With the recent passing of the 53rd anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy and then the announcement that Fidel Castro, Cuba’s leader from 1959-2011, had died at the age of 90 on November 25th, I was reminded of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis when the planet was on the brink of World War III.
The Cuban Missile Crisis was a 13 day, (October 16-28), confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union concerning American ballistic missile deployment in Italy and Turkey with the consequent Soviet ballistic missile deployment in Cuba. Along with being televised worldwide, it was the closest the Cold War came to escalating into full-scale nuclear war. Eleventh hour tense negotiations between USA President John F. Kennedy and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev averted an all out war.
Our family was living in Lethbridge, AB and I was only five-years-old in October of 1962 but I can still recall the television coverage, the tension in the household, and the air-raid siren tests that only added to already heightened national and international tension. Keep in mind that this scary standoff was taking place merely seventeen years after World War II had ended and the horrific memories of the devastation of that conflict along with the atrocious after effects of the nuclear bombings of Japanese cities Hiroshima and Nagasaki were still fresh in people’s minds.
Some historians have sited this as John F. Kennedy’s finest hour in his all too short stint as the President of the United States. His patience and hesitance in escalating the crisis through aggression went against most of his advisors advice, including his brother Robert, then the US Attorney General. By not invading Cuba or further antagonizing the Soviet Union, thermonuclear war was averted. It must also be noted that Khrushchev did as much to defuse the situation as Kennedy.
The Cuban Missile Crisis was one of the earlier global events that would define a decade simply known as “The Sixties”. The decade of the 1960’s was one of the most influential, controversial, fascinating, and, scary decades in the history of the world and the Cuban Missile Crisis was only at the beginning.
The Civil Rights Movement, prominent assassinations, the Vietnam War, the Counterculture Revolution, Anti-Vietnam War Movement, Feminism, the Black Panthers, the Cold War, the “Race to the Moon”, the “British Music Invasion and later psychedelic rock all melded together making the decade of the sixties explosive and memorable for anyone who grew up during those tumultuous times.
Fast forward to today and the world’s stability is once again under duress. The actual availability and need for an online “Global Conflict Tracker” to keep one apprised of all of the global conflicts currently happening is a sad statement of the worldly state of affairs unto itself.
There were people in both Kennedy and Khrushchev’s camps that were absolutely convinced that they were going to witness the end of the world as we knew it. In reality, we are barely five decades removed from that precipice and the world’s stability is still under continuous threat.
This gloom n doom nostalgic walk through the past was brought to you by an old Baby Boomer who is worried that if we don’t pay attention and learn from our history we are bound to repeat it. Let’s hope it won’t be too difficult to find cooler heads among our world leaders should similar events occur today.
“History repeats itself. First as tragedy, second as farce.”- Karl Marx (1818-1883).