Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Cuban Missile Crisis at 50

A Russian Missile
For two weeks Kennedy and Khrushchev and their surrogates and supporters stared down each other while across the States lots of kids (such as I) were led in daily disaster drills to sit on the floor with our heads at our knees and our arms over our heads.  Like that would do much good if the Reds dropped a big one on top of us.  Some neighbors, more cautious or more pessimistic or more foolish or more sensible, built bomb shelters in their back yards. 

In a few short years, “missile gap”, “mutual assured destruction”, “ICBM”, and “U-2” popped into the common lexicon.  Sputnik had scared us and Khrushchev (and his shoe) had alarmed us, and then suddenly we discovered Russian missiles being positioned in Cuba – pointed our way.  They say now Kennedy’s earlier diffidence at the Bay of Pigs led the Ruskies to be bolder – apparently weakness is provocative to one’s enemies (hasn’t that just come up again recently?).  The blockade ensued and suddenly I found myself curled up under a desk for what seemed like hours on end.  It was, in retrospect, they say, the closest the Cold War ever came to becoming a hot one.  Then as suddenly as it began it was over.   

The two week Cuban Missile Crisis ended 50 years ago today.

John M Greco

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