50TH ANNIVERSARY OF START OF CUBAN MISSILE CRISIS
Washington, D.C. (JFK+50) On Tuesday, October 16, 1961 at 11:50 A.M. in the words of Michael Dobbs from his book “One Minute To Midnight”*:
“The CIA’s chief photo interpreter hovered over the president’s shoulder. Arthur Lundahl held a pointer in his hand, ready to reveal a secret that would bring the world to the edge of nuclear war.”
Before showing the pictures to JFK, Landahl labeled them with captions which read: “ERECTOR LAUNCHER EQUIPMENT,” “MISSILE TRAILERS” & “TENT AREAS.”
*One Minute To Midnight: Kennedy, Khrushchev & Castro on the Brink of Nuclear War, by Michael Dobbs, published by Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2008.
Once he understood that the pictures showed Soviet missile sites in Cuba, the President asked this question:
“Are these missiles ready to be fired?”
The answer that came back was “we don’t know.”
If the missiles were armed with nuclear warheads, however, they could be fired in a matter of hours.
Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara counseled that these missiles were not ready to be fired, but chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Maxwell Taylor, countered that the Soviets nonetheless would be able to fire them “very quickly.”
Actually, JFK was informed of the missiles 3 hours earlier when his national security adviser, McGeorge Bundy, came to his bedroom in the White House to break the news.
In order to help keep the story hidden from the press, JFK decided to follow his regular schedule, but, in the meantime, he contemplated the possibilities of ordering a launch strike to take out the missiles & an armed invasion of Cuba.
MISCONCEPTIONS OF THE MISSILE CRISIS
In THE KNOXVILLE NEWS-SENTINEL, Sunday, October 14, 2012, an article titled “Cuban missile crisis misconceptions endure” by Peter Orsi of Associated Press appeared.
There are 3 misconceptions which Mr. Orsi identifies*:
1. The crisis was a triumph of U.S. brinksmanship.
2. Washington won, Moscow lost.
3. The crisis lasted just 13 days.
*There are 2 other misconceptions identified in the online version:
4. It was a high-seas showdown
5. It was an intelligence coup for the CIA
JFK+50 will discuss today the 3rd misconception.
THE CRISIS LASTED JUST 13 DAYS
Mr. Orsi writes:
“Indeed it was 13 days from OCTOBER 16, when Kennedy was 1st told about the missiles, to OCTOBER 28, when the Soviets announced their withdrawal.”
But he goes on to explain that the crisis continued on for more than a month.
The Soviets negotiated the details of what weapons would be removed & were dealing with Fidel Castro’s demands.
So while the most intense days of the crisis numbered 13, as described in RFK’s book “Thirteen Days,” there was a “November Extension” as identified by Cuba analyst Peter Kornbluh.