President Kennedy meets with members of the Executive Committee of the National Security Council (EXCOMM) in the White House on October 29, 1962. The Cuban Missile Crisis had ended the previous day, October 28, when Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev acquiesced to Kennedy’s demands, agreeing to remove missiles from Cuba if the United States would promise not to invade Cuba and secretly remove missiles from Turkey. This agreement averted potential disaster—actual nuclear conflict.

Photograph by Cecil Stoughton, White House, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum

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  • On October 22, 1962, U.S. President John F. Kennedy announced a “quarantine” of Cuba, in retaliation for the discovery of Soviet nuclear weapon facilities on the island a week earlier. This brought the conflict known as the Cuban Missile Crisis to a diplomatic height.
    Kennedy and his advisers (including Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara and Attorney General Robert Kennedy, who chronicled the Cuban Missile Crisis in his book Thirteen Days) made sure to announce a “quarantine” and not a “blockade” of Cuba. 
    A blockade prevents all trade and travel from taking place around a specific area. A blockade is officially an act of war, and the Kennedy administration did not want to directly confront the Soviet Union. A quarantine only prevented “all offensive military equipment under shipment to Cuba.” U.S. Navy ships were deployed around Cuba to prevent Soviet freighters from delivering nuclear missiles or the material to maintain and launch them.
    The Cuban Missile Crisis ended less than a week later. The Soviet Union agreed to withdraw all missiles from Cuba, while the United States agreed to withdraw all missiles from Turkey (which bordered the Soviet republics of Armenia and Azerbaijan).
  • Term Part of Speech Definition Encyclopedic Entry
    administration Noun

    responsibilities and policies of the executive branch of the United States government, led by a president, his or her cabinet, and his or her advisers.

    adviser Noun

    person who offers informed advice about an issue.

    announce Verb

    to proclaim or make known publicly.

    blockade Noun

    military isolation of a specific area.

    border Verb

    to exist on the edge of a boundary.

    chronicle Verb

    to report.

    conflict Noun

    a disagreement or fight, usually over ideas or procedures.

    confront Verb

    to address a problem or person directly.

    deploy Verb

    to move military troops, support personnel, and equipment.

    diplomatic Adjective

    skillful and respectful in dealing with people or communities.

    discovery Noun

    something seen, documented, or noticed for the first time.

    equipment Noun

    tools and materials to perform a task or function.

    freighter Noun

    large ship used for carrying heavy cargo, or freight.

    military Noun

    armed forces.

    nuclear weapon Noun

    explosive device that draws power from the splitting and combining of atomic nuclei.

    offensive Adjective

    invading or attacking, not defending.

    quarantine Noun

    enforced isolation, usually to prevent the spread of disease.

    republic Noun

    system of government where power rests in citizens who vote and representatives who stand for those citizens. The United States is a republic.

    retaliation Noun

    reprisal, or an act taken in response to an injury or offense.

    Soviet Union Noun

    (1922-1991) large northern Eurasian nation that had a communist government. Also called the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, or the USSR.

    trade Noun

    buying, selling, or exchanging of goods and services.

    travel Noun

    movement from one place to another.

    war Noun

    large-scale armed conflict.

    withdraw Verb

    to remove or retract.