Cuban missile crisis beliefs endure after 50 years

By Peter Orsi

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, Oct. 13 2012 12:00 a.m. MDT

The CIA learned late in the game about the ballistic missiles' presence in Cuba, and they were already operational by the time Kennedy was informed of their existence.

The agency was also unaware of other, tactical nuclear missiles in Cuba that could have been deployed against a U.S. attack. The Soviets had even positioned nuclear-tipped missiles on a ridge above the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay in preparation for an invasion.

"They were going to obliterate the base," Kornbluh said.

CONVENTIONAL WISDOM: The crisis lasted just 13 days.

REALITY: This myth has been perpetuated in part by the title of Robert F. Kennedy's posthumous memoir, "Thirteen Days," as well as the 2000 movie of the same name starring Kevin Costner.

Indeed it was 13 days from Oct. 16, when Kennedy was first told about the missiles, to Oct. 28, when the Soviets announced their withdrawal.

But the "October Crisis," as it is known in Cuba, dragged on for another tense month or so in what Kornbluh dubs the "November Extension," as Washington and Moscow haggled over details of exactly what weapons would be removed.

The Soviet Union also had problems dealing with Fidel Castro, according to a Soviet document made public this month by Svetlana Savranskaya, a Russia analyst for the National Security Archive.

Deputy Premier Anastas Mikoyan traveled to Cuba that Nov. 2 and spent 20 days in tense talks with the Cuban leader, who was angry the Soviets had reached a deal without consulting him. Castro lobbied hard but unsuccessfully to keep the tactical nuclear weapons that the Americans had not learned about.

Associated Press writer Peter Orsi on Twitter: www.twitter.com/Peter_Orsi

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