On this day in history, President Kennedy addressed the nation to announce the discovery of Soviet missile bases in Cuba. These missile sites, under construction but nearing completion, were designed to house medium-range missiles capable of delivering nuclear payloads to a number of major cities in the U.S.
Kennedy said he was ordering a naval “quarantine” of Cuba to prevent Soviet ships from transporting any more offensive weapons to the island and declared that the United States would not tolerate the existence of the missile sites currently in place. He said America would not stop short of military action to end what he called a “clandestine, reckless, and provocative threat to world peace.”
On October 23, the quarantine of Cuba began, but Kennedy decided to give Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev more time to consider the U.S. action by pulling the quarantine line back 500 miles. The leaders eventually publicly agreed to a deal in which the Soviets would dismantle the weapon sites in exchange for a pledge from the United States not to invade Cuba. In a separate secret deal, the United States also agreed to remove its nuclear missiles from Turkey.
You can watch archival footage of his address here.