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Cuban Missile Crisis

John Simkin

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John Simkin, aged 16, apprentice bookbinder in a printing company in Barking, Essex.

At sixteen I had no interest in politics. However, I used to listen to the older men discussing political issues while we ate our sandwiches at lunch-time. In October, 1962, the men started talking about the conflict between John Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev over the issue of nuclear missiles being placed on the island of Cuba. One man, Bill Parrish, felt very strongly about these events and claimed it could mean the end of the world. He was a supporter of CND and the rest of us didn’t take his warnings very seriously. After all, he was a fervent football fan and his claims that West Ham would win the league had always been wrong (that year they had finished 8th).

I remember one cartoon at the time showing Kennedy and Khrushchev dressed as cowboys and facing each other as if they were about to take part in a gunfight. Kennedy, who looked like a film star, was wearing the white hat and was obviously going to win. Khrushchev looked old and overweight and appeared to pose no threat to our man. In 1962 the good guys always won in Hollywood films.

Kennedy did not look like a politician. Harold Macmillan, the British prime minister at the time, looked like my grandfather (he was 68 in 1962), whereas Kennedy looked like an older brother. We were surely safe in his hands.

It was no great surprise when newspapers and television stations broadcast details of our great victory. Once again Bill Parrish was forced to eat his words. However, West Ham did win the cup final in 1964. This was the year I began to take a keen interest in politics. It was not long afterwards that I discovered that Kennedy did not have a clear victory over Khrushchev. In fact a deal had been done. Three months after the Cuban Missile Crisis the United States secretly removed all its nuclear missiles from Turkey and Italy. Kennedy had also promised never to invade Cuba.

Later, much, much later, I discovered that in November, 1963, Kennedy was using a female reporter, Lisa Howard, to secretly negotiate “the normalisation of relations with Fidel Castro”. This was so secret that the CIA was not even told about these talks (although they knew as a result of bugging the telephone of William Attwood, an official at the UN and the link man between Howard and Kennedy). Not that these talks were ever concluded. Kennedy was assassinated on 22nd November, 1963. Howard continued her talks with Castro but Lyndon Johnson took CIA advice and broke off all contact with her. Howard, aged 35, was herself to die in suspicious circumstances on 4th July, 1965.

I visited Cuba in 1988 in order to research a book I was writing about the Cuban Missile Crisis. The United States was still maintaining its economic blockade of Cuba and I had to take the long journey via East Germany and Canada. The Cuban official at Havana airport, declined to stamp my passport as he claimed it would prevent me from entering the United States in future.

The Cuban people were extremely friendly. This was a time when English speaking visitors were a rarity. When people heard me speaking the English language they would come over and shake me by the hand and thank me for visiting their country. The only time I encountered any aggression was when a teenager mistook me for an American and I got a mouthful of abuse. In turn, an old man in his seventies, shouted at the boy in Spanish. He called the boy over and although I could not work out what he was saying the result was the boy walked off with his head bowed.

I have often wondered what the old man had said to the boy. Did he realise I was not American? I doubt it. I suspect he was just doing his bit to bring an end to the Cold War.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Yes, there sure was alot going on at that time. The missile crisis really scared the h-e-double-toothpicks out of alot of folks. Remember, people were building fall- out shelters in their backyards during the latter part of Eisenhower's last term in office. As children in elementary and high school, besides the requisite fire drill, we also went through air raid drills, where we had to sit under our desks at the sound of the siren, every Friday morning at 09:30.

I had always been an avid reader on all things Nuclear from the time I began to understand what happened at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. So, it always seemed insane, in my little mind, while participating in these drills, especially after having viewed the test films taken at Yucca Flats, NV and White Sands, NM, which were shown on TV every so often. Well, I just couldn't understand how the teachers and the Principal could think that by having us crouch under our desks, that we'd somehow be protected from a thermo-nuclear blast! I even knew, at the tender age of 9, that you needed to be at least 25 miles away, from what we now refer to as ground zero, in order to stand a chance of minimally surviving a bomb similar to the ones they were testing at Bikini Atoll, in the Pacific Ocean. And, they were talking about 100 Megatons, a much larger load than Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined.

I remember Kennedy questioning the reasoning behind this race to keep building these nuclear warheads, when "we already had enough to blow up the Earth seven times over". He wanted an end to Above Ground Testing because he stated that he had children to raise, and didn't appreciate the idea of fall-out raining down on their heads into perpetuity. He may have been a Cold Warrior, by some peoples' standards, but he realized the ramifications of unbridled atmospheric testing. His misgivings about it, surely didn't help him to win friends and influence people in the MIC. Therefore, when this Cuban Missile Crisis took place we took it very seriously. Though, I was not surprised to find out that Kennedy was planning on opening communications with Castro after this happened initially, because of Kennedy's concerns regarding the future generations of this planet. And, even though the propaganda mills liked to play up the differences between Kennedy and Kruschev, little mention did they make of the "red phone" set up between Moscow and D.C., and then, only after the fact. And, throughout his tenure as leader of the U.S.S.R., Premiere Kruschev made Kennedy's speech to the commencement class at the American University in June 1963, a mandatory requirement for the political science classes in Russia's universities. This, I recognized as an "olive branch" being extended by the Soviet Premiere to Kennedy, and I feel that had JFK been allowed to enter a second term as President of the United States, we would have seen an end to the Vietnam conflict, the end of the Federal Reserve Bank and its strangle-hold on America's middle and poorer classes, and the re-structuring of the intelligence community, as well as the Military Industrial Complex, Eisenhower had warned Kennedy about. But, what's really dismaying about the whole thing is how the upper 5 percent have been allowed to take over our government through the aiding and abetting of the major entertainment and news media services and outlets, who've been allowed to participate in the largest scaled psy-ops ever perpetrated on a mass of humanity, in history. And, the irony of it is, the majority of folks don't even realize what has happened, nor what continues to happen on a daily basis, through their own televisions via cable, or the commercial airwaves.

"Who'd have thunk it?" Straight out of George Orwell.

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Kennedy, who talked the conventional Cold War-Soviet menace talk when he had to before the election, but who, after the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile Crisis, went off the rails as far as the military-industrial complex was concerned. He did a deal with Kruschev and promised to leave Cuba alone; he began trying to wind down the ClA's army of anti-Castro Cubans; he signed the Test Ban Treaty; he was preparing to allow the Italian Communist Party into a coalition government; he was planning to cut US defence spending abroad to reduce the US balance of payments deficit; and wanted to begin pulling the US out of Vietnam. These are not the actions of a Cold Warrior. The Cuban Missile Crisis had scared the politicians involved in it.

In a sense the debate about who Kennedy was is easily solved: there were two Kennedys. The Cold Warrior Kennedy who got elected changed - or dropped his conservative cover - after the Cuban missile crisis and became a liberal Democrat.

Perhaps most significant of all, Kennedy wanted out of the then rapidly expanding war in Vietnam. The military-industrial-intelligence complex and the political right saw retreat in the Caribbean followed by the prospect of retreat in the Far East. The military-industrial complex wanted the Vietnam war as part of what they saw as the ongoing Cold War struggle with communism: it was just a bonus that, in pursuing the war, they stood to make a lot of money and have good careers. Whether or not we try to locate the assassination conspiracy in this milieu, and many of the researchers do, Kennedy was going up against the military-industrial complex on almost all fronts - the forces his predecessor had warned against. When the scale of what Kennedy was thinking of doing is understood it is very tempting to see it as Kennedy stepping too far out of line and the system getting rid of him.

Extract from Who Shot JFK (2002)


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That may have all been well and good for that article to state, but what the M.I.C. forgot about was "We the people...", in their arrogant assumption that WE wanted to be in somebody else's damned war. I remember my fiance, who had just completed his aviation mechanics school, getting his "Greetings" from the draft board. He opted to join the Navy, instead. But, what I couldn't understand was, where this place called Laos was, and when did they attack us? Why did our guys have to go over to a place nobody'd ever heard of, especially if they hadn't openly attacked the U.S., or any U.S. territories. In my eighteen year old mind, it would have had to have been something on the scale of a Pearl Harbor for them to be sending our guys over there to fight. I guess what I'm trying to say is when my generation came of age, we had been promised a world where we wouldn't have to go through what our fathers did in WW II, yet we still had to grow up with the Hydrogen and Atomic bombs hanging over our heads, and Sputnik spying down on us. Now, I can only speak for myself when I say that I was pretty damned fed up with all this talk of war, let alone the thought of losing my brothers, friends, and fiance over some rice paddy I couldn't hardly find on a map. And, when I did finally locate it, I figured it had already belonged to the Soviets, anyway. After reading about it, and finding out that it had really been a colony of France for 200 years, I thought they should be given their freedom to do what they wanted, and if it meant going with Russia or China, so what! If the French couldn't take care of it, maybe the folks over there didn't want to be taken care of by them, either. So be it. I was very young and idealistic. But, I knew Kennedy had our better interests at heart and figured it would all be taken care of by Christmas, it seemed like such waste of time that I truly believed it wouldn't amount to another WW II. Then, when they killed him, like a sitting duck, and then tried to pass off that poor excuse of a single bullet six months later, I knew our own government was lying to us. And, when they told us they were going to "escalate", the war in what they now referred to as Viet Nam, I never regained faith in any leader, or any sorry excuse for a leader, they'd attempt to placate us with, ever again. Why? Because they lied to us then, and they continue to lie to us now, forty years after the fact.

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  • 19 years later...

 Because they lied to us then, and they continue to lie to us now, forty years after the fact.

On 6/9/2004 at 4:39 AM, Terry Mauro said:

 I never regained faith in any leader, or any sorry excuse for a leader, they'd attempt to placate us with, ever again. Why? Because they lied to us then, and they continue to lie to us now, forty years after the fact.




Now, after Kissinger has  departed I can publich my letter written when I heard the Curator has died. The letters are from 2020. At that time i did not grasp why Kissinger needed this prrecautionary method (the Curating - and sending the money to the Pope to avoid a public process.)

First i askd the Brandeis archive where my Uncle has worked earlier: 

Dear  Vatican Archives Curator!



We at Brandeis University have a former Professor, Paul Kecskeméti, an Advisor to Presidents of the USA between 1944 and 65  - he  left his Library (according to his Will from 1980) to our Library. His Will's  Curator, Mrs. Judith Bretan –Le Bovit who passed away a few years ago . in 2018m age 98 -  decided to send part of his legacy,  to the Vatican Archive  (in memory of his Catholic father, Nicolai Bretan, the composer.)


They did not get any answer.


Then i asked some RAbbis - from the Lubavitchers as the Curator was buried by them.

Estimated Vatican Archives Director!


At Chabad Lubavits Budapest, we have a Vice Rabbi working in our Senior Home whose 98 years old Great Aunt, Mrs Judith Bretan – Le Bovits departed 2 years ago and left her legacy to the Vatican Archives, among them the inheeritance  of an Uncle, Professor Paul Kecskeméti, who was a foreign policy advisor of US Presidents from Roosevelt to Johnson at the Pentagon and the RAND Corp together with Mr Kissinger who organized the Curatorship for assuring that no high level state secrets might become public.


Sincerely yours,

leading rabbi of Chabad Budapest /EMIH – M.Zs.Sz./


No answer came.

Now, another 4 years later,   the situation has changed.

But I do see that it is impossible to get any kind of rehabilitiation from the Vatican.

Like giving a symbolic gift to a Jewish institution (like to a Senior Home where I  do work.)


But i think this is a  story that has this Cold War - Cuban Crisis roots even today. 

of course we must just give it up.

Edited by Geo Kozma
I left out the personal side of the story
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