581. Editorial Note

On September 13, the Cuban Foreign Ministry informed the Embassy in Havana that Prime Minister Castro intended to take part in the 15th Session of the United Nations General Assembly later that month in New York. An Embassy officer met that evening with a Foreign Ministry official to discuss security arrangements, transportation and residence facilities, and the size and composition of the Prime Minister’s party. The Embassy officer was told that Castro planned to stay no more than a week and to confine his visit to New York. He hoped to stay as close to the United Nations as possible. (Telegram 1247 from Havana, September 14; Department of State, Central Files, 320/9–1460) On September 14, the Department notified the Cuban Embassy that if Castro did attend the General Assembly session, his movements would be restricted to Manhattan Island. This measure was being adopted strictly on security grounds to assure Castro’s personal safety. (Telegram 531 to Havana, September 14; ibid.)

Some concern was felt in the White House and the Department of State over the possibility of a chance meeting between Prime Minister Castro and President Eisenhower, who planned to stay at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel while he attended the General Assembly session. In a September 16 memorandum to Goodpaster, Lorraine Corcoran, White House Secretary, indicated that the Protocol Office at the Department of State wanted to know whether the White House objected to Prime Minister Castro’s car being parked at the Waldorf-Astoria while the President was there. The Protocol Office did not think it was a good idea, although the Secret Service had said “they could live with it.” In the margin of this memorandum, John S.D. Eisenhower wrote the following note: “Told State that D[wight] E[isenhower] couldn’t care less so long as he doesn’t meet F[idel] C[astro] in elevator.” (Eisenhower Library, Office of the Staff Secretary Records, International Series, UN)

On September 23, the Department provided the Mission at the United Nations guidance in the event that Castro violently attacked the United States in his forthcoming address to the General Assembly and furnished an outline of a rebuttal to be given by the Representative [Page 1072] to the United Nations, James J. Wadsworth. (Telegram 494 to USUN, September 23; Department of State, Central Files, 320/9–2360)

On September 26, Prime Minister Castro addressed the General Assembly and leveled a number of charges against the United States, including the contention that before Castro came to power Cuba had been “virtually a colony” of the United States and that the United States was using the base at Guantanamo to promote “self-aggression, to justify an attack” on Cuba. (U.N. doc. A/PV.872, pages 117–136)

During Castro’s speech, Soviet Premier Nikita S. Khrushchev, who was in attendance, made a remark that apparently escaped the notice of the press and did not appear in the transcript of the proceedings. During his speech, Castro referred to a statement that Admiral Burke had made to the effect that the Soviet Union would not launch rockets if the United States reacted to any Cuban seizure of Guantanamo, because the Soviet Union knew it would be destroyed. Castro commented as follows:

“Just see how an estimate is made, an estimate which is dangerous, since he [Burke] intimates that in the case of an attack on us we are to stand alone. This is something that Admiral Burke has not thought up for himself. But suppose for a moment that Admiral Burke is mistaken. Let us imagine that Admiral Burke, although an Admiral, is wrong. If he is wrong, he is playing irresponsibly with the strongest thing in the world.” (ibid.)

At this point there was applause from the Cuban Delegation and the delegations from certain Communist countries, during which Khrushchev shouted something while brandishing his fist. The U.S. Delegation later learned from a member of the Soviet Delegation that Khrushchev had shouted: “He is mistaken.” (Telegram 822 from USUN, September 28; Department of State, Central Files, 611.37/9–2860)

In telegram 1489 from Havana, September 27, Bonsal provided the Department of State a number of points that could be used as a rebuttal to Castro. (ibid., 320/9–2760) Also on September 27, Representative Wadsworth made a short reply during the plenary session to Castro’s speech and indicated that the United States would soon make available a longer response to Castro’s charges. The text of Wadsworth’s statement is in Department of State Bulletin, October 17, 1960, page 621. Regarding the paper which the United States made available on October 13, see Document 589.

In a memorandum of September 30 to Herter, Hugh S. Cumming summarized world reaction to Castro’s speech. He wrote that reporting and editorial comment were “remarkably scant” except for Moscow, Peiping, the Dominican Republic, and Cuba itself. Cuban reporting [Page 1073] was accompanied by “fulsome flattery”, and the Dominican Republic radio, according to Cumming, “rejoiced that Castro ‘gave the gringos a tongue lashing.”’ Cumming also noted:

“In the Sino-Soviet bloc Soviet commentators extolled Castro and Moscow Radio covered the speech fully in lengthy summaries and commentaries. A comprehensive TASS summary alleged that the ‘hero of the Cuban revolution’ was greeted by ‘stormy’ applause and that his speech was interrupted by applause from a majority of delegates’ on several occasions. TASS also noted his “passionate support” of Soviet disarmament proposals. There was no radio coverage or comment whatever from any other communist state except Communist China, where all Peiping newspapers featured a long summary of the speech without comment.” (Department of State, Central Files, 737. 11–CA/9–3060)

For further documentation on the 15th Session of the United Nations General Assembly, see volume II.