609. Memorandum of a Meeting With the President, White House, Washington, November 7, 1960, 10:15–10:23 a.m.1


  • Secretary Gates, Secretary Douglas, General Lemnitzer, Secretary Merchant, Assistant Secretary Mann, Mr. Harr and Mr. Gray

Immediately following the conclusion of the NSC meeting, this date,2 the named individuals met with the President in his office.

Mr. Gray opened the meeting by reminding the President that there had recently arisen the question of the doctrine of “immediate pursuit” with respect to Cuba. Mr. Gray reminded the President that this matter developed during Mr. Gray’s brief period in Walter Reed hospital and had been handled in his absence by Mr. Harr. At that time the President had approved interim guidance3 which now the JCS felt inadequate to the situation and the purpose of the meeting was to seek his approval for further and more explicit guidance.

Mr. Gates and General Lemnitzer both spoke to the problem and the President agreed that explicit guidance should be given.

Mr. Gray suggested that a simple way to handle the problem would be to extend the provisions of NSC 5604 (U.S. Action in the Event of Unprovoked Communist Attack against U.S. Aircraft),4 which had been revised as late as February 15, 1959 to be extended to Cuba. The President wondered whether the authority given in NSC 5604 was not broader than he wished granted in the case of Cuba. Mr. Gray read paragraphs 1 and 2 of NSC 5604.

The President indicated that these restrictions were appropriate in the case of Cuba.

General Lemnitzer then read certain further restrictions which the JCS proposed and which the President also approved.

Subject to these restrictions he agreed that the same policy should apply to Cuba as that set forth in NSC 5604. (Both of these sets of restrictions were set forth in Memorandum for the Secretary of Defense [Page 1122] and Secretary of State dated November 10, 1960 subsequently prepared and attached hereto.)5

He then said that he wished it to be understood that only experienced and mature pilots should be involved who could be counted upon to follow the instructions approved. The President also expressed the desire that wherever possible planes be equipped with photographic equipment in order to produce every possible documentation of unprovoked attack and that this consideration should also apply to ships.

Gordon Gray
  1. Source: Eisenhower Library, Project “Clean Up” Records, Meetings with the President. Top Secret. Prepared by Gordon Gray on November 14. Copies were sent to Goodpaster and Lay. The time of the meeting is taken from the President’s Appointment Book. (ibid.) The source text indicates that the meeting began at approximately 10:20 a.m. Also published in Declassified Documents, 1985, 1984.
  2. See supra.
  3. The President’s approval was given in a meeting on October 17 with Harr, Goodpaster, and Gordon Gray, which is described in Harr’s memorandum for the record, October 17. (Eisenhower Library, Project “Clean Up” Records, Meetings with the President) The memorandum is also published in Declassified Documents, 1983, 1345.
  4. A copy of this paper, as revised on February 15, 1959, is in Department of State, S/SNSC Files: Lot 63 D 351, NSC 5604 Series.
  5. Not printed. In the memorandum, Gray briefly described the meeting and indicated that the President had approved the following policy:

    • “a. Subject to paragraph b below, in the event of unprovoked Cuban armed attack against U.S. aircraft/ships outside Cuban territory, those U.S. aircraft attacked or located in the immediate area of the attack may take against the Cuban attacking force during the course of the attack aggressive protective measures, including if necessary and feasible immediate pursuit of the Cuban attacking force into Cuban air space.
    • “b. The authority under paragraph a is subject to the following restrictions:
      • “(1) Such pursuit will not include prolonged pursuit deep into Cuban air space.
      • “(2) Commanders will not be authorized deliberately and systematically to organize a pursuing force.
      • “(3) This authority will apply only to sporadic isolated, small-scale incidents.
      • “(4) Pilots employed against harassing aircraft should be thoroughly briefed that in the event Cuban aircraft harass our forces they will:
        • “(a) Make their presence known to the harasser by flying close aboard.
        • “(b) Firing is not authorized except in case of self-defense or attack is made on our forces. It is imperative that fighter pilot be positively certain that either he or aircraft/ship that he has been dispatched to defend has actually been fired upon before he (the fighter) initiates an attack.
        • “(c) In event Cuban aircraft is guilty of harassment only and has not fired upon our forces, fighter in making presence known by flying close aboard will discontinue these tactics upon the Cuban aircraft’s withdrawal to Cuban territorial waters (3 miles offshore).”

    Gray also noted the President’s statements made at the conclusion of the meeting.