Today in History: Cuban Missile Crisis

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'This Day in History': 10/22/1962 - Cuban Missile Crisis Begins

On Oct. 22, 1962, America gathered around their television sets to hear President John F. Kennedy announce that U.S. planes had found Soviet missile bases in Cuba.

What came to be known as the Cuban Missile Crisis sent the everyone into a tizzy, waiting to see if the situation between the two superpowers would escalate into a full-blown nuclear war.

The Cuban Missile Crisis actually began on October 15, 1962. That day, U.S. intelligence discovered the fact that Soviets were building missiles in Cuba. These medium-range missiles were capable of striking a number of major cities, including Washington D.C.

See photos from the crisis:
24 PHOTOS
Cuban Missile Crisis
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Today in History: Cuban Missile Crisis
The Soviet freighter Anosov, rear, being escorted by a Navy plane and the destroyer USS Barry, while it leaves Cuba probably loaded with missiles under the canvas cover seen on deck, Cuba, 1962. (Photo by Underwood Archives/Getty Images)
New Yorkers eager for news of the Cuban crisis line up to buy newspapers, New York, New York, 1962. (Photo by Underwood Archives/Getty Images)
11th February 1962: American President John F Kennedy (1917 - 1963) making an address on the Cuban Missile Crisis. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
Left to right, Soviet ambassador to the USA, Anatoly F. Dobrynin and Soviet foreign minister Andrei Gromyko after meeting with President john F Kennedy at the White House, Washington, D.C. 1962 Oct. 18. during the Cuban Missile Crisis (Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)
CUBA - JULY 01: The cargo ship KIZIK HURCHATOV being photographed by an American reconnaissance plane as it leaves Cuba to return to Russia . On the deck of this ship are six Russian rockets are covered by canvas. (Photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)
CUBA - OCTOBER 01: An aerial view of Guantanamo, the American base, in a bay to the east of the Cuba. This photo was taken before the number of American naval ships was increased as a part of the blockade of the island put into effect by the United States following the Soviet missile crisis. (Photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)
October 1962: Aerial spy photos of a medium range ballistic missile base with labels detailing various parts of the base during the Cuban Missile Crisis, San Cristobal, Cuba. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
(GERMANY OUT) Cuban Missile Crisis U.S. naval squadron photographed off the coast of Cuba (at the US base on Guantanamo Bay) at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis - October 1962 (Photo by Schirner/ullstein bild via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON - OCTOBER 22, 1962: (EDITORIAL USE ONLY) (FILE PHOTO) U.S. President John F. Kennedy (L) speaks during a televised speech to the nation about the strategic blockade of Cuba, and his warning to the Soviet Union about missile sanctions, during the Cuban missile crisis October 24, 1962 in Washington, DC. Former Russian and U.S. officials attending a conference commemorating the 40th anniversary of the missile crisis October 2002 in Cuba, said that the world was closer to a nuclear conflict during the 1962 standoff between Cuba and the U.S., than governments were aware of. (Photo by Getty Images)
CUBA - OCTOBER 22: Prime Minister Fidel CASTRO giving a radio and televised speech during which he speaks about the measures taken by the United States regarding Cuba. In fact, following the shipment of Soviet Union missiles to Cuba during the Cold War, the United States announced a blockade of the island. (Photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)
At the Old Seidelberg restaurant and bar on Third Ave. patrons watch on television President Kennedy address the nation on the statue of the Cuban missile crisis. You could cut the tention with a kinfe but a Scotch and Soda was a better sedative. (Photo By: Jack Clarity/NY Daily News via Getty Images)
Aerial view of a Soviet Medium Range Ballistic Missile (MRBM) site with notations indicating the placement of a launch control center, a missile erector, and a missile shelters, among other things, Sagua la Grande, Cuba, October 23, 1962. The map in the upper left is an overview of the island of Cuba showing the site's relative location. This was one of the photographs that precipitated the 'Cuban Missile Crisis' event of the early 1960s. (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
25th October 1962: American tanks on alert in the Berlin Grunewald, West Germany, as the crisis over the Cuban blockade looms during the Cuban missile crisis. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
CUBA - OCTOBER 27: The debris of an American U-2 airplane shot down by the Cubans during the 1962 missile crisis is scattered over the ground. The airplane, piloted by Rudolph ANDERSON, was making a reconnaissance flight above the island. The remains of the pilot were handed over to the United States by the intermediary of the Switzerland Embassy in Cuba. (Photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)
CND (Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament) demonstrators sitting in the road on Whitehall, London, in protest against the United States' handling of the Cuban missile crisis, Whitehall, London, 27th October 1962. (Photo by Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
US President John Fitzgerald Kennedy leaves the Saint Stephen Martyr catholic church after attending mass, on October 28, 1962 in Washington DC, few hours before Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev offers to retire the soviet missiles from Cuba. The Cuban missile crisis and its aftermath was the most serious U.S.-Soviet confrontation of the Cold War. (Photo credit should read STF/AFP/Getty Images)
CUBA - OCTOBER 29: A militiaman from the Cuban Army holding out his gun from which hangs the island's flag during the general mobilization of the island following the American blockade. It was from fear of being invaded by the United States (who wanted the Soviet missiles pointed toward them to be dismantled) that the Cubans, with Soviet backing, were armed. (Photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)
Soviet cargo ship 'Fizik Kurchatov' leaving Cuba en route for Russia during the Cuban missile crisis. On deck are six canvas covered missile transporters with missiles. (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
AT SEA: (EDITORIAL USE ONLY) (FILE PHOTO) The Soviet ship Kasimov, takes 15 (Soviet) I1-28 aircrafts from Cuba after the U.S. asked for their withdrawal. Former Russian and U.S. officials attending a conference commemorating the 40th anniversary of the missile crisis October 2002 in Cuba, said that the world was closer to a nuclear conflict during the 1962 standoff between Cuba and the U.S., than governments were aware of. (Photo by Getty Images)
LONDON - OCTOBER 28, 1962: (EDITORIAL USE ONLY) (FILE PHOTO) Members of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) march during a protest against the U.S.'s action over the Cuban missile crisis October 28, 1962 in London, United Kingdom. Former Russian and U.S. officials attending a conference commemorating the 40th anniversary of the missile crisis October 2002 in Cuba said that the world was closer to a nuclear conflict during the 1962 standoff between Cuba and the U.S., than governments were aware of. (Photo by Getty Images)
WASHINGTON - FEBRUARY 6, 1963: (EDITORIAL USE ONLY) (FILE PHOTO) John Hughes, Special Assistant to the Director of Defense Intelligence, conducts a military briefing for the news media showing the absence of Soviet missiles in Cuba with an aerial map during the Cuban missile crisis February 6, 1963 in Washington, DC. Former Russian and U.S. officials attending a conference commemorating the 40th anniversary of the missile crisis October 2002 in Cuba said that the world was closer to a nuclear conflict during the 1962 standoff between Cuba and the U.S., than governments were aware of. (Photo by Getty Images)
1962: A P2V Neptune US patrol plane flying over a Soviet freighter during the Cuban missile crisis. (Photo by MPI/Getty Images)
Group of women from Women Strike for Peace holding placards relating to the Cuban missile crisis and to peace, New York, New York, 1962. They were part of a larger group of 800 women strikers for peace on 47th St near the United Nations building. (Photo by Underwood Archives/Getty Images)
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In an emergency meeting with his senior advisors, Kennedy and the group that would be known as ExCom decided that the best action would be a naval quarantine of the area and a demand that the bases would be dismantled and the removal of the missiles.

In his Oct. 22 televised speech, Kennedy announced the naval "quarantine" of Cuba in order to prevent any Soviet vessels from transporting any more weapons to the island. The president went on to explain in explicit terms that the United States would go as far as war to end this "clandestine, reckless, and provocative threat to world peace."



The entire world watched with bated breath to see if this moment was the tipping point for World War III.

After lengthy and tense negotiation process between the USSR and Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, the two nations came to an agreement on Oct. 28.

Khrushchev publicly announced that the Soviets would dismantle their weapons in Cuba and return them to the USSR in exchange for the United States to agree to never invade Cuba.

Privately, the United States also agreed to dismantle their own U.S. missile sites in Turkey at a later date, which was not known to the public. The U.S. blockade of Cuba officially ended on Nov. 20, 1962.

While it seemed like the United States claimed victory in the Cuban Missile Crisis, it was really Cuba who benefitted the most. The small country proved its importance to the world, gaining international security. Tensions between the United States and Cuba remained tense until the last few years.

On July 20, 2015, the United States restored diplomatic relations with Cuba, and President Barack Obama has called for ending its commercial, economic and financial embargo with the country, pending congressional approval.

Click through the gallery to see vintage photos of Cuba:
4 PHOTOS
Old Cuba
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Today in History: Cuban Missile Crisis
CUBA - JANUARY 01: In the 1960's in Cuba, tractors and agricultural machines harvesting the sugar cane. This modern equipment facilitates the mechanization of Cuban agriculture. In spite of a planned economy installed in 1961, Cuba, number one world exporter of sugar, maintained its agricultural priorities from the previous period. (Photo by Keystone-France/Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images)
Fidel Castro's speech in La Habana. (Photo by: Photo12/UIG via Getty Images)
(GERMANY OUT) Cuba : Hemingway, Ernest *21.07.1899-02.07.1961+ Writer, USA Winner of the nobel prize for literature 1954 - Hemingway's former house 'Finca Vigia' in San Francisco de Paula near Havana, Cuba, today a museum; exterior view - 1971 - Photographer: ullstein - Kanus (Photo by Kanus/ullstein bild via Getty Images)
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