Cuban Missle Crisis
Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Martin) to the Deputy Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (Johnson)


Washington, October 12, 1962.


Track Two

The following is the pertinent portion of Mr. Rostow's paper:(1)

"I believe we should consider the possibility of a Two-Track covert operation.

"Track One would consist of a heightened effort to move along the present Mongoose lines. The minimum objective here would be harassment: the maximum objective would be the triggering of a situation where there might be conflict at the top of the Cuban regime leading, hopefully, to its change or overthrow by some group within Cuba commanding arms.

"Track Two would consist of an effort to engage Cubans more deeply, both within Cuba and abroad, in efforts of their own liberation. This requires an operation with the following characteristics:

"a. Authentic Cuban leadership with a considerable range of freedom to implement ideas and to assume risk.

"b. Minimal U.S. direct participation: ideally, one truly wise U.S. adviser--available, but laying back; equipped to provide finance, but not monitoring every move; capable of earning their respect rather than commanding it by his control over money or equipment.

"c. Basing outside the United States.

"d. A link-up with the scattered and sporadic groups and operations now going forward of their own momentum in Cuba.

"e. A plan of operation which aims at the overthrow of Castro primarily from within rather than by invasion from without.

"f. A long enough time horizon to build the operation carefully and soundly.

"In suggesting that Track Two be studied--and sharply distinguished from Track One--I am, of course, wholly conscious of our failure of last year. But, as I read that failure in retrospect, its root lay in: U.S. bureaucratic domination; the lack of a Cuban political and organizational base; and a plan of operation that hinged on a type of overt invasion by a fixed date rather than the patient build-up of a true movement of national liberation. I'm sure it would be easy to argue that such a movement could not be generated against a Communist control system; that the Cuban refugees lack the capacity to play their part in such an enterprise with skill and minimal security; etc. And I am in no position to reply with confidence to such argument. On the other hand, Cuba is not located in Eastern Europe; and, presumably, some Cubans have learned something from last year's failure, too.

"On the balance, I am prepared to recommend that Track Two be sympathetically studied and that General Lansdale be asked to formulate a design for it."

The underlying philosophy is one which we have felt for some time merited exploration.

There is attached (Tab A) as you have requested, a paper describing the more important policy considerations bearing on this course of action.

Also attached (Tab B)(2) is the ARA memorandum, previously forwarded to you, describing some of the political thinking which leads us to the conclusion that we should experiment with this course of action.

Tab A


A program of "giving the Cubans their heads" in an effort to effect the downfall of the Castro regime from within involves embarking upon uncharted waters as far as the U.S. is concerned. Grandiose U.S. plans based upon a substantially unified exile community would be unrealistic. Nearly all Cuban exile leaders, of whatever political persuasion, are convinced that only overt U.S. military action can remove the Castro regime. While we could probably force a semblance of unity based upon the "downfall from within" thesis, despite the sharp political rivalry among the exile leaders, our purposes would not be served. While "accepting" our thesis, most of the waking hours of these exiles would be devoted to devising ways of involving the U.S. militarily, rather than building the internal base of opposition we seek. We could thereby lose initiative and control over the situation and find ourselves in an untenable position from the international, and, perhaps, domestic, standpoint.

If the above judgment is accepted, two alternatives are available. We could cooperate with all anti-Castro-Batista exile groups which we have reason to believe have following inside Cuba, or we could, on an experimental basis work with one such group. By cooperating with all such groups we run the serious risk of accentuating rivalries among the exile leaders which would be inevitably reflected within Cuba. Rather than achieving a broad base of political opposition within Cuba, we may only be instrumental in fomenting splinter groups. In attempting to administer such a program, the U.S. would probably find itself in the midst of the crossfire of exile politics, very likely satisfying no one inside or outside Cuba.

Working with one group, on an experimental basis, would provide us with experience which could guide our future thinking and at the same time probably prevent problems of unmanageable proportions. Selection of the right group is of paramount importance. Even then, if we saw no progress in Cuba, we could not be certain that the thesis was impractical or the selection of the group erroneous.

Of all the exile groups the only one which has publicly adopted the thesis of "downfall from within" is that known as JURE, formed in September 1962 by Manolo Ray and based in Puerto Rico. (Since Ray has some friends within the U.S. Government and is presently employed by the Puerto Rican Government, it is reasonable to suppose that some of the recent official interest in the "downfall from within" thesis has been generated by him.) Ray was former Minister of Public Works under Castro, broke with Castro and formed an important underground movement which has since been badly smashed by Castro. Ray is a nationalist and left of center. The political program of JURE is one with which the U.S. can live.

The other feasible possibility is the CRC with which we have had a long standing relationship. Apart from Dr. Miro and some of the organizations that form an integral part of the Council, the CRC is not a very effective organization for what we have in mind. Its background is associated with the Bay of Pigs and its outlook is essentially one of military action.

Advantages of working with JURE would appear to be:

1. A new organization which, as such, has no past relationship with the U.S.

2. Commitment to the "downfall from within" thesis.

3. Base outside the U.S.

4. Political ideology which may be attuned to the desires of the Cuban people.

5. Ray is experienced in underground activities and an independ-ent thinker.

Disadvantages of working with JURE are:

1. Little, if any, assets known within Cuba today.

2. Opposed by most of the established exile groups, particularly Dr. Miro.

3. Ray is a complex personality, sometimes difficult to handle.

On balance it is worth trying. Although we would try to maintain security, Dr. Miro may discover our assistance to Ray and resign. The CRC is useful to us, but its disappearance would be bearable.

If we embark upon these unchartered waters, and it is recommended that we do so, we must be prepared for increased noise level and press inquiry. We must be prepared for a comparatively high rate of loss, failures and cries of anguish from JURE for assistance we may not be able to give it. It is essential that we recognize this and not be permitted to be stampeded into regrettable public postures or actions. A further important consideration is that Track Two operations may compromise Track One operations. Coordination would be essential.

Another conflict arises from the President's desire that a Cuban Brigade be formed. While this would not necessarily be a serious conflict with the program envisaged, for there are probably enough exiles for both programs, it should be recognized that a number of young men qualified for infiltration activities will probably join the Brigade.

If we attempt our program on a large scale, or with more than one group, the immediately above-mentioned problems would multiply.

The program we would visualize is one of providing the selected exile group with funds, arms, sabotage equipment, transport and communications equipment for infiltration operations in order to build a political base of opposition inside Cuba. We would provide the best technical advice we could. Our role would essentially be that of advisors and purveyors of material goods--it would be the exile group's show. We would insist that hit and run raids or similar harassing activities that clearly originate from outside Cuba and do not reflect internal activity not be engaged in.

In sum, we should be cautious about grandiose schemes, a "major" U.S. effort, and deep commitments to the exiles. We should experiment in this new venture on a small scale with patience and tolerance for high noise levels and mistakes.

1 For text, see vol. X, Document 406. Back

2 Dated September 19; for text, see vol. X, Document 432. Back

Source: Department of State, S/S Files: Lot 65 D 438, Mongoose. Top Secret; Sensitive. Drafted by Hurwitch.

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