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Lee Shang Hwah 1005H78736 Thirteen Days Introduction Throughout the course of history, we have witnessed many moments where one single decision would have proven decisive in shaping the fates of the society in particular and the world in general. Such circumstances usually arise as a culmination of escalating tensions between two sides and the situation was deteriorating rapidly. In this paper, I will discuss an event which mirrors such situation, in the form of the Cuban Missile Crisis which occurred on the year of 1962. It will be based on Robert F. Kennedys Thirteen Days which is a memoir to the period when the crisis occurred, together with its synopsis and research with respect to accuracy in comparison to the actual history and its relevance to the study of history. Synopsis In the year of 1962, Fidel Castro of Cuba was an enemy of the United States.1 The U.S. did everything to sabotage Castros regime, which caused him to seek help from the Soviet Union.2 The Soviet premier Khrushchev sent nuclear missiles to Cuba in secret, which was discovered by the U.S. on October 16, 1962, Tuesday, after a U-2 had completed a photographic mission which indicated that the Russians were placing missiles and atomic weapons in Cuba.3 This revelation surprised most of the officers, as Anatoly Dobrynin, the Soviet ambassador, assured President Kennedy that no missiles or offensive weapons will be placed in Cuba.4 Knowing that the stakes were high, the President knew that he had to act.5 Thus, he instructed the Cabinet to recommend a few possible courses of action.6
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Robert F. Kennedy, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. , Thirteen Days (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc, 1999), 9. 2 Kennedy, Schlesinger, Thirteen Days, 9. 3 Kennedy, Schlesinger, Thirteen Days, 19. 4 Kennedy, Schlesinger, Thirteen Days, 20-21. 5 Kennedy, Schlesinger, Thirteen Days, 26. 6 Kennedy, Schlesinger, Thirteen Days, 26-27.

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During the afternoon of the first day, they began to discuss the idea of a blockade, which became the majoritys idea by Thursday night, and after some deliberations the President agreed the plan on Saturday afternoon.7 They then notified their allies about the decision while at the same time, the military mobilized itself.8 The quarantine went into effect on October 24, when Russian ships were approaching and they had to decide whether to intercept them.9 Confrontations seemed inevitable but a later report confirmed that the ships either stopped before the quarantine line or turned back, thus nothing happened.10 The President decided to give Khrushchev more time while increasing the pressure by other means, only to discover that the Russians were fortifying Cuba in an extraordinarily rapid pace.11 Communications with Khrushchev were done almost daily with letters from both sides while the armament was taking place.12 On October 26, a ship bound for Cuba under a Soviet charter was boarded, yet the Russians still refused to cooperate.13 Tensions escalated with Khrushchevs admittance of weapons in Cuba, as both sides proposing conditions for the missiles to be removed.14 After a reconnaissance plane was shot down on October 27, the crisis escalated as the world was at the brink of war.15 However, on the next day, Khrushchev agreed to dismantle and withdraw the missiles under supervision.16 The story ends with the authors thoughts on the crisis.17

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Kennedy, Schlesinger, Thirteen Days, 34, 38. Kennedy, Schlesinger, Thirteen Days, 40-41. 9 Kennedy, Schlesinger, Thirteen Days, 52-53. 10 Kennedy, Schlesinger, Thirteen Days, 54-55. 11 Kennedy, Schlesinger, Thirteen Days, 59. 12 Kennedy, Schlesinger, Thirteen Days, 61-63. 13 Kennedy, Schlesinger, Thirteen Days, 63-64. 14 Kennedy, Schlesinger, Thirteen Days, 65-67, 72. 15 Kennedy, Schlesinger, Thirteen Days, 75. 16 Kennedy, Schlesinger, Thirteen Days, 84. 17 Kennedy, Schlesinger, Thirteen Days, 85-98.

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Historical Accuracy Being written as a memoir of Robert F. Kennedy, who experienced the Cuban Missile Crisis first-handedly, historical accuracy in this case will not be an issue. However, I would like to do some comparisons from a few aspects. The first aspect I will discuss is the discovery of the missiles in Cuba. In the book, it was described as being discovered by the U-2 planes during their reconnaissance missions and this outcome was reported to President Kennedy on October 16, 1962.18 This is supported by the 928 photos taken by Air Force Major Richard D. Heyser, a pilot of a U-2 plane, who confirmed the existence of offensive weapons in Cuba.19 The analysis of the photos by the National Photographic Intelligence revealed that three medium-range missiles were under construction, as well as observed eight large MRBM transporters at three locations together with four erector launchers in their firing position.20 The quarantine and blockade on Cuba will be the second aspect I wish to discuss. In the book, the U.S. government, backed by the Organization of American States (OAS), agreed to quarantine Cuba and decided to intercept any ship bound for Cuba.21 This information is verified by the Navys historical data which stated that President Kennedy announced a blockade on Cuba on October 22, 1962.22 According to the book, the announcement was followed by a mobilization of the military together with the discourse taken on other fronts.23 The Navys archives showed the deployment of the fleet with great detail throughout the entire period.24

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Kennedy, Schlesinger, Thirteen Days, 19. U.S. Department of State, The Cuban Missile Crisis. http://future.state.gov/educators/slideshow/cuba/cuba2.html (accessed July 10, 2011) 20 U.S. Department of State, The Cuban Missile Crisis. http://future.state.gov/educators/slideshow/cuba/cuba2.html 21 Kennedy, Schlesinger, Thirteen Days, 40, 45. 22 Department of the Navy Naval Historical Center, The Naval Quarantine of Cuba, 1962: Quarantine, 22-26 October. http://www.history.navy.mil/faqs/faq90-5a.htm (accessed July 10, 2011) 23 Kennedy, Schlesinger, Thirteen Days, 41-46. 24 Department of the Navy Naval Historical Center, The Naval Quarantine of Cuba, 1962: Quarantine, 22-26 October. http://www.history.navy.mil/faqs/faq90-5a.htm

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Also, in the book it was stated that President Kennedy decided not to intercept any of the ships on October 25, when there were a few Russian ships approaching the quarantine line, only to discover that the ships either stopped or turned back.25 The Navys archives described this event in their report.26 The book also mentioned that the Marucla, a Soviet-charted ship bound for Cuba became the first ship to be boarded, which happened on October 26.27 This also corresponded with the information from the Navy, which reported the blockade as well as the development for the day.28 The third and last aspect I will discuss is the negotiations between Kennedy and Khrushchev during the later part of the crisis, when tensions were escalating due to the blockade on Cuba by the U.S. In the book, we see that both sides were thinking of solutions to resolve this crisis, which included the removal of missiles from both sides.29 This is supported by the constant exchange of letters between the two leaders regarding the crisis as well as the conditions of bargaining.30 At the same time, the U.S. government also attempted to persuade Italy and Turkey, where they had placed their missiles, to allow the missiles be used as a bargaining chip with the Russians.31 The Italians positive reply as well as the repeated Turkish refusal of missile withdrawal is an accurate description on the Americans effort to facilitate negotiations by removing the missiles from Italy and Turkey.32 With these three aspects discussed, one could see that events mentioned in Thirteen Days were accurately describing the history during this period of time.

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Kennedy, Schlesinger, Thirteen Days, 52-55. Department of the Navy Naval Historical Center, The Naval Quarantine of Cuba, 1962: Quarantine, 22-26 October. http://www.history.navy.mil/faqs/faq90-5a.htm 27 Kennedy, Schlesinger, Thirteen Days, 63. 28 Department of the Navy Naval Historical Center, The Naval Quarantine of Cuba, 1962: Quarantine, 22-26 October. http://www.history.navy.mil/faqs/faq90-5a.htm 29 Kennedy, Schlesinger, Thirteen Days, 66-71. 30 Department of State, United States of America, Kennedy-Khrushchev Exchanges. http://www.state.gov/www/about_state/history/volume_vi/exchanges.html (accessed July 10, 2011) 31 Kennedy, Schlesinger, Thirteen Days, 71. 32 Wikipedia, Cuban Missile Crisis. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cuban_Missile_Crisis (accessed July 10, 2011)

Historical Relevance After reading Thirteen Days, I find that the time period involved is between October 16, 1962 and October 28, 1962, the thirteen days when the crisis occurred. This time frame is well within the time frame of the Cold War.33 It witnessed the confrontation between U.S.S.R. and the western countries.34 However, while this book did yield an accurate account on the crisis from the U.S. point of view, it did little good in describing the crisis from the Russians and Cubans point of view, as Khrushchevs letters were only mentioned a few times and were limited to the conditions which he demanded in exchange for the missiles removal.35 The main reason for me to find Thirteen Days a relevant source in my historical studies is that it yielded a good deal about the situation which was engulfing the entire world. The book described the confrontations not only on the Cuban Missile Crisis, but also describing the political situation in Western Europe especially in Germany.36 Also, it provided a comprehensive description of the whole crisis from start to the end. Examples include the discovery of the missiles, meeting between the high ranking officers, the blockade backed by the OAS, the negotiations between Kennedy and Khrushchev and ultimately the removal of the missiles.37 This chronicled account thus provided a very clear picture on the crisis, at least from the U.S. perspective. However, the book did little good to explain the Cuban Missile Crisis from the Russians and Cubans point of view, especially on the stance of the Kremlin. The book yielded only Khrushchevs opinion on the matter.38 In fact, according to the Russians, they did have nuclear warheads in Cuba, but did not place it on the missiles and thus not ready to fire, as well as citing that the U.S. possessed nuclear bombs in Puerto Rico and Guantanamo Bay, all aimed at the
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History Learning Site, What was the Cold War. http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/ (accessed July 11, 2011) 34 Till Geiger, Britain and the Economic Problem of the Cold War. (Ashgate Publishing, 2004), 7. 35 Kennedy, Schlesinger, Thirteen Days. 66-67, 71. 36 Kennedy, Schlesinger, Thirteen Days. 40, 54, 61, 71-73, 37 Kennedy, Schlesinger, Thirteen Days. 19-25, 52, 61-63, 66-67, 84. 38 Kennedy, Schlesinger, Thirteen Days. 61-63. 66-67.

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island of Cuba.39 Also, from the viewpoint of the Kremlin, Khrushchevs move was seen as reckless and caused considerable embarrassment to them as he backed down during the crisis before the Americans, a move which will lead to his deposal two years later.40 With a thorough account on the crisis from the U.S. point of view yet overlooking the truth from the Russians and Cubans angle, these two thus summarized the relevancy and irrelevancy of the book with respect to history. Conclusion From this piece of assignment, I have managed to learn of the circumstances which surrounded the Cuban Missile Crisis. Before now, despite being aware of the hostilities between U.S. and U.S.S.R., I have no idea that they actually came so close to start a nuclear war, a war which will culminate in a holocaust and would ultimately wipe out the entire human race from the face of this planet should it erupts. Also, I am glad to be able to understand the political situation between U.S. with its allies and the U.S.S.R. In this crisis, we see that the European countries and the OAS were standing together in the face of this crisis against the Russians.41 Furthermore, I discovered that there were other things in action concurrent to the crisis, such as the blockade on Berlin.42 I felt ashamed on the fact that I had a wrong idea on the superpowers not willing to risk war on multiple fronts. The Greek historian Herodotus once said this, In peace, sons bury their fathers. In war, fathers bury their sons.43 This is certainly tragic if war was to erupt, and I feel fortunate that both sides chose peace over war. By this quote, the leaders should think in the peoples shoes before they decide to go on a war. Also, I find the quote useful by the fact that it reminds me not to resort to anger and violence when problems arise, which would help me in my quest of life and studies.
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Marxist History, Cuban History, Missile Crisis. http://www.marxists.org/history/cuba/subject/missile-crisis/ch03.htm (accessed July 11, 2011) 40 Conservapedia, Nikita Khrushchev. http://conservapedia.com/Nikita_Khrushchev (accessed July 11, 2011) 41 Kennedy, Schlesinger, Thirteen Days. 40, 52. 42 Kennedy, Schlesinger, Thirteen Days. 54. 43 BrainyQuote, Herodotus Quotes. http://www.brainyquote.com/ (accessed July 11, 2011)

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Bibliography Kennedy, Robert F. , Schlesinger. Jr, Arthur, Thirteen Days. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc, 1999. U.S. Department of State, The Cuban Missile Crisis. http://future.state.gov/educators/slideshow/cuba/cuba2.html (Accessed July 10, 2011) Department of the Navy Naval Historical Center, The Naval Quarantine of Cuba, 1962: Quarantine, 22-26 October. http://www.history.navy.mil/faqs/faq90-5a.htm (Accessed July 10, 2011) Department of State, United States of America, Kennedy-Khrushchev Exchanges. http://www.state.gov/www/about_state/history/volume_vi/exchanges.html (Accessed July 10, 2011) Wikipedia, Cuban Missile Crisis. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cuban_Missile_Crisis (Accessed July 10, 2011) History Learning Site, What was the Cold War. http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/ (Accessed July 11, 2011) Geiger, Till, Britain and the Economic Problem of the Cold War. Ashgate Publishing, 2004. Marxist History, Cuban History, Missile Crisis. http://www.marxists.org/history/cuba/subject/missile-crisis/ch03.htm (Accessed July 11, 2011) Conservapedia, Nikita Khrushchev. http://conservapedia.com/Nikita_Khrushchev (Accessed July 11, 2011) BrainyQuote, Herodotus Quotes. http://www.brainyquote.com/ (accessed July 11, 2011)