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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Kennedy Tapes of Cuban Missile Crisis Released

BOSTON -- The Kennedy Library on Wednesday released newly declassified tapes of U.S. President John F. Kennedy conferring with aides about the 1962 crisis over Soviet missiles in Cuba that pushed the nation close to nuclear war.

The release from the presidential library comes on the 39th anniversary of Kennedy ordering U.S. Navy ships to ring Cuba in response to the Soviet Union sending nuclear missiles and other offensive weapons to Cuba.

One 114-minute recording made in Kennedy's White House office contains meetings that took place on Nov. 19, and Nov. 20, 1962, less than a month after the nuclear showdown began but shortly after Kennedy reached an agreement with Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev to pull back from the edge of war.

The tapes include a discussion that occurred hours before Kennedy was to hold a news conference announcing the lifting of the naval blockade. The debate centered around whether the president should include a U.S. assurance that it would not invade Cuba, an assurance that the Soviet Union had requested.

On the recording, the president debates with his brother, U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy, and other members of the National Security Council who argue that such an assurance is unnecessary. "We do not owe anything as far as Khrushchev is concerned,'' the attorney general tells Kennedy.

"Now, how do we prevent this from looking like we're welshing on this?'' the president asks. Eventually, Kennedy decided against including the formal noninvasion assurance in his speech.

Earlier on Nov. 20, Kennedy learned from the Science Advisory Committee how ineffective U.S. bomb shelters would be in a Soviet nuclear strike.

"In the attack models we have, my recollection is, this would offer, within a target area a 40 percent savings [of lives], roughly speaking. All of these assume ... the utilization of a proper warning,'' one of the scientists tells Kennedy.