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Thirteen Days: A Memoir of the Cuban Missile Crisis Paperback – November 17, 1999

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Editorial Reviews


“As a principle figure in resolving the crisis Robert Kennedy brings to it extraordinary authority, with his own insights, perspectives and very important revelations of the decision-making process at the highest level, on the brink of nuclear holocaust.” (David Schoenbrun - New York Times Book Review)

About the Author

Arthur M. Schlesinger (1917 - 2007) was a historian who served as special assistant to President John F. Kennedy. Among his many works are the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Age of Jackson and A Thousand Days: John F. Kennedy in the White House.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 185 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company (November 17, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393318346
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393318340
  • Product Dimensions: 5.6 x 0.5 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (96 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #64,359 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

51 of 53 people found the following review helpful By Robert Oliver on January 13, 2001
Format: Paperback
Robert Kennedy wrote "Thirteen Days" a short time before his death in 1968. He never had the chance to rewrite and add additional material to his book; but as written it is a riveting account of the Cuban missile crisis in 1962. In the Autumn of 1962 the Soviet Union was placing nuclear missiles in Cuba. President Kennedy had to respond to that imminent threat, and the question was what course to take about the dangerous situation in Cuba. There were many that favored an immediate overwhelming military response to destroy the missiles; but Robert Kennedy favored surrounding the island with a naval blockade instead. He believed that a military attack on Cuba could lead to nuclear war, and that it should only be undertaken if there was no other choice. President Kennedy and his advisors spent many agonizing hours trying to consider every possible miscalculation or false step that could result in catastrophe. They sought to learn from the history of the past, and tried to follow a path of understanding in dealing with the Soviet Union and Cuba. The decisions that were made about Cuba would affect the lives of everyone on earth, and the lives of future generations as yet unborn. In this book the momentous events of the crisis in 1962 are seen through the eyes of Robert Kennedy. He opens the door to that time as only one who was there could, and gives many valuable insights into the mind of his brother the President. He helps us to understand what really happened in October 1962; and why. This is a very fine book, containing lessons of history that should always be remembered during times of great crisis.
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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Anthony McClain on March 13, 2001
Format: Paperback
"Thirteen Days", a memoir by Robert Kennedy has become one of the most insightful and behind-the-scenes accounts of one of the most studied military confrontations in history. It was a time in which the world looked nuclear annihilation directly in the eyes over the course of 13 dramatic days in October of 1962.
RFK, an intricate player throughout the process, lays out in chilling recollection the Cuban Missile Crisis and how close we actually came to that fateful day when the world's superpowers would square off with nuclear weapons. RFK's first-hand account articulately provides a perspective on what was going on in the minds of the players involved. It allows the reader to understand the enormous weight their decisions carried, as well as all of the pressures that affected each of them.
While a generation remembers a stoic President Kennedy giving his on-air address condemning the soviet supply of offensive weapons into Cuba, "13 Days" brings into account all of the human factors that affected these men as they sought to do what they felt was right.
This was a time in our nation's history when leadership was most needed. With the encouragement of the President, these individuals sought to learn from the mistakes of the past while also sympathizing with the Soviets who were also thrust into this position. The Soviets would not let a military attack go unwarranted, but at the same time had families of their own and ultimately wanted the same outcome from this standoff; a peaceful conclusion.
The decisions that were made by the ExComm would impact the history of the world and all of its inhabitants. It was a trying time that tested the souls of the leaders of the world and proved to be a turning point in world events.
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Courtney on January 7, 2003
Format: Paperback
While I was not yet born when RFK and JFK were alive, I would have to say they are two of the greatest men in American history. Robert Kennedy brings his readers closer to a situtation that is almost beyond the scope of the human mind. His account of the Cuban Missile Crisis makes us realize how close we have come to the end and absolutely shows us that it is only because of great men we are here. This book reminds us how close we came to the end and the critical role Jack and Bobby played in bringing us back. I only hope that current and future leaders of the world read this account and understand what they understood...we are all mortal and we all love our children. Those are the things that will save us, Jack and Bobby knew that and it is obvious in this extrodrinary book.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful By P Magnum HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on March 21, 2001
Format: Paperback
The Cuban Missile Crisis is the defining moment of John Kennedy's presidency. Locked in a high stakes game of chicken, the world's two most powerful nations, US & USSR, faced off over the Soviet Union's deployment of nuclear warheads in Cuba. Robert Kennedy was the Attorney General at the time and this book (written shortly before his death) is his personal account of the Thirteen Days that the world waited in fear of a possible nuclear holocaust. We see the innerworkings of the committee that the President formed to advise him on how to proceed. Mr. Kennedy's writing vividly expresses the enormous pressure these few gentlemen were under. They literally had the weight of the world on their shoulders and one wrong move could spell total annihilation. Being the President's brother, he also is able to give us a view of the President that a normal cabinet member wouldn't be able to give. The book also contains correspondence between JFK & Kruschev, previously classified photos and transcriptions of speeches that JFK gave at the time. For someone who remembers the Crises, this book will bring back strong memories and for those of us who weren't alive, the book details an important time in our country's history.
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