Events in Cuba, 1959–1962

The Cuban Revolution

The Cuban Revolution began with Fidel Castro's failed attack on the Moncada Barracks in 1953, but was followed by a guerrilla campaign from the Sierra Maestra mountains which led to the overthrow of Fulgencio Batista's regime in 1959.

The revolution was fueled by Cuban hatred towards the economic inequality, political repression, and widespread corruption under the Batista regime. Fidel Castro, along with his brother Raul Castro, Che Guevara, and other revolutionary figures, launched a guerrilla campaign against Batista's government.

Promising to address the grievances of the Cuban people, including land reform, healthcare, education, and the eradication of corruption, Castro's revolution gained widespread popular support. In January 1959, Batista fled the country, and Castro's revolution was victorious as he successfully took control of the capital city, Havana.

Fidel Castro assumed power, initially as Prime Minister and later as President of Cuba. The new government embarked on ambitious social and economic reforms, including the nationalization of industries, redistribution of land, and the establishment of universal healthcare and education systems.

When Cuba became communist, Castro took control of all American property, leading the USA to impose economic sanctions against them (which are still in place today!), so Cuba established friendly relations with the USSR and began trading with them instead.

The Bay of Pigs Invasion

In 'The Bay of Pigs Invasion' President John F Kennedy tried to use Cuban exiles to invade the country, but it was a humiliating failure.

The operation had been conceived and organized by the Central Intelligence Agency under President Eisenhower, but executed under Kennedy's administration. The plan involved training and equipping a group of Cuban exiles to overthrow Fidel Castro's government.

The invasion was launched on April 17th 1961 when 1,400 US-backed Cuban exiles landed at the Bay of Pigs on the southern coast of Cuba to establish a beachhead where they could attack Castro's forces and spark a popular uprising against the Cuban government.

However, they were quickly defeated by the Cuban military within three days, and the invasion was a humiliating failure for President Kennedy as the Cuban exiles the US had trained were captured or killed in their disastrous attempt at an invasion.

The Bay of Pigs Invasion further strained relations between the United States and Cuba, putting Castro on high alert and strengthening his communist government's grip on power. 

The Cuban Missile Crisis

Castro asked the USSR for help in case America invaded again, so Khrushchev began secretly placing Soviet missiles in Cuba. He hoped that this would discourage another US invasion and he believed he may be able to use the missiles as a 'bargaining chip' to persuade the US to remove NATO missiles in Turkey.

A U2 spy plane photographed the missiles in Cuba. 'Hawks' within the US army and EXCOMM urged Kennedy to launch surgical airstrikes on Cuba, but Kennedy decided to set up a naval blockade instead, telling Khrushchev to remove the missiles or risk war.

Khrushchev announced that Soviet ships would break through the US blockade. He stated that the USSR were willing to use nuclear weapons if war began. Kennedy raised the US military alert to DEFCON 2 so they were prepared for war.

Khrushchev then wrote two letters to Kennedy. The first said that he would remove the missile in Cuba if Kennedy promised not to invade Cuba. The second said that NATO missiles must be removed from Turkey as part of the deal.

Publicly, Kennedy agreed to the demand of Khrushchev's first letter. However, in secret he sent his brother, Robert Kennedy, to tell the Soviet ambassador to the US, that he would remove the missiles in Turkey if the agreement was kept a secret.

Khrushchev agreed to the deal and removed the missiles from Cuba. Nuclear war had been averted.

What were the consequences of the Cuban Missile Crisis?

In some ways, Khrushchev gained from the crisis:

In some ways, Kennedy gained from the crisis:

Other consequences: