To mark the 50th anniversary of theCuban Missile Crisis later this year, Foreign Policy is launching "Cuban Missile Crisis +50" -- a detailed chroncile of the events, decisions, and key figures of this epochal Cold War confrontation. Our guide is FP blogger and noted historian Michael Dobbs, author of One Minute to Midnight: Kennedy, Khrushchev, and Castro on the Brink of Nuclear War. Join us as we take a closer look at key events in the months running up to the infamous 13 days in October. We begin 50 years ago, in July 1962.
July 6, 1962
Issa Pliyev, shown above, is appointed as the commander of Soviet forces in Cuba by Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev.
July 7, 1962
Raúl Castro, brother to Fidel and Cuban Minister to the Armed Forces, shown above on the far left with General Pliyev (right), arrives in Moscow to negotiate the mutual defense agreement between the USSR and Cuba.
Having met with Raúl, Premier Khrushchev later tells a meeting of his military advisors that "it is impossible to move these forces to Cuba secretly."
The first party of Soviet military advisers then flies to Cuba by TU-114 plane to reconnoiter missile sites.
July 10, 1962
A second party of Soviet military advisers leave for Cuba by TU-114 plane to reconnoiter additional missile sites. This includes the Soviet rocket forces commander Maj. Gen. Igor Statsenko, shown above at center, and the commander of Soviet forces on Cuba, General Pliyev.
The Soviet passenger ship Khabarovsk departs for Cuba. U.S. intelligence estimates that 740 people are on board.
July 12, 1962
Soviet headquarters staff leave for Cuba from Sevastopol aboard the passenger ship Latvia. The ship's declared destination is Conakry, Guinea. However, U.S. intelligence tracks Latvia heading towards Cuba.
Maj. Gen. Statsenko and the second party of Soviet military advisors arrive in Cuba on a reconnaissance mission. The above image shows the Soviet military headquarters on Cuba at El Chico, fifteen miles south of Havana.
Back in Moscow, the Soviet Presidium discusses sending economic aid to Cuba and decides to allot a group of economic councilors to be directed by the Soviet ambassador.
July 13, 1962
A CIA agent based in Cuba overhears a Che Guevara associate state that "he [possibly Fidel] has a desperate plan to ask the Soviet Union to locate in Cuba an atomic base, which would be like a buckle in the belt of bases surrounding the USSR."
July 14, 1962
The Soviet reconnaissance party in Cuba decides to establish additional reserve positionsfor each missile site so that, in the event of an American airstrike, not all the missiles at any site could be destroyed at once. In the photograph, Gen. Pliyev is talking with missile experts.
July 15, 1962
As Soviet cargo ships like the one seen above begin leaving the Black Sea for Cuba, U.S. intelligence notes that they seem to be riding suspiciously high in the water. This leads to the suspicion that they are carrying military equipment or even missiles, which are significantly lighter than normal cargo.
July 16, 1962
The Soviet passenger ship Admiral Nakhimov, seen above, departs from Odessa with U.S. intelligence estimating that there are 1,540 passengers are on board. The Soviet government later (on July 25) declares that the passengers are agricultural specialists and students.
July 17, 1962
Vladimir Semichastny, chairman of the USSR's secret police, the KGB, reports to Russian foreign minister Andrei Gromyko (shown above meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Dean Rusk prior to missile crisis) that there are now 17 U.S. intermediate range nuclear missiles in Turkey.
Soviet intelligence subsequently informs Premier Khrushchev that the U.S. missiles along the Turkish coast are nearly operational. However, the Soviet government chooses not to reveal that it is aware of this to the United States at this time.
Raúl Castro departs from Moscow after two weeks of secret talks on the deployment of Soviet nuclear missiles to Cuba with Khrushchev and other high-ranking officials. The delegation doesn't release any official communication after their visit, leading the U.S. intelligence community to conclude that the mission has failed.
July 18, 1962
The Soviet cargo ship Divnogorsk departs for Cuba from Sevastopol, carrying equipment for the Soviet headquarters staff.
A third party of Soviet military advisers departs for Cuba by Il-18 plane to reconnoiter missile sites, arriving July 19.
July 19, 1962
In the United States, the National Security Agency proposes deploying the SIGINT ship Oxford to Havana to monitor Soviet military activity.
This is accompanied by a memorandum from the U.S. Navy which requests greater coverage of Cuba "in response to highest priority intelligence requirements."
July 23, 1962
U.S. intelligence becomes aware that the Soviet passenger ships Maria Ulyanova and Mikhail Uritski are also heading for Cuba. They estimate that each ship has around 340 people on board. The above image was taken from aboard a Soviet ship sailing to Cuba. Soviet soldiers are dressed in checkered shirts to disguise their identity, which led to the nickname "Operation Checkered Shirt" for the Cuban deployment.
Subsequently, a U.S. intelligence report is published expressing concern over abnormally high numbers of passengers aboard Soviet passenger ships. The report suspects that these vessels are headed for Cuba and that they are engaged in "other than routine activities."
July 25, 1962
In Washington, Brig. Gen. Edward Landsdale, shown above, reports to Robert Kennedy and other members of the Special Group Augmented (SGA). He gives anassessment of Operation Mongoose, a covert program aimed at overthrowing the Castro regime through propaganda, psychological warfare, and sabotage. Landsdale reports that the program has had some limited success, such as the infiltration of 11 guerrilla CIA teams into Cuba. However he warns that "time is running out for the U.S. to make a free decision on Cuba."
July 26, 1962
Cuban Prime Minister Fidel Castro (shown above speaking earlier in 1962) gives a speech as part of the celebrations for the ninth anniversary of the 26th July Movement, marking the overthrow of the Fulgencio Batista dictatorship in Cuba. He claims that "mercenaries no longer pose a threat to Cuba." He also states that President Kennedy has already "made up his mind" to invade Cuba but the country now has the resources to combat such an attack.
Meanwhile, in Washington, Georgia Bolshakov, who serves as an unofficial envoy between the USSR and the United States, meets with the Attorney General Robert Kennedy. He requests that U2 spy planeflights over Cuba be stopped, describing the reconnaissance as "harassment."
July 30, 1962
President Kennedy requests another meeting with Georgia Bolshakov, in which he informs him that he is prepared to halt U2 reconnaissance over international waters if the USSR will put their plans in Berlin "on ice."
Later, while discussing the bombs in the nuclear arsenals of both the U.S. and the Soviet Union, President Kennedy's advisors inform him that the Russians are "probably as far, if not further, along in high-yield, efficient weight-to-
July 31, 1962
U.S intelligence confirms that a "considerable" number of Soviet ships, all carrying suspiciously light cargo
, are now heading for Cuba, despite being declared for South African ports.
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