cuban missile crisis .info - Cuba Nuclear Crisis October 26

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October 26

October 26, 1962: The U.S. destroyer Joseph P. Kennedy stops, boards and inspects the Marucla, a dry-cargo ship of Lebanese registry under Soviet charter to Cuba.
October 26, 1962: The U.S. destroyer Joseph P. Kennedy stops, boards and inspects the Marucla, a dry-cargo ship of Lebanese registry under Soviet charter to Cuba.

10:00: Further discussion of the quarantine, potential US reactions on the high seas and the latest intelligence data as well as the possibility, of invading Cuba and establishing a new civil government. Detailed review of ongoing negotiations at the UN:
Bundy suggests that the president "reconstitute Mongoose as a subcommittee of this committee in an appropriate way." (0:57)

Discussion of a post-invasion Cuban government and the advantages of using Cuban exiles (such as doctors) in any invasion. (1:35) Bundy refers to "post-Castro Cuba" and recommends using the Mongoose organization in planning a new civil government for Cuba. (1:52)

Bundy also expresses concern about the need to accelerate civil defense measures without creating panic in the country. (5:06) Also notes that carrying out the invasion will mean consulting many more people in the government (outside of ExComm), will be much more complicated and will also require answering many questions from the press. (6:05)

Douglas Dillon again argues for an air strike against the missiles rather than a serious confrontation at sea. Says the former is directly related to Cuba and the missiles and the latter can take on a life of its own with grave international repercussions. (13:30)
JFK asks "Governor Stevenson," US ambassador to the United Nations, for his views on the negotiations at the UN. (47:47) Stevenson reports that U Thant is proposing a two-step plan: 1) a 2-3 day complete standstill on both sides (no ships moving toward Cuba, no further construction of the sites and no quarantine). The missiles would be kept inoperable rather than actually dismantled during these few days.

Negotiations would then continue to dismantle and remove the missiles along with a guarantee of the territorial integrity of Cuba. He also adds that the other side may ask the US to dismantle the missile sites in Turkey and Italy as part of a settlement. (50:00)
These proposals are essentially identical to the agreement which RFK, speaking for the president, would propose to the Soviet ambassador late on 10/27 and Khrushchev would accept early on 10/28. However, the understanding concerning the removal of US missiles from Turkey would remain secret for several decades and was not included in the public announcement on 10/28.

CIA director John McCone dissents vigorously saying we should not drop the quarantine until these weapons, "pointed at our hearts," are removed. (53:31)
JFK responds: "Well now, the quarantine itself won't remove the weapons. So you only get two ways of removing the weapons: one is negotiate them out, in other words trade them out, and the other is to go in and take them out. I don't see any other way you're going to get the weapons out" (54:23) Kennedy then clarifies his position, stating that he is not, like Stevenson, advocating lifting the quarantine. But he repeats, "we have to all now realize that we are going to have to trade them out or go in and get them out." (54:58)

JFK concludes by saying that this discussion should provide important guidance for Governor Stevenson in the negotiations continuing at the UN. (1:04:30) [Source: JFK Library release notes prepared by Sheldon M. Stern]
October 26, 1962

Afternoon or evening (exact time unknown): Intelligence briefing by CIA director, further military planning and a discussion of the Sino/Indian war between JFK and the Indian ambassador to the US:

As McCone reviews the latest pictures of the missile sites, JFK asks if anyone has seen the London Times which claims that the United States has misread the photos and misidentified ground to air missiles as ICBMs. (1:20)

A photo intelligence analyst identifies one site, "we're not sure of it yet," with "frog" missiles, which "could be tactical nuclear weapons for fighting troops in the field." (8:40)
McCone expresses concern that they could have missiles pointing at us by tomorrow morning. (10:20) JFK states that if we invade, by the time we reach these sites"after a very bloody fight." they might be fired at us. He expresses doubts that we can get them out by diplomacy and raises the issue of whether they will be fired at us if we begin air strikes and/or an invasion. (11:03)

The remainder of the meeting deals with the Sino/Indian war. JFK, talking to the Indian ambassador, recommends, "as an anti communist to an anti-communist," that we should not let Khrushchev "sit this one out, urging peace and holding up your arms, pacifying the Chinese and at the same time maintaining his influence as a real friend of India, which he isn't." (26:45) "Khrushchev should give you equipment or be of some political help....We ought to be tougher on the Russians." (27:52) [Source: JFK Library release notes prepared by Sheldon M. Stern]

Saturday, October 27: While one U-2 spy plane accidentally flies into Russia, another is shot down over Cuba. EX-COMM receives a second letter from Khrushchev stating that, in addition to a public promise not to invade Cuba, the U.S. remove its missiles from Turkey.

October 27: The CIA reports that five of the MRBM sites are now fully operational. A new message arrives from Khrushchev in which he expresses willingness to remove the missiles from Cuba under UN supervision in return for a US commitment to dismantle its missiles in Turkey. Kennedy tells the ExComm that going to war in the face of Khrushchev's offer to trade missiles would be "an insupportable decision." A U-2 plane is shot down over Cuba by a Soviet surface-to-air missile and the pilot is killed. JFK decides not to order an attack on the SAM site as agreed earlier [tape 34.1, 21:OO] but agrees to strike all the SAM sites if any additional planes are attacked.

Robert Kennedy meets again that evening with Ambassador Dobrynin and an agreement is reached: removal of the missiles from Cuba under UN supervision in return for a public pledge by the US not to invade Cuba and a secret US commitment to remove the missiles from Turkey within a reasonable time. JFK and Dean Rusk, without the knowledge of the Excomm, prepare a contingency plan later that evening in the event that the USSR rejects the terms negotiated by RFK and Dobrynin. JFK secretly authorizes UN secretary general U Thant to offer a UN-sponsored trade of the American missiles in Turkey for the Soviet missiles in Cuba with assurances of prompt US acceptance.

Morning (exact time unknown): further discussion of military and diplomatic options for dealing with the Soviet missiles in Cuba:
Discussion of the arrival of the Grozny at the quarantine line. McNamara concludes that it is not carrying prohibited material but that it should nevertheless be stopped "using force if necessary." (34:34)

Discussion of maintaining aerial surveillance during the day and at night "keeping the heat on," since they are working 24 hours a day on the sites. (38:10)

After a ticker tape comes in saying that Khrushchev has offered publicly to trade the missiles in Cuba for the US missiles in Turkey, JFK argues that "we are going to be in an insupportable position on this matter if this becomes his proposal. In the first place, last year we tried to get the missiles out of there because they were not militarily useful - number 1. Number 2 - it's going to look to any man at the United Nations or any other rational man like a very fair trade." (41:42)

Kennedy continues: "I think you're going to find it very difficult to explain why we are going to take hostile military action in Cuba, against these sites, ...[when] the thing that he's saying is, 'If you'll get yours out of Turkey, we'll get ours out of Cuba.' I think we've got a very tough one here."(43:57) "I think you have to assume that this is their new and latest position and it's a public one." (44:23)

Discussion of whether the Soviets are moving on two different tracks - the public track offer of a straight trade and the private track offer which includes a demand for a US guarantee of the territorial integrity of Cuba. (45:00)

Bundy warns that if we accept the trade idea, "Our position will come apart very fast." (46:28)

JFK repeats that "you're going to find a lot of people thinking this is a rather reasonable position. Let's not kid ourselves." (48:11)

JFK insists that we must talk to the Turks to be sure that they don't issue a statement which is totally unacceptable. (1:12:42) Also must make sure they understand the peril they are in after we take action in Cuba. (1:13:22)

JFK recommends that we provide the Turks with some guidance but "These are American missiles, not Turkish missiles; they're under American control not Turkish control" (1:14:34) He then adds, "We cannot permit ourselves to be impaled on a long negotiating hook while the work goes on at these bases." (1:15:29) The UN must act immediately with the cooperation of the USSR to bring about a cessation of the work at these sites "and then we can talk about all these matters, which are very complicated." (1:15:45)

Kennedy expresses concern that we will have real problems in England and the continent because Khrushchev's proposal seems so reasonable and if we act in Cuba and the USSR responds in Berlin, many people will justify the Soviet move "on the grounds that we were wholly unreasonable. Most people would think that if you're allowed an even trade you ought to take advantage of it." (1:17:49)

Douglas Dillon seems to agree with JFK: "This Turkish thing has got to be thrown, you're quite right, Mr. President, into the overall European context; and you can bring in Berlin, I think its fine." (1:28:53) "The Turkish proposal opens the way to a major discussion toward relaxed tensions in Europe, including Berlin." (1:29:52)

One participant (unidentified) reacts: "If you mention that, you've lost the Germans." (1:30:09)



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