How close to war did the world come to over Cuba in 1962?

AQA Modern World History GCSE revision notes based on the syllabus.

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The background to the Cuban Missile Crisis

  • Cuba had long been an ally of America: the USA owned most of the businesses and had a huge naval base there.
  • In 1959, Fidel Castro overthrew the American-backed dictator Batista.
  • This pro-Communist government would be a test of the American policy of Containment.
  • In 1959-1960, Castro took over the businesses, but let the USA keep the naval base. In 1960, he was receiving arms from the Soviet Union and American spies knew this.
  • In January 1961, the USA broke off relations with Cuba.
  • In April 1961, Kennedy sent 1400 anti-Castro troops to overthrow him. They failed as they were defeated by 20,000 Cuban troops.
  • This fiasco at the Bay of Pigs encouraged the spread of Communism. Also, it suggested that Kennedy was weak, but it also made Khrushchev and Castro very suspicious of US policy.
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The Cuban Missile Crisis (1962)

14 October: A U2 flight showed that the Soviets were building missile bases in Cuba.

22 October: Kennedy announces blockade and calls on USSR to withdraw missiles.

23 October: Kennedy receives a letter from Khrushchev saying that Soviet ships would not observe the blockade.

24 October: Blockade begins.

26 October: Kennedy receives second letter from Khrushchev saying the missiles were purely defensive. Khrushchev will withdraw missiles if blockade is called off.

27 October: Kennedy says that if the USSR does not withdraw, and attack will follow. Khrushchev sends another letter stating that the USSR will withdraw from Cuba id the USA withdraws from Turkey. American U2 plane shot down over Cuba.

28 October: Khruschev says to Kennedy that the Soviet government has given orders to dismantle and crate arms back to the USSR.

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