For many people the twelve days of the Cuban missile crisis were the most frightening of their lives. The Berlin Wall had been built by the Russians the previous year. Kennedy had been elected as United States president by promising to get tough with the communists. In April 1962, America had placed nuclear missiles in Turkey.

In 1959, Fidel Castro had taken power in Cuba, he soon took actions to nationalise American companies. In response to this the U.S stopped buying Cuban sugar and refused to supply Cuba with oil. The U.S government became increasingly concerned about the new Cuban government, this led to a fear that the U.S might intervene against the Cuban government. This fear materialised when in 1961, Cuban exiles trained by the U.S staged an invasion of Cuban territory at the Bay of Pigs, although the invasion was quickly repulsed.

Castro soon became convinced that the U.S was serious about invading Cuba. Shortly after the failed Bay of Pigs invasion, Castro declared Cuba as a socialist republic, entering into close ties with the Soviet Union. This led to a major upgrade of Cuban military defence. In February 1962, the U.S began an economic embargo against Cuba.