It was a close call—maybe the closest call in human history. For two weeks in October 1962, the world teetered on the edge of thermonuclear war and the end of civilization as we know it. Earlier that fall, the Soviet Union, under orders from Premier Nikita Khrushchev, began to secretly deploy a nuclear strike force in Cuba, just 90 miles from the United States, with missiles that could reach most major U.S. cities in less than five minutes. President John F. Kennedy said the missiles would not be tolerated, and insisted on their removal. Khrushchev refused. The stand-off nearly caused a nuclear exchange and is remembered in this country as the Cuban Missile Crisis.
“To the Brink” is a look back at the crisis from the 50-year mark, which is drawn mainly from U.S. sources and presents a U.S. viewpoint. Pieces of the story that appear hazy now may come into sharper focus over time; others that are now clear will blur as the episode recedes further into history. Unbeknownst to almost all the participants, JFK recorded those White House meetings. Excerpts from the 43 hours of secret recordings relating to the Cuban Missile Crisis are presented in the gallery and form the centerpiece of this exhibit. Original documents, artifacts, and photographs from the National Archives and the Kennedy Library complement the tapes in a dramatic presentation that draws the visitor into this milestone 20th-century event.
The JFK Presidential Library and Museum is located at UMass-Boston. “To The Brink” will be on display at the Library until December 1, 2013. Click here for more information.