Cuban Missile Crisis 13 Days that Changed the almost changed World

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Cuban Missile Crisis 13 Days that Changed the almost changed World

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Cuban Missile Crisis

13 Days that Changed the almost changed World


The Cuban Missile Crisis

brought the world to the brink of nuclear war in October 1962.


Lesson overview

What was the background to the events in Cuba?How successful were early attempts at ‘containment’?Why was the USSR interested in helping Cuba?

What happened during the October Crisis?

What was the outcome of the crisis?



Setting the Stage

The Truman Doctrine

The Marshall Plan


The Domino Theory

The Berlin Blockade

The Berlin Wall

Why are these events so important when trying to understand the Cold War?

Based on your knowledge of the Cold War, outline the reasons why your historical policy or event helped increase the tension at the outset of the Cuban Missile Crisis.


What was the background to the events in Cuba?

Cuba, small island, 160 km from coast of FloridaUS ally, US businesses & US military base (Guantanamo)

1959, Fidel Castro overthrows Battista (US-backed dictator), establishing



Why was Cuba so important to the Americans?


How successful were early attempts at ‘containment’?

Castro takes over US businessesJanuary 1961, US breaks off diplomatic relations

April, 1961, Bay of Pigs – 1,400 anti-Cuban exiles attempted to overthrow Castro

Autumn 1962, Cuba has received 1000s of USSR missiles, jets, boats & personnel

The US committed $100 million to overthrowing Castro, the CIA tried to sabotage the economy, they even planned to send him an exploding cigar! Why did they go to such lengths after April 1961?


The Bay of Pigs Invasion

The 1961

Bay of Pigs Invasion

was an unsuccessful attempt at invasion following the Cuban Revolution that saw Fidel Castro come to power

It was planned and funded by the United States

The invasion was carried out by armed Cuban exiles in southwest Cuba.

This action accelerated a rapid deterioration in Cuban-American relations worsened by the Cuban Missile Crisis the following year.


Why was the USSR interested in helping Cuba?

Cuba was a new Communist stateCuba provided a launch base for USSR inter-continental missiles (ICMs)

Khrushchev wanted to test strength of new US president, JFK

Khrushchev wanted to force JFK into bargaining over US missile in Europe

Why does this cartoonist think that Khrushchev was interested in Cuba?


The Escalation Ladder

Do Nothing

Go to the United Nations

Naval Blockade

Strategic Air strike

Full Invasion of Cuba

Which policy do you think the USA should have employed with the Soviets?

In groups of 5 or 6 which I will choose – make a case for your option.


What happened during the October Crisis?

14 October 1962, US U2 spy plane takes photos of suspected USSR missile sites on Cuba

Sites nearing completion, experts believe they could be ready in 7 days

US spy planes identify 20 Soviet ships bound for Cuba carrying missiles

Why have some modern historians questioned the accuracy of these spy plane pictures?


One of our U-2 flights over Cuba has revealed what analysts believe to be nuclear missiles. Sir, the missiles look to be from the Soviet Union.


The Missiles: One Site


 Your task

You are about to find out what actually happened during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Complete a timeline in your notes. There are 10 key events to include.


It’s time to discuss military options sir. The Soviets still deny that there are nuclear missiles in Cuba.


What happened during the October Crisis?

20 October, Kennedy decides to blockade Cuba22 October, Kennedy publicly calls on Khrushchev to remove weapons


What happened during the October Crisis?

23 October Khrushchev refuses to acknowledge blockade or presence of Soviet missiles on Cuba24 October, 1


Soviet ships (accompanied by submarine) approach 800 km exclusion zone


What happened during the October Crisis?

24 October, 10:32 am, Soviet ships stop and turn round25 October, aerial photos show continued construction of missile sites

26 October, Kennedy receives another letter offering to negotiate over missiles in Cuba with removal of blockade and US invasion threat

27 October, Kennedy receives second letter calling for withdrawal of US missiles in Turkey too


What happened during the October Crisis?

27 October, US U2 plane shot down over Cuba & pilot killed.Kennedy decides to ignore second letter, but accepts terms of 1st


28 October, Khrushchev agrees to dismantle Soviet missiles in Cuba

What is this cartoonist trying to say about the difficulties facing Kennedy during the Crisis?


The American Decision

In September Kennedy had stated and Congress had passed a resolution saying that if the Soviet Union placed offensive weapons in Cuba we would not tolerate it.

Could we then rely solely on diplomacy? Kennedys thought John could be “impeached” if he didn’t act in accordance with his prior warnings

Determined in first 48 hours of crisis that the removal of missiles was the primary objective

This objective effectively ruled out isolated diplomacy, and left two options…


Castro’s Role

No real role in decision making

Apparently out of touch with the situation

Oct. 26: “Aggression imminent/imperialists disregarding world opinion”—Clearly not the case

Khrushchev plays along to some extent but it is clear he disagrees with him (“your suggestion would have started a thermonuclear world war”)


What was the outcome of the crisis?

Cuba remained Communist & heavily armed (without nuclear missiles)

Both leaders didn’t lose face and came away with concessions

Helped renew the thaw – world saw the futility of MAD

Permanent hotline between White House & Kremlin set up

Supported theory of containment & co-existence because alternatives unimaginable


Who do you think won the missile crisis? Kennedy, Khrushchev or neither? Explain your answer.



Write a short

press release explaining the background, key events & outcome for


Soviet news agency ‘

Pravda’ and for

the White House spokesmen’s speech to journalists.

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