Cuban Missile Crisis Almost World War Three
SOVIETS CLOSE TO USING A-BOMB IN 1962 CRISIS, FORUM
By Marion Lloyd
The Boston Globe
La Nueva Cuba
It was the most dangerous moment of the Cold War. At about 5 p.m. on Oct. 27, 1962, a Soviet submarine armed with a nuclear warhead found itself trapped and being bombarded by a US warship patrolling off Cuba. One of the Soviet captains gave the order to prepare to fire. But a cooler-headed officer persuaded him to wait for instructions from Moscow before unleashing a nuclear attack.” We thought – that’s it – the end,” Vadim Orlov, a Soviet intelligence officer, was quoted as saying in recently declassified documents from the Cuban missile crisis.
The details on just how close the United States and the Soviet Union came to nuclear war emerged during a three-day conference sponsored by the private National Security Archive, Brown University, and the Cuban government marking the 40th anniversary of the crisis. Although the discovery that Soviet submarines were armed with nuclear weapons was revealed about a year ago, this was the first time key players in the 13-day crisis had sat down to analyze the implications of the Oct. 27 incident. Participants in the meeting, which ends today with a tour of the missile site, include President Fidel Castro of Cuba and other top Cuban officials, former Kennedy administration officials, and former Soviet military officers, as well as
scholars from all three countries.
Until recently, scholars believed that the United States had come within days of nuclear war. Kennedy sent a letter to the Soviet premier, Nikita Khrushchev, promising not to invade Cuba if the Soviets removed missiles from Cuba. Kennedy believed that if Khrushchev refused he had no choice but to order a full-scale attack on Cuba.
Only this weekend did many missile-crisis experts learn how much closer the world had come to nuclear war – and how Kennedy himself may not have been the most crucial figure in averting it. ”The lesson from this is that a guy called Vasili Arkhipov saved the world,” said Thomas Blanton, director of the National Security Archive. He was referring to the Soviet captain who prevailed on his fellow officers not to fire the nuclear torpedo.
US destroyers under orders to enforce a naval quarantine off Cuba did not know
that the submarines the Soviets had sent to protect their ships were carrying
nuclear weapons. So the Americans began firing depth charges to force the sub-
marines to the surface, a move the Soviets interpreted as the start of World War III…