Sunday, October 28, 2012

Fifty Years Ago, Black Saturday and the Cuban Missile Crisis

cross posted from Penigma:

Fifty years ago today

Soviet-R-12-nuclear-ballistic missile.jpg
CIA reference photograph of Soviet intermediate-range
nuclear ballistic missile (NATO designation SS-4)
in Red Square, Moscow

The Cuban Military Crisis resulted in what is known as black Saturday. Historians consider it the closest conflict to breaking out in nuclear war of the 20th century Cold War era.

PBS did an excellent documentary, Three Men Go to War, about the political figures of President John F. Kennedy, Cuban Prime Minister Fidel Castro, and Premier Nikita Khrushchev of the Soviet Union.

Alfred Hitchcock did an excellent fictional version of the French role in his movie Topaz, in alerting the U.S. to the leaking of NATO secrets and the infiltration of the French government of Charles De Gaulle by Soviet intelligence agents, just part of the backdrop to American U-2 pilots discovering the missile sites while overflying Cuba.

On October 27, 1962, another U-2 flying over Cuba was shot down, and later that evening, the U.S. Navy dropped depth charges on a Soviet submarine challenging the U.S. blockade of Cuba, not realizing the sub carried at least one nuclear torpedo. And later that evening, another U-2, that was supposed to be sampling nuclear fallout from Soviet bomb testing, took a wrong turn due to the Aurora Borealis, and invaded Soviet airspace for 90 minutes. The Soviets scrambled their MiGs, chasing the U-2, flying on fumes, back over the Bering Strait, and the U.S. in turn launched F-102s, also armed with nuclear air-to-air missiles.

The upshot was that was that - obviously - nuclear war was avoided, Kennedy pulled some old, obsolete missiles out of Turkey in a secret deal and Krushchev pulled the missiles out of Cuba in exchange for a promise not to invade.

Earlier this week, Fidel Castro, the last of the three still alive, although supposedly having relinquished power, at least day-to-day operational power to his brother Raul, made an appearance at the Havana National Hotel to prove he's not dead yet.

I would encourage readers to check out the PBS web site on an important historic event, something we should all know about our own history, and world history, with parallels to our modern era politics. The entire 13 day Cuban Missile Crisis is far too complex to address here in the detail it deserves; but it is a classic example of what a difference the individual in the oval office makes.

Black Saturday 1962, it's an important date - then and now.

1 comment:

democommie said...

What the U.S. succeeded in doing to Fidel Castro was to ensure his lifelong dictatorship and move a bunch of his malcontents in 1960 and again in the early 1980's to the U.S. mainland.

The former group are like Spain's Falangists keeping their fantasy of returning to rule Cuba alive and enabling a lot of braindead foreign policy on the part of both parties (but primarily the GOP). The latter became the crimelords of southern Florida displacing the local mobsters. That the two groups work together is pretty much a given.