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American history is littered with inspiring and comforting speeches. Some of the best writers, thinkers and speakers in history have studied language so that, in times of crisis, they can eloquently reassure the American people that they "have a dream" and are prepared to ask "what they can do for their country" and "did not have sexual relations with that woman." They calm the nation down with their confidence and soothing warmth. Everything's going to be OK.

But just because we didn't hear speeches for when the whole country was going to shit doesn't mean they were never written ...

Kennedy's "Second Speech" During the Cuban Missile Crisis

During the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis and about halfway into X-Men: First Class, President John F. Kennedy delivered a televised address to the nation disclosing the presence of offensive Soviet missiles in Cuba. Also, they were nuclear, and could strike at just about anywhere in North America. And that shit was about to get very real for the planet unless the Soviets acted like gentlemen and pulled out when they were told to. Kennedy's administration had two basic options: full-on attack Cuba, or "quarantine" Cuba by creating a much less violent naval blockade.

Kennedy's Joint Chiefs of Staff were very pro airstrike, but Kennedy and his speechwriter were not. They went with the option that didn't end up killing everybody, a point Kennedy illustrated in his speech. It wasn't a comforting speech (still brought up the whole "Cuba has missiles" thing), but it was still much better than his other option.

"So yeah. In about four seconds, everyone is going to die."

As it turns out, an alternate speech was drafted, one that presented the "Let's bomb the shit out of Cuba" plan. Kennedy's speechwriter Ted Sorensen doesn't know who wrote this second draft and, judging from his take on it, sure as hell did not like what it would have led to.

Was this speech written by JFK himself, or worse ... someone from within the Joint Chiefs of Staff? That question remains one of the many unresolved mysteries surrounding the Cuban Missile Crisis.

The Most Chilling Part:

"I have ordered -- and the United States Air Force has now carried out -- military operations with conventional weapons to remove a major nuclear weapons build-up from the soil of Cuba," which was dandy, since at the time Cuba had essentially been converted into one giant Doomsday Machine.

American Military and Naval History
Just the surface of an atomic submarine about the size of the Caribbean.

What Hearing It Would Have Meant:

Well, for one thing, that the Joint Chiefs of Staff had effectively conquered the U.S. presidency. Khrushchev himself later commented that the USSR feared a coup was imminent within the White House between the president and the Joint Chiefs during the Cuban Missile Crisis, and it looks like President Kennedy himself shared this sentiment.

Soviet Views on the Cuban missile crisis

As for what this would have meant following the airstrike, Robert L. O'Connell discussed such a scenario in an essay appropriated called The Cuban Missile Crisis: Second Holocaust. We encourage you to read the whole essay, because it's haunting and terrifying, but here's the short version: The U.S. destroys most, but not all, of the completed missiles in Cuba, Cuba retaliates with its remaining missiles, which land in D.C., killing JFK and LBJ, and the U.S. responds by firing nuclear warhead after nuclear warhead until "Cuba is completely destroyed, with 95 percent of its population being killed," and the resultant radiation spreads through the Caribbean and southern Florida. Oh, and the Soviet Union is virtually exterminated. Lots of people are dead, and the ones who aren't are really, really sad.

Luckily, that didn't happen though.

(Hopefully you knew that without us telling you.)

"Hmm. I don't remember everyone dying. But most of June was a blur."

The Apollo 11 Disaster

In 1969, the United States of America pulled off one of the most impressive come-from-behind successes in stellar history since the Battle of Endor: It put two men on the moon and successfully brought them back to Earth. No Ewoks were harmed, and none of the crew were transformed into members of the Fantastic Four -- so they say.

Still, since the eyes of the world were watching America's every single move during the Apollo 11 mission right down to the smallest crap-up, Nixon's then-speechwriter William Safire prepared the following remarks in the event that Apollo astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were condemned to a fate straight out of a horror movie: death on the moon.

University of Illinois
"They will most likely hold rudimentary elections for 'Moon King' and set up a series of 'Space Laws' and 'Moon Holidays' before slowly dying of Moon Madness, the noblest of all Moon Brain sicknesses."

The speech went on to praise the men who laid down their lives in "mankind's most noble goal: the search for truth and understanding," and brought up a touching, albeit on-the-nose and kind of creepy comparison:

"In ancient days, men looked at stars and saw their heroes in the constellations. In modern times, we do much the same, but our heroes are epic men of flesh and blood."

It's kind of sweet, but also kind of weird. "Hey, you know how people used to see Orion and other warriors when they looked up at night? Well you can, too, except instead of a series of stars, it will be the bones of Neil Armstrong! Always, haunting you from his moon tomb. Goodnight!"

"The moon represents our spirit of innovation. And also the inevitability of gruesome death. Happy Moon Day, kids!"

The Most Chilling Part:

"These brave men, Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin, know that there is no hope for their recovery."

What Hearing It Would Have Meant:

A pretty down ending to one of the most hopeful moments in human history. Be it from death by starvation or suicide or being swallowed by the mighty Moon Worm, the single brightest object in the night sky nearly became a gigantic graveyard: a floating symbol of death for all humankind.

And of all people, Richard Nixon was the person who would have broken the news to us.

"It will comfort you to know that thing they heard was my comforting voice. Nixon's comforting voice. Hsssssssss!"

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D-Day Fails

June 6, 1944, the date of the Normandy invasion during World War II, is often marketed as the turning point of the 20th century by everyone from Steven Spielberg to Electronic Arts. And why? Because when it comes to turning points in history that make for fantastic video games, Hitler Getting Rejected by the Vienna Academy of Art just doesn't have as much draw to it as does Medal of Honor: Frontline.

Still, the Normandy landings were far from the slam dunk that most first-person shooters make us believe, since the Allies had someone even more unruly than Hitler to contend with leading up to the invasion: the sea god Neptune. Bad weather forced the Allies to postpone the invasion from the tentative June 5 date, and they nearly had to kick this date down to June 19, which sure enough "brought an even more turbulent tempest." In the event of epic failure, Supreme Allied Commander and future president Dwight D. Eisenhower drafted a handwritten message to be read in the event that D-Day failed. Fortunately, he never read it.

National Archives
The reason why Wolfenstein 3D exists.

On the off chance that you can't read that, here it is:

"Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based on the best information available. The troops, the air and the Navy did all that bravery and devotion to duty could do.

If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone."

"On the plus side, James Bond will have two villains."

The Most Chilling Part:

His opener ("Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold") was more or less the easy way of saying that thousands of Allied forces had died, there would be no second front in Europe and that Hitler and his asshole friends were probably laughing their asses off.

What Hearing It Would Have Meant:

Stephen E. Ambrose examined this possibility in his essay "D Day Fails: Atomic Alternatives in Europe." Had the D-Day invasion gone so poorly that Eisenhower would have been prompted to read that speech, he would have "certainly lost his job," and "the Churchill government could not have survived -- after all, it had bet the kingdom on Overlord" (which was the code name for the invasion). Meanwhile in the U.S., "Roosevelt -- who had also bet the house on Overlord -- would have been secure from a no-confidence vote. But he had a presidential election coming up in five months ... He would have lost the election."

".. .and the wheelchair you rode in on."

Churchill, Roosevelt and Eisenhower would all have their impressive careers cut short, which, holy crap we couldn't have handled, like as a planet. Those three were some of the last people in the world who actually seemed to have their shit together. Ambrose concluded that WWII would have ended one of two ways in Europe: with President Thomas E. Dewey authorizing the use of atomic bombs over European cities, or...

"... a communist victory in Europe. A Communist Germany, France, Low Countries and Italy would have meant no NATO and a possibility of Communist Great Britain. Relations with the Soviet Union would have been impossibly difficult and dangerous. That is a terrible prospect -- but it might have happened if the Germans had beaten us on the beaches of Normandy."

Just like that.

Nixon Refuses to Resign

While sideways Nixon was busy accepting responsibility for the failure of the moon landing in the alternate universe, regular Nixon was still also screwing things up. The Watergate scandal may not have been the biggest dick move in Nixon's presidency, but it certainly was the most public. Yes, breaking into a hotel late at night may not sound quite as bad as sabotaging peace talks in Vietnam or trying to assassinate a journalist with LSD, but goddamnit, trying to cover it up is apparently worse than all those things put together.

Richard Nixon, the George Washington of liars.

As Congress prepared impeachment proceedings, Nixon had two options: fight for his presidency even if it meant trashing every single shred of integrity to his office, or spare the nation a lengthy impeachment process by resigning. Sure enough, Nixon and his speechwriters considered the latter "Option B," and that is the speech he gave to the nation on August 8, 1974, when he resigned the presidency.

"In conclusion, America, if you want beef then bring the ruckus; Wu-Tang clan ain't nothin' to fuck with.
Thank you, and God Bless America."

It's a fairly standard bullshit-artist speech. He starts off explaining how he's not going to stand up and explain himself, and then he spends about four paragraphs explaining himself. He used a whole lot of safe, "firmly believe that I have not committed any act of commission or omission that justifies removing a duly elected President from office," kind of language. He never outright says he's innocent, just subtle variations on "I'm pretty sure I don't think I did anything wrong, in my opinion." That way, regardless of the outcome, he can still exit the other side saying, "Well, I still believe I didn't do anything wrong. Conscience: Clear."

He goes on to get all martyr-y, explaining that he's going to get into a long trial and investigation instead of resigning because that's more in the spirit of the American constitutional process. "Look, I'd resign right now, folks, but I'm just so god damned American that I couldn't do it in good conscience. I owe it to this amazing country of ours. Let's hear it for America, am I right?"

"Any other country would have shot me."

The Most Chilling Part:

That "Option B" was Option B! That was his backup plan. Also, the part where Nixon desperately tries to make the case that his resignation would only lead to a string of resignations "on every future president who might, for whatever reason, fall into a period of unpopularity." What a cowardly threat. "Look, if I quit, then you'll also lose all of the good presidents who come after me!" What a dickish thing to do. Also dickish? Burglary, attempted murder and destroying evidence like the Watergate tapes and blaming it on your secretary.

Rose Mary Woods, demonstrating how completely full of shit she is.

What Hearing It Would Have Meant:

Had Nixon delivered this originally intended broadcast, it would have kicked off a constitutional war the likes of which the country would not see again until, well, you know ...

Not pictured: Cigar.

By the summer of 1974, the House Judiciary Committee approved three articles of impeachment against Nixon, and on August 9 the Watergate prosecution team was debating whether or not to indict the president. Even Nixon's buddies like Strom Thurmond were forced to tell him that their mutual hatred for black people and Jewish people would not be enough to keep the Solid South behind him.

In short, Richard M. Nixon would have been forced out of the White House, kicking and screaming in a matter even more embarrassing than his current reputation in Futurama and among the Jury of the Damned.

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Lincoln Loses Reelection, Sets His Stopwatch

Despite his current reputation as a cartoon character and Geico subject, the truth is that Abraham Lincoln's reelection chances initially looked pretty grim. By 1864 the American Civil War had entered its bloodiest year, General Ulysses S. Grant had been forced to a standstill outside of Richmond and even Lincoln's own party was beginning to consider the abolition of slavery a losing issue. All the worse, facing Lincoln in the election would be the same George B. McClellan that Lincoln had previously fired for being so bad a general that the Vice President of the Confederacy described his nomination as "the first ray of light I have seen from the North since the war began." It was the last, and arguably the best, chance the South ever had to win the Civil War: by convincing the North that the war was lost and by voting Lincoln out of office.

Seriously ... Fuck ... This ... Man ...

In Lincoln's own words, just three months before the election, "I am going to be beaten ... and unless some great change takes place, badly beaten." As such, he prepared a sealed document for his cabinet to open in the event that the unthinkable became real: that George B. McClellan was elected president. It was not a concession speech and it was not even close to congratulatory. It was his last-ditch game plan to win the Civil War, no matter what the cost or loss of life, before the incoming president could uphold his party platform and establish an immediate armistice with the South.

From Lincoln's point of view, the fate of the United States was in his giant, super-freak hands.

He told his entire cabinet that he was almost positive that he would lose and would spend his remaining time in office trying to help heal the Union, no matter what. He knows he's done for, so he's going to use the last of his time running around and just going crazy. Shit. It's like a presidential version of Crank.

"Half of my body mass is in cocaine."

What a cool guy.

The Most Chilling Part:

Where Lincoln says that his opponent "will have secured his election on such ground that he can not possibly save it afterwards." He would help the incoming president if it came down to it, but he genuinely believed that, if he wasn't reelected, no one would be able to heal America. Meaning that the United States had until noon, March 4, 1865 to win the Civil War, otherwise there would no longer be a United States south of the nation's capital.

Civil War Daily Gazette
Like this, only for keeps.

What Hearing It Would Have Meant:

While we do not know the details of Lincoln's Hail Mary against the South, there are two very likely possibilities: an all-out assault with an immense loss of life, or, as nearly happened in 1864, an ending to the war worthy of The Godfather. It is debated that Lincoln had actually attempted a hit job against Jefferson Davis as part of the so-called Dahlgren Affair. Among its details ...

"An address to his troops on Cavalry Corps stationery was even more explicit: 'The City it must be destroyed and Jeff. Davis and Cabinet killed.'"

We know what you are thinking and the answer is yes: Abraham Lincoln was seriously that cold in private.

Oh, but he could be tender.

Fortunately, none of this came to pass, since Lincoln finally got the big break he needed when General William T. Sherman captured Atlanta on September 2, just days after McClellan and his Copperhead allies convened their defeatist platform. With the South now precisely where Lincoln wanted it, Sherman promised to personally "make Georgia howl" for the president. Lincoln approved Sherman's plan for a "March to the Sea" in yet another display of badassery, which ushered Sherman into the annals of American history as the most hated man in the South and Lincoln back to his desk for a second term.

The Doomsday PSAs

According to the 1992 Time magazine article "The Doomsday Blueprints," the Mount Weather doomsday hideaway President Eisenhower had Dr. Strangelove build into Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains contained a vault with prerecorded PSAs to air in the event of full-scale nuclear war. Interestingly, these videos included survival instructions for the nation recorded by television personality and Chesterfield cigarettes spokesperson Arthur Godfrey.

The man who nearly played the role of one of the angels from Revelation.

Up until last May, an underground meteorological station at the site issued daily reports on wind direction and speed, plotting potential radiation patterns. The site's television studio is prepared to provide the President -- or his successor -- a national audience over the Emergency Broadcast System. Throughout the Eisenhower Administration -- and for years after -- a vault held tape-recorded addresses by both Eisenhower and celebrity Arthur Godfrey. The prerecorded message was concise: The country has come under nuclear attack, but the government continues to function.

In addition, a number of prominent newsmen who had taken oaths of secrecy had agreed to accompany the president to the relocation site of his choosing and lend their familiar names and faces to help calm the surviving audience.

According to an interview with former CBS president Frank Stanton obtained by the Cold War-crazed website CONELRAD in 2004, these PSAs not only "absolutely" existed, but Eisenhower had more than one of them made. PSAs were recorded not only by Arthur Godfrey but also by Edward R. Murrow, which more or less guarantees that part of the country's contingency plan for nuclear holocaust included smoking lots and lots of Chesterfield cigarettes.

"And now a word from our sponsors ..."

The Most Chilling Part:

We're guessing the part that went "the country has come under nuclear attack," since this was essentially the ending for humanity Terminator 3 was preparing us for all along.

"This ends the portion of history where you remain alive."

What Hearing It Would Have Meant:

Assuming you possessed the foresight to hide things out in a lead-lined fridge, that you had just been cast as either "Man," "Boy" or Guy Pearce in The Road.

Jacopo della Quercia is the author of "Go @#$% Yourself!" -- An Ungentlemanly Disagreement, by Filippo Argenti, and another book that he really does plan on finishing one of these days.

For more terrifying what if's you'll be glad never came to pass, check out 5 Backup Plans That Would Have Changed Modern History and 6 Terrifying Emergency Escape Pods (That Aren't Worth It).

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