Eyeball to eyeball: shattering some of the myths of the Cuban missile crisis 50 years later
There's memory, and then there's history.
The way we remember things doesn't always jibe with what actually gets written down. So it goes with the Cuban missile crisis, the moment when the world came as close as it ever did to a massive nuclear confrontation.
The basics: the Kremlin wanted to install nuclear missiles in Cuba so it could reach US targets (the Soviet arsenal lagged far behind what we had in terms of reach). Cuba's Fidel Castro liked having them to ward off a potential US attack. The White House didn't like it. At all. When President Kennedy found out on October 16th, 1962, he and his advisors weighed options before deciding on a blockade of Cuba. The standoff lasted 13 days, with the Kremlin relenting.
There are the great black-and-white images of Soviet ships steaming toward a confrontation with US vessels, of President Kennedy's October 22nd address to the nation during which he unveiled to the world the depth of the crisis.
And, there are the great lines, among them Secretary of State Dean Rusk's crack about being eyeball to eyeball with the other guy having just blinked.
How much was true? How much is myth?
Historian Michael Dobbs is a Cold War expert and wrote this analysis in Tuesday's New York Times. Myths get shattered. Schools of thought get challenged.
Who says history is boring?