Cuban Missle Crisis
Memorandum of Telephone Conversation Between the Under Secretary of State (Ball) and the President's Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy)


Washington, October 24, 1962, 8:25 p.m.

Bundy--I am getting a little groggy, so many people have different views, but the current situation is this. Bob thinks that it may well be important to intercept a tanker and to turn him back. His own understanding was that that was his orders. I understand that there are complications. He is going to go down to Flag Plot and look hard and find out what he knows and what anyone knows about where these things will be. He agrees that we must not do this at night time. Therefore, the question is really what orders Admiral Innison (?) [Dennison] has for dawn, that they require Presidential action and a meeting of the Committee tonight. You had better argue with your Secretary.

Ball--Yes. Right.

Bundy--I understand that he is an anti-tanker interceptor. I think we have to leave the question of further discussion in suspense until McNamara has reviewed it and come in and said. If he comes in and says let's let it go until the meeting tomorrow morning, which we might as well have at 10 as at 8, because we miss dawn in either case. If he comes in and says that, does the Department wish to say no, no, we want orders for interception at dawn?

Ball--I don't think that we feel that strongly about that. My position is that since we are not singling out any special ships, then we ought to just take anything that comes on a completely nondiscriminatory basis, and not indulge any presumptions about what any particular kind of vessel might--

Bundy--I think that you will find that to do that requires a very distinct adjustment in the basic orders to the Navy. They are not operating on the basis of enforcing a blockade in that sense. They are enforcing a blockade with instructions from McNamara as to which ship to enforce it upon.

Ball--Adm. Ricker [Rickover?] felt that that was the easiest operational kind of--

Bundy--All I'm saying is is that means different orders from what they now have.

Ball--My own view, you may pick out certain ships as we were preparing to do, those ships are not now in the equation; therefore, the thing to do is to take anything that comes and I would feel happier if the first ship that came along was a Belgian or Moroccoan ship, so that we could establish the principle of what we are doing.


Ball--If it happens to be a Soviet tanker, . . .


Ball--I will probably hear later tonight from Bob after he has been out there and had a look.

Bundy--I would think that when Bob has had a look at Flag Plot, he will call me and I will call you.

Ball--Very good.

Source: Department of State, Ball Papers: Lot 74 D 272, Telcons--Cuba. No classification marking. A similar but briefer memorandum of a telephone conversation between Bundy and Ball at 8:05 p.m. is in the Supplement. (Department of State, Ball Papers: Lot 74 D 272, Telcons--Cuba)

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