Fifty years ago today the entire world breathed a tremendous sigh of relief after having come out of what was and still is the closest scrape with nuclear holocaust since the dropping of the atomic bombs on Japan at the end of world War II, and one which would surely have had even graver consequences globally than the tragedies at Nagasaki and Hiroshima.
On Oct 28, 1962 Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev announced over Radio Moscow that he had agreed to remove nuclear missiles from Cuba, the result of a deal between Mr Krushchev and US president John F Kennedy which involved the US removing its missiles from Turkey. This ended a stand-off that began on Oct 9 after a US reconnaissance flight over Cuba detected Soviet missile sites.
Another reconnaissance flight on Oct 17 discovered intermediate range nuclear missiles in place and Kennedy ordered a naval blockade around the island. Over the next few days, in a game of cat and mouse US bombers and Soviet submarines loaded with nuclear weapons came dangerously close to unleashing their terrible power, which would almost surely have launched a tit-for-tat escalation into full-blown nuclear war. History rightly credits the levelheadedness of Kennedy and Krushchev in heading off the crisis while surrounded by hardliners on both sides who thought that nuclear war was probably inevitable and somehow justified.
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