Front Door to Cuba

The Cuban Missile Crisis - A Timeline


May 29. A high-level Soviet delegation that includes Marshal S. Biryuzov, commander of the Strategic Rocket Forces, and a high-level delegation, arrives secretly in Havana to suggest the deployment of nuclear weapons in Cuba.

July 2. Raul Castro, Minister of the Armed Forces, arrives in Moscow.

September 8. Soviet freighter Omsk arrives in Cuba with the first shipment of MRBMs.

September 15. Soviet freighter Poltava arrives in Cuba with the second shipment of MRBMs.

Oct. 14

American U2 spy plane flies a mission over western Cuba. For the first time in two weeks the clouds don't block the view, and Air Force Major Richard S. Heyser returns with photos of Soviet nuclear missiles being transported in Cuba.

Oct. 15

The photos shot over Cuba are analyzed at the National Photographic Intelligence Center. The missiles are identified as surface-to-surface medium range ballistic missiles (MRBM).

Oct. 16

At 8:45 a.m. President Kennedy is informed about the missiles in Cuba. He calls together a team of advisors to serve as the Executive Committee of the National Security Council (ExComm).

A Memorandum for the Record prepared by CIA Deputy Director for Plans, Richard M. Helms, describes President Kennedy's "general dissatisfaction with the effectiveness of Operation Mongoose."

Oct. 17

U.S. Ambassador to the UN, Adlai Stevenson, sends a letter to President Kennedy. He writes: "Because an attack [of Cuba], would very likely result in Soviet reprisals somewhere-Turkey, Berlin, etc.-it is most important that we have as much of the world with us as possible. To start or risk starting a nuclear war is bound to be divisive at best and the judgments of history seldom coincide with the tempers of the moment."

Oct. 18

The count of missiles believed to be stationed in Cuba stands at 40 IRBMs.The public still does not know about the missiles.

Kennedy meets with Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko in the White House but does not reveal that he is aware of the missile build up in Cuba.

Oct. 19

President Kennedy visits Chicago at the invitation of Mayor Daley.

Oct. 20

Kennedy returns to the White House (Press Secretary Pierre Salinger tells the media that Kennedy "has a cold.")

20-30 Soviet ships are en route to Cuba

In a five-hour meeting at ExComm:· Blockade/quarantine is discussed and adopted· UN Ambassador Adlai Stevenson suggests "we make a trade."

Oct. 21

General Walter Sweeney, commander-in-chief of the Tactical Air Command, tells President Kennedy that no air strike will destroy all the missiles in Cuba.

Oct. 22

President Kennedy phones former Presidents Hoover, Truman and Eisenhower to brief them on the situation.

President Kennedy sends the first of a series of letters to Khrushchev.

Fidel Castro announces a general mobilization and war alert throughout Cuba.

At 7:00 p.m. President Kennedy broadcasts a live message to the nation and the world:
"This Government, as promised, has maintained the closest surveillance of the Soviet military buildup on the island of Cuba. Within the past week, unmistakable evidence has established the fact that a series of offensive missiles sites is now in preparation of that imprisoned island. The purpose of these bases can be none other than to provide a nuclear strike capability against the Western Hemisphere."

Oct. 23

U2 photo showing missiles in Cuba

President Kennedy signs Proclamation 3504, which authorizes the naval quarantine of Cuba.

26 ships are confirmed heading towards Cuba from the USSR.Kennedy to ExCom: "No shooting without my explicit orders."

Khrushchev responds to Kennedy's letter. Kennedy responds in another letter that the crisis is the fault of Moscow.Khrushchev sends another letter to President Kennedy.

The Organization of American States (OAS), at the request of the US, approves a resolution calling for the removal of the missiles by unanimous vote (1 abstention)The U.S. detonates an atomic bomb in Johnston Island, South Pacific, but President Kennedy is not aware of the nuclear test until after the fact.Cuba calls for a meeting at the U.N. Security Council to discuss the crisis.

Oct. 24

The naval quarantine begins.

General Thomas Power, commander-in-chief of the Strategic Air Command, raises the alert level to DefCon 2 (indicating readiness for war), without approval from President Kennedy.

Construction on the missile sites in Cuba continues at an accelerated pace.

Oct. 25

U.S. Ambassador Adlai Stevenson presents evidence at the United Nations.

The U.S. conducts an Atlas missile launch at Vandenberg AFB. The President is not aware of this test until after the fact.

UN Secretary General U Thant calls for a "cooling off" period. Khrushchev agrees, but Kennedy does not.

A ship bound for Cuba from USSR boarded and inspected.

In his syndicated column, journalist Walter Lippmann suggests a Cuba-Turkey missile trade.

An offer comes through "an old, trusted friend" of Khrushchev (Aleksandr Fomin, senior Soviet intelligence officer in Washington) through ABC reporter John Scali.Castro authorizes Cuba's air-defense forces to fire on all American aircraft within range.

Castro authorizes Cuba's air-defense forces to fire on all American aircraft within range.

Oct. 26

A letter from Khrushchev to Kennedy confirms the offer made through Scali: the missiles will be removed if the US issues a pledge not to invade Cuba.

Fidel Castro sends a letter to Khrushchev, who mistakenly interprets it as an appeal for a Soviet nuclear first-strike.

Oct. 27

Another letter (harsher, more demanding) from Khrushchev emerges, adding the removal of missiles from Turkey as a condition, and signaling a possible political coup in the Soviet Union.

Kennedy issues orders to attack Cuba to begin on Monday morning.

An air force pilot (Major Rudolf Anderson Jr.) is shot down in recon run over Cuba by Soviet forces (under General G.A. Voronkov, acting without the approval of Khrushchev.

President Kennedy decides to accept the October 26 letter and "pretend" the October 27 letter doesn't exist. At 8:05 pm he sends a response letter to Khrushchev.

Bobby Kennedy visits the Soviet embassy to make offer: the US will remove the Jupiter missiles (from Turkey) within six months, but nothing can be said of this publicly. He adds that the US will deny such a claim if it is publicized.

Soviet Ambassador Anatoly F. Dobrynin sends a cable to the Soviet Foreign Ministry, describing his conversation with Bobby Kennedy.

Oct. 28

President Kennedy receives a letter from Chairman Khrushchev. Aside from sharing his concern that the crisis was spiraling out of control, the Soviet leader accepts the proposal in the president's October 27 message.

President Kennedy responds to Chairman Khrushchev's letter.

Soviet Foreign Minister Gromyko sends a telegram to Ambassador Dobrynin requesting that he contact Kennedy to assure him that Khrushchev is ready to remove the missiles from Cuba.

Khrushchev sends Castro a letter explaining his decision.

In a letter to Khrushchev, Castro explains his thinking in ordering to shoot down the American spy plane.

Cuban troops take up positions around the Soviet nuclear missile sites. (The troops are withdrawn on November 3.)

Castro issues a five-point plan for ending the problems which lead to the crisis, it includes: an end to the US embargo, an end to US support for Cuban counterrevolutionary activities, and the return of the US naval base at Guantanamo Bay.

U.S. naval forces encircling Cuba includes a joint force of 250,000 Marines and ground troops, over 1,000 planes and 250 naval vessels.

Oct. 29

Adlai Stevenson and John McCloy meet with Vasily Kuznetsov in New York to work out the details of the agreement.

Oct. 30

Khrushchev sends Castro a letter trying to justify his lack of consultation prior to the decision to remove the missiles.

UN Secretary General U Thant travels to Cuba to request Castro's cooperation.

Oct. 31

Castro responds to Khrushchev, criticizing his performance.

Nov. 20

Kennedy ends the naval quarantine after hearing from Khrushchev that the IL-28 bombers will be removed from Cuba in 30 days.

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