In a dramatic televised address to the American public, President John F. Kennedy announces that the Soviet Union has placed nuclear weapons in Cuba and, in response, the United States will establish a blockade around the island to prevent any other offensive weapons from entering Castro’s state. Kennedy also warned the Soviets that any nuclear attack from Cuba would be construed as an act of war, and that the United States would retaliate in kind.
Kennedy charged the Soviet Union with subterfuge and outright deception in what he referred to as a “clandestine, reckless, and provocative threat to world peace.” He dismissed Soviet Foreign Minister Andrei Gromyko’s claim that the weapons in Cuba were of a purely defensive nature as “false.” Harking back to efforts to contain German, Italian, and Japanese aggression in the 1930s, Kennedy argued that war-like behavior, “if allowed to grow unchecked and unchallenged, ultimately leads to war.
“The president outlined a plan of action that called for a naval blockade to enforce a “strict quarantine on all offensive military equipment under shipment to Cuba.” He also issued a warning to the Soviets that the United States would retaliate against them if there was a nuclear attack from Cuba, and placed the U.S. military in the Western Hemisphere on a heightened state of alert. Kennedy called upon the Organization of American States (an organization formed by the United States and Latin American nations in 1948 to help resolve hemispheric disputes) and the United Nations to help resolve the issue. Finally, he made a personal plea to Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev to cease his “reckless” course of action. Khrushchev, he stated, “has an opportunity now to move the world back from the abyss of destruction.” The world was now poised at the brink of a nuclear conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union. In America, many citizens began building or replenishing bomb shelters, waiting anxiously to see what the Soviet response to Kennedy’s speech would be.