434. Memorandum of a Conference With the President, White House, Washington, January 23, 1960, 8:27–9:50 a.m.1


  • Secretary Herter, General Goodpaster

Secretary Herter told the President that the Advisory Committee on Inter-American Affairs2 had favored pulling Ambassador Bonsal out of Cuba. Mr. Herter had spent six hours with the Congress on Thursday and Friday, and there had been a strong Congressional feeling that our Ambassador should be brought back.3 Our difficulty is that, under the non-intervention policy established in 1931, there is not too much we can do that will have immediate effect.

The President said he thought we should get one of our good friends in the OAS to raise the matter in that forum, taking the position that here is a man who is going wild and harming the whole American structure. He added that if we get to a point where we are being pushed too hard, we may have to do something drastic such as blockading the island. He would then be concerned about the safety of our citizens who are there.

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Mr. Herter expressed his own concern regarding our citizens. He said there have been indications that many of the other countries of the Americas are seriously disturbed over this “mystique” of heroism Castro is having some success in bringing for [on?] himself, and its possible impact on them. They are also concerned over the fact that Castro is steadily putting more and more Communists into more and more of the major posts of Government. He seems to be moving toward a system of collective farms. There has been no real policy of land distribution. Mr. Herter said he had had a meeting with a number of representatives of the principal U.S. sugar and cattle interests in Cuba.4 These would prefer to try to work out their problems individually rather than have an over-all approach made.

The President said he is finding that dictators devoted to fomenting disorder can have a terrible influence on our affairs. Except for the existence of the OAS and its abhorrence of intervention, we would have to be thinking already of building up our force at Guantanamo. Mr. Herter said that he thinks the next call for action in these circumstances will be made by the OAS. The President said he hoped we could avoid making the call on our own.

Mr. Herter said his hearings with the Congress had gone reasonably well, with no indication of hostility or desire to use our foreign relations for political purposes. The President commented that there had been one very adverse circumstance in that Senator Fulbright disclosed the secret information given to him by Mr. Herter. Secretary Herter said he has written a letter of protest on this to Mr. Fulbright.5 The President commented that Fulbright is an example of a man of rather great intelligence without good judgment. Mr. Herter commented that he is a man who seems continually frustrated in attitude.

[Here follows discussion of matters unrelated to Cuba.]

  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Project “Clean Up” Records, Cuban Situation. Secret. Prepared by Goodpaster on January 25. The time of the meeting is taken from the President’s Appointment Book. (Ibid.) A note on the source text indicates that a copy was sent to Herter on January 25. Published in part in Declassified Documents, 1981, 123B.
  2. The Inter-American Advisory Committee met at the Department of State January 20–21. Herter attended the January 20 morning session and also hosted a luncheon that day for the committee members. The morning session included a briefing by Wieland on possible courses of action to take with regard to Cuba. An agenda for the meeting and several briefing papers, including one prepared in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research on January 12 and entitled “The Present Situation in Cuba and the Outlook thru 1960,” are attached to a memorandum of January 16 from Mallory to Herter. (Department of State, Central Files, 110.11–HE/1–1660)
  3. January 21 and 22. See footnote 4, Document 429.
  4. Not further identified.
  5. Not found.