Why was the Cuban Missile Crisis one of the most dangerous moments of the Cold War?
Fifth edition. December 2017.

The Cuban Missile Crisis: Considering Its Place in Cold War History offers students a broad understanding of the consequences and dynamics of the Cold War. The readings helps to students analyze the Cold War dynamics that led to the Cuban Missile Crisis and examines the decision-making process within the Kennedy administration at the height of the confrontation with the Soviet Union. The materials prepare students to role-play a simulation of the discussion between President Kennedy and his advisors about how to respond.

Preview this unit. Preview includes the Table of Contents for the Student Text and the Teacher Resource Book as well as a student reading excerpt and one lesson plan.


Retracing the Path to October 1962

Through role-play, students recognize and articulate the differing positions of the United States, the Soviet Union, and Cuba on the eve of the Cuban missile crisis.

Role-Playing the Three Options

Working cooperatively to advocate for one of the three options facing President Kennedy in October 1962, students use primary sources to recreate this critical moment in history. A fourth group plays President Kennedy as he questions the groups and evaluates the options presented.

Examining the Documents of the Missile Crisis

Students analyze and interpret the most important documents of the missile crisis: letters between Kennedy and Khrushchev.

Castro's Point of View and Lessons for Today

In this lesson students explore and analyze Castro's point of view of the events surrounding the missile crisis and interpret the recent historical discoveries.

  • This guide is designed to help students think about complex issues raised by Virtual JFK. The film investigates one of the most debated "what if" scenarios in the history of U.S. foreign policy: What would President John F. Kennedy have done in Vietnam if he had not been assassinated in 1963, and had he been elected in 1964? The story takes place in the midst of the Cold War and tempestuous partisan politics in the United States.

Supplemental Resources

Additional reference material for added context and support.


Beschloss, Michael R. The Crisis Years: Kennedy and Khrushchev, 1960-1963 (New York: Harper Collins, 1991). 816 pages.

Blight, James G., and David A. Welch, eds. Intelligence and the Cuban Missile Crisis (London: Frank Cass Publishers, 1998). 234 pages.

Blight, James G., Bruce J. Allyn, and David A. Welch, Cuba on the Brink, Castro, The Missile Crisis, and the Soviet Collapse (New York: Pantheon Books, 2002). 537 pages.

Chang, Laurence, and Peter Kornbluh, eds. The Cuban Missile Crisis, 1962: A National Security Archive Documents Reader (New York: The New Press, 1998). 429 pages.

May, Ernest R., and Philip D. Zelikow, eds. The Kennedy Tapes: Inside the White House during the Cuban Missile Crisis (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1997). 728 pages.

Collections of documents and photos, as well as recordings of ExComm meetings
Newly available documents, many from the Soviet perspective, and analysis of events
Transcripts and audio from President Kennedy's recordings, plus online exhibits to help students and teachers navigate the volume of material available
A PBS show on Cuba (Many resources on Cuba and U.S.-Cuba relations, both current and historical)
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