PBS special documentaries on the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962



On Tuesday Oct. 22, 2012, PBS aired a one-hour film Cuban Missile Criris: Three Men Go to War., directed by Elmer Reynolds and John Murray. Many journalists and writers, like Tim Naftali, kornbluh, and Michael Dobbs, shed light on the details.

The program begins with a recounting of Kennedy's famous speech at 7 PM on Monday, Oct. 16. Many of Kennedy's advisors said that the missiles were not yet ready. But they would be soon. Air Force generals could not guarantee that a surgical strike on Cuba would take out everything, leaving southeastern US vulnerable to nuclear attack.

The documentary covers 'Black Saturday', Oct. 27, where the day started with two conflicting messages from the Soviet Union, one of them from Khrushchev more personal, seeking a way out. The second letter demanded that the US withdraw old missiles from Turkey.

But then one U-2 pilot strayed over eastern Russia, flying south from the North Pole. Then Rudolph Anderson would be shot down over Cuba. Kennedy had ordered a Naval blockade. Late Saturday, Kennedy decided to accept the demand to remove missiles from Turkey. Castro, in the meantime, had issued a statement that he would sacrifice his own homeland to obliteration if Russia would wipe out the US. Khrushchev, who had once said 'We will bury you' was offended, and then more willing to compromise with Kennedy.

The PBS link for this episode is here.

Note this video: "How One Soldier Saved Humanity from Extinction"

PBS followed this with Secrets of the Dead: The Man Who Saved the World (one hour). This refers to the fact that the four submarines accompanying the Soviet fleet toward Cuba on Oct. 27 each had a nuclear torpedo (as top secret cargo), and the military commander was authorized to use it. The head was Vassily Arkhipov. But three commanders could agree to launch a Hiroshima-sized bomb at the US, challenging MAD (mutually assured destruction). The US Navy drove the submarine to the surface with sonar 'passive torture'. Arkhipov would decide not to allow the men to fire the torpedo, possibly saving the world. He is said to have swallowed the key to start the launch! Arkhipov would eventually die of radiation-induced cancer from an earlier Soviet accident. The discussion of 'sonar' is interesting because in the 1980s, Petty Officer Keith Meinhold build his Navy career around submarine detection from the air before challenging the military gay ban.

Here is a link to a Daily Mail story about the episode.