546. Memorandum of Discussion at the Department of State–Joint Chiefs of Staff Meeting, Pentagon, Washington, July 8, 1960, 11:30 a.m.1

Mr. Merchant said that he had two subjects he would like to raise before those on the agenda:

[Here follows discussion of matters unrelated to Cuba.]

2. Mr. Dillon and Ambassador Bonsal had expressed their concern regarding the movement of Marines en route to Puerto Rico because of their proximity to Cuba and the fact that the movement might be interpreted as an act of aggression by the Cubans if the Marines were noted in the vicinity. To this Admiral Burke replied that Ambassador Bonsal was unnecessarily concerned; that the Cubans could not possibly locate the Marines; and that they were out of sight of land 50 to 100 miles south of Cuba. Mr. Merchant, in reply to General LeMay’s remark that if there were trouble in Cuba we certainly did not want to be in a position of being unable to protect American lives, said that he throughly agreed the Marines should be near at hand but that he felt he must urge they be kept sufficiently far from Cuba so as not to arouse Cuban suspicions.

[Here follows discussion of matters unrelated to Cuba.]

VI. Latest Developments in Cuba (JCS Initiative)

General Lemnitzer asked to have a run-down on the latest developments in Cuba. Mr. Merchant replied that action is still going forward on covert operations; that the President is contemplating an early announcement of expanded economic assistance to Latin America which would have the added advantage of serving to off-set Cuban charges on our sugar action and that the program would have a long-range impact on the economic development of all Latin American countries. He pointed out that the OAS is voting this afternoon on the Venezuelan request for a meeting of the OAS Foreign Ministers early in August. We have told the Venezuelans and the OAS that we would support the Venezuelan request. We had also informed them that we could not consider the Dominican Republic without considering Cuba also. Accordingly, we suggested, following adjournment of the meeting, that it reconvene to consider Castro. As yet we have not received many responses to this proposal.

[Page 993]

Mr. Merchant thought that the most disturbing recent occurrence had been the remarks of the Senate Majority Leader in Mexico.2 We had called in the Mexican Ambassador here to ask for an explanation.3 As yet, however, there are no signs of hostility against U.S. citizens in Mexico.

Mr. Smith added that a report from the FBI had been received which indicated that the USSR had turned down the Cuban request for tankers.

Mr. Merchant remarked that the British attitude had been discouraging, that we had asked the UK to prevent British-owned tankers carrying goods to Cuba but that the Government had “ducked” our request.

Mr. Merchant also added that we are approaching the Canadians with regard to the blocking of Cuban funds but that the British are pessimistic as to the success of our endeavors.

Admiral Burke commented that as a result of the mass meeting in Havana called for Sunday4 the situation might turn into a bloody riot. Mr. Smith commented that at the NSC meeting yesterday5 it was agreed that, if Americans have to leave, they would be so advised privately rather than publicly.

The meeting ended with an inconclusive discussion of the proposed Emergency Proclamation.

  1. Source: Department of State, State–JCS Meetings: Lot 70 D 328, July 1960. Top Secret. Drafted by Robert Donhauser, Special Assistant to Under Secretary Merchant. A note on the source text indicates that it was not cleared with the Department of Defense. A cover sheet lists 25 participants in the meeting from the Departments of State and Defense, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the National Security Council.
  2. Reference is to the statement on July 7 by Mexican Senate Majority leader Emilio Sanchez Piedra expressing solidarity with Cuba.
  3. Not identified further.
  4. July 10.
  5. See supra.