The Days that the Whole World held its breath:
Ranging from: October 15 - November 21 1962
President Kennedy ordered U-2 planes to fly over Cuba and take photos, once the film had arrived, intelligence officers identified MRBMs (Middle Range Ballistic Missiles) that were an offensive weapon.
The President immediately ordered an assembly of his most trusted advisers. The ExComm was composed of fourteen people who's job was to analyze the situation. ExComm met every morning at 10:00 a.m at an upmost secrecy so the press could not be involved.
It was decided that President Kennedy keep his regular appearance so no one suspected the Crisis.
On October 17th the Soviet leader Khrushchev sent a letter to Kennedy assuring him that "under no circumstances would surface-to-surface missiles be sent to Cuba." By this time ExComm had already narrowed their recommended course of action down to two events: a blockade or an air strike.
On October 21st, ExComm, and President Kennedy decided that a quarantine was the best course of action. The administration called it a quarantine, because the term "blockade" would symbolize war.
On October 22nd, President Kennedy told United States what was happening. DEFCON was lowered to DEFCON 3 (the lowest it has been since World War II)
On October 24th before the quarantine could go into effect American intelligence officers noticed something strange. Of the nineteen Soviet ships en route to Cuba, sixteen, including five which were suspected of carrying missile cargoes
On October 25th, Walter Lippmann wrote abut a possible trade-off. The Cuban missiles for the missiles that the Untied States had put in Turkey. While analysis continued at ExComm, the Cubans continued to build their missile silos. Meanwhile at the United Nations, the Secretary General U. Thant proposed a cease of actions on both sides. This idea was overruled by both the Americans and the Russians.
On October 26th, The United States Navy boarded the Russian ship
There was a meeting between John Scali, a well respected ABC news diplomat and Alexander Fomin. At this meeting, Fomin told the diplomat of the situation in Cuba an offered a resolution. The resolution basically consisted of:
The missile sites in Cuba would be taken down and sent back to Russia
The Soviets would send no more offensive missiles to Cuba
The United States would have to pledge not to invade Cuba.
The Soviet leader sent a message to Kennedy saying:
"…If the President of the United States would give their assurance that the United States would itself not take part in an attack upon Cuba and would restrain others from such actions, if you recall your Navy – this would change everything.
Let us therefore display statesmanlike wisdom. I propose: we, for our part, will declare that our ships bound for Cuba are not carrying any armaments. You will declare that the United States will not invade Cuba with its troops and will not support any other forces which might intend to invade Cuba. Then the necessity for the presence of your military specialists in Cuba will be obviated."
When ExComm members receive this letter, they began to prepare a positive response. President Kennedy; however, sent his brother on a secret mission. The attorney general went through the back door of the Soviet embassy late that night for the purpose of meeting with Ambassador Dobrynin. At this meeting Robert Kennedy suggested another possible resolution. He intimated at a possible trade. Cuban missiles for Turkish missiles.
On the 27th, during an ExComm meeting, another letter from the Soviet leader began to come through. Apparently Khrushchev was facing some pressure from his aids back in Moscow. This new letter was polished, shined, and edited to be exact. A new variable had entered into the equation: Turkey. ExComm members were shocked and did not understand how Khrushchev came up with the idea of a missile trade. Kennedy kept quiet about the covert mission from the previous night. Now the Soviets would only withdraw their missiles from Cuba if the United States would withdraw its missiles from Turkey.
President Kennedy sent another letter to Khrushchev accepting the terms which the Soviet leader had proposed in his letter dated the 26th
On October 28th, over Radio Moscow, Nikita Khrushchev accepted President Kennedy’s terms, over the next month, negotiations continued
On November 21st, 1962 President Kennedy ended the quarantine, and the crisis officially ended.
(Taken from http://library.thinkquest.org/10826/timeline.htm)