The Cuban Missile Crisis – a summary

The Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962 epitomized the Cold War as the two superpowers, the US and the Soviet Union, brought the world to the brink of nuclear war.

In January 1959, after a two-year guerrilla campaign, Fidel Castro (pictured), a Marxist, aided by the charismatic Che Guevara, had disposed of Cuba’s thirty-year-old dictatorship. The Soviet Union’s premier, Nikita Khrushchev, was delighted by this turn of events and that a communist coup had taken place without Soviet encouragement (or bullying).

When Castro nationalized American assets in Cuba, the US responded by placing a trade embargo against Cuba. The Soviet Union came to Cuba’s rescue and the two nations bonded, Castro aligning Cuba to the Soviet cause. When they met at the United Nations in September 1960, Khrushchev and Castro embraced. ‘I do not know if Fidel is a communist,’ said the Soviet leader, ‘but I know I am a Fidelista.’

Bay of Pigs

The US, alarmed by this communist presence in their backyard, resolved to have Castro removed from power. On 17 April 1961 a US-backed band of Cuban exiles landed at the Bay of Pigs hoping to raise a counter-uprising against Castro, despite the assurances of the new US president, John F Kennedy, five days before, that the US would not intervene militarily to overthrow Castro. The invasion failed and over a thousand Cuban rebels were captured by Castro’s forces. Kennedy was heavily criticized, and internal support for Castro deepened as Cuba became firmly anti-American.

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Famous Quotes – Cold War

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“We have to get tough with the Russians. They don’t know how to behave. They are like bulls in a china shop. They are only 25 years old. We are over 100 and the British are centuries older.  We have got to teach them how to behave.”
Harry Truman, April 1945″From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the continent.”
Winston Churchill, March 5, 1946

“The seeds of totalitarian regimes are nurtured by misery and want.”
Harry S. Truman, March 3, 1947 (ahead of the Marshall Plan).

“People of this world, look upon this city and see that you should not and cannot abandon this city and this people.”
Ernst Reuter, Mayor of West Berlin during the Berlin blockade, September 9, 1948

“The reason why we find ourselves in a position of impotency is not because the enemy has sent men to invade our shores, but rather because of the traitorous actions of those who have had all the benefits that the wealthiest nation on earth has had to offer – the finest homes, the finest college educations, and the finest jobs in Government we can give.”
Joseph McCarthy, February 9, 1950.

“In the simplest of terms, what we are doing in Korea is this: We are trying to prevent a third world war.”
Harry S. Truman, April 16, 1951

“He suddenly opened his eyes and looked at everyone in the room. It was a terrible gaze, mad or maybe furious and full of fear of death… Then something incomprehensible and frightening happened. … He suddenly lifted his left hand as though he were pointing to something above and bringing down a curse on us all. … The next moment, after a final effort, the spirit wrenched itself free of the flesh.”
Stalin’s daughter, Svetlana Alliluyeva, recounting her father’s death on March 3, 1953.

“Senator; you’ve done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?”
Joseph Welch, US Army Attorney, to Joseph McCarthy, June 9, 1954.

“If you don’t like us, don’t accept our invitations and don’t invite us to come to see you. Whether you like it or not, history is on our side. We will bury you.”
Nikita Khrushchev, November 18, 1956

“America has been in existence for 150 years and this is the level she has reached. We have existed not quite 42 years and in another seven years we will be on the same level as America. When we catch you up, in passing you by, we will wave to you.”
Nikita Khrushchev, July 24, 1959

“The Earth is blue… how wonderful. It is amazing”
Yuri Gagarin, April 12, 1961 (during his space flight)

“Nobody intends to put up a wall!”
Walter Ulbricht, Leader of the GDR, June 15, 1961 – 2 months before the Berlin Wall was erected.

“A wall is a hell of a lot better than a war.”
John F. Kennedy, August 1961 (on the construction of the Berlin Wall)

“Mankind must put an end to war or war will put an end to mankind.”
John F. Kennedy, September 25, 1961

“I am a Marxist-Leninist and I will be one until the last day of my life.”
Fidel Castro, December 2, 1961

“A man may die, nations may rise and fall, but an idea lives on. Ideas have endurance without death.”
John F. Kennedy, December 14, 1962.

“Berlin is the testicles of the West, every time I want the West to scream, I squeeze on Berlin.”
Nikita Khrushchev, 1962.

“Freedom is indivisible, and when one man is enslaved, all are not free. When all are free, then we can look forward to that day when this city will be joined as one and this country and this great Continent of Europe in a peaceful and hopeful globe. When that day finally comes, as it will, the people of West Berlin can take sober satisfaction in the fact that they were in the front lines for almost two decades. All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin, and, therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words Ich bin ein Berliner.”
John F. Kennedy, June 26, 1963.

“There are many people in the world who really don’t understand, or say they don’t, what is the great issue between the free world and the Communist world. Let them come to Berlin. There are some who say that communism is the wave of the future. Let them come to Berlin. And there are some who say in Europe and elsewhere we can work with the Communists. Let them come to Berlin. And there are even a few who say that it is true that communism is an evil system, but it permits us to make economic progress. Lass’ sie nach Berlin kommen. Let them come to Berlin.”
John F. Kennedy, June 26, 1963.

“[Communism] has never come to power in a country that was not disrupted by war or internal corruption or both.”
John F. Kennedy, July 1963

“The survivors (of a nuclear war) would envy the dead.”
Nikita Khrushchev, July 20, 1963

“In free society art is not a weapon…Artists are not engineers of the soul.”
John F. Kennedy, October 26, 1963

“If you (the USA) start throwing hedgehogs under me, I shall throw a couple of porcupines under you.”
Nikita Khrushchev, November 7, 1963.

“We are not going to send American boys nine or ten thousand miles away from home to do what Asian boys ought to be doing for themselves.”
Lyndon B. Johnson, October 21, 1964 on US involvement in the Vietnam War.

“Capitalism is using its money; we socialists throw it away.”
Fidel Castro, November 8, 1964

“You have opened a new chapter in the relations of the American and Chinese people… I am confident that this beginning of our friendship will certainly meet with majority support of our two peoples.”
Chou En-lai, Chinese premier, April 14, 1971 on the US ping-pong team’s visit to China.

“There can be no whitewash at the White House.”
Richard Nixon, April 30, 1973

“No words can describe the depths of my regret and pain at the anguish my mistakes over Watergate have caused the nation and the presidency – a nation I so deeply love and an institution I so greatly respect.”
Richard Nixon, September 8, 1974.

“When the president does it, that means that it is not illegal.”
Richard Nixon, May 19, 1977

“Under Lenin the Soviet Union was like a religious revival, under Stalin like a prison, under Khrushchev like a circus, and under Brezhnev like the U.S. Post Office.”
Jimmy Carter, November 7, 1977

“This is the moment of your defeat; you have just put in the last nails in the coffin of communism.”
Lech Walesa, December 13, 1981

“Regimes planted by bayonets do not take root.”
Ronald Reagan, June 8, 1982

“I like Mr Gorbachev, we can do business together.”
Margaret Thatcher commenting on the new Soviet leader, December 17, 1984.

“Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall!”
Ronald Reagan, June 12, 1987

“The threat of a world war is no more.”
Mikhail Gorbachevfarewell speech signifying the end of the USSR and the Cold War, December 1991.

“By the grace of God, America won the cold war.”
George Bush, Snr., January 28, 1992

Read about the Cold War in The Cold War: History In An Hour by Rupert Colley, published by Harper Press and available in digital formats and audio.

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Fidel Castro’s Prison Letters – a Revolution Inscribed from Incarceration

If the ‘History Will Absolve Me Trial’ was the stage for Fidel Castro’s oratory skills, the prison letters are valuable historic documents that shed light on the revolutionary and thinker, who paved the way for revolution from a cell in the prison on the Isles of Pines.

On October 16, 1953, Fidel was sentenced to 15 years in prison for orchestrating the Moncada Barracks attack. (Pictured is Castro on his arrest in July 1953 following the attack). Not one resigned to defeat, Fidel sought the opportunity to further his cause and coordinate strategy for the next phase of the revolution.

In a meticulous manner which was also seething with passion for a cause, he sought to portray the injustices of the Batista regime (Fulgencio Batista, President of Cuba 1940 to 1944, and 1952 to 1959), the illegitimacy of the presidency, compassion for the fallen revolutionaries at Moncada, and political propaganda aimed at enhancing his philosophy. His gift for erudition left Batista’s torture tactics on the sidelines. If anything, the trial had served to forward Fidel’s name to the people, the majority of whom sought or yearned for the end of the tyrannical regime.

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Fidel Castro – Leader of the Cuban Revolution

The world’s longest serving leader has survived through more than most – infuriating his opponents for almost half a century, and probably beyond. Despite hundreds of assassination attempts, the US embargo, sabotage, the assassination of Che Guevara and ongoing slander, Fidel Castro remains committed as ever to the revolution.

Born on August 13, 1926, to Lina Ruz and Angel Castro, Fidel was exposed to poverty and its ramifications from an early age. His family was wealthy – Angel was a landowner and had many peasants working for him. Fidel grew up, in a way more privileged than other children, at the same time disregarding his family’s social status and befriending children from peasant families as well.

Fidel went to school in Biran, already displaying brilliance and an excellent memory. At the suggestion of the schoolmistress, Fidel was sent to her home in Santiago de Cuba with the promise of furthering his education. However, this promise never materialised – indeed Fidel states that they never had any lessons. He managed to escape and return home, together with his brother Ramon.

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