The Cuban Missile Crisis: World Saved by the Soviets, Says Oliver Stone

Larry Schweikart, co-author of "A Patriot's History of the United States" and "A Patriot's History of the Modern World" is a professor of history at the University of Dayton and the co-producer of the documentary "Rockin' the Wall."


Editor’s note: The following is the sixth installment of a series of articles Frontpage is running in response to Oliver Stone’s neo-Communist documentary series, “The Untold History of the United States.” Frontpage will be reviewing each episode of the Stone series, exposing the leftist hateful lies about America and setting the record straight. Below is a review of Part 6 of the series.

Perhaps at one time Oliver Stone was considered a great director. If that was the case, it ceased to be true after such doozies such as “Alexander,” “World Trade Center,” and even “Savages” (which looked like a Michael Bay film sans explosions). At any rate, he has now become a documentarian, pursuing a Howard Zinn-type bash-America series called “The Untold History of the United States.” (It should be obvious that the reason it is “untold” is that it’s pure fiction.) Predictably, the series applies a far-left spin to history, and it is here where Stone is at his most clever, because he uses just enough truth to convince people to buy his counterfeit depiction of America’s past.

In Episode 6, “JFK to the Brink,” Stone has a difficult problem: he had to make JFK and Khrushchev both look good after first portraying Kennedy as, for the most part, a war monger. Astoundingly—but not surprisingly—Stone paints as the hero of the Cuban Missile Crisis a KGB agent stationed on a Soviet sub who convinced the captain not to fire his missiles while being depth charged by the Americans. Anyone who knows the first thing about submarines understands that to fire missiles a sub has to ascend to within 100 feet of the surface (or a missile will not clear its tube) and if it gets that close it is fully visible to anti-submarine warfare sonars and aircraft. In short, the captain didn’t ascend to launch because he would have been sunk before he got a single missile launched.

But I digress: Stone describes a John Kennedy who at the same time was cowed by the “older” Joint Chiefs of Staff (always making sure to note that they were older), while at the same time portraying him as a rugged individualist who resisted pressure from his entire cabinet, the CIA, and the military. While it is absolutely true that JFK, on occasion, thought the Joint Chiefs were too aggressive, it is also undeniable that Kennedy was a typical Cold Warrior who ran to Nixon’s right on a fictitious “missile gap.” Here, again, Stone simply lies: Kennedy knew full well that there was no “missile gap” as he had been briefed by Eisenhower, and if he didn’t know it prior to November 1960, he certainly knew it within weeks, due to the requisite briefing by the incumbent president to the new occupant of the Oval Office (contrary to Stone’s claim that “it took three weeks” for Kennedy, after assuming the presidency in January, to learn the truth about the U.S. and Soviet arsenals). Employing cheap-looking graphics, Stone claims that the U.S. had massive advantages in bombs, bombers, nuclear weapons, subs, and other strategic assets. But he cleverly conflates warheads, which, yes, we had plenty of, with launchers and delivery systems, where we were much closer to parity with the Soviets. This became a standard mantra of the peace movement from the 1960s on, claiming (correctly) that we had enough nuclear weapons to destroy the world many times over, but failing to discern the difference between warheads in a secure facility and actual launchers.

Although Stone briefly reviews the history of the Iron Curtain and Berlin, he never addresses the most fundamental question of why so many people fled for their lives from collectivism, and he fails to mention that JFK was humiliated in negotiations with Khrushchev in Vienna. Surprisingly, Stone gets almost correct the number of “advisors” the U.S. had in Vietnam in 1963, but perpetuates the “myth of the 1,000″—the American engineering battalions pulled out when their construction work was finished—and cites this as evidence that Kennedy planned to withdraw from Vietnam after he was reelected. Contrary to Stone, JFK had little to do with Laos. The issue was settled by Eisenhower when Ike recognized the situation was already almost hopeless.

Standing center stage of the one-hour program is the Cuban Missile Crisis. Contrary to Stone, the “Cubans” did not have tactical nuclear weapons, but rather the Russians had stationed tactical nuclear weapons there. While the risk was still extreme, the Soviets not only kept the weapons secret, but carefully secured them from the Cubans. Nevertheless, the entire Missile Crisis episode is riddled with errors. A B-52 is shown while Stone’s narrative discusses a U-2 spy plane. Stone’s claim that JFK was reversing course in Cuba completely ignores the fact that his brother, Bobby, was running a plan with the CIA and Juan Almeida, the commander of Cuba’s army, to assassinate Castro. This was, it is argued by Lamar Waldron, the reason Bobby’s hands were tied in the Kennedy assassination investigation—it would have exposed his, and his brother’s, coup attempts in process at the moment Kennedy was killed (see Waldron, Legacy of Secrecy, 2009). Indeed, JFK had no change of heart regarding Cuba. He only wanted the coup to be clean, and without American fingerprints. Stone cites Operation Mongoose—which Kennedy approved—as a comical attempt to kill Castro, but never mentions the Almeida coup plans.

In Stone’s analysis, the erection of the Berlin Wall prevented war, and he quoted Kennedy, “better a wall than a war.” Of course, there didn’t have to be either. Throughout, Khrushchev appears insightful, heroic, and steadfast while Kennedy is confused, inconsistent, and entirely maneuvered by the Soviets. A nuclear holocaust was averted, Stone claimed, when an American destroyer was depth-charging a Soviet strategic missile sub, and even thought the captain wanted to follow his orders and launch his missiles, a wise and compassionate KGB agent on board persuaded him not to fire.

Much of Stone’s analysis is generational. Concluding the program with Kennedy’s inaugural, in which he claimed the torch had been passed to a new generation, Stone claims that with JFK’s death the torch went right back to the “old generation” that included Johnson, Nixon, and . . . Reagan. Yet McNamara, the architect of much of the Vietnam disaster, was only one year older than JFK; Nixon, only four years older. Kennedy’s massive character flaws receive one scant sentence, while his military career is described in the most glowing terms (ignoring the fact that as an officer he was entirely derelict in his duty and should have been court-martialed for the PT-109 incident).

Repeatedly Stone pits Kennedy against the military and the CIA, yet glosses over JFK’s own secret war in Laos, and if Kennedy indeed wanted to “splinter the CIA into a thousand pieces,” his attitude seems to have quickly changed because in November 1961 he expressed his gratitude for the “services” and “successes” of the Agency, and in January he wrote director John McCone to express his “deep admiration for [the Agency’s] achievements.” Yet again, in October, just a month before his death, Kennedy said, “I can find nothing, and I have looked through the record very carefully over the last nine months . . .  to indicate that the CIA has done anything but support policy. . . .”

When it came to JFK in Vietnam, not only does Stone sidestep Kennedy’s buildup there, but he exonerates JFK from any responsibility for Ngo Dien Diem’s death. The position, of course, is preposterous: both Kennedys knew exactly what a Third World coup involved, and certainly the overthrow of Rafael Trujillo in May 1961 provided a roadmap as to what happened in such coups. (There is some speculation that the CIA, under Kennedy’s orders, was involved in Trujillo’s death as well.) And Stone doesn’t mention that Kennedy contemplated nuking Red China if another war with India broke out—hardly the musings of a pacifist resisting the warmongering JCS.

Stylistically, Stone uses images almost exclusively, with his own robotic narration. On occasion, however, he employs voice-overs of Russian-accented actors to “speak” for Khrushchev and a voice-over of General Curtis LeMay. There is a single (poor) animation, no on-camera interviews—just Stone’s monotonous voice and imagery. And all of the Castro shots show a laughing, cheerful leader with happy people celebrating their slavery. But Nixon, the members of the military, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the CIA are routinely depicted as villainous, dark, nefarious, and angry. Stone’s narration and documentary style is, fortunately, the silver lining for the rest of us. Few will be able to stay awake during this snoozer, especially younger viewers, and therefore they won’t be subjected to Stone’s erroneous facts or his absurd revisionist  fantasy. One would learn more about American history and Cuban relations during this era from the Starz original series “Magic City.”

Related articles on Stone’s series:

1. Bruce Thornton’s introduction to this Frontpage series.

2. David Horowitz’s analysis of the meaning behind the warm reception of Stone’s Kremlin propaganda.

3. Matthew Vadum’s review of Stone’s first episode.

4. Daniel Flynn’s review of “Roosevelt, Truman and Wallace,” the second episode.

5. Daniel Greenfield’s review of “The Bomb,” the third episode.

6. Bruce Thornton’s review of “The Cold War: 1945-1950,” the 4th episode.

7. Matthew Vadum’s review of “The 50s: Eisenhower, The Bomb & The Third World,” the 5th episode.

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  • UCSPanther

    The reason Khrushchev backed down over Cuba was he wisely knew that nothing could be gained by sparking a nuclear war, especially over something as small as Cuba.

    Khrushchev was just as aggressive as Stalin, but he was sneakier, preferring to use the KGB to alter the world political landscape through disinformation, assassination, coups, sabotage and other covert means, rather than the overt aggression that Stalin favored.

    Maybe some day we will get a clear look at the archives of the KGB and their activities at that time, and I shudder to think about things that they were even planning. Much of the stuff they did made some of the worst things the CIA did look like child's play in comparison…

    • reader

      The GRU defector Viktor Suvorov (AKA Vladimir Rezun) has recently published the book "Kuzkina Mat'" in Russian. He claims that Khrushchev tried to push NATO from West Berlin (and West Germany altogether) by showcasing space program successes- and thus implying nuclear superiority. Suvorov claims that the Soviet military brass, however, new that the USSR was inferior to NATO in delivery capabilities, and they conspired to leak all the pertinent information to the British and the US via GRU Colonel Penkovsky, who would be tried and executed for spying. According to Suvorov, this is how the Americans were tipped off about Cuban missile deployment and how they were assured about having the upper hand in the stand-off.

    • Snow White

      What happeend to the report that Bobby Kennedy appeared in Russian Ambassador Dobrinin's office and "openly wept while telling Dobrinnin that the Joint Chiefs of Staff had given his brother 48 ours to get those missiles out of Cuba or we would have a military coup in this country." Krushchev decided he woull rather deal with kennedy than Gen. Curtis LeMay who was chairman of the joints chierfs of Staff. LeMay may be remebered as the author of having nuclear armed planes in the air 14/7 to deter the Soviets from making a first strike against the US. As soon as the situation cooled down Kennedy fired Gen LeMay as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of staff. This is Krushchev's version of hat really happened.

      • reader

        There are numerous accounts – particularly from the KGB type – about Khrushchev absolutely hating JFK and calling him nothing but "pig" when not in public:
        http://www.amazon.com/Programmed-Kill-Harvey-Kenn

        By the way, in this book, the former chief of the Romanian DIE Lt. General Ion Pacepa claims that Stone's story line in JFK almost entirely matches the disinformation campaign DIE conducted on orders by PGU KGB General Sakharovsky in the wake of the Kennedy assassination.

  • http://www.adinakutnicki.com AdinaK

    Historicism, the bane of western civilization. Indeed, this is precisely why the western academy, which is supposed to teach history, is such a cesspool. In tandem, many of the "leading lights" in Hollyweird are part and parcel of this revised genre. Not only that, but their hatred of America, and their love of tyrants, is beyond the pale, a residual effect of historicism.

    In any case, this topic is duly explored herein – http://adinakutnicki.com/2012/08/21/the-paradox-p

    It is through the academy that the good guys and bad guys get switched, Hollyweird-style. Cause and effect.

    Adina kutnicki, Israel – http://adinakutnicki.com/about/

  • Mary Sue

    He SHOULD have nuked Red China! Tibet probably would have been free after that!

  • poptoy1949

    I thank you for this article. I had no idea that Oliver had gone off the deep end. It seems he has some sort of Mental illness.

    • reader

      " I had no idea that Oliver had gone off the deep end."

      Really? The light has just turned up this morning?

  • Capt_Z1

    Oliver Stone "American Piece os S**t"

  • WilliamJamesWard

    Twisted Oliver has been stoned to long, unfortunately todays youth are not given real history
    to study but leftist propaganda as our educational system is in the left's hands that are
    wraped around the throat of truth. In a real America where historical truth would be closely
    guarded for posterity, History teachers would excoriate Stone but we see nothing of the
    sort, he should be being burned in effigy on every Campus in the Nation, he is a false
    teacher and must be branded as such………………….William

  • FPF

    Olive Stone the history twister (i.e. lier) forgot to mention Cuba and Castro, that will make Castro very mad and Stone's VIP status in Cuba will be revoked.

  • JacksonPearson

    Communist Oliver Stone, is exactly the reverse of what was once a proud and patriotic Hollywood. How or why this has changed since WWII is still mystifying. No Stone-head, the former soviet union did everything to cause the Cuban missile crisis. The very name "Cuban missile crisis" should have been your first clue, of why the Russians came over to this side of the world to plant medium range missiles pointed at the United States.

    The second clue, should be your obvious ignorance of attempting to rewrite history for profit, of which exposes you of being a person with low moral values, plus zero patriotism to American values

    Lastly azzhole, I'll never spend a dime ever again on one of your FUBAR vision of film making

  • BLJ

    Stone is an idiot. I notice how he fails to mention that the Castro brothers were pushing the Soviets to use nukes against America. He also fails to mention how JFK agreed to remove Jupiter missiles in Turkey.

    The Kennedy brothers had a plan in place to remove Castro that was set to go in December 1963. I think Castro got JFK first. Oliver Stone should move to Cuba so he can be the Castro brothers cabana boy.

  • "gunner"

    i've never seen an oliver stone movie, no problem, i can find plenty of his work in any pasture where male cattle are kept.

  • Ghostwriter

    I have seen this program a whole lot. I don't think I like it.

  • Catfitz55

    I'm glad you took on Oliver Stone. I've been shocked to see what legs this revisionist — fabricated? — story has gotten.

    I'm the translator of the memoirs of Gen. Gribkov, Operation Anadyr, which you can find on Amazon; the CIA history page also contains summaries of it. Gen. Gribkov was the Soviet general in charge of this operation, known as "Anadyr" to the Soviets. In the Yeltsin era, when files were opened and glasnost became much more real than it was under Gorbachev, Gribkov released his memoirs in which he described in great detail how the Soviets resorted to great subterfuge to get those tactical nuclear missiles shipped as "agricultural equipment" and to get them into Cuba, dealing with all kinds of logistical difficulties, including irate Cuban farmers whose roads they chewed up with big vehicles. There were sealed KGB orders on that ship which they could not open until they were at sea.

    Gribkov had ever opportunity to tell a story like this about some "brave submarine captain". He didn't. That's because either he didn't exist, or Stone has misinterpreted the story to skew it toward his own pro-Soviet and anti-American ideology. In fact, the story needs to be checked line by line and compared with other credible accounts because from everything I recall about this story, the nukes were on the large ships, not in submarines, and they were delivered and deployed on Cuban territory — but the heads were kept separated from the bodies, awaiting instructions from Khrushchev.

    Even if we can show Russian nuclear submarines on this scene, a submarine captain wouldn't disobey orders, and he wouldn't unilaterally on his own fire a nuclear missile without orders from Moscow directly — it just wouldn't happen in that rigid command-and-control system. If anything, if there was a disagreement about orders, that "brave officer" Stone invokes in fact could have been merely a servile functionary wanting to make sure Moscow gave permission rather than to get in trouble with his superiors. The Soviet definition of innovation was "how to fulfill orders more fully" — not how to disobey them.

    But I don't think the story happened as he claimed, because Gribkov would have mentioned it.

  • Robert Brown

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  • SCREW SOCIALISM

    BOYCOTT any movie, project that stone is involved with.

    Vote with your dollars.

  • scum

    Actually, there was a fierce debate on the Soviet sub over whether or not to fire. Fact.

    • reader

      Fact? Really. At the time, the Soviet Navy had 3 active nuclear subs and 19 diesel subs, all of which could only fire from a short distance from the US coast. All of them had to rise to the surface and arm their missiles for 15-20 minutes. None of the diesel subs was even in the area at the time of the crisis. And none of the nuclear subs could rise to the surface at the US coast undetected. But, why would you and Stone and other drones have any doubt about the fierce debate? Don't let reason to get on the way of your convictions, scum.

  • I’m Having a…

    Maybe Oliver is just stoned. Coked to the eyeballs. He wouldn’t be the first Leftie ball-licker. Mike Moore is another. Cretins such as those need a good history lesson. Hey, Ollie and Mikey, read any books lately? Ever?

    Okay, you arse clowns, how about a bit of balance here. Do a documentary on the rape and murder of East Prussia by the Red Army in 1945. Will you do that? Nah! I didn’t think so.

  • Hokma

    Much of the Cuban Missile Crisis as not told or taught. I think it was because of the imagery of JFK back then.

    We had stationed missiles in Italy and Turkey directed toward the USSR. Krushchev's response as to to try and secretly place missiles in Cuba. In the process the U.S. discovered the launching locations and that is how their existence came to light.

    JFK's NS advisers and the Joint Chiefs provided him a list of options from which he selected a combination of to options. He would "quarantine" (that was the term used because "blockade" was regarded as an act of war) while also using aggressive back door diplomacy.

    The result was that the Soviets would have to withdraw the missiles which they did. That is what the world saw and the news primarily reported.

    The other parts of the agreement not built up were that the U.S. would withdraw those missiles in Italy and Turkey (which was done) and agree never to invade Cuba or do anything to overthrow Castro.

    One point of disagreement. At the height of tensions, Castro did have control of the missiles and as going to use it if the U.S. attempted to launch an attack on Cuba. The Soviets were not the biggest threat then – it as Castro which at the time JFK was unaware of.

    Because of the agreement not to invade, there was never any motive for Castro to conspire to assassinate JFK. I think RFK Jr.'s admission that it was the mafia is what the family has always known.