Table of Contents
Thinking back on something
This investigation explores the question: Was John F. Kennedy to blame for the 1963 Cuban Missile Crisis? This investigation will focus on the years 1962 and 1963, as well any evidence from the pre-crisis period or post-crisis period that could be used to answer the research questions.
The primary video source shows John F. Kennedy discussing the Cuban missile issue with members of the congress. Its origins are from a broadcaster called “Universal-International News” which can be seen in the title card at the beginning of the film. It is important to note that this information is directly from John F. Kennedy. As the US president at the time of the war, he was well-versed in the details of the conflict. Since the Cuban Missiles Crisis, many have asked if US government officials intentionally withheld certain information because they were afraid it might end up in Soviet hands. This leads us to assume that John F. Kennedy’s speech may or not tell the entire story. The source could be said to have a similar limitation. The source was created to provide the American people with first-hand knowledge of the Cuban conflict, and how they will be responding. The purpose of the source is to inform the American public about the conflict that has erupted in Cuba and how the United States will respond. This speech shows that John F. Kennedy was against nuclear war. By the end, he asked Kruschev for an end to the race to dominate and maintain friendly relations between both countries. Kennedy’s speech is a good example of how he didn’t want nuclear war between the US and Soviet Union, but also that he was concerned about the danger that existed.
The Guardian published an opinion piece explaining the Cuban Missile Crisis, as well as how John F. Kennedy and the United States government handled the crisis. This source was a news article from a respected online publication. It is important to know that the information is accurate and factual. It is important to note that because it is a opinion piece, the author is free to include any bias that he wants in the story. This may be detrimental for analysis and could introduce an outlier. The article’s main purpose is to educate people and provide an introduction into the Cuban Missile Crisis. It is also a benefit that not many difficult terms are used, which can only be understood by professionals and historians. However, the limitation is that this may not be enough information for those with this level. The article is accompanied by a number of diagrams and pictures. It is also a great way to help the reader understand the article better by linking the text with images and diagrams.
InvestigationThe Cuban Missile Crisis can be described by historians as one of humanity’s pivotal moments. The Cuban nuclear crisis was part of Cold War between United States of America, and Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Both were superpowers at that time. The USA’s use of atomic weapons to destroy Nagasaki, Hiroshima and other cities in World War 2 brought an abrupt and violent end to the war. The bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima, Nagasaki and other cities are still the only nuclear weapons used in war today. Both the USA and USSR developed nuclear-capable weapons after the Second World War. These missiles could be launched in a foreign territory near the enemy and were capable of hitting them with relative precision. In June 1961, the USSR’s and USA’s political leaders began to escalate their threats with nuclear missiles.
The United States and Turkey signed an agreement on June 1, 1961 to place 15 nuclear-capable rockets in Turkey’s territory. This would allow the USA to have them ready to be used against the USSR within a short time. Nikita Kruschev at the time was not interested in being threatened by Turkey. Therefore, he wanted to have a nuclear-capable base near America so that he would be able to negotiate for land such as Berlin. Cuba was the most obvious choice. Fidel Cuba, a communist and close neighbor of the USA was its leader. Anastas Mikoyan stated that Castro was a true revolutionary. Like us. “I felt like I was back in my childhood!” Fidel and the Soviet Special Forces chief met in Havana at an unspecified date. The Special Forces chief presented their plan, which was framed in a way to make it appear as a plan of protection against an American invasion of Cuba. Castro consulted with his advisors before agreeing. John F. Kennedy was unable to control or stop this overseas development.
In order to keep the deployment secret, Soviet nuclear weapons and 42,000 Soviet soldiers were secretly delivered to Cuba by large timber cargo ships. The soldiers were dressed up as Cubans to make sure that they did not raise suspicions among any American agents stationed in Cuba. It was only mid-October 1962 that the USA learned of the missile deployment on Cuba. Kennedy found himself in a tough position. It was well known that the Soviets had built up in Cuba, and Kennedy’s political enemies were exploiting the fact he didn’t do anything about it, despite 42,000 Soviet troops and weapons being 90 miles from Florida. Kruschev was in touch with Kennedy privately, and he told him the buildup on Cuba was only defensive. Kennedy knew this and said the defensive buildup is fine. He would only take action, though, if he discovered nuclear missiles on Cuba. He thought Kruschev wouldn’t put nuclear missiles on Cuba. When analyzing Kennedy’s role, this is an important factor. He put too much faith in the Soviet leader. This was a mistake.
Kennedy realized that the Soviet Union was launching missiles against the USA and he knew he’d be impeached by the Senate if he did not take action. The heads from the government met at White House to discuss potential retaliation. Kennedy had warned Kruschev about his intentions to act against him if Kruschev placed nuclear weapons in Cuba. By not following through, Kennedy would have shown weakness and Kruschev would have been free to deploy missiles anywhere he wanted, under the false pretense of defensive deployment. Kennedy was left with three options. Diplomacy, Naval Blockade and Airstrike. Diplomacy, while it was the option that had the lowest possibility of civilian and military casualties, also failed to work and would take too long to reach a compromise. It was decided that a Naval Blockade had the best chance for success. Still, allow for some negotiation.
Kennedy and Kruschev have a communication at 1:00am Moscow-time on the 22nd. This is one hour earlier than Kennedy’s official press release, which was scheduled for 2am. Kennedy sends an ultimatum. Kennedy knows that 14 Soviet Freighters are heading for Cuba, one with the most powerful medium range nuclear missiles in the world. Kennedy threatens to use warships in the Caribbean to stop the Soviet freighters from reaching Cuba. Kennedy and Krushchev came to an agreement that resulted in the removal of missiles. Kennedy was able to claim that the Cuban Missile Crisis had been resolved.
We can conclude that John F. Kennedy did not start the Cuban Missile Crisis but he escalated the situation by threatening impeachment in the event he failed to act. Kennedy’s decision saved the entire world from mutually-assured destruction. However, he could have made better decisions if there had not been so much pressure to impeach him by all the Americans who were clamoring for it. Eisenhower, who was president prior to Kennedy, had nuclear-capable rockets stationed in Turkey. Most likely, the Soviets viewed this as an American threat and wanted to respond by placing their nuclear-capable weapons in Cuba.
ReflectionIn this investigation, I was looking to demonstrate the different reliability of sources. This is especially important in a subject that, by its nature, involves a lot of lies, cover-ups, espionage, and truths. The search for reliable sources proved difficult. But because the US government was much more transparent than the Soviet one at the same time, I decided to focus on the John F. Kennedy’s speech as my main source. The Soviets have a history of hiding the truth to try and present themselves in a better light. This would make it difficult for such sources. The Soviet sources are likely to be in Russian. For many History students, this is a foreign language. It is possible that translations of texts exist. However, this could have the disadvantage of removing some deeper meaning. The Cuban Missile Crisis is regarded by many historians as a significant historical event. Although it came very close to a major crisis, historians should not judge a historic event by its destructiveness or potential destruction, but by the positive changes it brought about in people’s life after it ended. A good example of a nuclear attack outside of Coldar is the detonation at Hiroshima or Nagasaki. Historians debate whether or not the bombs were dropped for the right reasons, but they all agree that the United States and the Soviet Union saw their destructive potential after the Second World war. Conventional warfare had been a thing of the past for many centuries. However, now both sides have bombs that can destroy entire cities as well as harm the populations of multiple countries. The Cuban Missile Crisis taught us that Americans and Russians did not think alike when they entered the situation. What was “rational”, “sane” behavior in Moscow, had been dangerously “irrational”, “sane” behaviour in Washington.
Chomsky, Noam. ‘Cuban missile crisis: how the US played Russian roulette with nuclear war.’ The Guardian, www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2012/oct/15/cuban-missile-crisis-russian-roulette. Accessed on 7 February 2020.
‘Cuban Missile Crisis.’ History, www.history.com/topics/cold-war/cuban-missile-crisis. Accessed on 13 February 2020.
‘Cuban Missile Crisis – Eyeball to Eyeball – Extra History – #2.’ YouTube, uploaded by Extra Credits, Google, www.youtube.com/watch?v=QQT4Dt82Kz0. Accessed on 13 February 2020.
‘Cuban Missile Crisis – The Failed Checkmate – Extra History – #1.’ YouTube, uploaded by Extra Credits, Google, www.youtube.com/watch?v=xqJBibhR07w. Accessed on 13 February 2020.
John Lewis Gaddis is a prominent figure in the field of history. His works have contributed to the understanding of the past and shaped the way people look at history. He has written numerous books on the topic, offering insight into the history of certain events and periods. Gaddis’ writings provide readers with a better understanding of the past and its effects on the present. Cold War: A new history New York, Penguin Books, 2007.
‘The history of the Cuban Missile Crisis – Matthew A. Jordan.’ YouTube, uploaded by TED-Ed, Google, www.youtube.com/watch?v=bwWW3sbk4EU. Accessed on 13 February 2020.
‘John F. Kennedy Missile Crisis.’ YouTube, Google, www.youtube.com/watch?v=P7YkJxQT_0Y. Accessed 7 February 2020.
Cold War: A Multidisciplinary History, by David S. Painter. New York: Routledge, 1999.