Rose Kennedy’s unintended part in Cuban crisis recalled

Ted Kennedy Jnr speaks of grandmother at summer school in New Ross

A little-known account of Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy's intervention in the Cuban missile crisis was recalled by her grandson Ted Kennedy Jnr, in Co Wexford today.

Addressing the Kennedy Summer School in New Ross, where he delivered an inaugural lecture in honour of his father the late Senator Edward M Kennedy, Mr Kennedy said his grandmother had been fond of giving signed books as Christmas presents.

“So if somebody published a book she would get the author to sign a few copies and give them as Christmas presents”, said Mr Kennedy.

And so it was that at "the very height of the Cuban missile crisis" when Soviet secretary general Nikita Khrushchev was penning a personal letter to President Kennedy, a letter arrived on his desk from "a from a Rose Kennedy of Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, asking him to sign some of his books" said Mr Kennedy.


Mr Kennedy said the soviet secret service the KGB had been “very interested in the letter and had hundreds of people analysing it, trying to figure out what message the Kennedys could be sending”.

To much laughter Mr Kennedy told the summer school that "as nuclear warfare was about to break out" the CIA also became aware to the communication, and so too her son, president John F Kennedy.

When the president remonstrated with his mother, Rose said it was a simple matter. “Every year she picked an author, and this year it was Mr Khrushchev’s turn”.

The president patiently explained that while the CIA accepted it was a simple, unrelated issue, that agency would then have to employ “hundreds of people” to figure out what the soviets might have thought the letter meant.

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien

Tim O'Brien is an Irish Times journalist