The Day My World was Shaken

Caleb Wooten, guest writer

You might wonder how a fifteen-year-old kid would know anything about the Cuban Missile Crisis, and you would be right to ask that question, because in 1962, it was the last thing on my mind. The truth is I ended up knowing more about it than I ever wanted to. That’s what happens when you listen to conversations that you were never meant to hear. Being the son of the President of the United States of America certainly has its perks, but also is disadvantages, which you will come to see as I reveal my story to you

1962 was an interesting year, Bob Dylan released his first album and my friends and I thought his music was groovy. Sadly, the astonishing movie star Marilyn Monroe died. The first Walmart opened, and I, Carl Roy Kennedy, saw the first first James Bond movie . It captured my imagination to such an extent that I decided to become a secret agent, so the first assignment I gave myself was to find out what was going on in my house. With that in mind, I set up a spy schedule for myself – where I would listen to conversations other people were having. With enthusiasm for my project. I found myself hearing many conversations that did not interest me at all, until one day, I heard a phrase that caught my attention and ignited a spark of fear in me.

There is a secure room in the White House and when you go into it and close the door, no one can hear anything you say. I was always curious about that room, even before I decided to become a secret agent. One day while I was doing my secret agent spying, I realized that the door to that room had not yet closed completely after my father, President Kennedy, and his cabinet had entered the room. I managed to get inside and hide without being seen, curling up behind an unused desk in the corner. From that spot, I was able to clearly hear their entire conversation. It turned out to be a conversation I later wished I had never heard. Everyone was talking at once, and at first, it was hard for me to understand what the problem was. But as the conversation progressed, I started to realize the seriousness of the situation. The Soviet Union was building bases with launch pads in Cuba and supplying Cuba with nuclear missiles. This was within 100 miles of the Florida coast, and if these missiles were launched they were capable of striking large portions of the United States. It turned out that the Soviets had been working on constructing small nuclear warheads and hoped that by putting the missiles in Cuba they would be able to have persuasive power over the Chinese and eventually the United States.

The room was full of Members of the National Security Council along with other advisors to the President. As I listened Dean Rusk was speaking,

“Mr. President it is my educated suggestion that we hit Cuba with force, driving them back, aggressively destroying these missile bases. They are an eminent threat to the security of the United States”,

Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara was adamantly opposed to this idea, ‘Mr. President Violence is not the way to proceed, it will only antagonize the soviets and you know they are waiting for any opportunity to show the U.S. as a threat to world peace.

My father found himself in a crucial and potentially dangerous situation. As President, if he pushed the Soviets too hard, they could potentially form an alliance with other communist countries against America – or worse, start a world war. It was at this time that I started to realize the enormous responsibility that rests on the shoulders of my father. As I was contemplating everything I was hearing my father spoke,

“Gentleman, I find that all of these suggestions have merit, some of them being very bold, yet I am inclined to believe that a more diplomatic solution is our best recourse at this time”.

As the afternoon progressed, I went back and forth from being exhausted and afraid to shut my eyes. There were a lot of ideas being tossed around by everyone in the room, from military leaders who wanted an air strike to destroy the missile sites being constructed in Cuba, to those who wanted a diplomatic resolution. I realized as I listened to my father that he also wanted to avoid war at any cost. As the meeting began to finally wear down, it was decided that an air strike was not the way to go, “The president, … opted for a less risky response: a  naval quarantine” (Encyclopedia).

After everyone left, I waited for what seemed like a long time before leaving the room. I managed to get back to my room without being discovered, and I marked the day of October 16th in my memory. Though fear was a new feeling to me, I could not stop myself from continuing with my mission of knowing what was happening in my house.

Two days later, I heard some of the President’s cabinet talking about how the Soviet Ambassador, while speaking with my father, had denied any military intentions towards the United States.

Four days later, on October 22, the President told the nation about the crises that was taking place, and called on Khrushchev to pull back from “this clandestine, reckless, and provocative threat to world peace” (Encyclopedia).

For two days, I waited along with the world. We were anxious and a bit terrified of what would happen, and I found myself unable to sit still, so I decided to do some research on Cuba and its military capabilities. In my research, I found the Soviet Union had been backing and supplying Cuba for some time with military arms, “This included the arrival of sophisticated surface-to-air missile installations, bombers capable of carrying nuclear weapons, and thousands of Soviet technical experts” (The). The more I learned, the more uneasy I felt. The conflict was reaching a climax, and it could go either way.  I found myself not caring about going out with friends or schoolwork or any of the usual pastimes of a teenager.  Instead, all of a sudden I kept thinking about how much I wanted to live.  I was anxious, nervous, afraid and pretty much sick to my stomach all day every day.  This secret agent stuff was definitely not for me!

After searching for some time, I found a place in our private quarters where I could listen to my parents talk. Even though I was sick of spying, I had to know the outcome, and finally I was able to fill in some of the information I was missing.

“John, is the United States in real danger?”

“Jacqueline, there is no denying that this is a crisis for us, and how we respond will be vital, in the future other countries will want to produce nuclear missiles, and it is imperative we make it clear that the United States will not tolerate missile bases so close to our borders. The Soviets have broken the moratorium on nuclear testing, and apparently this has been going on for some time.  They have perfected a smaller warhead, and these are ready for deployment. We simply cannot ignore this situation, yet I want if possible to find a diplomatic solution, the US cannot afford a war at this time.”  Hearing this, I crept away leaving my parents to themselves.

Two days later, I discovered that Khrushchev had sent my father a message offering to withdraw the missiles in exchange for a U.S. pledge to never invade Cuba. Then, another message came a day later that demanded the United States withdraw their missiles from Turkey. This was an additional complication that my father felt they could not afford in this crisis situation. Listening to them, I realized that this was far above my understanding, and being exhausted from the fear and anxiety I was experiencing, I decided to leave any further spying until the next day.

I woke up a little later having slept until noon, and I started walking down the hall to my left. My parents were in a room with the door slightly cracked. My father was talking about how they had answered the first message received from Khrushchev and responded by agreeing that we would not invade Cuba.  Having responded so quickly to the first message and ignoring the second my father was counting on no further demands concerning the demand to withdraw U.S. missiles from Turkey. It was now October 28, 1962, fourteen days from the start of this crisis.

Later that afternoon, I found out that we had received confirmation from the Soviets that the Cuban bases would be dismantled in return for a no-invasion pledge from the United States.

War was averted at last!

I noticed immediately that everyone in the White House seemed more like their old selves, calm and even joking around.  This was very different from the tension of the last fifteen days.

So now that it’s all over, why don’t I feel better? Maybe it’s because for the first time in my life I have an awareness of how easy war can happen. It also brings to mind how important elections are.  Citizens need to be sure they are voting a person into the office of the presidency who can handle the stress and threats from other nations. I find myself being very proud of the way my father handled this crisis.

Works Cited

“Cuban Missile Crisis.”Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. History: War, Gale, 2009. Student Resources                 in Context, Web. 23 Mar. 2017.


Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc. “The Cold War Ed. Meredith Day. The Rosen Publishing

Group, Inc. New York, 2017.


“The Cuban Missile Crisis.”Gale Encyclopedia of U.S. History: Government and Politics, Gale,     2009. Student Resources in Context, Web. Accessed 23 Mar. 2017.



Benson, Sonia, et al. “Cuban Missile Crisis.”UXL Encyclopedia of U.S. History, vol. 2, UXL,

2009, pp. 411-413. Student Resources in Context.

Web. 5 Apr. 2017.


“The John F. Kennedy Administration.” Ed. Kelle S. Sisung and Gerda-Ann Raffaelle. Gale,

  1. Student Resources in Context,

Web.  4 Apr. 2017.