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DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY -- NAVAL HISTORY & HERITAGE COMMAND
The Naval Quarantine of Cuba, 1962
Source: Chief of Naval Operations,
Report on the Naval Quarantine of Cuba, Operational Archives Branch,
Post 46 Command File, Box 10, Washington, DC.
Related Resource: Cuban
Missile Crisis, 1962
[Note on time zone references: Three zones are referenced in the
following text by the time zone letters: "Q," "R,"
and "Z." "R" is also noted as "Romeo,"
the full phonetic designation. There is no detailed explanation
in the original document of exact usage; however there are indications
that the "R" and "Q" designations are Eastern
Standard Time (+5) and Eastern Daylight Time (+4) designators
respectively. "Z," or Zulu, is Greenwich Mean Time or
GMT (0), typically used by reporting units at sea and message
date time groups. Times referencing events in Washington before
the week-end of 27/28 October are referenced as "Q."
Times after that week-end are noted as "R." This pattern
is consistent in the text with a few unexplained exceptions (meeting
with Congressional leaders). Times for ship intercepts are in
the DDHHMM of the DTG format.]
During the month of September, a buildup of Soviet offensive military
posture in Cuba was evident through the analysis of intelligence
reports and the increase in sea transport from Soviet Bloc
ports. From January through July, an average of 14 Soviet
dry-cargo ships per month had called at Cuban ports. In
August, this figure more than doubled; in September it was 46.
Soviet tankers were docking at a rate of 10 per month.
In addition to ships of USSR registry, 29 Soviet satellite
dry-cargo transports and four tankers entered Cuban ports during
the first nine months of 1962. Including those Bloc vessels
discharging Cuban cargo in October, the total number of Russian
and Soviet Bloc ships was 379 -- 85 more than the total 1961 figure,
even with 2 months until the end of the year. Significantly,
the traffic during August, September, and October accounted mainly
for the difference in the two annual figures. On October
23, there were 23 Soviet and satellite ships en route to Cuba,
16 of them dry-cargo. In addition, six others were believed
to include Cuba on their itineraries.
Early intelligence reports of offensive preparedness were scattered
and usually incomplete. Activity was carried out with some
degree of successful secrecy under the guise of improving defensive
capability. However, with the introduction of more sophisticated
weapons systems of medium and intermediate range, the activity
could no longer remain covert.
Reports of the arrival of large numbers of Soviet technicians
and military personnel, the construction of larger launch complexes,
and the extension of airstrips to accommodate high-performance
aircraft pointed unmistakably to the rapid development of Cuba
into a Soviet base for offensive action against the United States.
Descriptions of suspicious cargoes aboard Cuba-bound ships,
obtained from sources at ports of loading and unloading and from
aerial photographs taken by Navy reconnaissance aircraft, together
with information on vehicle and rail convoys gathered from Cuban
informants, strongly indicated the preparation of missile sites
of other than the surface-to-air variety Which had been under
surveillance for some time.
On September 1, Commander, Naval Base Guantanamo received reliable
information that Russian, Czech, Chinese, and Polish troops had
been disembarked at Mariel, Cabanas and Bahio Honda in Pinar del
Rio province and also at Havana, Matanzas, and Casilda. Some
of these foreign troops had taken charge of all coastal artillery
from Santa Fe to Esperanza and from San Galletano to Cabanas.
Their numbers were estimated as "Several thousand."
"Several thousand" troops also were reported to
have debarked from ships at Matanzas and 1,100 more at Casilda.
Cuban families were reported evacuated from an area southeast
of Banes, where construction of a naval base had begun.
This same COMNAVBASE report said information had been received
that on August 25 cargo unloaded from three Bloc ships at Nicaro
Consisted of boxes the length of lowboy trailers and cement blocks
about 8 by 4 by 1 feet in size.
Another Guantanamo intelligence report on September 5 reported
heavy off-loading of military equipment from several ships under
rigid security measures. An informant also said he had
seen two Soviet submarines in the Bahia de Nipe area during the
week of 27-31 August. There were indications of considerable activity
in Bahia de Nipe area, including unloading of equipment, personnel,
Much of this intelligence information correlated with the conclusions
established over a month later that medium and intermediate range
ballistic missile sites were under construction at various locations.
As early as September 17, a Central Intelligence Agency report
established that a previously identified surface-to-air site at
Banes very near Bahia de Nipe was considered to be a surface-to-surface
During August and September, the harassment of U.S. reconnaissance
and patrol forces became more belligerent. On August
30 an unarmed S2F was fired upon by a Cuban patrol vessel
over international waters 12 miles north of the island.
This craft, in company with a second, maneuvered radically
to bring manned guns to bear and then fired when the plane
was within a range of 700 yards.
On September 8, two Key West S2F aircraft on another routine patrol
flight were overtaken by a Soviet MIG-17 which made simulated
gunnery firing runs on both U. S. planes. The incident
took place 45 miles southwest of Key West and within the Air Defense
Identification Zone. The intruder was acquired by Key West
ground-controlled intercept radar as he closed on the patrol flight,
and two F4D's were scrambled to provide fighter cover for the
S2F's. A few minutes after the MIG-17 completed the harassment
and disappeared, the Key West radar acquired a second target which
quickly changed course and faded to the south. Photographs of
the first intruder rendered positive identification.
These serious occurrences helped prompt a decision to increase
the defensive capability (On September 19 CINCLANTFLT deployed
a detachment of six F8U aircraft to Key West for the operational
control of COMKWESTFOR.) of Naval Air Station, Key West. This
was especially desirable since our surveillance and reconnaissance
efforts had increased substantially in the Caribbean area because
of the heavier frequency of ships transporting cargo to Cuba.
On October 1 the forces of Commander in Chief, Atlantic Fleet,
were engaged in routine training and upkeep evolutions throughout
the Western Atlantic and Caribbean areas. Commander Second
Fleet, embarked in Newport News (CA-148) was at sea off
Nova Scotia. The antisubmarine carriers Wasp (CVS-18),
Essex (CVS-9), and Lake Champlain (CVS-39) were
in the Boston/Newport area. Intrepid (CVS-11) was at sea
off New York, and Randolph (CVS-15) was in Norfolk.
Cruisers and destroyers were engaged in local operations stretching
from Newport to Guantanamo.
In the Caribbean, the guided missile cruiser Canberra (CAG-2),
six destroyers, and one amphibious ship were in Guantanamo.
The ASW carrier Shangri-La (CVS-38) and seven destroyers
were in Mayport, Florida.
Routine air patrols were being conducted and training was being
carried out at Key West, Roosevelt Roads, P.R., and Guantanamo.
A regularly scheduled exchange of the Sixth Fleet Marine battalion
landing team in the Mediterranean was in progress.
Although military contingency considerations toward Cuba had their
genesis long before, on October 1 Secretary of Defense Robert
McNamara met with the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) to discuss the
circumstances under which military action against Cuba might be
necessary and toward which our military planning should be oriented.
The following day, the Secretary sent a memorandum to the
Joint Chiefs of Staff suggesting six contingencies; among them
were (a) evidence that the Castro regime has permitted the positioning
of Bloc offensive weapon systems on Cuban soil or in Cuban harbors
and (b) a decision by the President that affairs in Cuba have
reached a point inconsistent with continuing national security."
The memorandum requested contingency preparatory actions and an
evaluation of the consequences of such actions. The political
objectives of the contingencies were defined as the removal of
the threat of Soviet weapon systems and, if necessary, the removal
of the Castro regime to assure the permanent dislocation of these
Obviously, the first of these contingencies existed and certainly
would prompt the U. S. President Kennedy to invoke the second.
Additionally, other contingencies were met. To a degree,
"an attack against U. S. planes or vessels outside Cuban
territorial air space or waters" already had occurred, and
there was evidence that Cuban ships had been covertly transporting
arms to other Latin American Coasts, partially satisfying "Cuban
armed assistance to subversion in other parts of the Western Hemisphere."
Accordingly, actions were begun on October 3 to prepare for
military action against Cuba.
All preparations prior to imposition of the "naval quarantine"
and the decision to implement this action were directed toward
the execution of Commander in Chief, Atlantic's (CINCLANT) Operations
Plan 312-62, followed by Plans 314-61 or 316-61. The first
of these plans involved the air strike against selective Cuban
targets. Plan 314-61 was an airborne and amphibious assault
of Cuba from a position of peak readiness. Plan 316-61
prescribed the execution of a similar invasion, but with a lesser
degree of preparedness.
It was absolutely essential that these preparations be carried
out with strict secrecy. In many cases, instructions and
queries went out for the eyes only of those cognizant commanders
at the highest echelon of command. In almost all cases,
messages and memoranda were classified "Top Secret, Exclusive."
Great care had to be taken to prevent disclosure of the scope
of preparations and to avoid the impression that the United States
was building to a point of military readiness for Cuban operations.
Such an impression might have triggered a reaction by Russia to
pre-empt initiative. Although the general appraisal was that Soviet
Premier Khrushchev would not ignite a general war over U. S. action
in Cuba, he might have been so inclined if aware of unusual preparedness
without clear reason.
Wednesday, 3 October
On October 3, Commander in Chief, Atlantic Fleet (CINCLANTFLT),
ordered increased surveillance of Cuban shipping in the Atlantic,
Caribbean, and Gulf approaches. Commander Antisubmarine
Warfare Force (COMASWFORLANT) was directed to augment the Caribbean
and Key West aerial patrol effort with additional forces as required
and to conduct ocean surveillance to detect and photograph all
shipping in and out of Cuba. In order to reduce to a minimum
the length of time between processing and receipt of aerial reconnaissance
photographs for interpretation, Commander Naval Air Force Atlantic
(COMNAVAIRLANT) provided jet courier service to Norfolk and Washington,
D.C., for delivery to CINCLANTFLT and the Chief of Naval Operations
Also on the 3rd, CINCLANTFLT took initial steps to prepare his
forces for a possible blockade of Cuba and directed his
subordinate commands to prepare for the formation of a blockade
force. CINCLANT ordered that the units be assigned to Commander
Joint Task Force 122, the blockade commander, when directed.
According to CINCLANTFLT OpOrder 41-62, the forces to be readied
included a blockade group, covering group, logistics group, and
anti-submarine-warfare group. This blockade was part of
OpPlans 314 and 316 and not independent of other action. Although
this Operation Order was not the one followed when the quarantine
began, advance planning for its execution 20 days before had expedited
greatly the implementation of the quarantine, since the composition
of forces in both cases was essentially the same.
Saturday, 6 October
On October 6, the Commander in Chief Atlantic directed development
of the highest state of readiness to execute Operations Plans
312-62, 314-61, and 316-61. The basic objectives of these
plans were the removal of the Castro regime, the securing on the
island of a new regime responsive to Cuban national interests,
and the prepositioning and pre-invasion actions necessary.Consideration
of matters related to relocation and prepositioning of troops,
aircraft, ships, and equipment and supplies was requested
of the Commanding General, 18th Airborne Corps, CINCLANTFLT, and
Commander, Tactical Air Command. Each of these commands
would shiftoperational control of certain of their units
and forces to CINCLANT under the provisions of the contingency
plans being for possible execution.
Sunday, 7 October
On the 7th, CINCLANT recommended the establishment of a Military
Emergency Zone to control air traffic in the Southern Florida
area. With the implementation of any one of the plans under
consideration, such a restricted area would be necessary to control
nonmilitary traffic and insure the success of large-scale air
attacks and airborne assaults. Although basically devoted to offensive
contingency, MEZ planning called for coordination with Commander
in Chief, Continental Air Defense Command (CINCONAD), so as not
to interfere with CINCONAD responsibilities. The MEZ later was
approved by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and ordered established
in the event operations plans requiring it were executed.
Monday, 8 October
On October 8, the Joint Chiefs sent the Secretary of Defense's
(SECDEF) Cuban contingency memorandum to the Unified Commanders,
requesting their comments and recommendations. CINCLANT responded
immediately with the recommendation that his operations plans
for the invasion of Cuba and the removal of the Castro regime
be implemented. This reaction was in consonance with the JCS consensus.
CINCLANT also recommended preparatory actions to begin at once
and progressively in the future to improve readiness to execute
these plans. Since CINCLANT had been present at the October
1 meeting of the JCS with SECDEF and because of the reciprocity
regarding Cuban military actions, the Atlantic commander's stand
was one requisite to this prior unanimity.
Among those preparations recommended by CINCLANT were the transfer
of one-third of a Marine division-air wing team from the Pacific
to the Atlantic command, prepositioning of forces and heavy equipment
without derogating training or readiness for other critical missions,
and the transfer of tactical and reconnaissance air squadrons
to southern Florida. Of first priority was the prepositioning
of forces at and reinforcement of Guantanamo. Many of these recommendations
were approved early by the JCS and some actually were already
in process of accomplishment.
To mask widespread preparations for the actions proposed, CINCLANT
suggested announcement that forces were preparing for an exercise
entitled "Quick Kick" amphibious brigade assault landing
exercise. By doing, it would be possible to carry out operations
of increasing scope without revealing actual prepositioning purposes.
Therefore, PHIBRIGLEX 62 was scheduled for the period October
15-20. This exercise previously was set for November in the yearly
On the 8th, CINCLANT suggested that supplies be prepositioned
on Mayaguana Island in accordance with a previously arranged agreement
with the British. This was to be accomplished under the
cover of improvement of the Atlantic Missile Range tracking station.
However, because of the chance of compromise, the concealment
later was changed to classified oceanographic research.
In CINCLANT's reply to JCS's requested review of contingency plans
regarding Cuba with a view towards reinforcing Guantanamo and
reducing the reaction time of existing plans, one of the
specific recommendations was that the Fifth Marine Expeditionary
Brigade (5th MEB) associated amphibious lift be assigned from
the Pacific to the Atlantic Command and that an amphibious squadron
and battalion landing team be withdrawn from Sixth Fleet deployment.
U. S. Commander in Chief, Europe, (USCINCEUR), despite JCS's recommendation
of serious consideration, did not concur in the withdrawal
proposed on grounds that it would seriously affect the deterrent
capability of forces in the Eastern Mediterranean. However,
CINCPAC advised that assignment of the 5th MEB was feasible but
not without reducing capability to handle Southeast Asian contingencies.
Also on the 8th, an F4H squadron (VF-41) was deployed to Naval
Air Station, Key West, to further reinforce air defenses in the
southern Florida area. The squadron further augmented the
detachment of F8U2N's which had been assigned to the station on
Wednesday, 10 October
In noting the intelligence reports of a build-up of sophisticated
aircraft revetments and surface-to-air missile sites, CINCLANTFLT
ordered training to include the possibility of action against
Cuban targets in the face of increased automatic anti-aircraft
capability. Plans also were amended to strike and destroy these
sites when such action was ordered. Training efforts went
so far as to include the construction of a simulated Soviet SA-2
SAM site to improve strike tactics against this type of target.
Friday, 12 October
At 0400Q October 12, a meeting was held in the JCS Operations
Directorate of operations and logistics planners from CINCLANT,
Commander in Chief, Strike Force (CINCSTRIKE), Chief of Staff,
Army, Chief of Naval Operations, Chief of Staff, Air Force, and
Commandant, Marine Corps. The purpose of the meeting was
to develop a reply to SECDEF's Cuban contingency memorandum and
to reduce lead time for executing CINCLANT Operations Plan 314-61
by increasing readiness posture.
Sunday, 14 October
U-2 reconnaissance photographs of Cuba positively identified three
medium-range ballistic missile sites at San Cristobal. This
was the first photographic intelligence of the area since August
29, at which time there was no evidence of any such development.
Monday, 15 October
More U-2 photographs taken the day before were developed and analyzed.
They further confirmed the existence of strategic missiles
and sites in Cuba. Two additional U-2 flights made during the
day not only reconfirmed the San Cristobal sites, but also showed
two intermediate-range ballistic-missile sites under construction
at Guanajay, where there had been no deployment activity on August
Between 2000-2200Q, this information was relayed to the Secretary
of Defense; Deputy Secretary of Defense Roswell Gilpatric;
Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency Lieutenant General
Joseph Carroll; Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS)
General Maxwell D. Taylor; Secretary of State Dean
Rusk; Under Secretary of State George Ball; Deputy Under
Secretary of State U. Alexis Johnson; Presidential Special Assistant
McGeorge Bundy; Central Intelligence Agency Director John McCone
and his deputy, Ray Cline; and Assistant Secretary of State Edwin
Atlantic Fleet forces already were at a high peak of readiness
because of a heavy schedule of training operations which were
Amphibious Training Landing Exercise (PHIBTRALEX) 3-62 in the
Vieques area, scheduled for August 27 through November 2, was
in progress and involved Amphibious Squadron 8 with the 2nd Battalion
of the 2nd Marines embarked.
UNITAS III, the third annual ASW training exercise with several
South American countries, was underway, having begun August 17.
It was to end December 10.
PHIBRIGLEX 62, ostensibly an amphibious exercise to train and
exercise naval forces to conduct an amphibious assault and associated
naval operations from Onslow Beach, North Carolina, to the Virgin
Islands in the Caribbean was just beginning. This exercise
which was to be aborted as a cover for Cuban contingency operations
involved the following principal forces:
Thetis Bay (LPH-6)
14 amphibious ships
4 mobile support ships
1 Marine Regimental
1 Marine Air Group
Operation SWEEP CLEAR II, a Joint Canadian - U.S. mine sweeping
exercise, was underway off Nova Scotia.
Tuesday, 16 October
The Joint Chiefs of Staff were ordered to emergency session at
1100Q on October 16. Admiral Anderson was recalled after a National
War College/Industrial College of the Armed Forces lecture and
General Curtis LeMay, Air Force Chief of Staff, was recalled from
Europe. At this meeting came the first firm revelation
that military action would be taken relative to the Soviet offensive
build-up in Cuba.
At 0900Q, the President received photographic evidence of the
Cuban offensive missile sites from Mr. Bundy. Three hours later,
he convened a meeting at the White House with the Vice-President,
Secretary Rusk, Secretary McNamara, the Attorney General, General
Taylor, Deputy SECDEF Gilpatric, Deputy SECSTATE George Ball,
Asst. SECSTATE Edwin Martin, Mr. Bundy, Presidential Assistant
Ted Sorensen, Douglas Dillon, Charles Bohlen, and Kenneth
O'Donnell. The outcome of the meeting was that reconnaissance
of Cuba should be increased greatly. Six U-2 flights were
scheduled for the next day.
Conferences that afternoon at the State Department included Messrs.
Rusk, Ball, Martin, Alexis Johnson, Ambassadors Bohlen, Thompson,
and Stevenson. At 1830Q there was another White House
meeting at which a Guided Missile and Astronautic Intelligence
Committee evaluation of U-2 missions and photographs taken
on October 14 and 15 were considered.
Wednesday, 17 October
On the 17th, the Joint Chiefs notified CINCONAD to take action
without delay for the augmentation of air defenses of the
Southeast U.S., and CINCLANT alerted shore-based Navy and Marine
Corps fighter squadrons in the area to assist CONAD forces. The
Chief of Naval Operations sent a personal message to the Fleet
Commanders advising them to be prepared to order as many ships
as possible to sea on a 24-hour notice, provided their main propulsion
plants were ready.
Project "BLUE MOON" a CINCLANTFLT operations order to
obtain low-level photographic reconnaissance of Cuban military
buildup areas, became operational at Naval Air Station, Jacksonville,
Fla., utilizing F8U-1P aircraft.
During the day, there were several meetings of the executive policy
group in Under Secretary of State Ball's conference room. All
those at Tuesday's White House meetings except the President and
the Vice President were there, with the addition of Dean Acheson,
John McCone and Ambassador Llewellyn Thompson. They evaluated
the evidence and discussed possible responses.
The reconnaissance flights ordered Tuesday took place. The
read-out of aerial photographs produced more evidence of launching
pads and signs of mobile launchers with missiles.
Thursday, 18 October
The next day (October 18) evaluation by GMAIC and other intelligence
groups (The Joint Atomic Energy Intelligence Committee and the
Nation Photographic Interpretation Center) of the October 14 and
15 U-2 photographs, plus preliminary assessment of photos
taken on the 17th, confirmed the previous findings and, in addition,
identified medium-range ballistic-missile sites 1 and 2 at Saguna
la Grande for the first time. These photographs were the ones
later referred to by the President as the first "hard evidence"
of Soviet offensive missile sites in Cuba.
Meanwhile, the prepositioning of forces to reduce reaction time
in the event of action against Cuba continued. A reinforced infantry
battalion from the Pacific Command's 5th MED was ordered transferred
to the operational control of CINCLANT and a light antiaircraft-missile
battalion (Hawk) was ordered to Guantanamo to augment forces
Throughout the day, there were several high-level policy meetings
at the White House and the State Department. These meetings
were attended by representatives of the White House and State
and Defense Departments as well as the Executive Committee of
the National Security Council (NSC). During a White House meeting
which convened at 2100Q a final consensus began to develop.
Deputy Defense Secretary Gilpatric requested the Chairman of the
Joint Chiefs to advise on the supplying of riot control equipment
and other support which the U. 3. could give Latin American nations
for internal security purposes; to determine which Latin American.
nations could assist the U. S. in a blockade of Cuba; to prepare
a list of offensive weapons to include in a blockade, and to consider
the pro's and con's of blockading aircraft as well as ships.
Friday, 19 October
October 19 was a day of preparation for some form of military
action. At 0830Q, a message went out from the Chief of
Naval Personnel to District Commandants and the Chief of Naval
Air Reserve Training alerting them to the possibility of recalling
Reservists and advising them of policy in this regard.
CINCLANT dissolved Joint Task Force 122 and assumed the responsibilities
of the blockade force commander. At the same time he established
Cuban contingency communications requirements.
That morning, MATS airlift scheduled for a Marine Attack Squadron
to be moved from MCAS Beaufort to Roosevelt Roads, P.R. CINCLANT
recommended that the Tactical Air Command be relieved of some
of its Pacific commitments in order to make available F-100's
and crews to execute CINCLANT Operations Plan 312-62.
Fleet Air, Jacksonville deployed 10 of its VFP Blue Moon aircraft
to Key West. Targets, routes, and flight schedules were
implemented for conducting the low-level reconnaissance flights;
the planes were on 4-hour standby.
During the afternoon, the Army was directed by JCS to expedite
the readiness of a Hawk battalion at Fort Meade and CINCLANT was
authorized to direct its movement to Key West at his discretion.
The Commandant, Marine Corps, was ordered to designate another
Hawk battalion for temporary deployment from the Pacific Command
to LANTCOM. JCS also directed CINCONAD to appraise air
defenses of the Southeast U. S. and then, the remainder of the
That evening, CINCPAC commands began to assemble amphibious shipping
in embarkation ports in preparation for possible orders to change
the operation control of the 5th MEB sea echelon to CINCLANT.
From 1500-1900Q, there was a meeting In the office of the Deputy
Secretary of Defense. The subject discussed was Mr. Gilpatric's
memorandum to the Joint Chiefs of Staff that afternoon which evolved
the night before during the White House meeting and proposed a
less vigorous action than that espoused by the Chiefs. The
JCS's reply dealt extensively on the capability to cope
with Communist-inspired insurgency in Latin American countries.
When this meeting broke up, Admiral Anderson, who had flown
back from Patuxent River, and Admiral Ricketts returned to CNO's
office with the Secretary of the Navy and the Assistant Judge
Advocate General and discussed the blockade of Cuba.
All Navy and Marine Corps aircraft and squadrons not required
for air defense, reconnaissance, or ASW surveillance were ordered
relocated because of overcrowding at Florida bases. The
aircraft status in regard to Caribbean area was:
U.S. Naval Air Station,
and administrative aircraft.
U.S. Naval Base,
Utility and administrative
U.S. Naval Air Station,
5 ASW aircraft
Replacement and administrative
U.S. Naval Air Station,
Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico
Utility and administrative
Meetings of the NSC interdepartmental group were held all day
at the State Department, primarily in the Under Secretary's conference
room. As outlines of possible courses of action emerged,
working groups were established within the main policy body. Before
the President left on a scheduled campaign trip, he met with General
Taylor, Mr. Rusk, and Mr. McNamara, delaying his departure half
an hour. During this meeting it was decided that CNO, acting for
the JCS, should prepare a plan for the limited blockade of Cuba.
Meanwhile, U. S. ambassadors to Latin American countries who were
in the U. S. were ordered to return to their posts. Aerial
reconnaissance continued throughout the day, and an order went
out canceling a scheduled Tactical Air Command full-mobility exercise.
The cancellation was announced by the Pentagon and attributed
to poor weather in refueling areas caused by Hurricane Ella.
During the night the first draft of the President's October
22 speech was put together. It and succeeding drafts were
sent to Admiral Anderson for comment. Some recommended revisions
were incorporated, others were not.
In response to query, a Pentagon spokesman denied that any alert
had been ordered or that any emergency measures had been set in
motion against Cuba. The spokesman also said the Pentagon
had no information indicating the presence of offensive weapons
Saturday, 20 October
On Saturday morning, October 20, Mr. McNamara directed Admiral
Anderson to prepare the position and policy papers, scenario,
and implementing instructions for the limited blockade. The
Air Force Chief of Staff was ordered to handle the same details
for an air strike against Cuban-based Soviet offensive weapons.
CNO's responsibility also included the defense of Guantanamo
Naval Base. Work began on these papers at 0930Q; they were to
be completed by 1330Q for presentation to the President.
Admiral Anderson's paper stated the objective of the action was
to stop a further build-up of an offensive capability in Cuba
and ultimately to eliminate it. This initially was to involve
a naval blockade against offensive weapons within the framework
of the Organization of American States and the Rio Treaty. Such
a blockade might be expanded to cover all types of goods and air
transport. The action was to be backed up by surveillance of Cuba.
CNO's scenario was followed closely in later implementing
The President had returned early to Washington from his campaign
trip to hear reports concerning the Cuban situation. An
official statement said that he had canceled the remainder of
the trip because of a "cold."
The JCS position papers were ready at 1345Q and were sent to General
Taylor at the White House, where a meeting was in progress with
the President, the principals of the National Security Council,
the Cuban planning group; and Ambassadors Stevenson, Thompson,
and Lovett. A detailed intelligence briefing was given and Cuban
aerial photographs exhibited These enlarged photographs
showed the work at each missile site.
In the course of this conference, blockade papers were approved
and the President's speech set for Monday night at 1900Q (October
22). Although the President at first wished to make the
statement on the 21st, he was dissuaded from this to allow for
adequate military preparations and to provide for time to notify
our allies. The possibility remained, however, of acting
sooner if a security breach developed.
That night, the State Department sent preposition messages to
all Latin American posts to warn against Communist-inspired rioting
and to indicate the course to be taken if violent actions transpired.
Meanwhile, the Defense Department prepared for the quarantine,
and contingency military build-up continued at a rapid pace. During
the morning, while the position and policy papers were in preparation,
the Joint Chiefs notified CINCSTRIKE that should a decision be
made to take military action against Cuba, operational control
of Army and Air Force units included under Cuban contingency operations
plans would be transferred to CINCLANT. They also advised
cognizant commanders that the increased state of tension with
respect to Cuba could lead to
military action and to expect orders for a higher world-wide defense
condition of readiness.
Earlier, Commander Amphibious Force, Pacific, reported to CINCPACFLT
On the status of units of Amphibious Squadron Three and 5th MEB
shipping which were standing by in West Coast ports of embarkation
for change of operational control to CINCLANT. Before noon, the
Third Light Anti-Aircraft Missile Battalion at Marine Corps Air
Station, Twenty-nine Palms, Calif., comprising three Hawk batteries
and equipment for a fourth, was ordered deployed to CINCLANT for
the further operational control of the Commanding General, Fleet
Marine Force, Atlantic. At about the same time, CINCLANT reported
that 10 "BLUE MOON" low-level photographic-reconnaissance
aircraft were in position at Key West, with seven more
standing by. CINCLANT recommended cancellation of the PHIBRIGLEX
62 under the guise that Hurricane Ella had scattered ships and
delayed the landing.
That afternoon, JCS received CINCLANT's recommendations for the
air defense of Puerto Rico and the Canal Zone. CINCLANTFLT
notified the base commander at Guantanamo to be prepared to evacuate
all noncombatants Saturday night or at any time in the next two
days. The base commander replied that he had prepared a
plan for night evacuation to minimize the possibility of early
intelligence to the Cubans. The JCS were recommending actions
which would delay the evacuation until Monday night.
During the evening, CNO advised the Sea Frontier Commanders
and coastal District Commandants of possible positive military
action in response to the Cuban situation. The action,
he said, may require any part of the "full spectrum"
of military possibilities. He particularly called their attention
to procedures related to disaster control, control of shipping
and blockade in those areas within 1,000 miles of Cuba. Earlier
that afternoon, he had sent a message to CINCUSNAVEUR concerning
the readiness of our ballistic missile submarines. "I
trust," he said, "that any Polaris subs alongside the
tender at Holy Loch will be capable of getting underway with little
or no notice in the event the JCS raise the defense condition
of readiness or if you learn of any actions which would indicate
such movements advisable."
The Air Force recommended to the JCS what reserve forces it desired
to have called up to improve air defense in the Southeast U.S.,
a Marine Air Group was deployed to NAS, Key West, and Military
Air Transport Service airlift requirements were set up for the
prepositioning of personnel and equipment.
JCS directed CINCSTRIKE to withdraw Army and Air Force units involved
in Exercise "THREE PAIRS" which were needed for CINCLANT
OpPlans 312, 314, and 316.
Sunday, 21 October
The quarantine proclamation had been completed and the OAS and
UN resolutions were prepared. Mr. Pierre Salinger (White House),
Mr. Robert Manning (State), and Mr. Arthur Sylvester (Defense)
met to establish public-affairs coordination.
At 1430Q, the President met with the National Security Council,
Mr. Don Wilson (USIA), and Admiral Anderson to discuss the
third draft of the Presidential speech and progress reports on
preparations. It was positively decided that our first objective
would be to block further shipments of offensive military equipment
to Cuba and that our aim was also to see that the Soviet missiles
were removed from Cuba under UN supervision and inspection.
The philosophy that Cuba should be invaded was not completely
rejected. It was placed to the right in the spectrum of
action. First would come the limited blockade, then a complete
blockade.~ these failed to achieve the removal of the offensive
weapons, the next step would be selective air strikes, followed
finally by the implementation of one of two invasion plans - 314,
where time did not permit peak readiness of the invasion force,
or 316, where amphibious and airborne assault could be accomplished
from a full readiness posture. The last contingency was general
war, which might result from extreme Soviet reaction.
During the day a list of Congressional leaders to be summoned
to Washington was prepared by the White House, and it was determined
where they could be picked up by jet aircraft in the morning.
Once the list was formulated, the Congressmen were asked to attend
the White House meeting on Monday at 1700R.
Before the day had ended, the State Department sent top-secret
telegrams to our Ambassadors describing proposed actions. The
text of the President's speech with covering letter to Mr. Khrushchev
was sent to the Embassy in Moscow for delivery to the Soviet Foreign
Office one hour before the President's public address. Presidential
letters were sent to Prime Minister MacMillan, President de Gaulle,
Chancellor Adenauer, Prime Ministers Nehru, Diefenbaker, and Fanfani,
Berlin's Mayor Brandt, and others through our Embassies for delivery.
The text of the President's speech was sent in code to all posts,
and individual letters from the President were sent to 43 heads
of government. (During the weekend, the State Department
transmitted 45 separate Presidential letters or other documents
to a total of 441 recipients.)
In the afternoon and evening, the Joint Chiefs of Staff directed
the Commander in Chief, Atlantic to prepare to evacuate dependents
from Guantanamo and to reinforce that base on Monday; to assume
operational control of Army and Air Force units, included under
Cuban plans; and to be prepared to furnish riot support control
to Latin American countries as required. At 2200Q,
Secretary McNamara approved the procedures and rules of the quarantine.
Up to this time, much had been done to place our forces in an
increased readiness posture. Steps had been taken to improve defenses
in the Southeast U.S. and to reinforce Guantanamo. Covertly, our
forces worldwide had been alerted to meet any of the contingencies
which might arise. Many more preparations were necessary, however,
before the JCS considered the stage set, not so much for the imposition
of the blockade but for the possibilities such action might precipitate.
It was absolutely essential that our deterrent capability
be at a peak when the President made his statement so our forces
would respond to any aggressive action by Cuba, the Warsaw Pact
nations, or the Soviet Union.
On the 21st the JCS further appraised the situation as follows:
The Caribbean Command had transferred two LST's to the operational
control of CINCLANT, CINCPAC was ready to transfer the 5th Marine
Expeditionary Brigade to the Atlantic Command, and CINCLANT was
now in overall operational control of forces committed to any
Cuban action. To strengthen our defense posture in the Southeast
U.S., a Hawk battalion at Fort Meade was being readied for movement
to Key West. Additionally, CINCONAD had been authorized to deploy
certain units to augment air defenses - 14 F-102's to Homestead
AFB, raising the number of interceptors there to 18, and six RC-121
to McCoy AFB, to bring the total to 12. CONAD aircraft
at Tyndall AFB were alerted as augmentation forces, and at Key
West there was a detachment of all-weather Navy fighters and a
squadron of 10 F4H's.
Increased reconnaissance of Cuba and worldwide was in effect,
specific targets had been defined, pilots were being briefed on
their assignments and training was underway to prepare for Cuban
action. Military Sea Transport Service Upshur and U.S.
Navy ships were standing by for the evacuation of Guantanamo dependents.
Other MSTS ships and MATS aircraft were employed or being readied
for prepositioning and Cuban support activity. SAC aircraft were
alerted for possible dispersal, and CINCARIB and CINCLANT were
taking action to provide for possible air attack against military
installations in Puerto Rico and the Canal Zone. A Marine Hawk
battalion was being sent to Guantanamo, and CINCPAC was assembling
shipping for movement of the 5th MEB.
On the 21st, the Chief of Naval Operations deputized the Vice
Chief of Naval Operations and Deputy CNO's VADM U.S.G. Sharp and
VADM C.D. Griffin to act for him; one of these officers would
be present at all times in CNO's office when CNO was absent.
Legal decisions regarding the blockade became the responsibility
of the Navy Judge Advocate General. Special procedures
were established to insure a rapid and timely flow of information
concerning the blockade to CNO, JCS, the White House, and other
interested parties from the CNO Flag Plot.
CNO's responsibility not only included the execution of the blockade
and defense of Guantanamo, but protection of U.S. shipping as
well. At 2034Q on October 21, CINCLANT reported that Commander,
Key West Forces was tasked for the protection of shipping in the
Florida Straits and the Yucatan Channel with 1 DD, 2 DDE, 1 DER,
8 F8U, and 1 VP detachment. CINCARIB Sea Frontier was responsible
for the Windward Passage and the evacuation of Guantanamo dependents
with 1 DD, 1 AVP, 2 MSO, 2 DE, 1 VA squadron (AD's), 1 VU squadron
(F8U's) and 1 VP detachment.