October 28, 1962 – End of “The Cuban Missile Crisis”

On this day in history, Radio Moscow announced that the Soviet Union had accepted the proposed solution to the 13-day confrontation over missiles in Cuba, and released the text of a letter from Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev affirming the missiles would be removed in exchange for a non-invasion pledge from the United States.

On October 16, President Kennedy and foreign policy and national defense officials had been informed about U-2 spy plane findings showing the installation of nuclear-armed Soviet missiles on Cuba, just 90 miles from U.S. shores. In a nationally televised address on October 22, the President notified Americans about the presence of the missiles, explained his decision to erect a naval blockade around Cuba, and avowed that the U.S. was prepared to use military force if necessary to neutralize this perceived threat to national security. Many people feared the world was on the brink of nuclear war.

Map of the western hemisphere showing the full range of the nuclear missiles under construction in Cuba, used during the secret meetings on the Cuban crisis.

Map of the western hemisphere showing the full range of the nuclear missiles under construction in Cuba, used during the secret meetings on the Cuban crisis.

After a period of tense negotiations an agreement was reached between Kennedy and Khrushchev. Publicly, the Soviets would agree to dismantle their offensive weapons in Cuba and return them to the Soviet Union, subject to United Nations verification, in exchange for a U.S. public declaration and agreement never to invade Cuba without direct provocation. Secretly, the U.S. also agreed that it would dismantle all U.S.-built Jupiter MRBMs, which were deployed in Turkey and Italy against the Soviet Union but were not known about by the public. (Actually, the U.S. was preparing to remove those missiles anyway, but the USSR was unaware of that fact.)

This sequence of events inspired one of the nation’s favorite Christmas carols. “Do You Hear What I Hear?” was written in October 1962, with lyrics by Noël Regney and music by Gloria Shayne Baker. The pair, married at the time, wrote it as a plea for peace during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Baker (born as Gloria Adele Shain in Brookline, Massachusetts) grew up next door to Joseph and Rose Kennedy and their children, including John F. Kennedy.

“Do You Hear What I Hear?” was released shortly after Thanksgiving in 1962. The song was originally recorded by the Harry Simeone Chorale, a group which had also popularized “The Little Drummer Boy.” The song sold more than a quarter-million copies during the 1962 Christmas holiday season. Bing Crosby made the song into a mega-hit when he recorded his own version of it on October 21, 1963, with the record being released as a single on October 26. The song was later recorded by artists as diverse as Whitney Houston, Bob Dylan, along with hundreds of others. Here is a video recording of the song by Carrie Underwood:

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