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The Naval Quarantine of Cuba, 1962: Quarantine, 22 -26 October

 22 October  23 October  24 October  25 October  26 October  Glossary

Monday, 22 October

President Kennedy firmly scheduled his announcement for 1900Q. The proclamation was to be signed the next day and would contain a period of grace, at the end of which CINCLANT would impose the "quarantine" -- up to this time referred to as a "limited sea blockade."

At noon, Pierre Salinger requested and received air time from the radio and television networks and announced that the President would make an important statement. Nine radio stations were asked to broadcast the speech to Latin America.

At 1600Q, the President held a cabinet meeting and at 1700Q, he met with Congressional leaders summoned to Washington. Forty-five minutes before the President went on the air, NATO, SEATO, and CENTO nation ambassadors received a background briefing at the State Department, while friendly military attaches were briefed at the Pentagon. Fifteen minutes earlier, Soviet Ambassador Dobrynin had entered Secretary Rusks office to receive the news of the Presidents action.
During the day, Prime Minister MacMillan was briefed by Ambassador Bruce, President de Gaulle by Dean Acheson, and Chancellor Adenauer by Ambassador Dowling. Mr. Acheson also briefed the NATO Council.

At 1930Q, a letter from Ambassador Stevenson with a draft of the U.S. resolution was given to Soviet United Nations Ambassador Zorin in his capacity as President of the Security Council, and Assistant Secretary of State Martin briefed the OAS.

At 2015Q, Secretary Rusk informed all other ambassadors and the State Department held a background briefing for the press. Secretary McNamara also briefed the press at the Pentagon on a background basis. Aerial photographs were exhibited and explained.

Twelve hours before the President began his speech on worldwide radio and television, the Joint Chiefs of Staff sent out detailed plans for conducting the quarantine to all cognizant and interested commanders. The order listed prohibited items, general rules for engagement between U. S. forces and ships and aircraft of other registry or ownership, details for conducting searches, a concept of the operations, and the plan for the defense of Guantanamo naval base. The execution of the air quarantine was ordered held in abeyance until directed by higher authority.

Throughout the day, CINCLANT continued deployment and positioning of ships and other forces to enforce the quarantine. Most of the units were proceeding to a central rendezvous point at 27N, 68W to await station assignments. These were Commander Task Force 136, in Newport News and withCanberraLawrenceKeithSoley, and Borie from Norfolk; Commander Cruiser-Destroyer Flotilla Six in MacDonough from Charleston; Commander Destroyer Squadron 26 in Dewey with LearySteinaker, and J. R. Pierce from Norfolk, and Witek. COMDESRON 16 aboard Bigelow, in company withMcCaffery, W. C. LaweSellersRoyal, and Gearing from Mayport, was en route to 21N, 65W. The ASW carrier Essex with Commander Carrier Division 18 aboard was en route from Guantanamo for 26N, 68W, where she would join COMDESRON 24 in Blandy with SperryBarry, and Keppler from Newport. Commander Antisubmarine Warfare Force, Atlantic had positioned aircraft at Roosevelt Roads and Bermuda to commence air surveillance.

Reinforcement of Guantanamo began before noon with the arrival of the PHIBRON 8 ships MonroviaRockbridgeDesoto County, and Liddle for off-loading of a Marine Battalion Landing Team.

Capricornus arrived about noon and Lindenwald in the evening to complete the landing of 1,600 officers and men. MATS and Marine aircraft also were delivering personnel and equipment of a reinforced rifle battalion from the West Coast and a Battalion Landing Team from Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Marines in Guantanamo now numbered 5,200 officers and men, and the base's military Navy-Marine population totaled about 8,000.

The order to place all forces worldwide on Defense Condition Three went out one hour before the President's speech except for those in CINCEUR , which were put in a military precautionary posture.

The President had used the term "quarantine" instead of "blockade", because the latter term could have been interpreted as an act of war. The proposed interdiction was aimed solely at offensive weapons and every effort was to be made to not have other nations consider the action as a warlike act.

The evacuation of dependents and other noncombatants from Guantanamo was virtually completed by the time the President went on the air. The operation began at 1100Q when the base commander dispatched special officer messengers to the housing areas to alert dependents for the evacuation. The deadline for removal of the noncombatants was 1900Q. The housing areas were cleared of dependents at 1530Q. The last evacuation ship cleared her moorings at 1630Q. In the surface contingent, 1,703 were loaded aboard Upshur; 351 in Duxbury Bay, 286 in Hyades, and 92 in Desoto County. Hospital patients, dependents at Leeward, and certain other noncombatants were evacuated by air commencing about 1400Q. Air evacuees totaled 378 and were flown out in five GV and one R4Q aircraft. The first plane took off at 1400Q and the last about 1900Q.

CNO sent a personal message to the evacuees which the base commander read over the ships? loudspeakers: "The calm and serene manner in which you have accepted the threat of possible personal danger while living in Guantanamo has been viewed with admiration and respect.

"Now our judgment dictates that you should leave the scene of an increasing danger to your own safety. I am sure you will accept this action with the same fine spirit that has been so obvious throughout your stay at Guantanamo. Rest assured that we will do all possible to provide for your welfare in the days ahead."

After the President's announcement, attention focused on international reaction. Of first concern was any indication that the Soviet Union or Cuba was preparing for military action. However, there were no early responses from the Soviet Bloc nations, except for the Cuban armed forces being placed on alert.

CNO immediately alerted his Fleet Commanders to the possibility of submarine attack with:
"I cannot emphasize too strongly how smart we must be to keep our heavy ships, particularly carriers, from being hit by surprise attack from Soviet submarines. Use all available intelligence, deceptive tactics, and evasion during forthcoming days. Good luck."

He was particularly wary of the submarine menace. His early belief that Cuban contingency operations would result in increased Soviet submarine activity, particularly in the Caribbean, was borne out during the entire operation. He had directed special emphasis on submarine intelligence measures and received at least three status briefings a day, and often many more, so as to keep intimately informed on the worldwide submarine picture.
To expand submarine intelligence capability, he solicited the assistance of the United Kingdom and Canadian Navies with:

"Although I am unaware of what the future political environment may be, I would greatly appreciate your giving us maximum intelligence support concerning potential undersea troublemakers. We have a big job to do and can use all the help we can get."

Thirty minutes after the President's speech, Admiral Anderson solicited the cooperation of Latin American navies by sending the following personal message to the Naval Chiefs of Chile, Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Argentina, Uruguay, and Peru:

"Greatly appreciate opportunity and ability to communicate directly with fellow officers commanding navies of free men, on which our countries depend so heavily for the preservation of our individual and collective independence.

"I only hope that our ships will always sail together and that in the present crisis, we will have as many of yours with mine as may be practicable. God bless everyone of us. George Anderson."

During the evening after the President's speech, Pentagon planners reviewed the necessity for further mobilization and preparations were ordered for a possible reserve recall. Secretary McNamara directed a step-up in induction and training of Cuban nationals. From 2240Q to 2325Q, he visited the office of the Chief of Naval Operations for discussions of the blockade and establishment of surveillance.         [  Back ]

Tuesday, 23 October

On the day following the President's announcement, much interest still was shown in international reaction to the proposed U.S. action, not only that of the Soviet Bloc, but the free world as well. Russia canceled all military leaves and stopped discharges, particularly for personnel in rocket, anti-aircraft, and submarine duties. There also were several reports of Soviet long-range submarines along Russian shipping routes. A Japanese press report said that the Director General of Tass, visiting Japan, stated, "If the United States sinks a Soviet ship, there will be total war." An FBI report from New York quoted a Rumanian source to the effect that the Soviets told the Austrian Foreign Minister in Vienna that Soviet ships would resist search and risk being sunk because the Russians were anxious for a demonstration of strength with the U.S. All the Communist satellite countries had unleashed a propaganda campaign against the U. S. action. However, there were no intelligence reports that indicated any of the Soviet Bloc or satellite nations were planning any aggressive moves or preparing for any major conflicts with the United States or other countries of the free world.

The reaction of allied nations was highlighted by the Organization of American States approval of the U.S. quarantine resolution with a 19 to 0 vote. Uruguay had abstained due to lack of instructions and reserved the right to vote later. Several impromptu and passionate floor speeches were made during the OAS meeting in support of the U.S. resolution. Other free world reactions included Japan placing her air defense force on alert. Chancellor Adenauer said he and his government stood solidly behind the U.S. in the Cuban crisis. President de Gaulle ordered the French delegation to the UN to back the U.S. position, and in Canada, Prime Minister Diefenbaker endorsed President Kennedy's assessment of the Cuban arms build-up, but did not comment on the quarantine. In the Pacific area, South Viet Nam, South Korea, the Philippines, and Nationalist China all backed the U. S. move.

At about 0945Q, Secretary McNamara was briefed in Flag Plot on the merchant-ship, submarine, and overflight situations. He also was interested in the estimated arrival time at the quarantine line of Cuban-bound ship 8.

Throughout the day quarantine force ships and aircraft were moving into position. Among those on the line were the attack carrier Enterprise, and Independence, and the ASW carrier Essex with nine escorting destroyers. Four TACAN ships had taken position along a line in the straits between Florida and Cuba's north coast. Amphibious Squadron Eight ships were in Guantanamo off-loading the Second Battalion of the Second Marine Division. Northhampton was anchored near the mouth of the Potomac, awaiting possible battle-staff augmentation. Task Group 136.1, composed of seven destroyers, two radar picket destroyers, two guided-missile destroyer leaders, and one guided-missile destroyer was en route to surface blockade stations and scheduled to arrive during the day.

Strike and cover aircraft were located on their deployment bases in the Southeastern U.S. The Force was composed of 448 fighter/attack aircraft and 67 reconnaissance/support aircraft.

Guantanamo Naval Base had been reinforced by three Marine Battalions and a fourth was afloat to take up position 150 miles northeast of Cuba. Amphibious Squadron Two was loading another battalion for departure within a few hours, and Amphibious Squadron Ten was loading Marine amphibious forces at Norfolk and Morehead City.

At 2045Q, Secretary McNamara had requested information concerning the first ships which would be intercepted, and Admiral Anderson consulted with Admiral Dennison On the matter. They decided that they should go after the Soviet vessels Kimovsk and Gagarin, effecting contact at about the same time on the 24th. The approximate location of both ships were known by direction-finder fixes and they felt search aircraft would have a good chance of spotting them. The Essex group would be used to intercept them.

Another approaching ship, Poltava, was to be assigned for interdiction to Newport NewsCanberra, and four destroyers. It was believed that the intercept could be made late on the 24th.

In a memorandum to Mr. McNamara relating these plans, Admiral Anderson said that there was a hazard of possible submarines in interdicting the first two ships, but pointed out that the intercepting would be made by a Hunter/Killer Group.

"From now on, I do not intend to interfere with Dennison or either of the Admirals on the scene unless we get some additional intelligence information which we are hoping for," Admiral Anderson wrote.

At 1930Q, the Secretary of Defense made the following public statement at a press conference concerning the quarantine and the retention of naval personnel on active duty: "The President, thirty minutes ago, at 7:00 p.m., signed the Proclamation ordering the interdiction of offensive weapons moving into Cuba, and under the terms of that Proclamation, I have taken the. necessary steps to deploy our forces to be in a position to make effective the quarantine at 2:00 p.m., tomorrow, Greenwich time. That will be the equivalent of 10:00 a.m., Eastern Daylight Time.

"Secondly, the Joint Chiefs of Staff have designated Admiral George Anderson, Chief of Naval Operations, as their Executive Agent for the operation of the quarantine and the quarantine forces.In turn, Admiral Dennison, Commander in Chief, Atlantic, is the responsible Unified Commander. And, operating under him in direct charge of the quarantine task force will be Vice Admiral Alfred Ward, Commander of the SECOND Fleet. Admiral Ward's task force will be known as Task Force 136. It will be composed of major naval units, including carriers, cruisers, destroyers, and the associated logistical forces.

"Further, aircraft support will be supplied by units stationed at various east coast and Gulf coast ports. Thirdly, the President today signed Executive Order 11058, which authorized me as Secretary of Defense to call members of the Reserve under terms of the Congressional Resolution dated October 3, 1962, known as public Law 87-736, to active duty for periods of not more than 12 months so long as not more than 150,000 men were called under that order. And further, this Executive Order provides me with authority to extend enlistments, appointments, periods of active duty, and periods of active duty for training for personnel now on active duty. And as acting under the terms of that Executive Order, I have this evening instructed the Secretary of the Navy to extend the enlistments, appointments, and periods of active duty of both Navy and Marine personnel now on active duty. This is to provide the Navy with the forces necessary to increase their rate of activity, to the point necessary to support the quarantine and to insure the Marines with sufficient forces to meet whatever requirements are placed upon them, particularly the reinforcement of Guantanamo."

The President had called Mr. McNamara regarding the time when we would be ready to invade Cuba. Mr. McNamara told him seven days. The President said that he wanted to be sure that we were ready in every respect at the end of the seven days.

CINCLANTFLT was standing by to make a submarine reconnaissance of prospective landing beaches in the next two or three days. This reconnaissance, which was not executed, was to be less extensive than the one made in April when several swimmers were employed in determining the detailed characteristics of the beach. The purpose of this reconnaissance was primarily to determine whether or not man-made obstacles had been placed on the beach approaches.

During the day, SECNAV asked the Chief of Naval Personnel to prepare a directive to keep men in the Navy after the expiration of their enlistments. Their discussion resulted in a directive having sufficient flexibility to permit its application to certain categories, such as critical skills, if necessary.

The Secretary also asked that a paper be prepared setting forth the justification for the holding of people in the Navy beyond their expiration of contract to be used for discussion purposes. Admiral Smedberg requested some flexibility also in the retention of prospective officers scheduled to retire.

Mr. Korth wanted to discuss with Admiral Anderson the buttoning-up of overhauls of 40 reserve DD/DE's in anticipation of a possible recall. Both Admiral Sylvester, DNO for Logistics, and BUSHIPS were notified of this possibility some days prior. They were ready to suspend these overhauls promptly, if ordered. Admiral Sysvester was keeping a running record of the status of our ships' overhauls-- both regular and Reserve - to assist in making a judgment On expediting or stopping an overhaul on short notice. He also made a list of those ships scheduled to go in for overhaul in the near future to help decide whether or not to delay any overhauls.

Mr. McNamara asked VADM Griffin to suggest some means by which a Soviet submerged submarine could be given a signal to surface. He said that the description of this signal would be sent to the Soviet Government. VADM Griffin told M~. McNamara that a practice depth charge would probably be the most practical and effective means of transmitting such a signal, since we didn't know whether or not our underwater telephone gear was compatible with Soviet underwater communications.

The Judge Advocate General was working with the legal authorities of the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Attorney General to revise the forms for a blockade proclamation. There were two forms based upon the "quarantine" language. This work was closely coordinated to ensure that operational and planning factors were adequately considered.   [ Back ]

Wednesday, 24 October

On the day the quarantine was to take effect, the alignment of Soviet and free world nations continued to develop rapidly. The evening before, the U.S. position was presented to a special session of the United Nations Security Council. Soviet Ambassador Zorin's speech in reply emphasized that the present crisis existed between the United States and Cuba and reflected a Soviet desire to avoid the appearance of a direct Soviet-U.S. confrontation. This approach appeared to be calculated to create a climate for a U.S. reversal of the quarantine stand, to diminish the military threat to the U.S. and to reduce tensions among Soviet Bloc masses. Other Bloc reactions were becoming known. The Polish regime was playing the Cuban crisis in low key to avoid panic and a strain on low food-stocks. Although that nation's armed forces were alerted, there was no evidence of increased military activity. The Chinese communists issued a statement fully supporting the "just stand of the Soviet Government."

Various developments throughout the day suggested that the Soviet Bloc intended to proceed with extreme caution. This indication was supported by Zorin's comparatively mild statements at the UN, the lack of any Soviet move to evacuate dependents in East Germany and elsewhere, and other political developments.

Turkish officials, worried about the possibility of Soviet pressure to eliminate missile sites in their country in exchange for withdrawal of Russian missiles in Cuba, urged an increase in U. S. military aid to Turkey.

Brazil backed off somewhat from her support of the arms quarantine with the statement that the Government did not support the "use of force which may violate an independent country's territorial integrity and place world peace in jeopardy."

The Commander in Chief, Atlantic, established the surface quarantine line on an arc 500 miles from Cape Maysi between 27-30N, 75W and 20N, 65W. The line thus established was out of range of Soviet IL-28 "Beagle" bombers based in Cuba. The line was to be manned by 12 destroyers from Task Force 136, which were proceeding to the following stations:

Lat N Long W Ship
28-00 70-50 Gearing
27-40 70-06 Witek
27-10 69-06 Lawe
26-30 68-10 Sellers
25-40 67-20 McCaffery
24-50 66-40 Summers
23-50 66-00 Leary
23-00 65-40 Pierce
22-00 65-20 Steinaker
21-00 65-10 Dewey
20-00 65-00 MacDonough
19-00 65-10 Greene

The destroyer line was backed up by two surface patrol units, an anti-submarine warfare/surveillance unit and a logistic support unit.

The force organization was:

CTF 136: Commander Second Fleet, Vice Admiral A. G. Ward. 

CTG 136.0: Commander Flagship Group, Commanding Officer Newport News, Captain R. H. Bowers; Newport News (CA 148); Commander Destroyer Division 182 in Lawrence (DDG 4);Keith (DD 775).

CTG 136.1: Commander Surface Quarantine Group, Commander Cruiser-Destroyer Flotilla Six, Rear Admiral J. W. Ailes, III; Canberra (CAG 2) (Flagship); Newport News (CA 148); MacDonough (DLG 8); Lawrence (DDG 4); Dewey (DLG 4); Keith (DD 775); Leary (DDR 879); Steinaker (DDR 863);Pierce (DD 753); Soley (DD 707); Borie (DD 704); Bigelow (DD 942); Lawe (DD 763); Gearing (DD 710); Royal (DD 872); Sellers (DD DDG 11); Witek (EDD 848).

CTU 136.1.1: Commander Surface Blockade Unit, Commander Destroyer Squadron 26, Captain W. R. Hunnicutt, Jr.; Dewey (DLG 4) (Flagship); Leary (DD 879); Steinaker (DD 863); Pierce(DD 753); Bigelow (DD 942); Lawe (DD 763); McCaffey (DD 860); Zellers (DD 777); Royal(DD 872); Sellers(DDG 11); Witek (EDD 848); MacDonough (DLG 8).

CTU 136.1.2: Commander Task Unit, Commanding Officer, Canberra (CAG 2), Captain R. K. Irvine; Canberra (CAG 2); Soley (DD 707); Borie (DD 704).

CTU 136.1.3: Commander Task Unit, Commanding Officer, Newport News (CA 148), Captain R. H. Bowers; Newport News (CA 148); Lawrence (DDG 4); Keith (DD 775).

CTG 136.2: Commander Task Group, Commander Carrier Division, Rear Admiral E. A. Christensen; Essex (CVS 9); Blandy (DD 943); Keppler (DD 765); Sperry (DD 697); Barry (DD 933).

CTG 136.3: Commander Task Group, Commanding Officer Elkomin (AO 55), Captain W. O. Spears; Elkomin (AO 55); Kaskaskia (AO 27); Great Sitkin (AE 17); J. P. Kennedy (DD 850); Weeks (DD 701).

Essex loaded with two S2F squadrons of 22 planes, 14 HSS-2's, and one WF-2, in company with her four destroyers were assigned to patrol the zone north and west of latitude 25N, 65W. The Bermuda ASW Group (CTG 81.5), consisting of 11 P5M's in VP-49 and 11 P5M's in VP-45, was tasked with air surveillance of a zone north and east of 25N, 65W. The Caribbean ASW Group (CTG 81.7) at Roosevelt Roads had aerial-surveillance responsibility for the zone east of the quarantine front and south of 25N; this group was made up of 11 VP-5 P2V's.

The strike force afloat consisted of the carriers Independence and Enterprise with screening destroyers. These ships had taken up their patrol positions south of Cuba in the vicinity of 18N, 74-30W.

The task at hand was to positively locate ships en route to Cuba and prepare for interception when they crossed the quarantine line. The tentative first intercept was the Kimovsk, suspected of carrying military equipment, and the second was to be the Poltova with a possible cargo of missiles.

During daylight hours and when in visual signal distance, a destroyer was to be dispatched to a position close aboard but which would not give the Soviet ship an opportunity to ram. The destroyer would then display by visual flag hoist the international signal "K" (You should stop at once) or "ON" (You should heave to at once). These signals were to be paralleled by signal light.

In signifying his intent to stop a ship, the commander of the destroyer was to use all available communications, including international code signals, flag hoists, blinking lights, radio, loud speakers, etc. when hailing the ship, a Russian linguist would be used. If the ship did not stop upon being signaled or hailed, warning shots were to be fired across the bow. If this failed to halt the intercepted ship, minimum force was authorized to damage non vital parts of the ship but to refrain if possible from personnel injury or loss of life.

Once the ship was stopped, a party, including Russian linguists, were to board the ship. Visit and search was to include examination of the manifest and inspection of the cargo. In the event visit was refused, the ship was to be taken into custody and forcefully boarded to control the ship's operation.

If the boarding met with organized resistance, the ship was to be destroyed. If the ship submitted to custody, the boarding party was to consist of a temporary master, control and engineering personnel, and an armed guard detail. Coast Guard officers, who were expert in search-and-visit procedures, were embarked in the flagship of the Commander, Quarantine Force.

Once in custody, the seized ship would be escorted by one or more destroyers and sailed to either Charleston, San Juan, Roosevelt Roads, or Fort Lauderdale. The Coast Guard established units at those ports to take custody from the Navy prize master.

About 0900Q, SECDEF received a standard merchant ship briefing. At the same time, Flag Plot received the first directional fix report that some Soviet vessels bound for Cuba had reversed course. This information was inconclusive and Mr. McNamara was not informed.

As the time signaling the beginning of the quarantine approached, the Chief of Naval Operations was attending a meeting of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Vice Admiral C.D. Griffin, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations, as the duty CNO Representative, occupied CNO's office.

The moment of the quarantine's beginning arrived and passed, and matters continued without untoward incident until 1140Z when CTG 44.3 in Cambria reported a disappearing radar contact and that he suspected he was being followed by a submarine. The information was passed immediately to CNO, who left the JCS meeting and returned to his office.

At about the same time, it became apparent from radio directional fixes that some of the Soviet ships en route to Cuba had either slowed down or had altered or reversed their courses. Initial indications of these facts were confirmed by separate plots maintained in Flag Plot and in the Navy Field Operational Intelligence Section at Fort Meade. The duty officer set about to notify the secretary of Defense, the Secretary of the Navy, and CNO, through the Director of Naval Intelligence, of the possibility that some of the Soviet ships were not going to penetrate the quarantine line. Later information confirmed that the ships had reversed course and returned to Soviet ports.

After being called and talking with General Taylor about the course reverse of the Soviet ships, Admiral Anderson and Admiral Griffin hurried to Flag Plot where CNO telephoned CINCUSNAVEUR and called Commander Carrier Division 18 in Essex by single side-band radio. CINCUSNAVEUR was requested to exert maximum reconnaissance effort to ascertain the position of these ships in his area of responsibility. On instructions from the White House, Commander Carrier Division 18 was directed not to intercept but to maintain surveillance of the Soviet ship Kimovsk assigned to him.

Meanwhile, General Taylor left the White House for Flag Plot, where he met with Admiral Anderson and the two of them then proceeded to CNO's office at 1137Q. General Taylor told Admiral Anderson that the President had ordered that the course-change information should not be leaked under any circumstances. This order was passed to Colonel S.B. Berry in the Office of the Secretary of Defense and Captain W.D. Houser, military assistant to the Deputy Secretary of Defense.

About noon, Mr. McNamara returned to Flag Plot for a briefing on the information received concerning the Russian ships reversing course.

During the morning, Deputy CINCLANTFLT had called with a request to continue the Peruvian section of UNITAS III through to completion. This proposal envisaged the training exercise being run by the senior officer remaining after the exercise commander and his staff were flown back to Trinidad. Deputy CINCLANTFLT was informed that, in view of the fact that South American navies were offering ships for our use in connection with the current crisis, psychologically it would probably not be wise to continue this training exercise with U.S. ships. Accordingly, the U.S. ships in UNITAS III were to be returned to current commands.

Vice Admiral C. Wellborn, Chairman of the U.S. Delegation, United Nations Military Staff Committee, called and requested that he be kept informed as well as possible on the current Cuban situation in order that his effectiveness in the United Nations might be enhanced. He was assured that he would be kept informed to the best possible degree. He further advised that, should it be necessary to pass classified traffic to him as a matter of urgency, there was a secure channel from the JCS War Room to Colonel Cunningham on his staff in New York.

A few minutes before 1600Q, Rear Admiral Lowrance arrived to discuss the clearance of photographs for release and other information which might be made available to the press.

At 1600Q, the Defense Department announced that there were 8 to 10 surface-to-surface missile bases near various Cuban cities and that there were more than 30 missiles, 20 IL-28 jet fighter bombers, and 5,000 Soviet personnel in Cuba.

At 1710Q, Admiral Ricketts returned from a trip to the White House, where he had attended a session in the Situation Room there. He had left the Pentagon at 1521Q, leaving the office to VADM Griffin, since Admiral Anderson was still in the JCS conference. The meeting was with Mr. Rostow, Under Secretary Ball, Mr. Nitze, Mr. Lovett, Mr. McGeorge Bundy, the Attorney General, and a few others who were drawing up c-. recommendation to the President regarding policy for interception of shipping in view of the apparent turn-around of the Soviet ships.

At the beginning of the conference Mr. Ball voiced the belief that we should not intercept any ships presently proceeding towards Cuba because the Soviets apparently had turned around all ships that contained offensive weapons. Admiral Ricketts made a strong plea that we should still intercept the ships proceeding towards Cuba regardless of whether we believe they had any offensive material on board or not. He said it would be bad for us to have declared 'the blockade and then not intercept a ship. There was a long discussion on this, and gradually more and more people came around to support the thesis of intercepting ships presently bound for Cuba. This policy was recommended to the President.

Another point discussed was the desirability of intercepting and searching ships that had reversed course and were proceeding eastward across the Atlantic. The final decision was not to intercept these ships but to continue surveillance and to make every effort to get good photographs of them and their deck cargoes.

Regarding the matter of a press announcement as to the information we had on the ships that have reversed course, it was decided that a statement would be made to the effect that it was apparent that some Soviet ships had altered course away from Cuba, and that so far it was unnecessary to intercept any shipping.

At 1741Q, Admiral Anderson arrived with VADM W. M. Beakley, Deputy Commander, Atlantic Fleet, and they immediately went into conference, after CNO directed that it be discovered whether or not a hospital ship was in commission.

At 1910Q, Deputy Secretary of Defense Gilpatric gave the "green light" for closing in on and identifying ships approaching Cuba.

Later in the evening, four low-level aerial-reconnaissance photos were released. The White House requested public media to exercise discretion in publishing information relating to national security. About the same time, the Defense Department issued an order centralizing release of information on Cuba in the Office of Public Affairs.

At 2120Q, Mr. McNamara called Admiral Ricketts, the Duty CNO, and inquired about a special shipping reconnaissance flight using four B-50's with U-2 photographic equipment. The Admiral told SECDEF that Admiral Anderson had discussed the matter with General Carroll, the Director DIA, and they had arranged to have the planes chopped to CINCLANT for the mission and that Admiral Dennison was handling the matter with the Air Force. Direct control of the flight was given to Commander, Air Force Atlantic, and the planes were ordered on an early-morning flight to photograph the Soviet ships on an eastward course.

About 2145 Mr. McNamara and Mr. Gilpatric visited Intelligence Plot. They were interested in all of the detailed movements of the Soviet Bloc ships. The various positions and changes in course and speeds were explained in some detail. They were particularly interested in the possibility of a contact during the night and what it might be. Mr. McNamara wanted to be called should a contact with a Soviet ship be made. Admiral Ricketts called Admiral Beakley and emphasized the necessity for a fast report by the intercepting ship via CINCLANT to CNO. Instructions went out from CINCLANT to the blockade force to accomplish an intercept if possible and to make a FLASH report. Admiral Beakley said he was issuing a message that any making contact with any ship headed towards Cuba would challenge the ship and if possible steam close aboard for observation and report the results of that observation.            [Back]

Thursday, 25 October

On the second day of the quarantine, a total of eight Organization of American States nations so far had offered military assistance to the U.S. in carrying out the quarantine action. This ranged from offers of troops and ships to use of ports and airfields. Guinea, generally accepted as Soviet-oriented, had denied landing and over-flight rights to Russian aircraft. Uruguay announced its support of the quarantine resolution, making the OAS approval unanimous.

Among the Soviet Bloc countries, anti-American demonstrations continued, although they were not of major proportions, nor were similar outbreaks in Latin America and other non-bloc nations which were inspired by pro-Communist elements.

Through the night, COMCARDIV 18 with escorting destroyers and COMSECONDFLT in Newport News had been closing on the Soviet tanker Bucharest. The word had been passed that this ship was not to get through the barrier quarantine line. However, contact with the ship had been lost. She was within the line and a search was on for her when Admiral Anderson arrived in the morning. He proceeded to Flag Plot to evaluate the situation.

At 0745Q, information came in that the Essex had reestablished contact at 0500Q with Bucharest and had intercepted her at 0715Q. The Gearing sent a flashing light challenge to the Soviet tanker and she replied, "My name is Bucharest, Russian ship from the Black Sea, bound for Cuba."

The destroyer pulled alongside and Bucharest dipped her colors. Gearing returned the salute and said, "Good morning" in Russian (method of transmission not stated). The Bucharest replied, "Good morning, thank you."

While this very courteous first encounter of the quarantine was taking place, topside photographs were taken of the Bucharest. About 0930Q these photographs revealed that the ship carried no deck cargo. Earlier she had asked what material was prohibited and, when so informed, said she contained only petroleum. Since there was no reason to suspect she carried contraband, Bucharestwas cleared for continued passage to port.

Meanwhile, in the morning, the President issued an order not to intercept and board a bloc vessel first in view of Soviet Premier Khrushchev's apparent desire to avoid a direct U.S.-Russian confrontation. Best evidence of this Soviet policy was the fact that, of the 16 Soviet ships that had been located and determined to be en route to Cuba, nine east of the line had reversed or altered course away from the quarantine area. Six of these were close to entering the prohibited zone at any time. Seven more farther east had also reversed course. Among them were the first and second intercept candidates, Kimovsk andPoltava, which were not headed in an easterly direction. The Soviet Union also had asked the State Department to define an area outside of which Soviet merchantmen would not be subject to interdiction.

At 1100Q, Admiral Ricketts received a call from Mr. Gilpatric, then at the White House. He directed that quarantine forces should not stop or harass Bucharest, but might continue trailing her. He also ordered that a non-Bloc ship, other than a tanker, be stopped and boarded during the day and that quarantine forces should be in position to intercept, stop, and board the Soviet tanker Groznyy the next day.

In view of this, reconnaissance forces were directed to seek out a ship of other than Bloc registry, preferably United Kingdom, which could be intercepted at the earliest possible time. Several patrol units already had been dispatched to close on the Kimovsk and Poltava and to proceed to points of intercept with other approaching ships without regard for registry. The task up to now was to enforce the quarantine by interdicting those merchantmen closest to or within the quarantine zone. This sudden change in policy, which directed the quick boarding of a non-Bloc ship, coupled with the fact that the Soviet vessels reversing course, resulted in orders to the blockade force which scattered some of the destroyers. The position of some of them in relation to approaching non-Bloc vessels was somewhat confused.

In the search for an early intercept candidate, a Greek ship, Sirus, at first was thought to be a good prospect. She had identified herself earlier, declared her cargo, and requested permission to proceed to Cuba. However, the Lebanese merchant freighter, Marucla, was chosen as the most likely first intercept, after a destroyer had been hurriedly dispatched to close on Sirus. The Marucla was identified at first as "Zaruwi," which resulted from an erroneous reading of the letters spelling the name of the ship.
In the course of the day, a shipload of Guantanamo dependents was due to arrive in Norfolk and Vice Admiral W.R. Smedberg, the Chief of Naval Personnel, left to meet them at Admiral Anderson's request.

After Mr. Gilpatric's phone call in the morning, some interest was shown in Soviet tanker Groznyy; however, she was several hundred miles northeast of the line. Most of the activity concerned the Marucla The destroyers Pierce and Kennedy were dispatched to intercept and board her at the earliest possible moment.

The Executive Committee of the National Security Council met at 1000Q and scheduled an afternoon session for 1700Q. This was the procedure which the group planned to follow throughout the crisis. They met in the morning and afternoon each day to consider the military situation, interpret United Nations negotiations, and make policy decisions on diplomatic and military matters.

Early in the afternoon, the Pierce closed on what she thought was the Marucla, but proved to be the East German cruise ship Volkerfreund Schaft. The destroyer continued to shadow the East German until 2234Q, when the decision was made to let her pass. The Pierce then broke off and headed to join theKennedy en route to intercept Marucla.

At 1150Q, the Defense Department announced that at least a dozen Soviet vessels had turned back, and that at 0800Q the Navy had intercepted the Soviet tanker Bucharest proceeding towards Cuba and had permitted it to proceed without boarding.

Efforts to locate the Lebanese ship Marucla were confused late in the afternoon by a report that she had turned around. This report was proven false and, as daylight faded, her position was still uncertain. At 2100Q, an S2F from the Essex spotted her. Communications which temporarily had been lost with thePierce and Kennedy were regained, and the two ships were ordered to board the Marucla when found, day or night. This procedure was later modified to board at first light after the two ships had encountered her at 2245Q. 

The day's activity ended with some tenseness because of the sighting of a submarine on the surface northeast of the line. Surveillance of this area was intense during the day because of an earlier confirmed submarine contact. Throughout the day, there had been indecision as to whether repeated possible contacts were on a new submarine or was the same which had been held earlier. However, a P5M report about 2100Q proved it to be a second "F" class SS.

All day long, Admiral Anderson's activity was devoted, as previously, to long meetings in the Joint Chiefs of Staff conference room. In his absence, his office was occupied by either Vice CNO or one of the Deputy CNO's. He was kept informed by telephone and messenger-dispatched notes of all significant developments.

After the JCS conference broke up about 1630Q, there was a long meeting in the inner office between CNO, VCNO, and the deputies concerning the proposal of a "sanitized box" surrounding Cuba. Before the Admiral left for the night, he put down his thoughts on the matter as: "On condition that ships carrying Soviet Bloc arms to Cuba will not proceed west of 60° W. This restriction will not apply to vessels of the Soviet Bloc not carrying articles on the prohibited list to Cuba or proceeding elsewhere; neither will it apply to other U.S. Navy vessels not involved in the quarantine. Duration not to exceed 48 hours."

The request for Navy's ideas on a "sanitized box" concept was relayed to CNO by the State Department through Mr. Alexis Johnson's office. What was wanted was a defined area within which Soviet ships would not enter and outside of which quarantine ships would not interdict vessels en route to Cuba. The outcome was two circles, each with a 500-mile radius. The center of one circle was Havana, the other Cape Maysi.

The geographic area within these two overlapping circles thence became the "quarantine zone" and into which Cuban-bound ships must pass before they could be boarded and stopped.

At 2225Q, Mr. McNamara, Mr. Gilpatric, and Admiral Anderson were briefed in Intelligence Plot. In the course of the briefing, there was considerable discussion between SECDEF and CNO on how air quarantine should be effected.

Preparation for other contingencies was continuing on schedule. FMFLANT and CG 2nd MEF were preparing to embark in Mount McKinley. CG 2nd Marine Division was to embark in the same ship and transfer later to the transport Francis Marion.

More than 30 flights a day were being flown over interested areas from all bases and sources, including Navy and SAC aircraft. SAC was continuing to meet CINCLANT surveillance requests on a day-to-day basis. The Joint Chiefs of Staff directed CINCLANT to be prepared to strike all Cuban SA-2 sites within two hours, if a U-2 aircraft was shot down. Additional patrol aircraft from U.S. Naval Air Station, Patuxent River, Maryland, were ordered to augment aerial surveillance of ocean areas, flying from Bermuda and Azores.

First elements of 3rd LAAM (Hawk missile) Battalion arrived at Key West. CINCLANT directed movement of one battery to Guantanamo via MATS

CINCLANTFLT directed establishment of a VP/SS barrier near Argentia, with readiness to move to GI-UK position as directed. Six submarines sailed October 25 and four more were scheduled for October 26 movement. Estimated establishment time for the operation was between October 29-31.

The Soviet oiler, Groznyy, of special interest for interception, was sighted at 251459Q at 25-10N, 51-40W by SAC aircraft. She was reported dead in the water. OPNAV Intelligence Plot believed her cruising speed was about 14-15 knots. Assuming a westerly heading at this speed, Flag Plot estimated that the ship would be 160 - 200 miles from the quarantine barrier line at first light. Intelligence information indicated her cargo was 7,200 tons of crude oil and 566 tons of liquid NH3 in 22 pressurized tubes. She was bound from Odessa to Cuba.              [ Back ]

Friday. 26 October

Shortly after CNO arrived at 0730Q, Flag Plot reported that a boarding party from the Pierce and Kennedy was en route to the Marucla to execute the first quarantine interdiction. The admiral proceeded immediately to Flag Plot to follow the action. At 0750Q the boarding party was aboard the Lebanese ship at 26-16N, 75-24W. The executive officer of J. P. Kennedy, who was in charge, obtained a copy of the merchantman's cargo manifest and checked it against bills of lading. General cargo included sulphur, asbestos, news-print, emery paper, lathes, and automotive parts. on the weather decks were 12 trucks. All holds were battened down and inaccessible; however, one was opened for inspection, since it contained questionable material listed as "electro-measuring instruments." The boarding party left the ship at 0820Q and the Marucla was released and underway for Havana at 1020Q.

The next ship selected for intercept was Groznyy, which was east of the line. Lawrence was dispatched in the morning to intercept, but later recalled. The tanker was placed under aerial surveillance.

At the 1000Q Executive Committee meeting at the White House, the Secretary of Defense reported on the quarantine and Secretary Rusk on negotiations underway between U. Thant and Ambassador Stevenson. The President authorized the release of a statement noting that missile development work is continuing in Cuba and reiterated his earlier warning that such work must cease.

There were no further merchant ship intercepts during the day; however, significant developments involved the sightings of submarines which were forced to the surface because of our intense surveillance. Three separate Soviet "F" class long-range, conventional submarines had been identified in the quarantine area. An additional "Z" class was photographed in mid-Atlantic near the Soviet auxiliary Terek on 22 October. The extent of these unprecedented Soviet submarine operations was considered significant in that plans for their deployment must have been made well in advance. CNO estimated the submarines would have had to deploy not later than the first week of October. At 0825Q, the first of two submarines contacted the day before northeast of the quarantine line was spotted on the surface for the second time.

Actions by the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the day resulted in the order that preparations be directed toward possible implementation of CINCLANT Operation Plan 316-61 and that Plan 314-61 for the invasion of Cuba from a peak readiness posture be no longer considered. The Chiefs also directed CINCLANT to notify ship masters en route to Cuba via the Panama Canal that they would be subject to quarantine regulations. However, U.S. control of the canal was not to be used to conduct a thorough inspection. Any evidence of prohibited material being aboard and discovered during passage was ordered passed to CINCLANT, who would effect interdiction when the ship reached the quarantine zone.

Three more Soviet ships en route to Cuba were reported to have changed course and were returning to their ports of departure. They were the VishnevskyOkhotsk, and Sergev Botkin. Later in the day, Lawrence and MacDonough were shadowing Groznyy. The tanker had several cylindrical tanks topside and had declared them to contain ammonia.

The Randolph ASW Group joined the quarantine patrol forces. She was prosecuting one of three active submarine contacts. The other two were being held under surveillance by the Essex group and P2V's from Bermuda. Eight destroyers were in company with Randolph.

Argentina made the most generous of all offers from Latin American nations in support of the quarantine, announcing she was ready to place at U.S. disposal two destroyers, one submarine, one carrier, and 600 Marines.

All day, reports on the positions of ships closing on Cuba were received and evaluated. Plans for interception were made and aerial reconnaissance photographs analyzed. A request was made for a list of ships of all registries under charter to the USSR. This information would be added to the compilation of data already gathered on bloc vessels and non-bloc vessels engaged in Cuban trade.

Activity remained routine until late afternoon, when the Scandinavian tanker Kattainzhon was spotted very near the southern coast of Cuba. A search was also on to find the Groznyy
At 1705Q a new submarine contact was made by CTF 135 west of Haiti and north of Jamaica channel. At 1840Q, a P2V sighted another submarine on the surface northeast of the Dominican Republic. The latter was positively identified as an "F" class. Surveillance of both contact areas was intensified.

[Initial line of text missing and apparently covered by a retyped correction to preceding paragraph.]... that photo-reconnaissance revealed continued build-up of missiles in Cuba. His statement came 15 minutes after a letter from Khrushchev to President Kennedy was received at the State Department through the U.N. Secretary General in which Khrushchev accepted the proposal that Soviet ships would stay out of the interception area. The President replied to Mr. U. Thant and stated that incidents could be avoided if Soviet ships stayed out of the quarantine zone. Mr. U. Thant then sent a letter to Premier Castro asking that work on missile bases be suspended while negotiations were under way. He also proposed that the U.S. suspend the quarantine during this period.

Admiral Anderson stated the Navy's position should it become U.S. policy to discuss - U. Thant's moratorium proposals. This was that the quarantine should continue within the area west of 60w longitude and between the latitudes of 15N and 30N, and that forces assigned to quarantine duty would remain within this area. This restriction would not affect U. S. ships of our quarantine forces proceeding to and from U.S. ports or other U.S. Navy ships not part of the quarantine force and operating elsewhere.

The admiral believed that all Soviet Bloc ships should remain outside this prescribed area. However, he alternately proposed that this restriction might be modified to apply only to Soviet Bloc ships carrying prohibited materials, which would be subject to visit and search.

In his opinion, the moratorium should not exceed 48 hours, during which time there should be UN observers on each missile site and each bomber base to ensure against further site construction or weapons assembly. The U. S. should continue air surveillance of Cuba during this moratorium.

At 1606Q, the JCS notified the Unified Commanders that a clearance system (CLEARCERT) had been established for vessels entering the quarantine zone. For those departing foreign ports, appropriate embassies and consulates were to issue the clearance certificates in accordance with instructions and on forms provided by the State Department. Foreign vessels departing U.S. ports would receive the certificates from the collector of customs at the port of departure.

Clearances would be granted to vessels transiting the quarantine zone but not destined for Cuba and Cuban-bound ships with cargo which did not contain prohibited material. However, it was recognized that it might be necessary to stop and search a ship which had been previously cleared.

At 2025Q a Strategic Air Command aircraft spotted the elusive Groznyy; she now was firmly back on the plotting boards.

Admiral Anderson, expressed the desire that an effort be made to have information be released about the evacuation of dependents from Guantanamo. He wished those persons be given proper recognition for the hardship they encountered.

Action also had been taken during the day to alleviate fuel situation at Key West by reducing aircraft on station by 15% and by providing barges and one oiler for afloat fuel supply.

After relocation of ASW, developmental, and all-weather fighter training squadrons and four station aircraft, there still remained a total of 153 aircraft at NAS, Key West. Fifteen helos also were located at the seaplane base several miles from the main field. Four early-warning aircraft were to arrive at NAS, Key West, 27 October for use of CONAD. Prior to the build-up, there were 61 aircraft at NAS, Key West, and 13 helos at the seaplane base.
The JCS directed CINCLANT OpPlan 316-62, with recent refinements, should receive concentrated attention in planning and such preparatory measures as were feasible for its implementation, if directed; further planning and preparation for CINCLANT OpPlan 314 was terminated.

CINCLANTFLT requested relief from requirements to provide an AGC for the Mediterranean, at least during periods when an Atlantic Fleet AGO was not available due to overhaul or refresher training. CINCLANTFLT now had an urgent need for an AGC to serve as COMPHIBGRUFOUR flagship.

Late in the evening, Rear Admiral W. J. Leverton, CINCLANTFLT Deputy Chief of Staff, called regarding air patrols for the next day in search of ships of special interest to the Secretary of Defense. He talked with Vice Admiral Sharp, the duty CNO, and reported that a P2V from Lages hoped to sight the Mirabout 1200Q. A Bermuda-based P3V was taking off at early light to sight the Karl Marx about 1430Q. Another P3V from Bermuda was estimating contact with the Belovodsk about 1500Q, while a third hoped to sight the Groznyy at 0800Q and stay with her until an intercept destroyer arrived.         [ Back ]

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12 January 2001

Published: Thu May 08 16:53:58 EDT 2014