cuban missile crisis .info - Cuba Nuclear Crisis October 24

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October 24

October 24, 1962: Low-level photograph of the Poltava, turning back towards Moscow, carrying IRBM missiles (circled are the IRBM launch rings on trucks).
October 24, 1962: Low-level photograph of the Poltava, turning back towards Moscow, carrying IRBM missiles (circled are the IRBM launch rings on trucks).
time unknown: Consideration of civil defense options and planning for possible Soviet responses in Berlin:
FK concludes that if we invade in the next ten days, the missile base crews in Cuba will likely fire at least some of the missiles at US targets. He asks whether we could evacuate civilian populations from cities a few days before the invasion. [2:50] Response (voice unidentified) is that cities actually provide the best protection against radiation. [Source: JFK Library release notes prepared by Sheldon M. Stern]

9:55 am: JFK and RFK talking alone before the next Excomm meeting about the strategic situation in Cuba and its political implications:
RFK (calling the president "Jack") mentions that General Lucius Clay has offered to return to Berlin where he had been the US commander during the 1948 Soviet blockade. RFK advises that it would be a bad idea to focus attention on Berlin at this time. JFK agrees and they decide to ask General Taylor to tell Clay to stand by over the next few days but not to go now. [1:42]

Discussion of the president's decision to take action in response to the Soviet missiles in Cuba. RFK says there was no choice, "you would have been impeached" and JFK responds, "That's what I think, I would have been impeached." [3:43] RFK concludes that the president could not have done less and that his judgment has now been supported by our allies and almost allthe OAS states.

The brothers talk about the political side of the crisis and Khrushchev's apparent willingness to embarrass the president before the upcoming congressional elections. JFK asks about the views of Soviet Embassy official Georgy Bolshakov, who had been used in the past in communications between JFK and Khrushchev. RFK reports that Bolshakov believes the ships will attempt to go through the quarantine and that "this is a defensive base for the Russians. It's got nothing to do with the Cubans." [4:53]

JFK derides Khrushchev's "horseshit about the elections, "presumably referring to earlier assurances by the USSR that there would be no political complications before November.[5:03] [Source: JFK Library release notes prepared by Sheldon M. Stern]

10:00 am: Continued review of the impact of latest intelligence on thequarantine, world reaction, negotiations at the UN and possible developments on the high seas and in Berlin:

Detailed briefing on new reconnaissance photos from Cuba [6:55] and discussion of the need to disperse planes at Florida bases in the event of attacks by MIGs based in Cuba. [14:30]

McNamara talks of a very dangerous situation since ships approaching the quarantine line are being shadowed by a Soviet submarine. [19:19]

JFK questions what will happen if a US destroyer tries to board and search a ship and is then sunk by a Soviet submarine. [21:50] Kennedy then says "I think we ought to wait on that [boarding] today. We don't want to have the first thing we attack is a Soviet sub. I'd much rather have a merchant ship." [25:09]

JFK recommends placing Russian-speaking personnel on all ships at the quarantine line and is told by Bundy and McNamara that it is already being done. [27:48]

General Maxwell Taylor reviews the latest intelligence which suggests that many Soviet ships are turning around. JFK responds: "It seems to me we want to give that ship a chance to turn around. We don `t want the word to go out from Moscow to turn around and then suddenly we sink their ship. So I would think we wait to see if the ship continues on its course in view of this other intelligence." [41:37] [Source: JFK Library
release notes prepared by Sheldon M. Stern]

5:00 pm: Discussion of using intelligence data in public briefings. A meeting with congressional leaders and further review of potential implications of actions in and near Cuba on the status of Berlin:

Dean Rusk talks about Soviet uncertainty about "how to play this" given the intense US reaction and reads from a Khrushchev statement that the USSR will not take rash steps despite "unjustified" actions by the US. [11:09]

During a discussion with congressional leaders, Senate minority leader Everett Dirksen mention's Khrushchev's public request for a summit meeting to resolve the crisis. JFK and Dirksen agree that a summit at this time would be entirely useless. [19:20]

A participant, probably Senator Bourke Hickenlooper, asserts that congressional leaders should refuse to answer any questions from the press on the meeting. JFK replies that security from these meetings has thus far been awfully good. [35:45]

P m or possibly, October 25, am: Continuation of briefing for congressional leaders:

A participant, probably Senate majority leader Mike Mansfield, expresses his concern about the "congenital habit of overstating the ease as well as the results of an air strike. I don't think there is any such thing as one of these quick, easy and sanitary air strikes. There is no such thing as a small military action. Now the moment we start anything in this field, we have to be prepared to do everything." Urges careful analysis of Soviet intentions over the next few days before taking this critical step. [41:37]

Thursday, October 25: U.S. Ambassador Adlai Stevenson confronts the Soviets at the U.N. but they refuse to answer. American military forces are instructed to set DEFCON 2 - the highest ever in U.S. history.

October 25: JFK responds to Khrushchev's letter of 10/24, noting that the USSR had repeatedly stated that offensive missiles would not be deployed in Cuba and expressing regret "that you still do not appear to understand what it is that has moved us in this matter...." The aircraft carrier Essex hails the Soviet tanker Bucharest and allows it to proceed to Cuba after being told that it was not carrying cargo covered by the quarantine. (Its hatches are too small to accommodate missiles.)

UN Secretary General U Thant continues efforts to avoid the outbreak of hostilities by getting both sides to agree to a "cooling-off period." JFK rejects the plan because the missiles would remain in place. Ambassador Stevenson presents photographic evidence of the missiles at the UN. [Source: JFK Library release notes prepared by Sheldon M. Stern]



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