ADVANTAGES

Dobbs gives relatively short shrift to that first week, covering it in only 54 pages. His focus — extending over almost half the book — is Oct. 27, “Black Saturday,” the darkest day of the cold war. On that day a Soviet missile team in Cuba shot down a U-2, killing its pilot; the Joint Chiefs of Staff recommended immediate military retaliation; Castro sent Khrushchev a wildly emotional letter saying that he was facing an imminent American invasion, and Khrushchev sent a second letter to Kennedy, far tougher than an earlier one. That night men in Washington went to sleep not knowing (as Dean Rusk told me later) if they would awake in the morning, and wives debated whether to stay in Washington with their husbands or go to safer rural hideaways. (Almost all stayed, including Jackie Kennedy.)

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