The Cuban Missile Crisis
Memorandum of Telephone Conversation Between President Kennedy and Prime Minister Macmillan


Washington, October 26, 1962.

President: Hello, Prime Minister.

PM: Hello, what's the news now?

President: Well, Governor Stevenson saw U Thant this afternoon(1) and made our proposals about the importation of arms ceasing, and that work on these bases stopping and leading to eventual dismemberment. There are some reports around, some Russian conversations, but it's rather unofficial and unreliable, about some thought that it's possible they might do something about withdrawing the weapons if they could get a territorial guarantee of Cuba. But that is so unofficial that I'm not in a position now to know whether there's anything to it or not. Khrushchev told U Thant that he would keep his ships out of there for the time being, but he wouldn't do it very long. He isn't giving us very much because actually he's got no ships in the area anyway. But at least he's made that announcement; he's keeping his ships out of there for the time being. We are continuing the quarantine. The build-up of the sites continues, however. And I put a statement out this afternoon describing how the build-up is going on, so that unless in the next 48 hours we get some political suggestions as to dismantling the base we're then going to be faced with a problem of what to do about this build-up.(2)

PM: (garbled) Well as I see it--one idea you just mentioned is that Cuba might be made like Belgium was--an international guarantee of inviolable country which all of us would guarantee its neutrality and inviolability independently. Is that a possibility?

President: Well, that is a matter that it seems to me we ought to be thinking about and we will be talking about that in the next 24 hours--as to whether there is any room for a settlement on that basis. That would leave Castro in power. It would leave the Russians perhaps free to ship in a good deal more of defensive equipment and they have shipped in a good deal. We now find a good many self-propelled armored vehicles, with very sophisticated conventional equipment, and so on. But it may be a possibility, but I could probably give you more information about that by tomorrow night. But at least there have been a couple of hints but not enough to go on yet.

PM: Yes, well all right. Well, another possibility was that U Thant might himself propose to the United Nations, which I believe they would accept, that he should go with the team and insure that these missiles were made inoperable during the period of any conference or discussion.

President: Yes, that is correct. There would have to be some technical way of determining that these weapons were being made inoperable and that work on the sites was ceasing during these conversations. That's correct.

PM: (garbled) I am quite sure that U Thant would have done such a thing. (more garbled) He might suggest to the UN that he would go . . . with a team of experts which would supervise the matter during the talks.

President: Yes, there's some suggestion of that. Also they want to inspect some of the refugee camps in Florida and Nicaragua, Guatemala and Swan Island. That came up in the conversation with the Governor. I am looking into it. I don't think we've got anything going there that would be difficult to inspect. But this is all part of the political proposals which are now being looked at in view of the Governor's conversation. So I would sum it up, Prime Minister, by saying that by tomorrow morning or noon we should be in a position of knowing whether there is some political proposal that we could agree to, and whether the Russians are interested in it or not. We will know a little more, I think, by tomorrow afternoon. In the meanwhile the quarantine stays; he doesn't send ships in; we let a ship pass this afternoon, but there are no other ships within 48 hours or so, so we don't expect any problems on the sea. The problem that concerns us is the continued build-up, and I issued a statement on that today. I think I could probably get you a little more precise information on the various political proposals than U Thant's conversation with Stevenson. I'll send you a report on that tonight and then you will have it in the morning.

PM: If we want to save face, would it be worthwhile our undertaking to keep open eyes on all exiles which are here in England during the same period, during the conference.

President: Let me put that into the machinery and then I will be in touch with you on that.

PM: (unintelligible)

President: Good, Prime Minister, let me send that over to the Department. I think we don't want to have too many dismantlings, but it's possible that that proposal might help. They might also insist on Turkey and Italy, but I will keep in mind your suggestion here so that if it gets into that that may be advantageous.

PM: (garbled)

President: Yes, that is correct. I will let Stevenson know that and he will have that in mind in the conversation.

PM: That's correct. You will send your message tomorrow and we will continue this tomorrow.

President: That's correct. I think we just have to wait until we fully analyze this conversation. I haven't seen the entire conversation, but I think that there may--and the prospect of a trade of these missiles and some guarantees of Cuba is still so vague that I am not really in a position to say that there is any possibility as yet. Maybe by tomorrow evening at this time we'll know better.

PM: Yes, but of course at this stage any movement by you may produce a result in Berlin which will be . . . (garbled) . . . that's the danger now . . .

President: Well, we're not going to have any problem at sea because he is keeping his ships out of there, and as I say we let one ship pass today for the very reason that you've named. On the other hand, if in the end of 48 hours we are getting no place and the missile sites continue to be constructed, then we are going to be faced with some hard decisions.

PM: (a garbled reference to Berlin)

President: That's correct, and that is really why we have not done more than we have done up until now. But of course on the other hand if the missile sites continue and get constructed and we don't do anything about it, then I would suppose that it would have quite an effect on Berlin anyway.

PM: Yes . . . (garble) I will send you a message concerning them and you will send me U Thant's conversation.

President: Yes, I'll send you a memorandum based on the copy of the conversation that Stevenson had with U Thant. I will also keep in touch with you tomorrow at this time if you--or otherwise I'll send you a message tomorrow. Maybe I'll send you a message unless we have got something immediate; and No. 3, we will not take any further action until I have talked to you in any case. I won't bother to call you tomorrow, because I may be down--I may be away from here tomorrow evening, and I assume you may be too. But I will send you a message if there is anything new, and in any case I will talk to you on the phone before we do anything of a drastic nature.

PM: . . . thank you. . . . (garble)

President: Prime Minister, I'm going to send you a note tonight or tomorrow morning about asking if it's agreeable with you if General Norstad stay on until January 1st, that there be an overlap with Lemnitzer's tour of duty; that Lemnitzer go over there and take over the American forces and be there and have that 60-day period to be sort of adjusted to his new responsibilities. You'll be getting a formal letter, and I didn't want to say anything about it because we haven't been in touch with General de Gaulle as yet, who is very sensitive in these NATO matters. But I will be in touch with you and I would assume probably that that suggestion would be agreeable to you?

PM: It is indeed very sensible. . . .

President: Good. Well, I'll be in touch in a formal way with you tomorrow on that matter and I'll send you tonight the memorandum on the U Thant conversation--and I hope all goes well.

PM: Thank you very much (garble)

President: Good, fine, Prime Minister, and I'll be in touch with you very shortly. Thank you and good night.

PM: Good night.

1 See Document 86. Back

2 For text of this statement, see Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: John F. Kennedy, 1962, p. 812. Back

Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, Cuba, General, Macmillan Telephone Conversations. Top Secret. For Macmillan's record of this conversation, see At the End of the Day, pp. 209-212.

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