Cuban Missile Crisis

Published: 1962
Play Audio Archive Story - UPI
President John F. Kennedy is seen in this October 23, 1962 file photo after signing a proclamation formally putting into effect the U.S. arms quarantine against Cuba. (UPI/File)

Unknown Speaker: At the height of tension over the Cuban Crisis, with the world purged on the edge of Armageddon, Secretary of State Dean Rusk said, "The United States and the Soviet Union are standing eyeball to eyeball; and," added Mr. Rusk, "I think the other guy just blinked".

Throughout that crisis, Pye Chamberlayne, Jr. was at the White House. He knows the story of the tense Cuban days well.

Pye Chamberlayne: "On the night of October 22nd, President Kennedy made what well may be his most famous speech. He revealed that offensive Soviet missiles and bombers were in Cuba, and more were on the way. He said..."

President John F. Kennedy: "To halt this offensive buildup, a strict quarantine on all offensive military equipment under shipment to Cuba is being initiated. All ships of any kind bound for Cuba, from whatever nation or port, will if found to contain cargoes of offensive weapons be turned back."

Pye Chamberlayne: "Reaction was swift. It extended around the world. From London, Don MacKay reported … "

Don MacKay: "The revelation of the Soviet buildup in Cuba will come as a shock to the whole civilized world. These were the words of an official spokesman at the British Foreign Office shortly after President Kennedy completed his momentous address to the nation and to the world."

Pye Chamberlayne: "From Moscow, Jay Axelbank … "

Jay Axelbank: "The Soviet Press this morning was filled with vituperative attack on the Americans-Cuban blockade. The military newspaper Red Star warned that Soviet military units are in a state of combat readiness."

Pye Chamberlayne: "From Cuba, Pedro Bonetti … "

Pedro Bonetti: "The Cuban Government at 8:15 has not issue any official reaction to the speech of President Kennedy this evening, in which he announced new measures to establish a stronger blockade to Cuba. The speech of President Kennedy was not transmit to the Cuban people, but hundreds of Cubans heard it by shortwave radio."

Pye Chamberlayne: "In the forum of the United Nations, U.S. Ambassador Adlai Stevenson and Soviet Ambassador Zorin clashed with angry words..."

Adlai Stevenson: "Mr. Zorin, let me ask you one simple question. Do you, Ambassador Zorin, deny that the U.S.S.R. has placed and is placing medium- and intermediate-range missiles and sites in Cuba? Yes or no? Don't wait for the translation, yes or no?"

Zorin: "(Foreign language.)"

Interpreter: "'I'm not … I am not in an American courtroom, sir, and therefore I do not wish to answer a question that is put to me in the fashion in which a prosecutor does. In due course, sir, you will have your reply.'"

Adlai Stevenson: "I am prepared to wait for my answer until hell freezes over, if that's your decision."

Pye Chamberlayne: "U.S. ships steamed at full speed across the Caribbean. U.S. troops at the battle-ready were marshaled and hastily set up embarkation points in Florida, and that was when the Soviet giant blinked. Actually, the blink was a single Soviet ship which volunteered information to U.S. inspectors on its cargo."

Unknown Speaker: "The Soviet tanker, which was intercepted shortly after 8 o'clock Thursday morning by a U.S. Naval vessel, was the Bucharest, en route from Russia to Cuba with petroleum. This is the first and only intercept to date in the Cuban quarantine."

Pye Chamberlayne: "Tension eased. On November 20th, President Kennedy again spoke to the world … "

President John F. Kennedy: "I have today been informed by Chairman Khrushchev that all of the IL-28 bombers now in Cuba will be withdrawn in 30 days. He also agreed that these planes can be observed and counted as they leave. Inasmuch as this goes a long way towards reducing the danger which faced this hemisphere four weeks ago, I have this afternoon instructed the Secretary of Defense to lift our Naval quarantine."

Pye Chamberlayne: "It was announced that Russia had given in and pulled out her missiles. Armageddon had been turned aside, at least for 1962."

William Leiss: There were other major stories in the world, and I'll have more on those after this important message.