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Today in Alternate History
Day in Alternate History Blog
Dispatches From Hell: Documents from the War
by Amerigo Vespucci
The following is an excerpt from the St. Louis Times-Dispatch best-selling
book, Dispatches from Hell: Documents from the War. Dispatches, published by
Dark House Press, goes behind the scenes of the early days of the War, giving
readers a never-before-seen look at newly discovered documents recovered from
the Associated Press and United Press International. In this gripping book, we
rediscover the confusion and turmoil that lead up to the first shots and the
horror and chaos that followed. Some readers may find many portions hitting too
close to home about an event none of us can forget. Four Stars. $2.99/Dark House
"The thing that jumped out of us was the stupidity of it all. We think of
the War as starting by folks who knew what they were doing, but really, they
were in the dark just like the rest of us. We figured out what was going on, of
course, but only after the fact. Now, maybe we can understand why things
happened, and if we’re lucky, God won’t let them happen ever again."
– James Reston, former New York Times Washington Bureau Chief, from the
Pentagon Denies Cuban Missiles (AP)
Washington Oct. 19 – Responding to questions about an article published
previously by the New York Times about Soviet missiles in Cuba, a Defense
Department spokesman replied that the military has no information indicating
there are missiles in Cuba.
Reports that emergency military measures are being considered were also denied.
The spokesman went on to state that the United States is as safe now as it has
ever been, reports to the contrary notwithstanding.
Test Test Test
Eds. Ref new pg. 18 for morning eds.
Kennedy Cancels Campaign Sweep
New York Times
Washington Oct. 20 – Pierre Salinger, press
secretary to President Kennedy, today announced the cancellation of the
President’s planned campaign sweep through the
Middle West and the West Coast.
As part of the ramp-up to this year’s mid-term
election, the President had visited Connecticut and Ohio, yesterday giving a
speech in Cleveland, where he praised the Democratic candidate and expressed
hopes for a strong turn-out in November’s
When asked the reason behind the cancellation of the remainder of the president’s
trip, Salinger remarked that the President “had
contracted an upper respiratory infection” while
in Cleveland and would be returning to the White House to recuperate. The
infection was not serious, Salinger stated, and the President would likely
return to the campaign trail prior to the election.
Bill, there’s something going on at the White House
that we’re not getting. I’m heading over there to check things out. Keep the
coffee warm. – Jim
Handwritten note, written Oct. 20, New York Times, Washington Bureau
Tape Transcript of conversation between Pres. John F. Kennedy and Max Frankel,
Executive Editor of the New York Times.
<Frankel> Mister President, I don’t think we can hold this forever, you
<Kennedy> Max, I know that. All I’m asking is for [inaudible] more time.
<Frankel> We’re all Americans here, Mister President, but I need to
think of the paper.
<Kennedy> I trust you will use your judgment. Yours isn’t the
[inaudible] we’ve asked. But yours is the most important. [inaudible] promise
<Frankel> If [the Washington Post and the New York Herald-Tribune] are
sitting on it, we’ll sit on it, too. But the minute one of them goes to print…
<Kennedy> I knew you’d do the right thing, Max. Just [inaudible] is all
we’re asking. When the speech comes on, you’ll have more headlines than you’ll
know what to do with.
<Frankel> I just hope there’ll be people around to read them, Mister
President. Good luck to you.
Eds. something brewing in Washington
President Kennedy schedules televised address to nation MORE FOLLOWS MORE
FOLLOWS MORE FOLLOWS
Omaha Bombers Alerted (AP)
Omaha, Neb. Oct. 22 – At noon today, the runways of Offutt Air Force Base,
headquarters of the Strategic Air Command, buzzed with activity, as virtually
all the aircraft of the 55th Wing of the Strategic Air Command took to the air,
undoubtedly executing pre-planned defensive maneuvers in the hours leading up to
President Kennedy’s televised announcement later today.
An air of uncertainty filled the streets of Omaha as people grappled with the
unexpected scrambling of aircraft, a scene echoed at dozens of airbases across
Nebraska and the United States. Tensions ran high and many Nebraskans visited
the grocery stores on an unseasonably warm day.
"I’m just doing what everyone else is doing," declared Albert
Jacobs, 44, of Omaha, as he maneuvered a box of cereal into his overloaded
shopping basket. "I needed groceries anyway, and we’ve got to get back to
see the President tonight," he continued, gesturing toward his wife and two
Several shoppers cited concerns over Cuba as the likely reason for the scramble
and the Presidential address, but as one lady remarked, "it’s not like
they haven’t done this before. They’ll be back before too long."
UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE
1500 SAC confirms DEFCON 3 declared.
More follows More follows More follows More follows
Am under threat. Possible attack imminent.
Final message of American Spy Oleg Penkovsky, killed Oct. 22, 1962. Message
declassified from CIA archives, Langley, Va.
Text of Kennedy’s speech on Oct. 22, 1962,
Good evening, my fellow citizens:
This Government, as promised, has maintained the closest surveillance of the
Soviet military buildup on the island of Cuba. Within the past week,
unmistakable evidence has established the fact that a series of offensive
missile sites is now in preparation on that imprisoned island. The purpose of
these bases can be none other than to provide a nuclear strike capability
against the Western Hemisphere…
Castro Declares Quarantine "illegal" (AP)
Havana, Oct. 23 – In a 90-minute televised speech by communist President Fidel
Castro, the Cuban government formally decried President Kennedy’s decision to
quarantine the communist island. Castro declared that Cuba will never disarm
while the Untied States persists in its policy of aggression and domination.
"We will acquire the arms we feel like acquiring, and we don’t have to
give an account to the imperialists," the communist leader declared on
state-run television earlier today.
Castro further pronounced that he would allow no inspection of Cuban territory
by international observers, warning that potential observers would have to come
"in full battle array." To put a point on his statement, Castro
ordered a combat alarm, the highest readiness state for the Cuban military, a
move that will mobilize approximately 270,000 Cuban soldiers over the next few
days, and will surely...
Soviet Challenges U.S. Right to Blockade;
Interception of 25 Russian Ships Ordered;
Cuba Quarantine backed by United O.A.S.;
McNamara Says Navy will make contact within 24 hours
Special to the New York Times
Washington, Oct. 23 – United States patrol planes have spotted 25 Soviet
merchant ships on their way to Cuba, their courses unchanged within the last 24
Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara announced this at a news conference
tonight, one day after the President announced the issuing of a quarantine 800
miles from the coast of Cuba. The Secretary announced that he had sent orders to
the Navy to "interdict" these and other vessels headed for Cuba
Soviet Ships Remain On Course;
Interception of Vessels imminent;
Thant bids U.S, Russia desist 2 weeks;
Moscow said to be uncertain
Special to the New York Times
Washington, Oct. 23 – The Defense Department said today that so far no Soviet
ships have diverged from their courses, and are scheduled to cross the
quarantine line some time late tonight.
There was some speculation that indecision in the Kremlin had forced the ships
to remain on course, but no statement had been released from Moscow by the print
deadline. When asked what would happen if the Soviet vessels continued on their
present course, a Defense Department spokesman replied that the Navy had a duty
to enforce the orders of the President of the United States...
Eds. Late Edition update; Soviet response
TASS News Service
Moscow, Oct. 23 – In his first public statement since the beginning of the
crisis, Prime Minister Nikita Khrushchev warns the United States that if it
continues in its policy of pirate aggression, the Soviet Union will have little
choice but to respond by making use of its means of defense against the
Though firmly against caving to imperialist pressure, the Premier is firmly in
favor of peaceful...
***Check spell on para 3 ship names***
U.S. Navy intercepts Soviet ships;
Helicopter boarding action taken;
Shots fired at, aboard freighters;
Several killed, others injured
Soviets walk out of U.N.
Washington, Oct. 24 – In what was described as "a bloodless coup," a
Defense Department spokesman today announced the seizure of two Soviet
freighters that passed the 800-mile quarantine zone.
The boarding action, according to the official, went "as planned"
after the Soviet ships failed to respond to radio or semaphore signals. Shots
were fired across the oncoming ships’ bows, and when they did not deviate from
their courses, shots were then directed into the ships’ rudders, disabling
The Soviet tanker Bucharest and the Lebanese freighter Marucla immediately began
slowing in the warm waters of the Caribbean Sea, still 750 miles from the coast
After the ships came to a halt, helicopters were used to ferry marines on board
the Soviet vessels in order to rig tow cables, whereupon they would be taken to
Miami for inspection. As the marines boarded one of the vessels, however, they
came under fire from several Soviet sailors armed with rifles. Several marines
were injured before the Soviet sailors were killed and the remainder taken into
custody. [Eds. Pictures over wirephoto]
The ships were subsequently taken under tow without further incident. Although
some reports state that Soviet submarines were in the vicinity, no evidence was
found of their presence.
In New York, Soviet Ambassador Valerian Zorin walked out of an emergency session
of the United Nations Security Council after being confronted by U.S. Ambassador
Adlai Stevenson. Zorin is reported to have exclaimed "Your photographs show
only silent weapons, but your weapons are doing the talking now," before
quickly exiting the chamber in the company of several other Soviet
In the wake of Zorin’s departure, the Security Council voted...
column for morning edition
para 3 reads complete
U.S. Should Trade Turkish Missiles for Cuban ones
Recent developments in Cuba have set the world on alert. But there’s no reason
to panic just yet. If the United States and Soviet Union want to save face in
this situation, they need to come up with a quid-pro-quo agreement. Both sides
need to work together, giving and getting in order to achieve peace.
The United States currently operates nearly a dozen nuclear missiles in Turkey,
currently pointed at the Soviet Union. Perhaps some sort of face-saving gesture
could be organized whereby the United States removes its Turkish missiles while
Soviet missiles are removed from Cuba...
... EVENTS MOVING QUICKLY ... FURTHER BULLETINS TO
INCLUDE TIMESTAMP FOR SPECIAL EDITION ... MORE FOLLOWS MORE FOLLOWS MORE FOLLOWS
1300 OCT 25 NYC WIRE
Cuba claims U.S. Aircraft downed, saboteurs captured;
Soviets demand ship return, threaten force;
Second round of ships near quarantine;
New York, Oct. 25 – Events at the United Nations came to a head today as Cuban
and Soviet representatives demanded the return of two ships seized in the
quarantine operation of the island of Cuba.
Cuban representatives called the quarantine "an affront to human dignity
and yet another example of imperialist ambitions," and claimed to have shot
down a U.S. Navy reconnaissance flight over the island. Defense department
spokesmen would neither confirm nor deny the report.
Soviet Ambassador Valerian Zorin was notably absent from the debate, having been
recalled to Moscow for consultations following his walkout of an emergency
session of the United Nations Security Council yesterday. With two more Soviet
ships approaching the quarantine line, assistant Soviet Ambassador Igor Robinev
threatened "drastic action" should those ships be stopped. The Cuban
ambassador seconded the claim, creating an atmosphere...
1500 OCT 25 UPI WIRE EUROPE
...WARSAW PACT FORCES ON ALERT...SOVIET TANKS, TROOPS REPORTED MOVEMENT NEAR
BERLIN, BORDERS...SOVIET DECLINES COMMENT...NATO ALERT LEVELS RAISED...
1600 OCT 25
Havana, Oct. 25 – A spokesperson for the Cuban government today confirmed the
capture of several saboteurs attempting action against the Matahombre Copper
The government claims the saboteurs were captured with a truck and nearly a ton
of explosives, which they planned to employ against facilities at the mine.
Following interrogation, the Cuban government claims, several admitted to have
been in contact with agents of the Central Intelligence Agency.
If verified, this could ratchet tensions higher as the second round of Soviet
ships approaches the quarantine line 800 miles from the coast of Cuba.
Interception is anticipated late tonight, with several ships reportedly altering
speed to arrive at the line at approximately the same time...
0212 OCT 26
...SHOTS FIRED AT QUARANTINE LINE...REPORTED SUBMARINE ACTIVITY...SOVIET
SUBMARINE REPORTEDLY SUNK...AMERICAN DESTROYER DAMAGED BY TORPEDO...SOVIET
FREIGHTER ABLAZE...MORE FOLLOWS MORE FOLLOWS MORE FOLLOWS...
0925 OCT 26
...THANT CONVENES EMERGENCY SESSION OF GENERAL ASSEMBLY...DEMANDS IMMEDIATE
STANDDOWN TO AVERT WAR...SOVIET REPRESENTATIVES LEAVE CHAMBER TO JEERS...DEMAND
TO WITHDRAW MISSILES PASSES UN...SOVIETS VOW PROTECTION OF FREIGHTERS, CUBA...
Polls show Americans support invasion (AP)
New York, Oct. 26 – An opinion poll conducted by the Gallup polling group
shows that 86 percent of Americans would support an invasion of Cuba. This marks
a jump of nearly 20 percent from just four days ago, when President Kennedy
Soviet Submarine sunk, destroyer damaged;
Russian freighter reported "ablaze";
Berlin access routes cut;
Special to the New York Times
Washington, Oct. 26 – The second round of quarantine interceptions lit up the
night sky as four Soviet ships were intercepted by separate American squadrons.
After the Soviet vessels failed to obey radio and light signals, shots were
fired across the bow of one of the vessels.
According to reports, an American destroyer was then struck by what appeared to
be a torpedo. Several other destroyers responded with depth charges and cannon
fire, reportedly sinking the submarine. During the course of the action, one of
the Soviet freighters was set ablaze by American fighter, the crew presumably
Moscow responded to the incident by cutting the land access routes to the
besieged city of Berlin, a reprise of the 1949...
0300 OCT 27
...DEVELOPING DEVELOPING DEVELOPING...SOVIET, AMERICAN FITHERS CLASH OVER BERING
SEA...CASUALTIES REPORTED...U-2 REPORDELY STRAYED OVER RUSSIA...MORE FOLLOWS
MORE FOLLOWS MORE FOLLOWS...
1200 OCT 27
...U-2 SHOT DOWN OVER CUBA...BOMBERS LAUNCHING FLORIDA...NEED VERIFIED...MAY BE
RESPONSE TO SHOOTDOWN...
1300 OCT 27
...KEY WEST CITIZEN REPORTS BOMBERS HEADING SOUTH...WIL RELAY AS MORE INFO IN...
URGENT URGENT URGENT
U.S. bombers strike Cuban targets (AP)
Washington, Oct. 27 – In the wake of today’s shootdown of a U-2
reconnaissance aircraft, the White House today confirmed that President Kennedy
had authorized air strikes against the missile site that had brought down the
Initial reports indicated that several surface-to-air missile sites had been
bombed by Air Force bombers based in southern Florida. All aircraft involved in
the strike returned to base safely, it was reported.
Pierre Salinger, President Kennedy’s press secretary, further reported that
the President is expected to make a nationally-televised announcement tomorrow
at 6 p.m...
1900 OCT 27
...EXPLOSIONS REPORTED SOUTH OF KEY WEST...UNCONFIRMED RADIO BROADCASTS INDICATE
TORPEDO STRIKES AGAINST US SHIPS...SITUATION CONFUSED...SOVIET SUBMARINES
RUMORED TO BE HITTING QUARANTINE LINE...FURTHER BULLETINS AS EVENTS WARRANT...
0100 OCT 28
...POSSIBLE NUCLEAR DETONATION...LARGE BRIGHT LIGHT REPORTED BY JAMACIAN SHIP
500 MI SW MIAMI...UNCONFIRMED AS OF YET...CONFIRMATION OF SOVIET SUBMARINE
ACTION RE 1930 HOURS...US NAVY SOURCE CONFIRMS SOVIET SUNK BLOCKADING
0130 OCT 28
...MANY BOMBERS MANY BOMBERS SOUTHBOUND FROM FLORIDA REPORTS MIAMI
HERALD...SECOND SOURCE REPORTS POSSIBLE NUCLEAR DETONATION NEAR POSITION USS
ESSEX...FIGHTERS SCRAMBLED ELGIN AFB...
0245 OCT 28
...CIVIL DEFENSE ALERT ISSUED...EVENTS CONFUSED...NOTHING CONFIRMED...
0450 OCT 28
...DEFENSE DEPARTMENT INDICATES WAR BETWEEN US AND CUBA...BOMBER STRIKES AGAINST
CUBA...CONFIRMS NUCLEAR TORPEDO DESTROY USS ESSEX...SOVIET SITUATION
UNCLEAR...CIVIL DEFENSE ALERT CONFIRMED...EXPLOSIONS KEY WEST...NOT
NUCLEAR...CUBAN RADIO ISSUES CASTRO DECLARATION OF WAR...
URGENT URGENT URGENT
U.S. At War with Cuba;
Soviet Situation uncertain;
Bombers, fighters clash over Florida, Cuba;
Key West, Fla. Oct. 28 – In the early morning hours, American aircraft clashed
with the Cuban air force as the first wave of airstrikes in what will
undoubtably be a series...
0923 OCT 28
...KENNEDY BROADCAST MOVED TO NOON...EXPECTED TO ANNOUNCE WAR...AERIAL SITUATION
UNCLEAR...CUBAN AIR FORCE DECIMATED AT HEAVY COST...SECOND STRIKE SOON...MISSILE
SITUATION UNCLEAR...NAVAL SITUATION UNCLEAR...USS ESSEX SUNK USS ROGERS SUNK USS
DAGLEY SUNK USS ABRAMS SUNK...
Text of Kennedy’s final speech to the Nation. 11:45 a.m., October 28, 1962
My Fellow Americans,
The last few hours have been filled with confusion and uncertainty, but let me
put your fears to rest. Here is what we know. Shortly after midnight, a
submarine – we are uncertain whether it was Cuban or Soviet – launched a
torpedo at the USS Essex, an aircraft carrier participating in the quarantine of
The torpedo exploded, presumably killing everyone aboard the Essex and its
accompanying ships. In response, I ordered air strikes against the island of
Cuba, with the intention of eliminating the threat to our men in uniform. These
strikes have since been executed successfully, and the aircraft involved have
returned to base. It is my belief that a state of war now exists between the
United States and Cuba, and if the submarines involved so far are proven to
belong to that nation – the Soviet Union as well. I have delivered a request
for a formal declaration of war to the Congress, which is meeting in special
session at this very moment…
1158 OCT 28
...POLLS SHOW PUBLIC APPROVES OF KEENEDY SPPECH...CONGRESS EXPECTED TO APPROVE
WAR EDECLARATION SOON...SECOND BOMBER STRIKE LIKELY AFTER DECLARATION...NAVAL
ACTION CONTINUES...MIAMI REPORTS MORE SHIP LOSSES...TWO SOVIET SUBS SUNK...
1237 OCT 28
...FIRING REPORTED IN BERLIN...SITUATION PANICKED...
1240 OCT 28
...FIGHTING REPORTED AT GERMAN BORDER...WAR WARNING ISSUED BY NATO COMMAND IN
PARIS...CIVIL DEFENSE WARNING ISSUED...
1302 OCT 28
...WHITE HOUSE REPORTS STATE OF WAR EXISTS BETWEEN USA AND SOVIET UNION...DEFCON
1 DECLARED AT THIS TIME...
1345 OCT 28
...BRIGHT LITE REPORTED KEY WEST NO CONTACT...ASSUMED NUCLEAR DETONATION NO
WARNINGS SO FAR ISSUED...CIVIL DEFENSE ISSUES NO WARNINGS...MIAMI REPORTS
FIGHTERS BOMBERS IN AIR...
1428 OCT 28
...MULTIPLE DETONATIONS REPORTED SOUTH OF MIAMI... BRIGHT LIGHTS ALONG
HORIZON...UNKNOWN AGAINST CUBA OR AGAINST US AIRCRAFT...CONNECTION LOST KEY
WEST...MARATHON REPORTS DAMAGE BOMBS...
1432 OCT 28
...FIGHTING ALONG IGB HEAVY FIGHTING...LONDON PARIS BONN REPORT AIR FIGHTING
AONG FRONTIER...NO CLEAR REPORTS...NO NUCKEAR SO FAR IN EUROPE...MCMILLAN STATES
WAR EXISTS FULLY IN EUROPE...DEGAULLE NO COMMENT YET...ADENAUER REOPORTED
1443 OCT 28
...CONTACT LOST MIAMI...UNKNOWN WHETHER SIGNAL FAIL OR BNOMB...EUROPE SITUATION
CHAOTIC...CONTACT TRANSATLANTIC LOST LINES 4 5 6 7...LONDON REPORTS NUCLEAR
BLASTS IN GERMANY...UNCONFIRMED...
1517 OCT 28
...CIVIL DEFENSE ISSUES EVACUATION WARNING...CITIZENS INSTRUCTED TO SEEK
ALL STATIONS ALL STATIONS ALL STATIONS...THIS SYSTEM IS NOW BEING USED BY THE
CONELRAD CIVIL DEFENSE NETWORK...SOVIET MISSILES HAVE BEEN REPORTED LAUNCHED
CUBA SIBERIA UKRAINE GERMANY...SEEK SHELTER IMMEDIATELY...BLAST LIKELY 15 TO 30
MINUTES...STAY AWAY FROM WINDOWS SHARP OBJECTS GLASS...SEEK SHELTER IN A STRONG
LOW LYING BUILDING...COVER EYES SKIN WITH CLOTHING HANDS...
1527 OCT 28
...THIS IS A CIVIL DEFENSE WARNING...BLAST LIKELY IN 5 TO 10 MINUTES...SEEK
SHELTER IMMEDIATELY...STAY AWAY FROM WINDOWS SHARP OBJECTS GLASS...SEEK SHELTER
IN A STRONG LOW LYING BUILDING...COVER EYES SKIN WITH CLOTHING HANDS...
1531 OCT 28
...THIS IS A CIVIL DEFENSE WARNING...BLAST IMMINENT...SEEK SHELTER
IMMEDIATELY...STAY AWAY FROM WINDOWS SHARP OBJECTS GLASS...SEEK SHELTER IN A
STRONG LOW LYING BUILDING...COVER EYES SKIN WITH CLOTHING HANDS...
1532 OCT 28
...THIS IS A CIVIL DEFENSE WARNING...BLAST IMMINENT...SEEK SHELTER
IMMEDIATELY...STAY AWAY FROM WIN
1548 OCT 28
...INDIANPOLIS REPORTING...RADIO SYAS WASHINGTON NEW YORK HIT...ANY STATIONS OUT
1701 OCT 28
...SACRAMENTO REPORTING...SAN FRAN LOS ANGELES SEATTLE PORTALAND SAN DIEGO HIT
ACCORDING TO RADIO...POWER FLUCT
1849 OCT 28
...BOSTON REPORTING...TRANSATLANTIC GALWAY IRELAND CONNECTED STILL...REPORTS
LONDON BELFAST PARIS BONN DESTROYED...NO CONTACT EAST OF IRELAND...
1933 OCT 28
...BUFFALO REPORTING...SEVERAL BRIGHT FLASHES TO
NORTH...POSSIBLY TORRONTO OTTAWA...MIGHT BE FIGHTER MISSILES HITTING
BOMBERS...WE HOPE SO AT LEAST...
2154 OCT 28
...GRAND FORKS REPORTING...TALKED WITH A BOMBER GUY AT
THE AFB...SAYS STR
2216 OCT 28
...ST LOUIS REPORTING...GENERAL BLAKOUT OVER MOST OF
COUNTRY...MANY CITIES HIT...NO CONTACT WITH EUROPE ASIA AUSTRALIA AFRICA...POWER
FAILING HERE GOOD LUCK GOD BLESS
"We were the lucky ones, of course. Spared, like so many others weren’t.
But even we lost a bit of ourselves. You can’t find anyone who didn’t lose
someone – a friend, relative, or anything in the War. And not a day goes by
when I’m sure we don’t think that maybe they were the lucky ones, the ones
who didn’t have to deal with the blackout and the rebuilding, maybe they’re
in a better place now. We can only hope and keep on rebuilding. Sure, we may
never really get back what we lost, but humanity will go on."
From the conclusion