JULY 12, 2012
THE SHOWDOWN WITH KHRUSHCHEV VI
Knoxville, Tennessee (JFK+50) Today we conclude our report of Chapter 11 of the book by Kenneth P. O’Donnell & David F. Powers with Joe McCarthy. It is published by Little, Brown & Company.
The title of Chapter 11 is The Showdown with Khrushchev.
Kenneth O’Donnell tells the story of the CUBAN MISSILE CRISIS. Since this topic has been extensively covered on this blog previously, today we will attempt to cover it through the unique experiences related by Mr. O’Donnell & David Powers.
The following statement by Kenny expresses those experiences very well:
“Our outstanding memory of the two weeks of strained suspense in the White House during the Cuban missile crisis is the President’s calmness & cool relaxation throughout the whole hectic period.”
Kenny goes on to explain that the discovery of Soviet nuclear missiles in Cuba “brought a kind of peace to (JFK’s) mind” because it was now clear that the risk of nuclear war would be necessary.
In JFK’s words:
“If I don’t do anything about removing those missiles…..I ought to be impeached.”
On the other hand, Kenny explains that JFK did not see the missiles as a change in the balance of military power.
Kenny tells how JFK called him into his office to take a look at the U2 photographs showing the Soviet missile sites in Cuba.
Kenny’s response was “I don’t believe it.”
When JFK called EXCOMM to meet, Kenny was invited to attend “to watch & listen” so that later they could discuss “those historic meetings.”
Kenny writes that during the next 2 weeks he saw President Kennedy “as a rock of solid good sense & unwavering strength & firmness.”
“Along with a deeper admiration for JFK, the crisis….gave me many dark thoughts about what could happen if the wrong kind of President happened to be occupying the White House at a sensitive time in history.”
Kenny, after a lengthy account of the next several critical days of the crisis, writes that during a swim at the White House, JFK said to Dave Powers:
“If we were only thinking of ourselves, it would be easy (to go to nuclear war), but I keep thinking about the children whose lives would be wiped out.”
Ultimately, JFK decided on a naval blockade of Cuba but in his speech to the nation & the world he added:
“It shall be the policy of this nation to regard any nuclear missile launched from Cuba against any nation in the Western Hemisphere as an attack by the Soviet Union on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response on the Soviet Union.”
Later on, as the crisis continued & intensified, U-2 pilot Major Anderson was shot down in Cuba. JFK was told Anderson was married & had 2 sons, aged 3 & 5.
JFK hung up the phone & with a sad look on his face said to Dave Powers:
“He had a boy about the same age as John.”
On a Sunday morning, JFK learned that Khrushchev announced the Soviets would remove the missiles from Cuba.
Kenny concludes the chapter by telling how he & Dave were among the 34 recipients of the Tiffany silver calendars the President had made to present to those who were part of the “13 Days”.
And lastly, Kenny quotes this seldom repeated JFK line:
“All I want them to say about me is what they said about John Adams, ‘He kept the peace.’ He certainly did that.”*
In a previous posting, or two, I related the following story from my personal teaching experience…..forgive me if I tell it one more time.
During the 1st day of classes of a new school year, a student, who obviously had heard of my interest in President Kennedy, asked:
“Mr. White, just what was so great about JFK?”
There was total silence in the room….even high school juniors were not accustomed to an experienced teacher being put on the spot by a student on the very 1st day of class.
My answer to the young man’s question was this:
“If nothing else, President Kennedy saved the world from nuclear annihilation and in doing so made it possible for you to be sitting here today asking me such a stupid question.”