The Cuban Missile Crisis was one of the most important conflicts in Cold War history. It was the first time the United States and the Soviet Union had come close to a full-scale nuclear war. On October 14, 1962 US spy planes reported the presence of Soviet missiles in Cuba, which is 90 miles off the coast of Florida. The first sighting reported the presence of a ballistic missile launching site. It was later discovered that the Soviet Union began shipments in early 1962, and placed medium- (MRBM) and intermediate-range ballistic (IRBM) missiles in Cuba (as well as other weapons). Forty-two MRBMs (300-1200 miles) and twenty-four IRBMs (1200-3500 miles) were sent to Cuba. 22,000 Soviet soldiers and technicians escorted the missiles to Cuba. However, only thirty-three of the MRBMs were actually photographed by US intelligence. (Cuban Missile Crisis and Aftermath, Dept. Of State, Washington ).
The US had three options. Because of the proximity of Cuba in relation to the US, doing nothing would be foolish because it would almost guarantee that the Soviet Union would stock up Cuba with more weapons, and a surgical air strike was ruled out because the US Air Force did not think it would prove successful. Finally, after much deliberation, Kennedy ordered a quarantine to be placed on Cuba on October 22. Also, he declared that the US would confiscate any "offensive weapons and associated material" entering the quarantined zone. In retaliation, the US also placed missiles in Turkey. On October 27, an American U-2 spy plane was shot down over Cuba, and later that same day low-level reconnaissance pilots reported anti-aircraft fire from the ground in Cuba and photographs showed that some missiles had been placed on launchers. The next day, October 28, 1962, Soviet premier Nikita S. Khrushchev ordered that the missiles be removed. .