In a televised address on October 22, 1962, President John F. Kennedy revealed to the American public that U.S. surveillance aircraft had detected the presence of Soviet missile bases in Cuba, triggering the so-called Cuban missile crisis. Here are five things you didn't know about the Cuban Missile Crisis...
It Was the Only Time the Country Went to DEFCON 2 The United States uses a scale to indicate its state of alertness regarding international nuclear war. This is an older scale than the color alerts used after 9/11. DEFCON runs from 1 to 5, with 5 being peaceful and 1 being war. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, the U.S. went to DEFCON 2, which was the highest it had ever been. The last time the U.S. had been that close to international nuclear war was in World War II when the country bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki, though the DEFCON system wasn't created until 1959.
Turkey Unintentionally Played a Key Role in Ending the Crisis The Soviets eventually agreed to dismantle their bases in Cuba if the U.S. would remove its Jupiter missiles that were stockpiled in Turkey. The U.S. agreed to this, telling the Soviets that it had planned to remove them soon, anyway, but that they would need more time so as not to alarm the Turkish government, and the U.S. did remove the missiles in 1963. However, Turkey itself had nothing to do with brokering or agreeing to the deal, and had it known about the promise earlier, it might have protested the Jupiter missiles' removal, complicating the deal.
The Crisis Was the Catalyst for the USSR's Drive to Have as Many Nuclear Weapons as the U.S. The Soviets thankfully backed down during the Cuban Missile Crisis, allowing most people in the region to stop worrying. However, the sting of backing down stayed with the Soviets, and that drove them to increase their nuclear arsenal until they were equal to the U.S. in firepower. So the end of one crisis pretty much led to the start of another.
The End of the Crisis Gave Birth to the Hotline After the Cuban Missile Crisis had calmed down, the U.S. and the USSR worked to prevent miscommunications with each other. Both sides realized that nuclear war wasn't something to play around with, and they wanted to avoid additional situations like the crisis that had just ended. As a result, the two countries created a direct phone line called the Hotline that connected the President's office with that of the USSR.
The Cuban Missile Buildup Was a Response to the Bay of Pigs Invasion The Soviets didn't put bases in Cuba just for the heck of it. The buildup was a response to the failed Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961, in which the U.S. tried to overthrow Castro. One of the conditions of the end of the Cuban Missile Crisis—now that the Soviets wouldn't have bases there to protect the island—was that the Soviets wanted the U.S. to stop trying to invade Cuba.