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Ironically, it was the near use of these smaller weapons that almost turned the Cuban Missile Crisis into World War III. Earlier the same day, an American U-2 spyplane on an Arctic atmospheric sampling mission became lost and accidentally overflew Soviet territory in Siberia. In response, the Soviet air defense forces launched MiG fighters to intercept the reconnaissance aircraft, which was finally headed back to base in Alaska. To help escort the U-2 home, the Alaskan Air Command launched a pair of its own interceptors: F-102s armed with Falcon AAMs that had tactical nuclear warheads.

In the United States, that attitude was reflected in the knowledge that the United States had overwhelming strategic nuclear superiority over the Soviet Union, and that the imbalance of strategic weapons might never again be as favorable as it was at that time. S. Minuteman and Polaris strategic missile programs. Both Kennedy and Khrushchev knew that they could keep their hardliners in check and their fingers off the triggers that could ignite a nuclear conflagration. Despite the notions of novelists, screenwriters, and even a few historians, there were no “rogue elephants”—generals plotting coups—in either the United States or the Soviet Union.

Such actions were unacceptable to the Kennedy administration. After the humiliating failure to overthrow Castro with the Bay of Pigs invasion in April 1961, the president entrusted his brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, to lead the effort to covertly overthrow Castro. But Castro proved to be a wily and tough opponent. Nikita Khrushchev came to the Cuban Missile Crisis by another path, trying to resolve a number of Soviet problems in a single, bold stroke. Those included preserving the Castro regime in the face of American efforts to overthrow it, while at the same time trying to redress the Soviet inferiority in strategic nuclear weapons that could strike the American homeland.

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Moller Theoretical Nuclear (isotope) Chart


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