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Thirteen Days: A Memoir of the Cuban Missile Crisis

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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 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. 


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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 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. 

30 review for Thirteen Days: A Memoir of the Cuban Missile Crisis

  1. 5 out of 5

    Brina

    Between the end of the high school and the time I became active on Goodreads, I did not read a lot of classics. That encompasses many years when the majority of my reading was basic kids books that I read to my kids, mysteries that did not require much thinking on my part, and the same few favorite books over and over again. One reason is because I resented the required reading foisted upon me by English and history teachers who, while they had the best of intentions, did not necessarily choose Between the end of the high school and the time I became active on Goodreads, I did not read a lot of classics. That encompasses many years when the majority of my reading was basic kids books that I read to my kids, mysteries that did not require much thinking on my part, and the same few favorite books over and over again. One reason is because I resented the required reading foisted upon me by English and history teachers who, while they had the best of intentions, did not necessarily choose books that I enjoyed. Over the last two years I have had made it a point to revisit many of these classic novels through adult eyes. In light of the current world situation, I decided to revisit Thirteen Days: A Memoir of the Cuban Missile Crisis by Robert F. Kennedy, his account of a time when the world was on edge. "On Tuesday morning, October 16, 1962, shortly after 9:00, President Kennedy called and asked me to come to the White House." So begins Senator Robert F. Kennedy's one hundred page memoir on the thirteen days in October that pitted the United States against the Soviet Union and had the entire world watching. Senator Kennedy writes from a unique perspective in that he was a member of the President's cabinet and present for all of the meetings in regards to this crisis yet, being the President's brother, the two also met away from the political troubles of the day. An American U-2 plane had discovered that Russia was placing, or had already placed, atomic missiles and weapons in Cuba. And the back and forth between the United States and Russia began, here documented in a fast paced first person account worthy of thriller status. As President Kennedy and Soviet Premier Khrushchev volleyed back and forth, the world waited. Over 35,000 troops were sent to the southeast just in case. American armed forces were on call, just in case. Senator Kennedy notes that President Kennedy did not fear what he referred to as step one, but steps 3, 4, 5, and 6, which could result in millions of Americans killed and a worldwide nuclear winter. The President urged Premier Khrushchev that if he pulled missiles out of Cuba, then the United States would follow suit and take missiles out of Turkey and Italy. All of these locations were close enough to annihilate the opponent and start world war three. With World War Two still fresh enough in people's minds, neither leader wanted to be the one responsible for another armed conflict. Unlike today's climate, the two leaders were able to talk out their disputes through letter writing, televised addresses, and messengers. Yet, for those thirteen days in October, the world stood waiting. At only one hundred pages in length, Senator Kennedy's account of the Cuban Missile Crisis packs a punch as he details each council meeting, each step, and each private meeting with the President in quick snapshots. Even though I know the resolution of this conflict, the book read like a thriller and had me on edge. A bonus is that the edition I read contained a forward by Arthur Schlesinger and an afterward of two essays by Richard Neustadt and Graham Allison, neither of which were available in the paperback I read for school years ago. Most interestingly, Neustadt and Allison point out that had the conflict gone on for a third week, the result would have most likely resulted in all out war. With people on constant alert, the crisis could not have lasted longer than it did without someone breaking down and calling the first shot. Thankfully, this crisis did not amount to an all-out global armed conflict. Today's world leaders live in a different political climate than the one from fifty five years ago. It was eye opening to revisit Thirteen Days: A Memoir of the Cuban Missile Crisis and witness how a global conflict was defused by talking out steps to de-arm potential conflict zones as well as by letter writing. In today's media age, as every move by world leaders is scrutinized, it is little wonder that talking out differences or sending memos is not as effective as it was during the Cuban crisis. As over time I continue to reread novels and political discourses foisted upon me in school, I have discovered the merits of each one. While I am uncertain whether or not the average teenager can appreciate the depths of the works they are reading, I have enjoyed my time revisiting these classic works. The adult me rates Thirteen Days: A Memoir of the Cuban Missile Crisis 4.5 thrilling stars and is excited to reread more books from her school days.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Peter (Pete) Mcloughlin

    RFK's memoir of his and his brother JFK's handling of the Cuban Missile Crisis. That fact that the brothers handled this crisis without blowing up much of the world and having the courage not to listen to their generals makes up for any shortcomings of the JFK presidency. A lot can be forgiven with a president but starting WWIII would have been a catastrophic failure. It is too bad that there was this kind of brinksmanship going on but this crisis did make for efforts that eased tensions in the RFK's memoir of his and his brother JFK's handling of the Cuban Missile Crisis. That fact that the brothers handled this crisis without blowing up much of the world and having the courage not to listen to their generals makes up for any shortcomings of the JFK presidency. A lot can be forgiven with a president but starting WWIII would have been a catastrophic failure. It is too bad that there was this kind of brinksmanship going on but this crisis did make for efforts that eased tensions in the later Detente period even if Reagan's hawkishness brought us to brinksmanship again in the 1980s. At least they bought some time which made a difference. maybe we aren't so smart. Here is an alternate explanation for our survival of the Cuban Missile Crisis. https://soundcloud.com/user-154380542...

  3. 4 out of 5

    Susan O

    I was in Kindergarten in October of 1962 and have vague memories of drills where we had to get under our desks, but my only real memories of President Kennedy are of his funeral the following year. This insider's view of the Cuban Missile Crisis and the President's approach to it is eye-opening. Robert Kennedy details how the situation came to light, what was done, communications with the Soviet Union and other countries, and how the decision-making process worked. It was of course a complex and I was in Kindergarten in October of 1962 and have vague memories of drills where we had to get under our desks, but my only real memories of President Kennedy are of his funeral the following year. This insider's view of the Cuban Missile Crisis and the President's approach to it is eye-opening. Robert Kennedy details how the situation came to light, what was done, communications with the Soviet Union and other countries, and how the decision-making process worked. It was of course a complex and sensitive problem and he does a beautiful job of explaining everything. A couple of things really impressed me. One, President Kennedy brought together a group of people that had different approaches and opinions of how the situation should be handled. He removed himself from much of the discussion to ensure that all opinions would be shared. (Evidently even high level government officials sometimes tell the President what they think he wants to hear.) This way he had at his disposal all his options with pros and cons well thought out. The second thing that impressed me was his concern for allowing Khrushchev to get out of the situation without humiliation. The book is a quick read and well-written. I highly recommend it.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Dylan

    Robert Kennedy, as both brother and Attorney General to President John Kennedy, does a masterful job of explaining the US Administration’s internal deliberations and decisions during the Cuban missile crisis. Many members of my generation do not, perhaps, understand the gravity of the situation, and how a 45 year old president was able to calmly deliberate on the facts, assemble an Executive Committee full of experience, ability and deliberative dissent, and make a decision that protected the Robert Kennedy, as both brother and Attorney General to President John Kennedy, does a masterful job of explaining the US Administration’s internal deliberations and decisions during the Cuban missile crisis. Many members of my generation do not, perhaps, understand the gravity of the situation, and how a 45 year old president was able to calmly deliberate on the facts, assemble an Executive Committee full of experience, ability and deliberative dissent, and make a decision that protected the world from nuclear holocaust. While protecting the American public, both Kennedy's remained ultra-sensitive to the impact of United States Military actions on the rest of the world, including Berlin, Turkey and Italy, to name a few potential Soviet targets. It was fascinating to read about the mixed messages that the US Administration received from Khrushchev-- occasionally claiming there were no missiles, and at other times avoiding specifics and arguing forcefully for Cuba's right to arm and protect itself. Of particular note, was President Kennedy's rational response to the tragedy of a US fighter pilot being shot down by a Cuban surface-to-air-missile. Many demanded a strong military response, but Kennedy weighed the consequences of such action, and ultimately decided against it. Robert Kennedy describes how, while always leaving all options on the table, President Kennedy negotiated the treacherous mine field of a nuclear stand off, with both bravery and brilliance. Kennedy was the kind of rational leader who surrounded himself with intelligence and experience, brought out the best in others and made sound decisions based on all of the evidence at his disposal. In short, Robert Kennedy was writing about the kind of leader America desperately needs today.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Nick

    This book was astonishing in its revelations about the inside discussions, arguments and second thoughts by a disparate group of advisors set up by President Kennedy when he suddenly learned that nuclear missiles were being set up in Cuba. The author, his brother and Attorney General had an inside seat at the table. His writing is clear, modest and forthright. This book is worth reading for any student of politics or history, or anyone who lived through those frightening days. Unlike some recent This book was astonishing in its revelations about the inside discussions, arguments and second thoughts by a disparate group of advisors set up by President Kennedy when he suddenly learned that nuclear missiles were being set up in Cuba. The author, his brother and Attorney General had an inside seat at the table. His writing is clear, modest and forthright. This book is worth reading for any student of politics or history, or anyone who lived through those frightening days. Unlike some recent presidents, Kennedy cared what his opponent Khruschev thought, and ensured that he could back down without being publicly humiliated. This is a quick read, and a worthwhile one.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Jon Nakapalau

    RFK takes you behind closed doors...and you will be shocked how very close this situation almost turned into WW III.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Aaron

    Lots of gems here: the candid letter Khrushchev sends Kennedy without consulting his advisors, how JFK swims before a meeting to decide whether to take military action or precede with a quarantine, how Bobby Kennedy takes his girls to a horse show while waiting for the Soviets to response to a critical letter, the chapter titles that echo the opening lines of each chapter - like poems! More politicians should write chronicles of world events like this.

  8. 4 out of 5

    LemonLinda

    This is the account of the Cuban Missile Crisis from Robert Kennedy who was a crucial member of the team assembled to deal with the crisis and whose opinion was obviously highly regarded by his brother. His statement that within "a few minutes of their (the missiles) being fired eighly million Americans would be dead" was chilling to me as I was a child of 10 at the time and lived in the Southeast so it was quite likely that I would have been one of the victims. He goes on to say that if the This is the account of the Cuban Missile Crisis from Robert Kennedy who was a crucial member of the team assembled to deal with the crisis and whose opinion was obviously highly regarded by his brother. His statement that within "a few minutes of their (the missiles) being fired eighly million Americans would be dead" was chilling to me as I was a child of 10 at the time and lived in the Southeast so it was quite likely that I would have been one of the victims. He goes on to say that if the tactical air attack, so strongly urged by the military and many others in the small group convened to determine official policy, went wrong the advantage would be that no one would be around to know that they had been wrong. Again, quite chilling. But the strongest argument against military intervention was that it might "erode, if not destroy, the moral position of the US throughout the world". Cool heads prevailed. Patience and restrainst ruled the day and the crisis was finally averted. The US under the leadership of President Kennedy in that situation struck the right balance of diplomacy with assurance that other action could be and would be called for if the Soviets did not remove the missiles albeit a plan done in secret without the perusal and/or approval of Congress. Robert Kennedy's insight was most interesting and gave us a seat at the table (so to speak) on the intricacies of the heated deliberations over those tense three weeks. The book was written shortly before RFK's assassination and published the next year with an afterword included from two men who assessed the crisis and placed it in a historical perspective given wars before and conflicts following up through to the Vietnam War. The book ends with addresses and letters from President Kennedy and Premier Khrushchev during those three weeks which if nothing else made me wonder about how this crisis did finally lead to detente and SALT talks eventually making the world a safer place and one less likely to go to the brink as it had done during those frightful days in October of 62.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Sadie

    This may be a small book, but it's by no means little. It's an insider view on the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the edition I have (from 1999) offers what you'd call "very good bonus material" if this was a DVD (there's a recent-ish forword by Arthur Schlesinger jr. putting the crisis into perspective years after the Cold War ended; there's a detailed afterword on JFK's crisis management, there's a "documents" section packed with JFK's adresses and writings on the matter as well as Khrushchev's This may be a small book, but it's by no means little. It's an insider view on the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the edition I have (from 1999) offers what you'd call "very good bonus material" if this was a DVD (there's a recent-ish forword by Arthur Schlesinger jr. putting the crisis into perspective years after the Cold War ended; there's a detailed afterword on JFK's crisis management, there's a "documents" section packed with JFK's adresses and writings on the matter as well as Khrushchev's letters plus a short annotated bibliography. Basically, this book is designed to be your one-stop-starting point for all things Cuban Missile Crisis). And I haven't even touched the primary text yet! That would be about 80 pages of RFK retelling the Crisis. Bobby's writing is clear and to the point - and very inspirational at times. He describes the crisis from start to finish, the Ex Comm's meetings, the discussions on how to proceed, the back channel communications - and, above all, the cool, calm and very presidential JFK steering his country, no, make that the whole world, through this crisis, towards life (sounds dramatic, yes, but that's because IT WAS). 'Cause you know, with people like General LeMay around... [the General was arguing for a military strike on Russia, and when JFK asked him what Russia's answer on such a strike would be, he said "none". Like, are you serious? Russia would be all "nuke away, nuke away?" Granted, I'm neither a military nor diplomatic expert, but that strikes me as, uh, can I say... odd?]. Either way, this crisis and book are both a good lesson in diplomacy, a quick and worthwile read. Even though it's scary to think how close to a nuclear war the world came to be (USA, Russia, Cuba, Berlin/Germany - we all would've been in there). Uh, shudder.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Ashley

    I love RFK's memoir of the Cuban Missile Crisis--a raw, emotional retelling of what occurred in those thirteen days. Used originally as pure research, I reread this book a few times after my theses (used this twice for different papers, one a full thesis, the other a grad school final). RFK gives an excellent account of what was occurring behind the scenes and how various parties felt during the crisis. An excellent, quick, easy read.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Angela

    I'm still debating if I should keep it at 3 stars or give it 4 for historical purposes as a first-person account. I very much enjoyed this memoir of the Cuban Missile Crisis told from the point of view of, then, Attorney General Bobby Kennedy. While it is really short, partly b/c Bobby didn't have time to add more content to it before he was assassinated (it was released post mortem), I still liked getting the information from someone who was actively engaged in discussions about how to defuse I'm still debating if I should keep it at 3 stars or give it 4 for historical purposes as a first-person account. I very much enjoyed this memoir of the Cuban Missile Crisis told from the point of view of, then, Attorney General Bobby Kennedy. While it is really short, partly b/c Bobby didn't have time to add more content to it before he was assassinated (it was released post mortem), I still liked getting the information from someone who was actively engaged in discussions about how to defuse the situation. "I believe our deliberations proved conclusively how important it is that the President have the recommendations and opinions of more than one individual, of more than one department, and of more than one point of view... There is an important element missing when there is unanimity of viewpoint. Yet that not only can happen; it frequently does when the recommendations are being given to the President of the United States... Frequently I saw advisers adapt their opinions to what they believed President Kennedy and, later, President Johnson wished to hear." It was a situation that could have easily been made a lot worse and could have had us looking at a much different world today, had things gone awry. Also, based on the sticker that's on the book, apparently they produced a movie under the same title (although based on a different book) that was released in 2000. Since I was still a kid at the time, a movie like this was something I was completely unaware of and would have been uninterested in at the time. I might need to check it out now. If anyone has seen the movie, was it good?

  12. 5 out of 5

    Grace

    I love the idea of this book - a very short memoir about a specific very frightening time written by someone who was there. Its a snapshot into 13 very scary days of American history. It was very exciting and educational. I particularly enjoyed the forward & afterward, which were written by historians and gave good context to RFK's account. It was also great that they included transcripts of speeches and letters written by JFK and Krushchev. This book made me so immensely relieved that I do I love the idea of this book - a very short memoir about a specific very frightening time written by someone who was there. Its a snapshot into 13 very scary days of American history. It was very exciting and educational. I particularly enjoyed the forward & afterward, which were written by historians and gave good context to RFK's account. It was also great that they included transcripts of speeches and letters written by JFK and Krushchev. This book made me so immensely relieved that I do not want to be a politician.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Alan Chen

    "I have participated in two wars and know that war ends when it has rolled through cities and villages, everywhere sowing death and destruction...Mr. President, we and you ought not now to pull on the ends of the rope in which you have tied the knot of war, because the more the two of us pull, the tighter that knot will be tied. And a moment may come when that knot will be tied so tight that even he who tied it will not have the strength to untie it, and then it will be necessary to cut that "I have participated in two wars and know that war ends when it has rolled through cities and villages, everywhere sowing death and destruction...Mr. President, we and you ought not now to pull on the ends of the rope in which you have tied the knot of war, because the more the two of us pull, the tighter that knot will be tied. And a moment may come when that knot will be tied so tight that even he who tied it will not have the strength to untie it, and then it will be necessary to cut that knot, and what that would mean is not for me to explain to you, because you yourself understand perfectly of what terrible forces our countries dispose. Consequently, if there is no intention to tighten that knot and thereby to doom the world to the catastrophe of thermonuclear war, then let us not only relax the forces pulling on the ends of the rope, let us take measures to untie that knot. We are ready for this." "We no longer live in a world where only the actual firing of weapons represents a sufficient challenge to a nation's security to constitute maximum peril. Nuclear weapons are so destructive and ballistic missiles are so swift, that any substantially increased possibility of their use or any sudden change in their deployment may well be regarded as a definite threat to peace." The Crisis Itself * Castro did not want nukes and said that any deployment should be made publicly instead of secretly as if they had something to hide * In contrast to the idea that the Kennedy's were obsessed with Castro, they did not use this seemingly Heaven-sent opportunity to get him out * Historical influences * Deterrent or Defense taught JFK to be patient and to give the other side many chances to back down * Guns of August: restrict military to avoid stumbling into war * Stupidity, idiosyncrisies, misunderstandings, inferiority complex, grandeur complex, security, pride, face * Bay of Pigs: the military professionals may not know what they are talking about * Almost everyone who first saw the pictures were unable to discern much of anything * Crisis came after repeated assurances that USSR would not do exactly what they did. * Intel said it would not happen based on history and that it wasn't a rational act * In retrospect, there were some suggestive reports, but none that would have been good enough to act on * Meeting with USSR ambassador: "Astonished, with admiration for his boldness," listened as he lied to his face * Throughout, Ambassador seemed to be totally out of the loop, had no knowledge of missiles * Crammed into cars to avoid long line of limos * Airstrike vs Quarantine * Airstrike * +: removes missiles and sites, US responsible for security of world * -: CAN'T GUARANTEE 100% elimination, needs followup invasion, civilian casualties, moral argument of big attacking small and would wreck winning the argument * Quarantine * +: limited pressure (could be increased, advocated by McNamara later to his irony in Vietnam), dramatic * -: did not eliminate threat, didn't stop progression of threat, needed to confront USSR and not Cuba, invites blockade of Berlin * The NYT had the story but JFK called to stop it, and the NYT listened! * There was relaxation after taking the first step - we 're not dead! The feeling didn't last long * JFK supervised all - we made the same errors they did lining up our planes wingtip to wingtip Decision making * "[ExComm] were men of the highest intelligence, industrious, courageous and dedicated to their country's well being. It is no reflection on them that none was consistent in his opinion from the very beginning to the very end. That kind of open, unfettered mind was essential. Fro some, there ware only small changes, perhaps varieties of a single idea. For others, there were continuous changes of opinion each day,; some, because of the pressure of events, even appeared to lose their judgment and stability." * Statements of truisms as questionable validity * Proposing the easy way out like a trade may be ridiculed, but still courageous, not cowardly * Should you stop a tanker? * Yes: show will and intent * No: probably no contraband, give Khruschev time to thin * "...there was no obvious or simple solution. A dogmatism, a certainty of viewpoint, was simply not possible. For every position there were inherent weaknesses; and those opposed would point them out, often with devastating effects." * ExComm ability to discuss and formulate decisions with luxury of time and without being publicized was crucial * A wide range of opinions are needed at all levels. * Diversity of opinions with Devil's Advocate * Change of opinion based on what they think the person in power wants to hear * New players: SecState only vs SecState, Defense, CIA, AID, etc. each with their own information and opinions * Unfiltered information is best as it can be filtered through the layers * Diplomacy and alliances are important * Very important for Stevenson v Zorin to show the photos to the world * "...I discern a feeling of isolationism in Congress and through the country, a feeling that we are too involved with other nations, a resentment of the fact that we do not have greater support in Vietnam, an impression that our AID program is useless and our alliances are dangerous" * Strength of alliances led to unanimous front among North America (with legal support) and among allies in Western Europe and even West Africa (USSR planes could have landed to refuel there and carried nukes to Cuba). * Full support of France then contrasts with tension now * "We cannot be an island even if we wished; nor can we successfully separate ourselves from the rest of the world." On war/military * "Any belief when I went to Havana was that we had overemphasized the danger....this complacent view did not survive the conference. Going to war is not a rational process" * "You are in a pretty bad fix, Mr. President." "You are in it with me." * "It isn't the first step that concerns me, but both sides escalating to the fourth or fifth step - and we don't go to the sixth because there is no one around to do so." * Responses could easily be locked. If A, do B, in an unstoppable chain of individually logical steps that could lead to insane conclusions. Discover missiles, send planes for recon. They shoot down a plane, we bomb their aircraft sites. We bomb their missiles, they bomb our Turkish missiles, we follow NATO obligations and bomb their bases, they follow by attacking us or Berlin, we attack them. * Military reacted professionally, but most military leaders (except for Maxwell Taylor) did not seem to contemplate implications of their actions * They thought the USSR only understood force and were not surprised when nonforce initially failed. * They seemed unable to look beyond their narrow field. Good because they were willing to do the unthinkable, but this reemphasizes civilian control * Don't force the other person into a corner, by disgrace or humiliation, because they may choose the choice that results in an outcome that no one wants. * Up the pressure in ways that don't cause direct confrontation (e.g. stop non-Russian ship) * After crisis, JFK instructed that no victory should be claimed * Hostilities come when someone wants war, when national interests collide (lack of limited objectives), or a failure to understand the other's objectives On the experts and the weight and consequences of decision: * "The 10 or 12 people who had participated in all these discussions were bright and energetic people. We had perhaps amongst the most able in the country and if any one of half a dozen of them were president the world would have been very likely plunged into catastrophic war." * Change in views of Acheson: lucid, convincing, clear, brilliant, never want to be on the other side (from both Berlin advocacy to air strike)...."with some trepidation" * When it came time to face the blockade line, it was the worst. JFK had started the events but no longer had control over them. "The moment was now. not next week, tomorrow or even 8 hours (which all presented options), but NOW, and all anyone could do was wait." * The pressure of having to make decisions that could have global mortal consequences made strange results of seasoned professionals. Some drew on strength they didn't know they had, others caved. * "These hourly decisions, necessarily made with such rapidity, could be made only by the President of the United States, but any one of them might close and lock doors for peoples and governments in many other lands." * "the responsibility we had to people around the globe who had never heard of us, who had never heard of our country or the men sitting in that room determining the fate, making a decision which would influence whether they would live or die" * "During all these deliberations, we all spoke as equals. There was no rank and in fact we did not even have a chairman. It was completely unrestricted and uninhibited. Everyone had a chance to be heard. Rare especially in rank-heavy executive branch." * Helped by JFK decision to not attend many meetings - people present what the boss wants to hear * Contrasts with: "It was not only for Americans that he was concerned, or primarily the older generation of any land. The thought that disturbed him the most, and that made the prospect of war much more fearful than it would otherwise have been, was the specter of the death of the children of this country and all the world—the young people who had no role, who had no say, who knew nothing even of the confrontation, but whose lives would be snuffed out like everyone else’s. They would never have a chance to make a decision, to vote in an election, to run for office, to lead a revolution, to determine their own destinies. Our generation had. But the great tragedy was that, if we erred, we erred not only for ourselves, our futures, our hopes, and our country, but for the lives, futures, hopes, and countries of those who had never been given an opportunity to play a role, to vote aye or nay, to make themselves felt. * Our allies were fully with us, but were they fully aware of what was going on? * "He had not abandoned hope, but what hope there was now wrested with Khruschev's revising his course within the next few hours. It was a hope, not an expectation. The expectation was a military confrontation..." Nuclear War * What gives the government the moral right to bring the world to the brink of nuclear war? * JFK might say, "I didn't start this crisis" * Some downplay the situation: once we had strategic and conventional superiority and held firm, the rational choice for the USSR was to back down. * But what if the USSR was, like the US, not a totally rational actor, working off incomplete information, prone to human failings? * Nukes change the situation: the ability to bring unprecedented destruction, at unimaginable speed, that takes the "victory" out of war because you no longer have to defeat armies to destroy populations. * Because both the US and USSR can launch unacceptably destructive second strikes, it seems no one would choose war. This makes nuclear war very unlikely. * However, unlikely =/= impossible. Crisis greatly illustrated that. See chain of logical choices leading to insane conclusions * Nuclear paradox: no one can win, but both must be wiling to bluff to take that risk. * US could not simply allow the placement of USSR missiles. Rules of the status quo had been violated, trust had been broken, and a line needed to be drawn. Problems of the modern US presidency * "The president believed he was president and that his wishes having been made clear, they would be followed." * Unlike the old checks and balances, previously decision making was made in a circle of officials who, through elections, had legitimacy and accountability as elected representatives, Now they are largely appointed officials. * Congress was informed of the series of actions to be taken and not very involved after * They were furious at the lack of air strike, but JFK had perspective, said they reacted like the ExComm did in the first few hours * Crisis came just after JFK had spent a lot of time and energy trying to reduce tensions and convince the public that the USSR was not placing nukes in Cuba * Opinions of advisors varied * McNamara thought that the missiles, while close, represented an inevitable closing of the missile gap. However, they did show that there was no difference if one was killed by missiles launched by Cuba or by the USSR in a retaliatory strike. * McGeorge Bundy argued for first confronting the USSR in private to minimize humiliation (and maintain proper order of diplomacy first, public court later). * RFK was haunted by nuclear war, by the political wall, and by the fear that the crisis would blacken the moral high ground of the US * Ted Sorensen felt anger and betrayal (JFK) but also disaster (RFK) * JCS wanted to finish the job of Cuba left incomplete at the Bay of Pigs * Acheson, Nitze, DIllon, McCone and Rusk favored attack to maintain the security of the US and the leadership of the Western Hemisphere and Western Europe * What prevented the initial air strike * McNamara was all out against air strike * RFK pushed the moral argument of a sneak attack * McNamara, RFK and Sorensen, in which JFK trusted, formed an anti-airstrike coalition * Coalition that supported air strike mattered less than who they were than how much they supported it * Air Force stated they could not guarantee the success of a surgical strike (later proved to be viable) Roles of Congress and the Presidency in fighting war * ExComm isolated out 2nd level functionaries to the point where they almost burst * Cross connecting bureaucracy means no one department can really function without the cooperation of the others, but no one really has an incentive to do so. The president and his aides also have competing interests * Congress is supposed to declare war and the President is supposed to command troops * As in other crises, JFK acted unilaterally * For secrecy, flexibility, uncertainty of USSR intentions and racing against time * Thus, ability to consult others was limited * Truman didn't declare war because it would have implied a total conflict to be ended by peace treaty, when he had more limited goals. Truman consciously didn't seek Congresional approval to avoid setting precedents that would limit future presidents, but that meant he shouldered the blame * So did LBJ in Vietnam * So the question becomes maybe the president should not have to consult Congress in times of extreme crisis, but what about the less urgent ones? RATING: 5 stars (Wait, it's WHAT time already??) Absolutely superb. A sparse, eminently readable and quick summary of the US's response to the Cuban Missile Crisis from one of the key players. RFK knew how to write and to seamlessly convey lessons learned in the text, so much so that the roughly 150 pages of text contain a bevy of nuggets. I was also delighted by the little tidbits and revelations (both sides focused on the moral high ground), and how the movie was able to incorporate so many little lines and moments. If there are flaws, it's that some lessons can be repeated too often (the weight of decision) and that the afterword is dry academicese. But those are niggling flaws. Absolutely recommended for everyone as a case study of grace under pressure and lessons of history. TL;DR A fantastic summary of a complex and consequential crisis with easy to access lessons

  14. 4 out of 5

    Rina

    This is a book I've been wanting to read for a long time and only recently got around to it. Let me start my review by noting that I love JFK. I love RFK. I love all things Kennedy. It was only natural for me to love this book. The book was a simple narrative. There was not much commentary by Bobby. He simply outlined what transpired behind closed doors during the Cuban Missile Crisis. He never judged anyone's opinions, but simply stated the importance of having all of those people involved in This is a book I've been wanting to read for a long time and only recently got around to it. Let me start my review by noting that I love JFK. I love RFK. I love all things Kennedy. It was only natural for me to love this book. The book was a simple narrative. There was not much commentary by Bobby. He simply outlined what transpired behind closed doors during the Cuban Missile Crisis. He never judged anyone's opinions, but simply stated the importance of having all of those people involved in the decision-making process. He emphasized the burden of decision that fell on the President. Without any illusions of storytelling, exaggerations, or hoopla, RFK managed to write a story that oozes with the very real tension of this time. He stated simply the gravity of the situation and, in a straightforward manner that did not (even slightly) smell of overdramatization, noted that they were facing destruction of mankind as we know it. I found this book to be an easy read (text-wise), but a heavy read (tension-wise). It was short, but I appreciated the appendices with the text of speeches, letters, and declarations from the time. The photographs were also important to help understand what they were seeing. The book was intended to have a commentary section with RFK contemplating the ethical dilemmas, but, as history indicates, he never got the chance to finish the book. All in all, it is a great glimpse into what made both JFK and RFK great leaders. They understood the gravity of issues, but, despite that, they were able to stay calm, rationally consider options, describe alternatives, and discuss in a reasonable manner. Even upon reflection, RFK indicated his full understanding of options, alternatives, and alternate realities if another route had been selected.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Sarah T.

    I'll admit, the movie "Thirteen Days" has been a favorite of mine for a long time, and a big reason why I picked up this book, was to see just how historically accurate the film really was. I was pleasantly surprised! One reason why I changed my review from 4 stars to 5 stars is, when I was thinking of what to write in my review, I realized just how truly insightful the book was. If you've seen the film adaptation (or even, you know, LIVED through the Cuban Missile Crisis), then you know what I'll admit, the movie "Thirteen Days" has been a favorite of mine for a long time, and a big reason why I picked up this book, was to see just how historically accurate the film really was. I was pleasantly surprised! One reason why I changed my review from 4 stars to 5 stars is, when I was thinking of what to write in my review, I realized just how truly insightful the book was. If you've seen the film adaptation (or even, you know, LIVED through the Cuban Missile Crisis), then you know what happens in the book. What you don't get in the film is all of the in depth political theory and philosophy. Reading about the political process, public and private, as both cases were necessary during the Cuban Missile Crisis, compared to politics today... I'm amazed at what politicians were able to accomplish just a few decades ago, and am embarrassed by how blatantly partisan our politicians are today. Sure, there were disagreements with the blockade etc. but the book is clear that JFK and RFK welcomed and ENCOURAGED opposing viewpoints as checks against popular opinions that might lead them astray. They were so methodical about their decision making throughout the entire 13 days, and minds changed back and forth almost the whole time--but that didn't bring everything to a grinding halt. They still managed to put a stop to a very scary situation. I can't help but wonder how a situation like that would be handled today (the thought actually scares me)... If you want to feel good about politics and have a renewed sense in the potential capabilities of politicians, then read this book. Good things can happen. People can work together.

  16. 5 out of 5

    BookOfCinz

    … Nuclear War would have begun on the beaches of Cuba and might have ended in a global holocaust My friend gave me a stack of books because he was cleaning up his library, this book was included in the stack. At first glance I thought there would be nothing in here that would interest me, however, after reading this harrowing account of what when on during the Cuban Missile Crisis, I couldn't have been more wrong. What blew my mind was how I heard about the Cuban Missile crisis in passing but … Nuclear War would have begun on the beaches of Cuba and might have ended in a global holocaust My friend gave me a stack of books because he was cleaning up his library, this book was included in the stack. At first glance I thought there would be nothing in here that would interest me, however, after reading this harrowing account of what when on during the Cuban Missile Crisis, I couldn't have been more wrong. What blew my mind was how I heard about the Cuban Missile crisis in passing but I never thought about the full impact of what would have happened if things did not turn out the way it did. I think this book gives a glaring account at how fast these missiles can have global destruction. As the author puts it, In the first hour (of all-out nuclear war) one hundred million Americans and one hundred million Russians would be killed. Just think about that for a second and the repercussions that war would have had. This reads like a horror story, but a necessary read.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Ben

    Interesting story. Not as dramatic as I had expected, based on the movie, but it adds a little texture. I appreciate that Kennedy tried to draw lessons from the experience. Perhaps some are debatable, or self-serving, but it is all very relevant (and scary).

  18. 5 out of 5

    Themwap

    13 days is a great book about the Cuban Missile Crisis written by the brother, and right hand, of the President. Here are 13 things that Thirteen days can teach you about leadership (spoilers ahead): 1) Challenge assumptions (business orthodoxy) - despite having an extensive intelligence network the US had failed to believe some tips that the Russians were putting nuclear missiles into Cuba. 2) Do not rush to judgment - Robert Kennedy was surprised that despite the intelligence and experience of 13 days is a great book about the Cuban Missile Crisis written by the brother, and right hand, of the President. Here are 13 things that Thirteen days can teach you about leadership (spoilers ahead): 1) Challenge assumptions (business orthodoxy) - despite having an extensive intelligence network the US had failed to believe some tips that the Russians were putting nuclear missiles into Cuba. 2) Do not rush to judgment - Robert Kennedy was surprised that despite the intelligence and experience of the group discussing the crisis their views changed over time (some several times). 3) Know your customers - John F Kennedy instinctively felt that US voters would not accept anything but a strong government response to the Cuba situation (note - no focus group needed. Malcolm Gladwell would have been proud!). 4) Recognise the ingredients needed to create healthy debate - JFK did not attend every meeting of the committee creating the country's response strategy because he recognised that views expressed changed in his presence. Robert Kennedy also pointed out the value of diversity of opinion when dealing with complex problems and having people brave enough to challenge the majority opinion. 5) With difficult decisions there is unlikely to be consensus or a right answer. 6) Take a break - The President is seen in the book having lunch with his wife before a major meeting and then on another occasion going for a swim. That was a great instinct to make sure he was feeling relaxed and able to think clearly about the decisions he needed to take. 7) Be professional - The US made sure that they had a strong legal framework for taking action against Russia. Having objective criteria to support their perspective really helped convince other stakeholders. 8) Manage stakeholders - The President is seen throughout the book keeping major stakeholders like the UK, France, Germany and Latin American states informed. 9) Strategy then details - The President's team focused on establishing the right strategy, then they worked through the fine details. 10) Know when to step forward - The President moved from letting others debate strategic options to taking direct control of all the details when the plan moved into action. 11) Stay rational - The President was painted by his brother as staying level headed and professional in the face of severe provocation. He strongly wanted to avoid miscalculating by acting out of emotion at any time. 12) Do not presume that things will get done - follow up - The President learned that some missiles in Turkey that he had previously asked to be decommissioned had not been, weakening the US's bargaining position and moral authority. 13) Kill them with kindness - JFK responded to two letters from the Russian leader, Kruschev by ignoring insults and answering only on the positive points made.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Blayne

    A magnificent retelling of the events that transpired over the course of those thirteen days in October of 1962 during the Cuban Missile Crisis. The Cuban Missile Crisis had the world on the brink of nuclear devastation, with tensions reaching an all time high upon the United States learning of the Soviet Unions placement of ballistic missiles in Cuba. Being a witness and key participant of EXCOMM (Executive Committee of the National Security Council), Robert F. Kennedy shares with us the A magnificent retelling of the events that transpired over the course of those thirteen days in October of 1962 during the Cuban Missile Crisis. The Cuban Missile Crisis had the world on the brink of nuclear devastation, with tensions reaching an all time high upon the United States learning of the Soviet Unions placement of ballistic missiles in Cuba. Being a witness and key participant of EXCOMM (Executive Committee of the National Security Council), Robert F. Kennedy shares with us the discussions and decisions pressing the committee and President John F. Kennedy over the course of those thirteen days. The tension and pressure that this group of individuals faced, along with the exemplary leadership President Kennedy displayed during this unfortunate moment in history, is retold with great clarity for us all to witness and participate in. After reading this memoir, I have personally formed a much greater appreciation for President Kennedy's leadership abilities and the overall responsibility that the President of the United States possesses in these times of crises. If not for President Kennedy's willingness to take into account the multiple opinions from his team, and his strategy of appeasement with Nikita Khrushchev and the Soviet Union, the world would most certainly have been faced with a far more grim and catastrophic result. It is important that we elect our leaders not just based on their accomplishments or perception, but based on their sound beliefs, visions and demonstrations of leadership. President Kennedy's determination to negotiate with his aggressor, rather than attack head on or threaten with intimidation, helped ensure a favorable outcome. I can only hope that if the world were to encounter another such event as this, our leaders will have the required temperament to not further escalate and handle in such a way as President Kennedy has. I highly recommend this particular account for anyone interested in a behind the scenes look of the handling of the crisis, or for anyone who would like to witness a true demonstration of leadership.

  20. 4 out of 5

    A Reader

    U-2 was a remarkable plane. It was designed to operate at 70,000 feet (about 21,000 metres), higher and for longer periods than any other aircraft since then. It was equipped with large-format cameras, finer that any made before, designed by Edwin Land, a flamboyant genius and Harvard dropout who had already invented the Polaroid. In October 1962, a U-2 flying above Cuba photographed nuclear missile sites being built in secret by the Soviet Union. John F. Kennedy was stunned by the provocation. U-2 was a remarkable plane. It was designed to operate at 70,000 feet (about 21,000 metres), higher and for longer periods than any other aircraft since then. It was equipped with large-format cameras, finer that any made before, designed by Edwin Land, a flamboyant genius and Harvard dropout who had already invented the Polaroid. In October 1962, a U-2 flying above Cuba photographed nuclear missile sites being built in secret by the Soviet Union. John F. Kennedy was stunned by the provocation. For the past year his administration was making efforts to establish better relations with the USSR. The installation of ballistic missiles in Cuba represented an existential threat to America. It was the beginning of the Cuban crisis – a confrontation between the two giant atomic nations, the United States and the U.S.S.R which “brought the world to the abyss of nuclear destruction and the end of mankind.” Thirteen days is Robert F. Kennedy’s personal perspective about this significant period in history. Bob Kennedy, brother and trusted advisor of the President, ovides a behind the scenes, sensitive and insightful account of the events, the tense debates and the ethical questions that took place from 16 October to 28 October, 1962. 13 dates during which the world held its breath. On October 28, 1962, Khrushchev agreed to turn his ships carrying more arms back and to remove the missiles already stationed on the island. The world was able to breathe a big sigh of relief. After more than a half century, nuclear weapons still pose a real threat. In this little book, Bob Kennedy remind us that a leader’s supreme quality, is the responsibility to consider the effect of his/her actions on others.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Kevin

    Robert F. Kennedy's book on the Cuban Missile Crisis describes the actions at the highest levels of the American government during October of 1962. The memoir/history is well-written, though I wouldn't call it a comprehensive document of the entire episode. More than anything, the book is terrifying: at almost any moment during the crisis, millions of human beings around the world could have been vaporized without notice. Reading Thirteen Days, one asks oneself repeatedly how the current Robert F. Kennedy's book on the Cuban Missile Crisis describes the actions at the highest levels of the American government during October of 1962. The memoir/history is well-written, though I wouldn't call it a comprehensive document of the entire episode. More than anything, the book is terrifying: at almost any moment during the crisis, millions of human beings around the world could have been vaporized without notice. Reading Thirteen Days, one asks oneself repeatedly how the current President--or any since Kennedy--would handle a similar situation. Kennedy's description of how his brother used restraint and empathy for the Soviet Union illustrates the tightrope that he had to navigate if the world was to survive. For me, the most poignant passage in the book was when Robert Kennedy described the weight of those days for the men making the decisions in the U.S. government: "We saw as never before the meaning and responsibility involved in the power of the United States, the power of the President, the responsibility we had to people around the globe who had never heard of us, who had never heard of our country or the men sitting in that room determining their fate, making a decision which would influence whether they would live or die." The fate of the planet depended on the men in the White House and the Kremlin in those days. The only reason you're reading this now is because of their actions and their willingness to swallow national pride and step back from the abyss. Kennedy's book should be required reading for anyone in power.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Carolyn

    This short (a little over one-hundred pages) book is Robert Kennedy's telling of the Cuban Missle Crisis. If you want to investigate this crisis in depth, start here to get background only and then move to other sources. Robert, of course, was not going to criticize his brother. Additionally, since it was written pretty soon after the crisis, he had no access to revelations which may have been discovered later. What Robert is doing is giving a sequential presentation of when his brother--that's This short (a little over one-hundred pages) book is Robert Kennedy's telling of the Cuban Missle Crisis. If you want to investigate this crisis in depth, start here to get background only and then move to other sources. Robert, of course, was not going to criticize his brother. Additionally, since it was written pretty soon after the crisis, he had no access to revelations which may have been discovered later. What Robert is doing is giving a sequential presentation of when his brother--that's President John Kennedy for those of you who are too young to know--came to know that the missiles were heading to Cuban, the meetings held and who attended them, and the decisions made and the thinking at that moment. If you are going to investigate decision processes and a frighting event of the Cold War, this book cannot be skipped. Robert was on the inside both as Attorney General and as a sibling. I assigned this in high school history classes because the ease of the read and the short length made it an ideal assignment as we looked at the Cold War. They has no excuse not to read it and neither do you.

  23. 5 out of 5

    C. McKenzie

    This was a short, but very clear and terrifying account of what actually went on in Washington during the Cuban missile crisis. President Kennedy was determined to have the Soviet missiles removed peaceably and set out to do so by creating a group of advisors called Ex Comm. This team was guided by Kennedy's admonition to give Khrushchev every opportunity to back down as possible. And during these days on the brink of nuclear war these were some key factors: some on the Ex Comm team advocated This was a short, but very clear and terrifying account of what actually went on in Washington during the Cuban missile crisis. President Kennedy was determined to have the Soviet missiles removed peaceably and set out to do so by creating a group of advisors called Ex Comm. This team was guided by Kennedy's admonition to give Khrushchev every opportunity to back down as possible. And during these days on the brink of nuclear war these were some key factors: some on the Ex Comm team advocated invading Cuba, some members switched positions from Hawk to Dove in a single meeting, President Kennedy maintained his regular schedule and the Ex Comm team met without the knowledge of anyone, a secret meeting between Robert Kennedy and Dobrynin negotiated a trade of U. S. missiles out Turkey for U.S.S.R. missiles out of Cuba, and so much more. Reading this book illustrated the true ability of Kennedy as a thoughtful leader, a keen student of history who was able to apply the lessons of the past to a modern crisis. It also illustrated the part that personalities and sheer chance played in saving our world from catastrophe.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Maria

    Thirteen Days offers us a new insight about the Cuban Missile Crisis, about the courage of President John F. Kennedy during this particular time, and the great amount of thought put into the process of avoiding a nuclear armageddon. I find, that 52 years after this crisis, people in America, in Russia, and around the world undermine the crucial days in October 1962 that may have led to their nonexistence today. We forget the significance of the leadership done by JFK during these days to protect Thirteen Days offers us a new insight about the Cuban Missile Crisis, about the courage of President John F. Kennedy during this particular time, and the great amount of thought put into the process of avoiding a nuclear armageddon. I find, that 52 years after this crisis, people in America, in Russia, and around the world undermine the crucial days in October 1962 that may have led to their nonexistence today. We forget the significance of the leadership done by JFK during these days to protect the future of the world. A lot of people, I have come to realize, think the Cuban Missile Crisis was just one of those things in history — overhyped to the core and fabricated to a certain means. This book proves us otherwise. Robert F. Kennedy provides us with an easy to read narrative about those days in the White House. He tells us of how JFK did with all his best to avoid a military confrontation, and how the negotiations were done with the Soviets. I think this book is able to give us time for personal reflection, in which we are able to appreciate the life we have today, and to encourage us to protect the future of human life and the earth from massive destruction.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Tom Schulte

    I enjoyed this insider's recollection of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis as largely told from RFK with a length afterword by political scientists Richard E. Neustadt and Graham T. Allison. RFK was assassinated before his manuscript was complete and, to be sure, he could not have been completely forthcoming in 1968. Still, it is riveting tale of how close we came to nuclear war. Also here in the appendices is relevant documents including JFK pronouncements and correspondence between the President I enjoyed this insider's recollection of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis as largely told from RFK with a length afterword by political scientists Richard E. Neustadt and Graham T. Allison. RFK was assassinated before his manuscript was complete and, to be sure, he could not have been completely forthcoming in 1968. Still, it is riveting tale of how close we came to nuclear war. Also here in the appendices is relevant documents including JFK pronouncements and correspondence between the President and Khrushchev. It is that discursive, even poetic, and at times contradictory set of Russian letters that makes me think there is a real story to be told of what was going on in the Kremlin. Hopefully, that will come out, some day.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Eric Hopkins

    Thirteen Days really surprised me, I didn't go into the book with any expectations. After having read it I would call it anything less than an excellent first hand source. Robert Kennedy has a great writing style for narrative that he's working with. The book was a very fast read, I actually got through it in a single day across two sittings. Part of what helped is how fluidly Kennedy writes, it really lends itself to effortless reading. That fast reading pace manages to perfectly capture the Thirteen Days really surprised me, I didn't go into the book with any expectations. After having read it I would call it anything less than an excellent first hand source. Robert Kennedy has a great writing style for narrative that he's working with. The book was a very fast read, I actually got through it in a single day across two sittings. Part of what helped is how fluidly Kennedy writes, it really lends itself to effortless reading. That fast reading pace manages to perfectly capture the chaotic pace of events that were transpiring. It was very objective, there was no attempt to try and make anyone out to be anything other than who they were and what part they played, on either side. The only small exception was that there is an obvious level of little brother looking up to big brother in Robert Kennedy's writing, but that's a level of bias I don't think a person can remove themselves from so I have to forgive it. It's an great read, and essential for anyone interested in contemporary American politics.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Kristina Gonzales

    Thirteen Days: A Memoir of the Cuban Missile Crisis is a short but intense read. Robert F. Kennedy’s firsthand account of the Cuban Missile Crisis explores the correspondence and negotiations with Nikita Khrushchev, the internal dealings of President Kennedy and the members of the Ex Comm (including Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara and Secretary of State Dean Rusk), the interactions and dealings with international bodies such as NATO and the United Nations, and just how close we were to the Thirteen Days: A Memoir of the Cuban Missile Crisis is a short but intense read. Robert F. Kennedy’s firsthand account of the Cuban Missile Crisis explores the correspondence and negotiations with Nikita Khrushchev, the internal dealings of President Kennedy and the members of the Ex Comm (including Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara and Secretary of State Dean Rusk), the interactions and dealings with international bodies such as NATO and the United Nations, and just how close we were to the brink of nuclear warfare. The memoir explores the reasons John F. Kennedy chose a blockade despite the pushback from the Joint Chiefs of Staff for a direct military attack on Cuba and congressional criticism of the quarantine approach. While it is a fairly quick read it is fierce in content and gives a new prospective to the decision making process of the President and the most senior officers of the executive branch.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Bob

    I had read this book many years ago in a class in negotiations in graduate school. This book is the story of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, the closest the world has ever come to a full out, no holds barred, nuclear war. The story is well known: the USSR put offensive ballistic missiles in Cuba, 50. Miles off the U.S. coastline. The book is an unfinished narrative by the late Robert F Kennedy, the brother of President John. F Kennedy. As Attorney General, as well as brother and confidant to the I had read this book many years ago in a class in negotiations in graduate school. This book is the story of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, the closest the world has ever come to a full out, no holds barred, nuclear war. The story is well known: the USSR put offensive ballistic missiles in Cuba, 50. Miles off the U.S. coastline. The book is an unfinished narrative by the late Robert F Kennedy, the brother of President John. F Kennedy. As Attorney General, as well as brother and confidant to the President, he tells the story of what went on behind closed doors. Ultimately, the stalemate is broken, the Soviets flinch, and peace returns. But, the story is riveting. In fact, I started to read it again this morning, went out with my family for Father's Day, and return to the house to finish it the same day. If you enjoy history, a good example of negotiation, or even an exciting story, this book reads like a novel even though it is real history.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Trenchologist

    Cogent, spare, personal. Obviously offers insights only someone as close to the President and the situation could make, but these insights are layered and revealing beyond the scope of the CMC. More than once I thought 'what kind of President would RFK have made?' reading his direct and sensitive recounting of the actions taken those thirteen days. The clarity of his prose and recollection is startling and enlightening. I knew about the CMC but as an "idea." Now I understand so much more of the Cogent, spare, personal. Obviously offers insights only someone as close to the President and the situation could make, but these insights are layered and revealing beyond the scope of the CMC. More than once I thought 'what kind of President would RFK have made?' reading his direct and sensitive recounting of the actions taken those thirteen days. The clarity of his prose and recollection is startling and enlightening. I knew about the CMC but as an "idea." Now I understand so much more of the CMC at its heart. "I thought, as I listened, of the many times that I had heard the military take positions which, if wrong, had the advantage that no one would be around at the end to know." And, how sobering in its starkness is this simple line, wedged into his thesis and narrative: "Frequently I saw advisers adapt their opinions to what they believed President Kennedy and, later, President Johnson wished to hear."

  30. 4 out of 5

    Kaushik Iyer

    Recommended by an acquaintance who was interested in books on organizational theory -- who gets to be in the room, and how that shapes decision making. This is a spare, surprisingly direct memoir that chronicles the Cuban Missile Crisis and the decisions that were taken in the White House as the situation unfolded. Much of what RFK talks about was new to me, but perhaps the most interesting part was how he described and portrayed his brother. The JFK that emerges is cautious, deliberate, and a Recommended by an acquaintance who was interested in books on organizational theory -- who gets to be in the room, and how that shapes decision making. This is a spare, surprisingly direct memoir that chronicles the Cuban Missile Crisis and the decisions that were taken in the White House as the situation unfolded. Much of what RFK talks about was new to me, but perhaps the most interesting part was how he described and portrayed his brother. The JFK that emerges is cautious, deliberate, and a strong leader. He creates space for his team to debate without his presence, cuts across structure to compose a group of the right advisors, and draws richly from history (The Guns of August is repeatedly referenced). Recommended.

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