The Cuban Missile Crisis
Summary Record of the 26th-A Meeting of the Executive Committee of the National Security Council


Washington, November 17, 1962, 2:30 p.m.

President and Vice President absent

Others attending: Rusk, Thompson, A. Johnson, Cleveland, Bundy, Murrow, Nitze, Taylor, McNamara, Gilpatric, Dillon, McCone

1. The members revised and recommended to the President a press statement to be made Tuesday(1) in the event the Russians have agreed to withdraw the IL-28 bombers within the next 3-4 weeks.

2. The members discussed and revised a draft letter and declaration (USUN 1835)(2) but decided not to send it to Kuznetsov now or to authorize McCloy to inform Kuznetsov tomorrow of its contents. A decision as to when to give the Russians the letter is to be made Monday.

3. Secretary Rusk will inform McCloy that in his talk with Kuznetsov tomorrow he is to stay within the limits of our last two letters to Khrushchev and not discuss a package proposal. McCloy may discuss the situation which will exist Tuesday if we have not received a favorable decision on the IL-28 bombers before the President makes a statement to the American people on the Cuban crisis.(3)

4. There was a prolonged discussion as to whether low-level reconnaissance flights should be made tomorrow and Monday. Secretary Rusk will recommend to the President that no low-level flights should be made tomorrow and a decision can be made later as to Monday's low-level flights.(4) Among the factors discussed were:

a. There is no military requirement for low-level flights on Sunday and Monday.

b. If a plane is shot down, we must react.

c. If many more days go by without low-level flights, the Cubans and others might think that the Cuban threat to shoot down our reconnaissance planes has scared us away from further missions.

d. The effect of reconnaissance missions on the IL-28 negotiations--some believe this keeps pressure on; others believe we should tell the Russians we are not flying low-level missions in order to avoid complicating the IL-28 decision.

e. Missions could be flown over heavily fortified areas with some risk of being shot down by Cuban antiaircraft fire or could be flown over rural areas where risk of hostile Cuban action would be very low but the Cubans and the Soviets would know we were flying low-level missions.

5. State Department circulated a paper for later consideration on Caribbean security arrangements.(5)

Bromley Smith(6)

1 November 20; see footnote 2, Document 189. Back

2 Dated November 16. (Department of State, Central Files, 737.56361/11-1662) See the Supplement. Back

3 Rusk did so in a November 17 letter to McCloy. (Department of State, Central Files, 737.56361/11-1762) See the Supplement. Back

4 McCone prepared a brief memorandum of this meeting in which he noted that McNamara was opposed to low-level reconnaissance, stating that "there were no targets which demanded immediate surveillance and he preferred to depend on high-level flying." McCone noted that he, Bundy, and Thompson advocated high-level flights, but the decision was made not to fly on Sunday, November 18. (Memorandum for the record by McCone, November 19; Central Intelligence Agency, DCI/McCone Files, Job 80-B01285A, DCI Meetings with the President, 1 July 1962-31 December 1962) Back

5 Not found. Back

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

Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Meetings and Memoranda Series, Executive Committee, Meetings, Vol. III, 25-32a. Top Secret; Sensitive. The meeting, which took place in Secretary Rusk's conference room in the Department of State, lasted until 4:08, although Rusk continued to meet with Cleveland, Bundy, Johnson, and Ball for the rest of the afternoon until 5:40 p.m. (Johnson Library, Rusk Appointment Book)

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