The Soviet Union launched Sputnik 1 -- the world's first man-made satellite -- on October 4, 1957. It shouldn't have been a surprise: The Soviets had announced plans to launch a satellite two years earlier as part of International Geophysical Year, and the U.S. military was well aware of the Soviet Union's work. But the public, still hysterical over Communism due to the effects of Senator Joseph McCarthey's "Red Scare" of 1951 to 1954, swiftly came to believe that there was a huge scientific gap between U.S. and Soviet technical capability.
Seantor John F. Kennedy, readying a run for the presidency, declared Eisenhower "was losing the satellite-missile race".
In December 1957, the u.S. defense and intelligence community issued its regularly scheduled National Intelligence Estimate (NIE). Various NIEs had reported on the Soviet Union's attempt to develop medium-range (MRBM) and long-range (LRBM) nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles. Really worrisome was the development of an inter-continental ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of striking anywhere in the lower 48 U.S. states. NIE 11-10-57 (released in December 1957) predicted that the Soviets would probably have 10 ICBMs operational some time between mid-1958 to mid-1959. But the U.S. Air Force tended to get just as hysterical as the public about communism. Since the Air Force had control over the ICBM fleet, guess what agency most exaggerated the ICBM threat? You betcha: NIE 11-5-58 (released in August 1958) suddenly concluded that the Soviets would have 100 operational ICBMs by mid 1960, and perhaps 500 ICBMs in late 1961 or early 1962. The leap in scientific and technical capability was never explained... nor could it have been.
Yet, there was good reason to believe the NIE was bullshit. The CIA said the Soviets would have, at most, 100 ICBMs by early 1960. But the fact is, the U.S. had ample evidence that the Soviets would have maybe a dozen, and maybe none, by 1960. The Soviets had shut down missile testing in April 1958; the Air Force believed this meant the missile was ready to fly, but the CIA felt that it meant the missile had really enormous problems and testing had to be shut down. The CIA was correct: Testing resumed in March 1959, indicating that the Air Force was wrong. But the anti-communist press was already hard at work promoting a "missile gap". Widely read syndicated columnist Joseph Alsop predicted on August 1, 1958 that the Soviets would have 100 ICBMs by 1959, 500 in 1960, and 1,500 in 1961. Beginning in January 1959, Alsop devoted another six columns to the "missile gap" and how the Pentagon seemed not to care about it.
Eisenhower refused to refute the claims, fearing that this would disclose U.S. intelligence-gathering sources. Fearful of what Kennedy was doing to the country, Eisenhower arranged for Kennedy to meet with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Strategic Air Command, and the Director of the CIA in July 1960 to learn the truth about the "missile gap". But Kennedy continued to push the "missile gap" because it was such a useful campaign tool.
In January 1961, now-President Kennedy's aides were surprised to learn that the "missile gap" simply didn't exist. They went public with the information in February 1961, althugh by now the public didn't much care any more. A September 1961 NIE concluded that the USSR possessed no more than 25 ICBMs and would not be able to produce any more than a handful in the next few years.
In fact, it was the U.S. which was threatening world peace by mass-producing ICBMs.
Aware of the Soviet Union's intention to put a satellite in orbit, the Army Ballistic Missile Agency (ABMA) was established on February 1, 1956, at Redstone Arsenal near Huntsville, Alabama. It was commanded by Major General John B. Medaris, and Wernher von Braun was its technical director. The Army, Air Force, and Navy had been working on developing various short-, medium-, intermediate-, and long-range missiles and ballistic missiles since the end of World War II. The Air Force had been working on the Atlas intercontinental ballistic missile since 1951, but it wasn't far along. A design-and-test contract had been let only in 1954, and a test flight was still four years off.
In January 1955, the Air Force decided that pursuing a medium-range ballistic missile might produce an operational rocket in a shorter time-frame. The Navy became interested in a sea-launched ballistic missile that same year, and in November Secretary of Defense Charles Erwin Wilson approved design of a new weapon. The first engine was tested in November 1955, and various bits of hardware (sensors, fusing systems, explosive bolts, etc.) tested during Redstone rocket launches over the next year. The first rocket, named Jupiter, was test launched on March 14, 1956.
The Jupiter MRBM was initially planned for deployment in 1958. The Department of Defense wanted them in France, but the French refused. So Jupiter missiles were deployed in Italy and Turkey. Two squadrons of 15 missiles each were deployed at 10 sites in Italy beginning in 1961. One squadron of 15 missiles was deployed at five sites in Turkey the same year. By this time, the Jupiter missile was already obsolete.
The Jupiter missiles put the Soviet Union in an untenable military position.
All of eastern Europe and most of western Russia -- including Moscow -- could be reached by the Jupiters. By 1960, the U.S. was also test-firing the Minuteman -- a true ICBM launched from the continental United States that could reach anywhere in the USSR. At sea, the U.S. had the Polaris submarine-launched ICBM.
Meanwhile, the Soviet had fallen horribly behind. As of January 1962, they only had 20 R-7 Semyorka ICBMs, and these were incredibly inaccurate and unreliabile. The R-7 took almost 20 hours to prepare for launching (mainly fueling time), and its fuel had to be cooled with liquid nitrogen. This cryogenic fuel system could only be maintained for a single day before compromising the rocket's engines and fuel tanks. A newer, more reliable ICBM, the R-9 Desna, was due to become operational in 1964.
It was not surprising, therefore, that the Soviet Union relied very heavily on short- and medium-range ballistic missiles from 1959 to 1964. But medium-range ballistic missles could only reach Alaska. The Soviet Union had no base or ally close to the United States..........
Or did it?
In early 1962, a group of Soviet military specialists visited Havana, Cuba, disguised as agricultural experts and met with Cuban President Fidel Castro. They proposed placing tactical nuclear weapons and medium-range ballistic missiles on Cuban soil. Castro feared the U.S. was planning another invastion of the island, and he and other top leaders enthusiastically approved the idea. Castro felt that the missiles might make Cuba look like a puppet of the Soviet Union, but believed the nuclear missiles would deter an American invasion. A formal agreement was signed Khrushchev on July 7. Disguised as machine operators, irrigation specialists, and agricultural specialists, Soviet missile construction crews arrived two weeks later. Ultimately, 43,000 Russian troops were brought in. Marshal Sergei Biryuzov, chief of the Soviet Rocket Forces, told Khrushchev that the missile launch sites, which were large and easily spotted from the air, would be camouflaged by palm trees. Construction began on six sites capable of launching R-12 Dvina medium-range missiles and three sites for launching R-14 Chusovaya intermediate-range ballistic missiles.
By early August 1962, the U.S. began to suspect that the Soviets were building missile facilities in Cuba. U-2 spy planes photographed completed S-75 Dvina (e.g., SA-2) surface-to-air missile (SAM) sites at eight different locations in Cuba. CIA director John McCone believed the anti-aircraft missile sites made sense only if they were going to be used to ballistic missile launch sites. He alerted President Kennedy about the threat in a memo on August 10. On August 28, U-2 photographs clearly showed the finished SAM sites. A few days later, photo interpreters at the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) confirmed that the SAM sites were arranged in a pattern similar to those used by the Soviets to protect ICBM bases. Then, on August 31, Senator Kenneth Keating (R-New York) revealed on the Senate floor taht Cuban exiles in Florida had given the CIA hard information that the Soviets were constructing a ballistic missile base in Cuba. Five exiles had described trucks passing through towns at night carrying very long, canvas-covered cylindrical objects. These were so long that the trucks could not make turns without backing up and maneuvering. Small defensive missiles were not this large; only offensive short-range ballistic missiles and their larger brethren were this big. Furthermore, Oleg Penkovsky, a double agent in the GRU (Soviet military intellgence agency) reported that the Soviet Union was planning ballistic missile deployments in Cuba. He even provided details of the missile launch sites.
The first R-12 Dvinas arrived on the night of September 8, followed by a second shipment on September 16.
The warnings were serious enough that the Defense Department began planning a military reaction. On September 27, Air Force chief of staff General Curtis LeMay approved a plan for bombing Cuba and taking out the missile sites.
But confirmation was needed. And it wasn't forthcoming. On September 8, the People's Republic of China shot down a U-2 spy plane over western China. U.S. officials were worried that surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) in Cuba might shoot down another U-2 and caused an international incident. Beginning September 10, U-2 flights over most Cuban airspace were banned. (Only five flights -- on September 5, 26, and 29 and October 5 and 7 -- occurred before October 14. Only one passed extensively over Cuban territory, and none over western Cuba or any previously identified SAM sites.) Then, on September 28, a U.S. Navy reconnaissance aircraft photographed the Soviet cargo ship Kasimov carrying large crates on its deck that confirmation began to emerge.
U.S. officials tried to obtain additional confirmation of the missile sites using photographs taken by a Corona KH-4 spy satellite, but the October 1 photos only showed clouds and haze and proved utterly useless. That same day, Secretary of Defense McNamara told Admiral Robert L. Dennison, chief of the U.S. Navy's Atlantic Forces, to begin preparing for a naval blockade of Cuba. On October 6, Rep. Bob Dole spoke on the floor of the House and declared the Soviets were building SAM sites in Cuba preparatory to stationing ballistic missiles there. That same day, Defense Secretary Robert McNamara ordered Admiral Dennison to start putting two contingency plans for the invasion of Cuba (OPLAN 314 for air strikes and OPLAN 316 for land invasion) into effect. Dennison suggested that the preparations for the potential blockade be masked as "PHIB RIGLEX 62", a normal U.S. Navy exercise. McNamara agreed. Secretly, Dennison ordered his command to move to the highest state of readiness in preparation for potential action.
U-2 flights were authorized again on October 8, but bad weather over Cuba prevented the spy planes from flying for six days. Senator Keating revealed on October 10 in a speech in the Senate that he had absolutely reliable evidence from Cuban exiles that six intermediate-range missile sites were under construction in Cuba. On October 13, during a regularly scheduled meeting, Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin told U.S. Under Secretary of State Chester Bowles that the Soviet Union would not put offensive nuclear missiles in Cuba.
The Cuban missile crisis exploded on October 14.
The October 14 U-2 flight was the first to cover western Cuba's interior since August. The film was developed overnight, and taken to Washington, D.C. The photos taken by pilot Major Richard Heyser clearly showed an R-12 missile site nearing completion near San Cristobal.
That evening, the CIA notified the Department of State and National Security Adviser McGeorge Bundy of its findings. Bundy decided not to tell Kennedy until the next morning, but informed Secretary of Defense McNamara at midnight. The morning of October 16, Bundy met with Kennedy. At 6:30 PM, Kennedy convened the Executive Committee of the National Security Council (EXCOMM) -- nine members of the National Security Council and five other key advisors. (The group was not formally named until the issuance of National Security Action Memorandum 196 on October 22.)
The EXCOMM quickly discussed several possible courses of action:
- Do nothing: For two years, the Soviets had aimed nuclear missiles at America; this was not new.
- Diplomacy: Demand that the Soviet Union remove the missiles.
- Secret approach: Secretly offer Castro a choice: Get rid of the missiles or be invaded.
- Invasion: Invasion of Cuba and overthrow of the Castro regime.
- Air strike: U.S. Air Force attack on all known missile sites.
- Blockade: U.S. Navy blockade to prevent missiles from arriving in Cuba.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff unanimously pressed for a full-scale attack, but Kennedy felt that the Russians would retaliate -- either by attacking the United States or by seizing Berlin. The Joint Chiefs argued that the missiles altered the military balance, but McNamara disagreed. The United States had approximately 5,000 nuclear warheads, while the Soviet Union had roughly 300. Aiming another 40 warheads at the U.S. from Cuba didn't substantially alter the strategic balance. The political balance was something else. The EXCOMM unanimous agreed on that. A month before, Kennedy had promised action if the Cubans achieved the capability to attack the United States, and American credibility among its allies would be severely damaged if the Soviet aggressiveness was not replied to equally aggressively.
On October 17, Admiral George W. Anderson, Chief of Naval Operations, told his commanders to be ready to put to sea and ready for action with 24 hour's notice.
As the EXCOMM debated, Soviet Minister of Foreign Affairs Andrei Gromyko visited Washington on a long-planned visit. He met with Kennedy on October 18. Kennedy repeated his warning about giving the Cubans an offensive military capability, but did not ask Gromyko if the Soviets had placed nuclear missiles in Cuba. For his part, Gromyko reiterated that the Soviet Union would only put defensive weapons in Cuba (without specifying what "defensive" meant). Four days later, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy received a message from Georgi Bolshakov, counselor at the Soviety Embassy in Washington. Bolshakov said that Krhushchev had personally told him that no missile capable of reaching the United States would ever be deployed by the Soviets in Cuba. By this time, the Americans believed that everything the Soviets said about missiles in Cuba was a lie.
By now, OPLAN 316 was almost ready for execution. The 1st Armored Division was sent to Georgia, and five Army divisions were placed on combat readiness. The Strategic Air Command (SAC) dispersed it shorter-range B-47 Stratojet medium bombers to civilian airports to be ready to take off at a moment's notice, and sent the entire B-52 Stratofortress heavy bomber fleet aloft. But the United States was in no position to invade Cuba by any means. Army units found they lacked the mechanized and logistical asset to put the Army in the field. The Navy, meanwhile, discovered that it had so few amphibious craft that it couldn't transport even a modest armored contingent.
Every day, Kennedy met with the EXCOMM. On October 19, the EXCOMM formed working groups to examine the air strike and blockade options, but by afternoon almost everyone supported the blockade.
Reservations about the plan continued to be voiced as late as the 21st; however, the paramount one being that once the blockade was put into effect, the Soviets would rush to complete some of the missiles. Consequently, the U.S. could find itself bombing operational missiles were the blockade to fail to force Khrushchev to remove the missiles already on the island.
On October 20, McNamara asked Admiral Anderson to draw up a position paper that would explain how the blockade would function as non-blockade. At the EXCOMM meeting on October 21, the blockade option was discussed. Some military experts worried that the Soviets would rush to complete the missile launch sites once the blockade was in effect, forcing the United States to bomb Cuba. Others worried that a blockade was considered an act of war under international law. Members of the EXCOMM didn't think the Soviet Union would go to war over a mere blockade, however. Legal experts at the State Department and Justice Department felt that if the Organization of American States (OAS) invoked the Rio Treaty for defense of the western hemisphere, there would be a good argument that legal grounds for war could be avoided. Admiral Anderson's briefing paper differentiated between a "quarantine" (which indicted only offensive weapons but allowed all other materials through) and a blockade (which prevent all materials from reaching Cuba).
At the end of the October 21 meeting, Kennedy approved the plan for a quarantine of Cuba.
The following day, plans for implementing the quarantine continued to be worked out. President Kennedy formally established the EXCOMM at 3:30 PM, and at 5:00 PM met with congressional leaders. Nearly all of the congressional leaders demanded a stronger response. But Kennedy demurred. The White House announced a speech to the nation to take place at 7:00 PM Eastern Daylight Time. Just before the speech, world leaders were notified about presence of offensive IRBMs in Cuba. In Moscow, Ambassador Foy D. Kohler informed Khrushchev that the United States had identified R-12 missile sites in Cuba and would be implementing a quarantine. American ambassadors also briefed Canadian Prime Minister John Diefenbaker, British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, and French President Charles de Gaulle about the "Cuban missile crisis" and the proposed response.
President Kennedy revealed the existence of nuclear missiles in Cuba to the world at 7:00 PM on October 22.
As Kennedy spoke, U.S. military forces worldwide were elevated to DEFCON 3 from DEFCON 1, to make them ready for combat. The heavy cruiser USS Newport News was designated the flagship for the quarantine.
The EXCOMM had discussed how the quarantine was to end. Was there a face-saving way for the Soviets to exit the situation? There was. The EXCOMM realized that the American decision in 1961 to deploy Jupiter missiles in Italy and Turkey had greatly alarmed the Soviet Union. Now, with the missiles almost obsolete, the Americans could secretly offer to remove the warheads and rockets in exchange for Soviet removal of its missiles in Cuba. But because the United States was so far ahead in ICBM technology, this would not damage American national security. Under Secretary of State George Ball cabled the ambassadors in Italy and Turkey on October 23 and instructed them to notify the respective host governments that the U.S. was considering removal of the Jupiter missiles. The Italians appreciated the American plan, but the Turks deeply resented it -- feeling it compromised Turkish national security.
Khrushchev made his first reply to Kennedy on October 24, announcing the contents of a cable to Kennedy in which he denounced the quarantine as "outright piracy". In secretly, this was followed minutes later by another telegram, in which the Soviet premier advised Kennedy that Soviet vessels would ignore the quarantine.
With the stakes much higher, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Adlai Stevenson called for an emergency session of the United Nations Security Council on October 25. At 1:45 AM EDT, Kennedy issued a reply to Khrushchev, noting that the Soviet Premier and his diplomatic agents had repeatedly lied about the presence of offensive missiles in Cuba. He urged Khrushchev to remove the missiles. At 7:15 AM EDT, the USS Essex and USS Gearing intercepted the Soviet oil tanker Bucharest. The vessel was asked where it was going and what it carried, and it replied. The Navy ships permitted the Bucharest to pass, almost certain it could not have contained any missile material. At 4:00 PM EDT, the Security Council began meeting. Stevenson confronted Soviet Ambassador Valerian Zorin with evidence of nuclear missiles in Cuba, and challenged him to admit their existence. Zorin did not answer. "I am prepared to wait until hell freezes over for my answer," the normally taciturn Stevenson shouted. Still Zorin did not respond. At 5:43 PM EDT, the USS Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. intercepted the freighter Marucla. This Lebanese-owned ship flying a Greek flag was leased to the Soviet Union. The Marcula was boarded and searched, and allowed to depart early the next day after no contraband was found. Another 14 Soviet ships turned back from the quarantine line, presumably because they were carrying offensive weapons.
The United States began making low-level reconnaissance flights begin over Cuba each morning and afternoon, beginning October 25. Photographs taken by these flights revealed continuing construction on the R-12 and R-14 missile sites. Kennedy now issued the top-secret Security Action Memorandum 199, which authorized the commander of the Strategic Air Command-Europe (SACEUR) to load nuclear weapons onto aircraft. SACEUR was America's first-strike arm, and it was a worrisome move.
On October 26, Kennedy told the EXCOMM that construction on the missile sites was continuing. He expressed his belief that only an invasion would remove the threat. Members of the EXCOMM asked for time to give diplomacy a chance to work, and Kennedy agreed. However, low-level overflights of Cuba were increased to one every two hours. Kennedy issued a press statement that afternoon, revealing that the United States had intelligence that construction on the missile sites was continuing. At 10:00 PM, the U.S. raised the readiness level of its military forces to DEFCON 2. Amazingly, the Soviets did not react. They did not increase their alert level, they did not put planes in the air, and they did not improve their their air defense posture.
But October 26 also marked the beginning of the diplomatic solution.
At 1:00 PM EDT on October 26, John A. Scali of ABC News had lunch with Aleksandr Fomin (alias Alexander Feklisov, a Soviet spy) at Fomin's request. Fomin had been asked to contact Scali and ask him to use his friendships with high-level American officials at the State Department. Formin passed along the Soviet offer: Removal of the missiles under United Nations supervision and a Cuban pledge never to accept them again. In exchange, the U.S. must promise never to invade Cuba. The message was passed on. The EXCOMM debated a response. President Kennedy felt that nothing could happen unless the Soviets also agreed to immediately cease all shipments to Cuba, immediately ceased all construction on the missile launch sites, and immobilize all missiles within 48 hours. Secretary of State Dean Rusk suggested that the message also say the United States was "unlikely to invade" Cuba. This reply was sent through the Brazilian government.
Even as the Soviets and Americans were engaged in back-channel discussions, Castro -- convinced America was about to invade his nation -- asked Khrushchev to launch a preemptive nuclear strike on the United States. Castro also ordered his anti-aircraft crews to fire on any U.S. aircraft they sae.
At 12:12 AM EDT on October 28, the U.S. informed NATO and its European allies that military action was imminent in Europe. At 6:00 AM EDT on October 27, the CIA reported to the EXCOMM that photographic evidence clearly showed three of the four missile sites at San Cristobal and the two sites at Sagua la Grande were now fully operational. Three hours later, Radio Moscow began broadcasting a message from Khrushchev that offered to remove the missiles from Cuba in exchange for removal of Jupiter missiles from Italy and Turkey. The EXCOMM met at 10:00 AM EDT to discuss the proposal. Kennedy was worried that he would be placed in an untenable political position domestically if he appeared to be agreeing to a Soviet proposal. Yes, the Jupiter missiles were obsolete and due to be removed anyhow, but the public didn't know that. Congress and the public would crucify him for "giving away the store" on American national security. Worse, Khrushchev's proposal appeared so rational, it would be hard to resist. National Security Adviser McGeorge Bundy noted that the proposal appeared to make the Jupiter missiles the threat to peace, when the real threat came from Cuba.
While the EXCOMM met, a new message from Khrushchev arrived at 11:03 AM EDT. The new message proposed a secret agreement in which each nation agreed to withdraw its missiles immediately, subject to U.N. Security Council verification. These decisions would be announced simultaneously, but without any mention of mutuality. The EXCOMM continued to meet the rest of the day to discuss the new proposal.
At approximately noon EDT on October 27, a U-2 was shot down over Cuba by an S-75 Dvina SAM missile. The pilot was killed. At about 3:40 PM EDT, several U.S. Navy RF-8A Crusader aircraft on low-level photoreconnaissance missions over Cuba were also fired upon. Alarmed, at 4:00 PM Kennedy met with the EXCOMM and advised them that he was sending a message to U Thant, Secretary-General of the United Nations. In the message, Kennedy asked the Soviets to suspend construction on the missile sites while negotiations continued. Kennedy also declined to attack the SAM sites in Cuba. The EXCOMM had previously decided that the United States should automatically attack Cuban SAM sites if any American aircraft was shot down. But Kennedy reasoned, correctly, that the Cubans lacked the capacity to shoot down a U-2. The anti-aircraft missile had to have come from a Soviet SAM site. But he believed that the SAM missile had been launched by a local commander, not on orders from Moscow. He decided to let the attack pass... In Moscow, Khrushchev was upset that the local Soviet anti-aircraft commander had acted to irresponsibly. He immediately ordered all Soviet SAM missile sites in Cuba to hold their fire unless directly authorized by Moscow.
At the same time that the EXCOMM convened at 4:00 PM EDT, the USS Beale made sonar contact with a Soviet submarine. American intelligence experts had long known that the Soviet Union was sending at least four and perhaps as many as six fast-attack submarines to Cuba. On October 23, McNamara and Navy worked out a plan whereby sonar would be used to order any submarine violating the quarantine line to surface. If that failed (and it was expected to fail), the U.S. warship would drop practice depth charges on the submarine. These small explosives, had the force of a hand grenade, and could do little damage to a submarine's hull. McNamara informed the Soviets of the U.S. Navy's intent that same day, but Soviet officials failed to forward this information to submarine captains. At 4:59 PM EDT, the Beale began dropping five practice depth charges on the Soviet sub, the B-59. Captain Valentin Savitsky stayed under. Thirty minutes later, the US Conoy dropped five more practice depth charges. Suddenly, the B-59 suffered a series of mechanical failures. The temperature aboard the vessel rocketed to more than 100 degrees Fahrenheit, the lighting went out, and the oxygen generators failed. Several sailors passed out. According to Savitsky, the B-59 was then rocked by a much larger explosion. Savitsky ordered that the submarine's single nuclear-tipped torpedo armed and readied for firing. The decision to use the nuclear torpedo required the approval of two additional officers: political officer Ivan Maslennikov and Deputy Brigade Commander Captain 2nd Rank Vasili Arkhipov. Maslennikov agreed, but Arkhipov refused. Savitsky was unable to contact his superiors, and believed that nuclear war had already broken out on the surface. But still Arkhipov refused. With oxygen running out, the B-59 surfaced at 8:50 PM EDT, and began heading for the Soviet Union.
Although the incident was not revealed for 40 more years, the world had come close to nuclear war.
Now negotiations began in earnest. Way back on the night of October 22, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy secretly went to the Soviet embassy in Washington, D.C., and met with Ambassador Dobrynin for 45 minutes. It was the first of several meetings. Kennedy met again with Dobrynin on the morning of October 26, and informed him that the United States would escalate military activity against Cuba within 48 hours if the Soviets did not agree to remove the missiles. Kennedy met again with Dobrynin on the morning of October 27, telling him that the President Kennedy was willing to make a non-invasion pledge if the Soviets withdrew the missiles. The U.S. would go even further, and secretly withdraw the Jupiter missiles from Italy and Turkey.
That night, American and Soviet negotiators met at the Yenching Palace Chinese restaurant in the Cleveland Park neighborhood of Washington, D.C. The negotiators reached tentative agreement to accept Khrushchev's original proposal, and ignore all subsequent Soviet and American replies. The proposal was brought before the EXCOMM early the next morning. Kennedy was hesitant, thinking Khrushchev would not accept the original deal. But members of the EXCOMM persuaded him that Khrushchev was desperate for a deal, and would take it. After the EXCOMM meeting broke up, Rusk, McNamara, RFK, and JFK met in the Oval Office. They agreed that Robert Kennedy should meet with Dobrynin again and orally underscore that (a) military action against Cuba was imminent, and (b) any public agreement would not mention Turkey, but that withdrawal of missiles from Turkey would occur "voluntarily" immediately.
At 8:05 PM EDT on October 27, the letter to Khrushchev was delivered. The letter was also released to the press to ensure delivery.
At 9:00 pm EDT, the EXCOMM met to draw up plans to for air strikes, to begin October 29. The U.S air strikes would targer the the R-12 and R-14 missile sites as well as economic targets. The EXCOMM believed the United States could easily bring about the fall of Castro, but also believed that the Soviet Union would probably seize Berlin and possibly invade West Germany.
At 9:00 AM EST on October 28, a message from Khrushchev was broadcast via Radio Moscow in which the Soviet leader announced the immediate cessation of construction on the remaining missile launch site, and that the existing missiles were being dismantled and returned to the Soviet Union. Kennedy immediately issued a letter in response, announcing that the United States would respect Cuban sovereignty.
The quarantine continued for some weeks, but the Cuban missile crisis was over.
Over the next few days, U.S. reconaissance aircraft collected photographic evidence showing that the Soviets had dismantled the missiles and were rendering the launch sites unusable. President Kennedy addressed the nation on November 2, announcing that the dismantling of the missiles was complete. Soviet cargo ships began leaving Cuba on November 5, with the last of the eight ships departing on November 9. U.S. Navy aircraft made a visual check of each ship as it passed the quarantine line. The U.S. government announced the end of the quarantine at 6:45 PM EST on November 20, 1962.
Unbeknownst to the Kennedy administration, the Soviet Union had also given Cuba a number of tactical nuclear weapons. These small atomic warheads were fitted to small rockets capable of hitting a target about 10 to 15 miles away. They were intended to give Cuba the ability to destroy any incoming naval invasion fleet. These weapons were not part of the agreement ending the Cuban Missile Crisis. However, the Soviets feared that Castro and his advisors (especially Che Guevara) might use the weapons in some way. On November 22, 1962, Soviet Deputy Prime Minister Anastas Mikoyan told Castro that the tactical nuclear weapons rockets were being removed as well.
The United States began dismantling its Jupiter missiles in Turkey in early 1963. They were completely disassembled by April 24, and flown out of Turkey a few days later.