334. Standing Committee Paper, October 181
1. It is assumed that an attack of the magnitude of Plan 3 will almost inevitably escalate into an invasion of Cuba through either attacks by air or sea on US territory, attacks on Guantanamo, or internal uprisings of the Cuban people to which we would be compelled to respond.
2. There might be some advantages in minimizing negative reactions by both Soviets and free world by initiating only an attack on offensive capabilities in Cuba and letting escalation take place in response to Cuban initiatives. However, we should make our military plans on the assumption that we would have to continue the air assault into the pre-invasion softening-up phase and at the appropriate time land in force.
3. The effectiveness of Plan 3 in achieving its military objective of knocking out offensive capabilities in Cuba would be seriously diminished without strategic surprise. Opportunities would be given to disperse and camouflage targets and alert air defense forces. Therefore, there is a strong argument against either Congressional actions, [Facsimile Page 2] private exchanges with Soviets or Castro, or consultations with our major allies.[Typeset Page 1070]
3(a). There are also possible political advantages in surprise. A sudden attack, over in a day, would become so quickly a fait accompli, that foreign ministers would have no time to develop attacks on the action but would be busy with its aftermath. On the other hand failure to give notice is subject to the charge of sneak attack or reverse Pearl Harbor, which is not considered really cricket in some quarters.
4. If the initial decision is for invasion, this is no longer a problem as invasion preparations would deprive us of strategic surprise in any case. In addition the intensive and continued air attacks incident to invasion should make possible the destruction of most priority targets. The removal of the Castro Government would deprive any remaining targets of their threat.
5. It should be noted that if invasion does not take place Plan 3 cannot be assumed to be a one-time affair. As new targets are discovered or arrive in Cuba, prompt new strikes will become necessary to eliminate their threat to the US and maintain the integrity of our public commitments. It may be difficult to adjust their timing to the current [Facsimile Page 3] international situation. We will still have given the Soviets the power to force us into military action in Cuba at times of their choosing.
6. Plan 3, itself, involves no sure threat to the Castro regime. It therefore involves some risk of our having undertaken a warlike act which will displease many people in the free world without unseating Castro’s regime and thus pleasing all the others, particularly our best friends in Latin America.
7. At the same time it would be difficult for the Soviets to resist pressures to retaliate, preferably in kind as in Turkey. We would have killed Soviets in Cuba certainly, in addition to many Cubans, and an attack on Turkish bases is almost sure to involve killing Americans. It would then be very difficult to avoid an escalation into general nuclear war as feelings would be high among both peoples. A retaliation by major moves in Berlin would be equally difficult for the West to accept.
8. If NATO were forced to choose between defeat in Berlin or disgrace in Turkey, on the one hand, or nuclear war on the other, because of 200-sorties against Cuban facilities which might have become a nuclear threat against the US of the [Facsimile Page 4] sort the Europeans have long lived with, the alliance would be put under serious strain indeed.
9. Similar issues might be raised for the US if instead of Soviet retaliation in Europe, our bombing was not wholly effective, some of the MRBM’s were operational, (much less likely that MIG’s would have nuclear bombs) and in the heat of combat Soviet crews with poor connections to Moscow, perhaps believing the attack on them was only part of a general first strike by the US on the Soviet Union, should launch nuclear missiles on the US. It would be exceedingly difficult to [Typeset Page 1071] prevent US retaliation on the Soviet Union. Their ability to do this might be enhanced if they had several days warning of a possible attack.
10. It is difficult to be persuaded that these difficult dilemmas are worth creating unless the military posture of the US vis-à-vis the Soviet Union were to be seriously impaired in the absence of this action. But from the standpoint of relative nuclear balance it is most difficult to make this argument. The basic justification must then be the need for the US to act to support the creditability of its word and firmness in the eyes of the [Facsimile Page 5] Soviets and of its partners. If other actions could come close to satisfying this criteria, they would deserve careful consideration.
11. It seems unlikely that in over-all terms our allies will be any more concerned by invasion than by substantial air attacks with prospects of their continuation. The immediate reaction would, of course, be tempered by the nature of the Soviet response. Most of our LA allies would prefer invasion and the remainder would see no difference. While they might not say so, many of our European allies are bored and bothered with our constant concern about Cuba and would be happy to have us take care of the problem and remove it from the world scene, even if that meant invasion. But their public posture would, of course, be strongly influenced by Soviet reaction, and somewhat less so by the nature of our advance consultations. These would, of course, be better from their standpoint in the invasion situation.[Facsimile Page 6]
1. With Plan 3 alone the need for surprise is so great that no advance consultation can be recommended. Preferably action would be as follows:
a. D or Decision day.
b. D + 24 hours Notification and justification delivered in personal letters from President to Macmillan, DeGaulle and Adenauer, and from Secretary Rusk to heads of state or Foreign Ministers of Latin American countries and Canada.
c. D + 24–25 Dependents leave Guantanamo on no alert notice basis, while reinforcing ships stand by.
d. D + 25 Castro and Mr. K. notified and reasons for and limits of intended action explained.
e. D + 25 Attacks commence, and Pres. announces what we are doing and why.
f. D + 48 Action explained and current situation discussed at NATO and OAS Council meetings by senior State Department representatives and position presented to world by Stevenson in speech at UN. OAS requested authorize meeting of Organ of Consultation to consider action to be taken in light of new situation.[Facsimile Page 7]
g. D + 48 In accordance with notice given in all these forums US planes start overland surveillance at such levels as may be necessary, with fighter escort to protect them from MIG’s.[Typeset Page 1072]
h. D ± 48 ± Follow-up actions as necessary to defend Guantanamo, protect significant rebel movements in Cuba and eliminate new offensive weapons as discovered.
i. D + 24 + US forces throughout world on 24 hour alert until called off and special units and stocks of riot control equipment available in Canal Zone for air transport to assist in maintaining friendly governments of Latin America in power against possible attacks by Castro-Soviet sympathizers.
2. If it should be decided from the start to invade, the time and activities required to prepare for it will permit consultation rather than notification.
a. D—Decision to invade.
b. D + 1 Letter sent to Castro and Mr. K. along lines of present drafts.
c. D + 3–4 If no favorable responses, President announces facts and calls for Organ. of Consultation meeting and special NATO meeting to consider situation, dependents pull out of Guantanamo and behind Curtain, some reserves called up, NATO and Guantanamo forces strengthened.
d. D + 5–6 Organ. of Consultation authorizes necessary measures to defend Hemisphere against threat of aggression, including armed attack, US announces total blockade of Cuba in framework state of war.
e. D + 6 US position presented by Stevenson in UN. Latin American allies alerted to possible internal disorders, US support on standby basis in Canal Zone.[Facsimile Page 9]
f. D + 7 [less than 1 line not declassified] provided no political moves have made it unnecessary, all US forces around world on 24 hour day alert.
g. D + 12–14 [less than 1 line not declassified] provided no new political developments have made it unnecessary, with help some OAS forces.
- Option III—Invasion. Top Secret. 9 pp. WNRC, RG 330, OASD (C) A Files: FRC 71 A 2896, Nitze Files: Black Book, Cuba, Vol. I.↩