Deployment of Missiles

Khrushchev planned the deployment in May 1962 and by late July over sixty Soviet ships were en route to Cuba, some already carrying military material. Director of the CIA John McCone, was told by French intelligence that the Soviets were planning to place missiles in Cuba, therefore he warned President Kennedy. However, the President together with the Attorney General; the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defence concluded that the Soviet Union would try such a thing!

Kennedy's administration team had received repeated claims from Soviet diplomats that there were no missiles in Cuba and that no plans had been made to deploy any and that they were not interested in starting an international crisis.

It was a U-2 flight in late august 1962 that photographed surface to air missile sites being constructed. On September 4 1962 Kennedy told congress that there were no offensive missiles in Cuba.

September 8 1962 saw the first consignment of SS-4 MRBMs unloaded in Havana, with a second shipload arriving on September 16. The Cuban population noticed what was happening and hundreds of reports reached Miami, all of which were considered false by US intelligence.

The missiles were not discovered by the US until a U-2 flight photographed images showing the construction of an SS-4 site near San Cristobal. These photographs were shown to Kennedy on 16 October 1962. Within days the U-2 flights had discovered four sites were operational.

Initially the US government kept the information secret, only telling a small number of key officials. The United Kingdom was not informed until October 21. President Kennedy announced the discovery of the installations in a televised address on October 22. He proclaimed that any nuclear attack from Cuba would be regarded as an attack by the Soviet Union, and America would respond accordingly.

Kennedy placed a naval quarantine on Cuba to prevent further Soviet shipments arriving there. International law dictated that the word quarantine was used rather than blockade. Establishing a blockade would have been classed as an act of war and war had not been declared between the US and Cuba.