Thirteen Days: A Memoir of the Cuban Missile Crisis
Robert F. Kennedy
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"A minor classic in its laconic, spare, compelling evocation by a participant of the shifting moods and maneuvers of the most dangerous moment in human history."―Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr.
During the thirteen days in October 1962 when the United States confronted the Soviet Union over its installation of missiles in Cuba, few people shared the behind-the-scenes story as it is told here by the late Senator Robert F. Kennedy. In this unique account, he describes each of the participants during the sometimes hour-to-hour negotiations, with particular attention to the actions and views of his brother, President John F. Kennedy. In a new foreword, the distinguished historian and Kennedy adviser Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., discusses the book's enduring importance and the significance of new information about the crisis that has come to light, especially from the Soviet Union.
place in the air. An hour before the President’s speech, Secretary Rusk called in Ambassador Dobrynin and told him of the speech. The newspapers reported that Dobrynin left the Secretary’s office looking considerably shaken. On that Monday afternoon, before his speech and after lunch with Jackie, the President held several meetings. At the first, he formally constituted our committee—which up until that time had been called “the group” or “war council”—under National Security Council Action
Commerce. As early as the National Security Act of 1947, we formally acknowledged the close ties of foreign, military, economic policy; these ties had been rendered very plain by World War II experience. But in pre-Korean War years when the Marshall Plan was on its own, when CIA was new, when military aid programs were hardly heard of, while atom bombs were ours alone, and military budgets stood at under $15 billion, a Secretary of Defense could forbid contacts between Pentagon and State at any
one can hope to gain decisions as definitive as our system permits; Congressional committees may be able to supplant them, special pleaders may be able to reverse them, foot draggers may be able to subvert them—even so, they are the surest thing obtainable. Accordingly, officials urged to show initiative, to quit logrolling in committee, to be vigorous in advocacy, firm in execution, turn toward the White House seeking from it regular, reliable, consistent service as a fixed and constant court
have shied away from Congress in making decisions about war. One clue is secrecy. Before announcing the first step in his response, Kennedy could not disclose to anyone who lacked a rigid “need to know” what the U-2 had discovered. Had the discovery been widely known within the government, it would have leaked out. Had it leaked; the Administration’s diplomatic initiative, achieved by making a countermove when unmasking Soviet duplicity, would have been lost. As it turned out, this was perhaps
adviser on Russian affairs; Roswell Gilpatric, Deputy Secretary of Defense; Paul Nitze, Assistant Secretary of Defense; and, intermittently at various meetings, Vice-President Lyndon B. Johnson; Adlai Stevenson, Ambassador to the United Nations; Ken O’Donnell, Special Assistant to the President; and Don Wilson, who was Deputy Director of the United States Information Agency. This was the group that met, talked, argued, and fought together during that crucial period of time. From this group came