72. Telegram From the Commander of the Naval Base at Guantanamo (Ellis) to the Chief of Naval Operations (Burke)1

7136. Amb Smith intends issue ultimatum am 1 July to effect that if Moa and Base personnel are not returned US custody within 48 hours (by Thursday2 am) he would be forced to request permission from Cuban Govt to use whatever means were practicable to obtain release. COMNAVB concurs.

Consider that safe return Naval personnel is paramount at this stage and direct military force ruled out. Also consider threat to use military force will carry little weight while hostages, families in Cuba and water supply remain vulnerable to retaliation. Prior Thursday, to [Page 120] strengthen bargaining position, intend withdraw all 113 Base families to base followed up by pressure on Cuban Army to maintain strong force at Jayeras. Subsequent possible threats could include:

Airlift approx 200 Marines to base accompanied by full fanfare.
Apprehend Base employees known to be active rebel sympathizers and threaten to reveal names or turn over to Cuban Army unless Base personnel are returned promptly.
Threaten that full logistic support Cuban Armed Forces will be provided by Base in support operations against rebels.
Threaten bar all Cuban employees from Base until hostages returned.

If progress is not made in obtaining release as initial step request approval to issue following statement locally Thursday am: “COMNAVBASE GTMO has endeavored to maintain strict neutrality during the unrest in Cuba in compliance with international law and customs of civilized nations. However, the outrageous action of Fidel Castro forces in abducting innocent Naval personnel may force the Naval Base to depart from its position of neutrality and join Cuban Govt forces in action against a common enemy. Unless Base personnel are returned promptly unharmed, the Base commander intends to request authority from Washington to render logistic support to Cuban Govt forces in its campaign to wipe out all opposition. To insure success in this operation it will be necessary to bar all employees from the Base who are Castro sympathizers. Unfortunately, these sympathizers are not all known and it may be necessary to replace all Cuban employees with Naval personnel. These drastic actions would inflict severe hardship and pain on many innocent people and COMNAVBASE hopes that they will not be necessary. He appeals to all decent Cuban citizens to use their influence to speed the early return of Base personnel who have been abducted.”

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 737.00/7–858. Confidential. Repeated to CINCLANTFLT, CMC, COMCARIBSEAFRON, and ALUSNA Havana.
  2. July 3.