… the Cuban Missile Crisis was in full swing. The US blockade of Cuba was in place, but that morning it was revealed that work on the intermediate range balistic missile (IRBM) sites was still continuing, intelligence later backed up by the CIA. President Kennedy’s response was to issue Security Action Memorrandum 199. This authorised the loading of nuclear weapons onto aircraft under the command of SACEUR (Supreme Allied Commander Europe) – these aircraft would be among the first to deliver airstrikes on the Soviet Union. Meanwhile, in an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council the US ambassador to the UN Adelai Stevenson challenged his Soviet counterpart Zorin to confirm the existence of the missiles, something Zorin steadfastly refused to do.
Of course, we simply peered into the abyss that October fifty years ago – for a lengthy but plausible account of how it might all have gone wrong check out: