cuban missile crisis .info - Cuba Nuclear Crisis October 25

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October 25

October 25, 1962: Low-level photograph of San Cristobal no. 1 showing extensive tracking from surging construction and possible missile readiness drills.
October 25, 1962: Low-level photograph of San Cristobal no. 1 showing extensive tracking from surging construction and possible missile readiness drills.
10:00, Review of the movement of ships toward the quarantine line and potential US responses:

Brief discussion of the arrival of Fidel Castro's list of baby food, plasma and medicines as part of the continuing negotiations for release of the Bay of Pigs prisoners. (6:30)

JFK asks if there are any up-to-date intelligence reports on the status of Cuban morale and support for Castro. (8:00)

Lengthy discussion of the movement of the Bucharest. McNamara reports that it was hailed, responded that it was not carrying prohibited items, and is being shadowed by US destroyer. Must decide now if is to be boarded. Recommends establishing a pattern of aerial surveillance which looks like an air attack so that surprise could be maintained as long as possible if an air attack is eventually ordered. (15:52)

JFK raises the question of the political ramifications of letting the Bucharest pass through the quarantine.(24:30) Suggests that it might be worth giving the USSR "sufficient grace to get its instructions clear" or for the UN to reach an agreement. (27:00) The whole problem, JFK adds, "is to make a judgment based on Khrushchev's message to me last night" and the efforts at the UN. (28:58) Kennedy then recommends waiting 48 hours in the hope that "we can get something out of Khrushchev or the UN." (29:13) He asks what impression will they get if we let this one go? "What is the advantage of letting this one pass?" (31:30)

McNamara agrees with JFK's argument and states that the advantage is to avoid a shooting incident over a ship that is not carrying offensive weapons. (31:35)
This exchange confirms the claim made by RFK in Thirteen Days (1969) that JFK told his brother that given Khrushchev's tough letter of 10/24: "We don't want to push him to a precipitous action--give him time to consider. I don't want to put him in a corner from which he cannot escape." [Source: JFK Library release notes prepared by Sheldon M. Stern]

Low-level photograph of San Cristobal no. 1 suggesting missile readiness drills.
Low-level photograph of San Cristobal no. 1 suggesting missile readiness drills.
10:00: Continued discussion from Tape 37.4 of possible American responses to the ships moving toward the quarantine line and further negotiations at the UN:

McNamara concludes: "I don't think we have weakened the forceful position that will lead to removal of the missile sites by letting the Bucharest through." (0:52)

JFK asserts that the quarantine has already been successful since the USSR has already turned back fourteen ships presumably carrying offensive weapons. (3:22)

But, JFK adds, "we've got to face up to the fact that we're going to have to grab a Russian ship. The question is whether it is better for that to happen today or tomorrow.' (3:38)

Bundy then observes that "Nothing in your speech requires you to stop any ship, even if it is found to contain offensive cargo we deem unacceptable. The way in which we define this is our business." (8:03)

October 25, 1962: U.S. Navy surveillance of first Soviet F-class submarine to surface near the quarantine line (conning tower number 945, Soviet fleet number B-130, commanded by Shumkov).
October 25, 1962: U.S. Navy surveillance of first Soviet F-class submarine to surface near the quarantine line (conning tower number 945, Soviet fleet number B-130, commanded by Shumkov).
Discussion of the negotiations at the UN. JFK says that we could lift the quarantine if the UN provides guarantees that no new offensive weapons would be introduced. That would make us seem less negative than if we say we won't lift it under any circumstances. (19:16)

Bundy and McNamara point out that the real issue is the removal of the existing missiles not the introduction of new ones. They argue that the quarantine should not be lifted without removal. (22:00)

Rusk explains that the plan being discussed at UN would put UN guarantees against new missiles into place as a substitute for the quarantine for only 2-3 weeks while negotiations continue for a permanent solution involving complete removal. (22:35)

McNamara then adds: "I don't see any way to get those weapons out of Cuba, never have thought we would get them out of Cuba, without the application of substantial force. The force we can apply is economic force and military force." (23:34)

JFK, describing the UN proposal, concludes: "This puts us in a reasonable stance." (25:06)
Former ambassador to Moscow, Llewellyn Thompson, then notes that his reading of Khrushchev's 10/24 letter suggests "Soviet preparation for resistance by force--that is--forcing us to take forceful action." (30:19)

McNamara wonders what we will do in the next 24 hours if there is no Soviet ship carrying offensive weapons which can be intercepted and construction of the missile sites also continues. He recommends spending the rest of the day planning escalation of the quarantine. (35:42)

Confrontation at the United Nations, October 25, 1962: deputy NPIC director David Parker points out the photographic evidence while U.S. ambassador Adlai Stevenson (at right) describes the photos. USSR ambassador Valerian Zorin is presiding at far left.
Confrontation at the United Nations, October 25, 1962: deputy NPIC director David Parker points out the photographic evidence while U.S. ambassador Adlai Stevenson (at right) describes the photos. USSR ambassador Valerian Zorin is presiding at far left.
JFK observes that the purpose of the quarantine is not to stop the delivery of the weapons since they are already there and that we will "have a showdown with the Russians of one kind or another." (37:32)

But, Kennedy adds,"We don't want to precipitate an incident" (39:27) "This is not the appropriate time to blow up a ship." (40:05)

Tape 38.2-38.2A, October 25, 10:00: Continuation of discussion of the implementation of the quarantine from Tape 38.1:

McNamara discusses a "passenger ship" carrying 1,500 industrial workers, including 550 Czech technicians and 25 East German students. He recommends allowing it to pass through the quarantine. (41:15)

JFK agrees but notes that we will have to "pick up some ship tomorrow" and prove "sooner or later that the blockade is reaL" (44:56) McNamara recommends stopping the tanker Grozny instead. (45:25)

U-2 photograph of Soviet troop encampment at Holguin.
U-2 photograph of Soviet troop encampment at Holguin.
Robert Kennedy then reopens the air strike discussion by arguing that a confrontation on the high seas might be more dangerous over the next few days and that we should instead "strike the missile sites in Cuba as a first step." (47:34) Treasury Secretary Douglas Dillon agrees with the "logic" of having a confrontation in Cuba rather than on the high seas. (48:10)

RFK argues that we have already proven that the blockade is serious and that we are being tough: "It's a hell of a thing, if you stop and think about it, that 15 ships have turned back. I don't really think we have any apologies to make." (52:36)

Walt Rostow, chair of the State Department Policy Planning Council, recommends adding POL (petroleum, oil and lubricants) to the embargo list and not having any confrontation for now. (54:26)

JFK agrees that we will have to add POL to the list or initiate the air strike because the work is continuing on the missile sites and we have to bring counter-pressures in order to avoid the appearance that "we're not doing anything." (56:34) [Source: JFK Library release notes prepared by Sheldon M. Stern]

Low-level photograph of Soviet unit insignia displayed in front of their camp.
Low-level photograph of Soviet unit insignia displayed in front of their camp.
Friday, October 26: EX-COMM receives a letter from Khrushchev stating that the Soviets would remove their missiles if President Kennedy publicly guarantees the U.S. will not invade Cuba.

The CIA reports that the construction of the missile sites is continuing and accelerating. JFK asserts that only an invasion or trade for US missiles will break the impasse. He orders the State Department to make plans for the establishment of a civilian government in Cuba after an invasion. Planning also proceeds for massive air strikes against military targets in Cuba. A new public letter from Khrushchev outlines a possible deal to end the crisis. RFK meets secretly with Soviet Ambassador Dobrynin and agrees after a phone call to the president that the removal of US missiles from Turkey is negotiable as part of a comprehensive settlement.

Khrushchev receives a cable from Castro urging a nuclear first strike against the US in the event of an invasion of Cuba. [Source: JFK Library release notes prepared by Sheldon M. Stern]

 

 

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