50th Anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis - 13 days in October

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President John F. Kennedy addresses the nation on the evening of Monday, October 22, 1962, as the threat of Soviet missiles in Cuba nears its peak.

Courtesy of John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

Boston, MA –The 50th Anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis, the 13 days that brought the world to the brink of nuclear war, is being marked with several new, interactive and online activities and programs aimed at reaching a younger audience, the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library announced today.

October 16, 2012 marks the first day of the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis, one of the most perilous moments in American history, and certainly the greatest test of John F. Kennedy’s presidency.

For 13 days in October 1962, a confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union brought the world to the brink of nuclear destruction. As the world waited – and hoped – for a peaceful resolution to the Cuban Missile Crisis, President Kennedy and his advisors negotiated with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev to craft a diplomatic resolution for the removal of Soviet intercontinental missiles from Cuba.

Meeting of the Executive Committee of the National Security Council. October, 29 1962.

Photo credit: Cecil Stoughton. White House Photographs. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.

President Kennedy and the group of advisors he had assembled (known as ExComm) evaluated a number of options. After a week of secret deliberations, he announced the discovery to the world and imposed a naval blockade on further shipments of armaments to Cuba.

A tense second week followed, during which neither side backed down. Presented with the choice of attacking or accepting Soviet nuclear missiles in Cuba, Kennedy rejected both options.

Instead, he crafted an alternative with three components: a public deal in which the United States pledged not to invade Cuba if the Soviet Union withdrew its missiles; a private ultimatum threatening to attack Cuba within 24 hours if the offer was rejected; and a secret sweetener that promised to withdraw U.S. missiles from Turkey within six months. The crisis was resolved at the last minute when Khrushchev accepted the U.S. offer.