Cuban Missile Crisis: October 26, 1962 & October 27, 1962

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.
Summary of conversations:

Tape 40.0, parts 1 and 2, October 26, 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)
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

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.

Tape 40.0, part 3, October 27, 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.”

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.”

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