Thirteen Days; A Memoir of the Cuban Missile Crisis was written by Robert F. Kennedy in 1969 and told the story from his perspective, inside the Excomm (Executive Committee) of President John F. Kennedy, during the thirteen days from October 16, 1962 through October 28, 1962. The Cuban Missile Crisis began when an Air Force U-2 spy plane photographed ballistic missile facilities being built in Cuba. These missiles were being supplied to Cuba by the Soviet Union in order to create a stronger threat towards the United States. With their missiles in Cuba instead of the Soviet Union, it was much easier to target the United States given that Cuba is located only 90 miles from South Florida. Throughout the memoir, Robert F. Kennedy explains the actions taken by President Kennedy and his team in order to resolve the Cuban Missile Crisis as peacefully and efficiently as possible. As he presents the actions taken by the President, Robert F. Kennedy argues that if the Cuban Missile Crisis were handled differently, the world would have experienced a nuclear war.
Kennedy demonstrates the immense threat that the Cuban Missile Crisis created throughout his memoir. Kennedy explains the Cuban Missile Crisis had the potential to exterminate all of humankind in the opening paragraph of this memoir when he writes, “In President Kennedy’s office, he told me that a U-2 has just finished a photographic mission and the Intelligence Community had become convinced that Russia was placing missiles and atomic weapons in Cuba. That was the beginning of the Cuban missile crisis- a confrontation between the two giant atomic nations, the U.S and the Soviet Union, which brought the world to the abyss of nuclear destruction and the end of mankind.” In the very beginning of the memoir, Robert Kennedy explains that because the Soviet Union was supplying nuclear weapons to Cuba, which lies just 90 miles away from Southern Florida, this threat had the potential to kill millions, if not billions, of people. Immediately after receiving the information from the U-2 mission, President Kennedy began assembling the ExComm. This group had the sole purpose of assessing the threat that the Soviet Union and Cuba pose to the United States in order to create and execute a plan to exterminate this threat. By Exterminating the threat of the Soviet Union and Cuba, the Excomm would be able to ensure the safety of the citizens of the United States and other countries around the world.
Throughout the memoir, Kennedy argues that the potential outcome of the Cuban Missile Crisis put immense pressure on the United States to act carefully in order to protect the entire globe from the potential mutually assured destruction between the Soviet Union and the United States. While explaining the goal of the United States during the Cuban Missile Crisis, Robert Kennedy writes, “The thought that disturbed him the most, and that made the prospect of war much more fearful that it would otherwise have been, was the specter of 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.” The U.S. was put under such a pressure to safely resolve the Cuban Missile Crisis because this conflict had the potential to bring disaster to the lives of those in the United States and around the entire globe. Many of these people did not know that this crisis was occurring and may not ever be able to exercise many basic rights, such as voting if this conflict is not resolved. Kennedy explains that the U.S. was not only involved in this crisis in order to protect the present citizens of the United States but to protect citizens around the world and future citizens of the United States that may not ever be given an opportunity in this world if this crisis is not handled properly.
Throughout the memoir, Kennedy explains how the Excomm attempted to resolve the Cuban Missile Crisis peacefully. Kennedy demonstrates how this was resolved when he writes, “‘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.'” Kennedy was able to use the fact that both he and Khrushchev held similar positions and had the common desire to avoid nuclear war to negotiate with him. After an extremely cautious negotiation, a resolution was reached and the Cuban Missile Crisis came to an end. This was accomplished when Khrushchev agreed to remove the Soviet Union’s missiles from Cuba and in exchange, the United States agreed to respect Cuba’s territorial sovereignty. This agreement allowed for the end of the Cuban Missile Crisis while avoiding any nuclear or non-nuclear warfare.
Robert Kennedy was able to demonstrate how the Cuban Missile Crisis posed an immense threat to the entire world, explain the potential outcomes if the crisis was not handled properly, and provide how the United States reached an agreement with the Soviet Union in order to resolve the Cuban Missile Crisis peacefully. Kennedy demonstrated the threat that the Cuban Missile Crisis posed to the world by explaining that it was a “confrontation between two giant atomic nations.” Kennedy was also able to explain the potential, life-threatening outcomes of the crisis by describing that if the crisis was not resolved, there may not be a future for young people to exercise their freedom in the United States and around the globe. Finally, Kennedy was able to illustrate how the United States accomplished an agreement with the Soviet Union by explaining the relationship that he created with Nikita Khrushchev and how he used this relationship to negotiate a peaceful agreement to bring the Cuban Missile Crisis to an end.