Thirteen Days (film)

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Thirteen Days is a 2000 film about the handling of the two-week Cuban missile crisis in October of 1962 by President John F. Kennedy.

Directed by Roger Donaldson. Written by David Self.
You'll Never Believe How Close We Came.

President John F. Kennedy

  • I am the commander in chief of the United States, and I say when we go to war!
  • Bobby, you go and make them understand. Tell them that we have to have an answer tomorrow... because on Monday, we go to war.
  • I'll tell you one thing, Kenny. Those brass hats have one big advantage. That is, if we do what they want us to do, there's none of us gonna be alive to tell them they were wrong.
  • If one of those ships resists inspection, and we shoot out its rudder, and board it... they shoot down one of our planes, in response. So we bomb their anti-aircraft sites, in response to that... they attack Berlin. So we invade Cuba. And they fire their rockets. And we fire ours.
  • God damn it! How the god damn hell could this happen? I'm gonna have Powell's head on a platter. Next to LeMay's. Kenny, you hear me give the order to go to defcon 2? 'cos I remember giving the order to go to defcon 3 but er, y'know I must be suffering from amnesia!
  • You know, there's something immoral about abandoning your own judgement.

Robert F. Kennedy

  • Jack, I'm as conniving as they come, but a sneak attack is just wrong.
  • We've got a bunch of smart guys. We lock 'em in a room and kick 'em in the ass until they come up with some solutions!
  • I don't care how crazy, inadequate or stupid it sounds. Give it to me.

Robert McNamara

  • This is not a blockade. This is language. A new vocabulary, the likes of which the world has never seen! This is President Kennedy communicating with Secretary Khrushchev!
  • We're heading out to the backyard to take a look for that 'big Red dog'!
  • We'd look pretty bad shooting up a freighter full of baby food.

Kenny O'Donnell

  • [about the Joint Chiefs of Staff] They want a war, Jack, and they're arranging things to get one.
  • Communicate with the Soviets? We can't even communicate with the Pentagon. And they're just across the goddamn river.
  • Call me Irish, but I don't believe in cooler heads prevailing.
  • They look warlike? Jesus Christ, we're lighting off nuclear weapons like its our own private Fourth of July!
  • [about journalist who says Ortsac - Castro spelt backwards - is a military action] Kinda simple for the Pentagon.
  • I'll whistle up some luck for you.
  • The sun came up. Every day the sun comes up says something about us.
  • What's the matter with you? Forget how to open a car door? Jesus, you rich people.
  • If the sun comes up tomorrow, it is only because of men of good will. And that's... That's all there is between us and the devil.

General Curtis LeMay

  • Those goddamn Kennedys are gonna destroy this country if we don't do something about this!
  • The 'big Red dog' is diggin' in our backyard, and we are justified in shooting him!
  • Mr. President, you give me the order right now, my planes will be ready to carry out the air strikes in three days time. All you gotta do is say "go," and my boys will get those Red bastards.

Adlai Stevenson

  • I'm an old political cat, Kenny, but I've got one life left.
  • You are in the courtroom of world opinion and you can answer yes or no.
  • [to Ambassador Zorin] I want to ask you one simple question Mr Ambassador. Do you deny that the Soviet Union has placed and is placing missiles in Cuba? Don't wait for the translation, yes or no?
  • [asking the Russian ambassador if there are any Soviet missile bases in Cuba] Sir, I am prepared to wait for your answer till Hell freezes over, if that's your decision.


  • White House Operator Margaret: What the crap is going on today?
  • Anotoly Dobrynin: [to Robert Kennedy] You're a good man; your brother is a good man. I assure you there are other good men. Let us hope the will of good men is enough to counter the terrible strength of this thing that was put in motion.
  • Dean Acheson: Gentlemen, for the last fifteen years, I've fought at this table alongside your predecessors in the struggle against the Soviet. Now I do not wish to seem melodramatic, but I do wish to impress upon you a lesson I learned with bitter tears and great sacrifice. The Soviet understands only one language: action. Respects only one word: force.
  • Dean Acheson: Let's hope appeasement doesn't run in families. I fear weakness does.
  • Dean Rusk: [Soviet ships turn away from the U.S. blockade of Cuba] We were eyeball to eyeball and I think the other fella just blinked.


Robert Kennedy: You know, these past couple days, I've been thinking. Thinking about what we've had to do to get where we are... and I was wondering, why the hell are we doing it?
Kenny O'Donnell: I don't know about you, but... I'm in it for the money.

Kenny O'Donnell: You know, the Joint Chiefs are gonna be upset if you mess with their chain of command.
President Kennedy: Well, you tell them that their chain of command leads up to one place - me.

Robert Kennedy: By the way, China invaded India today.
Kenny O'Donnell: You're kidding, aren't you?
Robert Kennedy: Yeah, I wish I were. Galbraith is handling it in New Delhi. Makes you wonder what's coming next.
Kenny O'Donnell: Geez. What is it about the free world that pisses the rest of the world off?
Robert Kennedy: I don't know. We have Tupperware parties.

Kenny O'Donnell: The point is, you trade our missiles in Turkey for theirs in Cuba, they're gonna force us into trade after trade, until finally, a couple of months from now they demand something we won't trade, like Berlin, and we do end up in a war. Not to mention that long before that happens this administration will be politically dead.
Robert Kennedy: I don't care if this administration ends up in the freaking toilet! We don't do a deal tonight there won't be any administration.

President Kennedy: I was eating that.
Kenny O'Donnell: No you weren't.
President Kennedy: I was.
Kenny O'Donnell: No you weren't.
President Kennedy: I was. Bastard.

McGeorge Bundy, National Security Advisor: Sunday morning, one of our U-2s took these pictures. The Soviets are putting medium-range, ballistic missiles into Cuba.
Arthur Lundhal: They appear to be the SS-4, range of a thousand miles, three-megaton nuclear warheads. Seen here in this year's May Day parade in Red Square.

President Kennedy: Okay - let's have it.
NPIC Photo Interpreter: Gentlemen, as most of you now know, a U-2 over Cuba Sunday morning took a series of disturbing photographs. Our analysis at NPIC indicates that the Soviet Union has followed up its conventional weapons build-up in Cuba with the introduction of surface-to-surface, medium-range ballistic missiles, or MRBMs. Our official estimate at this time is that the missile system is the SS-4 'Sandal'. We do not believe that the missiles are as yet operational. Iron Bark reports that the SS-4 can deliver a three-megaton nuclear weapon 1,000 miles. So far we've identified 32 missiles serviced by about 3,400 men, undoubtedly all Soviet personnel. Our cities and military installations in the southeast as far north as Washington, D.C., are in range of these weapons, and in the event of a launch would have only five minutes warning.
General Marshall Carter: Five minutes, gentlemen.
Gen. Max Taylor: In those five minutes, they could kill 80 million Americans - and destroy a significant percentage of our bomber bases, degrading our retaliatory options. The Joint Chiefs' consensus, Mr. President, is that this signals a major doctrinal shift in Soviet thinking - to a first-strike policy. It is a massively destabilizing move.
Robert Kennedy: How long until they're operational?
NPIC Photo Interpreter: General Carter can answer that question better than I can.
Gen. Max Taylor: GMAC - Guided Missiles Intelligence Committee - estimates 10-14 days. A crash program could limit that time. However, I must stress that there may be more missiles - that we don't know about. We'll need more U-2 coverage.
President Kennedy: Gentlemen, I want first reactions here. Assuming for the moment that Khruschev has NOT gone off the deep end - and intends to start World War Three - what are we looking at?
Dean Rusk: Mr. President, I believe my team is in agreement. If we permit the introduction of nuclear missiles to a Soviet satellite nation in our hemisphere, the diplomatic consequnces will be too terrible to contemplate. The Russians are trying to show the world they can do whatever they want, wherever they want, and we're powerless to stop them. If they succeed...
Robert Kennedy: It'll be Munich all over again.
Dean Rusk: Yes. Appeasement only makes the aggressor more aggressive. And the Soviets will be emboldened to push us even harder. Now we must remove the missiles one way or another. Now it seems to me the options are either some combination of international pressure & action on our part, until they give in - or - we hit them. An air strike.
President Kennedy: Dean, how does this all play out?
Dean Acheson: Your first step sir, will be to demand that the Soviet withdraw the missiles within 12 to 24 hours. They will refuse. When they do you will order the strikes, followed by the invasion. They will resist and be overrun. They will retaliate against another target somewhere else in the world, most likely Berlin. We will honor our treaty commitments and resist them there, defeating them per our plans.
President Kennedy: Those plans call for the use of nuclear weapons. So what is the next step?
Dean Acheson: Hopefully cooler heads will prevail before we reach the next step.

President Kennedy: Acheson's scenario is unacceptable, and he's got more experience than anybody.
Kenny O'Donnell: There is no expert on the subject, there is no wise old man. There's... shit, there's just us.
President Kennedy: The thing is that Acheson's right. Talk alone's not gonna accomplish anything.
Kenny O'Donnell: Well, let's bomb the shit out of 'em! Everybody wants to. Even you, I mean, even me, right? It sure would feel good.

Gen. Curtis LeMay: You're in a pretty bad fix, Mr. President.
President Kennedy: :[wonders at remark and looks back at LeMay] What did you say?
Gen. Curtis LeMay: You're in a pretty bad fix.
President Kennedy: Well, maybe you haven't you noticed you're in it with me.

Helen O'Donnell: And while you're under a rock somewhere with the President, what am I supposed to do with our five children, Kenny?
Kenny O'Donnell: Honey, we're not going to let it come to that, I promise. Jack and Bobby, they're smart guys.
Helen O'Donnell: You're smart, too.
Kenny O'Donnell: Not like them.

President Kennedy: What do you want, Kenny?
Kenny O'Donnell: I want you to sit down.
President Kennedy: Well I'm not gonna sit down!
Kenny O'Donnell: I want you to sit down, loosen your tie, take a minute...
President Kennedy: I don't have a minute!
Kenny O'Donnell: You're the President of the United States. They can wait for you.

President Kennedy: Well this can't get much worse.
Kenny O'Donnell: Oh, I don't know, we could have to go down to Lyndon's ranch again, dressed up like cowboys. Shoot deer out of the back of his convertible.
President Kennedy: That was a bad day.

Robert Kennedy: You know, I hate being called the brilliant one, the ruthless one, the guy everybody's afraid of. I hate it. I'm not so smart, you know? I'm not so ruthless.
Kenny O'Donnell: Well you're right... about the smart part.

Kenny O'Donnell: You sleeping?
President Kennedy: No, not much. I slept last night, though, you know, and, geez, when I woke up, somehow I'd forgotten that all this happened, you know? Then, of course, I remembered, and I just wished for a second that somebody else was President.
Kenny O'Donnell: You mean that?
President Kennedy: I said for a second.

Kenny O'Donnell: I got a bad feeling about what's going on in there!
President Kennedy: In the morning I'm taking charge of the blockade from the situation room and MacNamara is gonna set up shop at the flagpot at the Pentagon and keep an eye on things there.
Kenny O'Donnell: Good. Because you've got armed boarders climbing onto Soviet ships, and shots being fired across bows!
President Kennedy: I know. I know.
Kenny O'Donnell: Well, what about these low level flights?
President Kennedy: We need the flights.
Kenny O'Donnell: They're starting them when?
President Kennedy: An hour.
Kenny O'Donnell: An hour. You realise what you're getting yourself in for?
President Kennedy: Kenny, no, we need the flights, because the minute that first missile becomes operational we gotta go in there and destroy it.
Kenny O'Donnell: Fair enough. But Castro's on alert and we're flying attack planes over their sites, on the deck! There's no way for them to know we're carrying cameras not bombs.
President Kennedy: God damn it!
Kenny O'Donnell: They're gonna be shot at, plain and simple.

Dean Acheson: What happened in there?
Gen. Maxwell Taylor: I thought he was going to give us his decision.
McGeorge Bundy: Look, I know them. They just need to make sure there's no other way. They'll get there.
Dean Acheson: Remember, the Kennedys' father was one of the architects of Munich. There's only one responsible choice here. So, let's hope appeasement doesn't run in families. I fear weakness does.

Robert Kennedy: You're talking a sneak attack. How will that make us look? A big country blasting a little country to the stone age. Yeah, we'll be everyone's favourites.
Dean Acheson: Come on Bobby, that's naive. This is the real world. You know that better than anybody.
John McCone, CIA Director: And you weren't so ethically particular when we were talking about options for removing Castro over at CIA.

Robert Kennedy: At this moment in time the United States is accepting the terms of Secretary Khrushchev's letter of Friday night. If the Soviet Union halts construction immediately, removes the missiles, and submits to UN inspection, the United States will pledge to never invade Cuba, or to aid others in that enterprise.
Anotoly Dobrynin: If your Jupiter missiles in Turkey were removed also, such an accommodation could be reached.
Robert Kennedy: That's not possible. The United States cannot agree to such terms under threat. Any belief to the contrary was in error.
Anotoly Dobrynin: You want war?

Robert Kennedy: What the hell is Khrushchev thinking?
President Kennedy: Did you have any indication of this from your KGB pal Bolshakov? I mean any possible warning, sence of motivation?
Robert Kennedy: Complete snow job. And then, we went out and told the country that they weren't puting missles into Cuba.
Kenny O'Donnell: Jesus I... I feel like we discovered the Jap carrier steaming for Pearl Harbor.

White House Operator Margaret: Yes sir, I understand exactly what you're talking about. I speak the language too. What?
Kenny O'Donnell: Margaret, would you mind helping me with something?
White House Operator Margaret: What do you need honey?
Kenny O'Donnell: That tone of voice specifically.
White House Operator Margaret: What tone of voice? What the hell is he talking about? I told you sir! I'm sorry, you're out of here.

Kenny O'Donnell: The president has instructed me to pass along an order to you. You are not to get shot down.
Commander William B. Ecker: Uh, we'll do our best sir.
Kenny O'Donnell: I don't think you understand me Commander. You are not to get shot down under any circumstances. Whatever happens up there, you we're not shot at. Mechanical failures are fine, crashing into mountains fine. But you and your men are not to be shot at, fired at, or launched upon.
Commander William B. Ecker: Excuse me sir, what the hell is going on here?
Kenny O'Donnell: Commander, if you are fired upon, the President will forced to attack the sites that fire on you. He doesn't want to have to do that. It's very important that he doesn't, or things could very badly out of control.


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