Cuban Missile Crisis
One Step Short of Oblivion
By 1962, America and th Soviet Union sat on a stockpile of over 30,000 nuclear warheads, a fraction of which would be sufficient to destroy the planet.
The Cuban Missile Crisis came very close to lighting the touch-paper!
On October 14th President Kennedy received devastating news. An American spy plane had photographed the unthinkable on the communist island of Cuba, just 80 miles off the US mainland - nuclear missile launch sites.
On Oct 23rd President Kennedy made an emergency broadcast to the nation.
Kennedy was smarting from a series of humiliations in the cold war. The previous year his planned invasion of Cuba had been repelled by Castro at The Bay of Pigs. In Europe the Berlin Wall had cut-off hald the city. In Asia he struggled to to contain the spread of communism. Now he was prepared to risk nuclear war to get the Soviet missiles out of Cuba.
On Oct 24th he sent 250 ships with over a quarter of a million troops to surround the island. President Krushchev warned that any invasion of Cuba would be an act of war. The allied powers placed their forces on red alert.
On Oct 27th, the crisis reached boiling point when an American spy plane was shot down over Cuba. In Britain the government of Harold MacMillan made preparations for all-out nuclear war.
A War Ready RAF Bomber
The RAF's nuclear deterrent "V" force based at RAF Wittering was placed on high alert. This force was armed with the Yellow Sun MkII. A thermo-nuclear bomb many times more powerful than the one that destroyed Hiroshima. A likely target may have been Kiev.
It was the threat of carrying out the bombing that eventually brought the Cuban Missile Crisis to an end.
Krushchev agreed to remove his missiles from Cuba in return for an American promise not to invade the island. Behind closed doors, Kennedy also agreed to the removal of US missiles from the Soviet border in Turkey.
By taking the world to the brink of a nuclear apocalypse the crisis had driven home the certainty that if either side pressed "the button" it would mean the end of humanity. This understanding helped preserve the peace for the duration of the cold war.