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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Those Frigging Missiles

Jupiter in TurkeyThe Jupiter Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile (IRBM), in service from 1960 to 1963, was an important link between early, short-range rockets and later weapons that could reach any point on Earth. Jupiters were put in Europe as result of heads of government decision in 1957 in response to boastful Soviet MRBM threat to Europe. The single-stage missile's range of 1,500 miles required bases on the periphery of the USSR. Negotiations with France proved unsuccessful, and finally Italy and Turkey accepted IRBM bases. Italian and Turkish crews trained to operate the missiles, but Americans controlled the nuclear warheads. Two squadrons with a total of 30 missiles were operational at Gioia del Colle, Italy, by 1961; a single squadron of 15 Jupiters became operational at Cigli Air Base, Turkey, in 1962.

Turkey regarded these Jupiters as a symbol of Alliance's determination to use atomic weapons against Russian attack on Turkey whether by large conventional or nuclear forces, although Turks had been most reluctant admit the presence IRBM's publicly. The fact that Jupiters were obsolescent and vulnerable did not apparently affect Turkish thinking. Turkey considered the Jupiters a symbol Turkish possession modern weapons, tangible evidence value NATO membership and key means strike at Soviets.

The Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962 was a direct and dangerous confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War and was the moment when the two superpowers came closest to nuclear conflict. After the failed U.S. attempt to overthrow the Castro regime in Cuba with the Bay of Pigs invasion, and while the Kennedy administration planned Operation Mongoose, in July 1962 Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev reached a secret agreement with Cuban premier Fidel Castro to place Soviet nuclear missiles in Cuba. Khrushchev sent Kennedy a message the evening of October 26, which meant it was sent in the middle of the night Moscow time. It was a long, emotional message that raised the specter of nuclear holocaust, and presented a proposed resolution. “If there is no intention,” he said, “to doom the world to the catastrophe of thermonuclear war, then let us not only relax the forces pulling on the ends of the rope, let us take measures to untie that knot. We are ready for this.”

On 27 October 1962, Khrushchev sent another message indicating that any proposed deal must include the removal of U.S. Jupiter missiles from Turkey. Soviet proposals that US missiles be removed Turkey in conjunction Soviet removal missiles Cuba and continued airing of similar proposals by prominent western journalists introduced element rigidity into any Turkish consideration of the removal Turkish-based Jupiters. But the President recalled during an EXECOM meeting that over a year ago he wanted to get the Jupiter missiles out of Turkey because they had become obsolete and of little military value. In a more heated moment, he is alleged to have called them simply "those frigging missiles."

Robert Kennedy then met secretly with Soviet Ambassador to the United States, Anatoly Dobrynin, and indicated that the United States was planning to remove the Jupiter missiles from Turkey anyway, and that it would do so soon, but this could not be part of any public resolution of the missile crisis. The next morning, 28 October 1962, Khrushchev issued a public statement that Soviet missiles would be dismantled and removed from Cuba. US Jupiter missiles were removed from Turkey in April 1963.

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