Episode 3: Duck and Cover

October 20, 2022

By October 22, 1962, after days of long discussions with his advisors, John F. Kennedy was ready to go public about the Soviet missiles in Cuba.

His address to the American people laid out his plan to initiate a naval quarantine to prevent more Soviet ships and weapons from reaching Cuba. He also stressed the uncertainty and danger that lay in the days and months ahead. In Moscow, this announcement stunned and angered Nikita Khrushchev, who learned that his atomic gambit had failed.

As the specter of a destructive nuclear war loomed larger than ever, the White House waited to see how the Soviets would react.

Featuring interviews and archive audio with Sid Davis, Mary Dudziak, Alice L. George, Sir Max Hastings, Jacqueline Kennedy, Fredrik Logevall, Robert McNamara, Tom Nichols, Robert Pierpoint, Serhii Plokhy, Brenda Gayle Plummer, Dean Rusk, and Llewellyn Thompson.

View the transcript from this episode.

From the JFK Library Archives

View documents and photographs referenced in this episode.

Telephone Recordings: Dictation Belt 30.2. Cuban Missile Crisis Update, October 22, 1962

Radio and Television Address to the American People on the Soviet Arms Build-up in Cuba, October 22, 1962

Telephone Recordings: Dictation Belt 32.3. Possible Naval Action, Blockade of Cuba, October 23, 1962

Oral History interview with Llewellyn Thompson #2, April 27, 1966

From the JFK Library

JFK Library Forum: The Cuban Missile Crisis and the Media, October 28, 2002 (via GBH Forum Network)

JFK Library Forum: Presidency in the Nuclear Age: Cuban Missile Crisis and the First Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, October 12, 2009 (via C-SPAN)

Additional Material

Miller Center: Meeting with the Joint Chiefs of Staff on the Cuban Missile Crisis, October 19, 1962, 9:45 am

UN Audiovisual Library: 1025th Security Council Meeting October 23, 1962

Miller Center: Meeting on the Cuban Missile Crisis, October 23, 1962, 10:00 am

Miller Center: Meeting on the Cuban Missile Crisis, October 23, 1962, 6:00 pm

Miller Center: Meeting on the Cuban Missile Crisis, October 24, 1962, 10:00 am

Office of the Historian: Letter From Chairman Khrushchev to President Kennedy, October 24, 1962

UN Audiovisual Library: 1022nd Security Council Meeting, part 3, October 25, 1962

Office of the Historian: Telegram From the Embassy in the Soviet Union to the Department of State, October 26, 1962

Jacqueline Kennedy: Historic Conversations on Life with John F. Kennedy: 6th Conversation, June 2, 1964

Open Vault from WGBH: Interview with Robert McNamara (1), February 20, 1986

Open Vault from WGBH: Interview with Dean Rusk, May 2, 1986

See full source list for this series.


Hosts and producers: Matt Porter and Jamie Richardson

Co-producer: Rick King

Supervisory Producer: Valerie Linson

Research Assistants: Sara Laroussi and Megan McKee

Independent Fact Checker: Ben Schafer

Thank you to The Miller Center at the University of Virginia for providing the White House tapes used in this series.

Thank you to JFK Library archives staff for assistance with researching and digitizing additional material.

Special thank you to Ambassador Caroline Kennedy for permission to use the audio from Jacqueline Kennedy’s 1964 oral history interview.

Podcast Art: Brian Kang

Music: Premium Beat by Shutterstock