RR Auction lands JFK’s Cuban Missile Crisis map in April 11 sale

Cuban Missile Crisis

President John F. Kennedy presented the ‘victory map’ (inset) to Defense Secretary Robert McNamara (right) following the Cuban Missile Crisis. White House photograph, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum Boston

BOSTON – John F. Kennedy’s personal “victory map” of Cuba used during the Cuban Missile Crisis will be auctioned by Boston-based RR Auction. The fully illustrated catalog can be viewed on LiveAuctioneers.

The map in two sheets features eight types of sticker symbols applied to the surface, representing Soviet MiG fighter jets, Komar-class missile boats, IL-28 bombers, SS-4 missiles, SSM-Cruise missiles and nuclear storage sites.

The intelligence represented by this map was supplied by U-2 spy planes, confirming President Kennedy’s worst fears of an increasing Soviet military presence just 100 miles from the American coast. The map is marked “Secret” in the lower left and upper right corners. A two-page key paper-clipped to the upper right corner, headed “MRBM-IRBM Status of Cuban Missiles,” dated Oct. 27, 1962, summarizes the Soviet military buildup, listing sites, enumerating number of launchers and missiles, and completion status. In fine condition, with tape stains to edges.

The map is accompanied by a detailed letter of provenance, in full: “This ‘victory map’ was given to me about twenty years ago by Robert McNamara, the secretary of defense during the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962. During a meeting at his office, McNamara described for me the pressure President John Kennedy was under from the Joint Chiefs of Staff to order an attack on Soviet targets in Cuba. McNamara said the president pored over this map before deciding to delay the attack.

The map shows the position of every Soviet missile, bomber and fighter jet and nuclear storage facility in Cuba as of noon on Saturday, Oct. 27, 1962. This was the most dangerous moment of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Oct. 27 was the day the crisis came within hours of triggering a war between the United States and Soviet Union. That morning, a Soviet anti-air missile shot down a U-2 spy plane on a photo reconnaissance mission over Cuba. Many years later, the Cubans claimed Fidel Castro himself pushed the button to fire the missile.

Later that afternoon, two U.S. destroyers dropped depth charges on a Soviet submarine. At last minute, the Soviet captain surfaced his submarine. When the sun set that evening, McNamara wondered if he’d be alive to see the following Saturday’s sunset. Kennedy met with his executive committee three times on that Saturday. The Joint Chiefs of Staff pushed for an air strike against the Soviet missile sites and other targets. Had Kennedy given the order, this map shows the nine Soviet targets U.S. warplanes would have bombed. But overnight, everything changed.

Relying on a letter from Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev to President Kennedy, Attorney General Robert Kennedy and Soviet ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin hammered out a deal. The Soviets agreed to withdraw their missiles and other offensive weapons in return for the U.S. pledging not to invade Cuba. The U.S. secretly promised to remove obsolete missiles from Turkey. The nine targets on the map became the weapons the U.S. forced out of Cuba.

When Kennedy presented the map to McNamara, he called it the “victory map.”

In the annals of the Cold War, no event is more talked about and debated than the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962. It is considered the closest the world has ever come to nuclear war.

This map dates to the penultimate day of the crisis—Oct. 27, a day that saw an American pilot shot down over Cuba. Had Kennedy given the order to attack, this map shows the nine Soviet targets that American fighters would have bombed.

“It’s a truly remarkable, museum-quality Kennedy piece,” said Bobby Livingston, executive vice president at RR Auction.

Among other items to be featured is the personal diary of Maud Shaw, the official White House nanny during the Kennedy administration. The diary details the development of Caroline and John Kennedy as infants and toddlers between the years 1957 and 1962. The diary, contains 22 handwritten pages, covers the emergence of teeth, first steps, first words, illnesses and a detailed record of their nutritional intake.

Cuban Missile Crisis

Kennedy nanny Maud Show holding John Jr. with her diary (inset). RR Auction image

An additional highlight includes a Jacqueline Kennedy letter to her mother while on vacation in the French Riviera, relaying her desire to pull her husband “away from politics & the gloomy Cape.”

The Fine Autographs and Artifacts auction from RR Auction will conclude on April 11.  Details can be found online at www.rrauction.com.