The Fourteenth Day: JFK and the Aftermath of the Cuban Missile Crisis: The Secret White House Tapes


A fly-on-the-wall narrative of the Oval Office in the wake of the Cuban Missile Crisis, using JFK?s secret White House tapes.
On October 28, 1962, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev agreed to remove nuclear missiles from Cuba. Popular history has marked that day as the end of the Cuban Missile Crisis, a seminal moment in American history. As President Kennedy?s secretly recorded White House tapes now reveal, the reality was not so simple. Nuclear missiles were still in Cuba, as ...

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The Fourteenth Day: JFK and the Aftermath of the Cuban Missile Crisis: Based on the Secret White House Tapes

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A fly-on-the-wall narrative of the Oval Office in the wake of the Cuban Missile Crisis, using JFK’s secret White House tapes.
On October 28, 1962, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev agreed to remove nuclear missiles from Cuba. Popular history has marked that day as the end of the Cuban Missile Crisis, a seminal moment in American history. As President Kennedy’s secretly recorded White House tapes now reveal, the reality was not so simple. Nuclear missiles were still in Cuba, as were nuclear bombers, short-range missiles, and thousands of Soviet troops. From October 29, Kennedy had to walk a very fine line—push hard enough to get as much nuclear weaponry out of Cuba as possible, yet avoid forcing the volatile Khrushchev into a combative stance. On the domestic front, an election loomed and the press was bristling at White House “news management.” Using new material from the tapes, historian David G. Coleman puts readers in the Oval Office during one of the most highly charged, and in the end most highly regarded, moments in American history.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Coleman uses a neglected source as the basis for an unusual perspective on the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, the narrative beginning after Nikita Khrushchev agreed to remove nuclear missiles from Cuba. Director of the Miller Center’s Presidential Recordings Program, Coleman uses secret White House tapes, authorized by President Kennedy, to show that the crisis didn’t end there. A closely kept secret, the tapes offer “unguarded, unrehearsed” testimony to the complex problems that remained as the missiles of October ostensibly stood down. Plugging leaks had high priority in the crisis’s aftermath. in good part to shore up the administration’s image of effectiveness. Kennedy’s tacit acceptance of a nonnuclear Soviet military presence reflected his conviction that Khrushchev’s miscalculations in Cuba could in turn lessen the tension over another cold war flashpoint, West Berlin—if America’s administration spoke little, acted moderately, and showed a united front. That required a level of news management that by February 1963 led to political and media criticism sufficiently intense to inspire transparency. The decision to publicize intelligence information on the Cuban situation defused the immediate issue. It also, Coleman asserts, might have confirmed the missile crisis as “a promising pivot point” had Kennedy’s presidency not been truncated in Dallas. 20 photos. (Oct.)
Evan Thomas
“No family has been better at shaping its own mythology than the Kennedys. Using White House tapes and his own prodigious research and keen insight, David Coleman has painted a portrait of the JFK White House after the Cuban Missile Crisis as it really was. The picture is not damning, but it is human and revealing.”
Philip Zelikow
“Amid shelves of books on the Kennedy era, here at last is a genuinely fresh and interesting volume about his presidency. Coleman now leads the documentary team that transcribes and explains the recordings of meetings and phone calls that JFK secretly hoarded. Armed with that evidence and an exceptionally firm grasp of the personalities, institutions, and issues of that time, Coleman skillfully shows us a pivotal year, 1962 to mid-1963, the turning point of the Cold War and of the Kennedy presidency.”
Timothy Naftali
“A half century later there are still important things about the Cuban missile crisis left to explore. David Coleman is the first to use the Kennedy tapes to show that the challenges posed by the crisis did not end on the fabled thirteenth day. The Fourteenth Day is a brilliant reconstruction of a time of superb presidential leadership. It is essential reading for those who love presidential history or just remain fascinated by JFK.”
Graham Allison
“Illuminates a previously untold chapter about the most dangerous confrontation in human history.”
Marc Trachtenberg
“Fascinating; Coleman brings this remarkable story to life, and his use of material from the Kennedy tapes is particularly impressive. This is the sort of book anyone interested in the period will enjoy reading.”
“An engrossing and revealing account… Coleman has provided an excellent analysis of both short and long term results of the crisis.”
Library Journal
The 13 days of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, which brought the world close to nuclear crisis, were the most harrowing of the Cold War. Coleman (history & director, Presidential Recordings Program, Miller Ctr., Univ. of Virginia) reveals that the possibility of a U.S.-USSR war did not end on October 28, 1962, when Khrushchev promised to remove all offensive nuclear missiles from Cuba and Kennedy lifted the naval blockade. The author draws on Kennedy's 260 hours of secret White House tapes and presidential and foreign relations records to offer a narrative covering from October 29, 1962, through February 1963, when tensions subsided and relations between the two superpowers began to improve. Among the most difficult negotiating points were supervising the removal of the missiles, determining which missiles were offensive or defensive, and whether all Soviet troops would be required to leave. Interestingly, Khrushchev removed all tactical nuclear weapons because he worried about Castro's stability following the Cuban leader's order to shoot down all American surveillance planes. VERDICT Although at times the text bogs down in detail, this informative account of the immediate domestic and international complications of the crisis will attract general readers with an interest in the era. [See Prepub Alert, 4/16/12.]—Karl Helicher, Upper Merion Township Lib., King of Prussia, PA
Kirkus Reviews
A historian looks at the crisis-related problems remaining on President John F. Kennedy's desk in the immediate wake of the Cold War's most dangerous moment. Coleman (History/Univ. of Virginia; co-author, Real-World Nuclear Deterrence: The Making of International Strategy, 2006) reminds us that for Kennedy and his advisors, the crisis played out for months afterward, really until February 1963. Drawing heavily from the secret White House tapes, the author reconstructs the debates within the administration on at least three issues of greatest concern. First, notwithstanding Krushchev's agreement to withdraw "the weapons you call offensive" from Cuba, serious questions remained as to what exactly he meant. Long-range nuclear weapons, of course, but did the Soviet premier intend to include bombers, Russian combat troops and short-range missiles? Moreover, with Cuba vetoing any ground inspections, how would the United States verify that the missiles were gone? Second, satisfying the American public on this score was part of what drove JFK's determination to channel and control the story, and to counter the inevitable Republican charges of mismanagement of and responsibility for the possible intelligence failure the nuclear showdown exposed. Third, this effort exacerbated an ongoing battle with the press about the administration's tight hold over information, needless restrictions, critics charged, that enabled the government to "manage the news" for its own political ends. Coleman treats Kennedy well, calling his authorization of warrantless wiretaps on journalists merely "dubious," skipping lightly over the administration's willingness to appease public concern by exposing intelligence collection capabilities, and generally approving of the president's unwillingness to press Krushchev too far on Russian concessions. A briskly charted tale of the neglected denouement of the defining event of JFK's presidency.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393084412
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 10/8/2012
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

The director of the Miller Center’s Presidential Recordings Program, David G. Coleman is a history professor at the University of Virginia. He lives in Arlington.

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Table of Contents

Preface 7

1 The Ultimate Source of Action 19

2 The Fourteenth Day 33

3 Eyes in the Sky 47

4 The Postmortem Season 55

5 Mockingbird Don't Sing 64

6 The Bomber Problem 78

7 Standing in Judgment 91

8 A Tub of Butter 108

9 The Military Problem 118

10 Missiles of November 135

11 A Deal 146

12 With One Voice 150

13 The Missiles We've Had on Our Minds 164

14 Removing the Straitjacket 170

15 A Political Firefight 192

16 Shaping the Future 208

Acknowledgments 213

Notes 215

Index 249

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