An American U2 spy plane discovered Soviet nuclear missiles on Cuba, missile launch sites were being constructed.
President Kennedy was informed of missiles on Cuba. Kennedy called a meeting of his advisers – the Executive Committee of the National Security Council (ExComm). ExComm was tasked with deciding what action to take. The options included:
ExComm was divided – some wanted to attack while others wanted to negotiate.
Kennedy decided to blockade Cuba and American forces were put on high alert. Kennedy addressed the American public and the world on television. He announced that there were Soviet missiles on Cuba and that the USA was blockading the island.
Soviet ships turned around before reaching the blockade.
Khrushchev sent Kennedy his first letter, promising to remove missiles from Cuba if the blockade was lifted.
Before a response could be made, Khrushchev sent a second letter. He made the additional demand that American missiles in Turkey were also removed.
Kennedy accepted the first letter. Attorney General, Robert Kennedy discussed how to settle the crisis with Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin. He promised that the USA would remove missiles from Turkey. However, this was banned from being announced to the public at this time.
American missiles were removed from Turkey but under a secret agreement. Khrushchev appeared to have achieved nothing. He was removed from power in 1964, partly because of this.
The ‘Moscow-Washington Hot Line’ was created in 1963 to give the leaders of the superpowers the possibility of direct communication. Leaders of the USA and USSR could send messages to each other. The USA, USSR and Britain signed the Test Ban Treaty in 1963, which outlawed all testing of nuclear weapons in the atmosphere.
The era of 'détente' can partly be explained as a consequence of how close the world had come to nuclear war during the Cuban Missile Crisis. This brought with it a desire to improve relations between the USA and USSR.