Marking the 50th anniversary of Cuban missile crisis
Updated: October 15, 2012 6:13PM
The only thing new in the world is the history you do not know. Harry S Truman
Oct. 23, 1962, was day eight of the Cuban missile crisis.
In The Kennedy Tapes: Inside the White House During the Cuban Missile Crisis, President John F. Kennedy and Assistant Secretary of Defense for Civil Defense Steuart Pittman are quoted as having the following conversation:
Pittman: If nuclear weapons are used (from Cuba) … the missile strike radius … takes in 92 million people in the United States … we would have to decide … what would serve as adequate protection against blast, heat and direct exposure to radiation …
Kennedy: Can we maybe evacuate the cities … we have to assume … we’re not going to have an all-out nuclear exchange … if we (do), then we have a different problem.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of those 13 days in October — the most dangerous in recorded history. The familiar facts are these:
“Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev expected the United States to invade Cuba and drive Fidel Castro from office before the end of 1962. Khrushchev thought he had a daring idea about how to deter the invasion while, at the same time, demonstrating to the world that the Soviets could compete with the United States in missile power. And so, he decided secretly to send offensive nuclear missiles to Cuba and then to call Kennedy’s bluff when they were installed.” (The Kennedy Tapes)
Policy-makers, historians, national security experts and journalists have endlessly debated and analyzed these events. And now, with declassified documents available from the former Soviet Union and the release of President Kennedy’s secret Oval Office tapes, the average citizen reader has a front row seat to history.
The Kennedy Tapes edited by Ernest R. May and Philip D. Zelijow (1997), publishes the authenticated transcripts of Kennedy’s conversations with his security council. The book is an hour-by-hour chronicle. Despite knowing the “end of the story,” the reader will be transfixed.
One Minute to Midnight: Kennedy, Khrushchev and Castro on the Brink of Nuclear War by Michael Dobbs (2008) offers “sobering new information about the world’s only superpower nuclear confrontation — as well as contemporary relevance.” This is a skillful telling of WMDs in America’s backyard; made all the more exciting and horrifying, because it is true.
To view news clips from the crisis, go to oppl.org/research/online-tools and click on World History in Video. After entering your Oak Park Public Library card number and PIN, search for “Cuban missile srisis.” This video collection is just one of many online tools the library pays for so you don’t have to.
Find more on the Cuban missile crisis at the library.
Susan Ruffolo manages Technical Services for the Oak Park Public Library.