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Thirteen Days: A Memoir of the Cuban Missile Crisis
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Thirteen Days: A Memoir of the Cuban Missile Crisis

4.06  ·  Rating Details  ·  4,375 Ratings  ·  172 Reviews
During the thirteen days in October 1962 when the United States confronted the Soviet Union over its installation of missiles in Cuba, few people shared the behind-the-scenes story as it is told here by the late Senator Robert F. Kennedy. In this unique account, he describes each of the participants during the sometimes hour-to-hour negotiations, with particular attention ...more
Paperback, 192 pages
Published November 17th 1999 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published January 1st 1968)
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Mar 12, 2008 Dylan rated it really liked it
Robert Kennedy, as both brother and Attorney General to President John Kennedy, does a masterful job of explaining the US Administration’s internal deliberations and decisions during the Cuban missile crisis. Many members of my generation do not, perhaps, understand the gravity of the situation, and how a 45 year old president was able to calmly deliberate on the facts, assemble an Executive Committee full of experience, ability and deliberative dissent, and make a decision that protected the wo ...more
Oct 14, 2013 Nick rated it it was amazing
This book was astonishing in its revelations about the inside discussions, arguments and second thoughts by a disparate group of advisors set up by President Kennedy when he suddenly learned that nuclear missiles were being set up in Cuba. The author, his brother and Attorney General had an inside seat at the table. His writing is clear, modest and forthright. This book is worth reading for any student of politics or history, or anyone who lived through those frightening days.
Unlike some recent
This may be a small book, but it's by no means little. It's an insider view on the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the edition I have (from 1999) offers what you'd call "very good bonus material" if this was a DVD (there's a recent-ish forword by Arthur Schlesinger jr. putting the crisis into perspective years after the Cold War ended; there's a detailed afterword on JFK's crisis management, there's a "documents" section packed with JFK's adresses and writings on the matter as well as Khrushchev's let ...more
Mar 30, 2014 Ashley rated it it was amazing
I love RFK's memoir of the Cuban Missile Crisis--a raw, emotional retelling of what occurred in those thirteen days. Used originally as pure research, I reread this book a few times after my theses (used this twice for different papers, one a full thesis, the other a grad school final). RFK gives an excellent account of what was occurring behind the scenes and how various parties felt during the crisis. An excellent, quick, easy read.
Sarah T.
I'll admit, the movie "Thirteen Days" has been a favorite of mine for a long time, and a big reason why I picked up this book, was to see just how historically accurate the film really was. I was pleasantly surprised!

One reason why I changed my review from 4 stars to 5 stars is, when I was thinking of what to write in my review, I realized just how truly insightful the book was. If you've seen the film adaptation (or even, you know, LIVED through the Cuban Missile Crisis), then you know what hap
Jan 31, 2013 LemonLinda rated it really liked it
This is the account of the Cuban Missile Crisis from Robert Kennedy who was a crucial member of the team assembled to deal with the crisis and whose opinion was obviously highly regarded by his brother. His statement that within "a few minutes of their (the missiles) being fired eighly million Americans would be dead" was chilling to me as I was a child of 10 at the time and lived in the Southeast so it was quite likely that I would have been one of the victims. He goes on to say that if the tac ...more
Feb 11, 2016 Rina rated it it was amazing
Shelves: recommendations
This is a book I've been wanting to read for a long time and only recently got around to it. Let me start my review by noting that I love JFK. I love RFK. I love all things Kennedy. It was only natural for me to love this book.

The book was a simple narrative. There was not much commentary by Bobby. He simply outlined what transpired behind closed doors during the Cuban Missile Crisis. He never judged anyone's opinions, but simply stated the importance of having all of those people involved in th
Sep 18, 2015 Aaron rated it it was amazing
Lots of gems here: the candid letter Khrushchev sends Kennedy without consulting his advisors, how JFK swims before a meeting to decide whether to take military action or precede with a quarantine, how Bobby Kennedy takes his girls to a horse show while waiting for the Soviets to response to a critical letter, the chapter titles that echo the opening lines of each chapter - like poems! More politicians should write chronicles of world events like this.
Jared D.
Mar 30, 2014 Jared D. rated it liked it
Thirteen Days was an enjoyable inside look into crisis action at the highest levels. I enjoyed being able to see the interaction between the committee members and how they responded to the pressure. The book serves as a case study for crisis planning and how to consider the potential responses by your opponent. The big take-away that I got out of if is to never paint your opponent into a corner and do everything to avoid embarrassing your foe. If you compel th to act to preserve their honor then ...more
Apr 07, 2016 Scott rated it it was amazing
Straightforward and to the point, this book accounts for what happened during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Good read for those interested in our history. Also a very fast read.
Oct 22, 2014 Carolyn rated it really liked it
This short (a little over one-hundred pages) book is Robert Kennedy's telling of the Cuban Missle Crisis. If you want to investigate this crisis in depth, start here to get background only and then move to other sources. Robert, of course, was not going to criticize his brother. Additionally, since it was written pretty soon after the crisis, he had no access to revelations which may have been discovered later. What Robert is doing is giving a sequential presentation of when his brother--that's ...more
Thirteen Days offers us a new insight about the Cuban Missile Crisis, about the courage of President John F. Kennedy during this particular time, and the great amount of thought put into the process of avoiding a nuclear armageddon.

I find, that 52 years after this crisis, people in America, in Russia, and around the world undermine the crucial days in October 1962 that may have led to their nonexistence today. We forget the significance of the leadership done by JFK during these days to protect
Apr 20, 2014 Themwap rated it it was amazing
13 days is a great book about the Cuban Missile Crisis written by the brother, and right hand, of the President. Here are 13 things that Thirteen days can teach you about leadership (spoilers ahead):

1) Challenge assumptions (business orthodoxy) - despite having an extensive intelligence network the US had failed to believe some tips that the Russians were putting nuclear missiles into Cuba.

2) Do not rush to judgment - Robert Kennedy was surprised that despite the intelligence and experience of
Mar 09, 2015 Chrisl rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, 1960s, usa
No desire to reread the political parts. A scan, though, could turn up some forgotten memories.

In '62, near Omaha, assigned to SAC's 544 Recon Tech Group ... Presidential Unit Citation awarded for first detecting missile guidance radar in Cuba. Kennedy and staff flew in ... Pierre Salinger put his hand on my shoulder while I sat at workstation, asked about the Finder (ferret intelligence data evaluator) If memory correct, eleven generals and an admiral then living on base.

Rick Patterson
One of the points RFK makes in this assessment of the Cuban Missile Crisis (apart from the obvious fact that his ability to actually write it was a vindication of his brother's restraint and resolve) is the following conclusion to the chapter entitled "Some of the things we learned...":
"...we could have other missile crises in the future--different kinds, no doubt, and under different circumstances. But if we are to be successful then, if we are going to preserve our own national security, we wi
C. McKenzie
Dec 25, 2015 C. McKenzie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a short, but very clear and terrifying account of what actually went on in Washington during the Cuban missile crisis.

President Kennedy was determined to have the Soviet missiles removed peaceably and set out to do so by creating a group of advisors called Ex Comm. This team was guided by Kennedy's admonition to give Khrushchev every opportunity to back down as possible. And during these days on the brink of nuclear war these were some key factors: some on the Ex Comm team advocated in
Mar 13, 2016 Trenchologist rated it really liked it
Cogent, spare, personal. Obviously offers insights only someone as close to the President and the situation could make, but these insights are layered and revealing beyond the scope of the CMC. More than once I thought 'what kind of President would RFK have made?' reading his direct and sensitive recounting of the actions taken those thirteen days. The clarity of his prose and recollection is startling and enlightening. I knew about the CMC but as an "idea." Now I understand so much more of the ...more
Kristina Gonzales
Mar 16, 2015 Kristina Gonzales rated it really liked it
Thirteen Days: A Memoir of the Cuban Missile Crisis is a short but intense read. Robert F. Kennedy’s firsthand account of the Cuban Missile Crisis explores the correspondence and negotiations with Nikita Khrushchev, the internal dealings of President Kennedy and the members of the Ex Comm (including Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara and Secretary of State Dean Rusk), the interactions and dealings with international bodies such as NATO and the United Nations, and just how close we were to the ...more
Raymond Thomas
Aug 27, 2014 Raymond Thomas rated it liked it
Extremely short account of RFK's experience during the Cuban Missile Crisis that sheds a good amount of insight into his thoughts and concerns during those tense weeks. The book also provides a number of documents that those interested in the subject would enjoy reading. Sadly, the second part of the book where RFK meant to expound upon some of the moral questions of the Crisis was unable to be realized due to his assassination in 1968. Instead the "afterword" is written by Richard E. Neustadt a ...more
Jun 02, 2015 David rated it it was amazing
I saw the film adaptation long before I read the book. The book is interesting but I'm suspicious to a degree since "Bobbie" is a central character, and the main character is his own brother. However, given whatever flaws it may have based on those relationships, it is still an important story of one of the most frightening events of the 20th Century. RFK's original work is quite brief, but the supplementary notes are as interesting and as important as the main work. It's is interesting to note ...more
Jul 15, 2015 Margaret rated it liked it
RFKs account of the hour to hour decisions made during the Cuban missile crisis. He paints his brother as logical, calm and focused on peace above all else, even willing to ignore the joint chiefs and at times a majority opinion amongst his advisors to avoid escalation. JFK is portrayed as farsighted and willing to take blows to his public image both domestically and abroad if necessary to achieve a peaceful resolution. Also interesting is his willingness to see the situation from the other coun ...more
Oct 26, 2014 Antje rated it really liked it
Auch wenn ich bereits vielfach über die Kuba-Krise 1962 gelesen habe, empfand ich die Erinnerungen Robert F. Kennedys, jenerzeit Justizminister und enger Berater wie Vertrauter des Präsidenten, als besonders interessant. Er verfasste die Ereignisse in sachlicher Weise und dennoch mit persönlicher Note. Die Vorstellung der dreizehn-tägigen gespannten Atmosphäre mit endlos langen Stunden des Debattierens und Abwegens der Handlungsalternativen im Oval Office sowie der Angst über mögliche Konsequenz ...more
Peter Jakobsen
Nov 11, 2014 Peter Jakobsen rated it liked it
This matter of fact monograph of the Cuban missile crisis by a central figure is very readable and, considering it was probably whipped up ahead of RFK's tilt at the Presidency, quite fair (note, by contrast, that in the vivid film of the same name, a key (in fact, critical) advisor, Llewwllyn 'Tommy' Thompson, an Eisenhower appointee, is nowhere to be seen). Kennedy needs and wields no purple prose: his writing is clear, taut and free of cant. For a career politician, this is singular in itself ...more
Dan Rheingans
Feb 10, 2015 Dan Rheingans rated it it was amazing
Excellent quick look into Robert Kennedy's insight into the Cuban Missile Crisis. This book travels fast and Kennedy doesn't spend a lot of time getting bogged down in minutiae, but rather gives a nice synopsis of the events from the perspective of one who is there. The last couple chapters also sum up nicely some insights as to the importance of the events, and the afterword is well written. I used this in my AP Government class to discuss foreign policy and it worked well for them. A quick rea ...more
Nicholas Lefevre
Feb 26, 2016 Nicholas Lefevre rated it liked it
As we select our next Commander in Chief I thought it wise to read of a time when the quality of our Commander in Chief really mattered...never so much as during the Cuban Missile Crisis. This is quite a dry recitation, more like a debriefing and analysis than a thrilling retelling. What struck me was Bobby Kennedy saying how much Barbara Tuchman's "The Guns of August" influenced both his and Jack's approach to the crisis. Thus, the main value of this book is as inspiration to read "The Guns of ...more
John Rivera
Nov 07, 2011 John Rivera rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, politics
RFK's memoir is a must read for political scientists who focus on decision-making theories, historians interested in the Cuban Missile Crisis, and for any other individual interested in the Cuban Missile crisis for that matter. The work is extremely brief but nonetheless very inclusive of all the relevant steps to that lead to the decision of how to respond, the details of the response, and the immediate aftermath. The work provides the reader with a near-complete analysis of who favored what co ...more
María José
Este libro es un valioso documento histórico: la descripción por parte de Robert F. Kennedy de sus experiencias políticas durante la crisis de los misiles de Cuba en octubre de 1962.

Es un relato económico en extensión, que se centra en el papel de RFK como consejero del Presidente, y su pertenencia al Ex-Comm (el Comité Ejecutivo que se formó para gestionar la crisis).

Lo más sorprendente para mí es la nobleza y humildad que impregna el relato. RFK intenta transmitir la difícil tarea que las pers
Eric Hopkins
Jan 07, 2013 Eric Hopkins rated it it was amazing
Thirteen Days really surprised me, I didn't go into the book with any expectations. After having read it I would call it anything less than an excellent first hand source. Robert Kennedy has a great writing style for narrative that he's working with. The book was a very fast read, I actually got through it in a single day across two sittings. Part of what helped is how fluidly Kennedy writes, it really lends itself to effortless reading. That fast reading pace manages to perfectly capture the ch ...more
Jul 15, 2015 Annie rated it really liked it
I was given this book a couple of years ago and I finally made the time to read it. The first hand account from Bobby Kennedy really puts into perspective how easily it is for countries to enter war: miscalculations, misunderstandings, national pride, etc. The book was a refreshing read because it depicts a government working together to solve a crisis rather than tearing one another apart. The memoir also introduces some ethical dilemmas that should be taken into consideration.
René Toet
Mar 27, 2016 René Toet rated it really liked it
To keep it simple: A good and understandable account of the political situation during one of the 20th century's most tense and high risk moments, which could easily have escalated into worldwide thermonuclear war.
Kennedy reports on anticipating and weighing all possible outcomes of strategic and tactical decisions. Especially the inclusion of correspondence between Kennedy and Khrushchev - and the official addresses to the nation - reflect on the troubled times and true politics(!)
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Robert Francis "Bobby" Kennedy, also called RFK, was the United States Attorney General from 1961 to 1964 and a US Senator from New York from 1965 until his assassination in 1968. He was one of US President John F. Kennedy's younger brothers, and also one of his most trusted advisors and worked closely with the president during the Cuban Missile Crisis. He also made a significant contribution to t ...more
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“One of the ironic things,” Kennedy observed to Norman Cousins in the spring of 1963, “…is that Mr. Khrushchev and I occupy approximately the same political positions inside our governments. He would like to prevent a nuclear war but is under severe pressure from his hard-line crowd, which interprets every move in that direction as appeasement. I’ve got similar problems…. The hard-liners in the Soviet Union and the United States feed on one another.”8” 2 likes
“It was not only for Americans that he was concerned, or primarily the older generation of any land. The thought that disturbed him the most, and that made the prospect of war much more fearful than it would otherwise have been, was the specter of the death of the children of this country and all the world—the young people who had no role, who had no say, who knew nothing even of the confrontation, but whose lives would be snuffed out like everyone else’s. They would never have a chance to make a decision, to vote in an election, to run for office, to lead a revolution, to determine their own destinies. Our generation had. But the great tragedy was that, if we erred, we erred not only for ourselves, our futures, our hopes, and our country, but for the lives, futures, hopes, and countries of those who had never been given an opportunity to play a role, to vote aye or nay, to make themselves felt.” 1 likes
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