The Cuban Missile Crisis
Summary Record of the 27th Meeting of the Executive Committee of the National Security Council


Washington, November 19, 1962, 10 a.m.

Director McCone summarized the week-end intelligence(1) and commented on orders issued to Cuban anti-aircraft units to fire on reconnaissance planes.

Secretary Rusk reported on yesterday's McCloy/Kuznetsov talk (attached is copy of USUN message 1856).(2) He said the Russians in New York consider the IL-28's to be part of the deal, but we have received no word yet from Khrushchev.

Secretary Rusk initiated a general discussion of the need for overflights and the effect of such flights on the Cubans and the Russians. Secretary McNamara commented that the overflight problem is primarily a political one. General Taylor recommended that there be six low-level sorties, some over the harbor of Mantanzas in order to watch incoming Soviet ships. The planes would be over Cuba less than eight minutes and would fly at tree-top level.

The President said the decision on flying low-level today is political. Our intelligence on the orders to the Cubans to fire on U.S. reconnaissance planes is hard. By not going today do we increase the chance of a settlement or if one of our planes is fired on, and we retaliate, would that increase our chances of settlement?

Mr. McCloy recommended against low-level flights today. Secretary Rusk, however, was concerned by the effect on the OAS and on NATO if it becomes public knowledge that the U.S. has flown no low-level mission since Castro threatened to shoot down our reconnaissance planes.

The President decided that no low-level flights would be flown today. High-level missions were authorized. On Wednesday(3) we should plan to fly low-level. He asked that we examine, possibly next week, those military actions to be taken in retaliation for a shootdown.

General Taylor said existing plans call for an armed air reconnaissance and then an attack on the offending anti-aircraft site. Secretary McNamara noted that our plans call for two hours' advance notice before we attack Cuban territory.

The President made a comment, which was not clear, about photographs taken of our airfields by U.S. reconnaissance planes.

The President asked what was the impact on Khrushchev of the Indo-Chinese fighting.

Ambassador Thompson, reverting to an earlier question, said we should keep the way open to a coexistence line. The imposition of the quarantine would be very hard for the Russians to take. Therefore, we should act against the Cubans in Cuba. Mr. Bundy noted that we have given Khrushchev every escape hatch for the IL-28 bombers. If he does not now give in and remove them, there will be another serious Soviet miscalculation.

Mr. Nitze commented that the Russians wanted us to attack the Cuban anti-aircraft sites.

The President commented that we are heading down the road to a choice. Either the IL-28s will come out and we will continue to fly high-level missions, or if the Russians refuse to withdraw the bombers, we are heading for a new showdown on Thursday or Friday.(4) We will wait today on the low-level flights and we will fly only when we believe it necessary for intelligence reasons, not as harassment.

Mr. Bundy said the scenario called for no action until tomorrow when, if we received no answer, we would seek to obtain OAS support for our demand that the IL-28 bombers be withdrawn. The next move would involve military pressure.

Under Secretary Ball commented on his recent briefing of the NATO Council in Paris.(5) He said he was surprised at the unanimous reaction that we had let the Russians off too easily and had not demanded the elimination of the Soviet base in Cuba. He said our European allies would support us in finishing the job and that there would be no objection to putting pressure on the Russians again via a blockade.

The President said he was not sure that a quarantine is the right response to the shooting down of a plan or the refusal to pull out the IL-28 bombers. How can Khrushchev submit a second time? Secretary Dillon responded that Khrushchev could take the quarantine more easily than a U.S. attack on Cuba. Mr. Nitze said that under Communist doctrine a Communist state can back down in the face of the superior position of an enemy. Mr. Bundy pointed out that we would be acting not against the Soviets by hitting Cuba.

The President was given a paper on proposed actions in the OAS involving conversations in advance with OAS powers with respect to our air surveillance.(6) Secretary Rusk said primarily we would be reporting our actions to the OAS. Secretary Dillon felt that inspection covering the IL-28 bombers should be an arrangement with the OAS rather than the UN.

The President said in the UN we could stress verification and in the OAS we could concentrate on the demand that the Russians withdraw the IL-28 bombers which are dangerous to other Latin American states.

In summarizing the present situation, the President said we now have no inspection and no safeguards on the reintroduction of offensive weapons. Castro has rejected UN inspection and now he has concentrated his opposition on arrangements for national inspection. He asked that a statement be prepared for his use on the assumption that we have no Russian response to our IL-28 bomber withdrawal demand. We should emphasize Castro's rejection of ground inspection, thus requiring the continuance of air surveillance. We should seek to get the OAS to re-enforce our right to continue air surveillance.

Mr. Murrow commented that the Latin Americans are of the view that we are not doing enough against Castro.

The President requested that later in the day he be given a paper containing recommended courses of political and military actions which may have to be taken this week if we have no reply on the IL-28 bombers. This would include a recommendation as to what we would do if Khrushchev offers to take out the IL-28 bombers if our air surveillance ends.(7)

(At a meeting in the Cabinet Room at 6:00 PM on November 19 without the President or the Vice President,(8) the group discussed a contingency plan which had been prepared by the State Department.(9))

Bromley Smith(10)

1 Based in part on CIA Memorandum [document number not declassified], November 19; "The Crisis, USSR/Cuba: Information as of 0600 19 November 1962." (Department of State, S/S Files: Lot 65 D 438, CIA-Cuba) See the Supplement. Back

2 Document 191. Back

3 November 21. Back

4 November 22 and 23. Back

5 A report of Ball's briefing is in Polto 577 from Paris, November 20. (Department of State, Central Files, 737.00/11-2062) See the Supplement. Back

6 Not found. Back

7 A draft contingency paper containing as Part IV, "Action in the Event Khrushchev Agrees to Withdraw IL-28's" was prepared on November 19. (Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, Cuba, General, 11/16/62-11/20/62) Back

8 McCone prepared a record of the meeting held at 6 p.m. on November 19, in which the contingency plan cited in footnote 7 was revised, a message from Kennedy to Adenauer, de Gaulle, and Macmillan was revised and approved, and it was decided that the OAS meeting should be "informative" and that a resolution should not be submitted. (Memorandum by McCone, November 20; Central Intelligence Agency, DCI/McCone Files, Job 80-B1285A, DCI Meetings with President, 1 July 1962-31 December 1962) See the Supplement. The approved messages to Adenauer, de Gaulle, and Macmillan are in Department of State, Presidential Correspondence: Lot 66 D 204. See the Supplement. Back

9 A revised contingency plan, November 20, is in the Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, Cuba, General, 11/16/62-11/20/62. See the Supplement. Back

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

Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Meetings and Memoranda Series, Executive Committee, Vol. III, Meetings, 25-32A. Top Secret; Sensitive. The meeting lasted until 10:55 a.m. (Ibid., President's Appointment Book) McGeorge Bundy's record of action of this meeting is ibid., National Security Files, Meetings and Memoranda Series, Executive Committee, Vol. III, Meetings 25-32A.

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