403. Memorandum From the Deputy Secretary of Defense (Gilpatric) to President Kennedy 0

SUBJECT

  • Cuba

Attached are answers prepared by the Joint Staff to a series of questions which I put to them yesterday after our telephone conversation.

By the time of your return Tuesday,1 Defense and the CIA will be prepared to give you an analysis of the recently acquired intelligence on Cuba, and we will also have ready for submission to you a proposal for further intelligence.

Roswell Gilpatric
[Page 1011]

Attachment

SUBJECT

  • Response to Questions Pertaining to Cuba
1.
In compliance with your oral request to Brigadier General Harris on 31 August 1962 for a response to specific questions concerning recent intelligence on Cuba, the attached staff paper is submitted.
2.
The responses highlight the recent increase in Cuban offensive/defensive capability but obviously do not constitute a detailed analysis of the overall military threat posed by the Cuban/Soviet build-up. Current US contingency plans and force structure are capable now of meeting this new threat, however, there are additional risks involved which were not present six weeks ago. A projection of the current build-up indicates that the risks will increase in the future and that US involvement in an operation to rid Cuba of communism will become progressively more costly in terms of time, personnel and equipment.
John M. Reynolds
Major General USAF
Vice Director

Enclosure

RESPONSE TO QUESTIONS PERTAINING TO CUBA IN THE LIGHT OF RECENT INTELLIGENCE

1. What was the military capability of the Cubans for attacks against the United States prior to receipt of equipment recently?

a.
Approximately 25 operational MIG aircraft capable of carrying two 500 pound bombs, in addition to their 20 and 37 MM cannon. These MIGs could attack targets as far north as Tampa and, on a one-way mission, they could attack targets stretching between New Orleans and Savannah.
b.
Approximately eight operational B-26 aircraft, each capable of carrying five 500 pound bombs and attacking targets on round trip missions [Page 1012] in an arc between Mobile and Savannah and, on one-way missions, they could attack targets stretching from San Antonio in the west, Cleveland to the north and New York in the east.
c.
Approximately 15 small craft including 12 Motor Torpedo Boats (MTBs) which could make nuisance raids against southeastern coastal cities and lines of communication.

2. What is the effect of the acquisition of missiles and missile carrying torpedo boats?

a.
Extensive deployment of surface-to-air missiles (SA-2ʼs) will make reconnaissance more hazardous. It will increase the problem and costs involved in neutralizing air defense capabilities in the event of open conflict.
b.
Missile carrying torpedo boats greatly enhance Cubaʼs coastal defense. Offensively, these boats can be used against shipping, coastal cities and industrial complexes in southeastern United States consistent with the following capabilities: KOMAR class boats are capable of a sustained maximum speed of 45 knots for over 500 miles or a 1400 mile range at 22 knots. Each carries two Mach-1 missiles with a range of 10-15 NM carrying a 2000 pound warhead.

3. How much more secure are they for launching attacks against the United States?

The SA-2 is a modern, first-line anti-aircraft missile, with an engagement range of 30 miles and a high reliability at altitudes from 2,500 to 60,000 feet and with limited effectiveness up to 80,000 feet. The presence of these missiles in Cuba is an added hazard to our air reconnaissance and will make it more difficult for us to determine that offensive preparations are underway.

4. What was required for the United States to deal with the situation before the latest acquisition?

Contingency plans envisioned the seizure of key strategic areas in Cuba within 10-15 days after landing with the minimum of casualties to both sides. Plans are based on the premise that an adequate amount of time will be allocated for pre-assault preparations. Major units involved in the initial assault include: two Army airborne divisions, an Infantry brigade, an Armored combat command, one and one-third Marine Division/Wing Teams, a Navy Striking and Covering Force together with an amphibious task force, 17 USAF tactical fighter squadrons and 53 troop carrier or transport squadrons.

5. How much more difficult is it for the United States to deal with the situation now?

The strengthening of Cuban military capabilities will increase the resistance which must be overcome in the event of US operations in [Page 1013] Cuba. It may take somewhat longer to achieve the same degree of neutralization, since it will be necessary to neutralize the SA-2 installations and MTBs before major airborne and amphibious operations can begin. There also exists the possibility that the opportunity of obtaining strategic and tactical surprise may be prejudiced because of the increased period of time required for preliminary operations against these targets.

6. What added forces would be involved? This to be in terms of armaments currently known to be available to the Cubans.

None. Those US forces committed in current US contingency plans are considered sufficient.

7. What damage can the torpedo boats do to the United States?

These boats can be used effectively in high speed day or night hit-and-run raids against shipping and against coastal cities and industrial complexes in southeastern United States consistent with the following capabilities:KOMAR class boats are capable of a speed of 45 knots for a 500 nautical mile range or a 1400 NM range at the economical speed of 22 knots; each carries two Mach-1 surface-to-surface missiles with a range of 10-15 NM carrying a 2000 pound warhead, as well as four 25 MM AA guns. The missile warheads have a reported CEP of 100 feet.

8. What damage can aircraft do to the United States?

a.
Approximately 25 operational MIG aircraft capable of carrying two 500 pound bombs, in addition to their 20 and 37 MM cannon. These MIGs could attack targets as far north as Tampa and, on a one-way mission, they could attack targets stretching between New Orleans and Savannah.
b.
Approximately eight operational B-26 aircraft, each capable of carrying five 500 pound bombs and attacking targets on round trip missions from the tip of Florida in an arc between Mobile and Savannah and, on one-way missions, they could attack targets stretching from San Antonio in the west, Cleveland to the north and New York in the east.

9. Added Comment

In addition to the foregoing, the military, psychological and political impact on other countries of the Caribbean littoral should not be overlooked. The recently acquired missile carrying torpedo boats could be used effectively in offensive operations against Latin American countries in the support of communist-oriented insurgency. Also, attacks could be made on industrial complexes such as the vulnerable oil refineries of Venezuela. The MTBʼs would be particularly effective in the harassment of shipping in the Windward Passage or in an attack on the Panama Canal.

  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Meetings and Memoranda Series, NSAM 181, Cuba (B). Top Secret; Noforn; Special Handling. Copies were sent to Rusk and Kaysen.
  2. September 4.