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At times there was a boyish bravado about Jack and Robert Kennedy. Here they are talking on the phone about an operation that Cuban exiles had run against a Soviet ship. (p. 673)


Book Excerpt
Audio Clip 12, p. 673

"They're not certain yet where the ship went from," Bobby said to the president enthusiastically over the phone in March 1963, "but they got the ammunition here in Alexandria."

"Virginia?" Kennedy asked, as he sat in the Oval Office talking to his brother about the operation that a Cuban exile group had just run against a Soviet ship.

"Yeah," Bobby replied enthusiastically. "and then they got a small boat with two outboards on the back. Went fifty-five miles an hour."

"Fifty-five miles an hour?" the president replied incredulously.

"Yeah," Bobby said definitively. "And then they got a little smaller boat put a small outboard on it, filled it with explosives, and ran up alongside the ship and started the outboard motor and ran it into the ship."

"And where'd they jump off?" Kennedy asked, impressed with the derring-do.

"Well, either that or they ran it off, see, from their own little bigger boat. There were five of them. So they had some guts."

The president and attorney general celebrated these acts of bravery against an evil foe, even if they concluded reluctantly that they might have to prosecute the Cubans. There remained a boyish bravado in both men, and an unwillingness to realize the immense danger in creating an international vigilantism in the waters off Florida. Russian ships were for the most part transporting food and medicine, not military goods, and were sailed by civilian crews who had not envisioned themselves as combatants in the cold war. The president at least always drew back from the precipice of action, held in check by the exigencies of power. Bobby, however, maintained his obsession; he stood so close to the problem that Cuba loomed monstrous in his mind, far out of proportion to its reality.