469. Memorandum of a Conversation, Department of State, Washington, March 7, 19601


  • Visit of Cuban Chargé d’Affaires a.i.


  • The Secretary
  • Mr. William A. Wieland—Director, CMA
  • Dr. Enrique Patterson—Cuban Chargé d’Affaires a.i.

The Secretary asked Cuban Chargé Dr. Enrique Patterson to come to his office at 5: 30 p.m., March 7. On his arrival, the Cuban Chargé was informed by the Secretary that this Government was extremely disturbed by the unfounded and irresponsible statements attacking the United States in connection with the explosion which occurred aboard a French munitions ship recently in Habana harbor.2

The Secretary pointed out that, on the morning of March 5, our Chargé d’Affaires in Habana called personally at the Foreign Ministry3 to express the grief and sympathy of the Government and people of the United States over the tragic consequences of the explosion in Habana harbor. He also pointed out that at the same time the Chargé had offered the assistance of the United States and that the Department of State had also issued a statement early Saturday, March 5,4 expressing the shock and sadness felt in this country over the incident. The Secretary pointed out that later the same day, Prime Minister Castro had attacked the United States and attributed to it the responsibility for the explosion. The Secretary told the Chargé that the Department had promptly issued a statement to the press5 denying the implications of Prime Minister Castro’s statements and announcing that it would protest through diplomatic channels the unfounded and irresponsible accusation. He handed the Chargé a copy of the Department of State press statement of March 5, 1960.

The Secretary read from a memorandum which had been addressed to him by Mr. Rubottom on March 7,5 describing the shock felt by the Government and people of the United States when the Prime Minister expressed his belief that the United States was responsible [Page 824] for the explosion. Still referring to the memorandum, the Secretary described the tenor of Prime Minister Castro’s remarks as extremely provocative and apparently calculated to transform the understandable sorrow of the Cuban people into resentment against the United States. He said the United States Government vigorously rejects and protests this unfounded and irresponsible attitude by Prime Minister Castro and considers that his baseless, erroneous and misleading statments on this occasion can only contribute further to the unhappy deterioration which has occurred in relations between our two countries over the past year. The Secretary contrasted the Prime Minister’s attitude with the expressions in the Cuban Government’s note of February 186 in which it shared our opinion that negotiations between the two Governments should be conducted “in an appropriate manner, with strict observance of international laws and within the spirit of traditional friendship between the United States and Cuba and of inter-American solidarity.” Still referring to the memorandum, the Secretary told the Chargé that this Government finds itself increasingly obliged to question the good faith of the Cuban Government with respect to a desire for improved relations between the two Governments. He also told the Chargé that a note of protest would be prepared by this Government.7 Dr. Patterson said he would forward the Secretary’s remarks to his Government and expressed personal hopes that relations between the two countries would improve.

A substantial summary of the Secretary’s statement to the Chargé was subsequently given to the press.

  1. Source: Department of State, Secretary’s Memoranda of Conversation: Lot 64 D 199, March 1960. Official Use Only. Drafted by Wieland.
  2. On March 4 a French ship, La Coubre, bringing arms from Belgium, exploded in Havana harbor. A number of French crewmen and 75 Cuban dockworkers were killed.
  3. A copy of the note that Braddock presented to the Foreign Ministry on that occasion is in Department of State, ARA Special Assistant Files: Lot 62 D 24, USG Notes to GOC.
  4. A copy of this statement, also issued at the same time by the Embassy in Havana, is ibid., Secretary’s Memoranda of Conversation: Lot 64 D 199, March 1960.
  5. A copy is ibid.
  6. A copy is ibid.
  7. See Document 455.
  8. A copy of this March 15 note, delivered by the Embassy in Havana to the Foreign Ministry, is in Department of State, ARA Special Assistant Files: Lot 62 D 24, USG Notes to GOC.