593. Memorandum of a Conference With the President, White House, Washington, October 17, 1960, 8:05–8:33 a.m.1


  • General Persons, Secretary Dillon, Secretary Mann, General Goodpaster

Mr. Dillon said the Mexicans are in some difficulty over the question of our action regarding exports to Cuba, in combination with the forthcoming visit of the President to Del Rio. Regarding the first aspect, the Mexicans will say that the meeting of the two Presidents will not be concerned with other than bilateral matters, and will thereby keep away from the Cuban question.2 Regarding the other question that has been put to the Mexicans—whether they would prefer to have the President delay his visit until sometime such as January 15th, Mr. Dillon said the Mexicans are not yet ready to reply. The President said his concern is that there should not be a forced postponement occurring at the last minute as happened in the case of Japan.3

Mr. Dillon said that if the Mexicans now tell us that they prefer for the visit to go ahead, they are taking the responsibility not to make a big issue over our action regarding Cuba. With respect to the question of this action, it is clear that the Central Americans welcome it, and in fact consider it long overdue, in view of the provocations the Cubans have carried out against them. Elsewhere, reaction is rather mixed.

The President said his main objection, when the matter was presented to him on the preceding Thursday,4 is that he was expected to take action so quickly, on a matter of such wide implication. He said that he had no strong objection at the present time, if the State Department, after careful evaluation, recommended this action as the thing to do. He added that he had talked with the Vice President, who thought we ought to take some action with respect to Cuba at an early date.

Mr. Dillon said the State Department people had studied the possibility of some reaction by the Cubans involving the Soviets. The State Department thinks that the Soviets will not conclude a defense pact with the Cubans, since this would alienate the rest of Latin America.

Mr. Dillon then told the President the State Department will try to develop a feeling in the OAS against arms shipments coming into Cuba. Our own action has led the way in this respect.

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Mr. Dillon also added that the State Department is recommending that Ambassador Bonsal be recalled to take the post of Ambassador to the OAS, replacing Ambassador Dreier who is retiring. The President asked if anything is being done, or can be done, regarding the shooting by the Cubans of three Americans charged with insurrection.5 Mr. Dillon said that Haiti is showing some initiative in this matter, on the basis that the action of the Cubans is contrary to American practice—for example, when Cubans attempted to invade Haiti.

[Here follows discussion of the situation in the Dominican Republic]

Returning to the first question discussed, Mr. Dillon thought that the Cuban announcement could be made on about Wednesday6 if the problem with the Mexicans was resolved. The President agreed, asking that he be informed as soon as the way seemed to be clear.

The President asked what position U.S. sugar consumers would be in if the Soviets were to buy the whole Cuban sugar crop. Mr. Mann said that world sugar production is in a surplus status, and Mr. Dillon said he thought we could manage without undue difficulty by drawing from sources such as Peru, Formosa, etc. The President threw out the idea of buying sugar for storage, as a one-time purchase to build up inventories.

General Persons and Mr. Mann left the meeting. [Here follows discussion of arms shipments to Liberia.]

Mr. Dillon said the Vice President would like to be tied into the President’s action in Cuba in some way. After some consideration, he and the President agreed that this would be very difficult to do in any acceptable way.

The President concluded the meeting by referring to a letter he had recently learned about from George Washington to an intended dinner guest. Washington told this man he wanted him to come in to dinner because he wished to give him a spy mission that he would explain personally. The President observed that spying seems to be nothing new.

Brigadier General, USA
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Whitman File, DDE Diaries. Secret. Prepared by Goodpaster on October 18. The time of the meeting is taken from the President’s Appointment Book. (ibid., President’s Daily Appointments)
  2. A memorandum of President Eisenhower’s conversation with President Lopez Mateos at Ciudad Acuna on October 24, which gives no indication that the subject of Cuba was discussed by the two Presidents, is scheduled for publication in volume V.
  3. Documentation regarding the postponement of the President’s trip to Japan, which had been scheduled for June 1960, is scheduled for publication in volume XVII.
  4. October 13; see Document 590.
  5. The three Americans—Anthony Zarba, Robert Otis Fuller, and Allen Dale Thompson—were among a group of about 26 armed men who landed on the north coast of Oriente Province on October 2, almost all of whom were captured by Cuban Government authorities. The invaders were tried before public courts-martial; the 3 Americans were among 10 who were sentenced to death and executed. The Consul at Santiago de Cuba, G.H. Summ, provided the Department a 9-page report on the invasion attempt and courts-martial in despatch 32 from Santiago de Cuba, October 20. (Department of State, Central Files, 737.00/10–2060)
  6. October 19. For text of the Department announcement on October 19 that the United States was prohibiting American exports to Cuba except for nonsubsidized foodstuffs, medicines, and medical supplies, see Department of State Bulletin, November 7, 1960, pp. 715–716.