Hottest days of the Cold War
Fifty-seven years ago, Monday, Oct. 14, 1962, a U-2 spy plane flying high over the island nation of Cuba took surveillance photographs that showed Soviet missiles capable of delivering nuclear warheads only 90 miles from the United States.
Further reconnaissance by U.S. planes confirmed they were missiles that had the possibility of striking as far north as Washington, D.C., or, possibly, New York City.
Two days later, analysts were ready to present their findings to President John F. Kennedy. An intense week of planning ensued.
Then on Oct. 22, 1962, President Kennedy appeared on television to tell the citizens of the United States that offensive nuclear missiles had been spotted on the island of Cuba.
Thus the nation became aware of the Cuban Missile Crisis, a stare-down between Kennedy and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev that brought the world to the brink of nuclear war.
Kennedy demanded removal of the missiles and implemented a blockade of the island on Oct. 23, 1962. Adlai Stevenson, United States ambassador to the United Nations, showed the whole assembly pictures of the missiles in Cuba.
For the next six tense days, the nation watched as ships headed for the blockade slowed down or turned back.
A secret deal was reached for the Soviet Union to dismantle the missiles in return for a pledge from the U.S. not to invade Cuba. The U.S. also promised to remove offensive missiles from Turkey at a later date.
A nuclear exchange was averted. From the first pictures of the missiles to the announcement of the dismantlement, the two main players in the Cold War were poised to annihilate each other.
In the end, cooler heads prevailed on both sides. In less than 30 years, the Soviet Union collapsed and the Cold War ended.
(Sources: Wikipedia, Today in History)
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