The Cuban Missile Crisis
Summary Record of the 16th Meeting of the Executive Committee of the National Security Council


Washington, November 1, 1962, 10 a.m.

Director McCone presented the intelligence summary of developments in Cuba and brief reports on situations in several other areas.(1) The question of who mans the SAM sites in Cuba is still unanswered, but existing evidence indicates that the Russians control and command these missiles. Mr. McCone added that the Russians may be using Castro's obstructionism to serve Soviet interests in connection with on-site inspection. He said the Soviets, in talks with U.N. and U.S. officials, are forthcoming on questions of on-site inspection.

Secretary Rusk said the most important question to be decided is whether we should make low-level flights over Cuba today. He recommended that if we fly and if we lose a reconnaissance plane, we should not retaliate today.

The President noted that we could expect nothing more from Castro until Mikoyan arrives in Havana.

Secretary McNamara reported that Mr. Gilpatric and our officials in New York recommend that no reconnaissance flights be flown today in view of U Thant's request that nothing be done to interfere with his discussions with Mikoyan. The Soviets are reported to have told U Thant that the missile sites in Cuba would be bulldozed beginning tomorrow.

Secretary McNamara said personally he thought we ought to fly low-level missions today. The Russians have not so far complied with their agreement to withdraw the missiles and the U.S. public needs to be reassured that we know what is going on in Cuba. He said we need more information on the IL-28 bombers in Cuba. He urged that flights be authorized today because Mikoyan would be arriving in Cuba tomorrow. He doubted that there would be any Soviet or Cuban reaction to our flights.

General Taylor stated that we cannot appear to be stopped by Castro's threat to shoot down our reconnaissance planes. He recommended that fourteen flights be authorized over missile sites and Cuban ports. If a reconnaissance plane was shot down, he recommended that we reinstitute the blockade.

The President said he did not favor reinstituting the blockade because we would have to stop Soviet ships. He thought that we could carry out low-level reconnaissance missions because our best guess is that there would be no reaction to such flights. He asked how we could deal with the shooting down of one of our planes if the pictures revealed that the Soviet missiles were being dismantled.

Secretary McNamara recommended that there be two flights of two planes each, one over the airfield where the IL-28 planes are based, and the other over the three MRBM sites. The eastern part of Cuba would be covered only by U-2 flights. The purpose of overflying the IL-28 airfield would be to make clear that we consider these bombers "offensive weapons," to be removed by the Russians.

The President asked that Kuznetsov be told that we are making low-level flights. It should be made clear to the Russians that the Cubans are preventing us from establishing inspection procedures accepted by the Russians, and, therefore, we must continue our aerial surveillance.

The Attorney General suggested that we talk to UN officials and get from them a promise to institute a UN inspection system.

The President wanted the Defense Department to provide him with the proposed flight patterns and the time over target of each flight.

Assistant Secretary Nitze said that the IL-28 bombers had been given to the Cubans, and, therefore, if we overflew the bomber bases, we should expect to be fired upon. He doubted that we would be fired upon if we flew over the SAM sites. He recommended that we not fly low-level over the IL-28 base because we have not made clear yet to the Russians that the IL-28 bombers are included in the deal as "offensive weapons." In addition, he noted that we do not intend to include the SAM sites in our discussion of weapons to be withdrawn from Cuba.

Secretary McNamara restated his view that we should get pictures of the IL-28 base, but that no flights need be flown over the Isle of Pines. He said again that chances of losing one of our planes are very small. In his view it is essential that the IL-28 bombers be included among Soviet weapons to be withdrawn, hence, we should have the latest information as to whether they are being dismantled.

The President authorized low-level flights of six planes over the IL-28 base and of several MRBM sites. If a U.S. plane is shot down, no military reprisal will be taken today. The President asked that a full brief be provided to Mr. McCloy in New York in order to reinforce his strong statement to Mikoyan about why we are making low-level flights.

General Taylor asked that the President authorize full photographic coverage of Cuba on Saturday(2) when the Soviet missiles will supposedly be removed.

The President asked for consideration of a longer range surveillance plan. He suggested that we tell the Soviets that if they refuse to take out the IL-28 bombers, we will insist upon on-site inspection.

Secretary Dillon noted that the OAS would support our demand in view of the fact that the Russians have now admitted that their forces are in Cuba. He urged that we make no commitment about not invading Cuba if we do not get satisfactory aerial surveillance and an acceptable inspection system.

The President directed that if one of our planes was hit, we would not announce this fact. We would not announce our intention to make low-level flights, but we would announce the return of our planes after they are back.

Bromley Smith(3)

1 Based in part on CIA memorandum [document number not declassified], "The Crisis USSR/Cuba, Information as of 0600, 1 November 1962." (Ibid., National Security Files, Meetings and Memoranda Series, Executive Committee, Vol. II, Meetings 11-16) See the Supplement. Back

2 November 4. Back

3 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 meeting lasted until 10:40 a.m. (Ibid., President's Appointment Book)

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