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This photo almost started a nuclear war

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The Cuban Missile Crisis was the closest the world has ever come to all-out nuclear war, and it all started with a photo.

On October 15th, 1962, Dino Brugioni, a senior analyst at the newly-formed National Photographic Interpretation Center, identified missile trailers measuring approximately 65 feet in an aerial reconnaissance photo. Those trailers were a match for the Soviet SS-4, a medium-range ballistic missile with a range that would cover a huge amount of the United States, including Washington, DC.

Upon seeing this photo, US President John F. Kennedy ordered more aerial recon flights, conducted by the CIA using the high-altitude U-2 spy plane. He used these photographs to make a plan of action about confronting the Soviet Union over their secretive installation of offensive missiles in Cuba.

Note: The headline for this video has been updated since publishing.
Previous headline: The photo that prevented a nuclear war

Darkroom is a series from Vox producer Coleman Lowndes that digs into stories of the past, one photograph at a time. Watch all the episodes here: is a news website that helps you cut through the noise and understand what's really driving the events in the headlines. Check out

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