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How did the Cold War develop? 1943–56

The Teheran, Yalta and Potsdam Conferences

The attitudes of Stalin and Truman and the ideological differences between the superpowers.

The establishment and control of the Soviet satellite states

Cominform and Comecon.

The growing involvement of the USA in Europe

The Truman Doctrine

The Marshall Plan


The Berlin Blockade/Airlift

The formation of NATO.

Military developments and the beginnings of the arms race.

The impact of Soviet rule on Hungary


De-Stalinisation and optimism

The Hungarian Revolution: Nagy and his demands, Soviet reaction and uprising, the death of Nagy, the re-establishment of Soviet control and international

The Cold War, 1956 - 1969.

The Berlin Crisis

The refugee problem
Khrushchev's challenge to the USA
Summit Conference and Eisenhower
Challenge to Kennedy
Construction of the Berlin Wall and its impact
Kennedy's visit to Berlin, 1963.

The Cuban Missile Crisis

How did the USA react to the Cuban Revolution?
Why did Khrushchev put missiles into Cuba?
Why did Kennedy react as he did?
Who won the Cuban Missile Crisis?

The Cold War, 1956 - 1969. / The Cuban Missile Crisis

How did the USA react to the Cuban Revolution?


In the late 1940's and 1950's Cuba encouraged foreign investment and a large number of wealthy Americans bought homes there, and US companies invested heavily in the country. The arrival of so many wealthy Americans led to a rapid increase in the value of attractive properties; an increase in the number of luxury bars, restaurants and fashion outlets. The opulence of these areas was not matched by improving conditions elsewhere in Cuba though. The foreign investors made their money but it was rarely invested into the Cuban system. As a result literacy levels were low and the standard of healthcare was very poor. This system had its roots in the mid 19th century. At that time the US helped to put down a revolt in Cuba. As a result of this the US was granted Guantanamo Bay and Cuba was forced to sell her Raw Materials to The United States at reduced prices. The Platt Agreement of 1901 tied Cuba to the United States even more closely. This agreement permitted the United States to intervene in Cuban affairs if it felt the need.

As a result the Island became heavily reliant on the US. Most of the industry and agricultural land was US owned and the people in government had little choice but to pander to the whims of US corporations. Consequently there was little investment in education, health or social welfare. This was opposed by the Cubans Peoples Party. In 1952 an election was held in Cuba. It was widely expected that the Cuban Peoples Party would win this election. However during the campaign the military seized control and General Batista declared himself the leader of Cuba.

One member of the Cuban Peoples Party, Fidel Castro, realised that the only way in which the Cuban Peoples Party could gain power was to seize it themselves. In 1953 Castro led a small group of 123 men in a raid that was supposed to overthrow General Batista. The raid failed and Castro was arrested. Public opinion forced Batista to release Castro after only a few years in jail. Upon his release, Castro went to Mexico where he began planning a second attempt at overthrowing Batista.

In 1956 Castro returned to Cuba. He and a small group of his followers moved into mountainous regions and began a guerilla war against the government. Despite only having some 80 or so followers at first, the guerilla campaign proved very successful. Government troops became frustrated at their lack of success and often used violence against villagers to try and find out where Castro's men were hiding. This simply made the peasants more sympathetic towards the Guerillas, who also ensured that they helped the locals whenever they could. By 1958 Castro had amassed a lot of support, largely due to Batista's mistreatment of the population. Having rapidly built up the size of his force Castro now had around 10,000 men in his guerilla army. Confident of victory, he left the mountains and advanced on the key towns.

Batista fled as Castro's army moved in and the commanders he left to defend his government were no match for the revolutionaries. In January 1959, Castro took control of Cuba.

How did the Revolution affect the United States?

One of the things that Castro's government did was redistribute wealth. This resulted in land that had been owned by American companies being given to poor Cubans. Castro also nationalised a lot of industries. This also affected American Companies as much of Cuba's economy had been dominated by US industry.

The US reaction.

The US had a problem when dealing with the changes in Cuba. Anything they did that was too aggressive would be likely to force Castro to seek an alliance with the Soviet Union. In order to try and prevent this President Eisenhower opted for economic action. No longer would the US buy Cuban Raw Materials and Sugar. This was intended to undermine the Castro regime, or force a change in economic policies at least. The policy backfired. Castro struck deals with the Soviet Union and other Eastern European communist states for them to purchase Cuban goods.

Following this move the US became more wary of the potential threat that Cuba posed. Now there was an economic agreement with the Soviet Union the risk of the island becoming a Soviet base increased. Eisenhower responded by authorising the creation of plans to overthrow the Castro regime.

In 1961 John F kennedy replaced Eisenhower as President of the United States. The Cuban issue was one of the first things that he would have to deal with. He quickly became convinced that the plans prepared for Eisenhower were not feasible and ordered new plans to be drawn up.

The new plan called for a force of Cuban exiles to be landed in the Bay of Pigs. They would be provided with arms and air cover. The US administration opted to scale down the size and scope of the operation that had been planned. Bombing took place prior to the landing but air cover was reduced and the landing site offered little hope of escape or of fighting a guerilla war against Castro's army: who heavily outnumbered the invasion force.

The Bay of Pigs landing was an unmitigated disaster. 1400 men were transported to Cuba. Two of the ships carrying them were sunk, sinking many of the supplies the force needed. Some of the air craft supporting the invasion were also shot down. In under 3 days every one of the invasion force had been killed, wounded or captured.

The Kennedy administration had been careful to ensure that they had plasible deniability of the operation, so could deflect blame. However the attempt led to closer ties between Cuba and the Soviet Union as it was very obvious that high ranking officials within the US administration wanted to overthrow Castro.





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