Cuban Missle Crisis
Memorandum of Telephone Conversation Between President Kennedy and the Under Secretary of State (Ball)


Washington, October 24, 1962, 10:30 p.m.

Ball--The letter from Khrushchev(1) is garbled, and I am trying to fill it in. As far as shipping goes, it is pretty repetitious. The significant part is the last paragraph. It says: Ball reads last paragraph. It simply says that the OAS has no authority in these matters; that one has to bide by international law; we are committing an act of piracy; if you were in his place you would take the same view. The significant part is the part I read to you. I don't think we have any option but to go ahead and test this thing out, in the morning, but at least this is the notice he has given to us.

Pres.--Do you want to call up Bob McNamara because we have got the tanker we talked about stopping.

Ball--I'll talk to Bob about it and I will also get hold of Dean and maybe we had better get back to you.(2)

Pres.--I will be around.

Ball--The second thing is this. U Thant has just gotten through speaking, and I am waiting for a call from Stevenson. Stevenson is kicking like a steer about reply tonight, but I think we have to reply tonight.

Pres.--He doesn't want to reply tonight?

Ball--He is concerned primarily about the conditions which we put in that proposed reply because he feels that those are in effect conditions to talking rather than the kind of conditions that might emerge out of talk. My own feeling is that we have got to be quite specific about them, otherwise we will get ourselves in a hopeless harass, and I don't think we can afford to do it at this point.

Pres.--How does he want us to change it?

Ball--I think he would like to suggest some concessions we are prepared to make. I am waiting for a call from him. If it is agreeable to you, I am going to take a very firm line that we have to get this thing back to U Thant tonight even though it isn't published because I think we ought to be very prompt in getting some reply back before the Soviet Union comes in with an acceptance of the U Thant proposal. I may not be able to hold the line with him and he may insist on talking with you. I think we have got to go ahead.

Pres.--They are obviously not going to stop. He is stopping the ones he doesn't want us to have. I suppose we will have to stop these. The press will give the impression that we are easing the situation.

Ball--That is inevitable. I have told them that there was no decision not to stop tankers, but only the fact that the initial version does not include POL. They are confused on this. I think we have worked it out so that story will be all right.

Pres.--I think the impression tonight seems to be that the Russians are giving way, which is not quite accurate. They want to believe that it is giving way. I think that, after you talk to McNamara and the Sec., they ought to have either State and Defense put out the indication that Russian ships are approaching.

Ball--I'll do that. Maybe I can persuade Adlai, if not he may insist on talking to you. In the meantime, I will get hold of Bob and Dean, and we may have to get back to you.

1 Document 61. Back

2 A memorandum of Ball's telephone conversation with McNamara at 10:40 p.m. is in the Supplement. (Department of State, Ball Papers: Lot 74 D 272, Telcons--Cuba) Back

Source: Department of State, Ball Papers: Lot 74 D 272, Telcons--Cuba. No classification marking.

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