The Situation Room
What: A meeting of the Executive Committee (EX-COMM)
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John McCone - ... photography of 1 mission on Sunday, October the 14th, 2 on Monday, October the 15th, these are quite completely read out. There were 6 missions for us yesterday, with respect to the initial readout to start later tonight, that will probably take 36 to 48 hours to complete. ..[unintel.]...
UNK - Those missiles involving ...[unintel.]...
McCone - Not to my knowledge, no.
JFK - You don't know what coverage they got, do they?
Arthur Lundahl - The general signature has not yet emerged yet we're plotting clouds. And we don't have the film yet in the National PI [Photographic Interpretation] Center. ... [unintel.] ... starts to come in this afternoon shortly after lunch.
McCone - We think we got the entire island....[unintel.]... in development. I think you should know that uh, these 6 missions involved 28,000 linear feet on film and when this is enlarged it means the Center has to examine a strip of film 100 miles long, 20 feet wide, quite a job. Go ahead Arthur.
Lundahl - Yes sir. Mr. President, gentlemen, the first and most important item which I would seek to call to your attention is a new area hitherto never seen by us some 21 miles to the southwest of Havana which we have at the moment labeled a probable MRBM/IRBM launch complex. The name of the town nearest is this, it is there. The two sites, sir, numbers 1 and 2 are two and a half miles apart and enlarging this one we look at it and we see for the first time a pattern of Medium/IRBM sites that looks like the things we have been seeing in the Soviet Union. There are 2 pads here and here. They are separated by 750 feet. There's a control bunker with cable scars going up to small buildings in board at each of these pads. There is no equipment on the pads yet, they're under construction. The security fence has been superimposed around the place. And on 29 August, the last time we went over this area the ground had just scarcely started to be scratched.
At the same time, two and a half miles south of there, at site number 2, on 29 August, there were no scratchings on the ground at all. But since that time, the scratchings have taken the form slightly different. There's this pattern 2-1-2-1-2, it's called the offset inline. They're slightly more in line than here. It looks as if there's going to be a fourth one up in there, but the spacing is the same. The orientation of the axis of the pads 3-1-5 which would bring you into the central . . . [unintel.] . . . of the United States.
We call it /IRBM, sir. We've never identified as irrevocably the signature of a Soviet intermediate medium range ballistic missile, which is estimatedly a 2,000 mile missile. But the elongation of the pads and the location of the control bunkers between each pair of pads has been the thing that has suggested to our hearts, if not our minds, the kind of thing that might accompany an IRBM. So we have, at the moment, labeled it as such and let the guided missile intelligence analysts come up, finally, with the true analysis of what the range of these missiles might be that are eventually accommodated on this set of pads. Let me switch to the next material[?] ...[unintel.]... Yes sir.
For comparison purposes Mr. President, I showed the other day when I was here, the sites that we have described to you the other day. The 3 that we showed you, were these down here, San Cristobal, the one with erectors and missiles. The one here, just with the missiles, and no erectors. And this one here, in an early stage of construction, with tenting and encamping materials, but neither missiles nor erectors. The date of that photography was 14 October, and the impression of this third site is contained in this elision/illusion[?] here. Wherein, I think you can see the equipment, the buildings and the housing and so forth. On the next day and admittedly in better photographic cover. We see this same area as shown in here with NOW missile erectors, probably up in here, vehicles, more vehicles, buildings, missile transporters and a variety of equipment and additional things under construction. The impression one would gather is that there is some sense of speed with which they are proceeding in the construction of this particular base. May I pass that one over to you, sir? Thank you.
Also earlier, Mr. President, we reported to you a number of what we call cruise missile sites, that's short range coastal defense type missiles. Starting out with the Banes site, with another one located at Santa Cruz del Norte, up here in the Havana area. At the time of that reporting, there were 2 launchers at this position here and here. Since the coverage of that day, 2 more launching positions have been added upward/up north[?] of those 2 positions. The launcher here is uncovered, you can actually see the launcher itself. And down in this small indentment[?] here appears to be the winged type of air breathing[?] missile which will go on it. The short, stubby winged fellow which conforms to the cruise type of missile that we have seen before. So, our opinion of this thing remains the same, we now would just report two additional launching positions at that complex.
Finally, Mr. President, at the very western most tip of Cuba, the island, we have San Julian Airfield, 7,000 feet by 150 feet, which is hidden, ...[unintel.]... and barricaded. Rows of stones, and other kinds of materials preventing this to be used by anybody. Now we see the barricades being removed from the two runways and in this hard stand at the edge of the tarmac, enlarged up in here. We find 22 of those crates, some 60 feet long which we have interpreted from the deck side photography that the Navy had taken to be possibly the crates that would accommodate the L28 or Beagle types aircraft. This field is long enough to accommodate those crafts. I think they need something around 6,000 feet to take off. They have 7,000 feet. We definitely have not yet seen the Beagle IL28. 1 fuselage has been taken from 1 of the boxes, it's up at this location. It's 58 feet long, which is about the length of the Beagle fuselage, and you can see the wing ruts, but the actual wing tips have not yet been installed. We just caught them, apparently, at the start of the assembly operation. And it would appear that San Julian, the ...[unintel.]... of 2 unused airfields may be the locus for IL28 activity. That's all I have at the moment.
JFK - What percentage of the island have you got, uh, covered, uh, here?
Lundahl - In these separate missions, the one of Sunday, October the 14th, the two on Monday, October the l 5th, represents a considerable percentage from north to south and from east to west. Uh, but, uh, the business of plotting the clouds, has not been completely done, so I can't give you a good figure.
JFK - So in other words, from the information we have prior to the development of these new films, you'd say there are how many, ah, different, ah, missile sites, as well as how many different launch pads at each site?
Lundahl - Well sir, we had not found anything like the MRBM sites in any of the photography up to this l 5 October bit. We had found and added to it last night 1 more surface-to-air missile site, so that made a total of 23, as of this location. However, one of them has been pulled up and moved away, at Santa Lucia. We don't know where they pull these things up and move them to, but we have seen 23 surface-to-air missile sites. We've seen 3 of these surface to surface cruise type of missile sites at Banes and up here, we're at del Norte and then down on the Isle of Pines. We had one other type of missile site, up here north of Havana, which we haven't been able to identify yet as being either cruise or some other type of cycle, which we're carrying[?] unknown. And now we've added to this in the briefings of the last couple of days. We've added the field type of installation that's a 650 or 1100 mile missile, as it probably is, near San Cristobal with these 3 sites located here, which we briefed on the other day. And in the photography of Monday of this week we've now added what looks like a more fixed type of site conforming to a signature which we have seen ...
JFK - [interrupting] So in other words, you've got 5 different missile sites?
Lundahl - Yes sir.
JFK - And how many pads on each site?
Lundahl - Well sir, at this location here we don't have pads, we have these erectors, these 60 foot long objects that lay on the ground. There were 4 erectors, there. We have found 3 erectors, not yet in position, but lying around to be disposed here. And we have more erectors, but they're under the trees and we can't tell. But it would seem as though there's going to be 4 erectors at each of those locations, and it would appear that there are going to 4 launch pads at each of those 2. But these will be firmer types of launchings. And these will be the portable field type of launching equipment.
McCone? - The uh, the Joint Committee made an estimate that between 16 and 32 missiles would be operational within a week or slightly more. This is an estimate, a ... [unintel.]... estimate.
UNK - Has the, uh, any electronic commission from the FCM[?] been successful. I had a report stating that they were showing life.
McCone? - No, if they are. There are some sigint equipment missing. Sigint responses on Monday did not state conclusively that the, uh, the radars were operational. However we do estimate that some of these SAM sites will be operational within a weeks time.
JFK - If an unsophisticated observer, if you wanted to ever release these pictures to demonstrate that there were missiles there, would it not be possible to demonstrate this to the satisfaction of an untrained observer?
Lundahl - I think it would be difficult, sir. By some 8 years of experience in looking at the evolution in the Soviet Union the signature emerges very clearly to us. I think the uninitiated would like to see the missile and the, the uh, troops, and the...
[several voices, unintel.]
McGeorge Bundy - There is a picture that is not here of what I call site number 1 of which I believe the uninitiated could be persuaded they were missiles...
Lundahl - I would concur on that, sir. The canvas coverings of all those missiles lying on trailers in there. At the lower level, particularly as Mr. Bundy says, could, I think, very clearly impact on people.
JFK - Thank you. When will we get the uh, when will we get the data really on the entire island's east end, if we can?
Lundahl - Sir, there are 5 missions coming in today some ...[unintel.]... 2,000 feet. The first 2 were to remain[?] slightly after noon. We would seek to read them out during the night. And then as the others come in, the next 2 to 3 days we will be going all out to read it on a 24 hour basis. But it is quite a volume of film to look at, and we're trying to be accurate, as accurate as we possibly can. I would hope that come the weekend we might have a fair grasp on all 5, plus whatever number of additional ones Mr. McNamara will have run between yesterday and the end of the week.
Dean Rusk - ...[unintel.]... First of all the question that needs an answer really is, is it necessary to take action? And I suppose that there is probable reason to take action here. But the points are taken it looks now as if Cuba is not going to be just an instrumental base for fielding these things, but bases are going to pop out like measles all over the world. It might be an island in ...[unintel.]... Cuba could become just part of the goal, a military problem, and any contest we would have with Soviet Union could[?] get tense any other part of the world, and I think our colleagues in Defense will comment on that very carefully, because that's[?] a very important point. But, I do think when the full scope of this becomes known that no action would undermine our alliances all over the world, very promptly.
On September 4th, you said there was organized communist ...[unintel.]... Cuba in a Soviet bloc country military base provided the Russians, a violation of 34 treaty rights Guantanomo ...[unintel]... ground to ground missiles of a significant offensive capability under Cuban hands and Soviet ...[unintel.]... guidance ...[unintel.]... underlying issues would arise. Now that statement was not, was not made lightly at that time, these elements that were mentioned were playing[?] ... [unintel.]... very important to us and it was intended as a clear warning to the Soviet Union, that, uh, these are matters that we would take with the utmost seriousness. To cover [?] one of the gravest issues, General Lang was quoted [?] as saying something very serious.
I think also we have to think of the effect on the Soviets, if you would do that. Now suppose that they would consider this a major back down and that this would free their hands for almost any type of adventure they might want to try out in other parts of the world. If we are unable to face up to the situation in Cuba against this kind of threat then I think they would be greatly encouraged to go adventuring, and would feel they've got it made as far as the . .. [unintel.] . .. of the United States. They all know that we have an almost unmanageable problem in this country getting any support for foreign policy that we would need to pursue, if we're going sustain[?] the cause of independence and faith[?] here and in all parts of the world. We've got a million men in uniform outside of the United States, we've got fine programs, we've got a major [cough] major effort we're making in agriculture. It seems to that inaction, in this situation would undermine and undercut the long support we need for the kind of foreign policy that will eventually ensure our survival.
Now action involves very high risks indeed. I think that additional information increases the risk because challenge is much more serious and the, uh, counter action I would suppose would have to be heavier ... [unintel.]... talking about. But, we in fact, but, uh, you would have to have in the back of your own mind, whatever decision you take, the, uh, possibility or/not[?] the likelihood of a Soviet reaction somewhere else running all the way from Berlin right around to Korea and the possibility of a reaction against the United States itself. Don't think that you can make this decision under the assumption that this is a free ride or easier in any ...[unintel.]... I would suppose that with the first missiles you're talking about that a quick strike, a quick success a matter of a couple of hours time, 50 or 60 Soviet missiles ... [unintel.]... where it is obvious then the matter is over and finished and that was the purpose of our engagement. That would have much more reduced threats from a military response on the other side. . . . [unintel.]. . . these other installations and getting involved in various parts of the island, I think would increase the risk of a military response down there.
The action also has to be thought of in connection with alliance solidarity, there we're faced with conflicting elements. Unless we're in a situation where it is clear that the alliance has worked to understand the problem, then unannounced, unconsulted quick action on our part, could well lead to a kind of odd disunitiveness the Soviets could capitalize upon very strongly. Umm, it's one thing for Britain and France get themselves isolated within the alliance over Suez. But it's quite another thing for the alliance for the United States to get itself in the same position, because we are the central bone structure of the alliance and this is a different kind of problem that we have to think very hard about. Now I think that, as far as I am concerned I would have to say to you if we enter upon this path of challenging the Soviets what the Soviets do themselves have to embark[?] tactically dangerous course that no one surely can foresee the outcome. I was prepared to say when I came over here before I got this information ...[unintel.] ... Soviet strike. Very probably, a move by ...[unintel.]... much more general action I think, as far as Cuba is concerned and possibly in other situations
Now there is another ...[unintel.]... I think the American people will willingly undertake great danger, if necessary for something. If they have a deep feeling that you've done everything that is reasonably possible to determine whether or not this trip[?] was necessary. Also that they have clear conscience and a good theory of the case. The first point, whether this trip[?] is necessary, we all of course, remember the Guns of August. We're certainly convinced of the general situation. We've got the time now that we've gotten ...[unintel.]... and this, this question I think is something that's pretty important. A matter of a clear conscience, in World War II, the Pearl Harbor attack against the background of Hitler's conduct . . . [unitel.]. . . In the case in Korea, we had an organized, large-scale aggression from North Korea and we were going in as part of the general United Nations effort. Even with that start the Korean aspect of it . . . [unintel.] . .. general support of the American people before it was over.
Now, these are considerations I'm just mentioning . . . [unintel.]... put military in favor of a, uh, a confrontation with Khrushchev, and the implication because the ...[unintel.]... possibility, only a possibility Khrushchev might realize that he's got to back down. We can't be, we have no reason to expect that, as far as we're concerned. It looks very serious nature of on his part. but at least it would take that point out of the way for the historical record and just might plant the seeds of prevention of a great conflict.
The real account [?] is, I think clearly is our strong, legal basis we need to take. The other possibility is a straight declaration of war. Now this carries with it many legal privileges . . . [unintel.] . . . extremely useful for any president to have but the ...[unintel.]... I suppose Mr. Martin would have to comment on this[?] I suppose that there'd be no great difficulty in getting two-thirds vote in favor of necessary action, but if we make an effort and fail to get the two-thirds vote, which I doubt would be the result, then at least we would have tried as far as the American people are concerned we've done our best about that.
Now I, it seems to me that the uh, the uh, flow of information that we have about the bases, other bases on other parts of the island ... [unintel.]... military threat. declaration of national emergency and against that a declaration of war on Cuba may not be the answer here. Rather than plot a single strike, here and there round about the island. Now this could become a cops and robbers game, each strike becoming rather more difficult from a military point of view . . . [unintel. ] . . . than from a political point of view, and it looks as though we have a larger problem to solve and we have to solve it the larger way. Now the principal alternative there is of course presumably, ... [unintel.]... try our hand ...[unintel.]... accomplish as far as these particular installations are concerned. But these other bases, I think create larger problems ... [unintel.]... challenge those a great deal. I think that ...[unintel.]... I'd like to hear my colleague comment on this, whether the, uh, the actual action we would take, that you have to No one can guarantee that this can be achieved by diplomatic action, but it seems to be essential that this be challenged and be tested out before military action is employed. And if our decision is firm, and it must be, I can see no danger in communication with Khrushchev privately, worded in such a way that he realizes that we mean business. This I consider an essential first step, no matter what military course . . . [unintel. ] . . . we determine on, if he replies unsatisfactorily. If the tone and tenor of his reply . . . [unintel.] . . . I don't believe the threat of general nuclear war should be . . . [unintel.] . . . sole reactive, even if the strike should come first My chief concern about a strike without a diplomatic effort that it would eventually, that it would immediately lead to war with Cuba and would not be the neat, quick disposal of the bases as was suggested. Furthermore I'm reasonably certain the Allied reaction would be very hostile. Especially if the Soviets retaliate locally and take the area beyond Berlin. Communication with Khrushchev would be useful for the record in establishing the record in our case for action. In general, I feel that a declaration of war would be valuable since it would open up every avenue of military action, air strikes, invasion, blockade. But we would have to make a case to our allies to justify such a declaration of war. If we acted first ... [unintel.].. . limited action is an illusion, which lead us into, limited action is an illusion and would lead us into a cold? war with Cuba ...[unintel]... general war ...[unintel.] ... Mr. Khruschev before we take action ...[unintel.]... and then followed by a declaration of war we were talking about this last night. I think it's within this range of problems because of how we see the nature of the threat. I think our defense colleagues ought to talk for a moment about the (MOVES TO lNTRO NEXT SPEAKER) actual military aspect of the threat itself
Maxwell Taylor- Mr. President .. . [unintel.] . .. There are a series of alternative plans, (papers shuffling) ranging from Roman numeral 1 of about 50 sorties directed against solely against the known MRBMs, known as of last night, to Roman numeral 5, which covers the alternative invasion plans. All of these plans are based on one very important assumption. That we would attack with conventional weapons against an enemy who is not equipped with operational nuclear weapons. If there is any possibility that the enemy is equipped with operational nuclear weapons, I'm certain the plans would have to be changed.
Last evening we were discussing the relative merits of these forms of military action, assuming that at some point military action was required. It has been the views of the Chiefs, based on discussions within the last 2 days, and it was certainly my view, that either Roman numeral 1 or Roman numeral 2, very limited air strikes against very limited targets, would be quite inconclusive, very risky, and almost certainly lead to further military action, prior to which we would have paid an unnecessary price for the gains we achieved. And, therefore, the Chiefs and I would have recommended last night, and I would recommend more strongly today, that we would not consider undertaking either Roman numeral 1 or Roman numeral 2. In other words, we consider nothing short of a full invasion, as practical military action. And this, only on the assumption that we're operating against a force that does not possess operational nuclear weapons.
|The following files are sound clips of the above bolded quotation.
JFK - Why do you change, why does this information change the recommendation?
Taylor - Last evening, it was my personal belief that there were more targets than we knew of, and that it was probable that there would be more targets than we could know of at the start of any one of these strikes. The information of this morning I think simply demonstrates the validity of that conclusion of last evening. Secondly, when we're talking of Roman numeral 1 as a very limited strike against MRBMs only and it leaves in existence IL28s with nuclear weapon-carrying capabilities and a number of other aircraft with nuclear weapon-carrying capability and aircraft with strike capability, which could be exercised during our attack or at any time following our attack on the MRBMs, with great possible risk and loss to either Guantanamo and or the eastern coast of the U.S. I say great loss, I'm not thinking in terms of tens of thousands, but I'm thinking terms of sporadic attacks against our civilian population, which would lead to losses I think we would find it hard to justify in relation to the alternative courses open to us and in relation to the very limited accomplishment of our limited number of strikes.
JFK - What about alternative #2 on the basis that you're going against offensive weapons, you're going to go against their missiles and you're going to go against their planes, what is the argument against that? I mean, that would prevent them knocking our population.
Taylor - It's much to be preferred over #l in my opinion. It would have to be larger than shown now because of the additional number of targets required and it fits very closely, to alternative 3 in terms of the number of sorties. Number 2 was prepared before we had the additional information of last night. Tonight's interpretation we showed 100 sorties. I think it more likely that #2, that the information we now have and the information we're likely to have . .. [unintel.] . . . tomorrow merge with/into[?] version #3 which is a 200 sortie strike. I doubt very much we could stop there.
Rusk - I would agree with that particular scenario[?], that really 2 is hardly possible now. I mean we're really talking 3 right now. So you'll have to take the sandbags out. If you're going to go for all these from the air, from the airfield strikes, ...[unintel.]... other target related ...[unintel.]...
UNK - I think that's particularly true if you expect ...[unintel.]... to have any problem of surveillance. SAM sites could soon become operational and even though we take out 1 and 2, we still don't have the requirement of knowing what's going on.
Rusk - If there's a prolonged air war I would say, indefinitely either under 1, 2 or 3.
JFK - Well under 2 you don't need to take up the SAM sites before they become operational.
UNK - Uh, they may be operational at any time.
McNamara - We have almost certainly added 2 more targets than are indicated here. There are 16 targets shown, we have at least 3 more targets ...[unintel.]... since last night and we will certainly have some more tonight and tomorrow and therefore because 2 merges very directly into 3 if the SAM sites becomes operational 2 becomes 3 because in a very real sense they . . . [several voices, unintel.] . . .
JFK - Let me ask you this Bob, when we're talking about 3 vs. 5.
McNamara - Yes sir.
JFK - Uh, then the advantage of 3 is that you would hope to do it in a day?
McNamara - Yes, it could be done in a day.
JFK - And an invasion, 5, would be 7 or 8 or 9 days with all the consequences?
McNamara - That is correct.
JFK - We increase the tension now. If we did 3 would, uh, we would assume that by the end of the day their ability to use planes against this, after all they don't have that much range so they'd have to come back to the field and organize, right?
McNamara - You would assume that by the end of the day their air force could be nearly destroyed, I say nearly because there might be a few sporadic weapons around.
UNK - Yes I would ...[unintel.]... we'll never be guaranteed a 100%....[unintel.]...
JFK - Well, at least as far as their except of nuclear. I would think you have to go under the assumption that they're not going to permit nuclear weapons to be used against the United States from Cuba unless they're going to be using them from every place.
McNamara - Well, maybe. I'm not sure they can stop it. This is why I emphasize a point here, that I don't believe the Soviets would authorize their use against the U.S. but they might nonetheless be used. Therefore, I underline his assumptions that all of these cases are premised on the assumptions there are no operational nuclear weapons there. If there's any possibility of that I would strongly recommend that these plans be modified substantially.
(reads from memo) - Now, I would go back just one second, I evaded the question. Sec. Rusk asked me and I evaded it because I wanted this information to step [?l first. The question he evaded the question. Sec. Rusk asked me and I evaded it because I wanted this information to step [?] first. The question he asked me was how does, in effect, how does the introduction of these weapons to Cuba change the military equation, the military position of the U.S. vs. the USSR. And in, speaking strictly in military terms, in terms of weapons it doesn't change it at all in my personal opinion. My personal views are not shared by the Chiefs, they aren't shared by many others in the department. However, I feel very strongly on this point and I think I can argue a case, a strong case of an offensive opposition. This doesn't really have any bearing on the issue in my opinion because it's not a military problem that we're facing, it's a political problem. It's a problem of holding the alliance together, it's a problem of properly conditioning Khrushchev for our future moves and a problem of holding the alliance together, a problem of conditioning Khrushchev for our future moves, the problem of dealing with our domestic public all requires that, in my opinion, the strictly military balance does not require.
JFK - Holding the alliance, which is going to strain the alliance more, this tack by us on these, uh, Cuba. Which is, most allies regard as a fixation of the United States and not a serious military threat. I mean you have to apply conditional tactical ...[unintel.]... before they would accept or support our action against Cuba because they think that we're slightly demented on this subject. So there isn't any doubt that whatever action we take against Cuba, no matter how good our films are, that will cause Latin America, and a lot of, a lot of people would regard this as a mad act by the United States which is due to a loss of nerve because they will argue that taken at its worst the presence of these missiles really doesn't change the verdict, if you think that ...[unintel.]. .. Well the Senate will think the other way ... [unintel.]... what is anybody else going to think who isn't under this gun?
McNamara? - The others are gonna think exactly as I do.
|The following files are sound clips of the above bolded quotation.
Bundy? - May I comment sir? With regard to what we've just seen in intelligence, sir, it seems to me 3 things stand out. The first is the very rapid, the energy with which we're, they're developing this move[?] missiles. The first 24 hours on Sunday was very ...[unintel.]... they're moving very fast to make those weapons operational. Were those operational today I would agree with the secretary that probably not, but I don't think that anyone can assure you at any time that at least 1 or more of their missiles will become operational.
Uh, Number 2, the IL28's we have been expecting this but now they've turned up in a very powerful location I would say. And the line its ideal ...[unintel.]... to take them out ... [unintel.]... Thirdly, our IRBMs have really put a noose out there the way I look at it ...[unintel.]... Like yesterday when it looked like we had only a few of the mobile Titans. I was far from convinced that the big showdown would be required. Today we're getting a new fixture and the position of the . . . [unintel.] . . . is going to be a forward base or can become a forward base of major importance for the Soviets. Also the target we're seeing, however, the kind of air attack .. . [unintel.]. .. is nothing. We can't take this threat out by action from the air. So if we had argued more and more that it would be because of that kind of thing invasion's got to ...
McNamara - [interrupting] You don't mean that you can't prevent it in the sense of stopping it from happening the next day you mean that for the long pull you're going to have to take...
Bundy? - [interrupting] Yes you can't destroy a hole in the ground you can't ...[unintel.]... prevents these, this construction going ahead by any air actions. Conceivably diplomatic actions might stop it, but it's solely diplomatic action or occupation force that I can see that can prevent this kind of threat from building up.
Now if those signals are roughly correct then what does it mean in terms of time? Well, it means that in so far as getting the mobile missiles out, trying to do so if ... [unintel.]... if it's not already too late. And I would say again that we're not sure that it is not too late but with respect to one or more . . . [unintel.]. . . with the IL28s, our air people think it'll be 2 or 3 weeks before they're ready to fly. So that would give us considerably more latitude in terms of time.
[several voices, unintel.]
maxes out at 2000 miles, maximum 2000 miles. So there is no pressure of time from that point of view even though more, uh, more, greater danger in the long run. Well, that's about the thoughts that arise in my mind, and I think the Chiefs would join me in that. There's one factor we talked about at length yesterday, the political actions which Mr. Bohlen recommends and many others think must be done. Certainly militarily that is undesirable. If we really had in mind the urgency of picking out the surprise, the missiles and the IL28s. On the other hand it could be considered politically necessary, if quite true, there's an offsetting ... [unintel.]... if we could be military moves of readiness to reinforce the political action and activism to shorten the time of our reaction.
JFK - If we gave say this 24 hour notice, get in touch with Khrushchev, taking no action with our allies. I would assume that they would move these mobile missiles into the woods.
UNK - There's a danger, Mr. President, is if you're talking 24 hours I would doubt it but the more you add on.
[several voices, unintel.]
McNamara - Mr. President, I don't believe they're equipped to do that. I say that because if they were equipped to do that they would have been equipped to erect them more quickly. I think it is unlikely they would move them in 24 hours. If they were to move them in 24 hours I think we could keep enough reconnaissance over the island during that period to have some idea of where they've moved. Have every reason to believe we'd know where they were.
UNK - It would take a little longer though.
McNamara - What?
UNK - It would take a little longer, to take very careful reconnaissance to know where they are.
RFK - I'm not so confident that they couldn't hide them or get them in immediate readiness in 24 hours.
McNamara - I didn't say they could get them in immediate readiness in 24 hours, I don't believe that they, we would lose them with a 24 hour discussion with Khrushchev.
JFK - How quick is our communication with Moscow? Say we sent somebody to see him and he was there at the beginning of the 24 hour period to see Mr. Khrushchev, how long would it be before Khruschev's answer could get back to us as far as communications?
Llewellyn Thompson? - It would have to go in code probably, what, probably 5 or 6 hours. ...[unintel.]... You could telephone of course.
RFK - Wouldn't really have to go in code, would it?
Thompson? - You could save time by not putting it in a highly confidential ...[unintel.]... machine?
JFK - Then it would be a couple of hours?
Bundy? - Put it this way, it might be answered ...[unintel.]... infinite delays on their end ...[unintel.]... an actual text could be in here and transmitted and that would get to Khrushchev straight away. Whereas, somebody else might have the problem of ...[unintel.]...
|The following files are sound clips of the above bolded quotation.
Rusk? - I think there is one point, we have to bear in mind ...[unintel.]... So far we know there is no stated relationship that makes these Soviet missiles or Soviet bases. There is the attempts that Castro made to ally himself with the Warsaw Pact or join the Warsaw Pact or even to engage in a bilateral with Moscow, apparently he ...[unintel.]... and failed. He sent Raul and Che Guevara to Moscow a few months ago apparently for that purpose, other purposes. Hence, if we were to take action with the present status, the Soviets would have some latitude and might want to respond, if they did at all. On the other hand as a result of warning or communication with them, they declare these their bases. Then we would have a different kind of problem. Because we would have a problem of committing action against a stated base there. And this might mean a war of different proportions.
JFK - The question is really whether the Soviet reaction [and Cuban resistance?] would be majorly different if they were presented with an accomplished fact in the daytime, I mean one day, not the invasion . . . [unintel. . . . accomplished fact whether their reaction would be different than it would be if they were given a chance to pull 'em out. If we said to Khrushchev that we, we had to take action against it ... [unintel.]... pull 'em out and we'll take ours out of Turkey, whether that, whether he would then send back: "If you take these out we're going to take Berlin, and we're going to do something else".
McNamara? - The important factor there is that if you do this first strike you would kill a lot of Russians. That's . .. [unintel.] .. . On the other hand, if you give them notice, the thing I would fear the most is if just Turkey and Italy to take action to cause us to ...[unintel.]...
UNK - You mean if...
RFK - [interrupting] What is your preference Tom?
Thompson- My preference is let's blockade the ... [unintel.]... the declaration has already led the steps leading up to it [?]. I think it's very highly doubtful the Russians would resist a blockade against military weapons, particularly offensive ones, if at that point if that's the way we pitched it to the world.
JFK - And what do we do with the weapons already there?
Thompson - Demand their dismantlement and say that we are going to maintain constant surveillance, and if they are armed, we would then take them out, and then maybe do it. I think we should be under no illusions that this would probably in the end lead to the same thing. But we would do it under an entirely different posture and background, and much less danger of getting up into the big war.
|The following files are sound clips of the above bolded quotation.
The Russians have a curious faculty of wanting a legal basis, despite of all the outrageous things they've done, they attach a lot of importance to this. The fact that you have that declaration of war, they would be running a military blockade, legally established, greatly deterred.[?]
JFK - In other words ...
RFK - [interrupting] If you maybe run through, because he hasn't heard the explanation of the blockade.
Thompson - There is a paper there on that, force number 2, there, Mr. President.... [unintel.]... It's a concept . . . [much rustling of papers]. . .
JFK - In other words, under this take these missiles that are now bad out or the planes that are now bad out.
Thompson - Not at the first stage, I think it would be useful to say if they're made operational, we might or would....
JFK - Of course then he would say, if you do that, then we will
UNK - Bomb 'em.
Thompson - As Chip says, I agree with you, if they're prepared to say, if you do this, then this is nuclear world war, then you do that anyway. I think he'd make a lot of threatening language, but in very big terms, keeping ...
JFK - [interrupting] I would think it's just more likely he would grab Berlin, that's more likely.
UNK - I think that already ...
Thompson - [interrupting] If we just made the first strike I think his answer would be, very probably to take out one of our bases in Turkey, and make a quick tune[?], and then sit down and talk. I think the whole purpose of this exercise is to build up to talk with you, in which we try to negotiate out the bases. There are a lot of things that point to that, one thing that struck me very much is that it is so easy to camouflage these things or to hide them in the woods, why didn't they do it in the first place? They surely expected us to see it at some stage. The point of fact, the purpose was for preparations for negotiations.
RFK - Maybe they had something?
UNK - They may.
Taylor - May I ask whether military moves in these 5, 5 days period would be acceptable in some point of view to the State Department?
Rusk? - Oh yeah, certainly
Rusk? - Certainly it would be helpful.
UNK - Now of course, Mr. President, there are obvious counters to the blockade.....
[several voices, unintel.] RFK - And also the argument against the blockade is that it's very slow death, and it kills up, and goes over a period of months, and during that period of time you've got all these people yelling and screaming, examination of Russian ships and shooting down of Russian planes that try to land there, you have to do all those things.
UNK/George Ball? - ... [unintel.]... the Soviet reaction, if as Tommy and Chip predicted, the Soviets would not try to run the blockade, then they would have deserted their friends in Cuba, and I think there would be serious political chaos in Cuba if the Soviets deserted their own comrades[?].
UNK - Also, I assume that you would be in negotiations with Khrushchev.
UNK - In the case of any of these attacks in all logic you would have a blockade ... [unintel.]... all of these military actions apply also to a blockade.
UNK - I agree.
UNK - Oh yeah, sure, sure.
UNK - What would you do about a declaration of war?
RFK? - Simultaneously, seems to me you declare that a state of war exists, and you call the Congress.
Thompson - I think that Khrushchev will deny that these are Soviet bases.... [ unintel.] ... I think what he'd say, what are you getting so excited about? We have, the Cubans asked us for us the missiles to deal with these émigré bases which are threatening, have attacked and are threatening attack. These are not missiles, other than defensive. They're much less offensive than your weapons in Turkey. You've got these armed with nuclear war heads. We haven't given them nuclear weapons. These are simply to deal with the threats to Cuba. That would be the general line.
UNK - Well, that would be patently false on its face as to the nature of the weapons.
[several voices, unintel.]
RFK - If we act, it better be Cuban missiles.
UNK - I think our action is aimed at Cuba, just as much as possible in this situation.
Thompson? - You ought to make it, if you do that, perhaps, as easy as possible for him to back down. I think almost certainly it leads to his answer would be also this is so serious, I'm prepared to talk to you about it. You could scarcely refuse that with world war being threatened. And I think you immediately assume the next step.
That's why I think the Attorney General's point, though certainly valid, is somewhat weakened in that during this period you would be negotiating out of this thing.
McNamara? - But if he were to say let's talk, then you would have to say to him then stop immediately all activities on such and such fields, sites and so forth...
Thompson - Having imposed the blockade how do you do it?
JFK - The blockade wouldn't be sufficient, he could go on developing the things he's got there. You don't know how much he's got there.
UNK - He would, uh, you impose a blockade, impose a blockade on Cuba, and he imposes a blockade on Berlin, and then you start to talk. And then you would trade these 2 these 2 off.
UNK - That's what he'd figure.
UNK - That's what he'd figure, yes.
Thompson - It seems to me one of the points of this ... [unintel.]... always curious as to why said he'd defer this till after the election ... [unintel.]...
McCone - Mr. President, you might be interested in General Eisenhower's reaction to this ...[unintel.]... I briefed him ...[unintel.]... careful, I think, not to take any position, because I had no position. I was very careful not to indicate your position ...[unintel.]... However I should report that the thrust of his comments, would indicate that he felt, firstly, the existence ...[unintel.]... capabilities in Cuba was intolerable....[unintel.]... Secondly, I think that he felt that limited actions, such as strafing, as anticipated, in 1 or 2 or even 3, of this paper[?] would not be satisfactory. It would cause the greatest of fear and concern among[?] our allies, and in all areas of the world, for the Soviets might take similar action against installations, United States installations over in Germany ...[unintel.]... Turkey or Pakistan or elsewhere. He felt, really, that if a move was made, and I think I pinned him down, he would recommend it, it should be an all out military action. He talked of conceiving it to go right to the jugular first, and not an invasion, landing on the beach and working slowly across the island, but concentrated attacks right off the bat, at first, in the heart of it . . . [unintel.] . . . And he felt that this was done, probably the thing ...[unintel.]... could be done with the minimum loss of life. Now he said that without the benefit of specific knowledge of troop deployments and equipment deployments and so forth....[unintel.]... I thought this would be of interest to you.
UNK - Step one, I think will have to be considered. There will be a number of steps you would have to take. Under which you would need the authority of a national emergency or a declaration of war. ...[unintel.]... manpower, ...[unintel.]... important here.
Bundy? - Another point ...[unintel.]... since Castro's gone this far in conniving, I suppose, in assuming he did not protest putting these things in there. Seems to me in the end does seem to be[?] the fact that Castro has to go. If we did this blockade, and any of these steps and Castro attacked Guantanamo and so on, then we've got a much better position in which then go in and take him out. Then, if it were started by some surprise attack from us. I gather it's fairly likely that he might, that Castro would do something to...
UNK - [interrupting] Certainly, if we take any of these military actions, I think we have to assume a reaction against Guantanamo.
Douglas Dillon? - Mr. President, what is the idea, I'm not quite clear, of talking to Khrushchev ahead of time, what could he do that would, oh, remove this danger ...[unintel.]... MRBMs ...[unintel.]... What could he do that would satisfy us? It seems to be very difficult to see him in any action he could take that would might say sure I'll take them out sometime, and do the opposite of they are all there. I don't understand how we achieve that. We may achieve something in so that, for history important, we've done something then. That's a different argument than the argument of really trying to achieve anything. ...[unintel.]... achieve anything.
UNK - The 2 alternatives, that in general, he might reduce his involvement. He might step it up in his reply. Um...
Dillon? - [interrupting] You can't believe his reply, whatever it is.
UNK - You can, um, check his reply.
UNK - The most you do in the form of concessions is say that you will not take any further actions while these talks go on. Meantime, we've said we're going to keep an eye on him and ...[unintel.]... operational. Might be true with the Cubans. Don't think he'd ever just back down.
[several voices, unintel.]
Released by the John F. Kennedy Library on 27 July 1994 in response to Freedom of Information Act and Mandatory Declassification Review requests. Unofficial partial transcript prepared by Ian Stevenson, Mary Burroughs, and Sue Bechtel of the National Security Archive with the assistance of ABC News Nightline. Reproduced with premission.
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