But this missile, and 41 others (including some longer-ranged SS-5’s) terrified the United States during the October 1962 missile crisis – 13 days that shook the world. Each of them could have delivered a one megaton warhead onto America’s East Coast cities, starting with Washington DC. One megaton is a city-buster.
When the Cuban missile crisis erupted 50 years ago this month, I was a student at Washington’s Georgetown University Foreign Service School. Cuba was headline news. The Cold War was at its peak.
A CIA-operation to invade Cuba and overthrow Fidel Castro’s Marxist government had spectacularly failed at the Bay of Pigs. The new, inexperienced US president, John Kennedy, got cold feet on the last minute and called off vital air cover for an invasion by Cuban exiles. Deprived of air cover, most were killed or captured. Kennedy should have either call off the amphibious operation or provided it air cover.
The Pentagon then urged a full-scale US invasion of Cuba, backed by massive naval and air power. The Kennedy administration wavered.