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*foot notes

October 13, 2000|JAMES E. FOWLER

Thirty-eight years ago this month, the world came close to a nuclear war. The Cuban missile crisis began on Oct. 15, 1962, when U.S. reconnaissance planes detected Soviet medium- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles being installed in Cuba. Military advisors to President John F. Kennedy suggested air strikes and an invasion of Cuba.

* Fearing Soviet retaliation elsewhere in the world, Kennedy instead decided to impose a naval blockage of the island nation and to negotiate the removal of the missiles with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev. On Oct. 22, Kennedy addressed the nation: "We will not prematurely or unnecessarily risk the costs of worldwide nuclear war in which even the fruits of victory would be ashes in our mouth--but neither will we shrink from that risk at any time it must be faced. . . . It shall be the policy of this nation to regard any nuclear missile launched from Cuba against any nation in the Western Hemisphere as an attack by the Soviet Union on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon the Soviet Union."

* While Soviet freighters cruised toward the American Navy's blockage, the world on the brink of destruction, suspended by the tactical maneuvers of two men--Kennedy, the 45-year-old Harvard-educated son of a millionaire, and Khrushchev, a 72-year-old former coal miner who was the grandson of a Ukrainian serf. On Oct. 28, Khrushchev finally relented, agreeing to remove the missiles in exchange for a U.S. promise not to invade Cuba. Within 24 months of the crisis, both Kennedy and Khrushchev had been removed from power--Kennedy assassinated in November 1963 and Khrushchev deposed in October 1964 in a palace coup by Leonid Brezhnev.

* For those who enjoy their history fleshed out in living color and stereophonic sound, a film about the Cuban missile crisis, "13 Days," starring Kevin Costner as presidential advisor Kenneth O'Donnell and Bruce Greenwood as Kennedy, is due in theaters in December.

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