Cuban Missile Crisis: October 29, 1962

Speaker: John F Kennedy
Delivered On: 10/29/1962
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.
October 29: JFK orders US ships to remain on the quarantine line and authorizes continuation of low-level reconnaissance flights. Soviet deputy premier Vasily Kuznetsov meets with U Thant to work out details for the removal of the missiles from Cuba. Citing Khrushchev's October 28th letter agreeing to remove "those weapons you describe as offensive," JFK decides that until the Soviets remove the IL-28 nuclear bombers, which the US has classified as "offensive weapons," the quarantine cannot be lifted.
Summary of conversation:

Tape 43.0, October 29, 10:00: Discussion of the latest intelligence and the need for verification of Khrushchev's offer to remove the missiles from Cuba:

JFK reads statement announcing the creation of a coordinating committee, chaired by John McCloy of the US Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, "to give full time and attention to the matters involved in the conclusion of the Cuban crisis." (22:53)

Rusk argues for continuing surveillance today while waiting for developments in the discussions with Kuznetsov at the UN before making any further decisions. (23:30)

JFK states that the committee must immediately address the question of how to maintain satisfactory intelligence about Cuba since "we can't rely on the UN to do it." (24:45) Discussion of making US planes available to the UN for surveillance. (25:20)

Rusk recommends that surveillance and the quarantine remain in effect until UN machinery can effectively replace them "because if we give up that point we may be subject to a massive trick here." (33:17)

Some discussion of whether U-2 flights are technically capable of revealing any Soviet effort to hide some of the missiles in Cuba. (40:20)

Kennedy insists that only continued aerial photography can prove whether the missile sites are actually being dismantled notwithstanding U Thant's upcoming inspection trip to Cuba. U Thant, he insists, "doesn't know what the hell to look for anymore than I would." (49:13)

Discussion of the continued Soviet presence in Cuba. JFK concludes that "we just have to watch and if they continue this conventional buildup into Cuba then we just have to draw conclusions from that So I think we just stay on it." (1:06:49)

Kennedy notes that it is difficult to trust the Soviets since they apparently deceived their own ambassador to the US about the missiles. "So now he's liquidated as a source. Nobody believes him anymore. And the chances are he probably didn't know."(1:07:24)

JFK expresses the hope that we can use this moment to initiate a "decent deal in Berlin" since it is our most "paralyzing" problem. (1:13:45)

Kennedy expresses support for Ambassador Adlai Stevenson's leadership at the UN, declaring that "Adlai is in charge up there.... George Ball represents the State Department at the UN and John McCloy is Adlai's assistant." (1:18:40)

As he is about to leave the room, the president calls his secretary, Evelyn Lincoln, to discuss having commemorative calendars made for that month of October, with the dates of the crisis highlighted, as gifts for the members of Excomm.

November 21: Just over a month after the crisis began, JFK terminates the quarantine when Khrushchev agrees after several weeks of tense negotiations at the UN to withdraw Soviet IL-28 nuclear bombers from Cuba. Three decades later a Soviet military official would reveal that mobile tactical nuclear weapons [see Tape 40.0, part 1] and more than 40,000 Soviet troops were in place in Cuba for use in the event of an American invasion.
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