O'Donnell was present at some ExComm meetings, but he did not have the central role portrayed in the movie. Robert Kennedy's own account of the Crisis, Thirteen Days, barely mentions O'Donnell. Robert Kennedy (Attorney General) and Robert Lovett were the close personal advisors used by JFK during the crisis.
According to transcripts of the meeting from the John F. Kennedy presidential library, Taylor did not take such an aggressive position (although he did support airstrikes).
McGeorge Bundy, Special Assistant to the President, was the one to raise this issue; O'Donnell was not present.
General Taylor's actual statement was "The best we can offer you is to destroy 90% of the known missiles." (emphasis added) This is in the context of a discussion where it was stated that probably only 90% of the missiles had been located.
Most of the congressional leaders did support Kennedy at this meeting, although there was a minority faction that criticized his handling of the situation.
It is both implausible and insulting to suggest that this could occur. Military pilots are personally responsible for their aircraft and cannot falsify the nature of damage incurred on a mission. The number of ground crew members involved in repairing such damage makes such a cover-up exceedingly difficult. Several pilots are on record as having followed procedure and reported being fired upon.
The U.S. did not conduct any tests of thermonuclear weapons from 19 October to 26 October. The closest test to the date here was an 8.3 megaton test by the U.S.S.R. in Novaya Zemlya. The U.S. conducted the following tests at Johnston Island during the period of this movie: 1.6 mt on 18 Oct., 6 kt on 20 Oct., 300 kt on 26 Oct., 800 kt on 27 Oct., and 8.3 mt on 30 Oct. The U.S.S.R. conducted 6 tests in Kazakstan and 4 tests in Novaya Zemlya (the largest being the one above).
Soviet nuclear-armed FROGs, a battlefield nuclear weapon, were indeed in Cuba during the Crisis. However, U.S. leaders apparently did not discuss their presence until 29 October, and they did not know for sure that they were nuclear armed until 1992. During the Tripartite Conference over the Crisis of October, 1962, a conference involving leaders from both superpowers, the U.S. team was stunned by this revelation from Soviet participants.
This meeting did take place at the Justice Department. (Note: an earlier version of this page erroneously reported the movie depicted an incorrect location for the meeting; the movie is correct, as pointed out by a reader.)
© 2002, 2003 by Wm. Robert Johnston.
Last modified 25 February 2003.
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