20.11.

1962: Cuban Naval Blockade Lifted

1962: Cuban Naval Blockade Lifted
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Story Highlights

  • historical event: Kennedy and Khrushchev eventually reached an agreement – the Soviets would remove their missiles from Cuba, while the Americans would remove their own Jupiter-type missiles from Turkey and southern Italy.

On this day the United States finally ended their blockade of Cuba, which marked the ending of one of the most dangerous episodes in the history of the Cold War. Indeed, the Cuban Missile Crisis was one of the eras of human history when mankind was brought to the edge of a nuclear holocaust.

The crisis had started around a month ago, when the Americans had become aware that the Soviets were installing their nuclear missiles on Cuba. Namely, the American U-2 reconnaissance aircraft had filmed the construction of the launch sites, which bore Soviet SS-4 nuclear missiles (NATO reporting name: Sandal, Soviet name: R-12 Dvina).

The SS-4 missiles represented a direct threat to the continental USA. Namely, they had a range of over 2,000 kilometers. Since Cuba is relatively close to the U.S., these missiles could destroy a significant number of targets in relatively short order. The missiles themselves were quite large, around 22 meters, equivalent to a seven-story building. What’s worse, the missiles could carry thermonuclear warheads of up to 2.3 megatons. In other words, each of them was capable of causing an explosion equivalent to roughly 144 Hiroshima bombs.

U.S. president Kennedy reacted by imposing a naval blockade on Cuba. The situation was getting increasingly tense. Still, he and Khrushchev eventually reached an agreement – the Soviets would remove their missiles from Cuba, while the Americans would remove their own Jupiter-type missiles from Turkey and southern Italy.

The blockade was lifted on this day at 18:45 Cuban time, after the Soviets had removed 42 missiles from Cuba over the course of the last few weeks. A profound feeling of relief swept across the world.

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