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Alex Boyd on books in the news. A quick look at newly published material and books of current interest. Your host is Alex Boyd in the cereal department at the University of Illinois Library. I remember the fourth week in October 1962 quite well. I was in my early 20s at the time and can vividly recall waking each day like a man coming out of a coma gingerly testing parts of his body to make certain he is still in one piece. I'm sure that I was not being melodramatic nor was my anxiety unique. I could not accept in my mind that there was an actual threat of nuclear war with Russia over missile sites in Cuba. It was simply too incredible. Yet I could believe it emotionally. A twisting moving knot of fear and stomach. Not so much fear for myself of course legal defense here in the sense that you always think the other man will die not you but fair for America and its people as I knew it and for Russia and the Russian people and a good number of people in the world. I got the same feeling again while reading Robert Kennedy's Thirteen Days A Memoir of
the Cuban Missile Crises published by WW Norton. This brief account of the period between October 16th 1962 when President Kennedy first got conclusive proof that the Russians were constructing offensive missile sites in Cuba to October 20th 1962 when the Kremlin agreed to dismantle them. It was written by Robert Kennedy in the summer and fall of 1067 from personal diaries and remembers it as. It's written in a spare terse style that belies its importance. Undoubtedly if Robert Kennedy had lived he would have flushed the work out a period lived with so much apprehension and danger cannot be captured in so few words. Yet until something more definitive comes along this book is will more than suffice. It may be that in its own way it is. It too is definitive. For all the participants among that group of Americans that held the fate of the world's hands only two men not both dead John and Robert Kennedy had access to all the agreements and disagreements arguments debates and discussions. I wanted even most mine a decision.
Vividly recounted the tug of war between the Hawks led by Dean Acheson Douglas Dillon and the Joint Chiefs of Staff who wanted immediate invasion of Cuba. And the dogs led by Robert Kennedy and Robert McNamara who argued for more restrained action in the final analysis it was the president himself who had to make decisions and in detailing his activities during this period. Robert cannot help but show what a truly good President John Kennedy was while also showing the real potential he himself had for the job. Thirteen days written totally in first person Kennedy's prose is a time so informal and personal that a feeling of intimacy pervades the work. The closeness of the brothers. The clash of personalities the ambivalent motives and passions of members of the group. And the delicate art of international relations all give an immediacy. What is always present is the sense of time. This period began on a frightening note and as the days passed this feeling increased. Events were occurring so
rapidly that the smallest mistake could lead to war. The real hero I have of was John Kennedy. Clearly this was the great coup of his all too brief career. From the beginning he had one of the one thought uppermost in mind. To prevent war. He was quite afraid of blunders and miscalculations. He had already been failed by his intelligence network and the State Department. He had to try to keep in check his allies the Congress the military the masses of Americans while still maneuvering but the often irrational and it ended matic Khrushchev and the Russians. He accomplished this feat exhibiting an extraordinary amount of coolness and courage. In retrospect it seems many things could have been or should have been done differently. Yet the country and the world are still here. A small but vital consideration. Of all the questions posed and left unanswered by 13 days. By far the most intriguing is that which Robert intended to take up at the close of the book. The ethical question of what if any circumstance or justification gives this government or any
government the moral right to bring its people and possibly all people under the shadow of nuclear destruction. Surely any answer he might have offered would have relevance in these days of Vietnam and the Middle East and Berlin. This has been books in those prepared and presented by Alex Boyd and sponsored by the Illinois State Library. This program was distributed by the national educational radio network.
Books in the news
Thirteen Days
Producing Organization
National Association of Educational Broadcasters
Illinois State Library
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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Episode Description
In program number 380, Alex Boyd talks about Robert Kennedy's "Thirteen Days."
Series Description
A quick look at newly published material and books of current interest.
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Producing Organization: National Association of Educational Broadcasters
Producing Organization: Illinois State Library
Speaker: Boyd, Alex
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 61-35d-380 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:04:42
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Chicago: “Books in the news; Thirteen Days,” 1969-03-25, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed June 21, 2024,
MLA: “Books in the news; Thirteen Days.” 1969-03-25. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. June 21, 2024. <>.
APA: Books in the news; Thirteen Days. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from