108. Summary Record of the 11th Meeting of the Executive Committee of the National Security Council0

Director McCone summarized current intelligence, including evidence that all Cuban military forces have been ordered not to fire at U.S. planes unless fired upon.

The President read and approved the announcement of the creation of a Coordinating Committee which will handle all matters involved in the conclusion of the Cuban crisis. (Text attached)1

Secretary Rusk acknowledged that we need aerial reconnaissance missions today, but he recommended that none be flown until after the Russian negotiator Kuznetsov sees the UN Acting Secretary General in New York today.

The President agreed that we could wait today, but that we did face the longer range problem of how we continue surveillance of Cuba, recognizing that we cannot rely on the UN to undertake adequate surveillance.

Under Secretary of the Air Force Charyk reported on a conversation last night with UN officials. He said he had offered them RC-130 planes, which they were prepared to use, but they did not want these planes flown by U.S. crews. Mr. Charyk said the Canadians, South Africans and Indonesians have crews which could fly these planes.

Mr. Charyk said the UN official, Mr. Rikhye, who would be organizing the UN aerial reconnaissance, acknowledged that the UN couldnot make arrangements to fly reconnaissance missions today, but the UN observers could be on the ground in Cuba by Wednesday morning. The UN official said the UN did not want U.S. reconnaissance planes overflying Cuba during the Secretary General’s visit there on Tuesday and Wednesday.2

Mr. Charyk said that air reconnaissance could be very efficient. Pictures taken would reveal suspicious locations to which ground observers could be promptly dispatched.

Mr. Charyk said there had been no discussion yesterday of U.S. reconnaissance flights today, but UN officials had asked for our voluntary suspension of the blockade on Tuesday and Wednesday, leaving, however, the U.S. ships on station. UN inspectorswould be in all ports [Page 292] and would report to us on incoming and outgoing cargo. We would make available film to the UN reconnaissance missions if they would provide us with copies of the exposed films.

Secretary McNamara recommended that we send reconnaissance missions this afternoon after notice is given to the Cubans and to Kuznetsov. The decision would be final unless new information came out of the U Thant/Kuznetsov discussions in New York. He recommended that U.S. ships remain on station, challenge all ships entering the quarantine zone, and let such ships through because their cargo would be inspected by the UN observers in Cuban ports.

Secretary Rusk emphasized that we must maintain the quarantine until arrangements for UN inspection of offensive weapons in Cuba are completed.

The President made clear that we should have U.S. observers on any planes flown by the UN. He agreed that the U.S. ships should stay on station, but that we should leave ambiguous for the next twenty-four hours whether or not we will maintain the quarantine. He said we should not say that the quarantine was off pending installation of a UN inspection system. He agreed that the call up of the air reserves should not be reversed.

Secretary McNamara urged that the new Coordinating Committee work immediately on the question of Communist covert aggression in Latin America which would be based in Cuba.

The President said he had talked to Ambassador Stevenson yesterday3 whose view was that the phrase “peace in the Caribbean” covers subversion. The President said Ambassador Stevenson had discussed this question with U Thant and would try to get back into the formulation of the settlement some specific reference to subversion.

General Taylor urged that we be prepared to fly six to eight low-level missions today, but no high-level missions. He said we had seen nothing from Saturday4 until now. He recommended that we announce in advance we were conducting low-level reconnaissance pending satisfactory and effective UN reconnaissance arrangements.

The President agreed to the low-level reconnaissance unless he directed otherwise before 2:00 PM. He turned again to the question of what we would do on the surveillance problem for the long run.

Secretary Rusk noted that Khrushchev expressed his wish that reconnaissance cease, but he had not made it a condition to withdrawal of offensive weapons. U Thant will have to deal with this subject in the New York negotiations.

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The President decided that no public announcement of the aerial reconnaissance would be made, but that if we decided to fly these missions, we will notify the Cubans and Kuznetsov immediately prior to the overflights.

General Taylor restated the requirement for the reconnaissance missions if we are to know whether the Soviets are actually dismantling the missile sites or whether they are continuing to work on the missile complexes.

Secretary McNamara noted that U Thant believes that the UN observers arriving in Cuba on Wednesday will see no missiles.

The President, saying that we would need aerial pictures on Wednesday, asked the group to consider how this should be done. Aerial missions today are not crucial, but this week we must have aerial pictures of the missile sites.

Secretary McNamara expressed his doubt that we can get the UN to fly reconnaissance missions. Such missions must be flown to satisfy domestic opinion. He recommended that the flights be authorized today, subject to any developments taking place in New York.

Bromley Smith5
  1. Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Meetings and Memoranda Series, Executive Committee, Vol. II, Meetings, 11-16. Top Secret; Sensitive. The Record of Action for this meeting (ibid.) is in the Supplement.
  2. Not printed. The members of the committee were Ball, Gilpatric, and McCloy.
  3. October 30 and 31.
  4. No record of this conversation has been found.
  5. October 27.
  6. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.