Monday, October 17, 2022

Remembering The Cuban Missile Crisis 60 Years Ago - And How Close We Really Came To Total Annihilation

         JFK on October 22, 1962 - warning of offensive missiles in Cuba

"We have not faced the prospect of Armageddon since Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis"  said President Joe Biden at a Democratic event 2 weeks ago last Thursday.

Vladimir Putin has his feral back against the wall as Ukraine snares back ever more territory once controlled by the Russians.  Most strategists believe Putin will now be tempted to use one or more of his 2,000 tactical nukes to try to regain momentum. The Biden administration is well aware of the threat and it isn't hollow, it's as real as a heart attack.

 In this sense  it's useful to recall that earlier time of the Cuban Missile crisis, referred to by Biden in a speech 2 weeks ago.  It actually lasted 13 days in October, 1962 -  when the world came the closest ever to all -out nuclear war-  and total obliteration.   I had been operating under the delusion that there were only a few hundred nukes back then, until getting hold of the book:'Nuclear Weapons: 1945 Onwards (Strategic and Tactical Delivery Systems).  

Most relevant to this post, on p. 68:

 "By the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis in October, 1962, the United States had a stockpile of 20,000 nuclear weapons, while the Russians had fewer than 7,000. "

 The latter included the massive "Tsar" bomb:  a 50 megaton behemoth, that could singly wipe out LA or New York City.  Such U.S. nuclearization, one learns:

 "was achieved through widespread deployment of 5,200 Mk-28 devices - produced from 1958 and finally retired in 1991."

This was the "first device designed for a very wide range of applications - including air drop by various heavy bombers (e.g. B-52) and had a range of selectable yields from 70 kilotons to 1.45 megatons."

All this information disclosed that one false move made at the time, say by John F. Kennedy or Russian Premier Nikita S. Khrushchev, would have meant the likely end of human civilization.  The stakes at the time mean it is worthwhile to revisit that history again, to see if any lessons hold today in our own nuclear -standoff situation, instigated by the conflict in Ukraine.

However, for too many today that 1962 Cuban Missile crisis  is "ancient history",  given barely 10 percent of the U.S. population was alive at the time, and aware. (I.e. not infants, or rugrats).  To briefly recap:

On Oct. 14, 1962, a U.S. Air Force U-2 spy plane photographed new military missile across Cuba. Eight days later, President John F. Kennedy informed the world that the Soviet Union had installed medium- and intermediate- range ballistic missiles 90 miles off the American coast— weapons capable of devastating Miami, Washington, New York and Chicago.

For those that want all the details of what went down day by day, please get hold of: ‘The Kennedy Tapes: Inside the White House During the Cuban Missile Crisis’, by Ernest R. May and Philip K. Zelikow (1997, President and Fellows of Harvard College).   If you want to see JFK's actual address on October 22, 1962, go here:


In the above -cited book, on p. 347, for ’10:00 A.M. Oct. 24” the diligent reader will see:

At the same time the quarantine became effective, the Strategic Air Command moved from the general Defense Condition 3 to Defense Condition 2, the level just below general war. In addition to ICBMs and submarine-based ballistic missiles, every available bomber – more than 1,400 aircraft- went on alert. Scores of bombers, each loaded with several nuclear weapons and carrying folders for pre-assigned targets in the Soviet Union, were kept continuously in the air around the clock with shifts- refueled by aerial tankers, taking turns hovering over Northern Canada and the Mediterranean Sea. The Soviet government was presumed to be aware of these developments.

Meanwhile, in North Miami, where I was a junior at Monsignor Edward Pace High School, the Principal, Brother Leo, arrived in our classroom at about the same time, notifying us of suspension of classes:

Boys, we are dismissing school right now. Please go home and make whatever preparations you need to with your families. Let us hope and pray we have a world to come back to when this is all over.”

This was stunning because Bro. Leo was usually never at a loss for words. His terse dismissal and measured, grave tone emphasized the seriousness of the situation. We packed our books, not knowing when or if we’d return, and began to file quietly out of the classroom. At home, my mom was already there, arranging for us all to go to nearby St. Monica’s Church for the stations of the Rosary. At least, if we were all to be blown to smithereens, we’d all hopefully end up in the same place – in her mind.

None of this is hype or bull, but LIVED history, as opposed to read history. Living in Miami as the 13 days of the crisis unfolded my brothers and I saw the Nike missile carriers being drawn through the streets of Miami. Even the strip joints and peep flicks on NW 79th St had been shuttered.

Yet today, many – especially on the detached from reality Right – refuse to ‘give Jack his jacket’ and acknowledge an eternal debt to Jack Kennedy for basically saving us from a nuclear holocaust. But this is a basic defect and quirk of the human brain, which appears to easily process positive accomplishment but misses or fails to appreciate ‘negative accomplishment’ i.e. in doing something, making a CHOICE which averts a certain catastrophe.

WHY, you may ask, does JFK merit such credit? Even before the full book of the released tapes documenting JFK's War Room response to the Cuban Missile Crisis was published, at least a number of major newspapers provided a heads up.  We learned, for example, that Kennedy refused to bomb or invade Cuba as he was urged to do by his Joint Chiefs, especially Air Force General Curtis LeMay , who actually compared JFK to Neville Chamberlain, and referred to his actions as “appeasement”. According to one of the first major mainstream news releases after the tapes in the WH situation room were released (The Baltimore Sun, Oct. 26, 1996, 'Bomb Cuba!Le May Urged JFK', p. 2A):

"Tapes of secretly recorded White House conversations released this week show that President John F. Kennedy's military advisers strongly pressured him to bomb and invade Cuba during the missile crisis 34 years ago this month. Indeed, they forecast that war would occur whether he invaded Cuba or not.

Blasting Kennedy's cautious approach, the Air Force Chief, Gen. Curtis LeMay, told the President at a White House meeting on Oct. 19, 1962, "This is almost as bad as the appeasement at Munich......

Through those days Kennedy was fending off strong pressure for an attack on Cuba from congressional and military leaders such as LeMay, who told him, 'We don't have any choice but direct military action...I see no other solution..

On p. 183 of the 'Kennedy Tapes' book, one sees LeMay saying that "We have got to do more than take out the missiles" and he demands a massive air strike as well. By Oct. 1992, when Robert McNamara was interviewed on NBC's 'Today' he observed that only ex post facto did the Kennedy situation room and Pentagon learn that all 93 odd IRBMs in Cuba were already armed with single megaton warheads, and had JFK followed LeMay's directives all hell would have broken loose.

Here's how that would have played out: At the first hint of U.S. attack planes picked up on Cuban radar most or all of the 93 IRBMs would have been launched. The targets would mainly have been U.S. east coast cities: Miami, Baltimore, Washington, DC, Philadelphia, New York, Boston, but a number of the missiles would have struck interior cities including Cleveland, Detroit, Cincinnati, Atlanta, Chicago and possibly Milwaukee.

Even as those missiles were in flight, the Kennedy White House would have been forced to go to Defcon 1, or full war condition, even as the Soviets - also now acknowledging what was happening (realizing Cuba's missile launch would make them a target), launched their own missiles. In the space of about 30 minutes, as McNamara pointed out, some 7,500 missiles would have been in the air headed for targets in the USA and USSR.  Since most warheads at that time were in the 1.5-5 megaton range, the full nuclear exchange - lasting maybe an hour would have resulted in possibly 300 million dead and massive clouds of radiation polluting the rest of the planet via the trades and other winds. Within a year, plausibly most humans would be dead or dying - if not of radiation sickness then from lack of food crops due to nuclear winter - with billions of tons of dust in the atmosphere blotting out sunlight.

THIS is the alternative world that never occurred, but which would have, had Kennedy knuckled under to Le May and his fellow Joint Chiefs. That some blow dried moron pundits today still have the nerve to say Kennedy "never accomplished anything" boggles my mind, and makes me wonder how much recent history they really know.

Today, 60 years later, we face more than 14, 500 nuclear weapons or something on the order of 3/4 the number that would have been unleashed in a nuclear war over Cuba.  The Russians' 5 kiloton, tactical nuclear warheads are kept in storage under the custody of the defense ministry’s 12th Main Directorate. If Putin were to deploy them, his order would be transmitted to strategic units. The weapons would be released from storage onto transport by trucks or helicopters. Once deployed on delivery vehicles —  missiles or airplanes — Putin would have to issue a direct order to use them.

Each step might be detected and provide the United States and its allies with time to react. Early warning would — and should — trigger intense diplomatic and other pressure on Putin to stop before setting off a nuclear catastrophe. Preparing to exploit this warning is the best defense against disaster. No doubt, Putin might want to play out such a deployment to ratchet up the pressure. But in so doing, he would escalate the risk of error or miscalculation. Nuclear gamesmanship toys with existential danger.

In 1962, the world stood at the brink of a total nuclear holocaust when the Soviet Union deployed nuclear warheads on missiles in Cuba. The situation was only relieved after JFK refused to carry out the Joint Chiefs impetuous order to bomb and invade Cuba. Also, unknown to the JCS at the time, having all the Jupiter missiles removed from Turkey.

 Today, as the conflict in Ukraine ramps up, Putin is getting closer to the peril of those fateful days 60 years ago. He flirts with a dance of death each time he bandies about more nuclear threats or launches new missile strikes. The latter with the potential to mistakenly hit a NATO country - like Poland- for which the U.S. would be compelled to counter- attack under the NATO mutual defense pact.  

Given this, President Biden's warning 2 weeks ago was timely and necessary and not merely "scare mongering" as some in the Right media (e.g. WSJ, Newsmax, FOX) have tried to portray.

 See Also:

The Cuban Missile Crisis, 1962: Audio Clips (


by Robert Dodge | October 18, 2022 - 5:47am | permalink


Sixty years ago this week the world stood at the brink of nuclear war as the Cuban missile crisis unfolded. For 12 days the world found itself at the closest point to nuclear war since the first use of nuclear weapons by the United States on those August days 17 years before. For 12 days during that crisis the world held its breath fearing nuclear war between the nuclear superpowers until Nikita Khrushchev agreed to pull Soviet nuclear missiles out of Cuba. Today, with the current Ukraine conflict we find ourselves once again at the brink of nuclear war due to the continued existence of these weapons which now number 12,700 and the continued false narrative that nuclear weapons make us safe.


What the Cuban Missile Crisis Can Teach Us About Ending Hostility in Ukraine


Commentators on the current Ukraine crisis have sometimes compared it to the Cuban missile crisis. This is a good comparison―and not only because they both involve a dangerous U.S.-Russian confrontation capable of leading to a nuclear war.

During the 1962 Cuban crisis, the situation was remarkably similar to that in today’s Eastern Europe, although the great power roles were reversed....President John F. Kennedy ordered a U.S. naval blockade (which he called a “quarantine”) around Cuba and stated that he would not permit the presence of nuclear missiles on the island. To secure the missile removal, he announced, he would not “shrink” from “worldwide nuclear war.”

Eventually, the intense crisis was resolved. Kennedy and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev agreed that the USSR would remove the missiles from Cuba, while Kennedy pledged not to invade Cuba and to remove the U.S. missiles from Turkey.

Unfortunately, the world public came away with a misunderstanding of how the U.S.-Soviet confrontation had been brought to a peaceful conclusion. The reason was that the removal of U.S. missiles  from Turkey was kept secret. Thus, it appeared that Kennedy, who had taken a hard line publicly, had won a significant Cold War victory over Khrushchev. The popular misunderstanding was encapsulated in Secretary of State Dean Rusk’s comment that the two men had stood “eyeball to eyeball,” and Khrushchev “blinked.

What really happened, however, as we now know thanks to later revelations by Rusk and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, is that Kennedy and Khrushchev recognized, to their mutual dismay, that their two nuclear-armed nations had arrived at an incredibly dangerous impasse and were sliding toward nuclear war. As a result, they did some top-secret bargaining that de-escalated the situation. Instead of stationing missiles on the borders of both nations, they simply got rid of them.


What Must Be Done to End Nuclear Extortion and Build Lasting Peace

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