High Noon in the Cold War: Kennedy, Krushchev, and the Cuban Missile Crisis

Overview

One of the giants of American journalism now re-creates an unforgettable time–in which the whole world feared extinction. High Noon in the Cold War captures the Cuban Missile Crisis in a new light, from inside the hearts and minds of the famous men who provoked and, in the nick of time, resolved the confrontation.

Using his personal memories of covering the conflict, and gathering evidence from recent records and new scholarship and testimony, Max Frankel corrects widely held ...

See more details below
Paperback (Reprint)
$13.31
BN.com price
(Save 11%)$15.00 List Price
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (21) from $1.99   
  • New (6) from $5.08   
  • Used (15) from $1.99   
Sending request ...

Overview

One of the giants of American journalism now re-creates an unforgettable time–in which the whole world feared extinction. High Noon in the Cold War captures the Cuban Missile Crisis in a new light, from inside the hearts and minds of the famous men who provoked and, in the nick of time, resolved the confrontation.

Using his personal memories of covering the conflict, and gathering evidence from recent records and new scholarship and testimony, Max Frankel corrects widely held misconceptions about the game of “nuclear chicken” played by John Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev in October 1962, when Soviet missiles were secretly planted in Cuba and aimed at the United States.

High Noon in the Cold War portrays an embattled young American presidentnot jaunty and callow as widely believed, but increasingly calm and statesmanlikeand a Russian ruler who was not only a “wily old peasant” but an insecure belligerent desperate to achieve credibility. Here, too, are forgotten heroes like John McCone, the conservative Republican CIA head whose intuition made him a crucial figure in White House debates.

In detailing the disastrous miscalculations of the two superpowers (the U.S. thought the Soviets would never deploy missiles to Cuba; the Soviets thought the U.S. would have to acquiesce) and how Kennedy and Khrushchev beat back hotheads in their own councils, this fascinating book re-creates the whole story of the scariest encounter of the Cold War, as told by a master reporter.

From the Hardcover edition.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Richard C. Holbrooke
Mr. Frankel's short and graceful account is an excellent introduction to a vital part of our recent past. For those already steeped in missile crisis lore, Mr. Frankel offers new insights based on his personal memories and newly available archives … Mr. Frankel brings it all back for those who lived it, but, more important, also for a generation who did not.
— The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
"It all began with a Russian ploy worthy of the horse at Troy." So begins Frankel's account of the most dangerous moment of the Cold War. In October 1962, two men, Khrushchev and John F. Kennedy, stood locked in psychological combat, a hairbreadth from Armageddon. A former executive editor of the New York Times and Pulitzer winner who covered Khrushchev's Moscow, Kennedy's Washington and Castro's Havana, Frankel blends his own notes with the most recent scholarship on the crisis. The result is a great story, told from different vantage points and filled with drama. While he concludes that the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. were never really on the brink of war, Frankel constantly reminds us of how high the stakes were; the balance of geopolitical power with Cuba, Berlin, Turkey and the solidarity of the NATO alliance were all at risk. Kennedy is presented as the unquestionable hero in this confrontation, a man full of imagination, capable of great cunning and equally adroit at outmaneuvering both his Russian and Republican foes. As his adviser McGeorge Bundy once observed, "[F]orests have been felled to print the reflections and conclusions of participants, observers and scholars" of the crisis. Though breaking no new ground, Frankel offers sobering lessons in leadership for the war on terrorism. Agent, Jane Gelfman. (Oct.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Much has been written about the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962, when the United States and Soviet Union clashed over construction of Soviet nuclear missile bases in Cuba. Frankel, former New York Times reporter, Washington, DC, bureau chief, editorial page editor, and executive editor (1986-94), employs his considerable skill as a writer and his experience as a journalist who covered the crisis to weave a fascinating and informative reexamination of the famous "13 days." Arguing that "for the most part, we remember it wrong," Frankel concludes that rather than dangerous brinksmanship, "it is clear that Khrushchev and Kennedy were effectively deterred by their fear of war .In the end, both were ready to betray important allies, resist the counsel of chafing military commanders, and endure political humiliation to find a way out of the crisis." Frankel concludes that "two responsible and highly intelligent men were firmly in charge of both governments and they were determined to avoid war, certainly a nuclear war." A fine book, well written and engaging, this is an important addition to the literature of the Cold War and the Cuban Missile Crisis.-Michael A. Genovese, Loyola Marymount Univ., Los Angeles Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
An engaging account of those six days in October when it seemed as if the world were coming to an end. Veteran New York Times journalist and editor Frankel (The Times of My Life, 1999) covered Khrushchev in Moscow and Kennedy in Washington, and he brings a balanced appreciation for the motivations driving and obstacles facing both leaders as they confronted each other in the fall of 1962. Many things were at issue, Frankel writes, but one factor was that the Soviet premier worked from a sense of insecurity: "It was to offset a debilitating weakness, not to imperil America, that Khrushchev careered into the crisis." At the same time, he suggests that the Soviet decision to place intermediate-range missiles in the satellite state of Cuba was not without provocation: Khrushchev and many of his lieutenants were deeply resentful of a recent US decision to locate Jupiter missiles in neighboring Turkey, aimed directly at the Soviet Union. Interestingly, writes Frankel, the Soviet ploy-which would have required the presence of more than 40,000 technicians, soldiers, and support staff-barely involved the Castro regime, which was largely kept out of the loop even as Fidel clamored to advertise the deployment of missiles as a nose-thumbing to the hated Yanquis. Though he growled convincingly, Khrushchev, Frankel believes, was "decidedly less menacing than the man we had all pictured from afar"; he was more concerned with making symbolic gestures and attained face-saving concessions than with actually touching off the next holocaust. Similarly, Frankel writes, Kennedy had no desire for war, and-by sharp contrast with the current administration-he took pains to consider how European and Latin Americanallies would view his actions. They rattled sabers with not much intention of using them, and in the end, Frankel holds, both leaders "found it useful to exaggerate the danger they had surmounted" for political reasons, though it did neither any good. A crisis, then, but less dangerous than we thought. A useful corrective to the historical record by a trustworthy narrator. Agent: Jane Gelfman/Gelfman Schneider
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780345466716
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 9/27/2005
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 232
  • Sales rank: 1,420,121
  • Product dimensions: 5.53 (w) x 8.25 (h) x 0.52 (d)

Meet the Author

MAX FRANKEL is one of America’s preeminent journalists. He worked for The New York Times for fifty years, rising from college correspondent to reporter, Washington bureau chief, editorial page editor, and ultimately executive editor 1986—1994. He won the Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of President Nixon’s trip to China in 1972 and is the author of a nationally bestselling memoir, The Times of My Life and My Life with the Times. He lives in New York City.

From the Hardcover edition.

Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt

Chapter one

 

THE CRISIS IN MEMORY

 

For most americans who experienced it, or relived it in books and films, the Cuban Missile Crisis is a tale of nuclear chicken-the Cold War world recklessly flirting with suicide.

 

We remember a bellicose Soviet dictator, who had vowed to bury us, pointing his missiles at the American heartland from a Cuba turned hostile and communist.

 

We remember a glamorous president, standing desperately against the threat, risking World War III to get the missiles withdrawn.

 

We remember the Russians blinking on the brink, compelled to retreat by a naked display of American power, brilliantly deployed, unerringly managed.

 

The crisis was real enough, but for the most part, we remember it wrong.

 

No episode of the last century has been so elaborately documented, so often reenacted in print and on film, and so many times earnestly reexamined at extraordinary reunions of Russian, American, and Cuban veterans of the drama.1 As one of them, McGeorge Bundy, has observed, "forests have been felled to print the reflections and conclusions of participants, observers and scholars" of the crisis. And most recently, their views and recollections have been augmented by voluminous government records of the United States, some from old Soviet archives, and even a few from Cuban dossiers.

 

Yet over the decades, even the most attentive scholars and participants kept debating the main questions surrounding this sensational event. They failed to agree on why it happened, and they lacked the facts about how it really ended. And they have still not overcome the popular misconceptions about the motives and conduct of the two Cold War antagonists-Nikita Khrushchev, the wily old peasant ruling the Soviet empire, and John F. Kennedy, the jaunty young president leading the Western democracies. Nor have the many histories overcome the temptation to enrich the drama with alarmist claims that these two supercharged men came within hours, even minutes, of igniting an all-out nuclear war.

 

The fear of war during the crisis week of October 22-28, 1962, was palpable, in the Kremlin as in the White House. It was even greater among populations that could read uncensored accounts of the chilling, intimidating rhetoric with which Khrushchev and Kennedy bargained for concessions to resolve the crisis. Yet with all the information now available, it is clear that Khrushchev and Kennedy were effectively deterred by their fear of war and took great care to avoid even minor military clashes. In the end, both were ready to betray important alÓlies, resist the counsel of chafing military commanders, and endure political humiliation to find a way out of the crisis. Their anxiety was real. But with the benefit of time and distance from the emotions of the Cold War, we can now see that their reciprocal alarm kept them well away from a nuclear showdown.

 

Time and distance also serve to illuminate the causes of the fateful events of 1962 that Americans call the Cuban Missile Crisis.2

 

As I first sensed in reporting from Moscow at the height of Khrushchev's power, his pugnacity was born of a typically Russian insecurity. His most aggressive actions against the West tended to mask a deeply defensive purpose. The evidence now available, though still debated, shows that it was to offset a debilitating weakness, not to imperil America, that Khrushchev careered into the crisis.

 

And as I slowly learned in covering Kennedy's Washington, the imperative of protecting himself politically inevitably shapes a president's perception of the nation's security. The cumulative record shows that Kennedy's decision to challenge the Soviet missiles in Cuba was rooted in a need to prove himself, more even than in any threat posed by the missiles themselves. Yet in reporting the day-to-day events of the crisis, and reading the many Washington-centered accounts in later years, I never fully appreciated the extent of Kennedy's statesmanlike restraint in steering his team to a diplomatic resolution. Though haunted by domestic critics, he nonetheless weighed every move with respect for his adversary and showed a decent regard for the opinions of other affected nations and the judgment of history.

 

Luck played a role in averting disaster, in preventing events from racing out of control. The crisis owed its origin to miscalculation, misinterpretation, and misjudgment. Yet the record now available shows that once they understood their predicament, two dissimilar statesmen commanding disparate societies reasoned their way back to a recognition that nothing vital, nothing truly affecting their nations' well-being was at stake. Unlike Fidel Castro, the charismatic and dogmatic Cuban leader around whom the crisis swirled, they had no desire to sacrifice lives to a Pyrrhic cause.

 

Now that we can peer into the minds of both the Soviet and American leaders at a crucial junction, the story of the Cuban Missile Crisis shifts from a merely fateful dance at the nuclear brink to a truly great drama. It is a tale of intricate, psychological combat, of men beating a path from dangerous ignorance to enlightened awareness, defining their values and preserving their balance in the midst of a storm. Driven by fear of the inhuman power they had to share, they found, if only for a moment, a shared humanity and yen to survive.

 

 

 

 

From the Hardcover edition.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Author's Note XIII
1 The Crisis in Memory 3
2 The Palms of Spring 7
3 The Missiles of October 19
4 K v. K 43
5 The Thorn in the Flesh 59
6 The Rockets Hit Home 75
7 Only One Will Face the Bull 101
8 And Who Will Blink? 115
9 No Very Good War 141
10 All of Them? 157
11 How Far the Brink 173
Acknowledgments 183
Illustration Acknowledgments 185
Bibliography 187
Index 193
Read More Show Less

First Chapter

Chapter one



THE CRISIS IN MEMORY



For most americans who experienced it, or relived it in books and films, the Cuban Missile Crisis is a tale of nuclear chicken-the Cold War world recklessly flirting with suicide.



We remember a bellicose Soviet dictator, who had vowed to bury us, pointing his missiles at the American heartland from a Cuba turned hostile and communist.



We remember a glamorous president, standing desperately against the threat, risking World War III to get the missiles withdrawn.



We remember the Russians blinking on the brink, compelled to retreat by a naked display of American power, brilliantly deployed, unerringly managed.



The crisis was real enough, but for the most part, we remember it wrong.



No episode of the last century has been so elaborately documented, so often reenacted in print and on film, and so many times earnestly reexamined at extraordinary reunions of Russian, American, and Cuban veterans of the drama.1 As one of them, McGeorge Bundy, has observed, "forests have been felled to print the reflections and conclusions of participants, observers and scholars" of the crisis. And most recently, their views and recollections have been augmented by voluminous government records of the United States, some from old Soviet archives, and even a few from Cuban dossiers.



Yet over the decades, even the most attentive scholars and participants kept debating the main questions surrounding this sensational event. They failed to agree on why it happened, and they lacked the facts about how it really ended. And they have still not overcome thepopular misconceptions about the motives and conduct of the two Cold War antagonists-Nikita Khrushchev, the wily old peasant ruling the Soviet empire, and John F. Kennedy, the jaunty young president leading the Western democracies. Nor have the many histories overcome the temptation to enrich the drama with alarmist claims that these two supercharged men came within hours, even minutes, of igniting an all-out nuclear war.



The fear of war during the crisis week of October 22-28, 1962, was palpable, in the Kremlin as in the White House. It was even greater among populations that could read uncensored accounts of the chilling, intimidating rhetoric with which Khrushchev and Kennedy bargained for concessions to resolve the crisis. Yet with all the information now available, it is clear that Khrushchev and Kennedy were effectively deterred by their fear of war and took great care to avoid even minor military clashes. In the end, both were ready to betray important alÓlies, resist the counsel of chafing military commanders, and endure political humiliation to find a way out of the crisis. Their anxiety was real. But with the benefit of time and distance from the emotions of the Cold War, we can now see that their reciprocal alarm kept them well away from a nuclear showdown.



Time and distance also serve to illuminate the causes of the fateful events of 1962 that Americans call the Cuban Missile Crisis.2



As I first sensed in reporting from Moscow at the height of Khrushchev's power, his pugnacity was born of a typically Russian insecurity. His most aggressive actions against the West tended to mask a deeply defensive purpose. The evidence now available, though still debated, shows that it was to offset a debilitating weakness, not to imperil America, that Khrushchev careered into the crisis.



And as I slowly learned in covering Kennedy's Washington, the imperative of protecting himself politically inevitably shapes a president's perception of the nation's security. The cumulative record shows that Kennedy's decision to challenge the Soviet missiles in Cuba was rooted in a need to prove himself, more even than in any threat posed by the missiles themselves. Yet in reporting the day-to-day events of the crisis, and reading the many Washington-centered accounts in later years, I never fully appreciated the extent of Kennedy's statesmanlike restraint in steering his team to a diplomatic resolution. Though haunted by domestic critics, he nonetheless weighed every move with respect for his adversary and showed a decent regard for the opinions of other affected nations and the judgment of history.



Luck played a role in averting disaster, in preventing events from racing out of control. The crisis owed its origin to miscalculation, misinterpretation, and misjudgment. Yet the record now available shows that once they understood their predicament, two dissimilar statesmen commanding disparate societies reasoned their way back to a recognition that nothing vital, nothing truly affecting their nations' well-being was at stake. Unlike Fidel Castro, the charismatic and dogmatic Cuban leader around whom the crisis swirled, they had no desire to sacrifice lives to a Pyrrhic cause.



Now that we can peer into the minds of both the Soviet and American leaders at a crucial junction, the story of the Cuban Missile Crisis shifts from a merely fateful dance at the nuclear brink to a truly great drama. It is a tale of intricate, psychological combat, of men beating a path from dangerous ignorance to enlightened awareness, defining their values and preserving their balance in the midst of a storm. Driven by fear of the inhuman power they had to share, they found, if only for a moment, a shared humanity and yen to survive.







Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(0)

4 Star

(0)

3 Star

(0)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(0)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)