Cuban Missile Crisis, 1962, major cold war confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union. In response to the Bay of Pigs Invasion and other American actions against Cuba as well as to President Kennedy's build-up in Italy and Turkey of U.S. strategic nuclear forces with first-strike capability aimed at the Soviet Union, the USSR increased its support of Fidel Castro's Cuban regime. In the summer of 1962, Nikita Khrushchev secretly decided to install nuclear-armed ballistic missiles in Cuba. When U.S. reconnaissance flights revealed the clandestine construction of missile launching sites, President Kennedy publicly denounced (Oct. 22, 1962) the Soviet actions. He imposed a naval blockade on Cuba and declared that any missile launched from Cuba would warrant a full-scale retaliatory attack by the United States against the Soviet Union. On Oct. 24, Russian ships carrying missiles to Cuba turned back, and when Khrushchev agreed (Oct. 28) to withdraw the missiles and dismantle the missile sites, the crisis ended as suddenly as it had begun. The United States ended its blockade on Nov. 20, and by the end of the year the missiles and bombers were removed from Cuba. The United States, in return, pledged not to invade Cuba, and subsequently, in fulfillment of a secret agreement with Khrushchev, removed the ballistic missiles placed in Turkey.
See E. R. May and P. D. Zeilkow, The Kennedy Tapes: Inside the White House During the Cuban Missile Crisis (1997); R. F. Kennedy, Thirteen Days (1969, repr. 1971); A. Chayes, The Cuban Missile Crisis (1974); R. Garthoff, Reflections on the Cuban Missile Crisis (1989); A. Fursenko and T. Naftali, "One Hell of a Gamble" (1997); M. Frankel, High Noon in the Cold War (2004); M. Dobbs, One Minute to Midnight (2008); S. M. Stern, The Cuban Missile Crisis in American Memory (2012).
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.