America in the 20th Century - Vol. 7

America in the 20th Century - Vol. 7

America in the 20th Century - Vol. 7

America in the 20th Century - Vol. 7

Excerpt

Life as we know it came close to ending in October 1962. The United States and the Soviet Union both possessed nuclear weapons. They very nearly used these and other weapons on each other, an event that could have blotted out all humans, animals, and plant life on earth. The story begins with a Communist revolution in America’s backyard.

A Modern Revolutionary

In 1953, Fidel Castro Ruz began to organize a revolution in Cuba. A Roman Catholic law graduate, Castro was the illegitimate son of a middleclass native of Spain and his Cuban cook. Sickened by the repression and corruption of the country’s dictator, General Fulgencio Batista, Castro led an unsuccessful attack on an army barracks that landed him in jail for two years. When he got out in 1955, he went to Mexico to reorganize his followers. The Castroites returned to Cuba in 1956, but were chased into the Sierra Maestra mountains after trying without success to stage an invasion. From their mountain stronghold, Castro and his followers gradually took control of most of the country.

The Cuban government finally fell when Batista fled the country on New Year’s Eve, 1958. Castro named himself prime minister two months later. Then, he took on the responsibilities of commander-in-chief of the armed forces and head of the nation’s only political party. In 1960, he allied himself with the Soviet Union, and in 1961, he publicly declared that he was a Communist.

The reality of a Communist nation ninety miles from American shores frightened many Americans. In 1960, Eisenhower ordered a 700,000ton cut in sugar imports from Cuba. A year later, the administration broke off diplomatic relations with Cuba altogether. Castro seemed to take great pleasure in ending trade with the United States and grabbing property held by American companies and Cuban anticommunists. All this served to anger the United States Government, particularly those branches involved in spying and sabotage. The CIA trained, paid, and provided arms for fourteen hundred Cubans to stage a military invasion in 1961. These anti-Castro Cubans landed in an area known as the Bay of Pigs. Those who were not killed by Castro’s troops were quickly imprisoned. John F. Kennedy, president only three months when the calamity took place, told the press, “Victory has 100 fathers and defeat is an orphan.” The ill-planned invasion made the new chief executive look as if his administration was inept. In contrast, Cubans celebrated, staging parades to honor Castro.

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