In the fall of 1962, United States President John F. Kennedy stood eyeball to eyeball with the leader of the Soviet Union, Nikita Khruschev, in a contest of wills that would ultimately mean life or death for the citizens of the United States. The drama played out around the world as well as on television. The frightened citizens of the US watched in horror as their President shared the threat that was just beyond their border. This ultimate of chicken became known to the world as The Cuban Missile Crisis.
There had never been a time in history to gauge the right and wrong moves in order to avoid a conflict resulting in total destruction and yet maintain political and military superiority. In October, 1962 such a crisis existed with the Soviet Union's placement of full scale nuclear weapons in Cuba, only ninety miles off the coast of Florida. President Kennedy, his advisers and military officials took part in a life or death situation that lasted fourteen days. They had no rules or previous experience to use in making their decisions.
On October the 14th, 1962 the United States was conducting routine spy plane missions over western Cuba. Nothing was out of the ordinary to suggest one of the greatest conflicts known to mankind was about to occur. A U-2 Aircraft took a series of photographs. Unknown to the pilot at the time the photos would later show missiles and launch devices and sites for launching the missiles. (Brugioni 181) This mission coincidently was the first Strategic Air Command mission after the CIA transferred authority to the Air Force.
On the morning of the 15th the photos taken by the U-2 were taken to the Washington office of the Naval Photographic Intelligence Center for review. Later that day the analysts found photos showing components of missiles and light bombers being uncrated. (Brugioni193 - 194) When the photos were reexamined and reviewed by the analysts and compared to photographs of similar missiles, the CIA was telephoned. CIA Deputy Director of Intelligence Ray Cline was called to inform the CIA. The officials at NPIC were unable to reach the CIA Director McCone. (Brugioni 195 - 207)
The CIA reviewed the photos and concurred with the photo analyst and made the decision that President Kennedy needed to be informed. Cline then contacted the National Security Advisor McGeorge Bundy.
At about 9pm, Cline called Bundy at his home and said: "Those things we've been worrying about in Cuba are there." Bundy's reaction was, "You're sure?" (Brugioni 207)Bundy makes a decision that Kennedy would not be notified until more evidence was examined. Cline informed Bundy he would have he rest of the photos the next morning.
On the morning of the 16th, Bundy went to The White House to meet the President. The president was still in his pajamas in the bedroom. He was reading the morning papers. President Kennedy was reading about Eisenhower campaigning in Boston for Republicans for the off year congressional elections. The New York Times headlined a story on page one entitled "Eisenhower Calls President Weak on Foreign Policy". Kennedy was obviously frustrated by the news as Eisenhower had been critical of Kennedy's foreign policy matters earlier in the year. Bundy knew the news would not only be received with great concern for the country but also with the prospect of more criticisms because of another foreign policy problem. (Brugioni 218 - 220)
Bundy told the president about the missiles being in Cuba and together they reviewed the president's appointments for that morning. The only free time was at 11:45. The president asked that a meeting of all principals be scheduled for that time. While the momentous decisions regarding Cuba were about to be made at the White House, military activity was occurring in other parts of the United States that would eventually