Cuban Missile Crisis: October 26, 1962 - part 1

Speaker: John F Kennedy
Delivered On: 10/26/1962
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.
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.
Summary of conversations:

Tapes 39.1 and 39. 1A, October 26, 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.

2) 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.
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