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The Cuban Missile Crisis | Denial and Deception | 2

The Cuban Missile Crisis | Denial and Deception | 2

Tue, 27 Sep 2022 07:01

The Soviets stage a covert operation to distract the U.S. But an American spy plane makes a surprise discovery, and tensions quickly escalate.

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To listen to American scandal one week early and add free, join Wondry Plus in the Wondri app. Download the Wondri app in your Apple or Google Play mobile app store today. It's May 21st, 1962 in Moscow. Inside the Kremlin, Nikita Kruščev strides down a long corridor full of marble and glass chandeliers. The Soviet leader passes under a towering golden arch. And as he rounds a corner, Kruščev approaches a pair of guards who stand aside and pull open a heavy wooden door. Kruščev then enters a large room where he finds a group of about a dozen men sitting around a wooden table. One of the men rises and offers Kruščev a glass of his favorite vodka. As a tempting offer, Kruščev does love to drink, but the Soviet premiere waves away the glass. There is business at hand and the vodka must wait. As Kruščev takes a seat, he gives a quick nod to his group of advisors. They're known as the prosidium, and they're some of the most important officials in the country. But despite wielding enormous power, the men look anxious and off balance. But that was all part of the plan. Kruščev summoned his advisors for a secret meeting and did not tell them what it was about. He knows they're probably afraid, and that's useful. Kruščev wanted his men to be a little out of sorts. It should make them easier to sway, and Kruščev needs them to get on board a dangerous operation, one that could cement his reputation as a strong leader. The whole situation began when the United States placed its nuclear missiles in Turkey. Those missiles were pointed at Moscow and could wipe out the Soviet capital in a matter of minutes. It's an existential threat to the country. In making matters worse, the Soviet's own arsenal of nuclear weapons is in dire straits. What few they have are aging, and while the world doesn't know this secret, the fact remains the Soviet Union is vulnerable. So Kruščev came up with a plan. He wants to play Soviet nuclear missiles in Cuba, a country just 90 miles off the coast of Florida. The Soviets could match the American threat in Turkey, placing missiles within striking distance of most American cities. Kruščev believes this is the best way to rebalance the scale of power. Still it is incredibly risky. So as Kruščev looks out over his prosidium, he composes himself and smiles. It's time to win over his advisors, or crush any dissent. Comrades, thank you. We have two problems. The Americans have their missiles in Turkey, and Fidel Castro has continued a relentless campaign for Soviet aid. But I believe we can kill these two birds with one stone. If we plant missiles in Cuba, about 60 of them, and make Castro happy by sending helicopters, planes and submarines, maybe 45,000 troops, we'll fortify the entire country and we'll make sure the United States never conducts a first strike against Moscow. Kruščev looks around the room, waiting for his advisor's approval. But the members of the prosidium look concerned. Comrade Kruščev, if I may. Kruščev turns to Anastas Mikoyan, a legendary diplomat who served under Vladimir Lenin, the former president of the Soviet Union. With his soft voice, he's by no means an imposing figure. But Mikoyan does have influence over the country's military generals. Kruščev nods at Mikoyan. Yes, Anastas, what is it? Well, Comrade, your plan is cunning without a doubt. But I can imagine a number of obstacles. And what kind of obstacles do you imagine? I know Castro very well. And more than anything, he doesn't want foreign interference. Anastas, the man who's begging for military aid. You're telling me he doesn't want troops? He doesn't want weapons? Well, he wants his own troops and his own weapons. Remember the history. The Americans have tried countless times to invade Cuba to make it a colony. And recently, if you have to go at the Bay of Pigs, that history is not lost on Castro. If Castro wants Soviet aid, he's going to have to accept it on our terms. And that means housing our nuclear missiles. Well, perhaps a more diplomatic approach? Involved Castro. Let him have a say in the plan. No. Do you understand Castro will fall in line or he gets nothing? Understood. But Comrade, one last question. How do we get the missiles to Cuba? Many Americans have spy planes, and if we do this incorrectly, we could risk starting a war, a war over nuclear weapons, and perhaps with nuclear weapons. Krushchev nods. It's true that the stakes are as high as it gets. But Krushchev also knows what he's up against. President Kennedy is young and inexperienced. The two leaders met in Austria, and Krushchev came away certain that Kennedy was weak. There was nothing to fear from this new American president, just as the Soviets predicted when they partnered with his campaign and worked to get him elected. So Krushchev lays out his case to the prosidium. And although an Estasmokayan remains a holdout, one by one, the rest of Krushchev's advisers get on board with the plan. And when the decision is final, members of the prosidium file out of the room, and Krushchev feels satisfied. His plan is moving forward. They will place Soviet missiles in Cuba. When all is said and done, his country will emerge stronger with the balance of power restored and the Soviet Union in control. American scandals sponsored by Sachi Art. I'm lucky. Not only is my wife beautiful, funny, and smart, she also has great taste that matches mine, which has made decorating our home together a delight. But how do we go about finding the art for our home? Well we agree on that too. Sachi Art. They have artworks from thousands of emerging artists around the globe in all styles. So you're guaranteed to find art that fits your style, space, and budget. Their view your room feature lets you visualize the art on your walls. And my advisor, Satin, was instrumental in finding our newest piece. Get 15% off your first order with promo code podcast. Just go to and enter code podcast at checkout. Find art you love today. Okay. The kids are already asking what's for dinner, but breaking news, empty fridge. That's okay. I'll instacart. Let's add some organic asparagus and some farm fresh chicken. Easy. Wait, is the oldest vegetarian this week or was it gluten free? Gluten free pasta. Covered either way. Card it. And finally, some vegetarian gluten free olives from my well earned cocktail. And your family shopping list has more footnotes than groceries. The world is your cart. Visit or download the app and get free delivery on your first order. Offer valid for limited time. Minimum order $10. Delivery subject to availability. Additional terms apply. From Onary, I'm Lindsey Graham. This is American scandal. In the late 1950s, Fidel Castro rose to power as a revolutionary leader in Cuba. He issued fiery rhetoric aimed at the United States. And as tensions flared between the US and Cuba, America's leaders hashed a plan to remove him from power. In 1961, President John F. Kennedy authorized an invasion led by Cuban exiles. But despite receiving American military support, the uprising at the Bay of Pigs was a catastrophe. And with proof, the United States was trying to lead a coup, Fidel Castro began looking for a new political alliance, one that would shore up Cuba's defense. Castro found that support in the Soviet Union. And for Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, the partnership offered an opportunity. By planting nuclear weapons on Cuban soil, the Soviets would have a viable military threat against America and shift the balance of power in the Cold War. But as the Soviets pushed ahead with their plan, the United States would make an unwelcome discovery. And Khrushchev would be forced to take a desperate gamble. This is Episode 2, Denial and Deception. It's mid July 1962 in the wilderness outside Havana, Cuba. It's a hot and muggy day in the jungle, and a military jeep is winding its way across a string of dirt paths and unpaved roads. The vehicle bounces over potholes and patches of mud, and as it rounds a bend, a Soviet official in the front seat lets out a curse as he gazes at the miserable landscape. He guards Setsenko as the head of the Soviet Union's nuclear missile division. He's a military general with lush black hair and a tendency to snap at subordinates. And today, everything he's seeing in Cuba has sent him into a rage. Setsenko was sent to Cuba to find the right side for a nuclear missile base. It shouldn't be complicated, the Soviets just need a location with flat terrain to set up the launchpads. Good tree cover so they can hide the missiles from American spy planes. This at Setsenko's boss's promise that this land survey would be an easy mission that Cuba had plenty of trees. But so far it seems they're terribly misguided. The terrain is hilly, the roads are a mess, and the big lush trees he was promised are nowhere to be found. But Setsenko can't fail in his mission. Soviet premiere Nikita Krzyszew is a powerful man, known to destroy people who disappoint him. If Setsenko doesn't find a good site for the missiles, he could be sent to prison or even killed. As his jeep pushes deeper into the jungle, Setsenko looks back at the Cuban defense official sitting behind him. And so, where are the trees? This is supposed to be a tropical island. Oh, it is tropical, but we don't have rain forests. We're not the Amazon. You people are so eager to catch your support, you'll promise anything. No, that's not true. We tried to warn you. What do you mean you tried to warn us? Our defense minister, we tried to tell your people we didn't have big trees, but they wouldn't listen. Setsenko groans. It's typical. The functionaries at the Kremlin never speak up when there's a problem. Wonderful. Now I have an impossible mission, and only a few months to pull it off. What happens in a few months? My deadline. Krzyszew has ordered the missile to be operational by the beginning of November. Speed and secrecy are paramount. The Cuban official nods rises and points east at the horizon. Over there, just past the river, there's another site. Maybe what you're looking for? All right, fine. Let's have a look. The Jeep lurches forward and comes to a stop. As Setsenko peers over the site, he spots what's clearly a tree line. The site could work. But his hopes quickly fade when he notices a river up ahead. The only way to cross it is an old wooden ridge, with fraying rope and rotten planks. Oh, you're kidding me. What's wrong? You have any idea what it takes to build a nuclear missile base? You need trucks, huge pieces of equipment. You think it could make it over that bridge? Well, it's possible. No, it's not possible. For what feels like an eternity, the Setsenko sits staring out the window at the rushing river and bright blue sky. The place looks like a paradise, but for anyone trying to build a nuclear missile base, it's a nightmare. They're sure to be detected before they become operational. The Americans are likely flying U2 spy planes overhead right now. That surveillance needs to stop. If the bases can't be hidden from America's eyes and the skies, then Moscow needs to do something to get those planes out of the air. Stop them from taking off or even shoot them down. Several weeks later, a Soviet naval captain stares into the night sky scanning the darkness. It's a moonless night out on the Atlantic Ocean. As he paces the deck of his ship, the Soviet captain doesn't see anything concerning. No ships on the horizon. No planes overhead. The captain breathes a sigh of relief. Then he turns back to his shipmates, a group of Soviet troops who look sickly and drained. The captain knows it's been a hard few days. According to official records, this ship is carrying farm equipment to Cuba, but there aren't any combines or tractors aboard. Low deck is a cache of anti aircraft missiles, heading for Cuba. The Soviets are going to set them up in order to fend off any American spy planes, preventing any snooping on the construction of nuclear missile bases. And while there's nothing necessarily suspicious about a ship at sea, earlier today an American patrol aircraft appeared in the skies overhead. Captain ordered his men to hide below deck, and for hours the troops festered in hot cramped quarters. Their entire day cooped up and appeared the troop for ready to mutiny. So the captain allowed them back on deck and opened up the cargo holds to get in some fresh air down below. But it's a risk. An American plane could still fly overhead, cloaked in darkness, and if the pilot notices Soviet troops on the ship's deck, it'll be more than clear they're transporting something other than farm equipment. So the captain scans the night sky, searching for any sign of American planes. So far, so good. But after about an hour, he hears a distant sound over the roar of the waves, another American plane on patrol. The captain spins around, searching the dark night sky, but he doesn't see anything. Then suddenly a thick beam of light comes pouring from the sky, a search light, and a powerful one. The captain doesn't hesitate. He sprints over to the troops and screams to get below deck and shut the cargo holds. They have to hide the missiles. The troops spring into action and begin racing to shut the heavy metal doors that lead to the cargo even as the search light gets closer and closer. Moving frantically, the troops continue to seal off the ship. The yellow search light dances across the surface of the ocean, and with the cargo holds finally shut, the captain yells at everyone to get back below deck. A log jam of troops forms at the tiny hatches that lead down below. They push each other, hurray, to climb into hidden quarters, and right after the last few men disappear, the plane swoops overhead, its search light, blinding the captain. The Soviet captain grabs onto a rail to keep him from falling. He squints his eyes shut, putting his other hand up to block out the searing yellow light. But just as quickly as the plane appeared, it flies away, and the captain laughs in relief. That was a close call. It appears they're going to make it to Cuba without their true intent being discovered. But the captain also knows that this isn't the end of the story. Over the next few weeks, dozens of Soviet ships are going to be crossing the ocean, also headed for Cuba. Officially they too will be carrying farm equipment. But below deck, there's nothing but anti aircraft missiles. The ships are all going to face the same kind of danger the captain encountered tonight. It will be a perilous journey, with the threat of discovery, or even war, looming large. It's July 30, 1962 in Washington, D.C. Georgy Bolsheakov steps into the Oval Office of the White House, and surveys the room with a smile. Seated on a couch is America's Secretary of State. Next to him is the Secretary of Defense, along with America's Attorney General. Standing behind his desk, Bade's in sunlight is the President himself, John F. Kennedy. Bolsheakov is an intelligence officer for the Soviet Union. He doesn't have any special reverence for America, or its political leaders. He's always been motivated to serve his country, to prove himself by advancing the goals of Soviet leaders. Still as he gazes at America's President and Cabinet members, Bolsheakov can't help but feel moved, as a lot of power in this office. And if today goes according to plan, Bolsheakov could change the course of history. Officially, Bolsheakov has come to the White House to conduct diplomacy about Berlin. After World War II, the German city was divided in half, with West Berlin controlled by the Americans, and East Berlin controlled by the Soviets. The split arrangement has caused years of mounting tensions, and President Kennedy has always despised the Soviet's presence in East Berlin. Kennedy was a veteran of the war, and with so many men lost to the fighting, he believes Berlin should be an American prize. So with a strong emotional attachment to the issue, Kennedy has been working feverishly to gain an upper hand and push out the Soviets. But Berlin also represents something larger for Kennedy, the possibility of a major foreign policy victory. Ever since the fiasco at the Bay of Pigs, Kennedy has been working to rehabilitate his image. He wants to prove he's a fighter, not a pushover, and making progress in Berlin could be exactly what Kennedy is looking for. So Bolsheakov wants to exploit these personal and political dynamics. The intelligence officer is going to offer the Americans some minor, but meaningful concessions in Berlin, and Kennedy is bound to be thrilled. But in exchange, Bolsheakov is going to get the Americans to back off in the open waters outside Cuba, because Khrushchev's plan requires zero detection. The missile bases must be operational before they're discovered by the Americans. Bolsheakov takes a seat across from the President and his Cabinet members. He begins his presentation by laying out a photo from the Berlin Wall, a long concrete barrier separating East and West Berlin. Bolsheakov points at the stark image, reminding the President how just recently Soviet and American tanks were locked in a standoff. They nearly started shooting at each other. And although they did not, the scenario was too close to worst case. Bolsheakov looks up from the photo and tells Kennedy that the Soviets want to avoid another hostile confrontation. They'll do whatever it takes to call intentions in Berlin. Kennedy nods, but the President reminds Bolsheakov that the Soviets are the ones acting aggressively. America's adversaries demanded the U.S. withdraw every one of their troops from West Berlin. The request was a nonstarter, and proves the Soviets aren't serious about peace. Bolsheakov says he understands the President's point, and that's why he's here. The Kremlin is willing to withdraw that request. President Kennedy and his Cabinet members glance at each other, looking surprised and incredulous. For a moment, Bolsheakov wonders if he played this wrong. Maybe he should have waited a little longer. He could have turned this into a more drawn out negotiation. Most motives might have seen a little less suspect. But turning back from his advisor, as Kennedy says, he's pleased that the Soviets change of heart. But surely, the Soviets want something in return. Bolsheakov leans back in his chair, mentions casually that Soviet ships have been traveling to Cuba. They're carrying agricultural and manufacturing equipment, but American planes keep harassing them. So Bolsheakov says, if the Americans can just leave the Soviet ships alone, maybe they could reach a deal about the situation in Berlin. Both sides would be happy. Having delivered the proposal, Bolsheakov sits with a look of easy comfort. Then he waits, hoping the Americans will take debate. For several minutes, President Kennedy and his advisors engage in quiet discussion. Kennedy's brother Bobby seems especially animated, shaking his head no several times. But when Kennedy turns back, he announces they have a deal. The Soviets will stop demanding the Americans withdrawal from Berlin. And in exchange, the American planes will stop harassing Soviet ships on the way to Cuba. And then the two sides shake on it. President Kennedy turns to his advisor's beaming, marveling at his own accomplishment. But Bolsheakov has a big smile too. For a very different reason, he's just tricked the President of the United States. Peloton isn't just about bikes and treadmills. It's a team of instructors ready to motivate you 24, 7. With Peloton, there are literally thousands of classes, ranging from strength training and yoga to running and boxing, which means Peloton is the perfect nonjudgmental space to experiment with new types of movement at a level in pace that feel good for you. Super busy, it doesn't matter if you have 5 minutes or an hour. If you're an early riser or a fan of the evening burn, there's a Peloton class that fits into your day. Peloton is where you'll find what works for you on your schedule wherever you happen to be, at home, at the gym, or even outdoors. Motivation that moves you, anytime, anywhere. Try the Peloton Biker Tread risk free for 30 days. Learn more at New members only, terms apply. If you're into true crime, the Generation Y podcast is essential listening. We started this podcast over 10 years ago to dissect some of the craziest and most notable murders, crimes, and conspiracy theories together. And we'd love for you to join us. Generation Y is one of the longest running true crime podcasts out there, and we are still at it, unraveling a new case every week. We break down infamous cases like the Evil Genius Bank robbery, and lesser known cases like the case of Kimberly Rico. Did she actually kill her husband after they took part in a murder mystery game? We cover every angle, breaking down theories, diving deep into forensic evidence, and interviewing those close to the case. And with over 450 episodes, there's a little something for every true crime listener. Follow the Generation Y podcast on Amazon Music, or every listen to podcasts, or you can listen ad free by joining Wondry Plus in the Wondry app. It's late August 1962 and a warm summer day in the Crimean Peninsula. At a resort in the coastal city of Yolta, the Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara strolls through a garden path, gays his out at the nearby Black Sea. It's beautiful scenery here in the southwest Soviet Union. And while the sparkling water is beckoning for a swim, the Cuban revolutionary didn't fly here for a vacation. Guevara is a close confidant of Fidel Castro, the president of Cuba. He has long, scruffy hair and penetrating eyes that seem to draw people in, commencing them to join his cause, one Guevara has given his life to. He's a committed communist, bent on removing capitalism from the world. But while Guevara believes Cuba has made great strides as a communist nation, recently he's grown nervous. Castro began building an alliance with the Soviet Union in order to protect itself against the United States. The plan seemed good in theory. But with the Soviets now working to sneak nuclear missiles into Cuba, Guevara fears the country is more exposed than ever. All it would take is one American spy plane discovering the Soviet equipment, and President Kennedy could order a full scale invasion of Cuba, one much larger and much more likely to succeed than the Bay of Pigs. So Guevara flew to the Soviet Union to meet with Nikita Khrushchev, the Soviet premier. The two are going for a stroll in this seaside garden. And as soon as the moment is right, Guevara is going to make a request when he believes is critical for the defense of Cuba. As they walk down the garden path, Guevara gives a friendly nod to Khrushchev. That's beautiful country out here, Comrade. Well this is the Crimean Peninsula, a treasure of the Soviet Union. What do you know its history? Since Catherine the Great has been enbeat by the West, now it's finally part of its own autonomous Soviet republic. Do you know Cuba's history? It's autonomous too, finally. But still the West's envious eyes cannot stop staring. Well, that's the world we live in. But I take it your nervous about the Americans? That must be why you flew all this way. I am there is. And that is the reason. Guevara stops and fixes Khrushchev with an intense gaze. What happens if the Americans discover the missiles you plan to put into Cuba? Oh, Che, there's nothing to fret about. We have anti aircraft defenses installed all across your country. No American is going to spot anything. Well, they may not discover the actual atomic missiles. But what happens when they spot the anti aircraft defenses? What will they think then? It doesn't matter what they think. Well, I think it does. We are 90 miles from Florida. It wouldn't take much for the Americans to launch another invasion, a bigger one, and succeed. Che, the Americans would never do it. Kennedy is weak and soft. Even if they do discover the defenses we've set up, you won't do a thing. Comrade with respect, you don't know that. Kennedy has already tried to invade Cuba once. Khrushchev's eyes flash angrily. Yes, and he failed. You think a man who rises to president will just give up? Except embarrassment? I don't think you know who Kennedy really is. I know I don't. We need a promise from the Soviets. You people are relentless. We station troops on your island. We're installing nuclear missiles. Weapons the Americans would never dare to attack. What more do you want? We want a defensive pact. Comrade, the Americans have had their eyes trained on Cuba for decades. We need formal assurance you'll come to our defense if and when they invade. Che, you listen to me. Whoever Kennedy is, he must know if they invade will bring our whole navy to the Caribbean. He'll risk nuclear hellfire. Do you understand? Our missiles are our promise. Cuba will be safe. Or we'll start a war. Givera stands, silently assessing the Soviet premiere. Khrushchev did not give him the defense pact he wanted, but his assurances do not ring hollow either. Still, how is Khrushchev so certain how Kennedy will react? It's the Friday before Labor Day, and President John F. Kennedy's advisors are locked in a fierce debate inside the White House. The men have gathered in the cabinet room, an old chamber with big leather chairs and a portrait of George Washington on the wall. And in what's now become a familiar routine, the advisors are shouting over each other, arguing, trying to prove their points about Cuba and the Soviet Union. As President Kennedy steps into the room, he barks at his men, bringing the scuffle to an end. And as he takes a seat, the President orders everyone to remain quiet. No one's going to say a word until they learn what this meeting is about. About a half hour ago, Kennedy got word that the acting director of the CIA wanted a top secret meeting. He wouldn't explain what it was about, only that it had to do with Cuba and that Kennedy had to gather his advisors on foreign policy. Kennedy himself has no idea what it's about. Only a month ago he made a deal with the Soviet diplomat, getting the Kremlin to back off from its hostile demands about Berlin in exchange for agreeing to stop harassing Soviet ships traveling to Cuba. He was promised they were only carrying farm equipment. Of course, Kennedy did not take the Soviets at their word. And the CIA continued to monitor from the skies, flying U2 spy planes over Cuba, getting snapshots of the situation on the ground. So if the CIA director is calling for a top secret meeting, they must have found something unexpected. And when the CIA finally comes hurrying into the room, he does look tense and upset. Kennedy doesn't waste time. He demands to know what's going on in Cuba. The CIA director bites his lip, pausing to measure his words. Then he tells the room the agency made an alarming discovery. Two days ago, they found banks of anti aircraft missiles set up all around Cuba. It appears to be the beginning of something much bigger, from what they can see the defense systems originated in the Soviet Union. Kennedy sinks into his chair and buries his face in his hands. He feels like a fool. He was duped by the Soviets, and his blunder seems to prove that his harshest critics are right. He's weak on foreign policy. He's an inexperienced playboy, a bratty millionaire, who was sure to let the Soviets gain the upper hand in the Cold War. And beyond the shame and embarrassment, Kennedy now faces an impossible situation. He doesn't want to make the crisis any worse, but knows he has to make a decision between two bad choices. Kennedy could choose to do nothing. That would have fervent to potentially catastrophic fight with the Soviets. But if they continue to build up a military presence in Cuba, Kennedy would be seen as a total failure. The other option is that Kennedy could issue his own military response and send a strong message that the US will not accept even the mere presence of Soviet weapons off the coast of Florida. For that option is also deeply problematic. Kennedy knows it could anger his Soviet counterpart and even start a chain of events that would lead to World War III. Apparently sensing the president's indecision, Kennedy's brother Bobby pounds his fist on the table, saying this is exactly what he warned about. The president shouldn't have trusted the Soviets. He's already getting hammered by his opponents for being soft on Cuba and now he's going to look like a fool. Kennedy's eyes flash angrily at his brother. They may be blood related, but Bobby is the attorney general. Serving at the pleasure of the president, Kennedy won't allow this kind of insubordination. He tells Bobby to cool it. If he's got a plan, Kennedy is all ears otherwise. Back down, he keeps his outrage to himself. What the president's brother does not stay quiet. During an air of confidence, Bobby says it's time to take action, not half measures like the fiasco at the Bay of Pigs. They need to rally their forces and do whatever it takes to get rid of Fidel Castro. That is the only way they'll come away on top. Kennedy knows his brother is shrewd and bright. His opinions are always worth listening to. That's why Kennedy named him attorney general. But Bobby can also be a hothead. And right now, cooler minds have to prevail, at least until they get more information. So Kennedy breaks up the meeting and says they'll reconvene once they have a better picture of the situation. The US needs to know what exactly is going on in Cuba. How extensive the buildup really is, and whether this is part of a broader Soviet strategy to gain influence in the region and threaten the United States. Several days later, President John F. Kennedy sits down with his foreign policy advisors again in the cabinet room of the White House. And as many as his men, Kennedy can see they're worn out and exhausted. Kennedy himself is feeling the pinch of a long few days. For the last 48 hours, the president has been pouring over intelligence reports about Cuba. The information is still inconclusive, but Kennedy knows he's going to have to act. Sooner or later, the media is going to learn how the Soviets installed anti aircraft missiles in Cuba. No one can say they understand the Soviets endgame. But when the news breaks, reporting is bound to be sensational. It'll cause a circus in Washington, and regular Americans might start to panic. Kennedy needs a plan. When he turns to his aides, his secretary of defense, Robert McNamara, says he's gained it out and believes he has the best option. McNamara has spent a lifetime in the military. His posture is straight and stiff, and he speaks precisely, never mints in his words. Among his top advisors, Kennedy knows that McNamara is among the most accomplished and trustworthy. So when McNamara rises from his chair to begin explaining his plan, Kennedy listens. McNamara says the president cannot afford to wait on US intelligence. In maybe a long time before they figure out what the Soviets are really up to, and by then, a proper, proportional response may be out of the question. So McNamara recommends a naval blockade of Cuba. They'll stop any more Soviet ships from reaching any Cuban port, and it would send a clear message to Nikita Khrushchev. Any aggression will not be tolerated. Kennedy nods. On a tactical level, the plan makes sense. The Navy could easily block the Soviets from reaching Cuba, and that would prevent any more military equipment from arriving so close to America's shores. But while the move would appear to be an act of defense, Kennedy also knows it could trigger an escalation. The Soviets could take it as a sign of aggression themselves, and the two sides could quickly find themselves locked in a conflict. McNamara reiterates, it's the best available option. But Kennedy stands firm, no blockade, not yet. The Secretary of Defense Nod's accepting the president's decision, but then McNamara offers an alternative solution. He reminds the room that some Republicans in Congress have been trying to paint the president as indecisive, pushing Kennedy to call up reserved troops for combat readiness. McNamara thinks, in light of recent developments, it's not a bad idea. It would be a meaningful show of force, but it wouldn't commit the United States to any real offensive action. By mobilizing the reserves, the US would send a signal of toughness and preparedness. Assign the country won't be bullied, and that America is ready to attack if the Soviets push the situation any further. Kennedy takes someone to consider the idea. And the more he thinks about it, the more he likes it. The plan threads the needle between responses that are either too soft or overly aggressive. And if he mobilizes the troops, Kennedy knows he'll silence his critics, showing that he takes the communist threat seriously. The group begins to discuss the logistics, and soon Kennedy commits to the plan. They all mobilize 150,000 reserved troops to be ready in the coming weeks. But Kennedy doesn't want to do it quietly. He wants to issue a series of public statements to make sure Krushchev gets the message. But Kennedy also needs to be careful not to alarm the American public. He will assure them that the Soviet missiles are only conventional anti aircraft weapons, not nuclear warheads. And he'll promise they have nothing to fear, because with Kennedy as their president, Americans will never be threatened. Hey, it's Guy Ross here. On my podcast How I Built This, I share the mic with the founders of some of the world's best known companies. But How I Built This Isn't Your Average Business Podcast? Every episode is a rollercoaster of emotions. And by tapping into the hearts and minds of entrepreneurs, we can learn how the complex decisions they made years ago paved the way for their monumental success. But it's not just conversations about past successes. My guests and I also explore the novel and innovative ideas they're pursuing right now. The goal of our podcast is to inspire you with relatable stories so you approach challenges like their opportunities. Just like an entrepreneur. So if you want to learn to think differently, follow How I Built This, wherever you're listening right now. Listen to new episodes one week early on Amazon Music or Early and Add Free by subscribing to Wondery Plus, an Apple Podcasts or on the Wondery app. On September 6, 1962, and Soviet leader Nikita Krushchev is waiting in his office in a seaside villa in the Soviet Republic of Georgia, getting ready to go on a fishing expedition. There's a knock on the door and when it opens, Krushchev finds a tall man with short black hair and a bewildered look on his face. Stuart Udall is America's Secretary of the Interior. He oversees issues like logging and national parks. And until yesterday Udall was on a peaceful tour of the Soviet Union looking at hydroelectric dams. He's not the kind of official who meets with foreign leaders. But that's exactly why Krushchev has asked Udall here today. He wants to talk to someone who knows Kennedy and might give him insight into why the president is suddenly rattling sabers. A few days ago, Kennedy released a forceful statement revealing that Americans have detected Soviet anti aircraft missiles in Cuba. In response, Kennedy drew a red line, insisting that if the Soviets introduce any significant offensive weapons on the island, the US would consider it a direct threat. This got Krushchev's attention because he has already crossed Kennedy's red line. His nuclear missile bases are under construction and soon the warheads themselves will be on their way to Cuba. What Krushchev can't decide though is whether Kennedy is seriously contemplating a military response or whether he's bluffing. Last year when Krushchev met Kennedy in person in Vienna, he thought the young president was nothing but a rich playboy. But now Krushchev fears he may have underestimated Kennedy. Or perhaps he wonders, the president is weak, but he's fallen under the influence of others, deranged men like the War Hawk Republicans in Congress who've been looking for any excuse to invade Cuba, remove Castro, and challenge the Soviet Union. So today, Krushchev hopes he can get Udall to give him a glimpse of what's going on inside Kennedy's head. Rising from his desk, the Soviet premier welcomes America's interior secretary to the southwest Soviet Union. He begins by giving Udall a quick tour of the villa. It's an elegant property, with rows of pine trees and a swimming pool surrounded by a glass dome. Udall offers his compliments and for a few minutes the two men exchange pleasantries. But when there's a break in the conversation, Krushchev goes quiet and lets the interior secretary grow uncomfortable. Udall begins to squirm. And finally, when the awkward silence has gone on long enough, Udall asks the pressing question, why did the Soviet premier call this meeting? Udall isn't exactly the kind of cabinet member who meets with heads of state. Krushchev smiles. Now that he has Udall off center, he can get to the real business at hand. Krushchev says he read Kennedy's rather forceful statement. And he wants to know, was that truly the president or was it the influence of Congress? Udall responds that the president speaks for himself. Kennedy is in charge of military decisions in the US. Krushchev says he understands. He too makes the decision on going to war and on all military matters, including giving defensive weapons to Cuba. Krushchev asks, how is that any different from America giving aid to its allies? Udall doesn't have a ready response. So Krushchev leans in and presses the issue. He says that he doesn't want war. But there are fools in the Soviet Union just as there are fools in America. If America were to attack Cuba, that would potentially set off a dangerous turn of events. Does Kennedy understand this? Udall clears his throat, clearly nervous. He says that the responsible people in America, men like president Kennedy, always prevail unless intolerable provocations occur. During this, Krushchev steps in even closer to Udall, as stuffs a fat finger in his face. He reminds Udall America has the USSR surrounded with military bases, and then makes a threat he hopes Kennedy will soon hear. If the US attacks Cuba, then the Soviets will have no choice but to strike back in kind. Udall fidgets uncomfortably. He says the president has made his position on Cuba clear. A few people in Congress may call for an invasion, but the president makes the policy. And the decision to go to war. Krushchev's golf. It's been a long time since the US could spank the Soviets like a little boy. Now, Krushchev says firmly, the Soviets can swat their ass back. Both countries are equally strong. War would be an insanity. Is Kennedy an insane person? Or does he have a clear head? Udall doesn't know what to say or how to respond. Frustrated, Krushchev decides to move on, as Udall doesn't seem to be able to give him the answers he needs. He instructs Udall to relay Kennedy the substance of their conversation, but to tell the press the meeting was friendly and that they discussed hydroelectric dams. Udall nods, and then is dismissed as Krushchev makes his way back to his office, no closer to understanding Kennedy's thinking. Who is the young president? But the opening moves in this game of chess have been made. Krushchev has already crossed Kennedy's red line by starting construction on nuclear missile bases. The next move is obvious, install the missiles, and put Kennedy in check. The next day, Nikita Krushchev strides into his office in the southwest Soviet Union, and greets a group of his advisors sitting around a table. The members of the Presidium look haggard and sleep deprived. They had to travel overnight from Moscow to get here, but for Krushchev, this meeting couldn't wait. Earlier today, the White House released another statement. This one more aggressive than the last. Kennedy has called up 150,000 reserve troops to be ready for active duty in a matter of weeks. It's a clear ultimatum. Stand down in Cuba or the US will attack. It could be bluster, but it could also be the first step toward a full scale American invasion of Cuba, and Krushchev cannot let that happen. So he called this meeting with the Presidium. If they're going to pull off his plan to install nuclear missiles into Cuba, they will have to speed things up. Krushchev opens the window to let in some fresh air. It turns back to the members of the Presidium. Conrads, I appreciate the long travel on such short notice, but this is a pressing situation. The Americans are mobilizing 150,000 reserve troops. They have the power to invade Cuba. There is only one option for us. We have to get our missiles into Cuba before the American troops are ready. In the corner of the room, the veteran diplomat Anastas Mika Yan clears his throat and leans forward. Premier Krushchev, we know the facts of the current situation, and we know that speeding up is just one of our options. But we also know that a single misstep could be calamitous. One wrong move and the Americans could launch nuclear missiles at Moscow. Yes, Anastas, we are all aware of the danger. What's your point? The point is this mission is wrong headed. I oppose it at the start, and I oppose it now. So you just have the Americans point their missiles at Moscow. While we do what? Sit around like fish in a barrel? Premier Krushchev, I would never put our motherland at risk. That is why we must stop this plan. The plan will not be called off. It's not too late. You don't have to sneak missiles into Cuba. We'll find another option. The plan will not be called off. Krushchev's breath grows labored, as he turns his gaze across the room. Anastas, my fellow comrades, we are not backing down. Because there are no other options. The Americans have missiles in Turkey. They have the advantage, but we soviet we have the cleverness. Now this is just one move in our game of chess, but it is the right move. So you have a choice. Work with me. Get the missiles into Cuba. Or walk away. I know the camps out east are always looking for good men. The officials about the table blanch. They all know Krushchev's threat is real. Anyone who stands against the soviet premiere could find himself sent away to Siberia for a life of hard labor. Or worse. Krushchev could order the KGB to make any one of these men and their families disappear. So the members of the prosidium nod in approval. They only have a few weeks before American troops are mobilized. So they'll find a way to speed up the plan. They'll send more ships to Cuba, with launchpads and nuclear warheads. And by the time the Americans learn the truth, it'll be too late. The Soviets will have regained the upper hand in the Cold War. From Wandry, this is episode 2 of the Cuban Missile Crisis from American Scam. In our next episode, the Soviets raised to construct nuclear missile bases in Cuba, but a group of American officials sound illarm, bringing the conflict closer to war. If you like our show, please give us a 5 star rating and leave a review and be sure to tell your friends. I also have two other podcasts you might like, American History Tellers and Business Movers. Follow on Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, or wherever you're listening right now. Or you can listen to new episodes early and add free by subscribing to Wandry Plus in Apple Podcasts or in the Wandry app. You'll also find some links and offers from our sponsors in the episode notes. Supporting them helps us keep offering our shows for free. Another way you can support this show is by filling out a small survey at slash survey to tell us what topics we might come next. You can also find us and me on Twitter. Follow me at Lindsay A. Graham, Lindsay with an A, Middle Initially, and thank you. If you'd like to learn more about the Cuban Missile Crisis, we recommend the books Nuclear Folly by Serhi Plohi and One Minute to Midnight by Michael Doms. A quick note about our reenactments. In most cases, we can't know exactly what was said, but all our dramatizations are based on historical research. American Scandal is hosted, edited, and executed produced by me, Lindsay Graham, for airship. Audio editing by Molly Bach, sound design by Derek Ferrance, music by Lindsay Graham. This episode is written by Sam Kean, edited by Stephen Walters. Our senior producer is Gabe Riven. Our producers are Stephanie Gens, Jenny Lauer Beppman, and Marsha Lewey for Wandry.