90. Memorandum From the Chief of Naval Operations (Burke) to the Joint Chiefs of Staff1


  • Cuba
During the period 26 June to 30 June, nineteen American and Canadian civilians and thirty enlisted personnel of the Navy and Marine Corps were kidnapped and held as hostages by the Cuban rebel Raul Castro. As of 9 July, all civilians except one Canadian had been released but not a single U.S. enlisted man has been released.
From the time of the first incident on 26 June, the Government of Cuba has suspended ground and air action against the insurgents in an effort to insure the safety of the hostages and in the hope such action would expedite their release. This action has not accomplished its purpose, but instead has granted the insurgents a much needed respite from the pressure of the government forces.
It is my opinion that so long as the hostages provide the insurgents protection from air attack, they will not be released, or released one or two at a time over a protracted period during which Raul Castro will demand increased concessions from the U.S. The prestige of the U.S. throughout Latin America has been seriously damaged by the events of the last two weeks. I consider that the damage will be almost irreparable if strong measures are not taken now to secure the release of our personnel.
Accordingly, I recommend that the Joint Chiefs of Staff forward the enclosure2 to the Secretary of Defense as a matter of urgency.
I recommend that this paper not be distributed to the commanders of unified and specified commands.
Arleigh Burke3
  1. Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OSD/ISA Files: FRC 62 A 1698, 092 Cuba. Top Secret. Copies were also sent to the Department of State, the Secretary of the Navy, and to the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs. Stamped on the source text, which is the last-mentioned of these three copies, are the words: “Noted by Mr. Sprague.” In a memorandum of July 10 to Under Secretary Murphy, Richard Finn wrote that Admiral Burke had called that morning and in Murphy’s absence had talked with Finn. Burke summarized the memorandum he was sending to the Joint Chiefs regarding the Cuban situation and explained that “we are being humiliated and that positive measures must be taken.” Burke also stated that “of course people would get hurt.” When Finn mentioned that Ambassador Smith had sent a message that morning regarding additional measures that might be taken (infra), Burke said that “these do not go far enough and that forceful measures are now required.” (Department of State, ARA Deputy Assistant Secretary Files: Lot 61 D 411, Cuba 1958)
  2. The enclosure was a draft of Document 95.
  3. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.