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Wed Sep 26, 2012, 01:14 PM

Kevin Costner's "13 Days" was a very accurate portrayal of this...

Last edited Fri Sep 28, 2012, 11:46 AM - Edit history (4)

General Curtis LeMay: You're in a pretty bad fix, Mr. President.

President Kennedy: What did you say?

General Curtis LeMay: You're in a pretty bad fix.

President Kennedy: Well, maybe you haven't noticed: You're in it with me.


Good Morning America played the actual tape of that yesterday morning and the Costner movie got it spot-on.

NPR's On The Media was impressed too...
On The Media: Missile Crisis Memories (August 27, 2010)

FRED KAPLAN: Word of the tapes first came out in 1982, 20 years after the crisis, when several of Kennedy's advisors — McGeorge Bundy, Robert McNamara, a few others — wrote a little article in Time Magazine in which they admitted that the myth of the Cuban missile crisis was false. When I interviewed Ted Sorensen about this five years ago, he admitted that basically Kennedy, after that last ex-con meeting, he took seven people into his office and he told them that look, I'm sending my brother over to the Soviet Embassy and I'm going to accept this deal, but you can't tell anybody, and that after Kennedy was assassinated they all got together and pledged that nobody would ever reveal this. The first tape was revealed in 1987, and it was of the last day of the crisis where Khrushchev comes out with a deal and Kennedy says hey, this is a pretty good deal, and everybody in the room is shouting him down, saying this will wreck NATO, we can't do this, it'll, it'll ruin our credibility. Kennedy lets them talk on and at one point he says look, to any man at the United Nations or any other rational man it will look like a very fair trade. I'm reading from the transcript here. And later he also says, and this I think is the - is the telling point, he says, well I'm just thinking about what we're going to have to do in a day or so, which is 500 sorties. The Air Strike Plan called for 500 air sorties against the Cuban missile sites every day for seven days:

PRESIDENT JOHN F. KENNEDY: I’ve been thinking about what, what we're going to have to do in a day or so, which is 500 sorties in seven days and possibly an invasion, all because we wouldn't take missiles out of Turkey. And I – we all know how –

FRED KAPLAN: Kennedy goes on: “All because we wouldn't take missiles out of Turkey. We all know how quickly everybody's courage goes when the blood starts to flow, and that's what is going to happen to NATO. When they start these things and they grab Berlin, everybody's going to say well, that was a pretty good proposition.”

BOB GARFIELD: Memoirists! Once these revelations came out in McGeorge Bundy's own memoir, how did journalism react, having been unwitting accomplices in a historical lie? Did newspapers jump on this story to kind of set the record straight, and do you think it had any effect?

FRED KAPLAN: I have to say, both among journalists and historians, this chapter of the Cuban missile crisis has not yet been fully incorporated into the dominant narrative, as academics might call it today, and to the degree that people do know there was a trade, it is as yet not generally well accepted how alone Kennedy was.

BOB GARFIELD: I'm curious about how much the truth of the Cuban missile crisis has found its way into the public consciousness. If it has, I suppose you can credit the film 13 Days from two years ago. Hollywood took another look at the history books and did substantially incorporate our current understanding in that film. Let's hear a little bit of that:

MAN: We've got time for one more round of diplomacy, and that's it. The first air strikes start in 28 hours. MAN: But we have to make them agree to it!

MAN: Right.

MAN: So how do we do that?

BRUCE GREENWOOD AS JOHN F. KENNEDY: Well we give them something. We tell them we're going to remove the missiles from Turkey — Hang on! But we do that six months from now, so it appears there's no linkage.

KEVIN COSTNER AS KENNY O'DONNELL: We also tell them if they go public about it, we'll deny it.

BRUCE GREENWOOD/JOHN F. KENNEDY: Right we deny, the deal's off.

KEVIN COSTNER/KENNY O'DONNELL: And we do it under the table so we can disavow any knowledge of it.

MAN: It's transparent, Kenny. The press'll be all over it.

KEVIN COSTNER/KENNY O'DONNELL: Six months from now we're not going to care, are we?

BOB GARFIELD: In your review of that film, 13 Days, you made another point about learning from history. It was about the supposition that a president, surrounded by a circle of trusted advisors, can be depended on to make the right decision. And you made a, a connection to the George W. Bush White House. Make it again.

FRED KAPLAN: [LAUGHS] The point was - I think George W. Bush had just been elected president, and a lot of people were wondering if he would be smart enough to deal with crises. And the common explanation at the time was well, don't worry, he has a lot of really smart people around him. And the point that you can take from the fourth draft of the history of the Cuban missile crisis is that the people around John Kennedy were really smart - I mean these were the people that David Halberstam later called, in a note of irony, "the best and the brightest," and yet John Kennedy realized that they really weren't very smart, after all. And the lesson of that is that you can have good advisors but the crucial thing is that you need a president. It's the president who makes the decisions...


I was reminded of this movie again when Kevin Costner was so humbled by winning the Emmy® this past Sunday night.

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