On October 22nd, 1962, President John F. Kennedy announced that Soviet missile bases had been discovered in Cuba. See how much you know about the famous standoff with these trivia questions...
Why Did the Missile Crisis Start? The event that typically gets the credit as the start of the crisis is the discovery of and subsequent presidential briefing about the construction of missile sites on the island of Cuba. These sites were already housing medium-range missiles -- ones that could travel about 1,000 miles inside the continental United States -- and they were there courtesy of the USSR, then the U.S.' major enemy in the Cold War. However, what caused the USSR to build those missile sites in the first place were two long-term actions by the U.S. One was that Kennedy and his government were actively trying to get rid of Fidel Castro, the USSR's ally in Cuba. The U.S. had already tried to invade Cuba to overthrow Castro during the ill-fated Bay of Pigs invasion in 1961, and Khrushchev thought Kennedy wasn't done with those attempts. The other action was the installation of U.S. missile sites in Turkey and Italy, which housed missiles that could reach cities in the western USSR. Khrushchev's view was that the sites in Cuba were defensive, not offensive, and he wanted to keep the U.S. out even if it meant using such a dangerous bargaining chip.
Just How Close Did the World Really Come to War? The U.S. went to DEFCON 2, the highest that rating has ever been. DEFCON is short for defense readiness condition, and the smaller the number, the closer the country is to war. Meanwhile, many civilians did nothing, but others talked about leaving the area in range of the missiles, more schools started doing the famous duck-and-cover drills (though they didn't fool anyone), Cubans in the U.S. wondered if they would be rounded up, and some families, especially in Cuba, started preparing for a major disaster. Given that the crisis was in the hands of people in the government, that was really all that civilians could do other than wait.
What Was the Purpose of the Naval Blockade? One of the ways the U.S. countered the USSR's construction efforts was by blockading the seas around Cuba. No Soviet supply ships were to reach Cuban territory, and the U.S. Navy was to stop anyone trying to proceed. Most Soviet ships turned around or went somewhere else, except for one tanker that would not stop at all. The Navy decided not to forcefully stop the tanker -- the government decided it couldn't really be carrying much of value to the construction sites -- but then the government learned construction was still going on.
What Happened On December 1st, 1962 with Regards to the Cuban Missile Crisis? Eventually, Kennedy and Krushchev came to a peaceful resolution. Krushchev agreed to withdraw his missiles and the US promised not to invade Cuba while also secretly removing missiles from Turkey. On November 20th, 1962, Kennedy lifted a blockade he had imposed on Cuba after determining that the Soviets had removed all their nuclear weapons. But contrary to what Kennedy believed and the way you might remember it, they hadn't. They had left behind about 100 nuclear weapons that had gone undetected with the idea that Russia might be able to train Cuba to use them, then hand the weapons over. The only thing that saved the US from this plan was Krushchev's eventual realization that Castro was too much of a wildcard to entrust with nuclear weapons. The Soviets removed the rest of their weapons, finishing the effort on December 1st, 1962.