The thirteen-day October 1962 Cuban missile crisis remains to be one of the tensest
moments in the Cold War. United States (US) and the Soviet Republic, engaged in intimidating
nuclear weaponry actions that were insightful of general war. The US was concerned about the
presence of USSR nuclear weapons in Cuba, which was only 90 miles from Florida. USSR
President Premier Khrushchev considered the weaponry support to Cuba as a friendly offer for
self-defense, rather than a security threat to the US. In this research, we will focus on the
effectiveness of President John F. Kennedy’s administration in handling the October 1962 Cuban
missile crisis. The basic argument is that the actions taken by the US administration were
effective in stopping the crisis, regardless of the steps involved.
The U-2 secret findings on missile presence in Cuba informed President Kennedy,
national defense officials, and the foreign policies about the crisis. The available actions were
either naval quarantine through blockade, or an airstrike and invasion. President Kennedy was
able to maintain normal schedules for the American public but engaged in security meetings.
After U-2 briefing, “American military units begin moving to bases sin the Southeastern U.S. as
intelligence photos from another U-2 flight show additional sites; and 16 to 32 missiles.” (Day 2)
President Kennedy marks the National Prayer Day and engages with the Crown Prince Hasan of
Libya before attending a political rally. Soviet Foreign Minister, Andrei Gromyko, later visited
President Kennedy and maintained the position that the Cuban missiles were meant for self-
defense. During this visit, President Kennedy warned of “gravest consequences” (Day 3) in the
case of Soviet’s missile assistance to Cuba. This decision acted as a hypocritical threat to the
Soviet as the U-2 evidence on missiles was not revealed. President Khrushchev’s personal
ideologies about the Cuban mission were discussed and Castro’s peaceful coexistence pledge
President Kennedy’s meeting with the Soviet Foreign Minister was characterized by
discussions on the USSR’s intent with the armament supply policy. The US president
camouflaged his support for naval blockage through public relation, as he once attacked a
senatorial advocate for Cuban invasion. On Day 5, Kennedy abruptly returned to Washington
from a political campaign in Illinois and Ohio and made up his decision on quarantine after a
consultative meeting with the National Security Council. The Security Council was informed on
“sixteen SS-4 missiles, with a range of 1020 nautical miles…and the launchers were at 315
degrees towards Central U.S. (Day 5) (John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum 5).
President Kennedy was hesitant on the issuing of ultimatums to the Soviet Union for the removal
of the Cuban missiles, due to the consideration of airstrikes and retaliatory attacks on Cuba,
USSR, and the US. In Day 6, President Kennedy is informed by the Tactical Air Command that
any airstrike would not destroy all missiles and the American population would be at risk of
retaliation from undestroyed mobile launchers.
The Executive Committee of the National Security Council was formed on Day 7 and
President Kennedy consulted with former presidents Truman, Eisenhower, and Hoover, and the
British Premier. Kennedy insists that “no country could win in the nuclear age and such war had
catastrophic consequences” and delivers a public speech about the crisis and actions to be taken
(Day 7) (John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum 7). In Day 8, the U.N. Security
Council deliberates on the matter and the naval quarantine is deployed and President Kennedy
pleads with Khrushchev, through writing, to cease shipments to Cuba as a war prevention tactic.
On reply, Khrushchev arrogantly describes the quarantine as an ultimatum and intimidation. On
Day 10, President Kennedy rejected a proposed “cooling off period” proposed by the U.N.
Secretary General on the argument of the Cuban missile threat. Despite the shooting down of a
U.S. U-2 plane, President Kennedy shunned pressure for military action against Cuba and USSR
during the Executive Committee meeting held on October 27.
The demands for resolution were then received in Washington, specifically the
withdrawal of U.S. Jupiter missiles from Turkey and non-invasion of Cuba, and the supervised
withdrawal of Soviet missiles from Cuba. President Kennedy met secretly with Soviet
Ambassador Dobrynin for amicable resolution and on Day 13, Radio Moscow announced the
resolutions. The thirteen-day period was characterized by negotiations rather than military
combat, and President Kennedy was able to effectively resolve the conflict through leadership.
He used his diplomatic connections to consult and make up his decisions, without giving in to
pressure from the U.S. military leadership and politicians. In the end, no conflict escalated
regardless of the high tension.
John F. Kennedy Presidential Library & Museum. October 16, 1962 – Cuban Missile Crisis
[Online]. 2019. Accessed April 09, 2019.