Today in Media History: In 1962 President Kennedy announced the discovery of Soviet missiles in Cuba
At 7 p.m. on October 22, 1962, in a televised speech to the nation, President John Kennedy announced the discovery of Soviet nuclear missiles in Cuba.
CBS News Chief Washington Correspondent Bob Schieffer remembers the Cuban Missile Crisis:
“After learning that the Cubans, with the aid of the Soviets, were building bases for medium — and intermittent-range ballistic nuclear missiles that would have the capability of reaching most of the United States, President Kennedy requested television time from all three of the broadcast networks (ABC, CBS, NBC) for 7:00 pm on Monday, October 22. Kennedy was being advised by the Joint Chiefs of Staff to destroy the missile sites through airstrikes and invasion, but opted instead for an alternate plan, supported by Robert Kennedy, initiating a strict quarantine on all offensive military equipment under shipment to Cuba….
….That Kennedy chose to deliver this message via television rather than through diplomatic channels was part of a deliberate plan to give the ultimatum ‘maximum force,’ according to media historian Erik Barnouw, writing in Tube of Plenty: The Evolution of American Television, his landmark history of the medium. This was particularly important politically because the Bay of Pigs fiasco had left the president vulnerable to charges that he was soft on communism. ‘The televised commitment, relayed throughout the world by satellite, would create a situation from which retreat would appear impossible,’ Barnouw wrote.”
President Kennedy’s October 22, 1962 address to the nation:
Four decades after the event, NPR aired the story, “The Cuban Missile Crisis, 40 Years Later.”
“The world’s closest brush with nuclear war came 40 years ago this month, when the Kennedy administration learned the Soviet Union was preparing to put nuclear missiles in Cuba. For 13 days, the world braced for a holocaust. NPR’s Tom Gjelten continues his series of reports from Havana on a unique conference to discuss the lessons learned in the crisis.”