127. Memorandum From the Director of the Office of Middle American Affairs (Wieland) to the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Snow)1


  • Shipment of ten T–28 Airplanes to Cuba

You will recall the discussion in Mr. Rubottom’s office on August 18 with Ambassador Smith2 during which the matter of the release of the T–28’s was raised by Ambassador Smith. Mr. Rubottom introduced the possibility of some alternative to the shipment of these planes and asked MID to look into the prospects of working out some arrangement other than release of them which would meet the Cubans’ desire for aircraft for pilot training.


Need for training aircraft. The Cubans desire to begin a course of basic pilot training for 25 pupils on September 10, utilizing these planes. They wish these to substitute for the six T–6 planes they now have; the T–6’s are no longer supportable through MAP since the USAF has no stocks of spare parts for these aircraft and they will soon become unserviceable. The Cubans desire the T–28’s since they could be MAP-supported.
Nature of the T–28’s. The T–28 (photograph attached3) is a propeller-driven single-engine basic trainer. Defense states that, while it is possible to install two so-called “package”50 cal. machine guns on the T–28’s, these guns are available only from U.S. Air Force stocks and none would, of course, be made available to Cuba under current directives. In lieu of the installation of the guns, the planes can be equipped to carry two 100-lb. practice bombs or 6 2.25” rockets.

Possible Alternative to the T–28’s:

Purchase in Canada. The only similar aircraft available in Canada are Harvards, Mark 6 (modeled after T–6’s), which are not supportable with respect to spare parts, as indicated above. Availabilities in Canada then moves to the T–33 jet. [sic]
Purchase of other types of aircraft in the United States. Used T–6’s might be purchased on the commercial market, but the same problem of supportability arises. A lighter, slightly smaller plane suitable for training is manufactured by Beechcraft (model B–45), but these are not readily available owing to high domestic demand for these planes.


From the above, it must be concluded that there is no suitable alternative aircraft to the T–28, either in the U.S. or Canada, which might be suggested to the Cuban Government as a substitute for the T–28’s. (Mr. Little mentioned this to Ambassador Smith who telephoned the Department to keep abreast of developments on August 27.4) The problem therefore resolves itself once again to the release of the T–28’s. Ambassador Smith has proposed before and reiterated in the call on August 27 that a possible solution was to obtain from the Cuban Government a promise to use the aircraft only for training purposes.


In view of the fact that release of the T–28’s, regardless of their nature, would most likely be used by the Government of Cuba to demonstrate renewed support for that government on the part of the United States and in view of the negative reaction toward such a decision here in the United States and among opposition groups, it is believed that any such “middle ground” as exacting a promise from the Government of Cuba covering the use of these aircraft would not [Page 203] be satisfactory. It is therefore recommended that the Cuban Government be informed that the T–28’s cannot be released in the immediate future.

September 2, 1958.

Since the preparation of this memorandum, the Department has received telegram No. 246 of August 29 from Habana5 stating that the Chief of the Air Force Mission had received a communication from the Chief of the Cuban Air Force to the effect that the Cubans had started negotiations for the sale of the T–28’s to the highest bidder in the United States in view of the fact that the export license had not been approved.6

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 737.00/8–2958. Confidential. Drafted by Little. Initialed by Wieland and Snow.
  2. See Document 125.
  3. Not found.
  4. No record of this conversation has been found.
  5. Not printed. (Department of State, Central Files, 737.00/8–2958)
  6. Snow wrote the following comment to Rubottom, September 3, at the top of the source text: “I suppose this is the only conclusion we could arrive at, although it makes me less than happy, especially since I believe the Cubans stand to lose money on the deal which we cannot legally reimburse them for.”