Thirteen Days

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Being a child from the 60’s, I remember people talking about the Cuban Missile Crisis. Only I was too young to really understand what people were talking about. Moreover, this was overshadowed by the war in Vietnam as I was growing up, so I never really gave it much thought. I remember talking about the Cuban Embargo, and how Castro ruled over the people of Cuba with an iron fist built on the Russian way. But the Cuban Missile Crisis was not really covered in depth throughout my school days in the 70’s and early 80’s. Maybe this was in part due to the “cold war” being in full swing, and the country was trying to forget about Vietnam. What ever the case, I never fully understood what happened back in 16.

That was until I watch the movie “Thirteen Days” starring Kevin Costner. After watching this movie from beginning to end, I was shocked to see just how close we came to a nuclear holocaust. It was actually frightening to see how at any moment, anyone making the wrong move or decision could have sparked disaster for millions of people right here in our own country. Not to mention I’ve never seen that side of President Kennedy nor his brother Bobby, who was the Attorney General at the time. What a lofty burden for him to have shouldered for the well being of our country at a point when most men in his position would have opted for a nuclear exchange with Russia, killing countless numbers on both sides.

What a surprise it must have been when the film from the U Spy plane was analyzed after a routine flyover one Sunday afternoon in October 16. To see plus SS-4 Medium-Range Ballistic Missiles, each with a megaton nuclear warhead and a range of 1000 miles, only 0 miles from our country. These missiles could reach as far north as Washington, D.C. with a delivery time of five minutes. Before a warning could reach the people, our entire government could have been wiped out along with millions of innocent Americans.

Seeing how President Kennedy handled the crisis was amazing. With all the top military brass constantly badgering him to strike first, his decision to make the speech about the blockade instead of invasion was the only factor in which kept our country from possibly making the biggest mistake ever. I though Kennedy was going to fall into their pattern of thinking, but his cool and calm demeanor was not to allow this. This was also true for Bobby Kennedy and Admiral McNamara. Not to mention how Kenny O’Donnell, the special assistant to the President, worked beyond the call of duty to keep everyone on the same page. I’m not sure how true his relationship with Kennedy was, but how the movie depicted it, Mr. O’Donnell had a big part in orchestrating the outcome along with the Kennedy’s.

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Mostly I was appalled with the actions of the Secretary’s of the Army and Air Force. I’m glad they did not make the decisions during that crisis, because it very well could have brought our country into World War III. From their actions, I could see how the generals wanted war, what ever the cost. And that is how they were trained to think, by our own government. But I honestly believe that Kennedy himself was the deciding factor in putting an end to the Cuban Missile Crisis. I’m glad I got a chance to see this movie, and I also see just what a great man JFK really was. It has opened my eyes to this period in history, and how our President stood toe to toe with the big Russian dog in our own backyard, and sent the dog home with its tail between its legs.

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