The Largest Security-Cleared Career Network for Defense and Intelligence Jobs - JOIN NOW


Department Seal

Volume X
Cuba, 1961-1962



Cuba, 1961-1962

201. Letter From the President's Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy) to General Maxwell D. Taylor

Washington, May 4, 1961.

//Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, Cuba, Subjects, Taylor Report. Top Secret.

Dear General Taylor: I regret to say that I am not satisfied with the account of our interview which appears in the Memorandum for Record submitted to me today by Colonel Walmsley./1/ It seems to me that I can do a better job of presenting my views on this matter by sending you a memorandum covering my position on the points which are discussed in the Memorandum of Record.

/1/Reference is to the memorandum for the record prepared for the Cuba Study Group on May 1. For text, which did not include the draft record of Bundy's testimony, see Document 193. Two pages of the draft memorandum, which summarized Bundy's testimony (pp. 13-14), are attached to Bundy's letter.

The President on his entry into the office was faced with a decision of disbanding or using the Cuban force in Guatemala. He was informed that the force must leave Guatemala within a limited time, and that it could not be held together in the United States for a long period. It would begin to deteriorate; its existence could not be kept quiet; and if it were disbanded within the United States the results would be damaging.

When the Cuba plan was initially presented to the President, he did not like the scheme for an amphibious landing. He requested that a plan be drawn for infiltration of the force so that it might emerge as a Cuban force already on Cuban territory. The report from CIA was that this notion was not likely to be successful, and instead the agency proposed a modified plan for an unopposed landing in a much less populated area. This was the Zapata Plan presented by Mr. Bissell in the middle of March 1961./2/ As work on this plan progressed, the gradual impression developed that on balance the CIA preferred this plan to the original Trinidad Plan.

/2/Document 61.

It was clearly understood that the Air battle should be won. The views of the Joint Chiefs were presented in writing, and while there was no clear discussion of the opinion of the Joint Chiefs as to the relative merits of the two plans, I think these two statements are correct: (1) that there was no impression left that the Joint Chiefs as such preferred the Zapata Plan; (2) it was clearly understood that they had approved the plan and favored the operation on this revised basis. I base this statement upon the fact that the President repeatedly asked for the opinion of representatives of the Defense Department including members of the Joint Chiefs, and was invariably informed that the Defense Department favored the operation. I do not think this was merely a matter of "concurrence by attendance." The military certainly wanted the operation to proceed; I do not think that this was because of a deep conviction that this was the best possible plan--it was rather that in view of the absence of desirable alternatives and the press of time, the military believed that the prospects were sufficiently favorable so that it would be best to go ahead. I would not wish to go further into detailed analysis of the motives or positions taken by the Joint Chiefs.

Success in this operation was always understood to be dependent upon an internal Cuban reaction. The first military phase would have been considered successful if it had established a beachhead that could be supplied effectively from outside and joined from inside by defecting Cubans. I do not think that the President was led to feel that the landing operation depended for its first success on immediate uprisings throughout Cuba. On the other hand, reports were made in the last few weeks that gave some hope that the chances of defections and uprisings were growing.

One of the serious misunderstandings in this operation, in my opinion, was over the practicability and likelihood of a guerrilla operation by the landing force. The President repeatedly indicated his own sense that this option was of great importance, and he was repeatedly assured that the guerrilla option was a real one. As one listening in the same way that he listened to most of the discussion before him, I was left with the clear impression that unless there was a quite unexpected catastrophe in the beaching process itself, a substantial portion of the force would almost certainly be able to survive for a prolonged period in guerrilla operations. I do not think there was any extended discussion of the relative quality of the Zapata Plan as against the Trinidad from a guerrilla standpoint. There was a considerable discussion of the option of a sea evacuation, but I do not recall that there was a clear decision as to which of these secondary alternatives would be preferable. My point is simply that the President steadily insisted that the force have an alternative means of survival, and that he was steadily assured that such an alternative was present. As I recall it, the report of the Joint Staff on the Zapata Plan explicitly included assurances on the guerrilla option./3/

/3/JCSM-166-61, Document 62.

While it was recognized that the invasion force was much smaller than Castro's army, let alone his militia, the argument for landing it was that it would have much greater fire power, together with air supremacy, while the enemy would have to come toward the beach along narrow defiles. The invasion force would win the first battle because its soldiers were better fighters, with better equipment. After they had won this first battle, the balance would change; the will to fight of the Castro forces would be reduced; defections would begin; uprisings would occur in other parts of the island, and so on.

One startling omission, in retrospect, is the failure of any of the President's advisers to warn of the danger of the T-33s. I suspect that one reason for the later decision not to launch an air strike on the morning of D-Day was that this capability of the Castro air force was never put forward as significant.

While in retrospect I believe that too much attention was given to what General Taylor has called the question of "attribution," it certainly was believed that it would make a great political difference to have this force essentially Cuban. The Americans were offering moral, political and logistical support, but not battle forces. A question of shading is of course involved. At any rate, on March 29th or April 4th there was a direct statement by the President in a meeting that he wanted all U.S. forces out of the operation, and I recall no word of opposition to this decision at this meeting./4/ Afterwards, there was further discussion, at which I was not present, between the Department of Defense and the CIA, and agreed revisions were worked out. If those responsible for military judgment on the operation felt that the President's instructions were unacceptable, it seems to me that there certainly should have been some statements of this view.

/4/For the available records of the meetings with the President on March 29 and April 4, see Documents 74 and 80.

In my meeting with General Taylor and his advisory group, I was asked about the decision not to permit an air strike by the Cuban invasion force early on Monday morning. This is a matter which arises from a conversation with the President and the Secretary of State, and I do not believe I am the right man to comment on it. I do have the recollection that during the presentation of the Zapata landings, the impression was conveyed to the President that there would be no strikes on D-Day that could not plausibly come from an airstrip in Cuba.

I have the general impression that all of those concerned with this operation were gradually put into an intrinsically unsound position because of the increasingly critical Cuban situation and the lack of desirable alternatives. Under these pressures the military planners, who had been given instructions by an earlier Administration, became advocates, rather than impartial evaluators of the problem. Moreover, I believe that many people were reticent in their representations to the President.

Mistakes were made in this operation by a lot of people whom the President had every right to trust, as a result of circumstances of all sorts. In the future, any such plan should have much more careful preparation and evaluation, and the President should have intelligence estimates presented to him by others than advocates. In the future also the President should have an explicit White House review, so that he can have an independent judgment, especially on points of interdepartmental responsibility.

I do not concur in any judgment that this operation was "run from the White House." What happened was rather that as trouble began to develop after D-Day, there was steady pressure on the President for a relaxation of rules which had previously been made, and in the light of changing circumstances some such relaxations were authorized. Only in the case of the decision on Sunday/5/ with respect to the D-Day strike was there an operational modification that restricted, instead of enlarging, the authorizations to the CIA. This, as I have said, is a matter on which others can comment more effectively than I. Nevertheless, I would agree that the rules of action should be more clearly stated in the future, and responsibility delegated within those rules to a man near the scene of action. I regard this as a somewhat academic point, because I doubt very much whether large-scale operations of this sort can or should be "covert."

/5/April 16.

I accept as accurate the statement of my views which runs from the middle of page 13 through the middle of page 14,/6/ and I specifically endorse the comment attributed to me that if the military had said at any time that calling off or modifying the air strikes would cause the operation to fail--or even damage it severely--the President would have reversed any such decision as that on Sunday.

/6/The draft record of Bundy's testimony to which he refers largely reiterates a number of the points Bundy made in this letter to Taylor. The concluding point he made in his testimony, as recorded on page 14, was: "I think the men that worked on this got into a world of their own. I don't believe the failure was `because of the want of a nail.'"

McGeorge Bundy

202. Paper Prepared for the National Security Council by an Interagency Task Force on Cuba

Washington, May 4, 1961.

//Source: Department of State, S/P-NSC Files: Lot 62 D 1, Cuba and the Dominican Republic. Top Secret. This paper, and the five attached annexes, were drafted by an interagency task force on Cuba composed of representatives of the Departments of State, Defense, and Justice as well as CIA and USIA. Much of the drafting was done in ARA in the Department of State and in ISA in the Department of Defense. Paul Nitze, Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, had overall responsibility for the final draft. Annex I is an intelligence appraisal. Annex II presented "Considerations Bearing on Major Intervention." Annex III outlined proposed U.S. policy toward Cuban exiles. Annex IV dealt with psychological and propaganda warfare. Annex V was entitled "A Doctrine to Preserve the Independence of the Latin American Revolution." None of the attachments is printed. The paper was circulated to the NSC on May 4 under cover of a memorandum from Acting Executive Secretary of the NSC Marion Boggs in advance of the NSC meeting scheduled for May 5. (Ibid.)


Before deciding on a Cuba policy, it is essential to evaluate the nature of Cuba's threat to the national interests of the United States and the basic strength and vulnerability of the Cuban communist regime.

I. The Nature of the Threat

A. The Military Threat

Continuing bloc arms shipments to Cuba--while strengthening Castro's own ability to withstand attack--will probably not be an important threat to U.S. interests. There is no danger of effective direct attack against the U.S. It is highly unlikely that Castro will overtly attack other nations in the Americas. If he did so, we would be able to intervene pursuant to our Treaty obligations and use the occasion to crush Castro. There is some possibility that Castro would use Cuba as a base for monitoring and harassing U.S. operations, e.g. interfering with communications, etc.

There is the remote possibility of an attempt to convert Cuba into a Russian base for strategic attack on the United States. If this happens, we would have to consider military intervention. (See Sec. B, infra.)/1/

/1/An apparent reference to Annex II, not printed.

B. As an exporter of physical aids to revolution--there is no doubt that Cuba is being used as a base for export of the communist-fidelista revolution. This is done through the supply of funds, counsel to subversive activities, and propaganda--mainly through the embassies. It is done through widespread propaganda apparatus of varying effectiveness, including a news service (carried by 24 newspapers) and a radio network. It is done, too, by making a supply of Spanish-speaking agents available for communist subversion and propaganda. At the present time, there is no hard evidence of an actual supply of arms or armed men going from Cuba to other countries to assist indigenous revolutionary movements. There have been allegations of such support being given in Colombia and other countries. There has been some movement of individual armed agents into other countries and some Cuban effort to train the revolutionaries of other countries. The export of physical aid to revolutionary movements, while important, is much less significant than the threat posed by Castro's example and general stimulus to these movements. (See C, infra.)

C. As an example and stimulus to communist revolution--Castro's basic aim (supported by the Chinese and principally the Soviets) has been to capture indigenous social revolutionary movements for the communists, strengthen existing communist movements, and, by supporting these movements, weaken the fabric of constitutional government throughout the hemisphere.

To some extent he has been successful in identifying his regime with the cause of economic and social progress. And as he moves forward economically his example may become more attractive. He has provided a rallying point and a source of ideological support for communist movements everywhere; and often for left-wing nationalist movements. One of his principal objectives is to identify and unify the nationalist left and the communists. He has provided a working example of a communist state in the Americas, successfully defying the United States. Thus he has appealed to widespread anti-American feeling, a feeling often shared by non-communists. His survival, in the face of persistent U.S. efforts to unseat him, has unquestionably lowered the prestige of the United States and the presence of Castroist extremist elements are often an important obstacle to orderly social and economic reform.

This picture is not all dark however. As Castro's Soviet-communist identification has become more apparent the communist-fidelista elements have suffered an increasing isolation from the democratic left. Several leaders of the Democratic left have already condemned him publicly. Castro's erratic and often extreme personal behavior has helped to increase this isolation.

There is no doubt that Castro's regime adds significant support to communist efforts to take over the hemisphere, and is a source of strength to communist efforts in every country. However, Castro could not hope to succeed without the conditions of social unrest, widespread poverty and general economic discontent on which the Communist Revolution prospers. If the island of Cuba should sink beneath the waves tomorrow, we still would have to face a significant and steadily growing communist threat in the hemisphere. The fall of Castro would be a severe defeat for the Sino-Soviet bloc, but it would not be, by any means, the end of the battle.

II. The Present Situation in Cuba

A. The Armed Forces

The armed forces of the Castro regime number approximately 250,000, of whom some 200,000 are militia. The regular forces have been shaken by purges of officers and men who previously supported Castro against Batista but later became disillusioned.

Bloc arms deliveries and intensive training have increased the military capabilities of the army, but its tactical training is still deficient. The militia is composed of people who generally serve only part-time, but some full-time units are now being trained. The Air Force and Navy suffer from a lack of trained and qualified personnel.

B. Control Mechanisms

The Castro regime has established a complex of interlocking mechanisms enabling it to control virtually every phase of life in Cuba.

C. Class and Regional Attitudes

The upper class has been destroyed as an effective political or economic force in Cuba. The middle class provides the principal organized opposition to the Castro regime. It is that part of the newly self-conscious lower class--perhaps 25-30% of the total population--which has already received positive benefits from the Revolution, or still hopes for future improvement in conditions, that now provides the real mass support for the Castro regime.

Not all of the Cuban lower class can be considered to favor the Castro regime. His major strength is with rural workers, whereas there has been considerable disaffection among the labor unions. The failure of the government to carry out many of its earlier promises has led to increasing disappointment and dissatisfaction. This does not mean, however, an equal increase in willingness to act against the regime.

D. Economy

The Cuban economy continues to decline both in terms of physical output and in living levels; although basic needs for food and textiles are being met. Output in the industrial sector has been adversely affected by parts and raw material shortages, although sugar production may match or exceed last year's level and the regime is making strenuous efforts to expand agricultural production. Cuba's trade has been redirected largely to the Soviet Bloc, whose economic support is vital for the Castro regime.

III. Probable Trends Within Cuba, Assuming No Major U.S. Intervention

A. Political Prospects

Over the short term there will be no major change in internal political conditions. However, by the end of one year organized anti-Castro opposition will probably have increased its activities, but with Castro's intensified controls this will not offer a threat to the stability of the regime. Over the long term (5 years) all effective opposition to the regime will probably have been eliminated. However, such a long-term estimate is based on many variables and is highly contingent. It may be the most probable outcome but many other outcomes--including growing resist-ance--cannot be discounted.

B. Probable Trends in the Armed Forces

With Bloc assistance the combat effectiveness of the Cuban armed forces will substantially increase.

C. Economic Prospects

The economy will deteriorate further over the short term, but it will not jeopardize the regime's stability. Within a year the economic situation will have improved slightly, and within five (5) years Cuba's natural resources and Bloc economic assistance will permit greater self-sufficiency and gradual economic growth. There is a possibility that the Communists--through an extensive program of aid--might try and make Cuba a showcase of economic progress.

IV. Cuban Vulnerabilities

A. Economic

Economic vulnerabilities of the Castro regime include its foreign exchange position, spare parts and raw materials shortages, lack of sufficient technical and managerial personnel, declining per capita income, and consumer shortages and the growing black market. Imposition of the Trading with the Enemy Act against Cuba (which would inter alia reduce Cuba's foreign exchange earnings from the United States and would extend the U.S. export embargo to all products) and a campaign of limited sabotage against Cuba's industries and utilities would aggravate these problems, though not sufficiently, by themselves, to jeopardize the regime's stability.

B. Political

Castro's elimination from the scene would cause serious problems, but the bureaucracy and apparatus are so firmly entrenched that they could continue to operate without him.

Popular resentment against the totalitarian controls imposed by the regime has steadily increased. This resentment is open to exploitation. The hold of the regime depends in large part on control of mass communications media. Sabotage of these facilities would deprive the regime of this advantage; sabotage of other communications would impair the effectiveness of police controls.

We recommend a study of possible weaknesses and vulnerabilities in the elements which exert control in Cuba (e.g. military, key political figures, labor leaders, etc.) and weaknesses in their relations to each other, assessing discontent, possible disaffection, etc. This would be an anatomy of the Castro regime.

Increased guerrilla operations, effectively supported by the U.S., would disrupt normal activities in Cuba and serve to keep resistance alive against heavier controls and repression.

(For complete Intelligence appraisal see Annex I.)/2/

/2/Not printed.


There is no sure way of overthrowing Castro short of U.S. military intervention. There is a possibility, although a slight possibility that lesser meas-ures--covert and overt--might result in the overthrow of the Castro regime from within. As long as Castro thrives, his major threat--the example and stimulus of a working communist revolution--will persist.

V. The Decision to Intervene with U.S. Forces

A. The Consequences of Intervention at this time and under present conditions:

(1) The Castro regime would be destroyed, but the possibility of protracted guerrilla conflict cannot be discounted.

(2) There would be a direct and perhaps substantial loss of life--Cuban and American.

(3) General World Reaction to Intervention--Reaction to the use of U.S. force to eliminate Castro would be clearly negative. It would severely impair the general international image of a non-aggressive, non-imperialist nation which we have tried to build over the past fifteen years. It would severely weaken our ideological position by blurring differences with the Soviet Union--differences based on their aggressive nature, imperialistic system etc. It would revive fears, especially in Latin America, about our intention to dominate and direct the affairs of all American States. There would be a general nervousness about the possibility of the conflict spreading--and a loss of confidence in the United States.

However, there would be some favorable response to our firmness in eliminating a nearby communist center. This would come from those governments most closely tied to the United States and which believe that their continued existence depends on the U.S. coming to their support, e.g. Nationalist China. The favorable reaction would be centered in those elements who see security from the communists dependent almost solely on power and the willingness to use it.

The Soviet Union--through propaganda, agitation etc.--would exploit the situation to the fullest. Direct armed support of Castro is unlikely. Acting against Castro on the grounds that we cannot tolorate a communist base 90 miles away would give the Soviet Union a counter-rationale for acting against our own base system, and the possibility of Soviet intervention in Iran could not be ruled out.

There would be at least a temporary setback to the likelihood of progress toward peaceful settlement of important international issues. Traditional points of confrontation--such as Berlin or Quemoy and Matsu--might become more explosive and dangerous.

Latin American reaction would range from support (e.g. Guatemala and Nicaragua) to outright resentment and opposition (e.g. Mexico, Ecuador and Bolivia). Another group might feel relieved, but political conditions would require them to oppose or remain silent. Reactions within the Latin countries would vary from support by the oligarchy to sharp reaction against Yankee imperialism among students, workers, campesinos, and much of the articulate middle class. This reaction would be exploited by the communists, and might endanger vulnerable democratic governments (e.g. Venezuela). (A more extended discussion of world reaction is found in Annex II.)

From the people, parties and press of Europe we could expect a severely censorious reaction--tempered by some restraint in deference to the Alliance. The Kennedy image and prestige in Europe would be severely weakened, perhaps to the extent of weakening U.S. leadership in the Alliance, and the Alliance itself. European governments would generally be neutral or support us. The CENTO and SEATO allies would react more favorably.

Perhaps the most serious reaction would come from the neutral states in Africa, the Near East and Asia. It would intensify our identification with the colonialist powers and tend to increase the tendency to see the U.S. and Russia as having similar ambitions and goals. An intervention would seriously impair and complicate our ability to work through the U.N. on the entire range of problems confronting that body.

B. Considerations Bearing on a Future Decision to Intervene

A judgment whether to intervene will depend on many factors.

(1) The degree of provocation offered by Cuba or the Soviet Union, and/or the growing intensity of the Cuba threat. Below are listed, in roughly ascending order of seriousness of provocation, a number of conceivable fact situations:

(a) Present conditions, following the unsuccessful attempt of Cuban exiles to overthrow Castro, without any essentially new action on the part of Cuba;

(b) Upon a unilateral finding by the United States that its own self-defense requires armed intervention in Cuba to terminate the hemispheric threat of Castro-Communism;

(c) Direct Castro regime involvement in an attempt at subversive overthrow in another Latin American Republic, the goverment of which requests United States assistance against Cuba;

(d) Establishment of a Soviet military base on Cuban soil;

(e) Indiscriminate and mass execution by the Castro regime of American citizens in Cuba, without regard to any prohibited activities or claimed offenses on their part;

(f) Conditions of widespread unrest against the Castro regime produced not by United States covert operations but by popular Cuban hostility, with a general breakdown of law and order in Cuba, in which at least some local authorities requested United States intervention;

(g) The event of the United States being asked for support by an anti-Castro provisional Cuban government which had succeeded on its own (without United States Government assistance) in establishing itself in control of a substantial part of Cuba, had maintained that control for a period of time, and had been recognized by the United States;

(h) Systematic or large-scale attacks by the Cuban military establishment on shipping and aircraft of the American Republics on and over the high seas;

(i) A decision by the members of the OAS under the Rio treaty to intervene, once that decision had received the United Nations endorsement or authorization required by the United Nations Charter;

(j) A major and serious Cuban military effort to force the United States out of the Guantanamo base;

(k) An armed attack by Cuba on the United States or another of the American Republics;

(l) Retaliation against the Soviet Union for a Soviet action against the free world serious enough to warrant such retaliation.

Under existing international law and our treaty obligations armed intervention would be justified only under (h), (i), (j), and (k).

(2) The swiftness and cleanness of an effective, completed intervention in Cuba. An armed intervention executed quickly and without large casualties on either side would have smaller costs than a prolonged conflict. It is estimated that at the present time United States armed forces might have to engage in long and difficult military operations to bring under control the whole of Cuba--rural and mountain districts as well as the centers of population and lines of communication. The best estimate is that the passage of time will tighten Castro's political grip and increase his actual military strength in Cuba. On the other hand, we should not rule out the possibility that the passage of time might see increased popular hostility and resistance toward his regime, and the development of local conditions in which an American armed intervention would be generally welcomed throughout the island.

(3) The success obtained by the United States in its over-all Latin American program by the time of U.S. armed intervention. The costs of intervention, at least in Latin America, would be reduced to some extent in proportion as various elements in the United States Latin American program are successful:

(a) Economic development and social progress through the Alianza para Progreso:

(b) Achievement of a wider understanding in Latin America of the Castro-Communist threat, and the undertaking of measures to defeat internal subversion.

(4) The development of a new theory or doctrine of international law justifying U.S. armed intervention in cases of Castro-inspired takeover. Such a doctrine would materially improve the basis for our intervention only if it were generally accepted by the countries of Latin America and elsewhere throughout the free world, and if those countries generally were convinced that the doctrine was applicable to the facts of the Cuban situation.

C. Conclusion: The Choice of a Policy

The cost of eliminating Castro by military intervention would be substantial at the present time and under present circumstances. These costs might include significant loss of life and other military and civilian casualties, and would severely endanger the U.S. position of leadership in the Free World. It is our judgment that these costs outweigh the advantages of intervention.

In view of these considerations, it is the recommendation of the Task Force that:

1) We should not undertake military intervention now.

2) We should make no statements or take no action that would foreclose the possibility of military intervention in the future.

3) We should work to reduce the Castro threat through measures discussed in the balance of this paper--thus seeking to avoid the need for more drastic and costly action at some time in the future.

4) We should attempt to reduce the costs of intervention should it become necessary. There is not a great deal the United States by itself can do along these lines as a matter of deliberate policy. We can, however, plan for various contingencies so that intervention will be sufficient and more effective. We should strive to develop a creditable doctrine based on self-defense against indirect aggression which would justify more drastic action, and we should seek to have that doctrine generally accepted by world opinion. At the same time, we should seek to continue our efforts to establish a multilateral base for action./3/

/3/On May 3 the final draft of this paper was circulated for comment. In the Department of State, Achilles reviewed the paper in a memorandum to Rusk and concluded that it "comes up with the right answer." He felt, however, that while the paper accurately presented the risks of intervention, it did not adequately present the risks of allowing Castro to remain in power or of conveying an impression of weakness or irresolution in dealing with Castro. He drafted two paragraphs that he felt should be added to the paper at this point to strengthen the impression of determination to confront the threat posed by Castro. These paragraphs, which were apparently adopted by the NSC on May 5 for inclusion in the paper (see Document 203) read as follows:

"5) We should keep in mind

"(a) the possibility that if the Castro regime remains in power and succeeds all of Latin America may succumb to Soviet-dominated Communism within a relatively few years, and

"(b) that the measures recommended in this paper are highly unlikely to cause the regime's fall although they will both cause it difficulties and retard its influence elsewhere.

"6) It should also be borne in mind that as a result of the President's April 20 statement the U.S., Latin American and world opinion is looking to the Administration for strong and prudent leadership with respect to Cuba. We cannot afford weakness, irresponsibility or failure." (Department of State, S/P-NSC Files: Lot 62 D 1, Cuba and the Dominican Republic)

In a conversation with Admiral Burke at 8:45 a.m. on May 5, shortly before the NSC discussion of the paper, General Bonesteel said that Achilles had called him the previous night to indicate concern that the paper was not strong enough. Bonesteel noted that Achilles had briefed Rusk on the paper and felt that Rusk would take a pretty strong position in the NSC. Achilles' implication, Bonesteel felt, was "for goodness sakes for us to get in there and keep pitching for something stronger." Burke responded that he had taken the same position in discussing the paper with McNamara the previous evening. (Memorandum of telephone conversation, May 5; Naval Historical Center, Area Files, Bumpy Road Materials)

Measures Short of Armed Intervention

VI. U.S. Policy Toward Cuban Exiles

There are approximately 116,000 Cuban aliens, largely middle class and educated with 23% professionally and semi-professionally trained, who could be an asset, but a diminishing asset to a liberated Cuba. Annex III outlines a detailed plan under which their training could be undertaken. It includes a program for the training of approximately 4,000 military.

Approval of the plan, with the exception of its military component, is recommended by the entire task force.

The following arguments have been advanced for and against the military component.

1. Arguments for:

a. Such a contingent would be helpful should an invasion become necessary. It would give Cuban participation and military assistance to the invasion.

b. In the event of an overthrow of the Castro regime, whether by invasion or by internal overthrow, it would furnish leadership cadres, counter-guerrilla teams and civil affairs units.

c. The military potential of these Cubans will be a rapidly wasting asset if their training is not promptly organized.

d. Not to train these men would be taken throughout Latin America as a decision not to intervene in Cuba.

2. Arguments against:

a. The United States would be faced with continuing questions in the U.N. and by world opinion as to the purpose of such military training. It would be asserted that such a program implies an intention to intervene in Cuba.

b. Should an invasion become necessary, such a contingent would be a useful, but not an essential, element.

c. It would be difficult to disband the contingent once organized without a serious morale impact on the Cuban exiles.

VII. Steps To Quarantine and Weaken the Castro Communist Regime

A. Steps Designed to Isolate Cuba morally and diplomatically in the hemisphere

1. Endeavor to persuade other Latin American governments to take steps aimed at completing Castro's isolation--such as withdrawal of Ambassadors, diplomatic breaks, appeals to Cuba to free itself of Sino-Soviet ties, etc. The greatest prospect for success with these measures--among those nations which have not already broken ties--is Venezuela and Colombia, and possibly Argentina.

2. We can apply the Trading with the Enemy Act. There is a difference of task force opinion on this point. This cut-off of trade will not appreciably harm the Cuban economy; although it will intensify their foreign exchange difficulties. It is, however, a political step aimed at increasing isolation and an expression of our intention not to finance, to any extent, the communist revolution in Cuba. It will make more difficult--by emphasizing his isolation from the Western Hemisphere--Castro's effort to persuade his people that he can solve his long-run economic problems. This could be a prelude to a blacklist of Cuban commercial activities in Latin America. A large part of the trade is in foodstuffs and medicines.

3. The plan for OAS action, discussed below, would also contribute to the effort to isolate Castro.

B. Steps To Weaken Castro

1. Make public statement setting forth our liberal aspirations for a post-Castro Cuba in the political, economic and social fields--our general agreement with the original objectives of the revolution.

2. Formulate and announce concrete measures whereby we intend to assist the Cuban people and economy after Cuba is free.

3. Continue to give open support to the Cuban liberation movement and to the Revolutionary Council. Conduct relations with that body on a more overt basis.

4. Continue understanding with allies that no arms will be shipped to Cuba.

5. See measures discussed below in the plan for OAS action which will make some, although minor, contribution to weakening Castro.

C. Steps Designed To Quarantine the Castro Communist Regime

1. Plan to provide assistance to any Latin American country requesting help against Castro inspired subversion or attack. Wherever possible this understanding between us and other governments should be formally incorporated into a bilateral defense treaty. This would be an effective way, within the existing framework of international law, to provide a basis for U.S. action in coming to the defense of any nation threatened by the techniques of subversion, infiltration and/or guerrilla activity. Although a broader doctrinal basis for such action might be thought desirable, and is discussed further on in this paper--such a series of arrangements would provide a basis for action and would, in themselves, signal a new doctrine.

2. Obtain the necessary legislative authorization and budgetary support to enable us to help other countries build up their internal security forces.

3. Offer intelligence liaison and assistance to other Latin American countries to enable them to identify Castro and other communist inspired subversive efforts, discover shipments of arms and funds, cope with subversive political organizations, etc. This means aiding and building-up local intelligence efforts and making our own information available.

4. Encourage Latin governments to bring pressure to stop use of Castro press service in their country.

5. Attempt to build a Caribbean force within the framework of the OAS. This would be a series of bilateral arrangements within a multilateral framework among the Caribbean nations and the United States.

We would enter into formal bilateral commitments with all Caribbean nations willing to participate to do those things outlined in the first three paragraphs of this section, i.e. provide assistance against subversion and threatened attack. We would pledge armed forces to a Caribbean Security Force in which other member nations would participate. As a step in accomplishing this we would renegotiate the MAP agreements which we now have with five of the proposed member states (Guatemala, Honduras, Haiti, Nicaragua and Colombia) to incorporate these commitments and permit MAP trained forces to be deployed against internal as well as external threats, and we would seek to negotiate similar agreements with non-MAP states.

In return the Central American countries would bilaterally (a) accept our assistance in internal security field, (b) earmark forces for a Caribbean security force, and (c) pledge themselves to orderly economic and social development within the framework of country development plans.

This would be coupled with a multilateral agreement which (a) recognized the common threat, (b) set up the Caribbean Security Force, (c) provided for an exchange of information and intelligence on the Castro threat, and (d) contained a commitment on the part of each member to deny its territory to Castro activities aimed at another member.

The agreement, although based on the Caribbean nations, would be open to all OAS members who wished to join.

Aside from its potential effectiveness in dealing with the Castro threat, such an organization could provide an effective legal and international basis for U.S. action where necessary.

6. Either within a Caribbean arrangement or outside it conduct a navy patrol and other feasible surveillance of possible movements of arms and men from Cuba to other nations. Halt these shipments when discovered: even if unilateral action is necessary. It is possible that such a surveillance operation might be approved by the OAS. See below.

7. OAS Action: To the extent that OAS action can substitute or reinforce the goals of a Caribbean Force it should be used. Therefore the possibilities of OAS should be explored.

The following program to propose for OAS action is deemed feasible, in the sense that all of the measures could be adopted without undue physical strain upon the Latin American governments, and probably would be supported by them once they have made the decision to take a stand in the OAS against Castro. There would be reluctance on the part of certain of them to contribute to a Caribbean surveillance operation, but token assistance for this purpose would be forthcoming from several. The big question now is the extent to which any program will be supported by certain of the major governments, particularly Brazil. We do not have an estimate of likely support on this or any program because we have not had an agreed program to propose, but present indications are that Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru and Paraguay would support action against Castro. Argentina, Colombia, Venezuela, Costa Rica, Uruguay and Haiti might go along. It is almost certain that Chile, Bolivia and Brazil would oppose forthright OAS action and the position of Mexico and Ecuador is certain to be opposed.

Adoption of such a program would contribute immeasurably to the moral isolation of Castro. Physically, it would contribute to weakening him, but not greatly in addition to steps we might take unilaterally, since Cuba has little trade and direct communication with Latin America. It would eliminate Castro diplomatic and other missions as focal points of propaganda and subversion, and the Committee on Defense of Pan-American Principles could contribute to ferreting out Castro-communist activities, depending on our leadership. It would also provide an important OAS umbrella for actions which we have taken or desire to take. It would put the United States in a stronger position for more forcible measures which might at some time be required.

We should consult individually on the following program for action under the Rio Treaty.

(a) A finding that the Castro regime is in violation of basic OAS principles and specifically that its actions are contrary to concepts set forth in the Declaration of Caracas/4/ (against communist domination or control); The Declaration of Santiago/5/ (calling for respect for human rights); and the Declaration of San Jose/6/ (denouncing extra-continental intervention by Sino-Soviet powers and acceptance of such intervention).

/4/The Declaration of Caracas was the Declaration of Solidarity for the Preservation of the Political Integrity of the American States Against International Communist Intervention, adopted by the Tenth Inter-American Conference, Caracas, Venezuela, March 28, 1954. For text, see American Foreign Policy, 1950-1955: Basic Documents, pp. 1300-1302.

/5/The Declaration of Santiago was approved at the Fifth Meeting of Consultation of Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the American Republics, Santiago, Chile, August 18, 1959. For text, see ibid., Current Documents, 1959, pp. 361-363.

/6/The Declaration of San Jose was approved at the Seventh Meeting of Consultation of Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the American Republics, San Jose, Costa Rica, August 29, 1960. For text, see ibid., 1960, pp. 219-220.

(b) Decisions to apply with respect to Cuba the following measures specified in Rio Treaty Article 8:/7/

/7/For text of Article 8 of the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance, signed at Rio de Janeiro on September 2, 1947, see A Decade of American Foreign Policy: Basic Documents, 1941-1949, p. 228.

1. breaking of diplomatic and consular relations;

2. suspension of trade in all items except medical supplies, and interruption of all other economic relations.

(c) Establish a joint naval-aerial patrol of the Caribbean area for surveillance purposes designed to help identify shipment of arms and personnel from Cuba to other countries for the support of subversive activities and insurrectionary movements, and to assist affected states to prevent such intervention. (Plan to be developed by COAS with the advice of the Inter-American Defense Board.)

(d) Recreate the Committee for the Political Defense of the Continent for the purpose of identifying Castrista or Sino-Soviet infiltration into American States, devising and recommending techniques and methods to prevent or counteract such infiltration, and recommending parallel action by American governments in dealing with such infiltration.

(e) Establish a continuing committee of the OAS to observe compliance with the actions agreed upon and to assist governments to carry them out. Should consultations reveal that required 2/3 or more of the governments are agreed, proceed with OAS action required to formalize that agreement and put steps into effect. If majority not in agreement, press for adoption by individual governments unilaterally of as much of program as they are in a position to carry out. This would include possible establishment of Caribbean surveillance force as discussed above.

(f) Should Castro initiate direct or indirect aggression against any other American State, encourage the affected government to invoke the Rio Treaty, support it with military force if armed attack is involved, and to support maximum feasible application of Rio Treaty if aggression has been indirect.


That quiet negotiation be begun immediately to explore where practicable the willingness of other American nations to join in bilateral, multilateral and OAS-wide arrangements of the type discussed throughout this section. Such consultation should accompany or follow the necessary discussions which will precede the IA-ECOSOC meeting in July. A special team should be appointed for this purpose.

8. The Dominican Republic and Haiti are two of the countries most vulnerable to a Castro takeover. In both countries democratic alternatives to the present regimes are not developed; and there is little doubt that Castro hopes for a communist takeover when Trujillo and/or Duvalier go. We recommend the following:

(a) That we immediately develop emergency plans for both these nations in case of a blow-up in the next several weeks. These plans should include preparations to send in U.S. troops to maintain order, coupled with an emergency meeting of the OAS to authorize intervention as a preventative to civil strife and bloodshed. We should immediately consult with other nations, especially Venezuela, in an effort to get an advance commitment for joint action. If time allows the meeting should precede the troops. If there is no time troops should land immediately. This would be followed by a provisional government, free elections, etc.

(b) We must immediately develop a longer-range program for these nations. This includes the organization of a democratic alternative to Trujillo and Duvalier. Such a group can be formed basically out of exiles since there is little opportunity for opposition or potential opposition to exist within the framework of the Haitian and Dominican regimes, though possibilities appear to exist in the Dominican Republic. When the formation of democratic alternatives is well under way, we should develop and begin to put into effect a plan for accelerating a transition from the regimes of Trujillo and Duvalier. In this way the timing and initiative on replacement will be ours, and we will gain the tremendous propaganda advantage which will accrue to us as a result of participation, however indirect, in an effort to eliminate these dictatorships. The methods whereby this can be accomplished have not yet been explored.

(c) In this connection, we should step up our campaign against tyranny in the hemisphere and, wherever possible, couple Trujillo and Castro.

9. Clarification of Juridical and Political Basis for the Protection of Free Nations against Communist Aggression

The present basis of international law is grounded on the nation state system as it evolved largely in Europe, from the 15th to 19th centuries. The present situation involving the duality between a nation state system and loyalties to a political and organizational system that transcends nations and has worldwide pretensions (the communist system) presents wholly new problems which require the development and exposition of an entirely new juridical basis. Existing international law concepts, be they the rights of belligerents, interference in the internal affairs of another state, the legitimacy and recognition of governments or the definition of armed aggression, play into the hands of the communists while they tie the hands, or lead to confusion in the ranks, of those proposing to assist nations attempting to preserve their freedom.

Recommended Courses of Action:

(a) Secretary of State to assemble a group of knowledgeable people in this field to propose a new political rationale and new set of legal principles appropriate to today's realities. (Possible names: Dean Acheson, Herman Phleger, Eric Hager, Arthur Dean, Mike Forrestal, C. B. Marshall.)

(b) After U.S. approval of these principles, the State Department to negotiate their acceptance by as wide a group of our NATO allies as possible.

(c) Then inform the members of OAS bilaterally that we propose to accept these principles and expect their concurrence; after having obtained concurrence from OAS states bilaterally submit the principles to OAS for ratification.

VIII. Measures Designed to Defeat Communist Subversion and Infiltration Generally--as well as to Quarantine the Castro Communist Regime

A. Strengthening of the Alliance for Progress

The present status of work on the Alliance for Progress is summarized in Annex III. Favorable Senate action on the $500 million appropriation for the Inter-American Program for Social Progress (Bogota Program), passed by the House of Representatives on April 25, is expected by May 5, so that implementation can begin at once. Planning for the Ministerial meeting of the Inter-American Economic and Social Council in July--the next major formal step--is proceeding smoothly.

Action requirements for strengthening the Alliance for Progress are as follows:

1. Rapid implementation of selected social development projects.

a. Direct the ICA to negotiate forthwith a number of projects in the fields of education and training and public health assigned to it under the Bogota Program, selecting cases where recipient governments are making the greatest efforts at self-help and institutional reform, and covering a number of countries and a number of types of educational projects. The target for obligation of funds by June 30, 1961, should be a minimum of $25 million and an optimum of $35 to $50 million.

b. Direct the U.S. Executive Director of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to encourage the Bank to take similarly prompt action in its assigned fields, giving priority to aid in the realization of agricultural settlement and land reform measures and to low-cost housing in areas of serious unemployment and social unrest, and emphasizing the readiness to assist governments undertaking the most far-reaching self-help measures for social improvement.

c. Direct the USIA to arrange for the maximum informational coverage of the actions in Latin America.

2. Acceleration of other Latin American aid implementation.

Direct the DLF and the Export-Import Bank to accelerate implementation of projects already funded, avoiding "policy" obstacles not required by law (e.g., DLF financing of aided self-help housing in Colombia).

3. Ensure prompt development of affirmative U.S. positions for Inter-American Economic and Social Council.

Direct the Under Secretary of State for Economic Affairs to arrange for the prompt development of clear U.S. positions on Latin American economic integration and on commodity market and foreign exchange income stabilization which will be as responsive as possible to legitimate Latin American aspirations in these fields. These positions should be incorporated into the planning documents for the July meeting of the IA-ECOSOC.

4. Provision of additional resources for Latin American economic and social development.

a. Direct the Foreign Aid Task Force, after completion of its current work in preparing the foreign aid bill for FY 1962, to review the data on Latin American needs and capital absorption capacity with a view to requesting a supplemental appropriation for development loans later in FY 1962 of approximately $300 million, in addition to the $250-$350 million now contemplated.

b. Direct the ICA and the U.S. Executive Director of the IDB to proceed with the obligation of Bogota Program funds as rapidly as projects can be negotiated which are genuinely consistent with the criteria governing that program, with a view to asking Congress for a second installment of social development funds for FY 1963, rather than waiting for the FY 1964 program as hitherto contemplated.

B. Organization of a Political Counterforce

A number of liberal, democratic Latin American political parties have organized themselves into an informal League of Democratic Parties. Moreover, an Institute for Political Education in Costa Rica to train young men in the techniques of democratic leadership has recently been established. We should support, in every way possible, this very hopeful effort. The Director of the appropriate U.S. agency should be instructed to give financial assistance in all amounts which can be usefully absorbed, to aid this organization in establishing a permanent headquarters and independent information and propaganda apparatus, expand a training institute, call international conferences of democratic parties in the underdeveloped world, etc. We should also assist with counsel and technical assistance where desired.

Given a firm ideological base and efficient organization this group could become a highly effective political counterforce to Castro.

C. Psychological and Propaganda Warfare

We must develop a firm propaganda line on Cuba and on communism and provide effective means for disseminating that line.

Annex IV describes the general rationale and suggests several themes for propaganda.

We recommend the establishment of radio broadcasting into Cuba on a 24-hour a day basis independent of the now compromised Radio Swan.

Additional methods of dissemination are discussed in Annex IV. The key decision is the decision to engage in propaganda activities on a greatly enlarged scale, and making the means of propaganda (e.g. radio transmitters) available to non-US groups (e.g. League of Democratic Parties, Cuban Revolutionary Council, etc.). If this decision is made then the USIA Director and CIA should be asked to prepare an estimate of costs.

IX. Organization of Effort

A. The key to conduct of Latin American affairs is the immediate appointment of a top-flight Assistant Secretary for Latin American Affairs--and a Latin America regional director for the new aid agency. If these jobs are to be done effectively it means the centralization of greater authority than that normally afforded to regional Assistant Secretaries vis-a-vis the aid operation and other government agencies.

In the interim the Cuban task force should be continued to keep a watch over those elements of the above plan aimed specifically at Cuba.

203. Memorandum From the President's Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy) to President Kennedy

Washington, May 5, 1961.

//Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, Cuba, General, May 1961. Top Secret.


A. The only agenda item is Cuba. Dean Rusk may ask for discussion of Laos, but we should resist any extended debate--we have had too much, and there is still no agreed, reviewed, State-Defense position. Frank Ellis has a brief paper on Civil Defense whose meaning is hard to assess--he will want to speak to you about it, and you will have to decide whether you want to discuss it.

[Here follows discussion of an unrelated item to be discussed at the NSC meeting.]

C. On Cuba, the starting point is the fine report of the Nitze task force./1/ The first point to make is that we cannot debate it all--the following are the principal points for your decision. They are stated in each case with three elements:

/1/Document 202.

a. The recommended decision

b. Who concurs or dissents

c. The action agency

Recommended decisions:

1. There should be a detailed study of possible weaknesses and vulnerabilities in the elements which exert control in Cuba today--an anatomy of the Castro regime. (cf p. 8, Report)

Recommended by: Task Force and White House

Action: CIA, with State.

2. There should be no military intervention now, but the U. S. should retain the right to intervene if (a) Castro's Cuba should become a direct military threat to the U. S., or (b) if Castro commits aggression against any American republic.

Recommended by: White House, adapted from Task Force (cf. p. 15, Report)

Action: President

3. While the Castro threat should be reduced, if possible, by other measures, there should be careful contingency planning for sufficient and effective intervention if it should become necessary. (pp. 15-16, Report)

Recommended by: White House, adapted from Task Force

Action: Department of Defense

4. Cuban exiles in the U.S. should be dealt with in general as outlined in Annex III,/2/ Task Force Report, except that:

/2/Not printed.

a. There will be no separate Cuban military force, but Cuban enlistment in the U.S. armed forces will be encouraged, and the Department of Defense will keep track of such Cubans against the day when they may be needed.

b. Exiles will be screened, first, for refugee status and, second, on a selective basis, for immigrant status.

Recommended by: White House and Task Force, except that Defense and CIA would prefer a Cuban brigade, while the Task Force did not report on the notion of immigrant status for a few.

Action: Defense, HEW, CIA, and Justice.

5. Possible economic sanctions against Castro should be carefully reviewed--it is not clear what their effect would be, or whether they should be applied by the Trading with the Enemy Act, the Battle Act, or a direct embargo. (cf. Report, p. 19)

Recommended by: White House (Task Force was split)

Action: Department of State (Assistant Secretary Martin)

6. Relations with the Revolutionary Council should be improved, and support should be given to that body insofar as it continues to represent substantial Cuban sentiment.

Recommended by: White House, adapted from Task Force

Action: Department of State

7. Our commitment to lasting reform and progress in a post-Castro Cuba, as elsewhere, should be reaffirmed, along with our commitment to assist the Cuban people and economy after Cuba is free. (cf. Report, p. 19)

Recommended by: White House, adapted from Task Force

Action: President, then State and USIA

8. We should at once initiate negotiation to enlarge the willingness of other American states to join in bilateral, multilateral and OAS-wide arrangements to quarantine Castro. Such negotiation should be separate from preparations now proceeding for the IA-ECOSOC meeting in July, and a special team of negotiators may be needed.

These negotiations should include the following possibilities:

a. agreements for mutual support against subversion, infiltration, or guerrilla activity

b. increased cooperation in strengthening internal security forces

c. increased intelligence and liaison assistance

d. cooperative action against Castro press services and other prop-aganda

e. a Caribbean security force

f. naval patrol against movements of arms and men, within the rules of international law

g. censure of Castro by OAS under Declaration of Caracas, Santiago, and/or San Jose

h. rupture of diplomatic, consular, and/or trade relations

i. creation of appropriate Inter-American committees of enforcement

j. invocation of the Rio Treaty, and U.S. support, in the event of aggression.

Recommended by: White House, adapted from Task Force

Action: Department of State

9. Both emergency and long-range plans should be developed promptly for anti-Communist intervention in the event of crises in Haiti or the Dominican Republic.

Recommended by White House and Task Force

Action: Department of State (Mr. Berle)

10. The Legal Adviser--with such external consultation as may be appropriate--should consider how far existing concepts of international law play into the hands of communists, and whether a new juridical basis for effective anti-communist action can and should be developed. (Report, pp. 30-31)

Recommended by: White House, adapted from Task Force

Action: Department of State (Mr. Chayes)

11. The Alliance for Progress should be strengthened on the lines recommended in Section VIII A of the Task Force Report, specifically including a plan for a supplemental appropriation for development loans, later in FY 1962, of the order of $200-$400 million, in addition to the $250-$350 million now contemplated, and including further an expectation that a second installment of social development funds in FY 1963, rather than in FY 1964. (Report, pp. 32-34)

12. We should engage in propaganda activities on a much enlarged scale, and the means of propaganda should be made available to non-U.S. groups. An estimate of costs should be prepared by USIA and CIA.

Recommended by: White House and Task Force

Action: USIA and CIA

13. An Assistant Secretary of State for Latin American Affairs should be appointed.

14. In the interim the Cuban Task Force should be continued under the temporary chairmanship of Richard Goodwin.

Recommended by: White House, adapted from Task Force

Action: The President

204. Notes of the 483d Meeting of the National Security Council

Washington, May 5, 1961.

//Source: Johnson Library, Vice Presidential Security File, National Security Council (III). Top Secret. Although there is no drafting information on the source text, these notes were prepared by Howard L. Burris, Vice President Johnson's military aide.

[Here follow 2 paragraphs unrelated to Cuba.]

The President asked Mr. Nitze for a report on the Cuban situation. Nitze replied that the Navy could blockade the island but results would not be immediate but rather long-range, and in the course thereof unfavorable world reaction would probably accrue. Admiral Burke pointed out that only complete interception of all ships approaching Cuba would achieve eventual success, and the job could be done with 24 ships. Mr. Rusk interrupted Admiral Burke to point out that such action would be an act of war and was wholly impracticable.

The President asked about a reported letter from Senator Goldwater/1/ in which the statement is made that the Air Force could resolve the Cuban situation. Admiral Burke replied that there had in fact been an Air Force proposal with which other services had disagreed, especially the Marines. In any case, the Air Force had made the suggestion that the Cuban problem be resolved through rather heavy and perhaps indiscriminate bombardment. The President immediately rejected such an idea, and added further that there would be no Navy blockade. He emphasized the importance of more effective watch committee action on Cuba. He also asked Mr. Dulles what new information was available on foreign equipment going into Cuba. Mr. Dulles replied that we know practically everything about the equipment, but offered no specifics. The President directed that close surveillance be continued including overflight with an American pilot. The President approved flights of a frequency of every two or three days, but suggested extreme caution.

/1/Not further identified.

The President suggested that all Americans be urged to leave Cuba and asked Secretary Johnson to study ways and means of exit and transit visas.

Mr. Murrow assessed world-wide reactions to the U.S. position with regard to Cuba. He felt that the departure of the clergy, the reign of terror, and such incidents as the imprisonment in the theater will result in favorable reactions toward the U.S. and tend to considerably offset the unfavorable ones. He felt that world-wide impressions of the United States were improving generally. The President suggested that the Iranian issue might be interpreted abroad as a possible result of the failure of the U.S. to act in Laos. He suggested action by USIA to discount this possible impression. Secretary Rusk suggested the over-riding theme of U.S. rejection of Castro and went on to say that the U.S. must take all measures to precipitate his downfall or face the possibility that all South America will come under Communist influence.

The President asked what specific courses of action we should take to prevent the crippling influence of the Cuban fiasco, assuming that no military action by the U.S. will be taken. At the same time the President asked what circumstances would have to exist before the United States could move unilaterally against Cuba. Rusk stated that action could be taken under Article 51 of the Rio Treaty./2/ In this connection the President asked if the U.S. could recognize the Cuban Government in Exile and what might be expected of this group. Rusk replied that such recognition was not possible because of the absence of certain essential elements of a governmental organization, identity and territory. The question then arose as to the status of the Cubans in the United States and Robert Kennedy replied that they should be designated refugees and stated that legislation exists to handle them under this designation. The Department of HEW will begin registering the refugees with the assistance of CIA. The President stated that the United States will invoke the Trading With the Enemy Act across the board as far as Cuba is concerned at such time as some overt act or incident occurs in Cuba. The President gave as an example the shooting of a United States citizen. The President would exempt from the restrictions of the Act some $30 million for food and drugs. At the suggestion of Mr. Fowler, Under Secretary of the Treasury, the drugs should be donated to the Cuban people through the Red Cross. The President suggested the acceptance of the policy to encourage all Latin American states to sever relations with Cuba and to establish a complete economic boycott. The United States however should draw the line on becoming involved in the affairs of another country, such as active participation in the overthrow of Trujillo. Instead, the United States should determine appropriate courses of action in case Trujillo falls. The common danger in Haiti should be included in these considerations.

/2/Rusk is apparently referring to Article 51 of the U.N. Charter; for text, see A Decade of American Foreign Policy: Basic Documents, 1941-1949, p. 102. He could also be referring to Article 6 of the Rio Treaty; see ibid., p. 228.

205. Record of Actions at the 483d Meeting of the National Security Council

Washington, May 5, 1961.

//Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Meetings and Memoranda Series, NSC Meetings, 1961, No. 483, May 5, 1961. Top Secret. A note on the source text indicates that the President approved this record of action on May 16 as Record of Action No. 2422.

The President presided at this meeting. The Acting Secretary of the Treasury and the Director, Bureau of the Budget, participated in the actions below. The Attorney General; the Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare; the Acting Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff; the Director of Central Intelligence; the Director, U.S. Information Agency; the Under Secretary of State; the Deputy Secretary of Defense; the Deputy Under Secretary of State; Theodore C. Achilles, Special Assistant to the Secretary of State; Stephen E. Smith, Assistant to Mr. Achilles; the Special Counsel to the President; the Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs; Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., Special Assistant to the President; the Assistant to the Special Counsel to the President; the Assistant to the Vice President; the Assistant Secretary of Defense (ISA); the Adviser to the President for Para-Military Affairs; the Military Aide to the President; the Deputy Director (Plans), Central Intelligence Agency; the Acting Executive Secretary, NSC; and Bromley Smith, NSC Staff, attended the meeting.

[Here follow NSC Action No. 2420, "U.S. Policy Toward Iran," and NSC Action No. 2421," U.S. Policy Toward Korea."]

2422. U.S. Policy Toward Cuba (NSC Action No. 2413-c;/1/ Memo for NSC, same subject, dated May 4, 1961/2/)

/1/See Document 204.

/2/Document 202.

a. Agreed that U.S. policy toward Cuba should aim at the downfall of Castro, and that since the measures agreed below are not likely to achieve this end, the matter should be reviewed at intervals with a view to further action.

b. Agreed that the United States should not undertake military intervention in Cuba now, but should do nothing that would foreclose the possibility of military intervention in the future.

c. Agreed that the United States should not impose a naval blockade or attempt an air war against Cuba; it was noted that neither course had the support of the Department of Defense or the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

d. Noted the importance the President attaches to obtaining timely and adequate intelligence as to Cuban military capabilities, especially the enhancement of such capabilities by Sino-Soviet Bloc military assist-ance, so that U.S. capabilities for possible intervention may be maintained at an adequate level.

e. Noted the importance the President attaches to publication in the Free World press of the terroristic actions of the Castro regime, and to possible political action to end the current terror.

f. Noted the President's direction that the Central Intelligence Agency, with other departments, should make a detailed study of possible weaknesses and vulnerabilities in the elements which exert control in Cuba today.

g. Agreed that relations with the Revolutionary Council should be improved and made more open, and while it cannot be recognized as a government-in-exile, support should be given to it insofar as it continues to represent substantial Cuban sentiment.

h. Agreed that no separate Cuban military force should be organized in the United States, but that Cuban nationals would be encouraged to enlist in the U.S. armed forces under plans to be developed by the Secretary of Defense.

i. Agreed that Cuban nationals now holding U.S. visitors' visas will be given refugee status and assisted, under a program to be developed and directed by the Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, in carrying on their former occupations. Refugees now in Miami will be encouraged to locate in other areas. Cuban nationals entering the United States will be given refugee status. All refugees will be eligible to apply for travel privileges, and it was understood that they would also be eligible for citizenship.

j. Agreed not to impose an immediate trade embargo on Cuba. The Secretary of State agreed to send to the President an analysis of the effects of a U.S. embargo on trade with Cuba in relation to the Battle Act. It was agreed that when an embargo is imposed, it should be as complete as possible, with certain exceptions for Canada and with Red Cross distribution of drugs.

k. Agreed that the United States should at once initiate negotiation to enlarge the willingness of other American states to join in bilateral, multilateral and OAS arrangements against Castro, such as (1) breaking diplomatic relations with Cuba; (2) controlling subversive activities of Cuban agents; (3) preventing arms shipments to Castro; (4) limiting economic relations with Cuba; (5) creating a Caribbean security force; (6) initiating a naval patrol to prevent Cuban invasion of other states in the Caribbean; and (7) denunciation of Castro as an agent of international communism by all nations of this hemisphere.

l. Agreed that the Alliance for Progress should be strengthened by such measures as (1) rapid implementation of selected social development projects; (2) acceleration of the implementation of other Latin American aid; and (3) provision of additional resources for Latin American economic and social development, including consideration of a supplemental appropriation for development loans of the order of $200-$400 million.

m. Agreed that the U.S. Information Agency would expand its existing program in Latin America, but not initiate electronic warfare against the Castro regime; means of propaganda should be made available to non-U.S. groups.

n. Agreed that U.S. military officers, under general guidance to be prepared by the Department of State, would discuss the Castro threat to all Latin America with Latin American officers.

o. Agreed that the Secretary of State should prepare a report on a possible new juridical basis for effective anti-communist action.

p. Agreed that pending appointment of an Assistant Secretary of State for Latin American Affairs, the Task Force on Cuba should be continued under the chairmanship of Richard N. Goodwin, Assistant to the Special Counsel to the President.

206. Memorandum for the Record

Washington, May 5, 1961.

//Source: Naval Historical Center, Area Files, Bumpy Road Materials. Top Secret; Hold Closely. Prepared by Admiral Burke.


Debrief of NSC meeting, 5 May 61

[Here follows a brief summary of the discussion of Iran and Korea.]


7. Mr. Nitze then discussed his paper on Cuba./1/ It was asked whether or not anybody in the room believed that we should intervene militarily in Cuba now. I said perhaps not now, but it must be realized that the longer we delay in intervening in Cuba, the more strength Castro will have, both internally because of his training, and externally because he is representing the anti-United States group of Latin America, and because he is getting away with it. I said that in six months, if Castro were wise, he could have a small, well trained Army, and that within a year he could have a good military machine if he really wanted to put his back to it.

/1/Document 202.

8. It was decided that sooner or later we probably would have to intervene in Cuba, but that now is not the time.

9. A blockade of Cuba was discussed and it was decided that a blockade was not worthwhile, for the reasons given in the talking paper./2/

/2/Document 202.

10. It was asked what was the Air Force's proposal to handle the Cuban situation. Some Congressman had written a letter to the White House stating that if SAC were turned loose, they could handle all of Cuba./3/ The question was asked if the Department of Defense knew of this proposal.

/3/Not further identified.

11. Mr. McNamara stated that there had been much discussion on how to land forces in Cuba. The Air Force believed that all the forces should be air landed very quickly, which they thought they could do in 36 hours. All the other Chiefs thought that in addition to air landing of troops, there should be material and other people brought in by ships. Mr. McNamara thought that it was better to use both airborne troops and amphibious troops. If what was meant was bombing of Cuba, it was decided that this should not be done.

12. The question was asked whether or not we were setting up a watch group on Cuba. Mr. Rusk stated that we do have a group which will keep up to date on Cuba. It is a matter of great importance to the White House to know the status of Cuba in detail. For example, the White House will want to know what military equipment the Cubans now have, what military equipment [they] get in the future, and what is the state of training of the Cuban forces.

13. Apparently the White House has received letters indicating that the equipment in the hands of the Militia was better than the equipment available to the CEF forces. Mr. Dulles stated that he knew about all the equipment in the hands of the Cubans and that their equipment was not superior. I seconded his remarks.

14. It was decided to continue the high-level overflights over Cuba, but that we should not fly any more than we have to.

15. A task group for Cuba was again discussed. It was decided that the task group and CIA would both be responsible to determine the Cuban military forces and how fast they were advancing, as well as other Cuban intelligence.

16. The question was then asked whether or not there was really terror in Havana. Several foreign ambassadors had reported that the situation in Havana was worse than they had seen, even in occupied countries. For example, four or five hundred people of many nationalities, but mostly Cubans, were herded into a theater and kept there three or four days without food or water, and without sleeping or bathroom accommodations. The question was asked why the European reporters hold back. They should harden up their articles. Mr. Murrow is to take action and will attempt to get foreign correspondents to get truthful stories from Cuba. We need the support of our NATO allies and the rest of OAS. Good stories from the foreign correspondents would be very helpful.

17. Mr. Rusk said that he would talk with NATO Foreign Ministers in regard to Cuba next week.

18. It was stated that Cuban farmers could not get United States transient visas. State is to act on this fast with Switzerland so that Cubans that want to get out of Cuba can do so on an American visa.

19. [1 line of source text not declassified]

20. It was stated that the troubles in Iran, whatever they may turn out to be, will be charged to our difficulties in Cuba and Laos.

21. Mr. Rusk then read three paragraphs that State wanted to add to the Cuban papers./4/ These paragraphs strengthened the paper and no opposition to them was made.

/4/An apparent reference to the revisions proposed by Achilles in a May 3 memorandum to Rusk; see footnote 3, Document 202.

22. There is to be a formal covert annex on the Cuban paper. Mr. Rusk wanted to hold off on covert actions for a little while at least. CIA and the task group will look at all covert proposals for Cuba.

23. The United States policy in regard to Cuban exiles (page 27) was discussed at length. It was agreed that it would be nearly impossible to form a freedom brigade, but that Services should look into possibility of recruiting Cubans. Mr. Ribicoff is to review the nonmilitary part of the recommendations in regard to the Cuban freedom brigade. We should be very careful never to make a commitment to any Cuban group that the United States will intervene in Cuba.

24. Cubans in this country are now on visitors visas, and a lot of them are Castro agents, using the passports to move around the United States freely. We are therefore going to make them refugees, to control some of them and to permit others to work, and to deport some.

25. It was asked what position the government should take in regard to the committee in exile. The answer was that we can't recognize it as a government in exile because they are really no government. It is not a pre-established government that has been driven from its territory. Recognition of such a committee would be called political intervention, and it would get no OAS support. It would be a precedent for a future action. There might be lots of such governments in exile in the United States if we established one.

26. The next question was how do we deal with Cuban Legion. The answer was that the Cuban Legion can't possibly succeed unless the United States intervenes. We tried the Cuban Legion and it didn't work. However, the United States will intervene if the circumstances make intervention desirable. We can't tell the Cuban refugee group that we will never intervene for we will under some circumstances, nor can we tell them we will.

27. Mr. Ribicoff is to take charge of the refugee problem. He is going to encourage them to continue their trades. They will become an immigrant group. They will have the right to work; he will watch the labor situation to insure they can continue their old trades if they want to, and that they can expand their skills. Some students will be offered scholarships. We will try to keep the refugees from concentrating in Miami.

28. The Trading With the Enemy Act was discussed as to whether it should be absolute or not. After some discussion on whether to continue trade, Burke made his "Hurt Castro" speech. It was brought out by others that we don't want to make Castro a hero but we should hurt Castro every way we know how--in little ways--any way we can, but don't make a hero out of him. Sometimes by doing things against Castro, we build him up and make a popular figure out of him. We don't want the United States to appear to be a bully pushing Cuba or Castro around, or for the United States image to become weakened because we were unable to successfully overthrow Castro.

29. Mr. McGeorge Bundy suggested that maybe we would want to cut off United States imports, but permit food exports to Cuba on humanitarian grounds. It was stated that if restrictions on trade were invoked, it should be done on the ground of specific unacceptable actions on the part of Castro, and we should go all the way and not just part of it. He can get anything that he actually needs elsewhere.

30. It was decided that if we do invoke the trade restrictions we will go all the way. We will invoke the restrictions the first time we can hang them on some situation. It may be necessary to induce a situation, although Castro will probably soon create the situation himself.

31. There was then a discussion of the Battle Act, but no conclusions.

32. Mr. Murrow said that we should let medicine go in to Cuba. It was finally agreed to let medicine go in, but not sell it. It will go in free of charge to the Red Cross.

33. There was a discussion on United States subsidiaries in Canada. They will be included in blanket order, but any individual company with a Canadian subsidiary can get a license which will permit him to trade.

Western Hemisphere

34. There was much discussion on bilateral defense treaties. Mr. Rusk finally said that these treaties should not become a big project. If we want bilateral action when the time comes, it will be easier to get agreement then. If and where it is easy to get bilateral agreements, he has no objection. Elsewhere, let it ride for the time being.

35. Mr. Rusk stated that he has been consulting with OAS States and the OAS Organization on Latin-American countries breaking diplomatic relations with Cuba. Eight have suspended diplomatic relations and nine had recalled their Ambassadors without breaking diplomatic relations.

36. It was stated that the instructions to our Ambassadors in Latin America should be reviewed by the White House. The question was asked what do we want our Ambassadors to Latin America to do. Mr. Rusk stated that it would have to be OAS or Rio type action.

37. There was some discussion on whether Brazil would oppose an anti-Castro movement or not.

38. There was some discussion on a Caribbean defense force and it was agreed that this needed more looking at.

39. Mr. Dulles stated that much more could be done in Mexico than was indicated in this paper.

40. It was brought up again that we have got to be sure that our Ambassadors know what is in our minds so we can all work towards the same goal. We must bring others in the program. We must denounce Cuba as a satellite and get other people to ostracize Cuba.

41. The Vice President stated we have got to be tough. He wants to drag our feet on help to those countries that help Castro, and those countries that opposed Castro, we should help quickly. We should do all we can to hurt Castro and we can't ignore or reward those who play with the enemy.

42. Mr. Bowles was in favor of going easy. We should not be in too much hurry, and should build up examples of courses of action before action is taken.

43. It was still not clear what we wanted our Ambassadors to do, so the question was again asked. It was then stated that American nations should break diplomatic relations, ostracize Cuba, and increase their own internal security.

44. Burke said that the Services could accomplish a great deal in Latin America through the MAAG's and Attaches.

Comment. The JCS should prepare and coordinate with State a paper to provide guidance on such action, which individual Services can use as a source paper for instructions to our people, with copies to CINCARIB, CINCLANT and CINCPAC.

45. It was emphasized that we have got to get all government programs to use all means to weaken Castro.

46. Mr. Murrow stated that it was possible to blanket Cuban radios, and that we could put two naval aircraft in the air to transmit television shows over Cuban channels or we could beef up United States radio and television shows in Spanish to Latin-American countries. It was decided that the latter was the only one to do. Mr. Murrow is going to increase short-wave transmissions and put up some new stations.

[Here follows discussion of the Dominican Republic, British Guiana, and Costa Rica.]


51. Mr. Goodwin is to take over Mr. Nitze's Cuban job at least while Mr. Nitze goes with SecState to Oslo.

[Here follows discussion of Thailand and Vietnam.]

207. Memorandum From Secretary of Defense McNamara to His Special Assistant (Yarmolinsky)

Washington, May 5, 1961.

//Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OASD (C) A Files: FRC 71 A 2896, Yarmolinsky Files, Cuban Volunteer Program. Secret.

Today at the NSC meeting, the Department of Defense recommended against the formation of a "Cuban Freedom Brigade." Instead, we proposed, and the President approved, the induction of Cuban volunteers into the U.S. military forces.

I should like to ask you to assume the responsibility for working with each of the Services, ISA, Manpower and the State Department to develop a plan for carrying out this policy. The plan should provide for recruiting the Cubans in such a way as to avoid any implication that they would ever participate in an invasion of Cuba. Instead, they should clearly understand that their role would be the same as that of any other individual accepted into the U.S. forces. The Services should:

a. Consider the possibility of associating with the Cuban volunteers, volunteers from other South American and Central American nations.

b. Plan to identify the Cuban volunteers in such a way as to permit their consolidation into a Cuban unit, should the need for such a unit ever develop.

c. Outline the special type of training to which the Cuban volunteers might be exposed, e.g., "special forces" training.

d. State the changes required in our current recruiting regulations to permit the enlistment of foreigners.

I should like to be kept informed of the progress of your work. By what date do you anticipate it will be possible to present a plan to me which has been coordinated with all the parties concerned? Along with the plan, please send to me a brief memorandum to the President outlining what we propose to do./1/

/1/In a separate memorandum to the Secretaries of the Army, Navy, and the Air Force, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, McNamara instructed the Joint Chiefs of Staff to respond to NSC Action No. 2422 by preparing plans for creating a Caribbean security force, and for initiating a naval patrol to prevent Cuban invasion of other states in the Caribbean. He instructed the Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs to work with the Department of State to implement the element of the NSC Action that called for U.S. military officers to be prepared to "discuss the Castro threat to Latin America with Latin American officers." (Ibid., Cuba 381 (Sensitive))


208. Memorandum From the President's Special Assistant (Schlesinger) to the Political Warfare Subcommittee of the Cuban Task Force

Washington, May 8, 1961.

//Source: Kennedy Library, Papers of Arthur Schlesinger, Cuba 1961, Box 31. Confidential. The Political Warfare Subcommittee was headed by Schlesinger and was subordinate to the interagency Cuban Task Force, which was chaired after May 5 by Richard Goodwin.

Our mission is to redefine the conflict in Cuba in a way which will transform current opinion not only within this hemisphere but in Europe, Africa and Asia.

A current widespread view (e.g., Manchester Guardian, London Observer, Le Monde, Fair Play for Cuba Committee) is that the conflict is between the Castro regime, which, for all its excesses, is at least dedicated to the welfare of the Cuban people, and a crowd of emigres, whose aim is to bring back the old order to Cuba. Our job is to work out ways and means to combat and destroy this view--to show that the essential conflict in Cuba is nothing more or less than between the totalitarian (or communist) and the libertarian (or social democratic) wings of the Cuban Revolution. This means putting over (a) the true character of the Castro regime and the betrayed revolution; and (b) the progressive character of the Revolutionary Council and its determination to rescue the revolution. Particularly relevant to all this is the terrorism within Cuba in the period since the landings.

The President has expressed an urgent and recurrent interest in this particular phase of the Cuban task force. We should therefore come up with something as concrete and immediate as possible.

We might well start by considering this problem in terms of target areas. For purposes of a first approximation, I would suggest the following targets: (1) Europe, Asia, Africa; (2) Latin America; (3) the United States.

1. Europe, Asia, Africa. Most of the world outside the hemisphere still regards Castro as essentially a left-wing nationalist, no doubt aggressive and emotional, but still basically a man devoted to national self-assertion and propelled into communism only by the short-sighted and imperialistic policies of the United States. Castro is perceived, in short, as a Latin American Nasser, wildly irritating in the short run but nonetheless the victim of Wall Street and the United Fruit Company, striking out in understandable resentment against ancient enemies. If he has become totalitarian, it is because Washington has left him no alternative. His Cuban opposition consists of middle and upper class businessmen and landowners who object to the whole idea of social revolution.

How do we deal with this? (a) We must refute the notion that American policy drove Castro into the arms of the USSR. This can be done by simple chronology: Castro took the communist turn in the course of 1959; the first trade agreement with the bloc took place in February 1960; the first massive American reprisal--the sugar action--took place in the summer of 1960. (b) We must continue to demonstrate the increasingly communist character of the regime. (c) We must get out as promptly as possible the stories of the post-landings terrorism.

How are these things to be done? There is no particular advantage, I would think, in floating these things through the American press. From the viewpoint of the rest of the world, this would discredit the testimony from the start. The points should be made initially in the foreign press--through the correspondents of foreign newspapers in Washington and also directly through our Embassies to key journalistic figures in London, Paris and elsewhere. Two basic presentations perhaps should be involved: (1) a careful chronology showing that Castro's commitment to communism preceded rather than followed US economic retaliation; (2) a compilation of paraphrased reports from neutral embassies in Habana concerning post-landings terrorism. Conceivably there should be a background briefing in Washington developing these points; and London and Paris should be asked to carry the ball locally. This should not be done in the form of public statements, and the case should be made to rest as much as possible on undisputable facts and on neutral reports.

We should also try to send to Europe anti-Castro figures of unchallengeable progressive credentials: for example, Rojas,/1/ who as Castro Ambassador to Great Britain went around the country in 1959 delivering hot pro-Castro speeches, might now come back to explain the betrayal of the Cuban Revolution. Figueres/2/ and Haya de la Torre/3/ could, of course, do powerful jobs in Europe and the underdeveloped world.

/1/Sergio Rojas Santamaria.

/2/Jose Figueres, former President of Costa Rica.

/3/Victor Haya de la Torre, head of the APRA, the Peruvian Social Democratic Movement.

2. Latin America. In Europe our main target is essentially an elite audience--politicians, editors and opinion-makers. In Latin America, most elite opinion is probably pretty well convinced by now of the main propositions; those still unconvinced are probably beyond intellectual persuasion. This means that in Latin America our main targets are popular groups--intellectuals, students, labor, campesinos.

These groups will be particularly resistant to any overt US campaign or, indeed, to official campaigns of almost any sort. The best approach will be through unofficial and indigenous agencies--the League of Democratic Parties, which should be transformed as soon as possible into a serious operation; the San Jose Institute of Political Education; the local offices of the Cuban Revolutionary Council; the labor movement; the universities. The USIA should expand its Latin American activities, but its role should be essentially to supply indigenous groups with necessary material rather than to go into exhortatory and polemical utterances on its own. Radio Swan should be liquidated as soon as possible in its present form.

If the Cuban Revolutionary Council is to be effective, it must end any possible remaining doubt about its commitment to the social and libertarian goals of the Cuban Revolution. This will enrage a lot of rich Cubans in Miami, but their resentment is a burden which will have to be borne. It is far more important to send into circulation throughout Latin America a collection of authentic Cuban progressives who can make clear where it matters that our objection is not to social reform but to the establishment of a Soviet outpost in the hemisphere.

3. The United States. A job remains to be done here. We should not be lulled into complacency by the Gallup poll showing that the President has achieved new heights of public approval. It is equally important to note that, according to the more recent Gallup poll, the American people are 65-24 percent against armed intervention in Cuba and only 44-41 percent for indirect help to the anti-Castro forces. It would be foolish, I think, to underestimate the recent shock to liberal and church opinion or the potential impact of the Fair Play for Cuba group.

Again official government hand-outs are not going to be effective. What we need is the establishment of a Fair Play for Cubans Committee under liberal sponsorship. Such a committee would have as its main function the redefinition of the conflict; it would spell out exactly what the Castro regime is doing to human freedom in Cuba; and it would support the progressive aims of the Revolutionary Council. In time, it might even serve as a source of funds for the progressive anti-Castro front.

We should also make a particular effort to get the stories of Castro terrorism into the hands, not of the New York Journal American, but of liberal newspapers and columnists. In particular, Manuel Ray should be encouraged to make as many public appearances as possible in liberal, labor and student circles; his recent appearance at Harvard was, I understand, a great success.

Arthur Schlesinger, jr./4/

/4/Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.

209. Memorandum for the Record

Washington, May 8, 1961.

//Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, Cuba, Subjects, Taylor Report. Secret; Eyes Only; Ultrasensitive. No drafter is indicated but it was probably Colonel Tarwater. The meeting was the 12th in the series conducted by the Cuba Study Group and was held at the Pentagon. The participants at the meeting, in addition to Taylor, Kennedy, Dulles, and Burke, included General White, General Decker, General Shoup, Bissell, Mitchell, and Tarwater. A note at the top of the source text reads: "The following notes are not a verbatim record, but represent the general substance of the statements made."

General Shoup

Question: What action was taken on the over-all U.S. plan of action for Cuba developed by the JCS in late January?

General Shoup: It was considered by the JCS, but I don't know to whom it was distributed nor what action was taken on it.

General Taylor: At no time after January was there any reconsideration by the JCS of the need for that kind of paper to pull the whole thing together?

General Shoup: To my knowledge there was no reference to it by the Chiefs, but what the Chairman might have done I don't know.

Question: What was the JCS view of the military feasibility of Trinidad and Zapata?

General Shoup: Only by having an opportunity to give my feelings on this whole operation can my observations be taken in the proper context. When I first learned that something of this nature was happening as a military man it immediately dawned on me that this was a whole lot more than dropping a few parachutists or running a boat in at a few various places along the island. I went through the NSC papers and discovered that the national policy was the overthrow of the Castro regime. CIA then drew up the Trinidad Plan and asked that the Joint Chiefs and the Joint Staff evaluate it from a military feasibility standpoint. This led to a very careful look at the mission. The mission had nothing to do with the armed forces of Cuba or the militia, with the exception of that necessary to enter Cuba. The personnel of this force were being better trained than the ordinary Cubans. Their task was to get ashore with this tremendous amount of equipment and supplies which was to be made available for distribution to the people who would rise up to assist the operation. They had considered time and space factors available to them, and determined that this organization had sufficient time to get in there, get the materials ashore, and distribute them to the dissidents. The intelligence indicated that there were quite a number of people that were ready to join in the fight against Castro. These people were to come into the beachhead and pick up this material, and then the beachhead would expand and they would very soon have a formidable military organization. Considering this plan and the location of the enemy forces on the basis of the time and space factors, it appeared to me that they could accomplish their objective. Sometime later the Chairman said the President would not approve the Trinidad Plan because it smacked too much of Normandy, which would make it impossible to deny U.S. involvement. Consequently CIA was directed to develop some alternatives. Later Gen. Gray came in and briefed us on some alternate plans and, as I understood it, there was no question about the Trinidad thing. It was out right there as far as doing it in its original form. A new requirement was levied on CIA to make their landing where there was an airfield. It was my personal feeling that the airfield requirement virtually restricted the operation to the Zapata region. The JCS decided that there was no question about it, the Zapata area had the greatest possibility of success of the alternatives we were considering. Following this there was considerable discussion about how many aircraft Castro had, and the best way to eliminate the tanks. There seemed to be no question about being able to destroy Castro's aircraft with napalm, strafing and rockets, nor the ability to disrupt the tanks. That brings us to the place where the decision was made to go in and try the Zapata thing. However, one thought was predominant. You must achieve and maintain air superiority or you are not going to be able to get ashore.

Question: Did you feel that Zapata was as good a plan as Trinidad?

General Shoup: No, sir. I questioned the swamp area. However, after considerable thought and discussion, I was satisfied that by dropping parachutists to block the roads and by using anti-tank mines you could accomplish the same objectives in the Zapata area that you could in the Trinidad area. However, there were complications in the distances the people would have to come to get the weapons, the problem of maneuvering would be more difficult, and the possibility of debouching would also be more difficult from the Zapata area.

Question: There was no civilian population in the area at all, was there?

General Shoup: There were about 1,800 people where the landings were made.

Question: You made the point that one of the essential parts of the Trinidad Plan was the fact that they had a population there on which they could base their expansion. Did you consider that possibility existed in Zapata?

General Shoup: Yes, sir. The idea was that time and space factors were favorable. It was my understanding that there were lots of people just waiting for these arms, that they would get them in the same manner as they would have in the Trinidad Plan. However, you were closer to some of Castro's army forces and tank forces and you would have more difficulty debouching from this area.

Question: Did you visualize that this landing would attract sizable Castro forces?

General Shoup: Obviously, once he determined the location of the main invasion, Castro was bound to bring in his forces.

Question: How were the dissident Cuban civilians going to get their arms then?

General Shoup: The parachutists and anti-tank mines would block the roadways. Then the whole area would be in a state of revolt. There would be no problem of them coming through. These people would have been much closer to their source of arms than the enemy, because the enemy didn't know where they were coming in.

Question: Was there any impression that there was going to be a pre-D-Day message to the population?

General Shoup: My understanding was that the possibilities of uprisings were increasing, that people were just waiting for these arms and equipment, and as soon as they heard where the invasion was that they would be coming after them.

Question: If you were in charge of the defenses in this area couldn't you get some artillery in and really give them hell?

General Shoup: It takes time. It's time and space. I didn't conceive of them stashing all this stuff on one spot on the beach and waiting until somebody brings artillery down.

Question: What was your opinion of what they were going to do? Get these arms out of there?

General Shoup: Right. And there would be people there to assist them and get the arms. This force, from my understanding, was highly trained in comparison with the militia. They had proper arms, equipment, and leadership to enable them to stand off the armed forces they could expect Castro to commit against them.

Question: How long did you think they'd be in the Bay?

General Shoup: One day. I thought they'd unload those ships and get out of there. If they didn't get unloaded, they'd come back after dark, depending upon whether they were actually rushed by the enemy or if they weren't, and depending upon where the people were that could use the arms.

Question: Was it your understanding that a lot of people in this area were going to come in and help?

General Shoup: I certainly thought there was going to be a number of them. We weren't just talking about the people that had homes in this area. We were talking about the people who wanted to get the help they knew was coming to them with this landing force.

General Shoup: I didn't think the militia were going to band together and harm this thing. It would take some elements of the organized force and if the actual time and place of the landing was not known, the enemy could not afford to commit all of his forces because he doesn't know where the main thrust will be. It was my opinion that the arms and ammunition they had with them was nowhere near sufficient for the people that wanted them.

Question: The JCS commenting on Trinidad said that it had a fair chance of success. Then I think that the record shows that they viewed the next alternatives and said that Zapata was the best of these three plans, but that they still preferred Trinidad.

General Shoup: Yes, sir, any corporal would have said that.

Question: The Chiefs rated the chances of success for Zapata as something less than fair. What was your appraisal of the chances of success of this operation?

General Shoup: The plan they had should have accomplished the mission in Zapata, if the plan had been brought to fruition.

Question: You did not expect a quick or strong reaction from the Castro forces?

General Shoup: I expected them to react, but not with some of the equipment with which they did react, and I don't think they would have if the plans had been carried out.

Question: As you saw this plan develop, the amphibious landing on a hostile shore, did you have any misgivings?

General Shoup: I very frankly made this statement, if this kind of an operation can be done with this kind of a force with this much training and knowledge about it, then we are wasting our time in our divisions, we ought to go on leave for three months out of four.

Mr. Dulles: Do you realize how many military men we had on this task force? Some of your very best officers. We took a great deal of responsibility, but we called on the Defense Department and I looked to them for military judgments. I didn't look to our people for military judgments.

Question: General Shoup, isn't that statement of yours somewhat in contradiction with your over-all optimism that this plan would work?

General Shoup: No, sir, it is not.

Question: Would you say that you took the same interest in this operation and made the same personal analysis as you would have done had you been in charge?

General Shoup: I'll say this. I spent a lot of sleepless hours over this because I worried about the thing because there was no plan for helping these men if there was something unforeseen, an act of God or something, that prevented a successful landing. In my opinion there would be no way to save them. There was no way to guarantee its success, but if the plan was executed, as planned, I believe it would have been successful. I couldn't find out all I wanted to about the plan. I knew I wasn't supposed to. It wasn't my responsibility. Had I been completely responsible I think that I would have known about everything. There were only four people in my headquarters that knew anything about the plan.

Statement: Let's go back to this question of military responsibility. Certainly you, as Commandant of the Marine Corps, had no responsibility for it, but as a member of the Joint Chiefs you did have responsibility for this operation.

General Shoup: That's not my understanding.

Statement: At least the JCS as a corporate body had responsibility for this operation.

General Shoup: That's not my understanding, only insofar as the Commander in Chief might want to know something about the adequacy of the plan, or the probability of success. Otherwise I don't feel that I or the other Joint Chiefs had any responsibility for the success of this plan.

Question: The Joint Chiefs are by law the advisors to the Secretary of Defense, National Security Council, and the President. Consequently, would you say that you should volunteer any advice on this subject?

General Shoup: As a member of the Joint Chiefs I don't know what the Chairman did. I don't know what happened at a lot of meetings at the White House or the State Department but I do know this, that within the corporate body I for one emphasized time after time that we had to have air superiority and we had to help this outfit fend off the force they were going to have opposing them down there.

Admiral Burke: There are three or four things that are the basis of this thing that ought to be clear. One is the responsibility of the Chiefs to comment on the plan. Another is the actual conduct of the operation, which was all in one place and that was in CIA.

Mr. Dulles: But that was done by military personnel.

Admiral Burke: But not under our command structure.

Statement: But as advisors to the President the JCS had a responsibility. The President had the right to look to the Joint Chiefs for advice during the planning or execution phase if they thought they had something important to offer.

General Shoup: That's true, as limited by their knowledge of all aspects of the plan.

Statement: And in the absence of hearing from the Chiefs he had a right to assume that everything was going satisfactorily.

General Shoup: Yes, to the limit of our knowledge. I want to tell you this right now. Had I as an individual heard that they were going to call off the air strikes I'd have asked that the Commander in Chief be informed. I'd have called him myself because it was absolutely essential to success. The D-2 affair was only a half effort.

Mr. Dulles: General, may I add this. The D-2 Day was essentially a plot, not a plan. The plan was the D-Day strike.

Question: Do you feel that you had absolute and complete knowledge about this operation?

General Shoup: Absolutely not.

Question: Did you understand that the President and his advisors were looking to you for your military evaluation of this plan?

General Shoup: The thing that we were asked to do was to determine which of the three alternatives was the best.

Question: But then after that, did you understand that during that period of time that the President was looking to you, the JCS, for the military evaluation of the operation?

General Shoup: I would have to presume that in accordance with his title as Commander in Chief he would be thinking about the military part.

Question: But you understand that he wanted to get your advice and ideas also?

General Shoup: That was never stated.

Question: What I am getting at is that if you feel that you didn't have full knowledge and information on the plan and at the same time the President was looking to you for advice, it seems to me it would be almost impossible for you to give him the military evaluation.

General Shoup: Well, you had to look at it in the context of what the agency said about the uprisings. I had no possible way to know or evaluate them. That in itself was a particularly important factor.

Statement: There was a general impression that the Joint Chiefs of Staff had approved this operation. I don't think there is any doubt but what they went ahead thinking that you and the other Joint Chiefs had approved the plan, but you now say that you didn't have full knowledge and information in order to evaluate the plan. That in itself is of some significance for the future.

General Shoup: One of the main features relating to the ultimate success of this was not whether you could put these ships in here and unload this military equipment, whether the people were properly trained to fend off a reasonable enemy effort.

Statement: Your idea of the plan is entirely different from some other peoples' idea of the plan.

General Shoup: I'm telling the truth as I know it.

Statement: I don't think there is any doubt about that.

Statement: The idea that the people would land on the beach and then take off into the swamp is a new one to us.

Admiral Burke: There was great emphasis on the uprisings and we spent hours and hours determining how to get additional equipment. We ended up with equipment for 30,000 people. The only slight difference I have with General Shoup is that it was my understanding that this group had to be able to hold a beachhead for some time, for several days.

Statement: It's very significant that the Commandant of the Marine Corps, whom the President of the United States and the Secretary of State thought had approved this plan, had an entirely different idea of what the plan was. It seems that something has gone wrong somewhere along the line.

General Shoup: This whole thing was a function of time.

Statement: But when I asked you, you said they were going to get out of there the same day. They were only going to hold a beachhead long enough to unload the equipment. There wasn't any possibility of anybody coming down there. There wasn't anybody around there. Their idea was to hold that beachhead. I think it is important that when the President and the Secretary of State think they have your view, that they do have your view.

General Shoup: I don't think that the Chairman should go to the President as Commander in Chief on an operation of this kind by himself. There are three people here who are quite knowledgeable. The Chairman undoubtedly has a good grasp, but when you hit something like this, details are important.

Question: During the execution of this operation did you keep informed of what was taking place?

General Shoup: It is a question of degree. I had a liaison officer working for me to keep me advised.

Question: The ammunition situation turns out to be the vital factor that caused the ultimate defeat at the beachhead. Did you have a clear picture of how vitally the beach was hurting for ammunition?

General Shoup: No, with the exception that I was told that the ship that was sunk had arms and tank ammunition.

Question: But at the end of the second day's fighting no one communicated to you the crisis that had arisen as a result of the lack of ammunition?

General Shoup: Yes, to the extent that the ships that were sunk had this vital ammunition. Whether or not the drops had rectified this situation I didn't know.

Question: What was your understanding of additional resupply of ammunition by ship?

General Shoup: They had a regular plan drawn up. I can't tell you exactly what the plan was. The equipment was for 30,000 people.

Question: Was it reported to you that two of the cargo ships that had reserve ammunition had fled the area and one got as far south as 200 miles?

General Shoup: No, sir.

General Taylor: May I summarize now what my understanding is? That you would say that you as members of the Joint Chiefs first concurred in the feasibility of Trinidad Plan; that with regard to the Zapata Plan you concurred that it was the best of the three alternatives considered, and as you saw the plan develop you still felt it had a reasonable chance of success.

General Shoup: For the mission as I understood it.

General Taylor: You feel that the Joint Chiefs recognized their responsibility for advising the President, but did not make any special comments to him mainly because you thought the plan was going along all right.

General Shoup: I think you have to preface all these remarks by recognizing that I was not consulted as to whether such a thing ought to happen. That wasn't my business.

General Taylor: The overthrow of Castro you accepted?

General Shoup: Yes, that was national policy.

General Taylor: Wouldn't you say that the Joint Chiefs had every right and responsibility if they didn't believe that an amphibious landing of this kind would succeed, to so advise the President?

General Shoup: Absolutely.

General Taylor: Were you satisfied with the plan as being a feasible, reasonable plan?

General Shoup: To accomplish the mission as I understood it, not the destruction of the armed forces.

Question: What was the mission?

General Shoup: The mission was to get some well-trained military people into Cuba, who could gather into their fold and equip all the people that were just waiting for a chance to get at Castro, then these military people could develop a real military organization and increase their strength to the extent that the whole Castro regime would fall apart.

Question: The success of this operation was wholly dependent upon popular support?

General Shoup: Absolutely. Ultimate success.

Statement: Not only ultimate success, but any success really.

Question: Who gave you this information on the uprisings?

General Shoup: I don't know. I suppose it was CIA. Well, it's obvious we wouldn't be taking 30,000 additional rifles if we didn't think there was going to be somebody to use them. I don't think any military man would ever think that this force could overthrow Castro without support. They could never expect anything but annihilation.

Question: You'd say then that they would still be on the beach if the plan had been carried out as conceived and depended upon popular uprisings throughout the island of Cuba? Otherwise they would have been wiped out?

General Shoup: Absolutely. I don't think there is any doubt at all. Eventually 1,500 people cannot hold out against many, many thousands.

Question: Would you send 1,200 Marines in there to do that?

General Shoup: No, I wouldn't, unless 1,200 Marines are going to be assisted by 30,000 Cubans.

Question: Did somebody tell you there'd be 30,000 Cubans?

General Shoup: No, they didn't, but we were getting materials ready for them.

Question: Did you ask about the swamp?

General Shoup: Yes, I asked about it on the first briefings. Even in the rainy season parts of it were passable by foot and in the dry season much of it was passable by foot. There were a number of egresses other than the roads. That's what we were told.

Question: Were you in touch with General Gray during this?

General Shoup: To my knowledge I was personally present each time that General Gray briefed the Joint Chiefs.

Question: But aside from that, did he give you any individual briefings?

General Shoup: No, sir.

Question: If you were going to do this again and there was still the requirement that it be a covert operation, what changes would you make? Anything that would be materially different?

General Shoup: I don't think that at this time in 1961 or hereafter you are going to do it covertly.

Question: Did you really think that this could be covert in the sense that it would not be attributed to the United States?

General Shoup: I did not.

[end of document]


Department Seal Return to Foreign Relations of the U.S., Vol. X, Cuba.

Join the mailing list