688. Memorandum from the Joint Chiefs of Staff to McNamara, June 151

[Facsimile Page 1]


  • US Courses of Action in Case of a Revolt in Cuba (C)

1. The Joint Chiefs of Staff have reviewed the draft State-Defense plan transmitted by a memorandum by the Director for Arms Control, OASD (ISA), dated 5 June 1963, subject as above.

2. The military course of action recommended by the Joint Chiefs of Staff to meet the contingency of a spontaneous (non-US initiated) revolt, which shows promise of succeeding, is to provide the insurgent group or groups sufficient assistance to assure their survival until US invasion forces can be mobilized and committed. Considering the increasingly efficient internal security apparatus of the Castro regime, as well as meager US intelligence and unconventional warfare (UW) assets in Cuba, successful revolt without invasion, even with other US support, is unlikely at this time. Moreover, under existing conditions, as the Joint Chiefs of Staff stated in JCSM–358–63, US forces should be committed incrementally in a structured “rescue” only if some or all of the following conditions are met:

a. The uprising gives promise of success if US aid can be provided rapidly, and has a large measure of support among armed forces and the people.

b. Identifiable and dependable leadership of the uprising appears, and is acceptable, to the United States.

c. This leadership requests US military assistance and undertakes to cooperate fully with the US Government.

[Facsimile Page 2]

d. Sufficient areas of Cuba are under control of the revolutionaries to justify the piecemeal implementation of CINCLANT OPLAN 316–63.

e. An assessment is made at the time that US military participation constitutes a valid risk.

To commit US forces under other circumstances could (1) invite defeat in detail, (2) heighten the risk of major US-USSR confrontation, because of Soviet initial preponderance of power, and (3) require US combat forces to fight on terms of maximum advantage to the enemy. Optimally, support to resistance elements prior to the invasion would be confined to logistic, UW, and fire support which would detract from the combat power of the invasion forces to the smallest extent possible [Typeset Page 1777] and not alter materially the location or timing of operations planned in CINCLANT OPLANS 312 and 316.

3. The draft State-Defense plan is unduly restrictive in its concept for use of airpower. It provides, during either the covert or overt phase, for US destruction of the offending nexus of SAM sites or air bases if the SAM batteries or interceptor aircraft brought down a US plane. However, it fails to include during the overt phase of operations the need for the possible suppression and/or elimination of those air defenses which might endanger the air movement of US troops into the area.

4. The draft State-Defense plan is at variance in several significant respects with the views of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who consider that:

a. Although a palace revolt may be the most likely type of revolt, it is unlikely to occur at this time.

b. Portions, or all of CINCLANT OPLANS 31a and 31b, as necessary, should be implemented to support any revolt the United States chooses to exploit.

c. The possible neutralization or elimination of Soviet forces in Cuba, with either lethal or nonlethal munitions, should be included explicitly in US plans for implementation as circumstances warrant at the time.

[Facsimile Page 3]

5. The Joint Chiefs of Staff do not agree that the Soviets should be informed of a US decision to initiate covert operations in Cuba in support of revolt. They recognize that the Soviets should be made aware of the US determination to assist resistance movements in general, but, inasmuch as the very object of initiating covert support is to determine whether the United States should back a given revolt, and to what extent, US intentions should not be revealed before the decision has been made to undertake overt operations.

6. The Joint Chiefs of Staff also do not believe that a Special Representative of the President should move immediately into Cuba to establish direct liaison between the US Government and the “provisional government.” Recognition of the insurgents, including their belligerent status under the 1928 Habana Convention, should provide sufficient legal justification for US military support of the insurgents. [text not declassified] In any event, final US political commitment to the insurgents should be withheld until their ability to govern is demonstrated, and their political complexion evident. [text not declassified] CINCLANT should be the Presidential representative for Cuba. Plans for capitalizing on a revolutionary government, and for providing for the transfer of control from CINCLANT to the Department of State, are among those plans suggested in subparagraph 3 b of JCSM–358–63.

7. In summary, the Joint Chiefs of Staff conclude that many aspects of the draft State-Defense plan in its present form are not militarily [Typeset Page 1778] feasible or desirable and, if implemented, would entail excessive risks. It is recommended that the plan be revised to reflect the comments in the foregoing paragraphs, those forwarded in JCSM–358–63, and the data forwarded by JCSM–360–63, dated 10 May 1963, to the Secretary of the Army for use in his capacity as Executive Agent of the DOD for Policy toward Cuba. A copy of JCSM–360–63, together with its attachment, is forwarded herewith.

For the Joint Chiefs of Staff:

Maxwell D. Taylor
Joint Chiefs of Staff
  1. U.S. courses of action in case of a revolt in Cuba. Top Secret. 3 pp. WNRC, OASD/ISA Files: FRC 69 A 0926, Cuba Sensitive 1963, 38/1–35752/63 15 June 63.