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


Washington, October 24, 1962, 11:25 p.m.

Ball--The President called me again and we've been talking about what we might do about getting some kind of a message to K [Khrushchev]. The Pres. had the idea that maybe we ought to do with U Thant tonight instead of trying to get a message back to K because there isn't much we can say that we didn't say in that message he sent last night. Try to get U Thant to make a direct appeal to Mr. K to hold off his ships on the ground that there is going to be a confrontation in the morning which could escalate until there is a chance for a discussion on the modalities of negotiation. The Pres. is very reluctant to face this thing particularly with a tanker involved tomorrow until we make one last try to see if the UN can get itself in between.

Secretary--I must say that I don't think a tanker is the best case.

Ball--It isn't the best case. I talked to McNamara and what he said they had in mind with regard to the tanker was simply to hail it and ask it what it is carrying, where it was going, and if it answered satisfactory to let it go, not to board it. In fact the Commander has no instructions to do more than that. If it goes on through, then we have lost the principle of the quarantine, having done that. On the other hand, we could let this one go but then there will probably be a whole day without stopping a ship, and I am afraid this would be misinterpreted in Moscow, particularly in the light of this letter. The President's idea, this was a kind of an idea we were developing together was possibly if we could get Thant tonight to make the appeal on the ground that there was going to be a likelihood of a confrontation and ask K to instruct his fellows to talk with ours and see if a negotiation could be gotten under way. In the meantime, to hold his ships away from Cuba that something might be done.

Sec.--I don't think there is a chance in the world that K would get instructions to this tanker by 2 am.

Ball--In the meantime, we could hold off til, actually we could even change the thing for half a day as far as that goes. We could outrun the tanker.

Sec.--I should think that we ought to wait til daylight anyhow.

Ball--Well, we are going to wait til daylight as I understood it.

Sec.--I think you might talk to Adlai about this and see if U Thant on his own responsibility will ask Mr. K not to send his ships pending modalities.

Ball--Let me see what we can do.

Sec.--All right, fine. What about the answer?

Ball--If we did that, I suppose we wouldn't answer.

Sec.--Hold off until in the morning?

Ball--Yes. There really isn't anything much that we can say that hasn't been said. If we can now get Thant to do something rather than doing it ourselves.


Ball--Let me see what I can work out when I talk to Stevenson.

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

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