39. Telegram From the Department of State to the Embassy in the United Kingdom0

2269. Elite eyes only for the Ambassador. Following is text of letter to Prime Minister Macmillan to be delivered at 10:00 a.m. Monday London time:

“My dear friend:

We are now in possession of incontrovertible military evidence obtained through photographic reconnaissances, that the Soviets have already installed offensive nuclear missiles in Cuba, and that some of [Page 150] these may already be operational. This constitutes a threat to the peace which imperils the security not only of this hemisphere but of the entire free world. You will recall that last month I stated publicly that the Government of the United States would consider the presence of ground-to-ground missiles in Cuba as an offensive threat. In response to my remarks, the Soviets stated that such armaments and military equipment as had been shipped by them to Cuba were exclusively of a defensive nature, and this was repeated to me only last Thursday by Gromyko under instructions.1

The foregoing has created a highly critical situation which must be met promptly and fearlessly. This evening at 1900 hours Washington time I shall be making a public statement of which Ambassador Bruce will be giving you a draft together with this message. This text is not necessarily final in every detail, but the essentials of the problem, and the means by which I intend to meet it, have already been decided as set forth in the present text. Ambassador Bruce will also be prepared fully to explain to you the evidence on which we have based our conclusions.

I am also writing to Chairman Khrushchev to bring home to him how perilous is his present course of action, but expressing the hope that we can agree to resume the path of peaceful negotiation.

I am quite clear in my mind that these missiles have got to be withdrawn, and you will see that I intend to state this publicly in my speech as well as telling Chairman Khrushchev this in my letter to him.

The object of the quarantine, which will be put into effect immediately, is to prevent the Soviet Union from introducing additional missiles into Cuba and to lead to the elimination of the missiles that are already in place.

I shall also be sending a personal message to Prime Minister Diefenbaker, General deGaulle, Chairman Adenauer, and Prime Minister Fanfani2 and have sent Dean Acheson to Paris [to] assist Ambassador Finletter in briefing the North Atlantic Council shortly before I make my public statement. However, I wanted you to be the first to be informed of this grave development, in order that we should have the opportunity, should you wish it, to discuss the situation between ourselves by means of our private channel of communication.

This is a solemn moment for our two countries, indeed for the fate of the entire world. It is essential that the already great dangers before us should not be increased through miscalculation or underestimation by [Page 151] the Soviets of what we intend to do, and are prepared to endure, in the face of the course on which they have so recklessly embarked.

I need not point out to you the possible relation of this secret and dangerous move on the part of Khrushchev to Berlin. We must together be prepared for a time of testing. It is a source of great personal satisfaction to me that you and I can keep in close touch with each other by rapid and secure means at a time like this, and I intend to keep you fully informed of my thinking as the situation evolves.

In the meanwhile I am also requesting an urgent meeting of the United Nations Security Council. I have asked Ambassador Stevenson to present on behalf of the United States a resolution calling for the withdrawal of missile bases and other offensive weapons in Cuba under the supervision of United Nations observers.3 This would make it possible for the United States to lift its quarantine. I hope that you will instruct your representative in New York to work actively with us and speak forthrightly in support of the above program in the United Nations.”

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 737.00/10-2262. Confidential; Niact. Drafted by U.A. Johnson and cleared by Tyler.
  2. See Document 29.
  3. Copies of these letters and one to Nehru, all transmitted by telegram before 2 a.m. on October 22, and which repeated the substance of the letter sent to Macmillan, are in Department of State, Central Files, 737.00/10-2262.
  4. For text of this draft resolution, which Stevenson presented to Valerian Zorin, President of the U.N. Security Council at 7:30 p.m., see American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1962, p. 404 or U.N. doc. S/5181.