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About the Book

The Fourteenth Day coverOn the thirteenth day of the Cuban Missile Crisis, October 28, 1962, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev agreed to remove nuclear missiles from Cuba. Conventional wisdom has marked that day as the end of the Cuban Missile Crisis, one of the most highly charged, and in the end most highly regarded, moments of American history.

Yet the next day, the Executive Committee of the National Security Council (Excomm) met as they had the previous thirteen days. As he opened the meeting, Kennedy had many things on his mind, but one issue stood out as the most urgent: verifying that Khrushchev was honoring his promise to remove “the arms which you described as offensive.” The crisis had been sparked by one audacious lie; how could the Americans be sure this wasn’t yet another trick, designed to buy time for the Soviet nuclear forces in Cuba to prepare for action? And even if it wasn’t, how could the Americans be sure that the Soviets were removing all of the missiles, and not diverting some to the many caves that dotted Cuba?

On the fourteenth day, the reality on the ground remained dangerous: the missiles were still in Cuba, as were short-range nuclear missiles, nuclear bombers, nuclear submarines, and tens of thousands of Soviet troops. And in the days, weeks, and months that followed, Kennedy’s struggles were far from over. Midterm elections loomed, in which Democrats were expected to lose seats. The press, frustrated with the lack of access during the first thirteen days, was clamoring for information and accusing the White House of increasingly draconian “news management.”

Through it all, Kennedy’s tapes kept running. Using new material from these secret recordings, historian David Coleman puts readers in the Oval Office during perhaps the most dramatic foreign policy crisis in America’s history, as one of America’s greatest leaders fought to redefine his presidency, and ultimately his legacy.

The Fourteenth Day will be published by W.W. Norton & Company on October 8, 2012.

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No family has been better at shaping its own mythology than the Kennedys. Using White House tapes and his own prodigious research and keen insight, David Coleman has painted a portrait of the JFK White House after the Cuban Missile Crisis as it really was. The picture is not damning, but it is human and revealing.

Evan Thomas
author of Robert Kennedy: His Life
and Ike’s Bluff: President Eisenhower’s Secret Struggle to Save the World

The story David Coleman tells here is fascinating. The Soviet government’s promise to withdraw its missiles from Cuba may have ended the Missile Crisis, but there were many loose ends that still needed to be tied up. In dealing those problems, all sorts of factors had to be taken into account. Diplomatic and military concerns were of fundamental importance, but domestic political considerations were never far from people’s minds. The Kennedy administration had to find the right balance. Coleman shows, clearly and intelligently, how it went about doing so and why it made the choices it did. In so doing, he brings this remarkable story to life, and his use of material from the Kennedy tapes was particularly impressive. And it is not just that you will learn a lot from the story Coleman tells. This is the sort of book anyone interested in the period will actually enjoy reading.

Marc Trachtenberg
author of A Constructed Peace: The Making of the European Settlement 1945-1963

A half century later there are still important things about the Cuban missile crisis left to explore. David Coleman is the first to use the Kennedy tapes to show that the challenges posed by the crisis did not end on the fabled thirteenth day. “On the Fourteenth Day” is a brilliant reconstruction of a time of superb presidential leadership. It is essential reading for those who love presidential history or just remain fascinated by JFK.

Timothy Naftali
author of Khrushchev’s Cold War: The Inside Story of an American Adversary
and “One Hell of a Gamble”: Khrushchev, Castro, and Kennedy, 1958-1964

Amid shelves of books on the Kennedy era, here at last is a genuinely fresh and interesting volume about his presidency. Coleman now leads the documentary team that transcribes and explains the recordings of meetings and phone calls that JFK secretly hoarded. Armed with that evidence and an exceptionally firm grasp of the personalities, institutions, and issues of that time, Coleman skillfully shows us a pivotal year — 1962 to mid-1963 — the turning point of the Cold War and of the Kennedy presidency. As the Cuban missile crisis is being brought to a ragged, secretive conclusion, we see how Kennedy — a former journalist ordering the CIA to spy on journalists — crafted both the image and reality of peaceful victory in a blur of high politics with high policy.

Philip Zelikow
author of The Kennedy Tapes: Inside the White House During the Cuban Missile Crisis
and Essence of Decision: Explaining the Cuban Missile Crisis 2ed

Illuminates a previously untold chapter about the most dangerous confrontation in human history.

Graham Allison
author of Essence of Decision: Explaining the Cuban Missile Crisis 1ed & 2ed