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The Cold War and Cuban Missile Crisis: Summary, Combatants & Timeline

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Mr. Anderson first learned about the Cold War when the Cuban Missile Crisis was happening. His dad was a veteran from World War Two, so his family was very aware about what was happening. He said, “it was a nervous time”.

He still remembers the day he first learned of the Cuban Missile Crisis. He recalls president John F Kennedy going on the Monday night news and telling the American people what was happening. The government had known about Russia putting missiles on Cuba but they didn’t tell the U.S until this address to the nation. The next day at school, everybody was talking about what was happening. People were wondering what would happen if there was indeed a nuclear war, and asking each other if they had a bomb shelter and so on.

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When asked if he thought this war could lead to the end of the world he said, “for a few days we did”. When the Cuban Missile Crisis had just happened, it had been a reasonable fear that it could lead to our destruction. The only other time that he was worried that the world might end was during the Vietnam War. Other than that, Mr. Anderson didn’t remember any other time where he believed our world was in danger.

After the Cuban Missile Crisis the main focus was getting to the moon. Mr. Anderson’s dad had worked in the space program as an analytical chemist, and he was the head of the chemistry lab. Mr. Anderson explained that the reason we went to the moon was to show that America’s government was better than Russia’s totalitarian government. He said, “it was like a contest” to see which system was best. Back then some people thought that the Russians had gotten further in this race then the Americans, and that Russia was going to dominate the world. He still remembers Nikita Khrushchev banging his shoe on the table and telling the United States that they were going to bury us. Getting to the moon first was going to prove which government was better.

During the Cuban Missile Crisis, many people believed that it was a possibility that Russia may fire nuclear weapons. Mr. Anderson explained what he thought might happen back then. At first, the United States had decided not to attack Russia, but to wait. We did however, put up a blockade around Cuba and any ships found to be carrying any kind of nuclear weapons would be turned away. He said that if Russia did try to get any more weapons onto Cuba, it would turn into a “shooting match”. We could easily win this fight because Cuba was close to the United States and we had the “most powerful navy in the world”.

However, starting a fight with Russia was going to cause a problem later on. After World War Two, Germany had been divided into two parts. The free side on the west and the Russian side which was controlled by a totalitarian government. Berlin had been divided between the two parts. If Russia did try to get weapons onto Cuba, then it would most likely turn into a war and Russia would try to capture Berlin. If the Russian’s tried to take over Berlin it would be much harder for the United States to win because Berlin was surrounded by Russian troops. So in the end, it wasn’t worth it for Russia to try to get missiles onto Cuba because the United States would go to war with them and most likely win. At the same time the United States didn’t want to start a war with Russia because Russia could take over Berlin. At the time, Mr. Anderson didn’t know if this was going to turn into World War Three.

When asked how his family had prepared in case a bomb was fired he responded, “Nothing, my dad didn’t believe in the bomb shelter thing.” However, he did say that at school they would practice duck and cover drills. Also, in Lancaster on the last Friday of every month at ten o’clock AM, the air raid siren would go off and they would have to get under their desks. Even though there wasn’t much fighting going on in front of them, he said, “it was real enough”.

Even though Mike Anderson was only in fifth grade when the Cuban Missile Crisis was happening, he still remembers a lot from that time. He recalls when the president, John F Kennedy, addressed the nation about the Cuban Missile Crisis and feeling like this could cause the end of the world. He remembers his dad working to get a man into space and wondering whether Russia was going to fire nuclear weapons. He also recalls the nervous times when he had to practice duck and cover drills in case a bomb was fired. The Cold War was a frightening time for many and even young kids like Mike Anderson understood the importance of what was happening.

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