The Cold War had never come closer to getting hot. Although proxy wars had been fought, and more would follow, the United States and the Soviet Union had avoided directly exchanging fire. The discovery of a secret missile base under construction in Cuba threatened to change that. Fifty years ago this week, the world waited while the two superpowers bluffed and negotiated, a nuclear holocaust growing perilously real. From October 14, 1962, when the missile base was discovered by aerial reconnaissance, until an agreement was announced thirteen days later, the tension mounted. Ultimately, the Soviet Union dismantled the bases and the US agreed not to invade Cuba. A secret agreement saw the US dismantle missiles in Turkey and Italy. -
Lane Turner and Lisa Tuite
Sept. 19, 1962 / A Cuban worker leaped ashore from a ferry boat that brought the regular morning force of workers to Guantanamo Bay Naval Base. Each morning the ferry hauled Cuban workers from a nearby town to the US base. In the background are US ships. Fidel Castro's militia units stopped Cuban cars and commercial buses from transporting Cuban workers into the base at Guantanamo. The Navy sent its own buses to the base's main gate to pick up the workers.
Sept. 27, 1962 / Soviet technicians and military men raised their arms and chanted songs as they disembarked in Havana. This picture was obtained by Bohemia Libre, a Latin American magazine formerly edited in Havana, but published by Cuban exiles in New York.
Oct. 22, 1962 / An unidentified baby, one of several hundred dependents of US Navy personnel evacuated by air from the US Naval Base at Guantanamo, was removed by Marines from the troop transport that brought him home.
Oct. 26, 1962 / This US aerial reconnaissance photograph of a missile site on Cuban soil was released by the Pentagon and used by US Ambassador Adlai Stevenson at the United Nations. Soviet Ambassador Valerian Zorin had contended that the United States had no evidence of such missile sites. When the photographs were produced he branded them forgeries without looking at them. Military men adept at interpreting aerial photographs pointed out the oxidizer vehicles at left and fueling vehicles at right. Missiles, unlike automobiles, must carry their own air to mix with the fuel. Above the fueling vehicles are two "missile ready" buildings where ICBMs could be stored until ready to move up to the pad. The cherry picker indicated, but barely visible, was a moving crane that readied ICBMs for firing. The launch pads are shown at the left and right of the cherry picker.
Oct. 27, 1962 / US Army antiaircraft rockets were mounted on launchers and pointed out over the Florida Straits in full view of the public driving along Roosevelt Boulevard in Key West, Fla. The rocket positions were manned day and night. Off-duty missilemen slept in sleeping bags on the beach while other soldiers walked guard duty with rifles. “We’re trained to perfection and ready to go,” one soldier reported to newsmen.
October 1962 / President John F. Kennedy met with his Cabinet and advisers in the White House during the Cuban Missile Crisis. From left were Attorney General Robert Kennedy, Llewellyn Thompson, the US ambassador to the Soviet Union, Deputy Undersecretary of State Alexis Johnson, CIA Director John McCone (hidden), Undersecretary of State George Ball, Secretary of State Dean Rusk, President Kennedy, Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, Deputy Defense Secretary Roswell Gilpatric, Maxwell Taylor, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Assistant Defense Secretary Paul Nitze, Don Wilson of the USIA, presidential adviser Ted Sorenson, presidential adviser McGeorge Bundy (hidden), Treasury Secretary C. Douglas Dillon, and Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson (hidden).
November 1962 / Soviet missiles were withdrawn from Cuba in one climactic chapter of the Cuban crisis. A US Navy patrol plane hovered overhead as the destroyer USS Barry escorted the Soviet freighter Anesov with a presumed cargo of outbound canvas-covered missiles on its deck.
Nov. 9, 1962 / A US Navy helicopter hovered over a Soviet submarine operating in the area of the Cuban quarantine fleet operations.