The Cuban Missile Crisis
Memorandum of Telephone Conversation Among the Permanent Representative to the United Nations (Stevenson), the Under Secretary of State (Ball), and the Deputy Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs (Johnson)


November 6, 1962, 11:30 a.m.

Stevenson--When does Gilpatric get here?

Ball--He is on the other line now. He is in New York, I will find out where he is. He is in New York and calling in on another phone. Alex Johnson is talking to him.(1) He is at the Waldorf Towers.

Stevenson--All right. We will get him over here as quickly as we can.

Ball--What we should do is to get back to the Russians and this is what Gilpatric is being told to get in touch with you about and since these things are going out of there we want to arrange to get these things photographed at close range and look at them. This is probably the best we can do under the circumstances.

Stevenson--I got a long God damn thing from the Department today.(2)

Ball--Let me put Alex Johnson on because he wrote this long damn thing from the Department today.(3)

Stevenson--There is one ship already sailing. We have to get on to that one I suspect right away. This thing--5--requires a verification at sea and a loading time which we don't have. I think maybe we can start with "D"--inspection from along side.(4) Can we skip everything before that?

Johnson--Yes, skip everything before that and go to "D".

Stevenson--All right. I think--if the United States is limited to inspect from along side the vessel, how the hell can we do that if they loaded from below?

Ball--What we really need is this--what we really need to see are the missiles. The photographs we have indicate that they are in the proc-ess of loading the 26 out of the 42. We have to tell them we have to see all the missiles and if we can pull along side and see the missiles and make sure they are not dummies.

Stevenson--This telegram goes into such minute detail. Should we just disregard this and decide now what we want to do?

Ball--All right. I think we can. First, have a ship pull along side these ships and we will photograph from the ship or helicopter, or something like that, but at close range so that we can count for each missile; and have the tarpaulin pulled back so that we can see there are missiles under there.

Stevenson--We are not going to insist on boarding or uncrating.

Johnson--They are being loaded and covered with tarpaulins. It would be easy to the advantage of everyone if we could go on board and examine them, but if we could come along side and check that there actually is a missile under the tarpaulin that would be OK.

Stevenson--You want to see what is above deck on the associated equipment?

Ball--Yes, but we don't have to account for all of it.

Stevenson--We are going to have a hard time getting that. We will have to move awfully fast on this. I think we ought to see if we can get a loading plan.


Stevenson--What else about this?

Ball--Plus the instructions that the ships--we pull a ship along side and the right to take the picture from a helicopter.

Stevenson--All right.

Ball--Hold on, I will make sure about Gilpatric. Gilpatric will come right over.

Stevenson--All right. You told me about the ship inspection from along side. What about this associated equipment and missiles, do we have to see all of these things?

Ball--No, we just want to make sure that enough of it is going on board. Some will be deck loaded.

Stevenson--That is they are not holding back what they said they have?

Ball--That's right. We are not going to try to take an inventory or count it on a piece-by-piece basis. I think this is what we will have to settle for.

Stevenson--Yes, I think this is what we will have to settle for. They are going to try to short circuit the ground inspection. This thing got so vicious last night(5)--we have got to pull our wits together. If I can't get some instructions pretty soon on the guaranty they are going to clam up. I have been waiting for some instructions for the guaranty for weeks.

Ball--We are going to have a meeting this afternoon(6) and we will try to get something out.

Stevenson--I wish they would talk to me before they send these instructions out.

Ball--I think this thing I have just given you is fairly realistic.

Stevenson--Yes, I think this is all right.

Ball--I don't think we give up on the ground inspection.

Stevenson--You mean on the shipments or verification after the fact?

Ball--Verification after the fact.

Stevenson--Yes. The other thing we are going to have to take up again is this warhead business. What is your position on that? How can you tell if they have warheads?

Ball--One with a Geiger counter, I would think. I think our chances on doing anything on that are very slight. I think we should keep it for conversational purposes.

Stevenson--I don't know. If we don't have anything to say it is not very good conversation.

Ball--Ros is on his way there now. I think you should sit down and talk to him and see what you ought to recommend and get back here and I will see if I can clear it out.

Stevenson--Have we got any great signal forms on the ships?

Ball--Great signal forms on the ships?


Johnson--Oh, you mean signaling from our ships to theirs?


Johnson--No, I don't think anyone contemplated that it would be used.

Stevenson--Telling them that our ship so and so will come by at a certain time.

Ball--We could furnish them that.

Stevenson--It is going to be rough. Most of the details I don't know about and I would like to know about. I am going to have to proceed in writing or God knows where we will be. I want to know all the details about this particular aspect of it.

Johnson--We will undertake to get those details.

Ball--I think you should talk to Gilpatric about that and he can work it out directly with the Navy people and Defense. We would have to go back through them anyway on this.

Stevenson--On the warheads, you have given up I gather.

Ball--No, I don't think, we are going to get it. We want to be satisfied the warheads are out. What suggestions can they make?

Stevenson--They say they haven't any except their commitment that they would remove from the island anything that is offensive. I gather, by some small modification, you could use a missile warhead on an airplane. We can't go on this way, George, it is intolerable, by having a lot of ambiguous talk. Yesterday they insisted that McCloy had agreed to the Soviet ship on Sunday and bitter accusations of bad faith. I think all McCloy said was he didn't personally care if it was a Soviet ship or not but that he couldn't commit the Government. I think we have to have a much higher degree of realism. They are going to stall on this ground verification because they can't get it.


Stevenson--You see what I mean?


Stevenson--They are going to say "No more overflights." We will have to face this one in the course of the negotiations. They were insistent on bringing it up last night and I am sure they are going to say we have a few things you know about.

Ball--Did they get into the overflights last night?

Stevenson--No, but they got into the guarantees. I can ask questions like where will the warheads be and on what missiles and can we work out some scheme of identifying them above deck.

Ball--I think that is good.

Stevenson--Let's talk about the IL-28's here. Mikoyan ran into trouble on the IL-28's after he got down there. They now have gotten sticky as hell on this. They may be introducing this as a bargaining point on something else. In all events we have to make up our minds and I think on the removal of the IL-28's and that raises the question of airing nuclear bombs and how to get removal and also whether conventional bombs are going to be removed. I think all of these things I have to have some broad general sort of objective to obtain they are realistic. But I am pretty familiar with the other kind. We might as well forget the thing on conventional bombs. If we could just disregard that and get the record clear then we could concentrate on the thing which we can insist on more legitimately. The IL-28 as an aircraft and any nuclear weapons they carry.

Ball--I think that is fine.

Stevenson--If anyone has any ideas of what we can ask for or how many it should bring in and give us some assurance that you have taken them out . . .

Ball--We have a way of getting that at a high level.

Stevenson--You mean a message to Khrushchev?


Stevenson--I think that is the only way really. I would think if we are going to do anything about this we should move on this promptly.

Ball--What I think would be most helpful for us--Ros is on his way down there now and if you could work something out and put it to us and we could get answers for you and he could interpret back to McNamara the way it looks from New York.

Ball--I think on this one point of these arrangements on these ships that you and Ros should go to work on that right away.

Stevenson--And you will be working on the guarantees. We have to button up on the Red Cross coming in, which is nonsense anyway, we will have to reach an agreement actually within hours as to if it will be a Swedish ship or a Soviet ship. We opened that one up again last night and any remarks that McCloy made about a Soviet ship have been erased. The negotiators are waiting here to see what they are to negotiate about.

Ball--I think the Swedish ship could be made available.

Stevenson--Is that what we want?


Stevenson--All right, we will reject the Soviet ship. We will instruct the UN to charter the Swedish ship.

Ball--Gilpatric knows where the Swedish ship is.

Stevenson--All right. I would make this as simple as possible. I would tie it to the invasion and to the commitments in the inter-American agreement and then let me present it along with a demand for a reciprocal promise from them that they won't reintroduce these weapons into Cuba. We have never let any doubt but that we were not going to make any guaranty at all.

Johnson--Yes. We want some verification of not introducing these then we can make one kind of a guaranty. If it is simple the removal of the missile without any . . . .

Stevenson--When you say guaranty against reintroduction, what do you mean?

Johnson--Some arrangement in Cuba on missiles--something to verify that these weapons are not being reintroduced.

Stevenson--If we are ready for that I think we can get something. That would mean inspection of the United States and on intervening countries.

Ball--In the message we sent up yesterday(7) we didn't reject . . . .

Stevenson--I think it would be helpful if we could proceed on the assumption that mutual inspection is something that will have to be worked out over a period of time by the Caribbean Defense Committee. We will guaranty against invasion by the United States in exchange for Soviet guaranty that they will not reintroduce these weapons in Cuba.

Johnson--What would the Cubans do under that?

Stevenson--They wouldn't do anything. Let's get this transaction completed first and then we will sit down and negotiate what we can do and undertake with Cuba on all of these things. Unless we have some very clear line that we ought to pursue right now it is difficult to deal with this. I don't want to go over with a lot of vague alternatives. We can say if you don't give us grounds and verification then we must ask for this. If you do and I don't know what that could be, I don't think they will ever buy it. They will immediately charge us with bad faith. They will say we have introduced new matter and we will have another bad time. I do think that probably we should separate two things--one is the immediate deal with the Russians and the other is future arrangements with Cuba. On the one with the Russians if we settle with a simple guaranty now and then assume we will run our air reconnaissance, this will present a very serious problem. It will be asserted into the Security Council over and over, regardless of what we promised. What we could do is for the future we will have to preserve the line to run reconnaissance flights to assure these weapons will not be reintroduced.

Johnson--Isn't it very difficult for us to give--it seems to me it is very difficult for us to give that guaranty without Cuba in turn having done something.

Stevenson--I think we could ask Cuba to give us a guaranty that she won't introduce these weapons. It is the verification procedure. I don't want to get in a position where they now want to trade off Guantanamo for something more. It is the sort of thing we should get some of your views on as promptly as possible. Somehow we have been able to go through these meetings by saying you will get your guarantees; and then they get into the subject of protocol and a registered agreement.

Johnson--We hope to get to this at the meeting this afternoon, then we will get something to you.

Stevenson--I can hold it off today.

Johnson--They haven't given us ground verification.

Stevenson--That is the one big handle we have got.

Johnson--If we get the IL-28's and ground verification . . . .

Stevenson--That is only one verification for compliance it doesn't take care of the future. McCloy has come to the conclusion that the ground verification is a lot of nonsense and he is against doing it. They are going to be almost impossible to find.

Johnson--That is the problem on it.

Stevenson--I have one other point--this business of the press stories that come from Washington, when we manage to keep this place silent, has caused us grief for two weeks. Every day there is a new story in the newspapers coming from Washington. I must have some knowledge in advance of what they are putting out down there, in the State Department, the Defense Department and the White House.

Ball--I don't think any of it is going out through official channels. The Department is not putting anything out.

Stevenson--Isn't Sylvester and Manning briefing people all the time?


Yost--What about the Maggie Higgins story this morning about the Kuznetsov-McCloy talks?

Stevenson--It didn't come from here. We maintain total silence here and down there there is a gush of talk. It goes to the Secretary General and we have to unwrap it, it goes to the Russians and we have to clear it up with them.

Ball--It causes me as much pain and anguish as it does you.

Stevenson--Well, the resentment of the press here . . . .

Ball--Yes, I understand. It is a problem.

Stevenson--We are at the point here where no one sees anything but Yost and me and our own Mission doesn't know what is going on. I am a pitiful beggar here to get some kind of coordination.

Ball--This is an old problem and we were able to solve it for a week and we have not been able to solve it since. I don't know where the stuff gets out.

Stevenson--Well this Rowan-Evans stuff got out. I was told that Bundy was telling Alphand what was in the telegram.

Ball--Well a copy of the telegram was given to the Ambassador.

Stevenson--Well that is like publishing it in the New York Times.

Ball--I agree.

Stevenson--I would like for you to take it up with Kennedy or Rusk or some one. Maybe we could do some backgrounding here and leaking of the right stuff to come out. Maybe we could get some of our stories planted and have the right thing come out at the right time. I don't like to do it, but we did it years ago when we didn't have any control. It is time consuming to me and to most of us likewise.

Ball--Let me talk to the President about that this afternoon.

Stevenson--OK, I will talk to Gilpatric.

1 Ball and Johnson talked to Gilpatric at 11:15 a.m., apparently Johnson stayed on the line while Ball talked to Stevenson. (Ibid.) See the Supplement. Back

2 Telegram 1200 to USUN, November 5, 10:59 p.m., see footnote 2, Document 147. Back

3 Captain Elmo Zumwalt and Joseph Sisco drafted the telegram and Johnson cleared it. Back

4 Section 5, "Required Verification at Sea," subsection d, "Inspection from Along Side," was considered in this telegram as an acceptable fall-back position. If this was to be the verification mode, then the guidelines in this telegram suggested that all offensive equipment had to be on deck and uncrated. Back

5 See Document 151. Back

6 See Document 154. Back

7 Apparent reference to Document 147. Back

Source: Department of State, Ball Files: Lot 74 D 272, Telephone Conversations--Cuba. No classification marking. Stevenson was in New York; Ball and Johnson were in Washington. Yost also participated in the conversation.

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