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The Cuban Revolution Unit 2: VCE History
Cuba’s importance to the USA • It’s very close to their southernmost state of Florida. • It was a favoured holiday spot for the wealthy, with many casinos. • The USA had built a large naval base at Guantanamo Bay (where suspected terrorists are now imprisoned). A Cuban Casino Guantanamo Bay Naval Base
Fidel Castro’s Communist Revolution • Prior to 1959 Cuba was led by the corrupt US-backed Batista Government. • However the Communist/Socialist leader Fidel Castro led a peasant (working class) uprising to take power. • Castro became President of Cuba and nationalised industries in February 1960. • This affected the USA because the Cuban people took over American business interests. In response the US placed sanctions on Cuba, refusing to trade them sugar. • As a result, Castro turned to the Soviet Union who were very keen to help a country so close to the United States. Nikita Khrushchev President John F Kennedy Fulgencio Batista Fidel Castro
Attempts to overthrow Castro • The United States Government were keen to overthrow Castro’s communist government. • There were several assassination plots on Castro’s life, including a plot to poison his cigars to make his beard fall out (the Cuban’s loved his beard). • Terrorist attacks were also carried out on Cuban industry, with factories being blown up in the middle night.
The Bay of Pigs • The ‘Bay of Pigs’ plot had been planned by the Eisenhower administration but was eventually executed by the newly elected Kennedy (JFK) administration in April 1961. • The plan was for Cuban exiles (people who had been forced out of Cuba and trained by the CIA in the United States) to land in the Bay of Pigs and establish a base, from which they would gain the support of the local people and overthrow Castro. • This plan was foiled as the 1500 CIA trained exiles met a force of 20,000 Castro loyalists, who quickly defeated the invaders.
The Bay of Pigs • Because this was a covert (underground/hidden) operation President John F Kennedy had refused to provide sufficient aerial support. • This was because he/they wanted it to appear as though the counter-revolution (uprising against the initial communist revolution) had come from the people rather than being influenced by the USA. • They Bay of Pigs disaster was a huge propaganda victory for Castro because he could now claim that his socialist regime was being threatened by one of the world’s superpowers. He turned to the Soviet Union for support.
Aerial photographs of Nuclear Weapons • Since 1956 the USA had used reconnaissance (spy) planes to photograph the Soviet Union and see what they were doing. • These planes would fly very high (75,000 feet) and out of range of Soviet anti-aircraft guns and fighter jets. The pilots took detailed photographs of important sites. • On the 29th August 1962 photographs seemed to highlight missile sites being built in Cuba and on 15th of October, it was confirmed that nuclear weapons were being set up.
The US response • This was considered unacceptable because of Cuba’s closeness to the US and alliance with the Soviets. They considered it a direct threat to the USA. • By comparison the Soviet Union considered this an attempt to ‘get even’ at the USA who had set up missile bases in Turkey. • Kennedy could not tolerate this adjustment to the ‘balance of power’ but needed to think carefully about his actions.
The US response • Kennedy received military advice that he should launch a surprise attack on Cuba. Thankfully, he decided against such drastic action as this saved the world from nuclear war. • US intelligence believed that there were 10,000 Soviet troops and 100,000 Cuban troops in Cuba. In reality there were 40,000 Soviet’s and 270,000 Cuban’s. A US invasion would have been a disaster. • The Soviet’s possessed a number of short-range nuclear missiles. There local commanders had authorisation to use them without asking for permission from Moscow and would have done so had the US invaded.
Confrontation • Instead of attacking, President Kennedy decided to ‘quarantine’ all Soviet ships on their way to Cuba. He had to be careful because a ‘blockade’ was considered an act of war. The quarantine came into effect at 10:00am on 24 October. • The Soviet ships headed towards Cuba, with 300 US ships waiting to intercept them. Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev (Stalin’s replacement) warned President Kennedy that if the US Navy attempted to stop the ships, Soviet submarines would sink it’s ships.
Confrontation avoided • President Kennedy was at the brink of a crisis, the possibility of a Third World War. • However, at 10:25am some Soviet ships stopped short of the quarantine line and turned around. A conflict had been avoided. • US Secretary of State Dean Rusk - ‘We were eyeball to eyeball and I think the other fellow just blinked’. • Khrushchev had ordered all ships with ‘sensitive’ (i.e. weapons) to turn around, while those with ordinary supplies were allowed to continue onto Cuba.
But what about the missiles? • While this potential catastrophic confrontation had been avoided, the Soviet Union still had missiles that were being constructed and soon to be operational. • An invasion plan was developed to destroy the missiles but the US Air Force could not guarantee that it would destroy all of the missiles, projecting a US troop loss of around 20,000. • President Kennedy, realising that this would probably lead to nuclear war, decided to seek a diplomatic solution. • He told Khrushchev that the US would lift their quarantine if the Soviet Union removed their weapons. In return the US agreed to secretly remove their missiles from Turkey.
13 Days • For thirteen days many people in the United States and Soviet Union expected missiles to be fired and a nuclear war to begin. • Those with fallout shelters lived in their backyards for days. • Both Kennedy and Khrushchev claimed victory, while Castro was upset with the Soviets. • As a result of this crisis a ‘hotline’ between the Kremlin (Soviet) headquarters and the White House (US) was created. The Cold War had warmed up and both superpowers knew the importance of defusing future crises quickly.
Debate questions • Consider the perspective of Kennedy, Castro and Khrushchev. Who was in the right and who was in the wrong? • Who was ‘chicken’, the USA or the Soviet Union? • Was the ‘Bay of Pigs’ a disaster or a diplomatic triumph?
Homework and/or Wednesday • Please respond to the 4 practice exam questions by responding the Document B (Gromkyo, Soviet Foreign Minister) and Document C (President Kennedy). • Have a go at the revision website (next slide). • Read and take notes – Space Race, Quagmire and Détente. • Respond to the practice exam question about the ‘Domino Theory’. Be ready for Thursday’s lesson when we will review this content.
A revision activity • BBC Bitesize http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/gcsebitesize/history/mwh/ir2/cubanact.shtml