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The Cuban Missile Crisis: Could the planned US Assault have succeeded?

Half_Life_Expert#4276Half_Life_Expert#4276 Registered Users Posts: 4,686
As usual, its been a while since the last What if/Could it? thread, the one on Fall Weiss, which is as always still open to discussion.

I had decided on this thread topic before Xmas, but one of my Xmas gifts is the reason for this long delay.

The gift in question is a book titled: "Fires of October: The Planned US invasion of Cuba during the Missile Crisis of 1962" By Blaine L. Pardoe

Amazon link: http://www.amazon.com/The-Fires-October-Planned-Invasion-ebook/dp/B00G1N4Z6A

I wanted to finish this book before starting this thread, and I finished it last night, so that is the reason for the delay.

Before I get into it, I will say that while reading this book, I debated about whether or not to even do this thread, as my mind has been firmly made up after reading this book with regard to the question in the thread title.

but in the end I decided to go ahead with it as it is such an interesting topic and that I have a lot of fresh-in-mind knowledge available to contribute. It was also interesting that reading this book almost felt like reading the thorough wall-of-text responses that are posted on threads, so I was anxious to finish the book and get this going.

So, lets get right into it:
Wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cuban_missile_crisis

The Cuban Missile Crisis, for those have forgotten from ether remembering it or learning about it in school, was a thirteen day period in October of 1962 during which the United States discovered that the USSR was placing Medium Range and Intermediate Range ballistic missiles, definitely with nuclear warheads, on the island of Cuba, a new communist nation in the Caribbean after recently coming under the rule of Fidel Castro.

The reaction of the Kennedy administration was secret at first, with JFK and his cabinet and the Pentagon debating about whether to remove the missiles through diplomacy or military action. One this was for sure, all agreed that the missiles had to go.

On the 22nd of October, President Kennedy announced to the world the presence of Soviet missiles in Cuba, and proclaimed that a Quarantine (because they thought the word Blockade was too strong) would be placed on all offensive weapons going into Cuba and demanding that the Soviets remove the missiles.

You can easily go on Wikipedia or someplace else and read the details, but bottom line is that a diplomatic solution was worked out, partially publicly and partially secretly, that led to the Soviets withdrawing the missiles in return for a US pledge to never invade Cuba. Secretly, it also led to the US removing nuclear missiles from Turkey and Italy.

Despite the peaceful solution, most agree that this thirteen day period was the closest the world has come to a full scale nuclear war between the Cold War superpowers.

There was more than a few moments during this crisis where hostiles could have easily started, which im sure will be mentioned here in due time.

This thread is to discuss the possibilities if the air campaign/invasion has been launched.

The plan that was drawn up, based heavily on some existing contingency plans, called for a massive non-nuclear air campaign to destroy the nuclear missiles, the SAMs protecting them, and the Cuban/Soviet air forces on the island. This was to be followed up about a week later by a combined airborne and seaborne invasion of Cuba by US forces, with the purpose of overthrowing the Castro regime and ensuring the destruction of Soviet nuclear weapons on the island.

So, the question for this thread is:

"If the United States made the decision to attack Cuba during the missile crisis, could they have succeeded in destroying the missiles and/or overthrowing the Castro regime?"

For the sake of simplicity, we will assume that a full scale nuclear war does not happen between the US and USSR, as the results are all too obvious, but tactical nukes being used on the island of Cuba are available in this scenario I put forth.

Obviously there is a lot of information to factor in with this, and my fingers do not have the strength to type all of that now, so I will provide the info I have obtained when it is needed, believe me, this book I read goes into a lot of detail.

I will say right now that I personally have serious doubts that the US invasion could have succeeded. The Airstrikes would have probably gone very well, but the invasion would have put tremendous strain on US non-nuclear forces, plus the CIA drastically underestimated the Soviet troop strengths in Cuba. They Said 17,000 Soviet personnel on the island, we now know the real number was 40,000, and they had orders to full participate in the defense of the island in the event of US invasion. That does not include the 270,000 Cuban troops defending the island as well.

IF the invasion succeeded, in my opinion, the result would have probably been a Vietnam-like insurgency.

So, here it is, discuss the possibilities of a Cuban Missile Crisis gone hot with a US invasion.
"we have officially entered into pre-whinning about our games."- Cogre

I will always respect differing opinions on here, so long as they are presented maturely and in a civil manner

"No Battleplan ever survives contact with the enemy"- Helmuth Von Moltke the Elder

The WWI Thread: https://forums.totalwar.com/discussion/30914/why-a-world-war-i-themed-total-war/p1

I'm skipping TW: Warhammer
Post edited by Half_Life_Expert#4276 on


  • daelin4#9896daelin4#9896 Registered Users Posts: 16,526
    edited January 2015
    The fact that there were indeed Soviet troops present on the island pretty much makes invading Cuba tantamount to declaring war on the USSR. I believe the United States were focused on a diplomatic solution to the Soviets' withdrawal of nukes from the island in exchange for something so trivial as nukes in Turkey, which as you say occurred.

    I'm pretty sure the Americans knew full well that any military operation that remotely risks involving Soviet forces would have been war against a nuclear power. Nuking Cuba, even tactical nukes, would have been a PR nightmare since the entire point of dealing with Cuba was the problem of nuclear weapons proliferation- achieving that by nuking other countries is on the rather obvious side of hypocrisy.

    For the Russians, nukes were also a bargaining chip- removal of nukes from Turkey and other European countries in exchange for not having silos built on Cuba is a pretty good deal, I mean the Soviets can always rely on nuclear submarines and ICBMs if they really needed to do some nukage. Heck I bet the Soviets were even counting on losing Cuba as a missile site in exchange for some diplomatic gains somewhere else, after all it's Cuban territory at stake of being blown up and invaded, not Russian. From the perspective of the Kremlin this Cuban silos no nukes in Turkey was a victory either way.

    Corrected action is the most sincere form of apology.
  • Rath_DarkbladeRath_Darkblade Registered Users Posts: 2,137
    edited January 2015
    With our benefit of hindsight, we can see that either nuking or invading Cuba was a no-go. Despite the bluster of McNamara and other hawks, the invasion of Cuba would be a PR disaster and would almost certainly lead to open war with the USSR, with drastic results - perhaps even The End Of The World As We Know It(TM).

    Besides, the Cuban Missile Crisis was hardly the closest that the USA and the USSR came to open nuclear warfare. The Able Archer incident of November 1983 was just as close; the Russians managed to delude themselves into thinking that the Able Archer NATO exercise was a US ruse and a prelude to a genuine nuclear strike, and placed their air units in East Germany and Poland on high alert. In return, the Americans - though alarmed at this heightened alert - did nothing but continue the exercise. After the exercise concluded 11 days later, the crisis fizzled and burned out. Yet it could have been so much worse. Just one unexpected blip on the radar could have led to a panic decision, a push of a button, and...

    In the end, we were fortunate. It was the worst that US-USSR relations would get until the 1995 Black Brandt episode.
    "There is nothing wrong with nepotism, provided you keep it all in the family."
    --Winston Churchill

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