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    To the Brink: JFK and the Cuban Missile Crisis

    Presented by at John F. Kennedy Presidental Library and Museum

    April 12 - December 1, 2013


    To the Brink: JFK and the Cuban Missile Crisis

    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.

    For 13 days, the fate of the world hung in the balance. For all his muscular, anti-communist rhetoric, the President’s response was remarkably restrained. Under unimaginable pressure—as the Soviets raced to complete construction of the missile sites—the President refused to be rushed. He conducted the negotiations with discipline and delicacy, balancing cold resolve with pragmatic statesmanship. He would not accept the missiles, but neither would he force the hand of an impulsive opponent into a rash response. And on October 28, 1962, with the world’s mightiest military forces bristling with anticipation, and events spinning out of control, Khrushchev suddenly relented. The missile sites, he announced, would be dismantled immediately. The peaceful resolution of the crisis is considered to be one of President Kennedy’s greatest achievements.

    “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.

    "To The Brink" will be on display at the Kennedy Library until December 1, 2013.

    John F. Kennedy Presidental Library and Museum

    Columbia Point
    Boston, MA 02125

    Full map and directions

    Admission Info:

    Adults $12.00, Seniors (62 and over) and Students (with valid college ID) $10.00, Ages 13-17 $9.00, Children 12 and under are free.

    Group visits of 12 or more are eligible for a group visit discount with advance reservations.

    Students in grades K-12 from New England Schools on an educational group tour are eligible for free admission. Please contact the Group Tours office for more information at 617.514.1589.

    General Day and Time Info:

    The Museum is open 7 days per week, from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. with the exception of New Year’s, Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. Our last Introductory Film of the day is at 3:55 p.m.

    Accessibility Information: Currently, no accessibility information is available for this event.

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