Thursday, October 25, 2012

National Archives Foundation has glossy book on Cuban Missile Crisis

Authors: Stacey Bredhoff, with message by David S. Ferriero  (Archivist of the United States)

Title:To the Brink: JFK and the Cuban Missile Crisis

Publication: 2012, The Foundation for the National Archives, Washington DC, ISBN 978-0-9841033-9-6, 90 pages, full sized, gloss, paperback, very heavily illustrated, sold at the Gift Shop at the Archives in Washington DC for $19.95.

The book contains illustrations based on the exhibits at the Archives, where no photography is permitted.  All the major intelligence memos, conversation transcripts, and CIA assessments are included.  There are multiple photographs of the sites in Cuba and even of a model fallout shelter.

The Administration had been concerned about possible Soviet activity in Cuba ever since Kennedy took office and the Bay of Pigs failed.  It had called up Army reservists in September 1962 for a year of active duty.  It’s a little surprising that it took until Oct. 16 for the first official evidence of Soviet missiles to reach the president.  Mrs. Kennedy was in Middleburg, VA on Oct. 16 and rejoined JFK on that day, six days before the crisis was made public by Kennedy’s famous speech Monday evening Oct. 22.

The booklet also contains photographs of CIA assessments of the personalities of Castro and of Khrushchev.  The CIA was particularly concerned about Castro’s egotism, narcissism and even the nihilism known in today’s terrorists.  That personality pathology certainly contributed to the bellicose nature of Castro’s behavior.  Castro had assumed that the US would invade Cuba immediately, but was willing to see Cuba sacrificed to see capitalism obliterated in nuclear war.  Castro seemed to want the end to come out of spite.  Khrushchev had badly miscalculated that the US could tolerate the presence of missiles in Cuba, since the Soviets had “tolerated” the outdated missiles in Turkey.

The booklet has a picture of the DEFCON-3 elevation telegram on Oct. 23. 

Here is a CSPAN video on the tapes that Kennedy made of the conversations.

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