Real story behind Cuba missile crisis
We write in reference to your RAF North Luffenham article ("Cold War reminder given listed status," Leicester Mercury, October 17).
It had the strapline "Missile site decision on anniversary of Cuba crisis".
The oft-repeated "Cuba crisis" is, of course, the perception from "this" side of those chilling times.
From the former Soviet Union's perception, the story was different.
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So, what is the Cuba story?
In 1957, the US announced it wanted medium-range Jupiter nuclear missiles in Turkey, on the Soviet Union's border. These were actually deployed 1961-62, in the USSR's back yard, so to speak.
However, the east of England's Thor missiles were deployed from 1958 onwards.
Those in North Luffenham, you say, took 15 minutes to launch and were 18 minutes' flight time from Moscow.
However, the Thors needed 24 hours to be fuelled and loaded, which meant that they were not a retaliatory weapon, they were first strike weapons.
So the USSR had Jupiters on their border and Thors in Britain.
The Soviet Union's Premier, Nikita Khrushchev, perhaps thought tit-for-tat might be illuminating for the United States.
On October 14, 1962, a US spy plane over Cuba spotted Soviet nuclear missiles. Two days later, President Kennedy was told, and on October 22, on TV, he told the US public and declared a blockade of Cuba with a quarantine line. Which, in law, is an act of war.
Soviet ships carrying missiles supported by four Soviet nuclear armed submarines were heading for that line.
The US located one sub, B59, which dived deep and the US started depth-charging it, the US Navy's signal for a sub to surface.
Unfortunately, the USSR's submariners' orders were different.
They had no way of contacting Moscow and believed themselves under attack – at war.
Three men on board had the "key" to the nuclear torpedo launch. After five hours of depth-charges, two of them wanted to launch. This would have been the start of a nuclear war.
Second-in-command Vasili Arkipov would not agree.
The sub, surfacing in the dark – for oxygen – was subsequently allowed to sail away.
Kennedy and Khrushchev had backed down. The two Ks didn't stop that world disaster, it was Vasili Alexandrovich Arkipov, who later faced charges when he got home.
Much the same very uneven, worrying, disclosure is reported from the Middle East, concentrating on Iran's possible nuclear weapons capability, frequently without reference to Israel's actual nuclear weapons stacked in their silos now, leaving aside the US, ours and other nuclear stocks.
Bearing Cuba in mind, we really do have to be alert, to learn and progress.
Your information on Thors tells us that their 1.45 megaton warheads were each the destructive equivalent of an RAF 1,000 bomber raid.
But, of course, as concerned Arkipov, a father, the appalling destructive reality of nuclear weapons includes the radiation left behind.
In CND, when campaigning against Britain's Trident nuclear weapons, we want a nuclear-free Middle East and world, but being citizens of this country we have to start here.
Nevertheless, we try to inform ourselves about the wider reality and strongly advocate peace-making and dialogue.
Above all, not brinkmanship.
Yours, in peace.
Anna Cheetham and Caroline Moles, Leicester Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, Committee members.