Cold War movie

Slice of Life

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 October, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 October, 2007, 12:00am


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From the South China Morning Post this week in: 1962

'This Government, as promised, has maintained the closest surveillance of the Soviet military build-up on the island of Cuba. Within the last week, unmistakable evidence has established the fact that a series of offensive missile sites is now in preparation on that imprisoned island. The purpose of these bases can be none other than to provide a nuclear strike capability against the Western Hemisphere.

'Upon receiving the first preliminary hard information of this nature last Tuesday morning at 9am, I directed that our surveillance be stepped up. And having now confirmed and completed our evaluation of the evidence and our course of action, this Government feels obliged to report this new crisis to you in full detail.

'The characteristics of these new missile sites indicate two distinct types of installations. Several of them include medium-range ballistic missiles, capable of carrying a nuclear warhead for a distance of more than 1,000 nautical miles (1,853km). Each of these missiles, in short, is capable of striking Washington DC, the Panama Canal, Cape Canaveral, Mexico City or any other city in the southeastern part of the United States, in Central America or in the Caribbean area...

'Acting, therefore, in the defence of our own security and that of the entire Western Hemisphere, and under the authority entrusted to me by the Constitution as endorsed by the resolution of Congress, I have directed that the following initial steps be taken immediately:

'First: To halt this offensive build-up, a strict quarantine on all offensive military equipment under shipment to Cuba is being initiated. All ships of any kind bound for Cuba, from whatever nation or port, will, if found to contain offensive weapons, be turned back...

'I have directed the Armed Forces to prepare for any eventualities; and trust that, in the interests of both the Cuban people and the Soviet technicians at these sites, the hazards to all concerned of continuing this threat will be recognised.'

The Post ran that fateful televised speech by US President John F. Kennedy in full on inside pages on October 24, 1962. The front page carried a series of stories on the matter.

The Soviet Union gave the US 'serious warning' on its Cuba policy and announced a series of measures to increase the combat-readiness of the Soviet army and Warsaw Pact forces.

A Soviet government statement repeated that Soviet arms deliveries to Cuba were purely for Cuban defence and said no state that valued its independence could meet the American demand 'that military equipment that Cuba needs for self-defence should be removed from Cuban territory'.

Britain fully supported Kennedy's arms blockade. A government statement branded the basing of offensive nuclear weapons in Cuba as provocative, despite the similar US bases built at the Turkish-Soviet border.

The Post continued to take out large parts of page one with Cuba throughout the week, including Soviet leader Nikita Kruschev's appeal for restraint and the turning back of several Soviet ships from the blockade. Only on October 29 could the paper report a conclusion to the nuclear brinkmanship. The former Soviet Union, now Russia, agreed to dismantle its missile bases in Cuba and bring its rockets back under United Nations supervision.

The dramatic move was announced by Kruschev in a message to Kennedy, who welcomed Kruschev's offer and called it an important contribution to peace. In response to Kruschev's announcement, Fidel Castro named five conditions for settling the crisis, including the giving up by the US of its naval base at Guantanamo Bay.

Kruschev said Kennedy's assurance not to invade Cuba - given in a rapid series of exchanges over 48 hours - had removed the motives that prompted Moscow to supply aid of this kind to Havana.

Lysergic acid diethylamide, a drug designed to treat mental illnesses, was withdrawn from distribution by its Canadian manufacturer at the request of federal authorities, a government official announced.

Dr C. A. Morrell, Director of the Food and Drug Directorate, said it was a potent drug that might produce hallucinations and other mental disturbances. Reports from the manufacturer brought to light instances of it being used improperly and of people 'taking it for kicks'.