626. Memorandum from U. Alexis Johnson to McCone, March 61

[Facsimile Page 1]


  • U–2 Overflights of Cuba, 29 August through 14 October, 1962

We have reviewed your memorandum of February 27 prepared for background use on the foregoing subject and offer the following comments and suggestions.

As a general observation, I wonder whether it would not be practicable and desirable, in testifying on and discussing this subject, for everyone to adopt the same general principle that the President set forth with regard to the discussions in the NSC Executive Committee during the Cuba crisis, that is, there would not be any discussion of the various positions taken by the various individuals or institutions concerned. As in the case of the deliberations of the NSC Executive Committee, this need not and should not inhibit discussion of the issues and the various considerations involved in reaching decisions while avoiding the inevitable difficulties involved in trying to reconstruct in a public or semi-public way all of the views and positions of the individuals and institutions involved. If we are to maintain within the Government that degree of frankness and freedom to state views out of which sound decisions can be reached, particularly on sensitive intelligence matters, it seems to me that we should seek to preserve the anonymity of our advice and deliberations.

Thus, my own preference would be toward revision of the memorandum to delete all reference to personalities and institutions as well as debatable subjective judgments such as those in the last paragraph on page 2 and the second paragraph on page 3, and to confine the memorandum to a straight factual account of events. This could be done by deletion of the last paragraph at the bottom of page 1, all of page 2, the first two paragraphs at the top of page 3, the first line of the third paragraph on page 3, the paragraph beginning at the bottom of page 4 through the first full paragraph on page 5, [Facsimile Page 2] all of page 6 beginning with the first full paragraph, and the first paragraph on page 7. This might require some slight rewriting to provide transition, but [Typeset Page 1628] generally it seems to me the remaining material contains a full factual account. However, with respect to the last paragraph on page 10, we would suggest changes. I believe that the present language creates a misleading impression that there were more raw reports indicating offensive missiles than there actually were, that they “dovetailed” more than they actually did as to suspect area, that these reports were considered at high levels in the government (which to the best of my knowledge they were not), and that “MRBM’s were suspected” as though this was a generally accepted view between September 18 and October 15. I suggest the following reworked version as a substitute for this final paragraph on page 10:

“Additionally, from September 18th through October 2nd, certain agent and refugee reports created a suspicion among the analysts that there might be something of unusual importance going on in an area west of Havana and that this unusual activity might be concerned with MRBM’s. These reports, however, were not of sufficient credibility to warrant their being used in intelligence publications. Nevertheless, the track of the flight planned at the October 9th meeting to test the operational readiness of the known SAM sites was drawn to cover the suspect area.”

If, however, it is the opinion of the President that the views of individuals should be included, the Secretary of State requests that the views attributed to him in the last paragraph on page 6 be corrected to read as follows:

“The Secretary of State expressed concern over the flight plan as proposed by CIA, involving as it did extensive peripheral coverage as well as two segments directly over Cuba. He said that such a long flight incurred exposure unnecessarily because the substantial peripheral portions could be flown as peripheral flights and that the portions involving direct overflight of Cuba could be handled with less exposure time if they would not combine with a peripheral mission. He recognized the necessity of obtaining vertical coverage of the Isle of Pines and the eastern portion of Cuba. He felt, however, that it was unwise to combine extensive overflying of international waters with actual overflights. He pointed [Facsimile Page 3] out that the long peripheral flight would draw undue attention to the mission and further that, should the aircraft fall into enemy hands after an overflight had occurred, this would put the United States in a very poor position for standing on its rights to overfly international waters.”

With respect to Mr. McGeorge Bundy’s memorandum of February 25 addressed to the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense and the Director of Central Intelligence, you will note that he refers to the top secret code word report prepared by you for the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board with respect to intelligence on Cuba before and during the October crisis as a “coordinated report”. In this connection, it is [Typeset Page 1629] my understanding that, while other agencies assisted in the drafting of the report, you did not seek nor obtain their concurrence in the final draft but rather considered it your personal report to the Intelligence Advisory Board. This was certainly entirely proper on your part and accordingly the Department of State did not insist that a number of suggestions and amendments, which it offered but were not accepted by you, be made prior to submission of the report. Thus, if you concur, I suggest that Mr. Bundy’s understanding of the exact status of the report be clarified.

U. Alexis Johnson
  1. State Department changes to McCone’s February 27 memorandum on U–2 overflights of Cuba, August 29–October 14, 1962. Secret. 3 pp. Kennedy Library, NSF, Countries Series, Cuba—Subjects, Intelligence Material, Vol. IV.