Sunday, September 22, 2013

Kennedy's Last Days and the Cuban Missile Crisis

There are two books that have recently come out for young adults depicting the last days of John F. Kennedy, and I thought I'd discuss them here.  The first is Kennedy’s Last Days: The Assassination That Defined a Generation by Bill O’Reilly, and the second is The Armageddon Letters: Kennedy/Khruschchev/Castro in the Cuban Missile Crisis by James Blight and janet Lang.  

Kennedy’s Last Days: The Assassination That Defined a Generation is told in a first-person perspective with accompanying photos, maps, and reproductions of historical events that shaped Kennedy as a hero and leader and that document events leading to the assassination.

Kennedy’s Last Days is broken into four parts.
  • The Making of a Hero” begins with a cultural perspective of the 1960’s and the role it played in creating “JFK the hero” and of “JFK the leader.” [PERSONAL NOTE: This is one of my favorite parts - it is a wonderful reflective look at the 1960's]. It then details Kennedy’s role in World War II saving his PT boat crew when their ship was destroyed in the Pacific by a Japanese destroyer, and later as his budding political role as a young Congressman from Massachusetts.  While documenting Kennedy’s role in World War II, O’Reilly briefly compares Kennedy’s heroic actions to that of Oswald who defected to the Soviet Union in the late 1950’s.
  • The Making of a Leader” begins with the newly elected President Kennedy and the critical events that shaped this young leader.  O’Reilly describes the Bay of Pigs, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the war in Vietnam, and the rise of the Civil Rights Movement and Martin Luther King.
  • Dallas, Texas – November 1963” takes the reader through the last days of Kennedy’s life from the planning of his tour through Dallas to his tragic death.  Oswald’s actions are described in these last days as are Kennedy’s. 
  • The Making of a Legend” describe the aftermath of his assassination from his funeral to the country’s reactions and the numerous institutions and initiatives that were founded upon his death.
This is a wonderful book for middle school students as it not gives them a wonderful sense of the man, the hero, the leader, and of the times that shaped him.

The Armageddon Letters, can be used for advanced middle school readers, high school and college (please see a previous post for more details: what I plan to do here is give a brief overview and discuss how they might be used together.

The Armageddon Letters is a trans-media project launched in 2012 on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis. It incorporates multi-media storytelling format incorporating a comic, a dramatic rendering, text, and the actual letters exchanged between the leaders during the October 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.
There are links on its web site,, allowing visitors to view the graphic novel chapters found in The Armageddon Letters book, its ongoing blog, and links to the following "short films" they've created:
  • Who Cares about the Cuban Missile Crisis
  • Welcome to the Armageddon Letters
  • Be Castro
  • Be Khrushchev
  • Be Kennedy
So even if you are dealing with younger and/or less skilled readers, can have them:
  • Visit the link so they can interact with Castro, Khrushchev and Kennedy;
  • Read and re-enact the opening acts and scenes of the book introducing the more complicated text and letters ; and/or
  • Read through the comic renderings of the content, found before the dramatic rendering of the material.
 As always, thank you for your visit.  
Please leave your reactions in the comments below.


  1. I'll have to add this as a link to my 11/22/13 post

  2. I remember sitting with my parents during the Crisis and realizing that they were very frightened!

    abcw team

  3. I remember so well the Cuban Crisis - I was expecting our youngest daughter and the fear of missiles even here in the Similkameen was quite real. I talked to my doctor about alternatives for the birth if circumstances forced us out of our home, and imagined a cave in the hills!!!!!

    1. Thank you for this terrific post.I remember the day of K's assassination as if it happened yesterday.
      Thanks for your kind comment.

  4. I've been contemplating buying the one by Bill O'Reilly, I read his Killing Lincoln and really enjoyed it. My generation will never erase those memories of the time. I remember my parents talking about the Cuban Missle Crisis. I was in my Sophomore year, setting in my theater class when the news came over the loud speaker of President Kennedy's assignation. I will never forget the pictures of the horse driven carriage and Jackie walking in front of the carriage.