The Cuban Missile Crisis
Memorandum From the Coordinator of Cuban Affairs (Cottrell) to the Executive Committee of the National Security Council


Washington, January 24, 1963.


United States Policy Toward Cuba

There are submitted for your consideration two alternative statements of policy and related courses of action with respect to Cuba. Alternative I was prepared by the Department of State. Alternative II was prepared by the Department of Defense. The Coordinator's Recommendation that Alternative I be approved, and the Department of Defense non-concurrence, appear at the end of this paper.

Alternative I

United States Policy

On November 20, the President set forth the broad guidelines of United States policy with respect to Cuba in the following words:

"As for our part, if all offensive weapons systems are removed from Cuba and kept out of the hemisphere in the future, under adequate verification and safeguards, and if Cuba is not used for the export of aggressive communist purposes, there will be peace in the Caribbean. And, as I said in September, 'we shall neither initiate nor permit aggression in this hemisphere'.

"We will not, of course, abandon the political, economic and other efforts of this hemisphere to halt subversion from Cuba, nor our purpose and hope that the Cuban people shall some day be truly free. But these policies are very different from any intent to launch a military invasion of the island."


Accordingly, the objectives of U.S. policy with respect to Cuba are:

1. Protecting the security of the United States and the other states of the Organization of American States (OAS) by assuring that offensive weapons are not reintroduced into Cuba;

2. Removal of remaining Soviet forces from Cuba;

3. Preventing Cuba from taking any aggressive military action against other Caribbean states;

4. Reducing the capabilities of the Castro regime to direct and support subversion and insurrection within the other OAS states;

5. Encouraging and supporting any developments within Cuba that offer the possibility of divorcing the Cuban Government from its support of Sino-Soviet Communist purposes or replacing the Government with a regime which would accomplish this purpose;

6. Maximizing the cost to the Soviet Union of supporting the Castro regime;

7. Maximizing the political isolation of the Castro regime from other free world states, and especially from states of the OAS;

8. Being prepared to meet, with the employment of appropriate U.S. combat elements and/or logistical support, the wide variety of military contingencies that may arise from pursuit of the foregoing objectives; and

9. Producing comprehensive intelligence related to the above objectives.

Supporting Actions

The following actions should be initiated in the sequence set forth below:

1. Await results of Mr. Donovan's imminent negotiation with Fidel Castro for freeing the 20-odd American prisoners. Prior aggressive U.S. action could jeopardize their release.

2. If these negotiations fail, or when the prisoners are recovered, proceed on the following timetable:

3. Inform NATO and OAS twelve hours in advance of the proclamation of the four point shipping orders. (The proclamation calls for the orders to go into effect in five days.) These orders:

a. close United States ports to all vessels of a country whose vessels engage in carrying arms to Cuba;

b. close United States ports to any ship which has carried goods in the Bloc-Cuba trade within 120 days of the time it seeks to enter a United States port;

c. prohibit all United States flag ships and all ships owned by United States nationals or residents from entering any ports of Cuba and from carrying any goods bound to or from Cuba; and

d. prohibit any cargo sponsored by any department or agency of the United States from being shipped on vessels owned or controlled by persons who own or control vessels engaged in the trade between Cuba and the Soviet Bloc.

4. At the termination of the U.S. Chiefs of Mission Conference in El Salvador on January 28-30 Assistant Secretary Martin will visit the Presidents of Chile, Mexico and Brazil to convey to them the importance President Kennedy attaches to maintaining hemispheric solidarity by supporting the following resolutions:

a. An OAS resolution condemning Cuba for its actions which continue to endanger the peace, deploring refusal to allow inspection, condemning the presence of Soviet troops, recommending continued surveillance and continued vigilance against subversive activities, and terminating the invocation of the Rio Treaty on the missile crisis, together with

b. An OAS resolution which would recommend 1) extension of arms embargo to all items of trade except food and medicine (fall back position: extension of arms embargo to all strategic items); 2) prohibition of AR ships from transporting embargoed items and deny use of ports to ships in Bloc-Cuba trade; 3) denial of Soviet over-flights and transit rights for flights to Cuba; and 4) a call on other states to take similar action.

5. After obtaining the maximum possible support of the key countries of Mexico, Chile and Brazil, the other OAS members will be approached in Washington and in their respective capitals, simultaneously. It should be possible for this consultation and OAS action on the resolutions to be completed within ten days. Prior to formal COAS approval of the resolutions, we will inform our NATO allies of the impending OAS action.

6. At the first NATO meeting after formal OAS action on the resolutions, we will request that NATO include Cuba on the list of countries to which shipment of COCOM list (strategic) items is prohibited.

7. After NATO decision on our COCOM request, we will seek to get agreement from Free World industrial nations to prevent shipping of critical spare parts and equipment to Cuba, not on the COCOM list.

8. In addition to four point shipping resolutions, and action under Section 107 of the Foreign Assistance Act, continue to press Free World nations to keep their shipping out of Bloc-Cuba trade.

9. In addition to current covert programs such as intelligence collection, radio broadcasts, recruitment of Cuban officials as agents, support of the Cuban Revolutionary Council (CRC) activities, and infiltration of propaganda materials, the following are recommended for approval and immediate initiation:

a. Intensify to maximum degree possible intelligence and counterintelligence coverage of Cuba;

b. Support the efforts of certain Cuban exiles, who are associated with the original aims of the 26 July Movement and who believe that the Castro regime can be overthrown from within in order that they may: 1) cause a split in the leadership of the regime at the national or provincial levels; and, 2) create a political base of popular opposition to the regime; and, 3) secure intelligence;

c. Assist Cuban exiles in developing a capability to launch balloons carrying leaflets and other propaganda materials from international waters into Cuba. Launch propaganda balloons after an operational capability has been established.

Alternative II

United States Policy

1. Our ultimate objective with respect to Cuba is the overthrow of the Castro/Communist regime and its replacement by one compatible with the objectives of the U.S. and, where possible, sharing the aims of the Free World. To achieve this objective, the U.S. Government will apply increasing degrees of political, economic, psychological and military pressures, as appropriate opportunities present themselves or can be created, until the Castro/Communist regime is overthrown.

2. Our immediate objectives are to isolate the Castro/Communist regime from the Free World and from the Bloc; weaken it economically; promote internal dissension; erode its domestic political support; frustrate its subversive activities, negate its influence in the hemisphere; increase the cost to the Bloc of sustaining the regime; and obtain the withdrawal of Russian troops from Cuba.

3. Isolating, undermining and discrediting the Castro/Communist regime through the exercise of all feasible diplomatic, economic, psychological and covert actions may achieve the immediate objectives and could create propitious conditions in Cuba for further advance toward our ultimate objective.

4. We should be in a position to respond with open military support (to include such items as materiel, advisors, training, and Special Forces support and, if necessary, up to the full range of military forces), to a request for assistance from any anti-Castro/Communist group or groups in Cuba which demonstrate an ability to survive, which threaten the present regime, and whose aims are compatible with those of the U.S.

5. Invasion of Cuba by U.S. military forces, as distinguished from military support upon request of indigenous forces, should not be undertaken in the absence of aggression or other Castro/Communist and/or Soviet actions that threaten the peace or security of the hemisphere. This does not preclude appropriate U.S. retaliation for isolated hostile acts by the Castro/Communist or Soviet forces.

6. To the extent feasible, U.S. military forces employed against Cuba should be accompanied by U.S. militarily-trained free Cubans and by the armed forces of those Latin American nations desirous of participating in the U.S. effort.

7. Intensive, comprehensive and continuing intelligence gathering in depth on Cuba should be identified as a primary objective of the national intelligence effort.

8. Whenever possible, U.S. actions against Cuba should be multilateral, preferably based upon the Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (Rio Pact) or on resolutions adopted by the Organization of American States. The newly-won hemispheric solidarity on the Cuban issue should not be jeopardized by seeking OAS actions of marginal value and which might split the hemisphere.

Overt and covert annexes of specific actions in support of this policy will be prepared.


The active pursuit of our ultimate objective involves a phased and controlled series of political, economic, psychological and military actions. Such actions might include leaflet dropping; propaganda urging sabotage, strikes, and opposition to the regime; psychological operations urging defections; large scale training of Cubans in the U.S. and the use of such Cubans inside Cuba; extensive air activity including both high and low level flights primarily directed toward surveillance and collection of intelligence, and which may also have the effect of embarrassing the Castro government and keeping the Castro forces on continual alert; retaliatory measures, as appropriate, including the imposition of a POL blockade; harassment of Cuban officials in other countries; severance of communications to Cuba; major acts of sabotage on shipping destined for Cuba and on key installations in Cuba; intensive naval patrols; and, ultimately, the use of U.S. military forces.

In addition, this course of action would involve a broad gamut of carefully timed political, economic, psychological and covert actions, such as OAS sanctions, Caribbean security arrangements, intensified surveillance of and publicity concerning Castro/Communist subversive activities in Latin America, application of four point shipping restrictions and other economic sanctions, and a series of actions designed to obtain, to the greatest extent possible, multilateral approval of and participation in the campaign to unseat the Castro/Communist regime.

This course of action has the advantage of attaining the objective more rapidly and under more controlled conditions than the alternative stated by the Coordinator. Indeed, this may be the only course of action that will accomplish the ultimate objective. It involves greater risks; and, in the short run, a greater expenditure of money and material and far greater numbers of personnel.

From the standpoint of international politics, the U.S. will probably be subjected to criticism for aggression from the uncommitted nations. It is difficult to predict the reaction of the Latin American governments. They may attack the U.S. for "intervening" or they may react favorably (as they did during the missile crisis). To a large extent, the reaction of the nations throughout the world, and particularly the Latin American nations, will depend how adroitly these actions are handled. For example, there may even be advantages to the fact that our active policy and the courses of action under it may eventually become impossible to conceal. If properly handled, the overt aspects of this policy may serve not only to mitigate any unfavorable reactions from other countries, but also to gain, particularly in Latin America, increasing appreciation of the threat of Castro/Communist Cuba.

The active pursuit of our objective will make it clear that the U.S. will not permit the maintenance of a Communist base in the hemisphere. From the standpoint of military posture, the more active approach may be subjected to counteractions from the Sino-Soviet Bloc elsewhere. As we increase the pressures of Castro/Communist Cuba and the extent of our commitment to overthrow the regime, U.S. prestige becomes more deeply involved. The further we progress along this route, the more significant will be the loss of U.S. prestige if we alter or abandon it.

The successful execution of this policy will require careful timing and coordination of our actions and the development of detailed plans. While such plans would be designed to bring about the overthrow of the Castro regime within a given time frame for planning purposes, they would have to be sufficiently flexible to accommodate changes to the international situation.

In any case, at crucial points along the way, it will be necessary for the highest levels of our Government to review the actions already taken and those contemplated and to assess the advantages of continued and escalated activity against the disadvantages and dangers of such activity.

Commitment to this course of action does not exclude the possibility of actively pursuing the isolation of the Castro regime from the Bloc.

Coordinator's Recommendation

I recommend approval of Alternative I.

Statement of DOD Representative

I do not concur in the policy recommended by the Coordinator. Alternative I does not make the overthrow of the Castro/Communist regime an objective of the U.S. In addition, Alternative I does not sufficiently contemplate the creation of opportunities to effect the downfall of that regime. The specific actions recommended in Alternative I are consistent with the policy recommended in Alternative II and, in many cases, would be among the initial steps that would be taken in executing that policy. I recommend adoption of Alternative II.

Source: Department of State, Central Files, 737.000/1-2463. Top Secret. A note on the source text indicates that this paper was prepared for the Executive Committee meeting of January 24, which was postponed to January 25, see Document 274.

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