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Cuban Missile Crisis: Three Men Go To War

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Watch Tuesday, September 2, 2014 at 8pm on WMHT TV.

CUBAN MISSILE CRISIS — THREE MEN GO TO WAR reveals how three human beings grappled with the most dangerous two weeks in human history, when countless events outside their control threatened to ignite a nuclear holocaust that could have ended human civilization. Revealing just how extraordinarily close we came to mutual self-destruction, this inside story of the Cuban Missile Crisis, airing over 50 years after the world was brought to the brink of nuclear disaster.

 “Some viewers will remember the days when schoolchildren practiced duck and cover drills because the threat of nuclear attack was imminent,” said John Wilson, Senior Vice President and Chief TV Programming Executive. “Others have no idea that the world came so close to World War III and mutually assured destruction. As new details about this crisis have been declassified, the 50th anniversary is a great opportunity to explore why these events happened and how war was ultimately averted.”

“The film is about this fundamentally important moment when we had the technology to raze our planet and almost did,” says producer and director John Murray. “And how three human beings, the leaders in place at the time, handled the unfolding disaster.”

Bringing to life the three central figures in the crisis  — President John F. Kennedy, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev and Cuban leader Fidel Castro — the film explores the roles each played during these most dangerous of times, set against the human stories of ordinary men in the field, such as the first-ever interview with the Soviet soldier who shot down the U2 piloted by U.S. Air Force Major Rudolf Anderson on the worst day of the crisis. Featuring revealing interviews with key witnesses from inside the Kremlin, the White House and Cuba, along with revelations from recently declassified Top Secret documents, CUBAN MISSILE CRISIS — THREE MEN GO TO WAR was shot on location in Russia, Cuba and the U.S.

“John Murray has done an incredible job of showing that the Cuban Missile Crisis was about more than just military powers arrayed against one other,” says Beth Hoppe, Vice President, Programming, General Audience. “It's about the humans at the center of the story, especially Kennedy and Khrushchev, who may be the reason we're alive today.”

On October 22nd, 1962, President John F. Kennedy informed the world that the Soviet Union was building secret missile bases on the island of Cuba, 90 miles off the shores of Florida. The events of the next tension-filled 13 days, known as the Cuban Missile Crisis, struck fear across the globe as the world teetered on the edge of nuclear war. The fate of the planet ultimately lay in the hands of three powerful men: Khrushchev, Castro and Kennedy.

A complete picture of the events of those 13 days has only recently emerged after countless declassified documents were released from Soviet, American and Cuban archives. Extraordinary revelations have come to light about Castro’s role and how, at the height of the crisis, he suggested the Soviets consider striking first, fearing that Cuba was doomed no matter what unfolded. Also emerging are remarkable details on a series of rogue incidents outside of Kennedy or Khrushchev’s control, each of which came within a hair’s breadth of triggering all-out conflict.

The film features revealing interviews with key witnesses and experts including Sergei Khrushchev, son of the former Soviet premier; Ted Sorensen, former member of the renowned Executive Committee of the U.S. National Security Council; former KGB and CIA operatives, and Captain Jerry Coffee, the reconnaissance pilot who made a split second decision to veer off course in Cuba and photograph a new type of nuclear weapon which could have annihilated invading American forces, the import of which was not realized for over 30 years.

An edge-of-your seat tale of espionage and intrigue at the highest level,CUBAN MISSILE CRISIS — THREE MEN GO TO WAR offers a fascinating perspective on one of the most harrowing times in modern history. 

Original airdate: October 23, 2012