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Newstalgia Reference Room - The Cuban Missile Crisis - October 23, 1962

Forty-eight years ago, on October 23rd 1962 the crisis over the Soviet Union shipping nuclear weapons and missiles to Cuba escalated to the breath-holding point.

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<strong>Within hours of the quarantine supermarket shelves were empty</strong>

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I remember just how much of a panic people got into when the Cuban Missile Crisis escalated to this point on October 23rd. We had all become too familiar with the "pending atomic attack" from the Soviet Union over the years. And how, as a kid living in Los Angeles, reading an article in the L.A. Times with accompanying graphic of just how much of L.A. would be reduced to dust if such an event occurred. As best as I could tell, our house was destined to be boiling ash and it created no end to the amount of sleepless nights in the days and months to come.

In retrospect, it probably explains a lot of what we eventually grew into and the choices we'd make because, let's face it, we were convinced we'd be radioactive waste at any given moment.

But I think it was the cool detachment of the media when this crisis hit the boiling point that is so fascinating in hindsight. And this broadcast from 7:00 pm Eastern on the evening of the 23rd perfectly exemplifies that.

Ray Scherer (NBC News): “The most significant moment of this perhaps historic day came at seven minutes after seven tonight when the President took up a pen and put his name to the Quarantine Proclamation, a two page document titled ‘Interdiction Of Delivery Of Offensive Weapons To Cuba’. Here is the list of prohibited materials: Surface to Surface Missiles, Bombers, Bombs, Air-To-Surface Rockets and Guided Missiles, Electronic Equipment To Support Them. After 10:00 tomorrow morning, any ships carrying such materials will be turned back. If there is resistance, force shall be used, says the document, to the extent necessary.”

It's interesting to consider (and I certainly didn't at the time), that no doubt there was a family somewhere in Moscow with a 12 year old kid who was probably just as freaked out about the possibilities of being reduced to radioactive waste as I was. The threat of war is just like that.

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