The New Yorker October 12, 2020 pp70-73 |Books|”THIS CLOSE The day the Cuban missile crisis almost went nuclear”. “A new history interrogates the official narrative of how disaster was averted”. Article by Elizabeth Kolbert.
Having lived through the Cuban missile crisis 2244's interest was peaked by this title. The enlightening article is a book review of “Gambling with Armageddon: Nuclear Roulette from Hiroshima to the Cuban Missile Crisis” (Knopf) by Martin J. Sherwin. Read the article and the book for details.
With respect to what the Russian’s call the Caribbean Crisis and the Cuban’s call the October Crisis we haphazardly wavered ever so close to WWIII. A number of unintended events and consequences on all sides led to a peaceful standdown. Among the examples are the following.
On the American side, JFK got so much bad “Gung-Ho” information from trusted advisors and experienced many of those later denying or rescinding their POV that he after-the-incident installed recording devices for later meetings. By chance, someone he beat for the presidential nomination and his Ambassador to the U.N., Adlai Stevenson, was lunching in the White House on other business when JFK reached out. In the Oval Office, JFK shared surveillance photos of the missiles etc. in Cuba. Stevenson, previously unaware of the emerging crisis, advised JFK to seek a peaceful solution.
Image Credit history.navy.mil
On the Soviet side, submarines built to serve in cold northern oceans overheated, to 110°F, en-route but they couldn’t surface as the U.S. Navy was directly above. They were startled when an American sailor dropped a grenade below rather than a form of depth charge that signals OK to surface peacefully. Because they couldn’t communicate with Moscow, unless surfaced, the command wasn’t sure whether or not there was already an engagement. Temped to launch a nuclear torpedo, a navel officer just along for the ride urged no immediate nuclear strike. That officer had previously witnessed a nuclear core meltdown in a submarine years before. During that event, men volunteered and successfully reversed the meltdown but later died excruciating deaths on board in the days that followed.
On the Cuban side “On what became known as Black Saturday, an American spy plane was shot down over Cuba, and Khrushchev (Soviet Premier) received a message from Castro (Cuban Dictator) that seemed to urge a nuclear strike against the U.S.” Luckily the Soviet’s couldn’t reliably translate the message. Meanwhile diplomacy between America and the Soviet Union ensued and as they say “the rest is history.”
2244, then a first grader remembers sitting with the family huddled around the B/W TV and being really scared.
Image credit theatlantic.com