Thirteen Days

An inside look at the Cuban Missile Crisis

On Wednesday, 7 March, the United Nations Dag Hammarksjöld Library Auditorium was filled to capacity for a screening of the critically acclaimed film “Thirteen Days”. From inside the White House, it retells the story of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, a critical period during the cold war when the two superpowers stood at the brink of a nuclear exchange. The film is tense with the high-stake drama that unfolded, leaving tDDAy’s viewer perplexed as to how we ever got ourselves into such a dangerous situation.

Yet the highpoint of the evening came at the end of the film. Theodore C. Sorensen, a young special adviser to President Kennedy at the time who appears prominently in the film, gave some of his personal thoughts on his own “thirteen days” at the President’s side. It is sobering that he thought the film was not overdramatized. He was glad that a star vehicle had been found for Kevin Costner, even though the character he played was a bit player in the real events. Stars attract attention. The matter of nuclear confrontation was serious. There were lessons to be learned tDDAy.

Peter Almond, one of the producers of the film, explained to the crowd of ambassadors, delegates, staff members, press and a handful of lawyers from the American Bar Association, that the film’s production wasn’t timed to coincide with the debate over the United States plans for a national missile defence, but that its release was a serendipitous opportunity to provoke discussion on the current dangers of the nuclear arms race.

The interview with Mr. Sorensen was moderated by Jonathan Granoff of Lawyers Alliance for World Security (LAWS) and Global Security Institute (GSI), which organized the event. Together with other material relating to the missile crisis, the interview will accompany the release of “Thirteen Days” on DVD and video later in the year.

Mr. Sorensen, visibly pleased to be at the United Nations where some of the events of the Cuban Missile Crisis unfolded, noted that if the 1962 confrontation had not been resolved those present in the Library Auditorium would not be gathered to reflect upon it.