189. Memorandum of Conversation Between President Kennedy and Former President Eisenhower0

The meeting was arranged as a result of a decision reached between K and E at Mr. .Roosevelt’s funeral, that they should meet at an early date and the meeting should be with me present, but under circumstances in which there would be no Press or public recognition that the meeting had taken place.1

President explained to E the present status of the Cuban situation and the problems attendant to the removal of the IL 28s, the inspection to verify that all offensive missiles had gone, and inspection arrangements against reintroduction. Kennedy reviewed all of the various proposals that had been made, each one of which had been rejected by Castro, and concluded, stating that as matters stood at the present time, we would have to depend for the immediate future on aerial surveillance.

The President throughout the conversation expressed the thought that while it was possible there was some deception in connection with the 42 missiles removed, the probability was strong that this number [Page 479] were actually removed, that having had to withdraw it would be probably most unlikely that the Soviets would make a further attempt to introduce offensive missiles. There was general agreement on this point. General Eisenhower raised the question of deception and the possibility, however remote, that what we looked at were sections of large diameter pipe and that the missiles were actually retained. McCone made the point that the examination of the photography gave reasonable assurance that what we were looking at was missiles and furthermore there were accompanying the shipments of missiles, which were stored on deck, large quantities of clearly identifiable related equipment as well as personnel and hence it was reasonable to conclude that missiles had actually been taken away.

The conversation then turned to the rumors and reports which were disturbing to the American public of missiles being hidden in caves, etc. McCone stated that these reports were bound to remain because in addition to the offensive missiles there were four other types of missiles, and these did remain in Cuba and they would be seen from time to time and therefore we would always be confronted with the problem of “missiles in Cuba”.

It was Eisenhower’s very strong recommendation that the President at an early opportunity make a very positive statement that we were taking actions which would guarantee insofar as possible our knowledge of what was going on in Cuba and that he was going to insist that these actions, which included aerial surveillance, be continued and that he can give the American public some confidence in assurances that their security was not being endangered by clandestine Soviet activities. The President responded that he intended to make such a statement on Tuesday.2 It was agreed that this statement should reflect initiative on the part of the President and the Administration.

[Here follows discussion of Berlin and reorganization of the National Security Council.]

The meeting was cordial and constructive. Both President Kennedy and General Eisenhower expressed their appreciation to me and their desire to continue communication one with the other in about the same form and in the manner of this meeting.

John A. McCone3Director
[Page 480]

Add 11/19/62:

During the conversation General Eisenhower stated with some emphasis that he did not believe that our actions in Cuba would necessarily cause the Soviets to react in a retaliatory manner in some other tense location:Eisenhower presented many examples. He pointed out for instance that many Soviet experts predicted that his initiative in Lebanon would be met by Soviet actions in Berlin or elsewhere, however the reverse was true. The same situation developed elsewhere. Eisenhower therefore urged the President not to permit his course of action in Cuba to be dictated by fear of Soviet action elsewhere or an attempt to appraise in advance the type of actions Soviets might take elsewhere. Note: This point appealed to me as being particularly significant because it is the direct opposite of the advice that the President has been given by Ambassador Thompson and others who are presumably Soviet experts.

  1. Source: Central Intelligence Agency, DCI/McCone Files, Job 80-B01285A, DCI Meetings with President, 1 July 1962-31 December 1962. Secret; Eyes Only. Drafted by McCone, who was present at the meeting. The meeting was held at McCone’s residence.
  2. Kennedy and Eisenhower were attending the inauguration of Dulles Airport. This meeting apparently took place there, but it is not included in Kennedy’s Appointment Book. (Kennedy Library)
  3. On Tuesday, November 20, Kennedy read a statement at his press conference announcing the lifting of the blockade. In that statement, he said that as Cuba had not permitted U.N. verification and there were no safeguards against reintroduction of offensive weapons, “this Government has no choice but to pursue its own means of checking on military activities in Cuba.” (Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States:John F. Kennedy, 1962, pp. 830-838)
  4. Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.
  5. Printed from a copy that bears these typed initials.