Thank you for your very interesting question.
In the early sixties, the Cold War (the tense, conflictive status-quo
between the United States and the Soviet Union that lasted from the
aftermath of WWII through the fall of the USSR) was in its height. The
Soviets had reached a considerable technological and war industry
development; they were slightly ahead in the space race since they had
put a man (astronaut Yuri Gagarin) to orbit the Earth before US did;
they exerted a strong control over Eastern Europe; the Chinese giant
was consolidating its own way of communism; and all over the world --
Latin America not being the exception -- insurrections were taking
place, many times openly communist or else sympathetic with communism.
One of these insurrections, and a paradigmatically successful one, was
the Cuban Revolution. It overthrew dictator Fulgencio Batista and his
oligarchic regime, and soon would start a series of economic measures
that harmed US interests in the isle, what, in an escalation that
began with economic sanctions by the US -- combined with a number of
factors such as the active willingness of a group of Cuban exiles --
led to a failed attempt to invade Cuba, performed by Cuban exiles
trained by the CIA, called Bay of Pigs after the name of the coastal
area where the disembarkation took place. It was after this episode
that Cuba announced its embrace of communism and started a strong and
long-lasting alliance with the USSR (speculation has been made about
whether Cuba, despite the socialist bend of the revolutionary leaders,
would have ultimately become a communist country allied to the USSR if
the attempted invasion had not taken place -- that line of though
would argue that the Cuban Revolution got trapped by the rationale of
the Cold War).
In this context, Cuba and the USSR found that they had quite a few
converging interests besides a probable ideological similitude. Cuba
was facing a very tangible threat from the US. The USSR, which was
some steps behind the US in the nuclear weaponry race, knew that US
already had many nuclear missiles spread over Europe and Turkey aiming
at Soviet targets. Cuba needed protection and the USSR was willing to
provide it and, by doing so, even out the nuclear threat by having US
targets aimed at by Soviet nuclear missiles placed in Cuban territory
-- close enough to US to make it reachable by the scope that the
Soviets had attained at that time (years later, with the development
of intercontinental missiles by both sides, the Cuban Missiles crisis
would have probably been irrelevant). Soviet military aid to Cuba had
already begun by sending troops, scientists and conventional weaponry.
The Cuban Missile Crisis had three major protagonists, namely US
president John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev
and, though in a less decisive role, Cuban leader Fidel Castro.
Here you are a chronology of events:
May, 1962: Khrushchev devises the missiles deployment.
July, 1962: over sixty Soviet ships are en route to Cuba, some of them
already carrying military material.
John McCone, director of the CIA, during his honeymoon in Paris had
been told by French Intelligence that the Soviets were planning to
place missiles in Cuba, and so he warned President Kennedy that some
of the ships were probably carrying missiles. Kennedy, his brother
Robert (Attorney General), Secretary of State Dean Rusk, and Secretary
of Defense Robert McNamara concluded that the Soviets would not try
such a thing -- they relied on claims from Soviet diplomats that there
were no missiles in Cuba, nor any plans to place any, and that the
Soviets would not start an international drama that might impact the
U.S. elections in November.
Late August: A U-2 flight photographs a new series of SAM
(surface-to-air missile) sites being constructed.
September 4, 1962: Kennedy tells Congress that there are no offensive
missiles in Cuba.
September 8: the first consignment of SS-4 MRBMs is unloaded in
Havana, and a second shipload arrives on September 16.
October 14: A U-2 flight clearly showed the construction of an SS-4
site near San Cristobal.
October 16, 1962: Reconnaissance data revealing Soviet nuclear missile
installations on Cuba is shown to U.S. President John F. Kennedy.
October 19: the U-2 flights (then almost continuous) showed four sites
October 21: The United Kingdom is informed of the situation.
October 22: President Kennedy, in a televised address, announces the
discovery of the installations and proclaims that any nuclear missile
attack from Cuba would be regarded as an attack by the Soviet Union
and would be responded to accordingly. He also placed a naval
"quarantine" (blockade) on Cuba to prevent further Soviet shipments of
military weapons from arriving there. The word quarantine was used
rather than blockade because a blockade would be an act of war, and
war had not been declared between the U.S. and Cuba.
October 23 and 24: Khrushchev sends letters to Kennedy claiming the
deterrent nature of the missiles in Cuba and the peaceful intentions
of the Soviet Union.
October 26: First deal: the Soviets offers to withdraw the missiles in
return for a U.S. guarantee not to invade Cuba or support any
October 27: Second deal: a call for the withdrawal of U.S. missiles
from Turkey is added to the demands of the 26th.
A U-2 is shot down over Cuba and another U-2 flight over Russia was
almost intercepted when it strayed over Siberia (after Curtis LeMay
-U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff- had neglected to enforce Presidential
orders to suspend all overflights), putting additional stress on
negotiations between the USSR and the US.
Kennedy responds by publicly accepting the first deal and sending
Robert F. Kennedy to the Soviet embassy to privately accept the
second, but requesting Khrushchev to keep it out of the public domain,
so that he would not appear weak before the upcoming elections.
October 28, 1962: Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev announces that the
installations would be dismantled.
The Cuban Missile Crisis is seen as the situation closest to a nuclear
war ever. A byproduct of it was the creation of the Hot Line, a direct
communications link between Moscow and Washington D.C., meant to have
a way for the leaders of the two Cold War countries to communicate
directly in order to solve crisis like the one in October 1962.
"We were eyeball to eyeball, and the other fellow just blinked."
(Secretary of State Dean Rusk)
"It's the greatest defeat in our history, Mr. President!" (General
Curtis LeMay, pounding the table, about the agreement)
"Our own strategic missiles have never been transferred to the
territory of any other nation under a cloak of secrecy and deception;
and our history, unlike that of the Soviets since the end of World War
II, demonstrates that we have no desire to dominate or conquer any
other nation or impose our system upon its people." (John Fitzgerald
Kennedy, Address on the Cuban Crisis October 22, 1962; Modern History
Sourcebook - http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/1962kennedy-cuba.html
"'Do you, Ambassador Zorin, deny that the U.S.S.R. has placed and is
placing medium- and intermediate-range missiles and sites in Cuba?...
Don't wait for the translation! Yes or no?' Zorin responded, 'I am not
in an American courtroom, sir, and I do not wish to answer a question
put to me in the manner in which a prosecutor does-' Then Stevenson
interrupted and said, 'You are in the courtroom of world opinion right
now, and you can answer yes or no. You have denied that they exist,
and I want to know whether I have understood you correctly.... I am
prepared to wait for my answer until hell freezes over, if that's your
decision. And I am also prepared to present the evidence in this
room.'" (October 25, Adlai Stevenson at the United Nations;
Thinquest.org, The Cuban Missiles Crisis -
The source for the content of this answer -- except when otherwise specified -- is
Wikipedia; Cuban Missile Crisis
(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cuban_missile_crisis ) and I do
recommend reading it if you want to learn further about this unique
and enlightening episode in history.
I believe that this information will fulfill your expectations.
Otherwise, please feel free to ask for clarification. Thanks once
Clarification of Answer by
15 Sep 2006 17:02 PDT
Hello again, Top19-ga,
Quotation of Khrushchev's rope and knot metaphor:
"Mr. President, I appeal to you to weigh well what the aggressive,
piratical actions, which you have declared the USA intends to carry
out in international waters, would lead to. You yourself know that any
sensible man simply cannot agree with this, cannot recognize your
right to such actions.
"If you did this as the first step towards the unleashing of war, well
then, it is evident that nothing else is left to us but to accept this
challenge of yours. If, however, you have not lost your self-control
and sensibly conceive what this might lead to, then, Mr. President, we
and you ought not now to pull on the ends of the rope in which you
have tied the knot of war, because the more the two of us pull, the
tighter that knot will be tied. And a moment may come when that knot
will be tied so tight that even he who tied it will not have the
strength to untie it, and then it will be necessary to cut that knot,
and what that would mean is not for me to explain to you, because you
yourself understand perfectly of what terrible forces our countries
"Consequently, if there is no intention to tighten that knot and
thereby to doom the world to the catastrophe of thermonuclear war,
then let us not only relax the forces pulling on the ends of the rope,
let us take measures to untie that knot. We are ready for this."
Full text of this letter and other correspondence between JFK and NK
during the Cuban Missile Crisis is available at
belongs to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum Website).
Number of missiles:
As far as I could find, there seems to be no conclusive data regarding
the number of missiles. However, reasonable estimates come up from
this authoritative source, unclassified CIA paper Learning from the
Past - Soviet Deception in the Cuban Missile Crisis, by James H.
Hansen (https://www.cia.gov/csi/studies/vol46no1/article06.html ):
"The first SS-4 missiles arrived in Mariel on board the Omsk on 8
September. The Indigirka brought the initial shipment of nuclear
warheads on 4 October.48 According to one source, this ship carried 99
nuclear charges?some two-thirds of all nuclear weapons sent to Cuba
and over 20 times the explosive power dropped by all Allied bombers on
Germany throughout World War II.49"
... and its footnote...
"49. Fursenko and Naftali, p. 217. There is conflicting source
information on the number of warheads specifically for the SS-4
missiles. Gribkov states that 36 such warheads were introduced. This
issue cannot be resolved based on current evidence, but 36 appears to
be a likely figure as that tracks with Soviet doctrinal requirements
for refire missiles."
As to the "bonus" question, you do know that it might be impossible to
reconstruct what actually happened in those restricted meetings -- the
crew that produced the filmed versions of the events probably had
access to direct witnesses and protagonists, and still, much of it
must have had to be completed with fictional scenes -- as Herman Hesse
said, "history's third dimension is always fiction". ;)
However, I did find an interesting document that may cover what you
are after. It is from The National Security Archive, published on the
internet by The George Washington University, chapter The Cuban
Missiles Crisis, 1962: The 40th Anniversary
(http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/nsa/cuba_mis_cri/docs.htm ) The
particular document I refer to is "DOD, Transcripts, SECRET, 'Notes
taken from Transcripts of Meetings of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,
October-November 1962: Dealing with the Cuban Missile Crisis.'"
) Please let me know whether this document contains the information
you're looking for, or at least part of it -- specially the first 15
pages (information in each page is not very long). I look forward to