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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

4.04 of 5 stars 4.04  ·  rating details  ·  3,392 ratings  ·  139 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, 185 pages
Published November 17th 1999 by W. W. Norton & Company (first published 1969)
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Dylan
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
Lennongirl
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
Nick Sheridan
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
...more
Ashley
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.
LemonLinda
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
Rina
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
...more
Jared D.
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
Chrisl
No real wish to reread the political parts, scan, though, could turn up some forgotten memories.

During 1962, near Omaha, when assigned to SAC's 544 Recon Tech Group, in the defense analysis unit, the guys working down the hall "heard" missile guidance transmissions. Kennedy and staff flew in ... Pierre Salinger visited the Finder (ferret intelligence data evaluator) Presidential Unit Citation. If memory correct, eleven generals and an admiral then living on base. My punch card based zone was Si
...more
Carolyn
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
Maria
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
...more
Themwap
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
...more
Raymond Thomas
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
Annchen
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
Marilyn
Interesting looking at how a leader approached a crisis situation. Instead of just relying on military leaders, who are geared to wage war and to use our military strength, the "President included (people who, regardless of rank) "asked the difficult questions; they made others defend their position, they presented a different point of view, and they were skeptical." When the military advice was surgical air strike, he forced them to define the chances of success, and consider the consequences o ...more
Peter Jakobsen
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
John Rivera
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
...more
Eric Hopkins
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
Adam Steinberg
My problem with this book and nearly all political memoirs written in the first person is their lack of critical analysis. Robert Kennedy writes well, tells an interesting story and provides a critical analysis of his performance, but the book itself is rather self-serving. His brother, JFK, receives no critical review of his performance and every decision the Administration made was correct. Alternatively, every utterance by the Senate leadership, read the other political party< was short-si ...more
Cynthia
I normally don't read memoirs as I find them tedious and, quite frankly, boring. This memoir however focuses on the crisis, not the person. It was an enjoyable as well as educational and Robert Kennedy did an excellent job keeping on the topic. I would recommend this to anyone wanting to know more, not just about the Cuban Missile Crisis, but about the tenor of the country during this period of the cold war.
Eric
It was pretty nearly impossible to read this without RFK and JFK's actual voices speaking. Not sure if that was helpful or harmful. The copy that I read had comments from someone that was using it in a class or something, and that was a little hard to read past sometimes. And I had to remind myself that it was just one person's perspective of what happened. Nevertheless, it was interesting. Something that I didn't remember that much about, other than some odd movies that had it as a backdrop. Bu ...more
Nick
Nov 11, 2014 Nick rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: history fans
I think this would've been a much better book without all the extra stuff: you can hardly invent a more tense political drama than the Cuban Missile Crisis, and this is a firsthand account. It's just too bad that a third of the book had to be taken by a bloated, tedious afterword relating the Crisis to basically all of American history. Maybe people more interested in history than I am would enjoy it more.
Gary Schantz
For starters, I thought this was an excellent re-telling of the Cuban Missile Crisis by someone who was in the middle of the crisis from the start. The only better telling of this could have come from President Kennedy himself. Although the book is a short read, I like that it gets to the point on how the entire matter was handled and resolved. I especially liked that the book is entirely without judgement of all the people involved. This is NOT a US v. USSR tale. Instead, the books explains why ...more
John Vanbrunt,
Great book learned a lot. It's amazing that a war was not started. The text is easily read in a few hours but it is surprisingly dense in content.

Miscalculation and misunderstanding an escalation on one side bring a counter response. No action is taken against a powerful adversary in a vacuum. A government or people will fail to understand this only at their great peril. For that s how wars begin-wars that no one wants, no one intends, and no one wins (pg 96)

Khrushchev (russian chair) and the pr
...more
Brian
i enjoyed this. i already understood much of what happened, having gone to school and watched the movie. still, the book was enjoyable right up until the afterward.

there was about an hour left when the afterward started, and it was real bad. some guy reading numbered sequences of hypothetical events. i turned it off real quick.
Jennifer
This is a fantastic step-by-step account of the Cuban Missile Crisis told from the perspective of insider, AG, and brother to the president, RFK. The first 2/3 of the book is Kennedy's recounting if events with some analysis of how and why decisions were made and the importance of debate as events unfolded. There is then about forty pages of analysis of events from an outsider who has the benefit if hindsight. The final 20-30 pages are primary source documents from key players such as JFK and Kh ...more
Jonathan
Wow. While it doesn't provide a range of perspectives, this memoir on the Cuban missile crisis is fascinating—to see how close we came to blowing up the world. The leadership by JFK is extraordinary and the desire of so many advisors to bomb Cuba, knowing it would likely start a nuclear war is chilling.
Christie
Robert Kennedy's memoir of the thirteen days of the Cuban missile crisis takes you behind the scenes during a very tense and stressful period in history. The memoir was written in the summer of 1967, taken from RFK's personal diary he kept during the time. According to Ted Sorensen, it was RFK's intention to go back and rewrite and complete the story, but he never had the chance to do so. The memoir gives the reader the sense of urgency, frustration and fear that was present during the meetings ...more
Andrew Smith
This is a slim volume, of which I wasn't expecting much, but it surprised me. The 13 days of the title were 13 days in which the world really was standing on the brink of nuclear annihilation. I'd just been born and my mum describes looking into the cot and wondering whether I'd get to know the world at all - the sense of impending doom was *that* present. Told in a spare, unfussed style, Kennedy's inside account ends up capturing the drama admirably, as well as providing insights into his broth ...more
Njbatz
This is a good book for its historical value. I had just seen a snippet from the movie of the same name with Kevin Costner, and that prompted me to read the book. I found this book an interesting first person account of a very scary time in world history.
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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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