Those 13 days spanned from October 16 to 28, 1962, but that crisis had its beginning on October 14, 1962, when a United States Air Force U-2 spy plane captured photographic proof of the existence of Soviet missile bases under construction in Cuba while on a photo reconnaissance mission. This was the height of the Cold War, and President John F. Kennedy drew a symbolic line in the Atlantic and warned of dire consequences if then Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev dared cross it with ships carrying nuclear equipment.
U.S. Secretary of State Dean Rusk famously noted that “We’re eyeball-to-eyeball and I think the other fellow just blinked” in a quote that was largely held as defining the tone of the crisis.
Foreign Policy has a great day-by-day chronology of events beginning with the following information:
“Shortly after 8 a.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 16, 1962, President John F. Kennedy was informed that the Soviet Union had secretly delivered nuclear missiles to Cuba, capable of obliterating Washington just 15 minutes after launch. Thus began the famous “13 days” during which the world came closer than ever before — or since — to nuclear war. Unbeknownst to Kennedy, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev had also sent 98 tactical nuclear warheads to Cuba, capable of destroying an American invading force and the U.S. naval base at Guantánamo Bay. […]
Khrushchev agreed to remove his missiles from Cuba, but only after receiving a non-invasion pledge from Kennedy and a promise to remove U.S. nuclear missiles from Turkey. Before stepping back from the brink, the two leaders unleashed a chain of unpredictable events, culminating in the shoot-down of an American U-2 spy plane over Cuba.”
Above is the rare full and unedited film footage of President Kennedy’s “Cuban Missile Crisis” speech of October 22, 1962. Below are two films, the first taken from actual White House recordings giving insight into some of the debate surrounding the crisis. The second film is a news report from 1962 covering the crisis.
President Kennedy taped many of his White House conversations. In this October 18, 1962 recording, he dictates an account of the debates among his top advisors in the midst of the Cuban Missile Crisis. This tape was made two days after the president was notified that aerial photographs revealed a Soviet missile base in Cuba.
This Universal Newsreel report covers the period between October 22 and October 25, 1962, during the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Footage include segments of Adlai Stevenson’s address to the United Nations and military preparations in Cuba.