The Cuban Missile Crisis
Paper Prepared for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Taylor) for a Meeting With President Kennedy


Washington, November 16, 1962.


1. The Chiefs appreciate the opportunity to discuss some aspects of the current negotiations bearing on the IL-28's and other matters related to Cuba. To lead-off, they would like to express their unqualified support for the insistence of our government upon the withdrawal of the IL-28's. While these aircraft are of less military significance than the IRBM's and MRBM's which have withdrawn, their continued presence in Cuba would present a long-term threat to the continental United States, would consequently require a higher level of air defense of our southeastern states and would give deep concern to many parts of Latin America. These factors added to the public statements of our Government on the need for their withdrawal convince the Joint Chiefs of Staff that the IL-28's must go.

2. The Chiefs are aware of the offer to exchange a lifting of the quarantine for Khrushchev's removal of the IL-28's and will regret the possible loss of this useful naval tool if the offer is accepted. If the Soviets decline the offer, the quarantine will provide an immediate means to apply pressure both on Khrushchev and on Castro not only to remove the IL-28's but also to obtain other ends such as the withdrawal of Soviet technicians and the acceptance of an inspection system. After appropriate warning to Khrushchev of our intentions, the Chiefs would favor a general extension of the quarantine to include a complete blockade of POL products. Concurrently, we should continue air surveillance and withhold any assurance against the invasion of Cuba. If the expanded quarantine did not succeed in obtaining the withdrawal of the IL-28s, we should be prepared to take them out by air attack.

3. Even if the IL-28's are negotiated out of Cuba, there will remain weapons systems of significant military importance; the MIG's, the SAM's, the air defense control system, and the large stocks of modern Army equipment which we have seen in our recent photography. The air defense weapons will be a constant threat to our surveillance of Cuba while the Army weapons may be used against Guantanamo or against any invasion attempt. But more important than this equipment are the thousands of Soviet military personnel who remain in Cuba to man it. The Soviet presence in Cuba poses a particularly sensitive problem to the United States. When the extent of this presence is known and the weapons systems remaining in Soviet hands are thoroughly appreciated, it will be clear to the Western Hemisphere that it has indeed been invaded and remains invaded by the Soviet Union. Under these conditions, we may anticipate a loud popular demand in the United States and in Latin America for the removal of the Soviet personnel and neutralization of their weapons. The Joint Chiefs of Staff feel that the United States should generate now all the pressure possible to get the Soviet personnel out, feeling that their eviction is far more important than that of the equipment.

4. The Chiefs are very much interested in the terms in which any assurance to Castro may eventually be couched, feeling that it would be damaging to our national interest and to the sense of security of our Latin American allies to create the impression of underwriting Castro for an indefinite period without careful qualification. If it is considered necessary to give Castro any assurance, the Chiefs feel that it should be tied to Khrushchev's proposal in his 26 October letter to withdraw Soviet forces from Cuba, and to cease giving military aid to Castro. Also the assurance should be given without affecting our commitments under the Rio Pact and should be linked to concurrent good behavior on the part of Castro and to acceptance by the Castro government of continued air surveillance.

5. The Chiefs recognize both the importance and the difficulty of obtaining an adequate verification system in Cuba. While sympathetic with their purpose, the Chiefs do not like two of the current proposals for inspection and verification. The first is the proposal from Ambassador Stevenson for a UN inspection system of the Caribbean or Central America. The Chiefs do not favor it because of its reciprocal features, its doubtful effectiveness and the danger of having it regarded as a substitute for effective aerial surveillance. The second is the Brazilian suggestion for the establishment of a nuclear free zone in Latin America. Apart from objections to the precedent of supporting such a proposal for any part of the world, and the divided opinion among our allies on this subject, we do not see any way to obtain from the proposal a satisfactory verification system for Cuba. Consequently, we would advise against supporting it.

6. In summary, the Joint Chiefs of Staff recommend at this juncture:

a. That the IL-28's be removed from Cuba, preferably by negotiation--otherwise by blockade followed, if need be, by military action.

b. That the removal of Soviet personnel from Cuba be made an immediate objective of negotiations with the USSR.

c. That any assurance to Castro be hedged by conditions protecting our obligations under the Rio Pact and linking the duration of the assurance to good behavior by Castro and the acceptance of air surveillance.

d. That in seeking a means of long-term verification and inspection, which we consider essential, we oppose the proposals for a reciprocal UN inspection of the Caribbean and for a nuclear free zone in Latin America.

Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, Cuba, General, 11/16/62-11/20/62. Top Secret. No drafting information appears on the source text.

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