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  American HistoryUnited States: General History and Description1961-2000John F. Kennedy's Administration, 1961-1963

Cuban Missile Crisis

In the fall of 1962, the United States and the Soviet Union came dangerously close to war after it was learned that Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev had begun deploying medium and intermediate range ballistic missiles in Cuba. U.S. President John F. Kennedy imposed a naval blockade on Cuba, and tensions escalated when an American U-2 spy plane was shot down while on a reconnaissance mission over Cuba. Fortunately, neither Kennedy nor Khrushchev were committed to starting what would likely have been a nuclear war, and the crisis was ended diplomatically.

Timeline of Events

U-2 reconnaissance photo showing suspected missile base under constructionOctober 15 -- A U-2 reconnaissance aircraft takes pictures of several possible SS-4 nuclear missiles in Cuba.

October 16 -- President Kennedy convenes his Executive Committee to consider America's options.

October 17-19 -- Kennedy informs Soviet Foreign Minister Andrie Gromyko that the U.S. will not tolerate Soviet missiles in Cuba.

a U.S. Navy plane 'dogs' a Soviet freighterOctober 21 -- Kennedy and his advisors determine that a naval blockade of Cuba is the best option.

October 22 -- President Kennedy publicly announces that the Soviet Union is building missile bases in Cuba and that he has imposed a "quarantine" on that island.

October 23 -- The Organization of American States unanimously supports the U.S. naval blockade of Cuba.

October 25 -- U.S. Ambassador Adlai Stevenson confronts the Soviets at the United Nations, but the Soviet representatives refuse to respond. American military forces go to DEFCON 2, the highest-ever alert status in U.S. history to that time.

October 26 -- Khrushchev informs Kennedy that he will remove Soviet missiles from Cuba if Kennedy publicly guarantees that the U.S. will not invade Cuba.

October 27 -- A U-2 spy plane is shot down over Cuba. Khrushchev informs Kennedy that, in addition to a promise to not invade Cuba, Kennedy must also remove all U.S. missiles from Turkey.

October 28 -- Premier Khrushchev publicly announces that he will remove all missiles from Cuba; he does not include any reference to the U.S. removing its missiles from Turkey in his speech.

Nikita Khrushchev
President John F. Kennedy

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This page was last updated on September 19, 2015.

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