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The Kennedy Tapes: Inside the White House During the Cuban Missile Crisis

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The United States and the Soviet Union stood eyeball to eyeball, each brandishing enough nuclear weapons to obliterate each other's civilization. It was one of the most dangerous moments in world history. Day by day, for two weeks, an executive committee formed around elements of President Kennedy's National Security Council debated what to do, twice coming to the brink of The United States and the Soviet Union stood eyeball to eyeball, each brandishing enough nuclear weapons to obliterate each other's civilization. It was one of the most dangerous moments in world history. Day by day, for two weeks, an executive committee formed around elements of President Kennedy's National Security Council debated what to do, twice coming to the brink of attacking Soviet military units in Cuba - units equipped for nuclear retaliation. And through it all, unknown to any of the participants except the President himself - and possibly his brother Robert - tape was rolling, capturing for posterity the deliberations that might have ended the world as we know it. These are the full and authenticated transcripts of those audio recordings. Arguably the most important document in the history of the Cuban missile crisis, these transcripts are also a unique window on a drama rarely if ever witnessed by those outside the halls of power: the moment-by-moment decision-making of those with the fate of the West in their hands in a constantly changing, world-threatening situation. At the center of it all is President Kennedy, wary of experts after the debacle of the Bay of Pigs, puzzled and distrustful after confrontation with Khrushchev in Vienna over Berlin, and ever mindful of the responsibility symbolized by the satchel his military aides hold nearby, containing the codes to unleash nuclear warfare. Other participants in the deliberations are identified and put securely into their context by the editors, whose introduction illuminates this singular crisis in a framework spanning several administrations and whose conclusions, incorporating Khrushchev's thinking, show this to be theclimax of the Cold War.


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The United States and the Soviet Union stood eyeball to eyeball, each brandishing enough nuclear weapons to obliterate each other's civilization. It was one of the most dangerous moments in world history. Day by day, for two weeks, an executive committee formed around elements of President Kennedy's National Security Council debated what to do, twice coming to the brink of The United States and the Soviet Union stood eyeball to eyeball, each brandishing enough nuclear weapons to obliterate each other's civilization. It was one of the most dangerous moments in world history. Day by day, for two weeks, an executive committee formed around elements of President Kennedy's National Security Council debated what to do, twice coming to the brink of attacking Soviet military units in Cuba - units equipped for nuclear retaliation. And through it all, unknown to any of the participants except the President himself - and possibly his brother Robert - tape was rolling, capturing for posterity the deliberations that might have ended the world as we know it. These are the full and authenticated transcripts of those audio recordings. Arguably the most important document in the history of the Cuban missile crisis, these transcripts are also a unique window on a drama rarely if ever witnessed by those outside the halls of power: the moment-by-moment decision-making of those with the fate of the West in their hands in a constantly changing, world-threatening situation. At the center of it all is President Kennedy, wary of experts after the debacle of the Bay of Pigs, puzzled and distrustful after confrontation with Khrushchev in Vienna over Berlin, and ever mindful of the responsibility symbolized by the satchel his military aides hold nearby, containing the codes to unleash nuclear warfare. Other participants in the deliberations are identified and put securely into their context by the editors, whose introduction illuminates this singular crisis in a framework spanning several administrations and whose conclusions, incorporating Khrushchev's thinking, show this to be theclimax of the Cold War.

30 review for The Kennedy Tapes: Inside the White House During the Cuban Missile Crisis

  1. 5 out of 5

    George

    This book is a magnificent tale of leadership and unity in the face of a crisis. I have a newfound respect for JFK.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Peregrine 12

    If you thought America acted alone and independently of every other nation during the Cuban Missile Crisis, you might be surprised by what's in this book. I had no idea how complex, or intricate, or political, the decisions were that led up to, and through, this event. I'd always heard my parents commenting on how 'close' we came to was with Russia - a nuclear war - but until I read this, I never really understood that they weren't being dramatic. It really almost did happen. It frightens me to If you thought America acted alone and independently of every other nation during the Cuban Missile Crisis, you might be surprised by what's in this book. I had no idea how complex, or intricate, or political, the decisions were that led up to, and through, this event. I'd always heard my parents commenting on how 'close' we came to was with Russia - a nuclear war - but until I read this, I never really understood that they weren't being dramatic. It really almost did happen. It frightens me to think what a lesser President might have done in a similar situation.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Anonymous

    Engaging from start to finish. May does an excellent, succinct job of setting the stage and anecdotally supplementing the hair-raising narrative and interactions of a Cabinet working to interpret and stay ahead of events unfolding toward a possible nuclear exchange. The tapes show the side of Kennedy we miss so much -- particularly in the current world context: a remarkable ability to listen, synthesize and redirect\refocus arguments and express to his team the need for maximum creativity and Engaging from start to finish. May does an excellent, succinct job of setting the stage and anecdotally supplementing the hair-raising narrative and interactions of a Cabinet working to interpret and stay ahead of events unfolding toward a possible nuclear exchange. The tapes show the side of Kennedy we miss so much -- particularly in the current world context: a remarkable ability to listen, synthesize and redirect\refocus arguments and express to his team the need for maximum creativity and collaboration.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Peter Tutak

    The reader becomes a fly on the wall for all the recorded discussions between President Kennedy, Secretaries of State and Defense Dean Rusk and John McNamara, Robert Kennedy, and the rest of the president's security staff regarding the discovery of the offensive missile buildup in Cuba, the subsequent crisis, and the eventual resolution. All conversations are verbatim, transcribed off the tape, and the president even drops the 'f-bomb' once. That aside, this is pretty riveting stuff, and is an The reader becomes a fly on the wall for all the recorded discussions between President Kennedy, Secretaries of State and Defense Dean Rusk and John McNamara, Robert Kennedy, and the rest of the president's security staff regarding the discovery of the offensive missile buildup in Cuba, the subsequent crisis, and the eventual resolution. All conversations are verbatim, transcribed off the tape, and the president even drops the 'f-bomb' once. That aside, this is pretty riveting stuff, and is an inside peek at just how close the US and USSR came to blows over Cuba, as well as Berlin (which is an intrinsic part of the ongoing discussion). It also gives some great insight about leadership and the art of negotiation, as it was practiced at the time. Just fantastic.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Colin McKell-Redwood

    Completely compelling, and terrifying how close we were to WW3. I loved reading the actual advice given... Military men all around itching to play with their toys, Kennedy in the middle. A bit like the Day of The Jackal, in that you know what the end result was but it is still a great great read - recommended

  6. 4 out of 5

    Mel [profile closed]

    Those who are enamored with Kennedy will read the tapes and see his strength, and those who think he was weak and only idolized because of his death will find fodder here. The tapes are striking whichever camp you're in.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Stacey

    If you've ever wanted to be a fly on the wall of the White House during the Cuban missile crisis, this is your book. At times fascinating; at other times, dry and tedious; this is an unprecedented view of the crisis and the Kennedy administration.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Patrick Nichol

    You are in the Oval Office as Kennedy and his advisers struggle to avoid nuclear combat "toe to toe with the Russkies."

  9. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    very good

  10. 5 out of 5

    Robert Morrow

    One of my favorite topics and one of my favorite books. Reading the actual dialogue is so deeply helpful in understanding the dynamics of the event.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Marvin

    So entertaining. I was on the edge of my seat. Almost felt like fiction. Great.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Gwen

    I recall this was equally fascinating and the driest, most boring thing I have ever read in my life. That's quite an impressive achievement, and one I felt worth noting.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Rob Cohen

    A fascinating read-- a little bit overkill; it got a little unwieldy trying to keep everyone straight- all in all an intersting insight into how the government works.

  14. 5 out of 5

    MJ

    The Missile Crisis direct from those who led us through it...really interesting to see how Kennedy's and his staff's minds worked.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Thomas Kelleher

    This is gripping reading and what eventually became the film "Thirteen Days."

  16. 5 out of 5

    Chris

    Wow... Just wow. No question that JFK is one of our top three presidents after reading this.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Joshua

  18. 4 out of 5

    PC

  19. 4 out of 5

    Svein Kjos

  20. 4 out of 5

    Blues

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jamie Macek

  22. 5 out of 5

    J

  23. 4 out of 5

    IREOLUWA IKUOMOLA

  24. 4 out of 5

    Peter

  25. 4 out of 5

    Mara

  26. 4 out of 5

    Chelsea

  27. 4 out of 5

    Barry Schwartz

  28. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

  29. 5 out of 5

    Deb

  30. 4 out of 5

    Karen D. Ewing

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