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50 Years Ago: The Cuban Missile Crisis

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On October 15, 1962, a group of CIA analysts assigned to review aerial photographs of Cuba identified several newly established Soviet medium-range ballistic missile installations -- bases within 100 miles of the United States. The State Department was notified that night, and President John F. Kennedy was briefed the next morning, setting in motion a crisis that brought the world frighteningly close to nuclear war. The U.S. considered options, deployed troops and weapons to Florida, confronted the Soviets at the UN, and shortly set up a naval blockade of Cuba. For 13 tense days, the crisis deepened and people around the world feared the very real possibility of a new, horrific worldwide conflict. On October 27, the U.S. and Soviets reached a secret agreement, where Kennedy would order the removal of missiles in southern Italy and Turkey, and Khrushchev would remove all missiles in Cuba. Over the following weeks, U.S. forces monitored the departure of 42 missiles aboard eight Soviet ships, and the crisis was averted. Gathered here are a few glimpses from those tense Cold War days, as the world approached, then retreated from, the brink of destruction. [26 photos]

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U.S. President John F. Kennedy speaks before reporters during a televised speech to the nation about the strategic blockade of Cuba, and his warning to the Soviet Union about missile sanctions, during the Cuban missile crisis, on October 24, 1962 in Washington, DC. (Getty Images)
U.S. President John F. Kennedy speaks before reporters during a televised speech to the nation about the strategic blockade of Cuba, and his warning to the Soviet Union about missile sanctions, during the Cuban missile crisis, on October 24, 1962 in Washington, DC. (Getty Images)
A spy photo of a medium range ballistic missile base in San Cristobal, Cuba, with labels detailing various parts of the base, displayed October of 1962. (Getty Images) #
Evidence presented by the U.S. Department of Defense, of Soviet missiles in Cuba. This low level photo, made October 23, 1962, of the medium range ballistic missile site under construction at Cuba's San Cristobal area. A line of oxidizer trailers is at center. Added since October 14, the site was earlier photographed, are fuel trailers, a missile shelter tent, and equipment. The missile erector now lies under canvas cover. Evident also are extensive vehicle tracks and the construction of cable lines to control areas. (AP Photo/DOD) #
President John F. Kennedy meets with Air Force Maj. Richard Heyser, left, and Air Force Chief of Staff, Gen. Curtis LeMay, center, at the White House in Washington to discuss U-2 spy plane flights over Cuba. (AP Photo/Richard Heyser private collection) #
A map of Cuba annotated by former U.S. President John F. Kennedy, displayed for the first time at the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston, Massachusetts, on July 13, 2005. Former President Kennedy wrote "Missile Sites" on the map and marked them with an X when he was first briefed by the CIA on the Cuban Missile Crisis on October 16, 1962. (Reuters/Brian Snyder) #
A photograph of a ballistic missile base in Cuba, used as evidence with which U.S. President John F. Kennedy ordered a naval blockade of Cuba during the Cuban missile crisis, on October 24, 1962. (Getty Images) #
President John F. Kennedy tells the American people that the U.S. is setting up a naval blockade against Cuba, during a television and radio address, on October 22, 1962, from the White House. The president also said the U.S. would wreak "a full retaliatory response upon the Soviet Union" if any nuclear missile is fired on any nation in this hemisphere." (AP Photo/Bill Allen) #
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Adlai Stevenson, second from right, confronts Soviet delegate Valerian Zorin, first on left, with a display of reconnaissance photographs during emergency session of the U.N. Security Council at the United Nations headquarters in New York, on October 25, 1962. (AP Photo) #
A composite image of three photograph taken on October 23, 1962, during a United Nations Security Council meeting on the Cuban Missile Crisis. From left, Soviet foreign deputy minister Valerian A. Zorin; Cuba's Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Mario Garcia-Inchaustegui; and U.S. Ambassador Adlai Stevenson. (Library of Congress) #
Cuban President Fidel Castro replies to President Kennedy's naval blockade via Cuban radio and television, on October 23, 1962. (AP Photo/file) #
President John F. Kennedy signs a proclamation enacting the U.S. arms quarantine against Cuba, on October 23, 1962. (Library of Congress) #
Picketers representing an organization known as Women Strike for Peace carry placards outside the United Nations headquarters in New York City, where the U.N. Security Council considers the Cuban missile crisis in a special meeting, on October 23, 1962. (AP Photo) #
Two soldiers sit in a sandy dugout beside a machine gun hold position on a beach on Key West, Florida, on October 27, 1962. (AP Photo/Harold Valentine) #
New Yorkers eager for news of the Cuban missile crisis line up to buy newspapers in October of 1962. (Library of Congress) #
U.S. Navy surveillance of the first Soviet F-class submarine to surface near the Cuban quarantine line on October 25, 1962. (U.S. Navy) #
Members of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) march during a protest against the U.S. action over the Cuban missile crisis, on October 28, 1962 in London, England. (Getty Images) #
U.S. Army anti-aircraft rockets, mounted on launchers and pointed out over the Florida Straits in Key West, Florida, on October 27, 1962. (AP photo) #
A low-level photograph taken November 1, 1962, of a Medium Range Ballistic Missile Site at Sagua La Grande, Cuba. (AP Photo/U.S. Defense Department) #
President John Kennedy reports personally to the nation on the status of the Cuban crisis, telling the American people that Soviet missile bases in Cuba are "being destroyed", on on November 2, 1962. He said U.S. air surveillance will continue until effective international inspection is arranged. (AP Photo/Henery Griffin) #
Soviet personnel and six missile transporters loaded onto a Soviet ship in Cuba's Casilda port, on November 6, 1962. Note shadow at lower right of the RF-101 reconnaissance jet taking the photograph. (Department of Defense) #
A P2V Neptune U.S. patrol plane flies over a Soviet freighter during the Cuban missile crisis in 1962. (Getty Images) #
The Soviet ship Kasimov removes 15 Soviet I1-28 aircraft from Cuba after the U.S. asked for their withdrawal. (Getty Images) #
A Soviet submarine near the Cuban coast controlling the operations of withdrawal of the Russian Missiles from Cuba in accordance with the US-Soviet agreement, on November 10, 1962. American planes and helicopters flew at a low level to keep close check on the dismantling and loading operations, while US warships watched over Soviet freighters carrying missiles back to Soviet Union. (AFP/Getty Images) #
A group of U.S. Army hospital tents and ambulances, set up at the Opa Locka airport, formerly a marine air station in Miami, Florida in November of 1962. (AP Photo/Harold Valentine) #
Buildup of troops and military equipment, rushed to south Florida to launch an invasion of Cuba if it had been ordered, remained on the keys, between Miami and Key West. This unit, showing no sign of dismantling, was manned and ready with its anti-aircraft missiles in Key West on November 21, 1962. (AP Photo) #
The U.S. Navy guided missile ship Dahlgren trails the Soviet Leninsky Komsomol as the Russian vessel departed Casilda, Cuba, on November 10, 1962. (AP Photo/Henry Burroughs) #
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