Cuban Missile Crisis

Cuban Missile Crisis Excomm Transcripts

by Vincent Touze and John Hawkes

18 October 1962


Lundahl: Yes sir. Mr President, gentlemen, the first and most important element I would seek to call to your attention to is a new area hitherto never seen by us some 21 miles to the south-west of Havana which we have at the moment labeled a probable MRBM/IRBM launch complex.
The name of the town nearest is this, this is there. The two sites, sir, numbers one and two, 2.5 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 two pads here, and here. They are separated by 750 feet, there is a control bunker with cable spars going into a small building inboard of each of the pads. There's no equipment on the pads yet, they are 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 just scarcely started to be scratched.
At the same time 2.5 miles to the south of there site N°2; on 29th August there were no scratchings on the ground at all and since that time the scratchings have taken a form slightly different. There is this pattern 2, 1/2, 1/2, which is called the "offset inline". There is slightly more inlining here that looks as if there is going to be a fourth one in here, the spacing is the same.
The orientation of the axis of the pads is 315, which will bring you into the central (area) of the United States. We call it IRBM, sir, we never identified irrevocably the signature of the Soviet intermediate range ballistic missile, which is estimated to be a 2,000-mile missile, but the elongation of the pads and the location of the control bunker between these pair of pads, has been the thing which has suggested to our hearts, but not our minds, the kind of thing that might accompany an IRBM. (...) The impression one would gather is that there is some sense of speed with which they are proceeding with the construction of this particular base. May I pass that one over to you, sir ?

Voice: Thank you.

Lundahl: Also earlier, Mr President, we reported to you a number of what we call cruise missile sites, short-range coastal defense type missiles starting out with the Banos site, with another one located at Santa Cruzville del Norte, located up here in the Havana area.
At the time of that recording, there were two launchers at this position, here and here.
Since the coverage of that date, two more launching positions have been added upward of those two positions. The launchers here where the head is uncovered, you can actually see the launcher itself and down in this small revetment here, appears to be the winged type of air-breathing missile which will go on the short stubby-wing fellow which conforms to the cruise type of missile that we have seen before. So our opinion of this thing remains the same: we would now just report 2 additional launching positions at that complex .
Finally, Mr President, at the very western-most tip of Cuba, the island, we have St.Julian airfield, 7,000 feet by 150 feet, which has hitherto been barricaded. Piles 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 and lodged up in here we find 22 of those crates, some 60 feet long, which we have interpreted from the deck sight photography the Navy had taken to be possibly the crates that would accommodate the IL28 or Beagle type of 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, and we definitely have not yet seen the Beagle IL28 launchers. One fuselage has been taken from one of the boxes, it's up at this location, it is 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 have just caught them apparently at the start of the assembly operations and it would appear that St.Julian, this hitherto unused airfield, may be the locus for IL28 activity.
That's all I have at the moment, Mr President.

JFK: What percentage of the island have you got covered (?) here ?

Lundahl: In these separate missions, the one of Sunday October 14 and the two on Monday October 15 represents a considerable percentage from north to south and from east to west, but the business of plotting the clouds has not been completely done, so I cannot give you a good figure.

JFK: In other words from the information we had prior to the development of these new films, could you say how many different missile sites, as well as how many different launch pads are on each site ?

Lundahl: Well, sir, we have not found anything like the MRBM sites in any of the photography up to this 15 October bit. We have found and added to last night one more surface-air missile site, so that means 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 when they pulled these things up and moved them to, but we have seen 23 surface-to-air missile sites. We have seen 3 of these surface-to-surface cruise type of missile site at Banos and up here at del Norte and then down on the Isle of Pines.
We have one other type of missile site up here north of Havana that we haven't been able to identify as yet as being either Cruise or some other type of (?) which we are categorizing as "unknown".
And not only that, there was in the briefing of the last couple of days, have been added the field-type of installation, this 650 or 1,100 mile missile as it probably is, near San Cristobal, with these three sites located here which we briefed on the other day, and then photography of Monday of this week we have now added what looks like a more fixed type of site conforming to a signature which we have seen.....

JFK: In other words, you've got five different missile sites?

Lundahl: Yes, sir.

JFK: And how many pads on each site?

Lundahl: Well, sir, at this location we don't have pads, we have these erectors, the 60-foot long objects that lay in the ground. There were 4 erectors there. We have found 3 erectors not yet in position but lying around predisposed here, and we have more erectors that are under the trees and we can't tell but it would seem as though there are going to be 4 erectors at each of those locations. And it would appear that there are going to be 4-launch pads at each of those too, but these will be firmer type of launchings, and these will be of the portable field-type of launching equipment.


JFK: When will we get the data really on the entire island (?) if we can ?

Lundahl: Sir, there are five missions coming in today (?) 28,000 feet (?) inside the afternoon.
We will seek to read them out during the night, and then as the others come in the next two to three 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. We are trying to be accurate here.... as accurate as we possibly can.
I would hope that comes the weekend we might have a fair grasp on all five, plus whatever number of additional ones Mr McNamara will have run between yesterday and the end of the (?).

Rusk: Mr President (?) The first question we have to answer is : is it necessary to take action, and I presuppose that there is (?) reason to take action here.
It looks now as if Cuba is not going to be just an incidental base for few of these things but base (?) MRBMs, IRBMs and that type of (?) military problem, and any conflict we would have with the Soviet Union (?) other parts of the world ?
The full scope of this becomes known and our action might undermine our alliance (?). On September the 4th (you said ?):
"There is no evidence of any organized combat force in Cuba from any Soviet-bloc country; of military bases provided to Russia; of a violation of the 1934 Treaty relating to Guantanamo; of the presence of offensive ground-to-ground missiles; or of other significant offensive capability either in Cuban hands or under Soviet direction and guidance. Were it to be otherwise, the gravest issues would arise."
I would say... (?) at that time (?) mention were pointing the finger at things which were unknown to us, and it was intended as a clear warning to the Soviet Union that these are matters we are taking with upmost seriousness (?) gravest issues (?), something very serious.
I think also we also have to consider the effect on the Soviets; I would suppose that they would consider as a major backdown, and that this would free their hands for almost any kind of intervention they might want to try in other parts of the world.
If we are unable to face up to a situation like Cuba, against this kind of threat, then I think there would be a very, very great encouragement to them to feel they have got it made as far as the (?) of the US is concerned. I think also we all know that we have an almost (historical ?) problem in this country getting (added ?) support for foreign policy we would need to pursue if we are going to sustain the cause of independence (?)
(here ?) and other parts of the world.
We've one million men outside the US, the foreign aid programs we have got, the major (?) we have on the Latin American continent, and it seems to me that that action in this situation can undermine and undercut the kind of support we need for our foreign policy that would eventually ensure our survival.
Our action involves very high risks indeed. The additional information increases the risk, the challenge is much more serious and our action, I would suppose, we would have to be heavier than the action we have been talking about. But (?) you must have in the back of your mind whatever the decision we take of the possibility of the Soviet reaction somewhere else, going all the way from Berlin right around to Korea, and the possibility of a reaction against the US itself. I don't think you can make a decision only on the assumption that this is a free ride (?) only (?) to the USA.
I would suppose that those first missiles we were talking about, a quick strike and quick success, a matter of a couple of hours time 50 or 60 sorties, missile and planes were (?), it's obvious then, the matter was over and finished. And that was the purpose of our engagement. Then there is a much more reduced risk of a military response on the other side, these and other installations. Getting involved in various parts of the island, I think, would increase the risk of military response from them.
The action (?) alliance solidarity, there we are faced with conflicting elements, unless we're in a situation where it is clear that the alliance has (?), understands the problem, and then an unannounced and unconsulted quick action on our part might very well lead to a kind of allied (disunitedness?) that the Soviets could capitalize on very strongly.
It's one thing, though, for Britain and France to get themselves isolated within the Alliance over Suez, but it's quite another thing for the Alliance that the US should get itself in the same position as we are a central part of the structure of the Alliance, and it's a different kind of problem, and a very hard problem.
Now I think that as far as I am concerned, and what I say to you, if we embark on this plan of challenging the Soviets, the Soviets would themselves embark on this (fantastic ?) dangerous course, that no one can surely foresee the outcome I was prepared to say when I came over here before I got this information (?) even if they exercise a strike, very probably move by certain steps into much more general action (?) situations.
Now, there is another (kind of situation ?) which bothers me considerably. I think the American people will willingly undertake the very great danger, and necessary great suffering, and if they have the deep feeling that we have done everything that is reasonably possible and that this thing is really necessary. Also, that they have a clear conscience and a good theory of the case. First point, whether this trip is necessary, we all of course remember the "Guns of August" (?) (convinced by the general situation ?) which at the time none of the governments involved really wanted. And this question I think is something very important. Acting with a clear conscience - in World War II, the Pearl Harbor attack against the background of infamous conduct (?). In the case of Korea, we had an organized large-scale aggression of North Korea and (it was ?) part of a general United Nations commitment. Even with that start the Korean (?) trouble (?) general support of the American people before it was over. These considerations I have just mentioned would militate in favor of a consultation with Khruschev and an indication (?) there is a possibility, and only a possibility, that Khruschev might realize that he has got to back down. (?) we have no reason to expect that. It's a very serious, major (?) point. At least it will get that point out of the way for the historical record, and this just might plant the seeds of a prevention of a big conflict. The real fact is, I think clearly, strong legal basis for the (military ?) action we are going to take. The other possibility is a straight declaration of war which carries with it legal privileges (...invasion (?)... useful...), but the (?).
(...) I would like to... Mr Bohlen (?) a note last night (?), and I would like to read you (?): "The existence of Soviet MRBM bases in Cuba cannot be tolerated. The objective therefore is their elimination by whatever means may be necessary. There are two means in essence: by diplomatic action or by military action.
No one can guarantee that this can be achieved by diplomatic action - but it seems to me essential that this channel should be tested out before military action is employed. If our decision is firm (and it must be) I see no danger in communicating with Khruschev 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 we determine on if the reply is unsatisfactory. The tone and tenor of his reply will tell us something but I don't believe a threat of nuclear war should deter us. If he means it, he would have so reacted even if the strike had come first.
My chief concern about a strike without any diplomatic effort is that it will eventually... uh, inevitably lead to war with Cuba and would not be the neat quick disposal of their bases as was suggested. Furthermore I am reasonably certain that the allied reaction would be dead against us, especially if the Soviets retaliated locally (in Turkey or Italy or in Berlin). A communication to Khruschev would be very useful for the record in establishing 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 - airstrike, invasion, or blockade. But we would have to make a case before our allies to justify such a declaration of war. But if we acted first and sought to justify it later we would be in a spot of great consequence. Finally, I feel very strongly that any belief in a limited quick action is an illusion and would lead us into a full war with Cuba on a step by step basis which would greatly increase the possibility of general war. The best course would be a carefully worded and serious letter to Khruschev before we take the action (?) and then followed by declaration of war (?) we were talking about last night."
And I think it's within this range of problems [?]. I think our defense colleagues ought to talk for a moment about the actual military aspect of the threat itself.

McNamara: Mr President, in this list there are a series of alternative plans ranging from Roman numeral N°1 with a minimum of about 50 sorties directed solely against the known MRBMs as of last night, to alternative N°5 which covers 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 the enemy is equipped with operational nuclear weapons, I am certain the plans would have to be changed.
Last evening we were discussing the relative merits of these forms of military action, assuming that some form of military action is required. The eminent view of the chiefs based on discussions of the last few days, and it was certainly my view, that either Roman numeral N°1 or Roman numeral N°2, very limited air strikes against very limited targets would be quite inconclusive, very risky, and would almost certainly lead to further military action. Probably, we would have taken unnecessarv risks for the gains we achieve and therefore the Chiefs and I would certainly have recommended last night, and I would recommend more strongly today, that we would not consider undertaking either Roman numeral N°1 or Roman numeral N°2, and that we would consider really nothing short of a full invasion as (actual?) military action, and this only on the assumption that we are operating against a force that does not possess operational nuclear weapons.

JFK: Why do you (?) as this information changed the recommendation ?

McNamara: Last evening, it was my personal belief, that there were more targets than we knew of, and 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, we were talking of Roman numeral N°1 as a very limited strike against MRBMs only, and these, in existence, IL28s or nuclear weapon carrying capability, and a number of other aircraft with nuclear weapon carrying capability, and aircraft with strike capability that could be exercised during our attack or even on our attack on the MRBMs, with the possible risk of loss to either Guantanamo and/or the eastern coast of the US. I say great loss - I'm not thinking in terms of tens of thousands but I'm thinking in terms of a surprise attack 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.

RFK: What about alternative N°2 on the basis that, uh, you are going against offensive weapons ? You are going to go against their missiles and you are going against their planes. What is the argument against that ? (You know), it would prevent them knocking our population to bits ?

McNamara: Much to be preferred over N°1 in my opinion. You would have to be larger than shown now because of the position of the targets required and it gets very close to alternative 3 as far as the number of sorties. N°2 was prepared before we had the additional information, and the night's interpretation would show 200 sorties; I think it more likely that N°2, that the information we now have and the information we are likely to have today and tomorrow, would merge into N°3 - which is a 200 sorties strike. I doubt very much we could stop there.

Taylor: I would agree with that. (?) Secretary, really, 2 is hardly possible now. And we are really talking about N°3. We will have to take the SAM sites out, if we are going airfield strikes (?) and targets related (?).

McCone: I think that's particularly time (?) to have problems. (?) the SAM sites (?) could soon become operational even though we take them out. With 1 and 2 we still have problems going on.

Taylor: (?) a long air war as I say, uh, indefinitely, either under 1, 2 or 3 actually.

Bundy ?: With 2 you don't need to take out the SAM sites before they become operational.

Taylor: They could become operational at any time.

McNamara: We have almost certainly identified 2 more targets than are indicated here. There are 6 targets shown, we have at least 3 more targets (?) since last night and we will have certainly have some more tonight and tomorrow, and therefore 2 merges very directly into 3. If the SAM sites become operational, 2 becomes 3. Because (?).

JFK: Let me ask you this. What we are talking about is 3 versus 5 ?

McNamara: Yes, sir.

JFK: And the advantage of 3, is that you hope to do it in a day ?

McNamara: Yes, it could be done in a day.

JFK: (And ?) invasion, 5, would be 7 or 8 or 9 days, with all the consequences.

McNamara: That's correct ...

JFK: We increase the tension. Now, if we did 3, 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, they would have to come back to the airfield and reorganize.

McNamara: By the end of the day their airforce could be nearly destroyed. I say nearly because there might be a few sporadic weapons around.

Taylor: ... yes (?) never be guaranteed at 100 % (?).

JFK: But at least (?) except for nuclear. I would think you have to go on the assumption that they are not going to permit nuclear weapons to be used against the United States from Cuba unless they're going to be used from every place.

Voice: (?)

McNamara: I am not sure they can stop it. This is why I emphasize the point (?) I don't believe the Soviets would authorize their use against the US, but they might nonetheless be used, and therefore I underline the assumptions that all of these cases are based on the assumption that they are not operational nuclear weapons there.
If there is any possibility of that, then I would strongly recommend these points to be modified substantially.

Voice: (?)

McNamara: (?) I (evaded ?) the question Secretary Rusk asked me. I evaded it because I wanted this information discussed first. The question he asked me was: How does the introduction of these weapons in Cuba change military equation, the military position of the US v. the USSR ? And speaking strictly in military terms, in terms of weapons it does not change it at all, in my personal opinion. My personal views are not shared by the Chiefs, they are not shared by many others in the Department, however, I feel very strongly on this point and I think I could probably argue a case, a strong case in defense of my position.
This does not really have any bearing on the issue in my opinion, because it is not a military problem that we are facing, it's a political problem. It's a problem of holding the alliance together, it's a problem of practically conditioning Khruschev for our future moves. And the problem of holding the alliance together, the problem of conditioning Khruschev for our future moves, the problem of dealing with our domestic public; above all requires action that in my opinion the shift of the military balance does not require.

JFK: Holding the alliance. Which thing would strain the alliance more ? This attack by us on Cuba, which is by most Allies regard as a fixation of the US, and not a serious military threat ? We would have to apply conditions before have to go in, before they would accept to support our action against Cuba, because they think that we're slightly demented on this subject, so there isn't any doubt, whatever action we take against Cuba no matter how good our films are, that will cause Latin America and a lot of people would regard this as a (?) mad act by the US which is due to a loss of nerve because they would argue that taken at its worst, the presence of these missiles really does not change the military view but that (?). Well, the Senate will think the other way (?). America (like everybody else) gonna think who isn't under this gun (?).

McNamara: The others are going to think exactly as I do.


Taylor: Yes, you can't destroy their force on the ground. You can't prevent (?) this construction going ahead by air action. I conceive you will get diplomatic actions might stop (?) only diplomatic actions or occupations forces as I can see, can prevent this kind of weapons from building up.
Now, if those statements 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 (?) with the Soviets (?) it's not already too late. I would say, again, we are not sure it is not too late with respect to one or more missiles. On the IL-28's, the air people think it will be 2 to 3 weeks before they are ready to fire so that will give us considerably more latitude in terms of time. The MRBM needs a rather complete time because the experienoe in the Soviet Union (?) about six months to get them ready (?)


So there's no pressure of time from that point of view, even those, (?) greatest danger in the long run. But that's not the problem and I think the Chiefs would join me in that. But there's one factor we talked about at length yesterday. The political actions which Mr. Ball recommended, and many of us think must be done. Certainly, militarily that is undesirable, if we really have in mind the urgency of taking out by surprise the missiles and IL28s.
On the other hand, if we considered it politically necessary. (?) If we could be making military moves for readiness to reinforce the political action and actually to shorten the time of our reaction.

JFK: If we gave, say, this 24 hour notice and I get in touch with Khruschev, and take into account the reaction of our allies, I assume they would move these mobile missiles into the wood here ?

Taylor: I think the danger. Mr President if we are talking of doing it in 24 hours, I would doubt it. Bu the more ahead of (?).


McNamara: Mr President, I don't believe they are 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 where they have moved them. I have every reason to believe we would know where they were.


Taylor: (?) We would have to take very careful reconnaissance (?).

Bundy: I'm not so confident that they couldn't hide them and 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 they ... uh ... we would lose them with a 24 hour discussion with Khruschev.

JFK: How to quicken our communications with Moscow ? Say we sent someone to see him (?) (giving him ?) 24 hours to see Mr Khruschev. How long would it actually be before Khruschev's answer gets back to us (?) communications ?

Thompson: It would have to go in code probably, what (?), perhaps (16 ?) hours (?), I guess.

JFK: (?)

Thompson: You could telephone ofcourse.

RFK: It wouldn`t really have to go in code, would it ?

Thompson: You (need ?) a certain time, highly confidential, code (?) machine.

JFK: But that would be a couple of hours ?

Rusk: The quickest way it might be answered (?) put delays on (?) (would be to ?) deliver him an actual text, and give it to (?) and let him (translate it ?), and that would get to Khruschev straight away, whereas somebody else might have a problem [with the translation ?].

McCone: (?). So far, we know there is no state of relationship, that makes these Soviet missiles or Soviet bases. The attempts that, uh, Castro made to ally himself with the Warsaw Pact, join the Warsaw Pact, or even to engage in a bilateral (?) with Moscow apparently it would appear, failed. He sent Raoul and Che Guevara to Moscow a few months ago apparently for that purpose, amongst other purposes. Hence, if we were to take action (?) the Soviet (?) have some latitude (?) they might want to respond, if they do it at all. On the other hand, if the result of a warning or communication with them, they declare these their bases. Then we would have a different kind of problem because it would be a problem of committing an action against a (nation of theirs ?), and this might mean a war of proportions.

JFK: The question seems is really whether the Soviet reaction (?) could be majorly different if they were presented with an accomplished fact, (in the day time ?), I mean one day, not an invasion (?), the accomplished fact, whether their reaction would be different than if they were given a chance to pull them out. If we said to Khruschev that we had to take action against him: (?) pull them out, we take ours out of Turkey (?). He would then send back: if you take these out, we are going to take Berlin, or we are going to do something else and then we would be...

Thompson: The important factor there is, Mr President, if you do this first strike, you kill a lot of Russians and create a lot of public reaction. On the other hand if we give them notice the thing I would fear most is (threat ?) Turkey and Italy to take action...

Bundy: What is your preference, Tommy ?

Thompson: My preference is for the blockade plan, I think a declaration of war and the steps leading up to it. I think it is highly doubtful that the Russians would resist the blockade against military weapons, particularly offensive ones, and that's (?) (world ?).

JFK: What do we do with the weapons already there ?

Thompson: We demand they dismantle and say that we are going to make constant surveillance, and if they are armed then we would take them out. I think that is the way to do it. I think we should be under no illusions. This would possibly in the end lead to the same thing, but we do it from an entirely different posture and background and much less danger of getting into an atomic war. The Russians have a curious, uh, faculty of wanting a legal basis despite a lot of outrageous things they have done (?). The fact that you have that declaration of war, they would be running a military blockade (?) Turkey.

JFK: In other words ..

RFK: (?) haven't (?) heard explanation of the blockade ...

Voice: (?) course N°2, Mr President, you have (?) concept...

JFK: In other words under this plan over we would not take these missiles they now have (?) the planes they now have ?

Thompson: At the first stage I think it would be useful to say if they are made operational then we might, or would (?).

JFK: Then he would say, "If you do that, then we will ...".

Thompson: As Chip says, and I agree with him on this, that if they are prepared to say: "All right, you do this then this is nuclear world war."... then (we ?) do that anyway. I think he would make a lot of threatening language, and [?]

JFK: I think it's more likely he would just grab Berlin, that's more likely.

Thompson: I think (?). If we just make the first strike, I think his answer would be very probably to take it out on our bases in Turkey, (and maybe quick too ?) and then sit down to talk. I think the whole purpose of the exercise is to build up (to a positive view ?) in which we try to negotiate out the bases. One thing that struck me very much is, this is easy to camouflage these things and hide them in the woods (?), so they surely must have expected this (decision ?) at some stage. [?]. The purpose was for the preparation of a negotiation.

RFK: Because maybe they have something ?

Voice: They may.

Taylor: May I ask whether military moves in this five days period, would be acceptable from the point of view of the State Department ?

Thompson: It would cerlainly be helpful.

Voices: Certainly, certainly.

Voice: Now, of course, Mr President, there are obvious counters to the blockade (?) (blockade of Berlin ?).

RFK: Also the argument against the blockade, is that it's a very slow death. It builds up over a period of months and during that period of time you get all thcse people yelling and screaming about, examination of Russian ships, shooting down of Russian planes that try to land there, and you have to do all those things.

JFK: Submarines.

McCone (?): On 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 considerable chaos in Cuba if the Soviets deserted their (?) comrades.

Dillon ?: I also assume you would be in negotiation with Khruschev.

Taylor: (?) You have a blockade. You could have all these military actions combined with a blockade.

Bundy: I agree.

Voice: Oh yes, sure, sure, but what would you do about a declaration of war, Bill ?

Voice: (?)

Bundy: Simultaneously, it seems to me you declare that a state of war exists, and you call the Congress.

Thompson: I think it likely Khruschev would deny these are Soviet bases (?). I think what he would say is, uh: what are you getting so excited about ? The Cubans asked us for missiles to deal with emigrate bases (?) they are threatening, they have attacked, they are threatening to attack. These are not missiles other than defensive, they are much less offensive (than your weapons (or) in Europe ?) and Turkey. (?) nuclear warheads.
We have not given any nuclear weapons to them except to deal with the threat to Cuba. That would be his general line.

Rusk: (?) (It depends on ?) the nature of the weapons.

Mixed voices

Bundy: If we act, it had better be Cuban missiles !

Voice: Sure !

Rusk: (?) (Aimed on ?) Cuba (?) as much as possible in the situation.

Thompson: You ought to make it, if you do these steps, as easy as possible for him to back down. (?) I think almost certainly it leads to (?). I'm prepared to talk to you about it. If you refused to do that - the world war being threatened  ... I think (he or you  ?) immediately assume the next step. That's why, I think, the Attorney General's point is certainly valid, is somewhat weakened in that during this period you would be negotiating out this thing.

Rusk: But if he were to say, let's talk, then we would have to say to him, let's stop immediately all activities on such and such fields, sites and so forth.

Thompson: I impose the blockade while he does it.

JFK: A blockade wouldn't be sufficient, he could go on developing the things he's got there. And we don't know how much he's got there.

Voice: If you impose the blockade of Cuba, then he imposes the blockade of Berlin, and then you start to talk, and, you trade these two off. That's what he would think.

Voice: That's what he would think. Yes.

Thompson: It seems to me one of the points (?) (on this rather fool ?), and I am always curious as to why he said he'd defer this until after the election. It seems to me this is not related to this.


Rusk: Mr President, one thing we have not considered, but there's a number of steps we would have to take under which you would need the authority of a national emergency or declaration of war (?) some defense steps (?) manpower (?), other powers (?). I think that will be important here.

Thompson: Another point (Mr President ?), since Castro has gone this far and (?) I suppose assuming that he didn't protest at the putting of these things in there. It seems to me that (in the end ?) the fact that Castro has to go. If we did this blockade and any of these steps and Castro attacks Guantanamo and so on, that's a much better position to go in and take them out than if it started by some surprise attack by us. I gather it's fairly likely that he might, Castro, would do, something to...

Taylor: Certainly if we take any of these military actions. We have to assume a reaction against Guantanamo.

Dillon: Mr President, what is the idea _ I'm not quite clear _ of talking to Khruschev ahead of time ? What could he do that would remove this danger, (we have of these ?) MRBMs (?) ? What could he do that would satisfy us ? It seems to me very difficult to conceive any action he can take. He might say, sure enough, I'll take them out sometime, or do the opposite (?) how we achieve. We may achieve something in so that for history would show we have done something. That's a different argument than the argument we were really trying to achieve anything [?].

Rusk: (?) Yes (?) in general, he might reduce his involvement, he might step it up in his reply, ah ...

Dillon: You can't believe, his reply whatever it is.

Rusk: We can check this reply.


Ball: So I think that your position with the rest of the alliance is going to be stronger if you have given Khruschev a chance to do, to do something.


Bundy: I've got the speech all figured out, the one thing he must know is that he is going to say something to us about this at some point. I think there is a reasonable chance Gromyko is going to make a speech this afternoon.


Taylor: I presume our communication to Khruschev would be in such terms as wouldn't indicate the details of our knowledge of the existence of these weapons. (...)

McCone: I don't think he can believe that we don't know about this. It's done, it's done, (?), these convoys have moved, people observed them, we've got refugee reports, and gossip of all kinds that... All that we know does not come from our aerial photography by any manners of means.
I'm inclined to take the view, I think the (CIA) Board (of estimates) would, studying this would agree, that he would, Khruschev would indeed engage us in some type of a negotiation that we would be locked into, and couldn't move. I don't think there would be an answer that could be so negative that it would give us freedom of action, and hence, uh, it would be somewhat like the Geneva test convention business, we get into it and we couldn't get out of it.

JFK: The only, uh, to me...

McCone: (Allowing ?) this things to be built up.

JFK: ... the offer we would make, I would, it seems to me to have any sense the point being of giving him some out, would be, uh, the Turkey, missiles.

Bundy: I believe, Mr. President, that is equally valid if we make a sudden strike. I think it may well be important to have a message in Khruschev's hand at that moment saying that that we, amongst other things (?) but also that we understand this base problem, and that we do expect to dismantle our Turkish base. That has one small advantage which is, that if he strikes back, we will at least give him a peaceful outcome.

Bundy: I don't think (JFK interrupting) we can keep that Turkish base (?).

Dillon: (?) You get to the same point by doing those things simultaneously... that way, as you do by the other.


Bundy: I don't advance it as good, but as simply one way of reducing (?).

Ball: (?) put Polaris 2 (?) in those waters.


Mc Namara souligne les dangers des bombardements. Ball se prononce fermement pour l'avertissement préalable.

McNamara: If, if there is a strike, without preliminary discussion with Khruschev, how many Soviet citizens would be killed ? ... I don't know. It would be several hundred perhaps, an absolute minimum.

Bundy: Killed, ... or casualties?

McNamara: Killed.

Bundy: Thank you.

McNamara: (?) if we are using napalm, 750 pound bombs, this is an, this is an extensive strike we are talking about.

Bundy: Well, I hope it is !

McNamara: (As I say ?), I think we must assume we will kill several hundred Soviet citizens. And having killed several hundred Soviet citizens, what kind of response does Khruschev hand over to us? It seems to me it just must be a strong response. I think we should expect that, and therefore the question really is, are we willing to pay some kind of a rather substantial price to eliminate these missiles ? I think that the price is going to be high. It may still be worth paying to eliminate the missiles. But I think we must assume it is going to be high. The very least it will be, would be to remove the missiles in Italy, in Turkey, but I doubt we could settle for that.

Thompson: (I would think he would take Berlin ?)

Ball: Mr President, I think that it's easy sitting here to, to underestimate the kind of sensible thought that you would have in the allied countries, even perhaps in, in Latin America if we act without warning, without giving Khruschev some way out even though it may be illusory, I think we still have to do it, because I think that the impact on, on opinion and the reaction will be very much different. A course of action where we strike without warning is like Pearl Harbor. It, it's the kind of conduct that one may expect of the Soviet Union ... it is not conduct one expects of the United States. And I have the feeling this warning of 24 hours to Khruschev is really indispensable.

JFK: And then if he says, if you do that and we grab Berlin...probably he was going to grab Berlin anyway !

Ball: We go ahead.

JFK: He can take Berlin anyway  ...

Voice: ... you pay that price.

McNamara: I suspect the price we pay to Khruschev will be about the same whether we give him an advance warning or if we don't give an advance warning. The advance warning has the advantage of possibly giving him an out, that would reduce the, the uh requirement that we act with military force. That, that's is a fair possibility, not great, that has the advantage George has mentioned of demonstrating our situation to the rest of the world. It has some disadvantages, the reduction of military surprise, the disadvantage of that not very great. It carries with it, however, I believe, the great disadvantage that once you start down that course you have to luge.

Dillon: The only advantage I see to it, is one as you say, George, and that is that if you decide to do this and you want to put yourself in the right position in the world, you have started a program that never stops, you have 24 hour notice which (?) under no illusion anything he says (?) can't stop you. You go ahead and do it. You are not doing it for the purpose of getting him to come up and do something, you are doing it to set the stage.

McNamara: When we are talking about taking Berlin, what do we mean exactly ? Does he take it with Soviet troops ?

JFK: That's what I would think (?).

McNamara: I think there is a real possibility. We have US troops there, like they do.

Voice: If they fight ...

McNamara: If they fight, I think that is perfectly clear.

JFK: They will be overrun.

McNamara: Yes, they will be overrun. Jack.

RFK: No matter what we do ?

McNamara: Yes, no matter what we do.

Taylor ?: (?) general war (?).

Voice: (?) understand general war (?).

JFK: You mean nuclear exchange ?


Taylor: I think he would use East German forces rather than ...

JFK: Let me ask you if, uh, it seems to me that talking about the Alliance, we've got two problems. One would be the problem of the Alliance, to say to them that the presence of these missiles requires a military action by us. There's no doubt that they would oppose that, because they feel that their risks increase and this is a risk to us. They would argue, that was Secretary McNamara's point. If we don't take any action, then of course there will be a more gradual deterioration (?).

Voice: That would be very fast.

Voice: "Very rapid, very rapid "

JFK: After my statement and then (?) we have to take some action because we couldn't let the Alliance disintegrate. Now the question really is what action we take which lessens the chance of a nuclear exchange which obviously is a sign of failure. That is (always the risk ?). So that, uh, at the same time maintain some degree of, uh, solidarity with our allies. If we want that to be the course, then it seems to me that 2 might be good.

Dillon: Our allies, our allies, from the point of view of our allies, they think certainly this strong setup in Cuba, this weakens our ability to help them everywhere, so that it (?).

JFK: To get a blockade of Cuba, do we have to declare war on Cuba ?

Bundy: Yes, we do.


Bundy: We don't have to, in a sense that... but it makes it easier and better.

Ball: It makes it legal. Otherwise (?) have (?) take (?) with our allies (?) first (?).

Voice: The Rio Pact... under the resolution (?) from the Congress.

JFK: I think we shouldn't assume we have to declare war. The declaration of a state of war is it seems to me if we are going to do that really it doesn't make any sense not to invade. I think we ought to consider whether we do the, the uh, (?) we do the message to Khruschev and tell him that, uh, if work continues and such and such, we at the same time we launch the blockade, uh, and if the work continues that we go in and take them out. we don't declare war. We don't need a declaration of war until we get to an invasion. What we do...

Ball: The great difficulty is if we have a blockade without declaration of war is an illegal blockade....

Bundy: It would be an act of aggression against everybody else.

Ball: Everybody. Everybody, including our allies.

JFK: What ? Give me that !

Rusk: If you have a blockade (?) territorial (?).

JFK: You know about allies, if anybody gets excited because their ships are stopped, and in these conditions they are not very much help to us anyway. [ ? ]


McNamara: I, I, I think you have to look to the end of the other course to really see the potential of the blockade. The end of the other course, the end of the other course, is the missiles uh, out of Cuba at some kind of a price. The minimum price is the missiles out of Turkey and Italy it seems to me (?).

Voice: ( ?)

McNamara: Pardon ?

Bundy: If Castro goes down either of these roads in my judgment, then we may get to the end of the road.. .

McNamara: This is something to think about, In any case, the minimum price you pay under a military course of action, it's the missiles out of Turkey and Italy, and that may be out by physical means. Because the Russians move in against them. Then you have a serious potential division in the Alliance. And now it seems to me that's the, that's the best possible situation you could be in to as a result of a military course. I can visualize many worse situations, under the blockade. The best possible situation.


McNamara: The best possible solution of a blockade, it seems to me, is that the Alliance is gonna have to buy it, will agree to take some of the missiles out of Turkey and Italy, and the Soviets will agree to either, take them out of Cuba or impose some kind of control comparable to the Eurocontrol over the missiles in Turkey and Italy. That's the best possible solution.

Rusk: I can think of many worse solutions... and we were hoping last night that we'd get the collapse of Castro !

Voice: (?) we might get (it ?).

Voice: (?)

Bundy: I believe that Fidel Castro is not going to sit still for a blockade, and that's to our advantage. I am convinced myself that Castro has to go. I always thought (?) that he has this theme of his self destruction and we have to help him do that.

McNamara: Then you're gonna pay a bigger price, because ...

Voice: Later.

McNamara: Later, because (?) and I think that's a possibility the price is going to be larger. I do really think we have got to think these problems through more than we have. At the moment I lean to the blockade because I think it reduces the very serious risk of large scale military action from which this country cannot benefit under what I call program 2.


RFK: (I think ? ) you let them build the missiles ?


RFK: We tell them, they can build as many missiles as they want.

McNamara: Ho, no. What we say is "We're gonna blockade you. This is a danger to us. We insist that we talk this out and they must be removed."

RFK: Right. Now if they are going to go ahead and build them ?

McNamara: That's right. Overflying (?). Overflying down there (?).

RFK: What if they get the missiles in place and then they announce that they get atomic to the world (?).