Fifty years ago, almost to the day, the students of our entire high school were ordered to go to the school parade ground. We stood silently in rows, wondering what would happen, and why this unprecedented event.
I was in sub-senior year, which means the one before leaving high school if we got as far as the senior school. Most didn't, and were out earning a living. I was fifteen.
The school radio was connected up to the PA system, and the Principal told us to listen closely. We were there just three minutes, and then ordered back to our classrooms. This is what we heard.
We really didn't have a clue, as we went back to the Chemistry lab to complete our interrupted experiments. Little did we know how close the world was to a devastating nuclear exchange, where the superpowers, the USA and the USSR, had enough missiles each for what they called "assured mutual destruction."
Nevertheless, the broadcast made a deep impression on us when we discovered how close we had come to that disaster. For those post-superpower babies, here's the real story:
"JFK was good enough to prevent nuclear war but some people aren't smart enough to realize it," is the first youtube comment I notice when I see this video.
It's one way of looking at it. If playing a poker hand using the world as the stakes is "prevention", you might say that. The truth is that no poker game to see who blinked first should ever have had a couple of billion people's lives and the future of the world as the stake.
It was unwise of the USSR to test the US resolve by sending missiles to Cuba, no doubt. That was a poor gambit, but the USSR rarely backed down on threats. In the end it was Krushchev who made the sacrifice his generals urged him not to. He ordered the missile-carrying ships back to their bases, knowing that he would lose his leadership of the USSR in return, leaving the USSR in the hands of the generals.
If it was success, it had its terrible consequences. It encouraged the US to take on the mantle of world's policeman in its Indo-China venture. That turned out to be the price the US was going to pay, apart from millions of Indo-Chinese still doing so.