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Time Travel Field Trips Presents
Sec. of Defense Robert S. McNamara
General Maxwell Taylor
Who do you want to know more about? << Click on one to choose >> **Why are there no women in this list?** This game is an accurate representation of the Cuban Missile Crisis. The people who had real decision-making power during this event were members of ExComm. Unfortuntately, because this was in 1962, ExComm did not include any women or people of color. Therefore, I’ve chosen historial accuracy over a desire to represent a wider variety of people.
Attorney General Robert Kennedy
Welcome, Mr. President! We need your experience and sense of justice to help us solve this difficult situation.
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President John F. Kennedy
You are the youngest man ever elected president. You served in the Navy during World War Two, and when your boat was rammed and sunk by the Japanese, you managed to lead the survivors to safety despite your own serious injuries. Your experiences in combat give you a clear understanding of the realities of war.
Handsome and charismatic, you are dedicated to "a world of law and free choice, banishing the world of war and coercion." You are dedicated to stopping the spread of Communism, which brings you into conflict with the Soviet Union.
Meet another person
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Attorney General Robert Kennedy
Bobby is your younger brother. You appointed him Attorney General. Amongst other things, he is using his office to fight organized crime and work for civil rights for African Americans.
Bobby is known for his quick temper; he can be impulsive and excitable. He is also a superb and energetic organizer, who can get things done. He has an almost telepathic ability to understand what you wants. You trust him completely - he's absolutely incorruptible.
Go to briefing
General Maxwell Taylor
Taylor is a military man. During World War 2, he was the first Allied general to land on the beaches of Normandy during the D-Day invasion. He also served in the Korean War.
Taylor has a very close and trusting relationship with both you and your brother, Robert. You have appointed him as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, which means he is your primary military advisor.
You see Taylor as a "man of unquestionable integrity, sincerity, intelligence and diplomacy."*
McNamara is 46, with metal-rimmed glasses and short, slicked-back hair. His brain just seems to work faster than everyone else's. He has a knack for honing in on a complex situation and reducing it to an elegent mathematical formula.
Although military officers agree Taylor is brilliant, they also think he's arrogant and interfering. Senior officers don't like the way he often bypasses the chain of command, or the way he challenges and questions them in ways no secretary of defense has done before.
Responding to the Threat
Now you have a decision to make. How do you want to respond to this imminent threat?
Read the memo for excerpts from the October 20 meeting to learn more about the pros and cons of each choice.
The President and his top advisors, also known as the Executive Committee, or ExComm, meet.
Choose air strike
Mr. President, you have chosen…poorly. The country needs you to clear your head and bring some wise leadership to this difficult situation. The Soviets are allowed to send missiles to their ally, Cuba. The United States, by launching a sneak air attack (like the Japanese did at Pearl Harbor) are the ones breaking the law. Not only do you fail to destroy all the missiles, you kill thousands of Soviet technicians and cause a nuclear war. Congratulations! You've killed millions of people! Lose two life points.
Map of the western hemisphere showing range of Cuban missiles, which was used in the secret White House meetings
On October 20, ExComm argued about the best way to respond to the threat. The following excerpts are from the minutes of that meeting. <
Minutes of the 505th Meeting of the National Security Council
Washington, October 20, 1962, 2:30-5:10 p.m.
In summary, the Council was informed that sixteen SS-4 missiles, with a range of 1020 nautical miles were now operational in Cuba and could be fired approximately eighteen hours after a decision to fire was taken. The bearing of these launchers was 315 degrees, i.e. toward the central area of the United States.
The President summarized the discussion of the intelligence material as follows. There is something to destroy in Cuba now and, if it is destroyed, a strategic missile capability would be difficult to restore.
Secretary McNamara described his view as the "blockade route." This route is aimed at preventing any addition to the strategic missiles already deployed to Cuba and eventually to eliminate these missiles. He said to do this we should institute a blockade of Cuba and be prepared to take armed action in specified instances.
Secretary McNamara listed the disadvantages of the blockade route as follows:
1. It would take a long time to achieve the objective of eliminating strategic missiles from Cuba.
2. It would result in serious political trouble in the United States.
3. The world position of the United States might appear to be weakening.
The advantages which Secretary McNamara cited are:
1. It would cause us the least trouble with our allies.
2. It avoids any surprise air attack on Cuba, which is contrary to our tradition.
3. It is the only military course of action compatible with our position as a leader of the free world.
4. It avoids a sudden military move which might provoke a response from the USSR which could result in escalating actions leading to general war.
The President pointed out that during a blockade, more missiles would become operational, and upon the completion of sites and launching pads, the threat would increase.
General Taylor said that the principal argument he wished to make was that now was the time to act because this would be the last chance we would have to destroy these missiles. If we did not act now, the missiles would be camouflaged in such a way as to make it impossible for us to find them. Therefore, if they were not destroyed, we would have to live with them with all the consequent problems for the defense of the United States.
Mr. McNamara cautioned that an air strike would not destroy all the missiles and launchers in Cuba, and, at best, we could knock out two-thirds of these missiles. Those missiles not destroyed could be fired from mobile launchers not destroyed.
Secretary McNamara noted that the air strike planned by the Joint Chiefs involved 800 sorties. Such a strike would result in several thousand Russians being killed, chaos in Cuba, and efforts to overthrow the Castro government. In his view the probability was high that an air strike would lead inevitably to an invasion. He doubted that the Soviets would take an air strike on Cuba without resorting to a very major response. In such an event, the United States would lose control of the situation which could escalate to general war.
Secretary Dillon said that the existence of strategic missiles in Cuba was, in his opinion, not negotiable. He believed that any effort to negotiate the removal of the missiles would involve a price so high that the United States could not accept it. If the missiles are not removed or eliminated, he continued, the United States will lose all of its friends in Latin America, who will become convinced that our fear is such that we cannot act. He admitted that the limited use of force involved in a blockade would make the military task much harder and would involve the great danger of the launching of these missiles by the Cubans.
General Taylor argued that a blockade would not solve our problem or end the Cuban missile threat. He said that eventually we would have to use military force and, if we waited, the use of military force would be much more costly.
Original document modified for length using excerpts, but the wording and order of text is the same.
Letter From President Kennedy to Chairman Khrushchev, October 22, 1962 The White HouseWashington, October 22, 1962. Sir: A copy of the statement I am making tonight concerning developments in Cuba and the reaction of my Government thereto has been handed to your Ambassador in Washington. In view of the gravity of the developments to which I refer, I want you to know immediately and accurately the position of my Government in this matter. In our discussions and exchanges on Berlin and other international questions, the one thing that has most concerned me has been the possibility that your Government would not correctly understand the will and determination of the United States in any given situation, since I have not assumed that you or any other sane man would, in this nuclear age, deliberately plunge the world into war which it is crystal clear no country could win and which could only result in catastrophic consequences to the whole world, including the aggressor. At our meeting in Vienna and subsequently, I expressed our readiness and desire to find, through peaceful negotiation, a solution to any and all problems that divide us. At the same time, I made clear that in view of the objectives of the ideology to which you adhere, the United States could not tolerate any action on your part which in a major way disturbed the existing over-all balance of power in the world. I stated that an attempt to force abandonment of our responsibilities and commitments in Berlin would constitute such an action and that the United States would resist with all the power at its command. It was in order to avoid any incorrect assessment on the part of your Government with respect to Cuba that I publicly stated that if certain developments in Cuba took place, the United States would do whatever must be done to protect its own security and that of its allies. Moreover, the Congress adopted a resolution expressing its support of this declared policy. Despite this, the rapid development of long-range missile bases and other offensive weapons systems in Cuba has proceeded. I must tell you that the United States is determined that this threat to the security of this hemisphere be removed. At the same time, I wish to point out that the action we are taking is the minimum necessary to remove the threat to the security of the nations of this hemisphere. The fact of this minimum response should not be taken as a basis, however, for any misjudgment on your part. I hope that your Government will refrain from any action which would widen or deepen this already grave crisis and that we can agree to resume the path of peaceful negotiations. Sincerely, Source: http://microsites.jfklibrary.org/cmc/oct22/
You've arrived in Washington, D.C., in October, 1962. Tensions are high between the United States and the Soviet Union. The situation is unstable and could quickly escalate to full-out nuclear war. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to protect the United States and prevent a war. If you make it through alive, you win.
You will be making a series of decisions. Click the appropriate button to see the results of your choice. Be forewarned, though - there's an element of chance (just like in life); the same decision can have vastly different results. You can lose life points for poor decisions, and occasionally gain them for clever ones. Some of your decisions may lead to World War Three. Now, in real life, even one mushroom cloud is too many. But some of these decisions are tricky, so in the game you can manage one mushroom cloud, and hang on through two, but if you cause three mushroom clouds, you'll have to start over. Are you ready to face this deadly challenge? By the way, everything in this game is real, from the people to the events. It all actually happened.
You are President John F. Kennedy. You are about to face the most difficult decisions of your life. A single mistake could mean the deaths of millions of people. Luckily, you have a strong team of advisors to help you.
Cuba became a communist country in 1959 under leader Fidel Castro. This brought the Cold War close to home, since Cuba is only 90 miles off the coast of Florida. Relations between Cuba and the United States are tense; the Kennedy administration has already made more than one failed attempt to topple Castro from power.
October 20, 1962
Mr. President, you should launch a surgical air strike against Cuba. Fly over Cuba, and drop bombs on the missile sites. This can be a surprise attack, although that will definitely kill a lot of people. Or you can warn the Cubans about the attack so they can get the people out of the way, but that also lets them prepare for your attack.
There’s a better way to solve this! Use the Navy to quarantine Cuba, and prevent the Soviets from shipping any new nuclear warheads to Cuba. Use your Navy to create a no-cross zone in the ocean to prevent Soviet ships from reaching Cuba until this issue is resolved.
Map showing the quarantine line.
Click article to read more
Tell the people
The crisis will likely enter a critical phase if American ships try to stop and search Soviet ships. A number of Soviet ships are already on their way to the Caribbean.
What do you want to do next?
Copyright Facts on File, Inc., found on http://carrieandgabriella.wikispaces.com/Background
October 22, 1962
You should tell the American people about the situation. Although we've been able to contain the story since October 16, bits of information are starting to leak out. It's best that you take charge of the situation and tell people what is going on.
To protect ourselves legally we need to get allies on our side. Send a representative to the Organization of American States to get support for your quarantine plans. You want the whole world to be clear that America is on the side of right on this one. A quarantine in international waters could be considered illegal, so it's very important that other countries support your actions.
The quarantine is a good choice! Well done! Begin to set up a Naval blockade of Cuba, and warn Soviet Premier Khruschchev not to cross the line. Tell him he needs to dismantle the bases on Cuba and remove the missiles. Click the “Letter” button to read the letter.
I’m afraid there’s terrible news, Mr. President. Our U2 spy planes have spotted nuclear missile launch sites being built on Cuba. The missiles are aimed directly at the center of the United States.
Mr. President, you have chosen…poorly. The country needs you to clear your head and bring some wise leadership to this difficult situation. You get lucky and don't trigger a war...yet. Despite your advice, cooler heads prevail. ExComm convinces you to create the Naval quarantine.
Roll for your life. Choose odds or evens.
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Teaching questions for the game: CMC class discussion questions