Cuban Missile Crisis - how Close Were We to Nuclear War?

GogLais

Ad Honorem
Sep 2013
5,634
Wirral
It's not that known around, but in 1983 we have been again really near to an atom conflict between the two superpowers.

The National Security Archive [and academical organization c/o George Washington University] thanks to FOIA has obtained documents about what happened.

I quote the article


[Sources:
The Able Archer War Scare Declassified PFIAB Report Released

The Able Archer 83 Sourcebook]

In good substance the exercise had misinterpreted by the Russians who thought to a real war operation. Politicians minimized, but the risk was real and concrete.
Wasn't Reagan said to have been shocked by the USSR' s response and how near we had been to war and that that changed his attitude?
 
Feb 2016
606
ROK
Although I was born long after the Cuban Missile Crisis, I watched one of the Quantum Leap television series make a reference to it when I was kid. So I was already aware of it when I watched a documentary about that crisis. I wasn't aware of the one that happened in 1983 until much later from the internet. I watched a television film called The Day After in 1983. After reading about the crisis on the internet, I started to understand why that film and a British television film called, Threads were made. I remember my dad being depressed after we watched The Day After. He just looked down at the floor and didn't talk for a long time. All the adults I met were scared because of that film. A lot of the kids at school talked about it, too. I heard that one girl threw up during that film. A lot of the people who are old enough to remember the Cold War tend to be strongly against nuclear weapons.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Day_After
President Ronald Reagan watched the film several days before its screening, on November 5, 1983. He wrote in his diary that the film was "very effective and left me greatly depressed," and that it changed his mind on the prevailing policy on a "nuclear war". The film was also screened for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. A government advisor who attended the screening, a friend of Meyer's, told him "If you wanted to draw blood, you did it. Those guys sat there like they were turned to stone." Four years later, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty was signed and in Reagan's memoirs he drew a direct line from the film to the signing.
Terminator 2 had a more scary nuclear explosion scene. By that time, the Soviet Union already became friends with NATO and the Communists in Eastern Europe already collapsed. So I really wasn't that scared.
 
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AlpinLuke

Forum Staff
Oct 2011
27,729
Italy, Lago Maggiore
I was born in 1971. Growing up in the '80s it seemed more a case of 'when' not 'if' the bombs would drop.
Do you remember the movie "The Day After"?

I was born in 1972 and years after watching that movie I collected enough knowledge to realize that it was a minimized version of the consequences of a real global nuclear war.
 
Feb 2016
606
ROK
Watching people escape or bring down their Communist governments totally changed my view of the Cold War and the world. And Gorbachev was the first Russian who gave me a positive feeling about the Soviet Union.
 
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Apr 2015
334
Texas
I was a very young child during the Cuban missile crisis, and could not yet understand Geo-political tensions.

But I do remember my mother and some aunts crying all the time.

Even my father, which I have seen suffer through tough times stoically, had this worried face that I can still vividly recall over 50 years later.
 

AlpinLuke

Forum Staff
Oct 2011
27,729
Italy, Lago Maggiore
The main reason why during the Cold War a possible nuclear conflict was a scaring perspective was that US and USSR had [and still have got!] enough nukes to destroy the surface of the planet several times ...

The MDS [Mutual Destruction Strategy] to work and to be a real deterrent to avoid a real war needed excessive arsenals, since it was pivotal to transmit a clear message to the opponent: don't hope to be able to intercept, find and destroy all our nuclear weapons! Forget about it!

And since a few nuclear bombs around 1 megaton can cause terrible damages [erasing entire cities], leaders preferred to find a way to avoid the atom war.

But once started the war, the MDS wanted the most intense usage of the arsenal, not to allow the enemy to recover. [It's the conception "if you attack me, I disintegrate you!"].

This is why definitions like "nuclear holocaust" weren't wrong: a remarkable part of the human population would have been "sacrificed" to the will of power of someone, in case of global nuclear war.
 

paranoid marvin

Ad Honorem
Aug 2015
2,359
uk
Do you remember the movie "The Day After"?

I was born in 1972 and years after watching that movie I collected enough knowledge to realize that it was a minimized version of the consequences of a real global nuclear war.
I watched it much later. Threads was the UK equivalent and was much more horrific (if that's possible).
 
Feb 2016
606
ROK
One thing that I want to add is that I myself couldn't comprehend the fear that the others were feeling with The Day After and Threads. My parents didn't talk about it much. I didn't feel the fear even when my teachers talked about it. Things were very peaceful and life was good where I lived. Although I was aware of the nuclear weapons, I couldn't get myself to believe that either side would start a nuclear attack.

I see the same thing with the younger generation who can barely remember 9-11 or were born after it. When they talked about it, they said that they didn't understand the feelings of the adults around them until they watched the documentaries many years later.