The Cuban Missile Crisis
Memorandum From the Joint Chiefs of Staff to Secretary of Defense McNamara


Washington, November 28, 1962.



Readiness Posture Requirements (U)

1. Following the announcement made by the President on 20 November 1962 with regard to the lifting of the maritime quarantine of Cuba in response to the Soviet agreement to remove the IL-28s from Cuba within a period of about 30 days, we are entering a new phase of the Cuban situation.

2. The new phase has been highlighted by the termination of the 1/8 airborne alert; the return of B-47 aircraft to home bases, except for those in Florida; authorization for the commands to return to DEFCON 5 status except where specific situations dictate otherwise; the release of the Air Force Reserve Troop Carrier units; and the authority for the return to normal operations of US naval ships and air squadrons associated with the maritime quarantine. All other forces, however, are being maintained at high readiness, and military forces are capable of reacting on a 12-hour basis for CINCLANT OPLAN 312-62 and a 7-day basis for CINCLANT OPLAN 316-62, except that necessary shipping has not been accumulated.

3. In this new situation, we must recognize the need for high- and low-level aerial reconnaissance over Cuba and over Soviet shipping in order to ascertain whether the Soviet commitments are in fact fulfilled. At the same time, we must recognize the maintenance needs of our forces and the personnel hardships which high alert levels have imposed.

4. In recognition of these facts, the Joint Chiefs of Staff consider the following alert posture criteria to be appropriate at this time, with further reduction to normal pre-Cuba posture prior to Christmas contingent on actual Soviet withdrawal of IL-28 aircraft from Cuba:

a. Overflight reconnaissance:

(1) High-Level: Alert posture which will permit an average of two U-2 flights per day in any 10-day period and not more than a maximum of five U-2 flights on any one day.

(2) Low-Level: Four aircraft on 12-hour alert and eight aircraft on 24-hour alert, and similar readiness for all aircraft which support the foregoing reconnaissance missions (i.e., Fighter escort, CAP, SAR, ELINT, etc.).

[5 paragraphs (5-1/2 lines of source text) not declassified]

g. Air Defense: Resume normal posture except for those units which may be needed to increase the air defense of the Southeastern United States on a permanent basis. Long-term air defense needs for this region are under study.

h. Strategic Forces: Maintenance of normal alert levels.

5. Relaxation of readiness posture to the foregoing levels will permit the following actions to be taken at this time:

a. CINCLANT and component headquarters: CINCLANT and the component commanders will maintain the presently activated communications net. CINCARLANT and CINCAFLANT headquarters elements can be returned to home stations except for reduced staffs maintained at Homestead.

b. Air forces: The reaction times provided permit the return of all units, less those required for conduct of and combat support to reconnaissance missions, to home bases and resumption of normal training. War reserve materiel and selected support and control personnel will remain at Florida bases.

c. Marine forces: All West Coast units less 3d LAAM Battalion will be returned to home stations at once. The FMF Atlantic units which are presently part of the recent Guantanamo defense augmentation will remain as presently deployed with a goal of returning these units to home stations by 20 December 1962. 5th MEB shipping should be utilized insofar as practicable in returning the 2d Battalion, 1st Marines, to the West Coast.

d. Army forces: All Army units can be returned to home stations except those required to meet the provisions of subparagraph 5a above, and the 159th Boat Battalion, which will remain temporarily at Fort Lauderdale pending completion of studies to determine a suitable location that will enable it to meet the required reaction time.

e. Navy forces: One CVA Group will be retained temporarily in the Guantanamo sea area to support the defense of Guantanamo until 20 December 1962. A Carrier Task Group will be retained in the Norfolk-Mayport area against the possible requirement for sighting Soviet ships departing Cuba ports with IL-28 aircraft and to support possible airstrikes under CINCLANT OPLAN 312-62.

[1 paragraph (4 lines of source text) not declassified]

(1) COMSTS should be given authority to recall transports without completion of voyages in process when the decision is made to prepare for execution of CINCLANT OPLAN 316-62.

(2) COMSTS should be given authority to requisition ships when the decision is made to prepare for execution of CINCLANT OPLAN 316-62.

(3) The recommissioning of the 11 LSTs should be continued. However, they need not be fully manned.

6. The Joint Chiefs of Staff propose to review the situation on a continuing basis in order to determine whether the criteria of paragraph 4, above, should be relaxed to permit a continuing phase-down to an approximately normal posture by about 20 December 1962. Should continued phase-down be warranted, the remaining units can be returned to home stations, and dependents can begin to be returned to Guantanamo prior to Christmas.

7. In summary, the Joint Chiefs of Staff recommend the following program of action:

a. An immediate reduction should be effected to the readiness levels reflected in paragraph 4, above, proceeding at a rate commensurate with optimum administrative efficiency.

b. A reassessment of the situation should be conducted on a continuing basis in order to ascertain whether IL-28 withdrawal warrants continued relaxation to approximately normal readiness levels prior to Christmas.

8. Your approval of the foregoing program is requested as a basis for further action by the Joint Chiefs of Staff.(1)

For the Joint Chiefs of Staff:

Maxwell D. Taylor
Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff

1 In a memorandum to Taylor, November 28, McNamara concurred with the recommendations in this memorandum, but suggested that "the limitation on U-2 flights over Cuba be 'an average of two per day, cumulative from November 21, with the understanding that no more than five U-2 flights would be scheduled for any single day.'" (Ibid.) Back

Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OASD Files: FRC 71 A 2896, Cuba (Sensitive) 1962. Top Secret.

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