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World on the Brink
Aired July 3, 2014 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN F. KENNEDY, 35TH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: The supreme national effort will be needed to move this country safely through the 1960s.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Across the world, Soviet missiles are aimed at the United States.
Whatever the President does, he risks nuclear war.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Khrushchev calls West Berlin a cancerous sore.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lines are now drawn.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 25 Russian ships are en route for Cuba on what maybe a coalition cause.
There's no way of knowing whether western civilization will live or die.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that if something that's done that you manage over destroying south.
ROBERT DALLEK, AUTHOR, AN UNFINISHED LIFE: JOHN F. KENNEDY: Early on in the 60s, you have this backdrop of tension. You have capitalism versus communism and it was palpable fear in the United States and in the Soviet Union that the two sides were going to get into a nuclear war.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The temper of the world is crisis. Architect of the crisis, Nikita Khrushchev.
TIMOTHY NAFTALI, CO-AUTHOR, KHRUSHCHEV'S COLD WAR: As the head of the Soviet Union, Khrushchev was very ideological. He believed that the future belonged to communism. He said, "America needs to be contained, and the only way to do it is to create crises all around the American empire."
DALLEK: Khrushchev came to the U.N. in 1960 and he said, "We are grinding up missiles like lozenges (ph), we will bury you." And Americans took it seriously.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The toughness of the Khrushchev speech, this adds some propaganda tools of a prior (ph) that is now raging diplomatically between Moscow and Washington
EVAN THOMAS, AUTHOR, IKE'S BLUFF: To see if the Soviets were building nuclear weapons and more importantly missiles to launch them at the United States. They were flying a spy plane over the Soviet Union called the U-2.
BILL FOX: I'm Bill Fox, a stay (ph) cable at the United Press International in New York. A single engine U.S. Air Force plane with one man aboard went missing today not blocking the Soviet border in the rugged mountains Southeastern Turkey.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To a stunned and startled audience, Khrushchev announced than an American U-2 spy plane have been shot down in the Soviet Union.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Khrushchev made the wreckage a public exhibition. To the Soviet Union, this wreckage was a national cause, national outrage over the violation of Soviet boundaries.
NAFTALI: And so out comes the cover story.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The department has been informed that by the N-A- S-A, a U-2 weather research plane piloted by a civilian has been missing since May 1.
RICHARD REEVES, AUTHOR, PRESIDENT KENNEDY: PROFILE OF POWER: Eisenhower had said, "No, that didn't happen, et cetera, et cetera." It'd been drawn into a trap by Khrushchev.
THOMAS: The Soviet leader was able to show, not only did they shot down the plane but they had the pilot.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Francis Gary Powers, an ordinary man caught up in extraordinary circumstances and in a way magnified by them.
FRANCIS GARY POWERS, AMERICAN PILOT, CIA U-2 SPY PLANE: I realized that I've committed a grave crime and I've realized that I must be punished for it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The evidence of espionage currency presumably for the spy to buy his way to freedom. And a spy's last resort, a poisoned needle with which he could kill himself instantly if captured and threatened with torture.
DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER, 34TH PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: No one wants another Pearl Harbor. This means that we must have knowledge of military forces and preparations around the world. The safety of the whole free world demands this.
CHET HUNTLEY, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: Our government was in effect admitting that we had previously lied and that we had committed espionage. Admissions no nation had ever made before.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How does this incident affect the United States do you think?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that it would give the American supply title (ph) of the Earth.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that we ought to think one of those submarines that have been spying off Cape Canaveral.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I don't think we should admit it. We have a right to protect our self.
THOMAS: The shoot down was such a big event that it basically torpedoed at the top (ph), it torpedoed the chance to have a peaceful period. And actually it was the beginning of the scariest part of the Cold War.
DALLEK: America's public mood was one of the moralization and there's the feeling that we can do better and that's when the election of 1960 comes along.
KENNEDY: I think the question before the American people is, "Are we doing as much as we can do? Are we as strong as we should be? Are we as strong as we must be if we're going to maintain our independence?"
REEVES: Kennedy was a cold warrior more than Eisenhower was really.
KENNEDY: I want people in Latin America, and Africa, and Asia to start to look to America, to see how we're doing things and wonder what the president of the United States is doing and not to look at Khrushchev or look at the Chinese communists.
REEVES: The fact is, Kennedy did run to the right of Nixon and he was saying that they were letting the Russians get ahead of us in missiles.
DALLEK: He friends those people, it's not true but he friends those people and it's very effective in the campaign.
KENNEDY: I believe the Soviet Union is first in outer space. Threw yourselves into Khrushchev, you maybe ahead of us in rockets than us but we're ahead of you in colored television. I think that color television is not as important as rockets thrust.
REEVES: The missile gap was a total lie. We out-missiled them at that time better than 101. If Eisenhower come forward and said, "This kid is not telling the truth." that would have been a different election.
KENNEDY: Let every nation know whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, beat any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.
REEVES: Kennedy, it is an inaugural speech, did not have a single mention of domestic issue. He came to the presidents, he's thinking job was to run the Cold War, to defeat the Russians.
KENNEDY: I do not shrink from this responsibility. I welcome it.
CHARLES COLLINGWOOD, CBS NEWS: If you had left New York by car at seven minutes past one this morning, by 2:55, you could've made Philadelphia, 95 miles in an hour and 48 minutes. In that same time this morning, a man went around the world. The spaceship was built in Russia.
DALLEK: When the Russians put Yuri Gagarin into space, it was another sense of America being not back on its heels. We're behind.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Khrushchev greeted the hero saying, "Now, let the capitalist country try to catch up."
NAFTALI: For the Russians to be the first to put a man in space, that's a real blow not only to American cried, but we started the whole question about whether the U.S. government could protect the American people.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Gagarin's spaceship weighed five tons. The biggest payload we've been able to push into orbit weighed only a few hundred pounds.
NAFTALI: If you could put a man into space, if you can put nuclear warheads into space and lots of them and then we're in trouble.
MARVIN KALB, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: This is Marvin Kalb in Moscow. The people who work back here in the Kremlin are convinced that the balance of (inaudible) and the world has shifted in their favor. And encouraged by this conviction, they've stepped up their activities all over the world not only in Berlin but also in Latin America.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A big jam of camera man here now, an absolute mad house here. The first prestigious meeting between Premier Khrushchev and Premier Castro is now in order.
SERGEI KHRUSHCHEV, AUTHOR, KHRUSHCHEV ON KHRUSHCHEV: My father first met Fidel Castro in 1960 in the United Nations. Cubans became heroes in the Soviet Union. It was like the David who challenged Goliath.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If ever the cities of the United States could peace Cuba? They're opinion would ...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The man who (inaudible) Fidel Castro has become an enemy of the United States.
DALLEK: In Cuba, we have Fidel Castro who is tying himself to the Soviet Bloc which seems to be threatening the United States by the possibility that they're going to export communism to other southern American countries which are in many instances, anti-American.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Foreign language)
NAFTALI: Khrushchev is saying that you have to understand that Cuba matters a lot to us. Don't mess with Cuba. Khrushchev was not just using rhetoric. The Eastern Bloc was supporting Castro with military systems.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Many Latin Americans were shocked to find out how much communist equipment Castro actually has. DALLEK: The sense was that Kennedy had to do something about Castro. When Kennedy comes to the presidency, he's brief on the fact that there was a plan in place to topple Castro.
NAFTALI: But the plan that's presented to him is not what he wants. It's a huge invasion, a noisy beach. It's going to look like a U.S. invasion at Cuba. So he says to the CIA, we can't be associated with this. I want something that is believably Cuba.
RON OPPEN, WTVJ, MIAMI: This is Ron Oppen in Miami. I'm standing in one of the many anti-Castro recruiting places scattered throughout the city.
FELIX RODRIGUEZ, VETERAN OF THE BAY OF PIGS INVASION: The great (inaudible) we're anti-communist. So when we found there was something against Castro, we learned where there was a recruiting center, now we just approached them and joined. We had no idea it was the CIA.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Since two o'clock this morning, men and boys have been filing through this store behind me, anxious to join the fight in Cuba against Fidel Castro's government.
MICHAEL DOBBS, AUTHOR, ONE MINUTE TO MIDNIGHT: They were mainly Cuban exiles. They hated Castro. They thought that they could amount to a small scale invasion which would gather more and more support until it ended up dethroning the regime.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cuban businessmen, doctors, white-collar workers, men who once drove taxis always hoping the muscle of the United States would sustain them.
RODRIGUEZ: We thought United States being behind this operation, there was no way we were going to lose, and we wrong.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Full force of invaders landed at a semi isolated resort area on the south coast of Cuba as the bay they have picked (ph).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Castro alerted his small air force and his large army and raced towards the sea.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The showdown came at dawn but the rebels managed to move only 20 miles in land and those able to move beach to beach were trapped in swamp or high road.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (Foreign Language).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All moved the revolutionary forces which are shooting down Yankee plans and are smashing the invaders of the land.
The Castro controlled television network is parading prisoners captured on the beaches of (inaudible) before the cameras for public interrogation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One rider had called that they have picked (ph) the perfect failure. It was a tragedy on the beach and in Washington.
WALTER CRONKIT, CBS NEWS ANCHOR: Out of the news of this week, the attempt of Cuban exiles to reestablish a foothold in their homeland. The Mexico failure that became a strategic defeat for Cuban democracy and American trustee (ph).
RAUL ROA, CUBAN ADMINISTRATOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS: If (inaudible) imperialistic (inaudible) on the government of the United States.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: United States has committed no aggression against Cuba and no offensive has been launched from Florida or from any other part of the United States.
MAX HOLLAND, AUTHOR AND HISTORIAN: The American role is immediately exposed. No one believes that this isn't happening that some American helped.
RICHARD KALLSEN, CBS NEWS: The leader of the free world has been humiliated on its own doorstep. Castro has prevailed over Kennedy at least for the moment and it will take a long time to destroy that image.
KALB: It was a calamity. Kennedy had been totally misinformed by American intelligence about the strength of the anti-communist movement and the fact that when these poor people arrived on the beaches in Cuba, they were decimated.
CRONKIT: Only landings themselves, Stuart, how large were they actually?
STUART NOVINS, CBS NEWS: Best indications, Walter, there were about 300 men and all over the weapons they could carry. Unmistakably clear, Walter, from all the evidence available that the CIA planned this operation. It was the CIA that established the revolutionary council by saying through the dissident factions get together or else.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Today, in his newest conference, the president acknowledged the failure and took the responsibility for it.
KENNEDY: Detailed discussions are not to conceal responsibility because I'm the responsible officer of the government. Victory has 100 fathers and defeat is an orphan.
HOLLAND: The Russians, I think, see this as evidence of young, feckless, inexperienced president.
DALLEK: Kennedy privately goes around saying, "How could I've been so stupid?" He's full of self incrimination.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kennedy listen to the experts, CIA, the military, a little bit too much and they were wrong.
DALLEK: The lesson he learns from this is not to trust the CIA.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) UNIDENTIFIED MALE: After the Bay of Pigs, Kennedy was more anxious than ever to meet with Khrushchev because he knew that he had screwed up.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Today, President Kennedy with Nikita Khrushchev.
REEVES: Before the meeting in Vienna would straighten all that out. In fact, it made it much worse.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Vienna was at its romantic best. Almost enough it seemed to remove a bit of the chill from the Cold War. It began with the police escort leading Mr. Kennedy's limousine to the Soviet embassy. Nikita Khrushchev was waiting also for talks that would explore such issues as Berlin nuclear testing and disarmed amount (ph).
LISA HOWARD, ABC NEWS: First, what do you think of this meeting between the young president and the Khrushchev?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I think it was long (inaudible) because Khrushchev needs peace and Khrushchev needs (inaudible).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For Khrushchev, it is a chance to test the new president. On a subject of Berlin, Khrushchev is tough and blunt.
KALB: Khrushchev said West Berlin is a bone in my throat and we must extract it.
DALLEK: Berlin, of course, is divided at the end of World War II but Berlin is 110 miles inside of the East German zone. Khrushchev is threatening to force the integration and take over West Berlin. And Kennedy says that Berlin is part of our Western commitment at World War II. Don't challenge us there.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: After two days, the talks end.
THOMAS: Kennedy did not do well. He allowed himself to be caught in an ideological argument with Khrushchev. He'd been warned against it. He did it any ways and Khrushchev bullied him and pushed him around.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Khrushchev has made the first move in the test game and the president knows it as he leaves, he says, "It's going to be a cold winter."
NAFTALI: Kennedy thought there might be a basis for dealing with the Soviets instead he gets to Berlin crisis.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In July, 1,000 East Germans escaped in the West Berlin everyday. Now, in August, they are coming out of the rate of 2,500 a day as a result of Khrushchev's threats and demand. East Germany is being fled its best trained people.
ROBERT MACNEIL, AUTHOR AND JOURNALIST: I went to Berlin to cover the bureau and the NBC newscast in New York called In The Middle of the Night and said, "What's this about closing off the border, at the Brandenburg Gate?" UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At two a.m., the communist regime issued a new case. No East German could go to West Berlin without special dispensation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The sound of jackhammers erupts in the night. Suddenly, East German police appeared tearing up the sidewalks and street.
MACNEIL: A small crowd gathered and the East Germans were unrolling barbed wire and starting fences. They were sealing off the border. I thought "My God, this is ... " you know, "...unbelievable."
RAY SCHERER, NBC NEWS: President Kennedy was in (inaudible) port for the weekend. A telephone call from Washington that Sunday morning, told him that the communist had finally began to seal the Berlin's sector border against the East Germans and East Berliners.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Through backyards down canals across streets, all along the 25-mile border between East and West Berlin.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Telephone lines, the West Germany are cut, a flood of refugees is dammed up. West Berlin is isolated.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Communist country like East Germany cannot exist with an open border. It must be able to wall its people in and make them work so communism succeeds.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Kennedy decided on Thursday to send Johnson to Berlin because Mayor Brandt has a written a letter warning that the city's rotting morals requires bold and quick treatment.
LYNDON JOHNSON, 37TH VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As the United States wants you to know that the pledge he has given to the freedom of West Berlin and to the rights of Western access to Berlin is firm
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is Krushchev entirely convinced that our words have meaning? And if he is not, what can we do instead of war to convince him that they do?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 1,500 American soldiers arrived in West Berlin after 110-mile road trip across East Germany and the Soviet press and radio described the arrival of additional American forces as a challenging military act.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But Berliners know that Western strength is their only protection.
DALLEK: And there were also some people who say send the tanks and knock the damn wall down. No. He understands the soldier's problem. Will Khrushchev try and take over the rest of Berlin if he's putting up a wall? Will he risk a wall with us? No. The wall saved us from that kind of concept.
NAFTALI: After the Berlin crisis, Khrushchev test the largest nuclear device ever. He basically is going to say to the Americans, "You can't scare me. I'm going to scare you."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The West has nuclear jitters. People worrying about fallout, about war. Khrushchev has turned testing into a weapon of Earth.
DALLEK: There was tremendous anxiety and fear that if you got into a nuclear war, it was going to be the devastation of civilization. It was the apocalypse.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let us face, without panic, the reality of our times, the fact that atom bombs may someday be dropped on our cities. And let us prepare for survival by understanding the weapon that threatens us.
REEVES: The threat of nuclear war was the center of many of our lives.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fallout shelter could save your life in a nuclear war.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The family room of tomorrow. It's a truly ship- shaped room, only eight and a half by 12 feet in size but with an amazing amount of storage space.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In this season, unless we can control and use such a thing as that and all the civilization that we build up overall these many thousands of years will just be washed out.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It can be quite as scary to think about at some point that happen to us.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They were close to nuclear war in 1961.
THOMAS: And as JFK said to his brother "Bobby, you know, we've had a good life but our children, what if there's a nuclear war and our children die?" That's how close the war felt.
ADLAI STEVENSON, AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATION: As he said he would, Mr. Crockett has exploded his giant bomb in cenacle disregard of the United Nations.
NAFTALI: Kennedy recognizes that he's on the verge or again another crisis, that he's looking on the wrong direction. And then in 1962, there's a lot of political chatter about Cuba.
JOHN F. KENNEDY: That in anytime the communist build up in Cuba, word to endanger. I'll interfere with our security in any way. Then this country will do whatever must be done to protect its own security and that of its allies.
RICHARD REVES, AUTHOR, PRESIDENT KENNEDY. PROFILE OF POWER: The CIA had a consultant who spotted soccer fields all along the coast in Cuba. And as he said the Cubans play baseball, Russian plays soccer.
NAFTALI: Kennedy approves a series of U-2 flights.
KALB: They don't want to get sucked in once again as he had at the time of the Bay of Peace. He wanted hard evidence.
NAFTALI: It was the combination of very good, high level photography plus espionage, they made it possible for the U.S. Intelligence Community to say, "Mr. President, we are absolutely convinced that they are putting missiles in Cuba.
DOBBS: Kennedy gets together a group of his closest advisers which becomes known as the ExComm or Executive Committee of the National Security Council.
KENNEDY: How far advance is this?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sir, we've never seen this kind of an installation before.
KENNEDY: (inaudible) in the Soviet Union
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, sir.
KENNEDY: How do you know this (inaudible) medium range (inaudible)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The (inaudible), sir.
NAFTALI: U.S. intelligence showed him the parts of the United States that would be hit by a nuclear attack. And the figure was up 30 million American were endanger of dying.
SERGEI KHRUSHCHEV, AUTHOR, KHRUSHCHEV ON KHRUSHCHEV: My father, he want to be recognized as equal. If you not recognize as equal, you challenge over the side.
KENNEDY: All right, now what kinds of military action are we capable of carrying out and what may be sine of the consequences?
MCNAMARA: We could carry out an air strike within a mater of days.
DALLEK: Good debates, should we bomb? Should we invade? Back and forth.
MCNAMARA: (inaudible) we've launched 50 to 100 soldiers, what kind of a world do we live in? How do we stop (inaudible)? I don't know the answer to this.
REEVES: Most of then thought, you know, we should attack Cuba. Kennedy almost alone did not want to do that.
DOBBS: Kennedy is he only person who has a sort of larger view. There are times when he's not just the president of the United States, he is thinking in terms of the survival of the human race.
KENNEDY: Now, the question, wherever he is, we're not taking (inaudible) changes of (inaudible), which obviously (inaudible) failure. DOBBS: He was frightened that a wrong move by him could trigger a whole sequence of news by the other side, so he wanted to slow everything down. And the method he choose was the imposition of blockade.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Kennedy will address the nation tonight on radio and television, on a subject of the highest national urgency.
KENNEDY: Good evening my fellow citizens, this government as promised has maintain the closest surveillance of the soviet military build up on the island of Cuba.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This launch long range and clearly offensive weapons of sudden mass destruction constitutes an explicit threat to the peace and security of all the Americans.
KENNEDY: Before this offensive buildup a street quarantine in all offensive military equipment under shipment to Cuba is being initiated. I have directed the arm forces to prepare for any eventuality.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Within minutes after the presidents ultimately announce that it was sustaining a blockade of Cuba with more than 40 ships and 20,000 men.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't like to see us go to war but if it's necessary to prevent a nuclear war, I think the action has to be taken at this time.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All I think it's high time we stop Russia from having things their own way.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I know that some action should be taken but he's going to have to (inaudible) very likely short of war.
KALB: But the American people were very frightened that they were on the edge of a cataclysm. Something no one had ever experience before, a nuclear war.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have been jammed up, we have been mobbed. People are buying like food is going out of style.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is this your normal order or are you stockpiling?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh I'm not stockpiling. I feel that if anything would happen, you wouldn't able to need it anyhow.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Develop a shelter spot where there is water, food, medical supplies, a Geiger counter and a radio. Congressional leaders will be called from their campaign labor, blown back to Washington and military planes. And there were reports of troop movements in the (inaudible).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cuban (inaudible) Fidel Castro told his people that the arms arcade is the most dangerous adventure since World War II. He called President Kennedy a pirate and set a life and death struggle in underway between an empire and the revolution of a small and weak people.
The Cuban militia was mobilized and the country was put on a war footing. Russia alerted it's military forces and warned that the United States is playing with fire. At a special section of the United Nation Security Council, the United States, Cuba and Russia operate separate resolutions and played at better charges.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you ambassador Oren deny that the USSR has faced and is placing medium and intermediate range missiles and sites in Cuba? Yes or no. Don't wait for the (inaudible), yes or no.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am not in an American courtroom sir. And therefore I do not wish to answer a question that is put to me in the fashion in which prosecuted us. In due call, say you will have your reply.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm prepared to wait for my answer until (inaudible) is over, if that's your decision.
DOBBS: In each side didn't know what the other side was doing and there was a lot of room for miscalculation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We believe there (inaudible) 25 soviet ship moving toward Cuba. If the vessel does not stop, refuses to hid the instructions, force will be applied to assure that it does stop.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The (inaudible) says, soviet ships will never submit to the United States blockade.
NAFTALI: The next few days are critical. Who is going to blink first?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A dispatch just in, a late development.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 25 soviet ships team toward Cuba.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If the ships captains do no stop, force will be used to stop.
KALB: IT was a truly historic drama taking place every moment of everyday.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are not in the most dangerous situations since the end of World War II. The next 48 hours will be decided.
REEVES: Right up till the last minute, the first ship looked like it was going to through the barrier. And at that point Kennedy would have had to do something more. What it was wasn't even clear to him.
DOBBS: The Whitehouse was on the point of being evacuated. They thought that this was the early stages of World War III.
EVAN THOMAS, AUTHOR, IKE'S BLUFF: He didn't listen to the tapes of the missile crisis. And on the last day, when we seem so close to war, you can hear the voices becoming a little bit more ragged and a little bit more urgent.
MCNAMARA: Well, what my main point is that I don't think, at this particular point we should show any weakness in Khrushchev. And I think we (inaudible).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: President Kennedy is the calm voice.
KENNEDY): Well, let's get prepared (inaudible) tomorrow. Let's wait to see if they fire at us. Meanwhile, I'm not convince yet of an invasion.
KALB: And at the last minute the soviet troops turned around.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Khrushchev has changed his position.
KALB: There's was an announcement from Moscow that they would withdraw the missiles. And I said, the other guy just blinked.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the day, we have every reason to believe when the world came out from under the most terrible threat of nuclear holocaust since the end of World War II.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A message to President Kennedy was long and rambling. But for the first time, Mr. (inaudible) acknowledge the presence in Cuba of soviet missiles. He argued, there were defensive in nature, but he said he understood the President's feeling about them. He said he would withdraw the missiles if President Kennedy would promise not to invade Cuba.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The fallowing is the text of President Kennedy's statement of noon. I welcome chairman Khrushchev, statement like decision to stop building based in Cuba, this is an important and constructive contribution to peace.
REEVES: There was an incredible sigh of relief in the country and in the world.
THOMAS WOLF, NEWS CORRESPONDENT: With the tranquil courage of the great leaders of democracy, John Fitzgerald Kennedy said to the communist world, enough.
DALLEK: There have been some back and forth between Kennedy and Khrushchev. We'll make out promise not to invade Cuba. And then in a matter of months the NHS (ph) will take his missiles out of Turkey. And then return for that, Khrushchev publicly and verifiably removed soviet missiles from Cuba.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The conditions of the Cold War have been altered in spirit, if not in fact by what happened in Cuba. As a result of American determination in the crisis, morale has been raised throughout the noncommunist world.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Perhaps this is the beginning of more understanding between out people.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Both sides realized, we need to stand back from this and we need to create a framework that's less dangerous.
KENNEDY: I have chosen this time and place to discuss a topic in which ignorance to often to bounce, the truth to really perceived and that is the most important topic on earth, peace.
DALLEK: The following June, Kennedy gives the famous peace speech at American University, which he talked about changing our attitudes towards the Soviet Union.
KENNEDY: We're in the final analysis on most basic common link, is that we all inhabit this whole planet, we all breath the same air, we all cherish out children's future and we are all mortal.
REEVES: Kennedy and his people waited for any reaction from Moscow (inaudible). And then they got to tell (inaudible), saying that for the first and only time a speak of an American president covered a complete page of PRAVDA the party news paper.
NAFTALI: Khrushchev decide to change his world policy, the strategy of creating tension all around the American empire was dropped. And he said to his colleagues in the (inaudible), "You know what? Let's give them a test entry."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The United States to Soviet Union and Great Britain, promise to end all nuclear test explosions in the atmosphere, outer space and underwater.
KHRUSHCHEV: The big deal of Soviet Union, the same as United States and Khrushchev was very proud that they stop testing and poison atmosphere.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Man's long hopeful press for peace will cease to be only a dream and will begin to acquire acknowledge reality.
DALLEK: The Nuclear Test Ban Treaty is one of the truly great achievements of the Kennedy presidency.
KENNEDY: We shall not regret that we have made this clear and tolerable, national commitment, to the cause of man's survival. But under this treaty, we can and must still keep vigil and defensive freedom.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The people of this county are related by the feeling of the United States finally is taken the initiative and out conflict with communist. With all along the boarders of communism we and our enemies have unfinished business.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President the headline and story in the New York Times yesterday morning said that administration would try diplomacy in Vietnam, which I assumed we've been trying all along.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What can we do in the situation which seems to parallel other famous tobaccos of dealing with unpopular government in past.
KENNEDY: Well, in the first place we ought to realize that Vietnam has been at war for 25 years.
NAFTALI: Kennedy had treated Vietnam as a second tier issue until 1963. He was dealing with Berlin. He was dealing with Cuba. He has his domestic challenges. He had sent troops to train the South Vietnamese army. But he wasn't happy about it.
KENNEDY: And the final announcement it's their war. They're ones we have win or lose it. We can help them and give them equipment. We can send our men out their as advisers. But they have to win it, the people of Vietnam against the communist.
DOBBS: Kennedy felt that United States had to draw a line against communist expansion. But the Soviets supported the North Vietnam regime. We supported the South.
DALLE: It's what becomes known as the domino theory. If South Vietnam falls then all the rest of Southeast Asia, Laos, Cambodia, the Philippines, they might be defeated.
MCNAMARA: As I lay by reported upon my return from previous visits. I've been very much encourage by the progress which the South Vietnamese forces have been making and by the assistant which arm forces are rendered to them.
MAX HOLLAND AUTHOR AND HISTORIAN: When Vietnam started up they believe that they had so expertly micromanage a Cuba missile crisis that they could do the same in the Southeast Asian nation 10,000 miles away.
DOBBS: The North Vietnamese were very different from Soviets and Khrushchev. And the attempt to resolve the Vietnamese crisis through control escalation, simple didn't work.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The government of South Vietnam has been over thrown by a military group. And we are all involved and I hope we don't have another bay of pigs on our hands.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are we winning the wars of Vietnam?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Winning, no, we're losing them.
DALLEK: Kennedy says to one of his principle aids that after his reelected in 64 then he can talk about getting Vietnam.
NAFTALI: It's difficult to believe that the story of United States and Vietnam would follow the same course, had John F Kennedy not gone to Dallas in 1963?
DALLEK: Doing know what Kennedy would have done if he had lived. There's all sorts of evidence to suggest that he never would have done what Lyndon Johnson did in Vietnam.
PRESIDENT LYNDON B JOHNSON: This nation will keep its commitments from South Vietnam to West Berlin.
NAFTALI: Well LBJ had experience the same crisis by sitting next to Kennedy. He has not comes out with the same conclusion. He did not share Kennedy's suspicion of the United States military or the military advice. Once Kennedy was gone it was inevitable, that years from positive change. You lost a president who was skeptical of military advice and gain one who usually took it.
ED HERLINYL: The official Russian announce said he resign. The (inaudible) that once cheered Khrushchev wildly were left in the dark as suggest what went on when the central committee had met Leonid Brezhnev as a new leader of the party.
KHRUSHCHEV: My father was shocked. His successor just turn on the opposite direction and then diverse all his policies. He was very upset.
THOMAS: He had begun a new age with Soviet Union, a (inaudible) of a cold war. Not complete but the beginning of something. But think change.
DOBBS: That he must miss a crisis show that neither side could gain a military victory over the other side. So therefore the competition had to take a different form.
KHRUSHCHEV: It was beginning of the very rapid changes in the relation between two countries. Next period in our history of compete in the economy.
DOBBS: In the end we could defeat the Soviet Union military. But we could demonstrate that we had much better attractive society.
PRESIDENT JOHNSON: The United States of America wants to see the cold war end. We want sanity and security and peace for all. And above all President Kennedy, I am sure with regard as his best memorial. The fact that in his three years as president the world became a little safe and the way ahead become a little brighter.