584. Memorandum From the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the Secretary of Defense (Gates)1



  • U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba
Ever since the Castro regime came to power there has been a question as to whether Castro would ultimately declare the Treaty, under which the United States maintains a naval station at Guantanamo, null and void and demand that the United States give up the [Page 1077] Base. Castro’s speech before the United Nations General Assembly on 26 September 19602 provides indications that unilateral denunciation of the Treaty may be expected in the near future. It is the position of the Joint Chiefs of Staff that the United States should not accede to any unilateral denunciation of the Treaty but should insist on remaining in Guantanamo as it is entitled to do under international law. Accordingly it has been assumed that the United States will remain in Guantanamo and plans have been prepared to defend the Base against all forms of pressure including defense against Cuban military attack.
Since no official State Department position is available on these subjects, the Joint Chiefs of Staff recommend that you obtain the concurrence of the Secretary of State on the following policy proposals:
It is United States policy to retain Guantanamo even though Castro unilaterally denounces the Treaty which provides for U.S. operation and maintenance of the Guantanamo Naval Base.
The U.S. military is expected to take the necessary measures to defend the Base against all forms of harassment including perimeter defense of the Base in the event of armed attack. In this connection defensive action may be required beyond the Base perimeter in some military contingencies, such as aerial attack or to destroy forces which immediately threaten the Base.
It is also requested that the Secretary of State be advised that contingency plans for military action in Cuba have been prepared at the direction of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Should the Castro government engage in a major or continuing attack against Guantanamo, the Joint Chiefs of Staff assume that such action would constitute an act of war and that the United States would respond by directing the implementation of these plans. Also should the Department of State desire military assistance in the implementation of any economic sanctions against Cuba, the Department of Defense is prepared to establish a naval patrol of Cuban waters.
For the Joint Chiefs of Staff:
Arleigh Burke
Chief of Naval Operations
  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OSD Files: FRC 64 A 2093, Cuba 091. Secret.
  2. See Document 581.