Joint Chiefs of Staff Instructed Strategic Air Command to go to DEFCON 2 for the Only Confirmed Time in History

On the night of October 23, the Joint Chiefs of Staff instructed Strategic Air Command to go to DEFCON 2, for the only confirmed time in history.

The message, and the response, were deliberately transmitted uncoded, unencrypted, in order to allow Soviet intelligence to capture them. Operation Falling Leaves quickly set up three radar bases to watch for missile launches from Cuba. The radars were experimental models ahead of their time. Each base was connected with a hotline to NORAD control.

I must say frankly, that the measures indicated in your statement constitute a serious threat to peace and to the security of nations. The United States has openly taken the path of grossly violating the United Nations Charter, the path of violating international norms of freedom of navigation on the high seas, the path of aggressive actions both against Cuba and against the Soviet Union.”

— Nikita Khruschev