224. Editorial Note

At a meeting in Secretary of State Ruskʼs office on August 21, 1962, Director of Central Intelligence McCone reported new information available on the accelerated Soviet supply of personnel and materiel to Cuba. McCone indicated that the extent of Soviet supply operations was much greater than had been reported 11 days earlier and that construction work probably included either highly sophisticated electronic installations or missile sites, probably ground-to-air. According to McConeʼs memorandum of the meeting: “There was general agreement that the situation was critical and that the most dynamic action was indicated. There was discussion of various courses of action open to us in case the Soviets place MRBM missiles on Cuban territory. There was also discussion of blockades of Soviet and Bloc shipping into Cuba or alternatively a total blockade of Cuba. Throughout these discussions, it was abundantly clear that in the minds of State, and Mr. Bundy, speaking for the White House, there is a very definite inter-relationship between Cuba and other trouble spots, such as Berlin. It was felt that a blockade of Cuba would automatically bring about a blockade of Berlin.” For text of McConeʼs memorandum, see Foreign Relations, 1961-1963, volume X, pages 947949.

The next day Presidentʼs Special Assistant Schlesinger forwarded to McGeorge Bundy an intelligence memorandum on Soviet military aid to Cuba that concluded that recent military shipments and construction activity, together with recent Soviet bloc economic commitments, amounted “to the most extensive campaign to bolster a non-bloc country ever undertaken by the USSR.” In his covering memorandum, however, Schlesinger stated that “any military construction will probably be defensive in function; a launching pad directed against the U.S. would be too blatant a provocation.” For text, see ibid., pages 950953.

At a meeting on Cuba with his advisers on August 23, the President raised the question, according to McConeʼs memorandum of the meeting, of “what we could do against Soviet missile sites in Cuba. Could we take them out by air or would a ground offensive be necessary or alternatively could they be destroyed by a substantial guerrilla effort.” The President also “raised question of what we should do in Cuba if Soviets precipitated a Berlin crisis.” After the meeting McCone told Attorney General Robert Kennedy privately that “Cuba was the key to all of Latin America; if Cuba succeeds, we can expect most of Latin America to fall.” In National Security Action Memorandum No. 181, issued later the same day, the President specified eight actions or studies to be “undertaken in the light of evidence of new bloc activity in Cuba.” For text of McConeʼs memorandum and NSAM No. 181, see ibid., pages 953958.