An argument broke out among the three, in which only an officer named Arkhipov was against the launch, eventually persuading Savitsky to surface the submarine and await orders from Moscow.

The nuclear war which presumably would have ensued was thus averted.

Although Arkhipov was only second-in-command of submarine B-59, he was actually of equal rank to Captain Savitsky. Washington's message that practice depth charges were being used to signal the submarines to surface never reached B-59, and Moscow claims they have no record of receiving it either. B-59 was also too deep to spy on US Navy radio traffic, so those on board could not know if war had broken out.

When discussing the Cuban missile crisis several years ago Robert McNamara stated that we came "very close" to nuclear war, "closer than we knew at the time.

This event could have ended very badly and was far more dangerous then the Kennedy and Khrushchev ultimatums.

Last edited by Honey Badger; 10-08-2012 at 05:09 PM.
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Old 10-08-2012, 09:49 PM   #11
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Re: Cuban Missile Crisis 1962

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Originally Posted by Zeno View Post
The current issue of The Smithsonian (October) has an excellent article on the Cuban Missile Crisis, Title: The Photographs That Prevented World War III. These were aerial reconnaissance photos taken at great risk by daring pilots out of the Key West Naval Air Station.

The photographs were essential for the interpreters and analysts (mostly CIA personnel) to brief the President on the extent and capabilities of the launch sites in Cuba and whether they were at a ready to fire stage. They proved critical for the diplomatic steps and the timing of negotiations Kennedy and his staff had with the Soviets. They were also critical for monitoring the dismantling of the sites once a deal had been made.


The President used the information in various ways, and he told the fat bald one (through the Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin) that the US would launch military action in Cuba, but he also offered the carrot of pulling US medium-range missiles out of Turkey. This averted the start of a conventional war that had the potential to escalate into a nuclear confrontation. I was alive when all this happened being the happy age of 9 years old. I was playing with my toy soldiers and Tonka toy trucks behind the woodshed when this was going on, perfectly content. War only scares the faint of heart.
I'm going to hope/assume yous trollin'.
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Old 10-08-2012, 10:40 PM   #12
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Re: Cuban Missile Crisis 1962

I highly recommend this book if you interested in the Cuban Missile Crisis. It pinpoints different theories about why the Soviets chose to place the missiles there and the thought process of Kennedy's reaction. I read it all in one sitting.
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Old 10-09-2012, 02:09 AM   #13
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Re: Cuban Missile Crisis 1962

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I'm going to hope/assume yous trollin'.
Absolutely NOT. But I leave it at that. This thead is about the Cuban Missile Crisis, not about individual poster personalities. Any Derail = Death.

Last edited by Zeno; 10-09-2012 at 02:18 AM.
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Old 10-12-2012, 01:15 PM   #14
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Re: Cuban Missile Crisis 1962

Back in the 90s there was a conference involving the elderly former officials of US/USSR who participated in the crisis. During the event, the JFK administration operated under the assumption that the missiles were not yet operational. But former Sec. Def. Robert McNamara was horrified to learn that although the long range missiles were not ready, the short-range tactical ones were -- and would have been used against the imminent US invasion force. So it was a whole lot closer than we realized.

The event is commonly described as JFK's finest hour. I subscribe to the view that although the crisis itself was handled boldly, what led up to it was folly. The failed Bay of Pigs invasion made Cuba welcome missiles. Without the invasion threat, it was not in their interest to become a nuclear target. The American policy of encircling the USSR was also sure to provoke a response. If I remember right, I got this interpretation from a book by Mark White, Missiles in Cuba.
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Old 10-12-2012, 01:29 PM   #15
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Re: Cuban Missile Crisis 1962

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The event is commonly described as JFK's finest hour. I subscribe to the view that although the crisis itself was handled boldly, what led up to it was folly. The failed Bay of Pigs invasion made Cuba welcome missiles. Without the invasion threat, it was not in their interest to become a nuclear target.
As a boy of seven I didn't want "bold" I just wanted to get to eight. There was far too much sabre-rattling on both sides and from memory it was quite a susrprise when the Russians backed down and sent their ships back. JFK was obsessed with Cuba and killing Castro and it may have done for him in the end.
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Old 10-18-2012, 10:26 PM   #16
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Re: Cuban Missile Crisis 1962

Good short article on the subject:

Jane Franklin: "What We’re Not Supposed To Know About The Missile Crisis"
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Old 10-25-2012, 09:43 PM   #17
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Re: Cuban Missile Crisis 1962

Thanks for the Franklin article. First fresh perspective on it I've read in a while. Very interesting claim -- that Cuba was facing imminent threat of invasion and that's what prompted the nukes.
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Old 10-26-2012, 12:49 AM   #18
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Re: Cuban Missile Crisis 1962

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Thanks for the Franklin article. First fresh perspective on it I've read in a while. Very interesting claim -- that Cuba was facing imminent threat of invasion and that's what prompted the nukes.
Here's another excellent article on the subject I think you and others will like:

Chomsky: The Week the World Stood Still (The Cuban Missile Crisis and Ownership of the World)

A relevant excerpt:

Quote:
In the current issue of Political Science Quarterly, the professional journal of the association of American political scientists, Montague Kern observes that the Cuban missile crisis is one of those “full-bore crises… in which an ideological enemy (the Soviet Union) is universally perceived to have gone on the attack, leading to a rally-’round-the-flag effect that greatly expands support for a president, increasing his policy options.”

Kern is right that it is “universally perceived” that way, apart from those who have escaped sufficiently from the ideological shackles to pay some attention to the facts. Kern is, in fact, one of them. Another is Sheldon Stern, who recognizes what has long been known to such deviants. As he writes, we now know that “Khrushchev’s original explanation for shipping missiles to Cuba had been fundamentally true: the Soviet leader had never intended these weapons as a threat to the security of the United States, but rather considered their deployment a defensive move to protect his Cuban allies from American attacks and as a desperate effort to give the U.S.S.R. the appearance of equality in the nuclear balance of power.” Dobbs, too, recognizes that “Castro and his Soviet patrons had real reasons to fear American attempts at regime change, including, as a last resort, a U.S. invasion of Cuba... [Khrushchev] was also sincere in his desire to defend the Cuban revolution from the mighty neighbor to the north.”

“Terrors of the Earth”

The American attacks are often dismissed in U.S. commentary as silly pranks, CIA shenanigans that got out of hand. That is far from the truth. The best and the brightest had reacted to the failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion with near hysteria, including the president, who solemnly informed the country: “The complacent, the self-indulgent, the soft societies are about to be swept away with the debris of history. Only the strong... can possibly survive." And they could only survive, he evidently believed, by massive terror -- though that addendum was kept secret, and is still not known to loyalists who perceive the ideological enemy as having “gone on the attack” (the near universal perception, as Kern observes). After the Bay of Pigs defeat, historian Piero Gleijeses writes, JFK launched a crushing embargo to punish the Cubans for defeating a U.S.-run invasion, and “asked his brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, to lead the top-level interagency group that oversaw Operation Mongoose, a program of paramilitary operations, economic warfare, and sabotage he launched in late 1961 to visit the 'terrors of the earth' on Fidel Castro and, more prosaically, to topple him.”

The phrase “terrors of the earth” is Arthur Schlesinger’s, in his quasi-official biography of Robert Kennedy, who was assigned responsibility for conducting the terrorist war, and informed the CIA that the Cuban problem carries “[t]he top priority in the United States Government -- all else is secondary -- no time, no effort, or manpower is to be spared” in the effort to overthrow the Castro regime. The Mongoose operations were run by Edward Lansdale, who had ample experience in “counterinsurgency” -- a standard term for terrorism that we direct. He provided a timetable leading to “open revolt and overthrow of the Communist regime” in October 1962. The “final definition” of the program recognized that “final success will require decisive U.S. military intervention,” after terrorism and subversion had laid the basis. The implication is that U.S. military intervention would take place in October 1962 -- when the missile crisis erupted. The events just reviewed help explain why Cuba and Russia had good reason to take such threats seriously.

Years later, Robert McNamara recognized that Cuba was justified in fearing an attack. “If I were in Cuban or Soviet shoes, I would have thought so, too,” he observed at a major conference on the missile crisis on the 40th anniversary.
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Old 10-26-2012, 02:11 PM   #19
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Re: Cuban Missile Crisis 1962

That last line from McNamara shows how remarkably bad today's NYT oped is.

It argues "How Castro Held the World Hostage" with his "fears and insecurities after the botched Bay of Pigs invasion." Meaning, Castro's irrational fear of a US invasion led him to shake the nuclear bee hive.
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Old 10-27-2012, 02:02 PM   #20
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Re: Cuban Missile Crisis 1962

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Originally Posted by Bill Haywood View Post
That last line from McNamara shows how remarkably bad today's NYT oped is.

It argues "How Castro Held the World Hostage" with his "fears and insecurities after the botched Bay of Pigs invasion." Meaning, Castro's irrational fear of a US invasion led him to shake the nuclear bee hive.
Ha!

Last edited by Zeno; 10-28-2012 at 06:33 PM. Reason: This is not a current events forum
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Old 10-27-2012, 02:04 PM   #21
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Re: Cuban Missile Crisis 1962

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Originally Posted by Honey Badger View Post
In October of 1962 a group of United States Navy destroyers an aircraft carrier the Randolph trapped a nuclear-armed Soviet submarine in the waters near Cuba and started dropping practice depth charges, intended to force the submarine to come to the surface for identification. US destroyers under orders to enforce a naval quarantine off Cuba did not know that the submarines the Soviets had sent to protect their ships were carrying nuclear weapons. So the Americans began firing depth charges to force the submarines to the surface, a move the Soviets on the sub interpreted as the possible start of World War III.

The captain of the sub, Valentin Savitsky, believing that a war might already have started, wanted to launch a nuclear-tipped torpedo. This clearly would have escalated events if he had hit a major US city with the weapon. He was well in range of US mainland.

''We're going to blast them now! We will die, but we will sink them all. We will not disgrace our navy,'' the Soviet intelligence report quotes the first Soviet captain as saying before his co-officer calmed him down.

Officers on board the submarine were authorized to launch the torpedo if agreeing unanimously in favor of doing so. An argument broke out among the three, in which only an officer named Arkhipov was against the launch, eventually persuading Savitsky to surface the submarine and await orders from Moscow.

The nuclear war which presumably would have ensued was thus averted.

Although Arkhipov was only second-in-command of submarine B-59, he was actually of equal rank to Captain Savitsky. Washington's message that practice depth charges were being used to signal the submarines to surface never reached B-59, and Moscow claims they have no record of receiving it either. B-59 was also too deep to spy on US Navy radio traffic, so those on board could not know if war had broken out.

When discussing the Cuban missile crisis several years ago Robert McNamara stated that we came "very close" to nuclear war, "closer than we knew at the time.

This event could have ended very badly and was far more dangerous then the Kennedy and Khrushchev ultimatums.
This certainly gets my vote as "the closest mankind has come to destroying itself".

A video on the topic:

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Old 10-31-2012, 01:14 AM   #22
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Re: Cuban Missile Crisis 1962

For a first-hand account of McNamara's thoughts on this event and more, I suggest viewing "Fog of War". It's available in full somehwere on youtube.
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Old 12-21-2019, 09:39 AM   #23
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Re: Cuban Missile Crisis 1962

To my knowledge, the most important aftermath of this outdated crisis is that the USA would never invade Cuba, and the USSR managed to defend their ally
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Old 12-23-2019, 02:23 PM   #24
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Re: Cuban Missile Crisis 1962

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Originally Posted by longmissedblind View Post
It is my understanding that this is the closest mankind has come to destroying itself.
I reiterate what someone else mentioned earlier ITT. 1962 wasn't remotely close to being the closest we've been to nuclear annihilation.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-24280831
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Old 06-28-2020, 04:14 AM   #25
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Re: Cuban Missile Crisis 1962

A 1974 television docudrama, (i.e. "The Missiles of October" starring William Devane as JFK, a youngish Martin Sheen as RFK, and Howard DeSilva as Nikita Khrushchev), presented a fairly accurate portrayal of what went on during those 13 days. Compared to the actual events, the film was remarkably accurate in portraying the intense pressure both Kennedy and Khrushchev were under.

Ten years ago I had the opportunity to speak with the son of a military aide to President Kennedy, a naval commander, who had briefed EXCOMM on the capabilities of the Soviet missiles that were being installed in Cuba. (He had obviously discussed the crisis in some detail with his deceased father.) His father related to him that the pressure from "hawks" to proceed with a full out air strike and invasion was intense. The chief proponent of this "immediate air strike" option was Air Force Chief-of-Staff General Curtis Lemay.

In the 1974 "Missiles of October" television film, there is a vivid scene in which JFK and General LeMay get into an intense verbal confrontation over how the Russians will respond if we proceed with an air attack on Cuba? In the film General LeMay responds to the President: "They'll do nothing!" Remembering this exchange from the television movie, I asked the son of Kennedy's naval aide how accurate this portrayal [of General LeMay] actually was? Paraphrasing slightly, he responded, somewhat emphatically: "It was damn accurate! Curtis LeMay wanted to wipe Russia off the face of the earth!"

I read a book - "One Minute to Midnight" by Michael Dobbs - which is a sobering account of how the crisis played out. There were a number of events which occurred during the crisis which could easily have spiraled out of control. An example: Kennedy had ordered all routine reconnaissance flights flying near the Soviet Union be [temporarily] suspended for the duration of the crisis. (Kennedy did not want to risk one of the planes getting off course and straying into Soviet air space panicking the Russians into believing an attack was underway.) Despite this direct order from the Commander-in-Chief, an air force reconnaissance plane experienced a "navigational error" which resulted in the plane flying directly over Soviet airspace for a brief period. When Kennedy was informed of this, he made his famous comment: "There's always some SOB that doesn't get the word." (Khrushchev and the Russians must have experienced a similar panic when they were informed that Major Rudolph Anderson's U-2 reconnaissance plane had been shot down over Cuba.)

Considering incidents like these and several others that occurred during the crisis, we were lucky. Both Kennedy (and Khrushchev) remained calm and under control despite the incredible pressure both men were under. I shudder to think where we would be if something like the Cuban Missile Crisis happened today with Trump in charge …

I have ordered a copy of Mason's "The History of the World from a Gambler's Perspective" book. As soon as I receive it, I'm going straight to the chapter on the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Last edited by Former DJ; 06-28-2020 at 04:33 AM.
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