Today in History: Cuban Missile Crisis

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

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."

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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:

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Originally published