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TV: President Kennedy Interviewed by Correspondents of Three Networks

Dec. 17, 1962 - President Kennedy told correspondents of three networks and a nationwide television audience tonight the placing of Soviet missiles in Cuba had been a major effort to alter the world balance of power against the U.S. Mr. Kennedy described the world situation as one in which “one major mistake” on either side “can make this whole thing blow up.” Taking an apocalyptic view of that possibility, he commented: “Once he [Soviet Premier Khrushchev] fires his missiles, it’s all over anyway because we are going to have sufficient resources to fire back at him to destroy the Soviet Union. When that day comes, and there is a massive exchange, then that is the end, because you are talking about Western Europe, the Soviet Union, the United States, of 150 million fatalities in the first 18 hours.” Moreover, Mr. Kennedy said, neither the Soviet Union nor the U.S. had a real defense against massive nuclear attack, despite Mr. Khrushchev’s comment that Soviet defenders could “hit a fly in the sky.” “He might hit a fly,” Mr. Kennedy said, “but whether he could hit a thousand flies with decoys — you see, every missile that comes might have four or five missiles in it, or would appear to be missiles, and the radar screen has to pick those out and hit them going thousands of miles an hour and select which one is the real missile and which are the decoys when there might be hundreds of objects coming through the air. What you are trying to do is shoot a bullet with a bullet. Now, if you have a thousand bullets coming at you, that is a terribly difficult task which we have not mastered yet, and I don’t think he has. The offense has the advantage.”


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