The Cuban Missile Crisis: How close were we to nuclear war?

Paul Cleary

Western Dubuque High School

http://memory.loc.gov/service/pnp/cph/3c20000/3c28000/3c28400/3c28475t.gif`

Summer 2009

Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962

 

The world has never been closer to nuclear war than it did during the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962. The Cuban government led by Fidel Castro and the Soviet government led by Nikita Khrushchev placed nuclear missiles in Cuba. The United States led by John F. Kennedy discovered the weapons by the use of U-2 planes, which then created thirteen very tense days for Americans, Cubans and Soviets. In the end, the Soviets pulled back from Cuba and the world avoided a nuclear war. This lesson is to be used after the study of Korean War and during the study of John F. Kennedy and his presidency.

 

Overview                                                                                            

Objectives

Students will:

·        Gain an appreciation for use of primary sources in historical research

·        Read and comprehend a primary source document

·        Understand the increase of tensions between the Soviet Union, Cuba and the United States and how it almost culminated in a nuclear war.

·        Understand how important foreign policy is between countries.

Recommended time frame

One 85 minute class period

Grade level

American History (11th grade)

Curriculum fit

      American History

Materials

·        Transparencies displaying the pictures from the Library of Congress.

·        LCD Projector OR ELMO Projector

·        Khrushchev Letter to President Kennedy October 24, 1962

http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/archives/x2jfk.html

·               Letter, from Prime Minister Castro to Chairman Khrushchev after one American U-2 plane was shot down over Cuba.  October 28, 1962.

http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/nsa/cuba_mis_cri/19621028caslet.pdf

 

·               Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, military briefing, “Notes on October 21, 1962 Meeting with the President.”

http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/nsa/cuba_mis_cri/19621021mcnam.pdf

·               Revelations from the Russian Archives: CUBAN MISSILE CRISIS

http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/archives/colc.html

·               Prime Minister Fidel Castro’s letter to Premier Khrushchev, October 26, 1962.

http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/nsa/cuba_mis_cri/19621020cia.pdf

·               Letters Between Khrushchev and Kennedy

http://library.thinkquest.org/11046/sitroom/letters.html

·Statement by President John F. Kennedy on Cuba, September 4, 1962

http://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/jfkstate.htm

 

·               Declassified document revealing details of a proposed overthrow of Castro

http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/nsa/publications/cmc/cmcdoc1.jpg

Western Dubuque American History Standards

 

Standards

1.         Understands and knows how to analyze chronological relationships and patterns

1.1-             Apply key concepts such as time, chronology, causality, change, conflict, and complexity to explain, analyze and show connections among patterns of historical change and continuity.

 

2.                 Understands how events are influenced and interrelated to each other.

2.1-           Analyze and evaluate social and economic effects of environmental changes and crises resulting from phenomena such as floods, storms, and drought.

 

5. Understands that the cyclical nature of history

 

                 5.1-Explain and apply ideas, theories, and modes of inquire drawn from American History in the examination of persistent issues and social problems.

 

Procedures                                                                                          

 

Day One:

1.      The teacher will get the student’s attention by posting up a picture from the aftermath of Hiroshima. The teacher will follow this picture up with a clip from YouTube displaying the power of atomic weapons.

2.      Then, the teacher will ask the students when has this almost happened on a much larger scale?

3.      The teacher will lead lecture of Cold War topics including: the U-2 incident and the Bay of Pigs invasion as a means of explaining how heightened the tensions were between the United States, Cuba and the Soviet Union in 1962.

 

4.       After a brief lecture with students, the teacher will continue to show students pictures and political cartoons from the Library of Congress with the objective of gaining their attention and providing background information on each visual presented.

 

 

Pictures and Political Cartoons

·        Better relations through trade: exchange of Francis Gary Powers for Rudolph Abel

·        Recruits examined before the Bay of Pigs invasion

·        Cuban Missile Showdown

·        What I can’t understand is why all of the defense

·        Soviet military build up in Cuba

·        Air Force preparation for invasion

·        The Enterprise, the world’s largest nuclear-powered aircraft carrier participating in the Cuban blockade

·         Nikita Khrushchev towing sips with offensive weapons for Cuba towards U.S. Cuban blockade

·        Onlookers gather to see the Army’s Hawk anti-aircraft missiles

·        800 women strikers for peace

 

5.      After all of the pictures have been displayed the teacher will review and elaborate on any of the comments that the students may have had that were related to the opening pictures.

 

6.      The students will then read excerpts of letters/documents from: Declassified federal documents revealing proposed overthrow of Castro, Khrushchev to Kennedy, Castro to Khrushchev, Khrushchev and Kennedy, Statement from Kennedy on Cuba. 

 

7.      Then the teacher will place students into groups of nine representing the roles of Castro, Khrushchev and Kennedy and two of their respective advisers. Each group will use the letters/documents used in step six in deciding what each leader’s foreign policy and military action should have been. The goal will be to recreate the thirteen days of nuclear terror that each nation lived under and decide how easily nuclear war could have occurred.

 

8.      Following this group discussion, each individual group of Castro, Khrushchev and Kennedy and their advisers will then have to explain in a ˝ page reflection explaining their foreign policy decision (s) during the thirteen days of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

 

 

 

Evaluation

In a three page essay, students will answer the following questions using the primary resource documents, textbooks and own ideas:

 

1.      What mistakes did Cuba, Soviet Union and United States make during the build-up to and during the Cuban Missile Crisis?

2.      At what point were tensions between capitalism and communism the highest?

3.      What kept the United States & the Soviet Union from becoming involved in a nuclear war?

4.      Looking ahead, how do you think Iran’s recent political & nuclear actions will affect foreign policy?

5.      Looking ahead, how do you think North Korea’s recent political & nuclear actions will affect foreign policy?

 

 

Extensions

Students will answer in a one page essay the following question.

1.      Do you think another nuclear showdown could be closer to happening in the next five years? Why/Why not?

 

Historical Background

·        Political ideologies between the two superpowers of the Soviet Union and the United States began to escalate after World War II and continued with the threat of nuclear war in 1962.  These two superpowers competed for land and military domination. The tensions between the Soviet Union and the United States continued to rise as Cuba, under the direction of Fidel Castro, accepted foreign aid from the Soviet Union. This was compounded by the fact that the United States had a U-2 plane shot down over Soviet air space in the same time period. Political tensions then intensified even more in 1961 with the Bay of Pigs Invasion, which was an unsuccessful attempt by a U.S. trained force of Cuban exiles to overthrow the Cuban government. These events culminated in the Cuban Missile Crisis in the fall of 1962, as Cuba accepted nuclear weapons and troops from the Soviet Union to counter the rising tensions with the United States.

 

Resource Table

Image

Description

Citation

URL

 

 

 

 

 

Khruschev Letter to President Kennedy October 24, 1962

 

Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA

http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/archives/x2jfk.html

 

 

 

 

 

Letter, from Prime Minister Castro to Chairman Khrushchev after one American U-2 plane was shot down over Cuba.  October 28, 1962.

 

A National Security Archive Documents Reader

http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/nsa/
cuba_mis_cri/19621028caslet

 

 

 

 

 

Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, military briefing, “Notes on October 21, 1962 Meeting with the President.”

 

 

A National Security Archive Documents Reader

http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/nsa/
cuba_mis_cri/19621021mcnam.pdf

 

 

 

 

 

 

Revelations from the Russian Archives: CUBAN MISSILE CRISIS

Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA

http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/archives/colc.html

 

 

 

 

 

Prime Minister Fidel Castro’s letter to Premier Khrushchev, October 26, 1962.

A National Security Archive Documents Reader

 

http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/nsa/
cuba_mis_cri/19621020cia.pdf

 

 

 

 

 

 

Letters Between
Khrushchev and Kennedy

On the Brink." 1997. stolaf.edu . 28 Jul 2009 <http://library.think
quest.org/11046/
days/brink.html>.

http://library.thinkquest.org/11046/sitroom/letters

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Cuban missile showdown

Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA

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3b10000/3b17000/3b17500/3b17597t.gif

 

http://memory.loc.gov/service/pnp/acd/2a07000/2a07700/2a07753t.gif

 

 

What I can't understand is -- why all the defense?

Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA

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2a07000/2a07700/2a07753t.gif

 

http://memory.loc.gov/service/pnp/cph/3c30000/3c32000/3c32900/3c32940t.gif

 

 

 

Recruits, possibly Cuban refugees, line up for physical examination in Miami, Florida, prior to the Bay of Pigs invasion, 1961

Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA

http://memory.loc.gov/service/pnp/cph/
3c30000/3c32000/3c32900/3c32940t.gif

 

 

http://memory.loc.gov/service/pnp/ppmsc/07900/07969t.gif

 

 

 

Better relations through trade: exchange of Francis Gary Powers for Rudolph Abel

Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA

http://memory.loc.gov/service/pnp/ppmsc/07900/07969t.gif

 

Department of Defense graphic illustrating Soviet military buildup in Cuba, late October 1962, showing locations of bases for MRBM, IRBM, SAM, SSM, MIG-21, IL-28, and ground and naval forces.

 

 

 

Soviet Military Build Up In Cuba, late October 1962

United States Department of Defense graphic in the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.

http://www.jfklibrary.org/NR/rdonlyres/
CAAF2886-AA77-454C-880F-E6CCE45A1B61/21790/
CAAF2886AA77454C880FE6CCE45A1B63.jpg

 

 

Hiroshima One Year Later

 

 

 

Hiroshima: One Year Later

Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.

http://lcweb2.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/h?pp/PPALL:@field
(NUMBER+@1(cph+3b11010))

 

http://memory.loc.gov/service/pnp/cph/3c20000/3c28000/3c28400/3c28468t.gif

 

 

 

 

Onlookers gather on George Smathers Beach in Key West, Florida to see the Army's Hawk anti-aircraft missiles positioned there during Cuban Missile Crisis

Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA

http://memory.loc.gov/service/pnp/cph/
3c20000/3c28000/3c28400/3c28468t.gif

 

http://memory.loc.gov/service/pnp/cph/3c30000/3c32000/3c32400/3c32432t.gif

 

 

Air Force troop carrier planes making refueling stops at Miami International Airport as part of the military build-up during Cuban Missile Crisis

Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA

http://memory.loc.gov/service/pnp/cph/
3c30000/3c32000/3c32400/3c32432t.gif

http://memory.loc.gov/service/pnp/cph/3c20000/3c28000/3c28400/3c28465t.gif

 

 

 

 

800 women strikers for peace on 47 St near the UN Bldg / World Telegram & Sun photo by Phil Stanziola

Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA

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http://memory.loc.gov/service/pnp/ppmsc/07900/07978t.gif

 

 

 

 

Cartoon shows Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev as a dentist about to extract Cuban leader Fidel Castro's teeth, drawn as missiles

 

Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA

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http://memory.loc.gov/service/pnp/acd/2a07000/2a07900/2a07988t.gif

 

 

 

 

Nikita Khrushchev towing ships with "Offensive weapons for Cuba" towards "U.S. Cuban blockade

Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA

http://memory.loc.gov/service/pnp/
acd/2a07000/2a07900/2a07988t.gif

http://memory.loc.gov/service/pnp/cph/3c20000/3c29000/3c29100/3c29106t.gif

 

 

 

 

The Enterprise, the world's largest nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, sailing from Norfolk, Va., reported to be among those participating in the Cuban blockade

Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA

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cph/3c20000/3c29000/3c29100/3c29106t.gif

http://memory.loc.gov/service/pnp/cph/3c20000/3c28000/3c28400/3c28475t.gif

 

 

 

Pictorial newsmap illustrating the U.S. naval blockade during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962

Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA

http://memory.loc.gov/service/pnp/cph/
3c20000/3c28000/3c28400/3c28475t.gif

 

 

 

 

 

STATEMENT BY PRESIDENT JOHN F. KENNEDY ON CUBA, September 4, 1962

 

U.S., Department of State, Bulletin, Volume XLVII, No. 1213

http://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/jfkstate.htm

 

 

 

Rubric

 

8 points

6 points

4 points

Length &

Organization

Student exceeded minimum requirements for length of paper. All questions/topics related to the Cuban Missile Crisis were explained.

Students met or nearly met minimum requirements for length of paper. All but one of the required topics for was covered.

Student did not meet the minimum requirements for length of paper. More than one topic was not even mentioned in the paper.

Knowledge, Competency & Understanding

Student demonstrated knowledge, competency & understanding of all three countries involved in the Cuban Missile Crisis while also demonstrating an understanding of foreign policy and current events in today’s globalized world.

Student demonstrated knowledge, competency & understanding of 4 of the 5 questions. The answers to the 4 questions could have been more complete and thought provoking. Statements from the student were not completely supported.

.

Student did not demonstrate a knowledge, competency & understanding of 2-3 topics listed. This section was poorly written and statements/ideas were not supported.

Grammar

Student demonstrated proper use of grammar throughout their two page essay.

Student had 2-3 grammatical errors in their essay.

Student had 4+ errors in their essay.

 

 

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