The Cuban Missile Crisis
Summary Record of the 15th Meeting of the Executive Committee of the National Security Council


Washington, October 31, 1962, 6 p.m.

Mr. McCone noted that on an open line between Moscow and Havana, Suslov, speaking for Gromyko, had talked to Abramovich, the Soviet Ambassador in Havana, giving urgent instructions.

Secretary Rusk gave a preliminary report on U Thant's failure to persuade Castro to accept UN inspection procedures in Cuba. He said that McCloy in New York had reported Kuznetsov had said that antiaircraft complexes in Cuba were controlled by the Cubans.

The President directed that all government officials talking to the Russian officials should talk only about Cuba and the removal of offensive weapons. The Russians should be told that when the Cuban crisis is settled, we will talk about other matters. Our policy is to listen to whatever the Russians have to say on other matters but make no response until the Cuban situation has been resolved. The President asked that Ambassador Stevenson in New York be so informed.

Secretary McNamara reported that U-2 flights had produced no pictures because of bad weather and that there existed a requirement for low-level flights. Secretary Rusk and General Taylor agreed.

Secretary Rusk said the time had come for us to build up pressure on our side.

Secretary McNamara recommended that the quarantine be reinstituted for dawn tomorrow. U.S. ships will hail all ships entering the quarantine zone. If they reply, giving their name, port of origin, and cargo, they will be allowed to proceed to port. If their reply is unsatisfactory, the U.S. Navy ship will report to Washington. No ship would be boarded without specific authorization by the President, which the Secretary of Defense will obtain after consulting the Secretary of State.

With reference to low-level flights, Secretary McNamara said that he favored ten or twelve sorties, General Taylor favored eighteen, and General LeMay recommended thirty.

The President directed that fourteen low-level sorties be made with no more than one pass over each target. Missile sites and roads were acceptable targets, but no ports are to be included.

Returning to the decision on reinstituting the quarantine, the President said a final decision would be made after Secretary Rusk reported to him later this evening on the U Thant/Castro talks. If the quarantine was reinstituted, we would make a public announcement.

In response to a request by USIA Acting Director Wilson for guidance with respect to official radio broadcasts to Cuba, the President recommended no verbal attacks on Cuba via this media for this week. He asked that emphasis be given to the fact that the OAS decision is the basis for our aerial surveillance of Cuba and that the issue is not U.S. vs. Cuba, but Cuba vs. all the Western Hemisphere. Mr. Wilson read the themes which are being used by USIA on its broadcasts. The President asked Mr. Wilson to get from others, including foreign diplomatic officials in Cuba, their impression of our radio broadcasts.

The President asked that Kuznetsov be informed of the arrest at sea of anti-Castro Cubans heading toward Cuba. (The U.S. ship arresting the Cubans was the PT-109, the ship used in the film of that name.)

The President also asked that McCloy be informed of [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] planned sabotage in Venezuela.

The President held for decision tomorrow a proposal which would initiate the next step in the planned U.S./USSR space cooperation program. He asked that the initialed U.S./USSR civil air agreement, which had never been finally signed, be reexamined.

The President commented that we should make known that we are anxious to stop our air surveillance of Cuba if the UN comes up with a satisfactory substitute. However, we must continue surveillance in our own national interests until a satisfactory substitute is found.

Bromley Smith(1)

1 Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature. Back

Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Meetings and Memoranda Series, Executive Committee, Vol. II, Meetings 11-16. Top Secret; Sensitive. The Record of Action for this meeting (ibid.) is in the Supplement.

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