The United States and the Soviet Union stood eyeball to eyeball, each brandishing enough nuclear weapons to obliterate each other's civilization. It was one of the most dangerous moments in world history. Day by day, for two weeks, an executive committee formed around elements of President Kennedy's National Security Council debated what to do, twice coming to the brink of attacking Soviet military units in Cuba - units equipped for nuclear retaliation. And through it all, unknown to any of the participants except the President himself - and possibly his brother Robert - tape was rolling, capturing for posterity the deliberations that might have ended the world as we know it. These are the full and authenticated transcripts of those audio recordings. Arguably the most important document in the history of the Cuban missile crisis, these transcripts are also a unique window on a drama rarely if ever witnessed by those outside the halls of power: the moment-by-moment decision-making of those with the fate of the West in their hands in a constantly changing, world-threatening situation. At the center of it all is President Kennedy, wary of experts after the debacle of the Bay of Pigs, puzzled and distrustful after confrontation with Khrushchev in Vienna over Berlin, and ever mindful of the responsibility symbolized by the satchel his military aides hold nearby, containing the codes to unleash nuclear warfare. Other participants in the deliberations are identified and put securely into their context by the editors, whose introduction illuminates this singular crisis in a framework spanning several administrations and whose conclusions, incorporating Khrushchev's thinking, show this to be theclimax of the Cold War.