Cuban Missile Crisis: October 23, 1962 – part 1

Speaker: John F Kennedy
Delivered On: 10/23/1962
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 October
18 & 19 resources for timeline up to this date.

Saturday, October 20: Under the public guise of an “upper respiratory infection,”
President Kennedy returns to Washington from Chicago after being convinced by Robert
Kennedy that he must meet again with EX-COMM to discuss, among other things, the
discovery of additional Soviet missiles in Cuba.

Sunday, October 21: After learning that an air strike against the missile
sites could result in 10-20 thousand casualties, and that another U-2 flight discovered
bombers and cruise missile sites along Cuba’s northern shores, President Kennedy
decides on a naval blockade of Cuba. When confronted with questions regarding rumors
of offensive weapons in Cuba, Kennedy asks the press not to report the story until
after he address the American public.

Monday, October 22: Despite being urged by Senate leaders to call for air
strikes, President Kennedy addresses the American public and announces his resolve
to implement naval blockade only. U.S. military alert is set at DEFCON 3 and Castro
mobilizes all of Cuba’s military forces.

Tuesday, October 23: The Organization of American States unanimously supports
the U.S. decision to quarantine Cuba and, by the end of the day, all naval vessels
are in place. Stunning reconnaissance photos reveal that Soviet missiles are poised
for launch.
Summary of conversations:

Tape 34.1 October 23, 10:00 am: Review of the latest intelligence from Cuba and
the proclamation and implementation of the quarantine:

Robert Kennedy expresses irritation about the failure of US intelligence to discover
the missiles earlier. “Now we are closing the barn door after the horse is gone.”

Discussion of how to handle the press – specific reporters to be briefed by specific
ExComm members on a strictly off-the-record basis. [5:25]

McNamara indicates that a ship carrying offensive weapons will have to be stopped
and perhaps disabled. (16:00) But Kennedy states that the Soviets will likely turn
around such ships on their own to avoid a confrontation. [16:30]

JFK argues that the only way the placement of the missiles could have been prevented
would have been by invading Cuba six months or one, two or even three years ago.
“What we are doing,” he says, “is throwing down a card on the table in a game which
we don’t know the ending of.” [17:30]

McNamara reviews plans for destroying any SAM site which shoots down a U-2; JFK
adds that when taking out the SAM site, the US should simultaneously announce that
if another plane is brought down all the SAM sites would be destroyed. [21:00] When
a U-2 is actually brought down by a missile from a SAM site four days later, JFK
decides not to issue the order.

Bundy suggests that the president should delegate the authority to order an air
strike against a SAM to the sec. of defense. JFK does not object but insists that
there must be absolute verification that the plane was brought down by hostile military
action and not as the result of an accident. [23:42]

Discussion of the need for hard photographic evidence to help convince the public
especially, in Latin America, that the missiles are real. [32:19]

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