Cuban Missile Crisis: October 25, 1962 – part 1

Speaker: John F Kennedy
Delivered On: 10/25/1962
Place: Washington, D.C.
Subject: Cuban Missile Crisis, 1962. United
States — Foreign relations — Soviet Union.
Audio/Video Available:

Description: See resource for
October 18, 1962
for brief description of the Cuban Missile crisis and previous
clips in this series for timeline events up to this date.
Summary of conversation:

Tape 37.4, October 25, 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.”

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