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At the close of the Executive Committee Meeting last night,(1) I raised the question of courses of action we should follow if the Cuban SAM sites are made operational and a U-2 is shot down. This question has been considered and the consensus seems to be that in such an eventuality, we will be obliged to take out the SAM site or perhaps several SAM sites. There appeared no difference of opinion among those in attendance at the meeting last night or previous meetings when I raised this question concerning the policy.
However, as you said, the implementation of the "policy" was another matter and perhaps it would be more difficult to "seize the nettle" in such assumed circumstances than it is to agree among ourselves as to what should be done.
I continue to be disturbed over this situation as I feel that there is a strong possibility of such a confrontation as soon as the IL-28's are all removed. In this connection, I find it significant that Mr. Kuznetsov advised Governor Stevenson with regard to the number of IL-28's to be shipped on each of several ships, the ports and the dates of departure.(2) This seems to indicate to me that the Soviets are about to "drop the curtain" on one phase of the Cuban problem.
Other indications of their intentions have appeared recently. On Monday I gave you a note reporting (by Stevenson) Mikoyan's statements that "he had succeeded in maintaining a Socialist 'communist-controlled' state in Cuba." I also reported that we had detected a continual improvement in Soviet-controlled communications systems throughout the Island.(3)
Today the Watch Committee reports more extensively on the communications developments and their report, which appears as an Annex to this week's Watch Committee statement, is attached.(4)
I feel there is a very strong possibility that we will soon face a situation where the Soviets will first warn us against further overflights, indicate that their SAM sites are in operation, and if we persist will destroy one or more U-2's. Action by us of a type planned and mentioned last night could, therefore, involve a military operation against Soviet soldiers.
This therefore is quite possibly the situation that we will face. It will not be action against "Cuban forces" in disguise; it will be action against Soviet forces and this may possibly be announced to us in advance. I bring this up because I think the possibility must be given serious thought at this time and we might devise diplomatic moves which would either forestall such a confrontation or, alternatively, a pronouncement made now might so indicate our intentions that the confrontation will not occur.
John A. McCone(5)
Source: Central Intelligence Agency, DCI/McCone Files, Job 80-B01285A, Meetings with the President. Top Secret.