While the Cold War lasted for over forty years and ended with a resounding defeat of communism, it faded into a confrontation of proxies and indirect sparring. The buildup to the Cuban Missile Crisis was drawn out and measured in the diplomatic battles that were waged. Although the Cold War started after the end of World War II, it was the Cuban Missile Crisis that brought the world to the brink of a nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union.
Most historians mark the start of the Cold War on February 4, 1945 at the Yalta Conference between Josef Stalin, Winston Churchill, and Franklin Roosevelt. At this point in the war, Stalin had a 12 million-man army with 300 ...view middle of the document...
By 1945, both Roosevelt and Churchill had come to grips with the power that was wielded by the Soviet Union. There was no turning back for the Allies.
By 1950, war had broken out on the Korean peninsula. North Korea invaded South Korea and moved far enough south to occupy the capital city of Seoul. Within two weeks, the United States rallied its military and pushed North Korea above the 38th parallel with no end in sight.
United States forces were close to pushing North Korean forces into China but the movement of 500,000 Chinese troops into North Korea stopped that. American forces were encircled at the Chosin Reservoir and broke through so they could move south. In the end, the Korean War ended up as a stalemate and both sides ended up at their original positions before the invasion.
The next step in the Cold war was the nuclear arms race, which started after the end of the Korean War. The United States had detonated its first thermonuclear device in 1952. The Soviet Union followed up with its own test of a similar weapon in 1953. By 1954, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles had announced a “doctrine of massive retaliation against communist aggression” (Schoenherr, 2006).
The U.S. Navy launched the first nuclear powered ship, the USS Nautilus, in 1954. Three years later, in 1957, the Soviet Union successfully launched the world’s first artificial satellite named Sputnik I. Soon thereafter, Great Britain became the third country to test a thermonuclear weapon. By 1959 the United States had successfully deployed the first Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM).
After all of this posturing and competition with nuclear weapons and delivery systems the world found itself living with a decidedly more confrontational situation in October 1962. The previous year had been one of bitter disappointment to Cuban exiles. The Bay of Pigs invasion in Cuba on April 17, 1961 had been attempted to trigger an anti-Castro rebellion.
The Cuban exile forces had been backed and supported by the United States military and the Central Intelligence Agency. The invasion was a total failure and a means for Castro to project an even harder line towards the United States and capitalism while at the same time embracing the Soviet Union and communism. “It also likely encouraged Castro to accept and the Soviets to deploy nuclear missiles in Cuba as a deterrent to any future invasion” (Bentley, et al, 2008, pg. 641).
Once Fidel Castro gave his approval to the deployment of nuclear missiles in his country, the Soviet Union wasted no time in quickly and secretly building the launch sites. On August 31, 1962, Senator Kenneth Keating told the U.S. senate that there was evidence of Soviet missile installations in Cuba. Within two weeks the Soviet Foreign Minister, Andrei Gromyko, warned the United States that any attack of Cuba could mean war with the Soviet Union.
By this time, the United States had begun sending U-2...