On November 20, 1962, President John F Kennedy lifts the Cuba Naval Blockade. 

On October 22, 1962, in a televised address, President Kennedy told a watching nation there were Soviet missiles being constructed in Cuba.

Never before in the history of the Republic had life on earth seemed so imperiled, as it sunk into the watching millions that weapons of mass destruction could soon be sited mere miles from the Florida coast.

The Soviet Union’s actions were, Kennedy informed America, a “clandestine, reckless, and provocative threat to world peace.”

Although a US airstrike was considered, it was decided that such an attack was too provocative and risked a rapid escalation of the situation. Instead, on October 23, 1962, a Naval blockade of Cuba would begin, Kennedy declared, to prevent any more weapons ending up so close to American soil.

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The following day all Soviet ships - except one - seemed to have slowed their progress south and the UN’s Secretary-General U Thant sent Kennedy and Khrushchev begging letters, pleading with the pair to, “refrain from any action that may aggravate the situation and bring with it the risk of war.”

The US military was informed they were now at DEFCON 2 - the highest rating since the end of the Second World War - and children around the world went to bed wondering if they would wake up again the next day.

On October 25, the US Navy tried to stop the Soviet ship Bucharest as it sneaked over the quarantine line: they failed, judging that it was not likely to be carrying offensive weapons and as such not worth escalating the situation.

Meanwhile in Moscow, the Soviet leadership agreed on a compromise that might save the world from plunging into the Third World War in living memory: they would ask President Kennedy that the United States commit never again to invade Cuba, in return, the USSR would withdraw its missiles from Cuba.

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The following day, however, Khrushchev added the caveat that the US also withdraw its missiles from Turkey: the White House agreed but only after the Soviet Union removed its own missiles from Cuba.

The Cold War would still chill international relations for some decades yet but in the fall of 1962, the world looked over the precipice of nuclear war and decided, for now, to hold back. A fragile peace remained intact.

On October 28, the world breathed a sigh of relief as both the superpowers finally came to an agreement that ended the immediate threat of nuclear warfare. The blockade was to remain in place until November 20, 1962, however. 

By the end of 1962, the Soviets removed their nuclear weapons from Cuba and in the following year, 1963, the US withdrew their missiles from Turkey. As a result of the Cuban Missile Crisis, a hotline between the USSR and the US was established to prevent such a crisis from happening again. 

H/T: BBC

President Kennedy signs the order for a naval blockade of Cuba