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


Department Seal

Volume X
Cuba, 1961-1962



Cuba, 1961-1962

31. Memorandum for the Record

Washington, January 28, 1961.

//Source: Central Intelligence Agency, DDO/DDP Files: Job 67-01083R, Box 1, C. T. Barnes Chrono, Jan-Jul 1961. Secret; Eyes Only. Prepared by Barnes on January 30.


Cuban Meeting on 28 January 1961/1/

/1/For another record of the meeting, see Document 30.

The decisions reached at the meeting were:

1. To continue all present project activities including propaganda, political action, sabotage, exfiltration and infiltration and overflights both leaflet and supply.

2. To present, as soon as possible, the project tactical PM plan to a limited number of senior officers designated by General Lemnitzer. These officers should, as soon as possible, report their views of the plan in order that a DOD position may be formulated.

3. In addition, it was the sense of the meeting that the 5412 Group should probably be reconstituted and should probably take cognizance of the Cuban problem as well as other covert projects as it has in the past. With respect to Cuba, it was also the sense of the meeting that a task force, constituted generally along the same lines as that previously set up under the Special Group, should be reconstituted for purposes of coordinating the U.S. effort and keeping the senior levels of the interested Departments advised as to the status of planning and actions taken, as well as notifying appropriate individuals whenever any important aspect of the plan is in arrears or needs special attention.

There was some discussion, initiated in connection with consideration of Laos, regarding the need for machinery in the government for centralizing governmental control and decisions. The problem in addition to Laos was thought to exist as well with respect to the Congo and to a lesser extent Cuba. Mr. Nitze was asked to work with Mr. Merchant on this problem and to make recommendations at the next NSC meeting as to what might be done.

4. The Department of Defense clearly has the view that, due to the military build-up which has occurred in Cuba in the last four or five months, a fairly substantial effort will be necessary to overcome the resistance. General Lemnitzer indicated that he is quite prepared to have our tactical plan examined, but his present feeling obviously is that no force of 600 to 800 men is adequate for success. He anticipates, therefore, that final planning will have to include agreed plans for providing additional support for the Cuban force--presumably such support to be U.S.

5. The State Department agrees with General Lemnitzer's views mentioned in the above paragraph. Moreover, State is anxious that no decision be made in favor of any strike force landing until it is quite clear that all other possible steps have been fully pursued. In general, the State Department would advocate taking action to isolate Cuba within the hemisphere. Discussions with Lleras Camargo, Betancourt and Quadros might be initiated for this purpose on the theory that if their support could be obtained, it would go a long way toward lining up other Latin American countries and possibly provide a basis for OAS action. In addition, State would like to examine the possibilities of harassment of Cubans employing action similar to these used against the Nazi penetrations during World War II. Finally, State would favor actions of a covert nature in Cuba itself, including a continuation of all the activities now under way.

6. Should a strike force effort be made against Cuba, State clearly would want such an effort to obtain a fairly sizable piece of Cuban real estate with an ability to hold it in order to enable a provisional government to be identified and recognized and in order to provide territory from which such provisional government could operate against the Castro regime. The Isle of Pines is an obvious possibility along these lines and it was agreed that it should be so examined. On the other hand, it was recognized that this has been recently further fortified and, in addition, is difficult to get at for hydrographic reasons. Nevertheless, it provides good evidence of the way State is thinking.

7. There was some discussion of the possibility of using the Cuban strike force as a guerrilla force. Such use would be an alternative to a strike force landing and would assume the use of a greater number of teams and a much longer term approach to the problem.

C. Tracy Barnes/2/

/2/Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.

32. Editorial Note

At 2:30 p.m. on January 28, 1961, following the meeting at the White House concerning the proposed plan of action against Cuba, the Joint Chiefs of Staff met at the Pentagon with McNamara, Dulles, Rusk, Gilpatric, Bowles, and Nitze to consider the implications of the meeting with the President and the nature of the proposed operation: "Mr. McNamara expressed his concern about the Cuba operation and pointed out the necessity for determining whether the CIA plan was satisfactory or not. He was informed that the Joint Staff had been told to appraise and evaluate the Cuban plan. Mr. McNamara, in effect, questioned whether such a small force could really achieve a worthwhile objective. Admiral Burke pointed out that a big question was the matter of support for the force. He also mentioned that the Cubans could get on the beach but it was a matter of how long they could stay there. SecDef pointed out that at the next meeting CIA should be told that their plan is not considered to be a good one and therefore the necessity for development of an alternate plan. The Chairman agreed with him." ("Review of record of proceedings related to Cuban Situation," prepared by Naval Intelligence for the Director of Naval Operations, May 5; Naval Historical Center, Area Files, Bumpy Road Materials)

33. Memorandum From President Kennedy to Secretary of State Rusk

Washington, January 31, 1961.

//Source: Kennedy Library, President's Office Files, Countries Series, Cuba, Security, 1961. Confidential. The source text indicates that the memorandum was dictated by the President.

It seems to me important that our efforts to organize support along the lines discussed last week should proceed as quickly as possible. I have suggested to Bundy that he get in touch with Mann and ask him for a report before the end of the week on the ways and means by which these negotiations might be conducted more quickly. At last Saturday's meeting/1/ Mr. Mann suggested it might take up to six weeks. This seems to me an excessively long time. Can we do anything about it?

/1/January 28; see Documents 30 and 31.

34. Memorandum of Telephone Conversation Between the President's Special Assistant for National Security Affairs (Bundy) and Secretary of State Rusk

Washington, February 3, 1961, 7 p.m.

//Source: Department of State, Rusk Files: Lot 72 D 192, Telephone Conversations, 1/21/61-2/15/61. No classification marking. Prepared in Rusk's office by Phyllis D. Bernau.


B said the Pres has been saying re Cuba that he has the feeling he has heard different arguments from different kinds of people and he wonders if Berle is going to be involved in that kind of problem and wants him to if it is all right with the Sec. The Sec said yes--he is in charge of the total Latin American task force--Willauer is a subcomm on the particular country. B said if there is a serious difference of view he would like the people to come over and argue with him. R confirmed that Berle is fully informed. B said he got an extremely instructive lecture from Mann and there is a divergence of his view and the Agency's view. If there is a real divergence it will help Mann's view to have it argued out direct with the Pres. R is not concerned as Mann's view is Berle's and his and the other part must not prevail. B said it may be important given the level of that feeling--the Pres is ready to listen--otherwise he is assuming it is going all right.

R said he would like to see the Pres this week end re high-level visitors--would prefer Sunday. B said O'Donnell will call this office to set a time.

35. Memorandum From the Joint Chiefs of Staff to Secretary of Defense McNamara


Washington, February 3, 1961.

//Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, Cuba, Subjects, Taylor Report. Top Secret; Limited Distribution. According to a May 4 memorandum in which he detailed his briefings of the JCS on the paramilitary plan, Major General David W. Gray gave the JCS a 20-minute briefing on February 3 on the CIA Para-Military Plan, Trinidad area, which is outlined in JCSM-57-61. (Ibid.)


Military Evaluation of the Cuban Plan

Attached hereto is the Military Evaluation of the Central Intelligence Agency Para-Military Plan, Cuba. Subject to your concurrence,/1/ the Joint Chiefs of Staff propose to forward copies of their assessment of the plan to the Director for Central Intelligence with the proposal that they meet with the Director for Central Intelligence and members of his staff for further discussion of this project.

/1/In a handwritten note on the source text at this point, McNamara authorized the Joint Chiefs to forward the assessment to the CIA and to discuss the project with CIA officials in light of the assessment.

For the Joint Chiefs of Staff:

L.L. Lemnitzer/2/


Joint Chiefs of Staff

/2/Printed from a copy that indicates Lemnitzer signed the original.


/3/Top Secret; Limited Distribution. The memorandum is marked as a draft, but it is the assessment forwarded to McNamara on February 3, under cover of JCSM-57-61.



Military Evaluation of the CIA Para-Military Plan, Cuba

1. The Joint Chiefs of Staff have evaluated the feasibility of the military portion of the CIA plan for action to effect the overthrow of the Castro regime and arrived at the following conclusions:

a. Since the success of this operation is dependent on the degree of local Cuban support, this factor should be a matter of continuous evaluation until a decision to execute the operation is made.

b. Based on an independent analysis by the Joint Staff the beachhead area is considered to be the best area in Cuba for accomplishment of the Task Force mission.

c. There should be a review of the plan for air movement to the embarkation point to eliminate the possibility of compromise.

d. In view of the complexity of the loading and marshaling phase of this amphibious operation, the current plans should be reviewed to ensure detailed coordination and centralized control.

e. If surprise is achieved and the estimates of Castro's air defense capabilities are correct, the plan of air operations is within the capability of the Air units and should be successful.

f. Since it is highly improbable that the airborne assault would be opposed, it should be successful.

g. The amphibious assault should be successful even if lightly opposed; however the personnel and plans for logistic support are marginal at best. Against moderate, determined resistance logistic support as presently planned will be inadequate.

h. The scheme of maneuver to secure the beachhead area is basically sound.

i. Additional planning is required concerning the control and utilization of indigenous facilities, and personnel both for combat and support functions.

j. It would appear more desirable for guerrilla bands to support from outside the beachhead area rather than combining with the invasion force as currently planned.

k. Without interference from the air, obstacles or guerrillas the Cuban Army could move substantial forces to the area by D+2. Necessity to develop the situation and prepare a coordinated attack would take an estimated two additional days at a minimum. Interference by any of the three above factors would further delay a coordinated attack.

l. Since the Cuban Army is without experience in coordinated offensive action, the invasion force should be able to successfully resist the initial attacks.

m. Even if the task force is expanded by local volunteers, it is estimated that, lacking a popular uprising or substantial follow-on forces, the Cuban Army could eventually reduce the beachhead, but no estimate of the time this would require is possible.

n. This operation as presently envisaged would not necessarily require overt U.S. intervention.

o. In view of loading requirements, a decision as to the execution of this operation must be made by D-21.

p. In summary, evaluation of the current plan results in a favorable assessment, modified by the specific conclusions set forth above, of the likelihood of achieving initial military success. It is obvious that ultimate success will depend upon political factors; i.e., a sizeable popular uprising or substantial follow-on forces. It should be noted that assessment of the combat worth of assault forces is based upon second and third hand reports, and certain logistic aspects of the plan are highly complex and critical to initial success. For these reasons, an independent evaluation of the combat effectiveness of the invasion force and detailed analysis of logistics plans should be made by a team of Army, Naval, and Air Force officers, if this can be done without danger of compromise of the plan.

q. Despite the shortcomings pointed out in the assessment, the Joint Chiefs of Staff consider that timely execution of this plan has a fair chance of ultimate success and, even if it does not achieve immediately the full results desired, could contribute to the eventual overthrow of the Castro regime.

2. It is recommended that the enclosed study be forwarded to the Director, Central Intelligence Agency, for information and consideration.

[Here follows a 3-page section entitled "Military Evaluation of Para-Military Plan," which is identical with the conclusions outlined in paragraphs a-q above. The only substantive difference is the addition of a paragraph 2, under the heading "Facts Bearing on the Problem"; see footnote 7 below.]

Annex "A"


1. Enemy Forces. (Appendix "A" for details)/4/

/4/Appendices A-E to Annex A are attached but not printed.

a. Cuban Army--Total, 32,000 personnel, including 9,000 police, organized into four infantry regiments (strength, 2,000), three artillery battalions, three tank battalions and one AAA battalion. Nearest Army force to beachhead is approximately 100 miles away, consisting of 6,000 troops (one infantry regiment, one artillery battalion and one tank battalion, not confirmed). In beachhead area, there is a police squadron.

b. Air Force--Three F-47; one F-51; 14 Sea Fury; 13 B-26; six TBM-38; 15 transport type aircraft; 22 helicopters of various types.

c. Navy--Total, approximately 5,000 personnel. Three PF; two PCE; 43 smaller craft.

d. Militia--Between 200,000 and 300,000 in strength. Well armed but combat capability is questionable. Approximately 1,200 militia are located in the beachhead area.

e. Combat Readiness of Cuban Armed Forces is low but improving. This improvement partially offset by deteriorating morale.

2. Friendly Forces. (Appendix "B" for details)

a. Cuban Task Force--1,004 personnel.

(1) An Infantry Battalion of four rifle companies (one airborne), totaling approximately 826 personnel and armed to include 4.2 mortars and 77 mm recoilless rifles, and a tank platoon of 5 M41 tanks.

(2) An Air Force consisting of 17 B-26's; 10 C-54's; 5 C-46's; supported by approximately 100 personnel, 18 of which are pilots. Maintenance is excellent and has adequate logistic support.

(3) Navy--3 LCU's; 2 LST type; 2 LCI; 4 LCP; 1 LSD (USN); and supported by approximately 40 Naval personnel.

b. Guerrillas--In Cuba, total 1,500 but in general area of beachhead (25 mile radius) five bands with an estimated strength of 660.

c. Cuban Volunteers after invasion. CIA is counting on a sizeable number of indigenous volunteers. This support will undoubtedly develop but the numbers cannot be estimated. Arms for 1,500 volunteers are included in initial lift.

3. Characteristics of the Invasion Area.

a. Terrain--The beachhead area is generally semicircular with a perimeter of approximately 11 miles. Within the beachhead area is a small city,/5/ a small airfield, roadnet and a river. The perimeter of the beachhead is generally anchored on low hill masses with a commanding hill mass, approximately 700 feet in height, at its north center. The area between the hill masses and the ocean is generally flat, with wooded and cultivated areas. Two good roads enter the area from the east and the west, with a railroad entering from the northeast. Tanks generally can operate throughout the beachhead.


b. Landing beaches--There are three small beaches in the landing area, two at river mouths and one on the west side of the bay formed by the rivers. The left river mouth beach is 100 to 150 yards in length, with 12 foot water depth up to the beach. The center beach, at the main river mouth, is 100 to 150 yards in length, with shoal water off the beach making it suitable only for LCVP's. The third beach, on the west side of the bay, is 50 to 60 yards in width with 7 feet of water up to the beach and easily identifiable by four buildings to the rear of the beach. Exits at all beaches are suitable for small vehicles, while the exit from the west beach is very good, suitable for vehicles and tanks. The seaward approaches are clear.

c. Airborne drop zone--The planned drop zone is approximately 2,000 yards in length, open and generally flat. It is located near the commanding hill mass within the beachhead. It is considered suitable for a company drop zone.

d. Strategic location--The beachhead is so located that it is remote from known concentrations of Cuban Army, access routes are limited and it can be readily isolated by cutting highway and railroad bridges at river crossings outside the beachhead area. Rugged terrain in the vicinity facilitates expansion of para-military operations.

4. Concept. (Appendix "C" for details) On D-1, air strikes are designed to neutralize Cuban Air Force, Cuban Naval patrol vessels, key communications facilities, and destroy tanks and artillery in parks. Second priority is isolation of the objective area. Following a feint on the night of D-1, prior to first light on D Day, the task force will invade by simultaneous air drop in the vicinity of the key hill mass and by amphibious landing on the selected beaches. Avoiding the city, control of the beachhead area will be established by seizing and organizing four strong points on key terrain along the perimeter which dominate entrance routes into the area. Contact will be established with guerrilla bands in general area of operations. Small air strip in area will be cleared. Every effort will be made to increase force by local volunteers for which arms will be provided. Force will establish control within beachhead area and if driven therefrom, be prepared to withdraw from beachhead area and link with guerrilla forces to continue guerrilla activities. For detailed concept of air employment and capabilities, see Appendix "D" to Annex "A".

5. Logistics. (Appendix "E" for details) The supply of Class I, III and V/6/ is adequate. The shipping is limited and allows no margin for miscalculation or unforeseen contingencies. Of the 826 personnel in the Brigade, only 18 are specifically designated for logistic tasks. These 18 are in the 85 man Brigade Headquarters. The quantities of Class I, III and V supplies are adequate for the operation. The Brigade is without engineer or bridging capability. Plans call for Class I, III and V supplies to be mounted-out from New Orleans, Guatemala and Nicaragua. These supplies are available for both air and surface lift. Transportation is adequate for the initial phases of the operation on an austere basis.

/6/Class I covered subsistence materials, including food, Class III involved petroleum products, and Class V was ammunition.

Annex "B"


1. Friendly Forces

a. A task force with an approximate strength of 1040 officers and enlisted men has been recruited, assembled and is now undergoing training. This task force consists of a ground force unit with an approximate strength of 826 personnel, a seaborne support element of approximately 40 individuals, and an air combat and support element with an approximate personnel strength of 100.

b. The ground force unit is organized along the lines of a U.S. Infantry Battalion and consists of one Headquarters and Support Company, four Rifle Companies, one Heavy Gun Company and one Tank (M41) Platoon. One Rifle Company has received airborne training, one Rifle Company has received training as motorized infantry to operate with the Tank Platoon, and three of the Rifle Companies are theoretically trained to engage in amphibious landings. To date, no actual training in amphibious landings has been accomplished by the Rifle Companies. Boat crews to operate the landing craft are currently undergoing training. M41 tank crews have not received sufficient training as yet; however, it is anticipated that adequate training will be provided within the United States. Eighty airborne trained personnel have received additional training as a special purpose unit, designed to parachute into general area of operation on D-Day to insure that strategic bridges are demolished and thereby denied to the enemy. (For further details on assault force, see Appendix "B" to Annex "A".)

c. Seaborne support unit has available a limited number of vessels and landing craft for training and for the conduct of its operational mission. (For further details, see Appendix "B" to Annex "A".) A detachment of 11 personnel is receiving specialized training in underwater operations to qualify them to mark the channel of approach for landing craft on D-Day.

d. The Air Force combat and support element has available 18 trained pilots within its total strength of 100. Aircraft available and being used for training are: 17 B-26's, 10 C-54's, and 5 C-46's.

e. All of the above information was obtained by representatives of the Joint Staff as a result of a briefing held 31 January 1961. There is no indication that personnel of the task force have received a combat type checklist evaluation to determine its combat readiness.

2. Beachhead Area. The general objective area is isolated from the location of Cuban Army units and is strategically located so as to facilitate blocking rapid reinforcement by cutting bridges on the two main roads and the railroad into the area. The location of the area also facilitates expansion of military and para-military operations. The selected beaches for the amphibious assault are suitable for the landing envisaged, provide adequate exits, and can be readily identified from seaward. The airborne landing area is adequate for the planned one company drop and is adjacent to the company's objective area. Tanks can operate throughout most of the beachhead area. Overall, the objective area is considered desirable for the type operation envisaged.

3. Air Movement to the Port of Embarkation. The troops that are to be moved amphibiously will be flown to Puerto Cabezas during three consecutive nights prior to their departure for Cuba. This airlift is well within the capability of the volunteer force. However, this traffic converging on Puerto Cabezas, coming on the heels of recent construction there, might alert Castro-Communist elements who could possibly observe the loading of the troops on the LST's and report this information to Cuba. To eliminate this possibility, other plans for moving these troops to the LST's should be examined. For example: It might be feasible to airlift these troops from Retalehuleu to Swan Island for loading onto the LST's. This would reduce the likelihood of being observed by Castro-Communist elements, and would cut the time needed to move from the point of embarkation to the invasion beaches by approximately one day.

4. Sea Movement

a. The plan requires that shipping be loaded at New Orleans, Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Vieques. Commencing at D-15, shipping will load supplies at New Orleans and proceed independently to ports in Guatemala and Nicaragua. At the same time, other ships of the invasion force will be loading personnel and equipment at Vieques. All shipping, upon completion of embarkation, will steam independently to a rendezvous area off the Cayman Islands to arrive on D-1. Each ship will travel on individual orders without knowledge of the orders of other ships in the force. The result will be dependent on the coordination and control exercised in the execution of a detailed, exacting plan. Once in the rendezvous area at the Cayman Islands, certain key personnel will conduct pre-D-Day transfer among shipping. The final movement into the objective area includes the rendezvous with the invasion fleet of one U.S. Navy LSD. Final juncture of shipping is effected at H-5 hours on D-Day off the invasion beaches.

b. The complicated and multiple ship movements for the 14 days prior to D-Day will require plans in exact detail, executed under centralized control and coordination.

5. Air Operations

a. Given the correctness of the current CIA estimate of Cuban air defense capabilities, and assuming the air attack will have the advantage of surprise, the D-1 and D-Day air operations should be generally successful.

b. However, if the CIA estimate is incorrect, and it develops that the Cubans possess jet aircraft and pilots, and ground to air missiles, the air strikes could fail.

c. Furthermore, if the element of surprise is lost, the Cubans could utilize a few of their Sea Furys and B-26 aircraft airborne. The Cubans could also set sugar cane fires generating smoke that could frustrate at least some air strike missions, with the over-all effect that the D-1 and D-Day air operations would not accomplish all assigned missions.

6. Airborne Assault. The task force has adequate transport aircraft to lift the entire airborne infantry company to the landing zone within the beachhead. In view of the size of the drop zone, and its location in relation to the airborne company's objective, the airborne assault should be successful in seizing and holding the key terrain objective.

7. The Amphibious Assault

a. The amphibious element of the force has received no amphibious training and is not now scheduled to receive any prior to the operation. This deficiency will not be too serious if estimate of unopposed landing holds true. Nevertheless, lack of sufficient trained shore party personnel will complicate control in moving personnel and materiel across the beaches. Facilities for handling broached boats are not available. Trained personnel are not generally available for traffic control, beach installations, and control of dump sites.

b. Beaches are adequate to land personnel and equipment according to plan. Routes of egress restrict the landing of heavy vehicles to the beach on the right flank. Beaches are generally marked by significant terrain features. In addition, UDT trained personnel will be utilized to mark the approaches to the principal beach on the right flank.

c. The amphibious assault does appear feasible, but there should be detailed plans to insure coordination of landing and effective handling of supplies and equipment across the beach and at least mockup training should be conducted.

d. The personnel and plans for logistic support are marginal at best. This operation may be supported logistically on an austere basis during an unopposed landing. If opposition increases, the logistical aspects will rapidly worsen. Against moderate, determined resistance, this plan will fail to provide adequate logistic support.

8. Concept of Control of Beachhead Area

a. The concept of the invasion assigns the airborne company the mission of seizing the key hill mass which dominates the northern portion of the beachhead area and the town. One company lands amphibiously on the left flank beach, then proceeds to an objective area on the left flank which controls routes of ingress from the west. The first company to land amphibiously on the right flank beach clears the airfield, then moves to an objective area on the northeast portion of the beachhead area which controls the main highway and railroad from the east. The last company leaves one platoon on the right flank beach to assist in beach operations; the remainder of the company clears the port, then proceeds to an objective area on the eastern part of the beachhead area to control the unimproved roads in that area that lead to the east.

b. The units will maintain control by establishment of strong points, road blocks, and neutralization of avenues of approach. Patrols will be utilized to cover the principal routes leading into the beachhead area.

c. A major problem could arise in control of indigenous personnel. In this regard, desirability of control of radio and news media may be stressed. Provisions need be made for the prevention of sabotage, operation of port facilities, traffic control measures to restrict civilian movement in the beachhead area, care and control of POW's, and utilization of indigenous labor. Particular attention is required to restrict local civilian personnel from interfering with air operations at the air strip within the beachhead area. The question of local procurement of materiel on the local market may merit consideration. The plan is deficient in that it does not provide for these matters. It has been indicated that plans are being prepared which will take these problems into account. However, the size and composition of the force as it now stands is inadequate to fulfill the requirements described above.

d. The invasion force intends to establish contact with the guerrilla bands now operating in the general area of operations. According to currently available intelligence, it is estimated that within a 25 mile radius of the objective area, five guerrilla bands with a total estimated strength of 660 may cooperate with the task force. Another guerrilla band with an estimated strength of 90 is operating approximately 30 miles west of the objective area. Two additional guerrilla bands are operating some 40 miles north of the objective area. The concept is for these bands to reinforce the invasion force in the beachhead area. This part of the concept is not considered sound. It would appear that it would be desirable for the guerrilla bands now established within the area of operations to intensify operations and hold their current operating areas as a base to which the invasion force can withdraw if it is forced out of the beachhead.

9. Local Indigenous Support

a. Any invasion to overthrow the Castro regime would probably be supported by many segments of the population, especially if it showed some early success. Continued support of the invasion would depend largely on the identification of leaders with the hopes and aspirations of the bulk of the population. While some preliminary softening probably would be accepted as necessary for success of the operation, wholesale bombings would tend to unite the people behind Castro, especially if there was high loss of life as a result.

b. If the leaders of the movement can get their message across to the people rapidly and with a united voice, support probably will be forthcoming from all segments, including the armed forces and militia and widespread defections could be expected. However, a split in the leadership, or lack of a clear program appealing to the people, could well prevent any effective support developing. In the general area of operations, the loyalty of the militia and police units is probably divided between support for Castro and support for the anti-Castro guerrillas operating in the mountains. The militia units now engaged in counter-guerrilla operations were drawn from other provinces in order to assure their loyalty. Therefore, considerable local support for the invasion force can probably be expected. Likewise, if widespread support for the invasion force develops, it would reduce the militia units and rebel army elements available to oppose the landing force in subsequent operations.

10. Resistance to Invasion and Time and Space Factors on Cuban Army Reaction

a. The nearest Cuban Army Forces, approximately 100 miles away, are not normally concentrated but scattered throughout the area. Even if assembly of these forces commences on the evening of D-1, it is estimated that only a small element (approximately 1 battalion) could commence movement towards the area by the night of D-Day. Additional forces could begin departing for the area immediately thereafter as transportation becomes available. The initial elements of these forces could arrive in the area in about 8 hours, and could begin to probe the beachhead by D+1.

b. By U.S. combat standards without interference from the air, obstacles or guerrillas, a force of approximate regimental size should be able to attack late on D+1. However, in view of the inexperience of the Cuban Army in this type of operation it is estimated that a force large enough to attack in strength could not be assembled in the beachhead area before D+2. The necessity to develop the location of the invasion force positions and prepare a coordinated attack would probably take an additional two days, although minor attacks or piecemeal attacks could occur between D+2 and D+4. If there is interference as planned from the air, obstacles or guerrillas, the mounting of a coordinated counterattack would be further delayed.

c. Without interference, tank units could reach the area from Santa Clara by road in approximately 8 hours and from Managua by rail and road in a maximum of 56 hours after starting to load.

d. Even if the invasion task force is expanded by local volunteers, it is estimated that, lacking a popular uprising or substantial follow-on forces, the Cuban Army could eventually reduce the beachhead, but no estimate of the time this would require is possible.

11. Political-Military Considerations

a. When this plan was originally briefed to the Joint Staff in outline form the impression was gained that the force would occupy a small perimeter in the mountains where it could fairly easily be surrounded and destroyed. If such an event should appear imminent after declaration of a provisional government and U.S. recognition, U.S. overt support would have to be given to uphold U.S. prestige regardless of the international consequences. The detailed explanation of the plan now reveals that if the beachhead area cannot be held, the force together with leaders of the provisional government will withdraw into the mountains and join existing guerrilla bands. In this eventuality, the invasion force will not have completely failed in its mission, and the U.S. would not necessarily be committed to overt support. Therefore, a decision to commit this force would not necessarily require a simultaneous decision for overt U.S. military action.

b. If the United States had not recognized the provisional government prior to abandonment of the beachhead, subsequent U.S. actions could be in the form of continued covert support of a guerrilla movement. If the United States had recognized the provisional government, prior to abandonment of the beachhead, then a decision as to whether U.S. prestige would require overt support would be required. This eventuality should be considered at the time the basic decision to execute the plan is made.

c. The present plan does not allow for the possibility of follow-up support from other Latin American countries in subsequent phases of the operation. Such support would increase the capabilities of the military force and, it is estimated, would intensify local Cuban support. The introduction of such forces would create problems of supply, command, prestige, etc. which would be solvable, but which would have to be anticipated and included in prior planning. Therefore, a decision as to possible OAS support should be sought without delay.

12. Ability to Accomplish Mission

a. The following are factors favorable to the invasion force:

(1) Probably unopposed landing.

(2) Probable lack of air opposition.

(3) Availability of friendly air support.

(4) Suitability of terrain for fixed defense.

(5) Remoteness of beachhead area.

(6) Assistance from guerrillas.

(7) High motivation and morale.

b. Following are factors unfavorable to the invasion force:

(1) Lack of reserves.

(2) Lack of logistic support elements.

(3) Lack of freedom of maneuver.

c. Following are unknown factors:

(1) Degree of popular support.

(2) Capabilities of Cuban Army to successfully counterattack.

d. Considering the above factors, on balance the invasion force should be able to accomplish objectives as stated in paragraph 2a and c./7/ Since objective stated in paragraph 2b is dependent on degree of popular support and success of the political, psychological part of this plan rather than on purely military factors, success of this part of the mission cannot be definitely assured, but it is estimated has a fair chance of success./8/

/7/Paragraph 2 of the first section of the study, not printed, lists a 3-part mission for the Cuban exile force:

"a. Invade the island of Cuba by amphibious and airborne assault.

"b. Hold a beachhead long enough to establish a provisional government, act as a rallying point for volunteers and a catalyst for uprisings throughout Cuba."c. Integrate with existing guerrilla bands and carry on guerrilla operations if driven from the beachhead area."

/8/According to General Gray's May 4 list of JCS briefings, on February 8 the Director of Central Intelligence and several CIA officials met with the Joint Chiefs of Staff to discuss the JCS comments on the Trinidad Plan outlined in JCSM-57-61. Agreement was reached that a team of military officers would evaluate the combat effectiveness of the Cuban Expeditionary Force.

36. Memorandum of Conversation

Washington, February 4, 1961.

//Source: Department of State, Central Files, 737.00/2-2461. Confidential. Drafted by Pryce on February 18. Initialed as accurate by Mann.


Possible Cuban-U.S. Rapprochement


Constantine Kangles, Chicago Attorney (said to have represented the 26th of July Movement until January 1959, and subsequently registered agent of the Castro regime)

Thomas C. Mann--ARA

William T. Pryce--ARA

Mr. Kangles, having just left the Attorney General's office,/1/ called on Mr. Mann. In the course of a prolonged conversation Mr. Kangles said:

/1/At 2:24 p.m. on February 4, Secretary Rusk received a telephone call from Attorney General Kennedy concerning Kangles. Kangles was in Kennedy's office and Kennedy suggested that someone in the Department of State talk to him, as Kennedy saw no point in continuing to be directly involved in conversations with Kangles. The Attorney General stated, however, that it was worthwhile to talk with Kangles because of his relationship with Castro. (Ibid., Rusk Files: Lot 72 D 192, Telephone Conversations, 1/21/61-2/15/61) Rusk in turn called Mann and relayed Robert Kennedy's message. Mann agreed to see Kangles as soon as he arrived at the Department. (Ibid.)

He had made a trip to Cuba hoping to meet with Raul Castro. He was not able to do so but did talk with Raul's "secretary" who related the following information on Raul Castro:

1. There has been a decided difference of opinion between Raul and Fidel since April 1960. In a recent conversation two points of disagreement emerged: a) Raul was strongly opposed to Fidel's policy of allowing the militia to have arms and ammunition, and b) Raul felt that some sort of "agreement" should be reached with the U.S. Raul was able to convince Fidel on the first point but not on the second.

2. Raul is alarmed at the degree of power exercised by Cuban Communists, particularly "Che" Guevara. He wished to remove the Cuban Communists from power but before doing so needed assurances from the U.S. that it would replace any support lost from the Sino-Soviet Bloc as a result of his actions. Specifically, Raul would want the U.S. to resume diplomatic relations with Cuba and begin buying Cuban sugar before he made his move. It was not clear whether or when Raul would break relations with the Sino-Soviet Bloc, but Mr. Kangles thought that a gradual forced withdrawal of Sino-Soviet influence, including an eventual break, would take place.

Mr. Kangles proposed that Mr. Gentry, who is reportedly an "advisor" to the Cuban Government, make a trip to Cuba in order to further sound out Raul on the above. Mr. Kangles would fabricate a story for Mr. Gentry saying that Mr. Gentry wished to travel to Cuba in order to clear up certain matters relating to his U.S. citizenship. In order to perform this travel it would be necessary for Mr. Kangles' passport to be validated for travel to Cuba.

Mr. Mann thanked Mr. Kangles for his information and said that he would talk it over with members of his staff and would be in touch with Mr. Kangles if this was thought fruitful.

37. Memorandum of Conversation

Washington, February 6, 1961.

//Source: Department of State, Central Files, 737.00/2-661. Secret. Drafted by Hurwitch.


Views of Opposition Leader: Dr. Antonio Varona


Dr. Antonio Varona

Dr. Carlos Piad

Ambassador Bonsal--ARA/COAS

ARA:CMA--Mr. Vallon

ARA:CMA--Mr. Stevenson

ARA:CMA/C--Mr. Hurwitch

Dr. Varona said he had come to discuss a very serious and unfortunate development affecting the Frente Revolucionario Democratico (FRD) of which he is the leader. He related the following:

He had some time ago appointed Colonel Martin Elena as the Frente's military expert in charge of training and military planning. Despite repeated requests, neither he nor Col. Martin had been permitted to visit the "camp" where Cubans are being trained under the control and supervision of U.S. officials. On the latest occasion when Col. Martin, on Varona's instructions, had sought permission to visit the camp, he was bluntly told by a U.S. official named Roderick that the "training camp" activities were of no concern to the Frente. The primary function of the Frente, Roderick continued, was that of recruiting new members and supervising civilian activities of its members. Suggestion by the Frente of the possible composition of the future Government of Cuba was criticized by Roderick as an inappropriate Frente activity. In short, Martin was clearly given to understand that the U.S. was engaging in activities involving Cuban exiles and had plans affecting Cuba that the Frente was not entitled to know.

Dr. Varona took strong exception to the development. He insisted that Cubans in training should be placed under Cuban control, and that U.S. officials act only in an advisory capacity. He considered his organization as allied with, but not subordinate to, the U.S. He was extremely concerned that training activities at the "camp", carried on with the collaboration of Cuban military officers who were not controlled by the Frente, might result in the eventual establishment of a government in Cuba after Castro's overthrow in which the Cuban military elements would have a preponderant voice. A post-Castro government of this nature would be unacceptable to the majority of the Cuban people.

The U.S. attitude revealed to Martin was especially untimely in that the Frente Executive Committee was in the process of expanding to include other opposition group leaders such as Miro Cardona, Luis Conte Aguero, Alvarez Diaz and Carlos Hevia. Varona concluded by stating that the Frente would not accept this new state of affairs and would resign en masse if the present relationship of the Frente to the "training camp" were permitted to persist.

Ambassador Bonsal expressed his pleasure at the opportunity to talk again with Dr. Varona, but told him that he had no knowledge of the above matters and could therefore make no useful comment. He added only that situations of this kind are frequently the result of a misunderstanding. He then drew Dr. Varona into a general conversation on the situation in Cuba and invited him to call on him again on his next visit to Washington. Dr. Varona appeared most appreciative of the fact that he had been received by Ambassador Bonsal./1/

/1/Varona returned to see Bonsal on February 9 following a meeting he had just had with "certain United States officials." He complained that the attitude of these officials remained as it was before, and it was clear that the Frente was not to have any influence on activities at the "camp." Varona likened the situation to a time bomb, and said that he could not return to Miami unless a solution acceptable to the FRD was reached. He asked to see Berle, and Bonsal said that he would relay the request. (Ibid., 737.00/2-961)

38. Memorandum for the Record

Washington, February 7, 1961.

//Source: Central Intelligence Agency, DCI Files: Job 85-00664R, Box 3, Vol. 4, Ch 3. Secret; Eyes Only.


Meeting on Cuba


Office of Mr. Thomas Mann, Assistant Secretary of State


Mr. Adolph A. Berle, Chief of Department of State Latin American Task Force

Mr. Thomas Mann, Assistant Secretary of State

Mr. William Bundy, Department of Defense

Mr. Haydn Williams, Department of Defense

Gen. Gray, Joint Chiefs of Staff

Mr. Wymberley Coerr, Department of State

Amb. Achilles, Counsellor of Department of State

Mr. Richard Goodwin, White House Staff

Mr. Richard Bissell, CIA

Mr. Tracy Barnes, CIA

Col. J.C. King, CIA

[name not declassified]

Mr. Berle chaired the meeting. The meeting lasted three hours--from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. The following topics were discussed:

Naval Blockade

Mr. Berle indicated that he had given considerable thought to the establishment of a naval blockade of Cuba as a weapon against the Castro regime. The matter of a naval blockade was then discussed. The Defense representative, Mr. Williams, reported that a blockade of Cuba was physically feasible. Such a blockade, to be effective, would require the stopping, boarding and searching of all vessels destined to Cuba, regardless of flag. The opinion was expressed by Mr. Williams that the Soviet Government would consider such treatment of its vessels as an act of war. He also stated that unless Cuba committed a unilateral aggression against the United States, the blockade of Cuban ports would in itself be considered an act of war and would violate two treaties to which we are a signator, including the Rio Treaty. Other aspects of a blockade were discussed, and Mr. Berle concluded that a blockade of ingress would create more problems for us than it would solve. It was agreed that search and seizure tactics could be employed against shipping from Cuba at non-Cuban ports of call and especially in Western Hemisphere ports where local arrangements could be set up without any particular difficulty or risk.

Radar Surveillance

The possibility of detecting non-scheduled air flights from Cuba which might be directed at other American states, principally Venezuela, was discussed. Although radar coverage under certain circumstances might be fairly effective, it was the opinion of CINCLANT authorities that the chances of detecting non-scheduled Cuban flights would be--at best--one in ten. It was agreed that the best protection for places such as Venezuela or Colombia would be the erection of fixed radar intercept facilities in those countries to guard against surprise attacks. It was noted that radar coverage by CINCLANT would not be effective against air-craft flying at altitudes of less than 500 feet.

The Agency Plan

The Agency Plan/1/ and the JCS evaluation/2/ thereof were also discussed. While the soundness of the plan itself was at no time questioned, a number of questions were raised. Would any American citizens be included in the landing party? Answer negative. However, Americans would accompany the ships and be involved in the landing exercise. Would any American citizens be involved in the air strike? Answer, probably some American flyers under contract, but the great majority would be Cubans. The possibility of civilian casualties resulting from the air strike was raised. Gen. Gray thought the chances minimal since the targets were easily identifiable and away from civilian populations. Mr. Bissell said every effort would be made to minimize the risk, but no guarantee could be made that some civilians employed at the targets would not be killed or injured.

/1/See Document 9.

/2/Document 28.

Considerable interest was evinced by both Mr. Mann and Mr. Berle on the possibility of the strike force reaching the safety of the mountains in the event they found themselves in an untenable position at the beachhead. Gen. Gray indicated he was confident that the strike force would be able to hold the beachhead at least six days before Castro would be in a position to throw any sizable group of army or militia units against the strike force. Since defensible mountain terrain is within only a few miles of the landing site, Gen. Gray was confident that the main body of the landing party could retreat to the mountains and maintain themselves there indefinitely. Later he also expressed the belief that the strike force could break through any encirclement that Castro might throw around the mountain area under consideration and make its way to the beach in the event an evacuation by sea should be required. The target site was not specifically identified during the discussion and Mr. Berle admitted to all concerned that he did not know and did not wish to know its exact location.

The question was raised as to the probable popular reaction to a landing of the nature contemplated. Col. King reported that our best information indicates that the civilian population and campesinos would probably be friendly to the invasion force, as they currently are to the guerrillas who have been operating in the hills. He added that intelligence also discloses that there is widespread dissatisfaction among field workers, who have been taken from their labors to serve in the militia, and that the morale of the militia itself is low, with many defections daily reported. Gen. Gray remarked that the combat effectiveness of the army was low, and that of the militia considerably lower. One reason for the low effectiveness of the army is absence of training in larger units. That to defend his long coast line Castro has had to spread his army thin, and that through the use of deception tactics he could be kept off balance on D-Day. However, Gen. Gray did question the wisdom of knocking out certain bridges in the target area on D-Day minus one, since he fears that this may provide Castro with a tip-off as to the actual landing site, although he admitted that it would probably be three or four days anyway before Castro could get any sizable force of troops with equipment to the area. In a later discussion of the possible world reaction to the air strike and landing party, Mr. Berle said that from time immemorial Cuba has experienced invasions from the sea. However, the simultaneous bombing of a number of Cuban targets from the air was another matter and one that could not be shrugged off. Although he did not pursue this line of thought, there appears to be no doubt that it is causing him some concern. The possibility of fuzzing up the location of the bases from which the planes operate through the use of deception devices was briefly discussed. In this connection the question of how far we can go to protect, or support, Somoza and Ydigoras was lightly touched on by Mr. Mann and Mr. Barnes, with Mr. Barnes stating that while no specific commitment has been made, we have indicated that we "would back them" in the event they are charged with intervention. Mr. Mann concurred that they should be backed.

Policy Approval

Mr. Berle stated that he would like, if possible, to lay before the Secretary and the President a proposal for action which has our unanimous agreement. However, he said if there is any difference or differences which cannot be resolved, it then would be necessary to take both points of view to the Secretary and to the President for their consideration. He then identified what he feels are the three broad courses of action open to us:

1. Drifting, with no military action by organized Cuban or American forces

2. Agency plan

3. Massive intervention--war.

He then enumerated his reasons for favoring the agency plan, which he referred to as the intermediate possibility. These points were:

1. The question of time. We cannot delay or drift. If we do, we will soon find Castro with a large military capability which can only be reduced by war.

2. It would take a long time and a lot of work before we could effectively prevent Castro from exporting his revolution to other areas of the Caribbean. The implementation of the Agency plan would give Castro things to preoccupy himself with at home and minimize the chance of his embarking on any foreign adventures.

3. We do not have to presume--if the Agency plan is implemented--that U.S. forces will have to be committed, since there is expert opinion that the strike force can find safe haven in the mountains and maintain itself there indefinitely.

4. There is intelligence that the invading force would attract popular support of the people of Cuba at this time. This may not be true some months later when Castro will have tightened his grip on the island.

5. And on moral grounds, since the risk of loss of life would be less with this proposal than with any other course.

In supporting Mr. Berle's contention that we cannot afford to wait, mention was made of the present training in Czechoslovakia of some 60 to 100 Cuban pilots in jet aircraft and the possibility that these pilots may complete their training in March of this year. No one questioned the fact that the acquisition of a jet capability by Castro would greatly alter the picture in his favor.

With the exception of Mr. Mann there appeared to be general agreement with Mr. Berle's summing up of the situation and the conclusion he arrived at. Specifically, Mr. Mann would not accept the premise that we do not have to presume commitment of U.S. forces as a follow-up to the landing of the strike force. He contended that once we permitted the strike force to land, we (the United States Government) were then committed; that the United States Government would have to underwrite the success of the venture even if it meant the employment of U.S. naval and military forces. This being the case it was essential, in his opinion, that we first take certain diplomatic action--specifically--consult with a number of other Latin American nations, in order to beef up our moral position in the eyes of the hemisphere before we embark on this adventure. He then outlined his "thesis" as follows:

1. He and other State Department officials (he suggested Mr. Berle might visit Brazil) would contact the presidents and foreign ministers of a number of important South American countries (Colombia, Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina, Peru, and perhaps others) and consult with them on the problem of Cuba. Hopefully, they would share our view that Castro is a menace to the peace of the hemisphere and that positive action--preferably under OAS sponsorship--should be taken. If they are unwilling to go along with multilateral intervention within the framework of the OAS, perhaps they will be willing to break with Castro and recognize the Junta when it surfaces itself in Cuba. If they are unwilling to take any action against Castro, then at least they will not be able to say--as they did in connection with the recent protective blockade of Guatemala and Nicaraguan coasts--that we did not consult them. Without specifically stating what we are planning to do, we would at least acquaint them with the fact that we were not going to permit Castro to menace the peace of the hemisphere, etc. Since anyone who knows how to read already knows that the United States is supporting training bases in Guatemala and financing revolutionary groups in the United States, there will be no doubt in the minds of these leaders as to the type of action we have in mind.

2. However, if a number of countries would break with Castro and recognize the Junta, this would open the way to legal intervention--would prepare public opinion at home and abroad--and give us a defensible position in the U.N. The use of armed forces and the supplying of arms to the Junta would then be possible with some degree of legality.

3. Mr. Mann indicated that it would take at least six weeks to complete these consultations, and consequently if his "thesis" is adopted, the landing of the strike force cannot take place prior to 31 March 1961 at the earliest.

Once the selected countries had been sounded out--and regardless of whether their reaction is favorable or unfavorable--Mr. Mann visualized the following sequence of events:

A. Consultation with other American countries--time, six weeks.

B. Members of a Junta enter Cuba clandestinely and from Cuban territory announce the establishment of a provisional government and request recognition of the United States and all Latin American nations. It would also request the support of all Cuban patriots at home and abroad.

C. In answer to this appeal the strike force would land and endeavor to carry out its mission of establishing a beachhead and increasing its real estate until Castro is finally overthrown.

D. The United States will recognize the Junta and endeavor to get other OAS states to do likewise.

E. If the strike force appears to be in danger of annihilation, the United States, preferably in concert with other OAS countries but unilaterally if necessary, will take whatever steps may be necessary to guarantee victory, and this in all probability will require the use of United States armed forces.

Mr. Berle then tried to get Mr. Mann to admit to the possibility or the probability that the strike force would not be annihilated but would, if faced with the necessity, be able to make its way to the mountains and to maintain itself there indefinitely--which is the opinion of our military experts. Assuming all this, Mr. Mann was asked whether he still insisted that prior commitment to employ the United States armed forces was necessary. Mr. Mann said that he would not agree to the landing of the strike force unless it was first agreed as policy that the United States Government was prepared to go all the way to insure victory.

Mr. Barnes then stated that he felt it was necessary to point out that the threat to the peace of the hemisphere now exists and that it is increasing, and that if we delay in taking action until later, we shall lose an immediate capability of dealing with the problem--namely, our strike force. He pointed out that pressure is building up, we are already losing recruits through the AWOL channel, that these men have been in training for six months, and that we had originally contemplated their going into action as early as last November; that we could not keep the lid on much longer.

At this juncture Mr. Bissell stated that he wanted it clearly understood that the Agency could not and would not guarantee that it could get any member of the Junta into Cuba prior to the landing of the strike force.

Mr. Berle's Counter Proposal

Mr. Berle then outlined another possible course of action which would achieve a certain measure of legality--and thus satisfy Mr. Mann's requirement of a defensible position in the U.N., etc.--and still permit us to proceed with the project. In broad outline his proposal is as follows:

1. To prepare public opinion and to put the hemisphere on notice as to the serious view the United States takes of the Castro menace, the United States Government would withdraw recognition of the Castro government. In other words, we would go one step further than a mere break of relations. We would publicly declare that the Castro regime is not recognized by the United States as the Government of Cuba.

2. Immediately thereafter a revolutionary group "seeking to be the Government of Cuba" would be surfaced. This group would publicize a program of action which would promise elections, individual liberties, etc., which the former Castro government had failed to provide, and we would "recognize" this group as a revolutionary group "seeking to be the government."

3. We would use our influence with other Latin American countries to also de-recognize Castro and to "recognize" the revolutionary group.

4. The strike force would go in, the revolutionary group would send its representatives in and form a revolutionary Junta, and civil war would become widespread on the island.

5. We would then take the initiative in calling the OAS into session and we would demand action under the OAS charter and the appropriate treaties which would restore peace in Cuba through armed military intervention. We would go to this meeting prepared to prove that Castro is a menace to peace, that his regime has become dominated by an extra-continental totalitarian power, namely the Soviet Union, and we would demand that the OAS take the action open to it and required of it by its treaty obligations.

6. If the other OAS nations jointly refuse to face up to their responsibilities and either take no action whatsoever, or stall, or attempt to mediate the Cuban problem--as a problem between the United States and Cuba--then we shall make it clear to the OAS that we consider the OAS ineffectual as an organization and that in order to live up to our responsibilities under the treaties and the Monroe Document,/3/ we have no recourse but to take unilateral military action to remove this menace to hemispheric peace and reestablish peace on the Island.

/3/The reference is to the Monroe Doctrine, a unilateral policy statement made by President Monroe in an address to Congress on December 2, 1823.


Mr. Berle announced that since differences of opinion still existed as to what course of action should be recommended to the Secretary and the President, it would be necessary for him and Mr. Mann to take their differences to the Secretary for consideration. Mr. Goodwin then remarked that the President had made it quite clear that if there were unresolved differences of opinion on the Cuban problem, the persons concerned should come to the President's office and in his presence orally set forth their arguments for his consideration and eventual decision.

Mr. Berle thought they would be able to discuss the matter with the Secretary this afternoon and possibly with the President this evening./4/

Mr. Barnes brought up the question of training some 25 Cubans in the operation of M------ tanks at stateside army installations and asked that authority be given to the appropriate officials of the Defense Department in order that this needed training could take place at the earliest possible date. Although no one posed any serious objections to the training of these Cubans in an American army installation, there was some uncertainty as to exactly who could authorize this. Someone said that perhaps the Secretary of State should send a letter to the Secretary of Defense/5/ but the question seemed to be left hanging, although it is most probable that Gen. Gray and the Defense officials attending may have considered Mr. Berle's and Mr. Mann's concurrence as sufficient authority on which to proceed.

/4/See Document 40.

/5/No such letter has been found.

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

Washington, February 8, 1961.

//Source: Kennedy Library, President's Office Files, Countries Series, Cuba, Security, 1961. Top Secret. The source text was initialed by the President.

When you have your meeting this afternoon on Cuba, I think you will find that there is a divergence of view between State on the one hand and CIA and Defense on the other. Defense and CIA now feel quite enthusiastic about the invasion from Guatemala--at the worst they think the invaders would get into the mountains, and at the best they think they might get a full-fledged civil war in which we could then back the anti-Castro forces openly. State Department takes a much cooler view, primarily because of its belief that the political consequences would be very grave both in the United Nations and in Latin America. I think they will urge careful and extended diplomatic discussions with other American states, looking toward an increasing diplomatic isolation of Cuba and the Dominican Republic before any drastic action is taken. This divergence of view has not been openly and plainly considered in recent task force discussions, as I understand it. Therefore, you are quite likely to hear it in quite fresh form this afternoon.

Dick Goodwin has been in on most of the Cuban discussions, and he and I join in believing that there should certainly not be an invasion adventure without careful diplomatic soundings. We also think it almost certain that such soundings would confirm the judgment you are likely to hear from State.

McG. B./1/

/1/Printed from a copy that bears these typed initials.

40. Memorandum of Meeting With President Kennedy

Washington, February 8, 1961.

//Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, Cuba, General, 1/61-4/61. Top Secret. Prepared by Bundy on February 9.


Messrs. Rusk, Berle, Mann, Bohlen, McNamara, Nitze, Barnes, W.P. Bundy, Haydn Williams, Dulles, Bissell, McG. Bundy

The meeting opened with an account by Mr. Bissell of the current plan for launching the troops from Guatemala. He reported that the JCS, after careful study, believed that this plan had a fair chance of success--"success" meaning ability to survive, hold ground, and attract growing support from Cubans. At the worst, the invaders should be able to fight their way to the Escambray and go into guerrilla action. If the troops are to land in top form, the operation should not be delayed, at the longest, beyond March 31, and the decision to land for it must be made before D minus 21.

Secretary Rusk stated that without careful--and successful--diplomatic preparation such an operation could have grave effects upon the U.S. position in Latin America and at the U.N. Mr. Berle said that it would be impossible, as things stand now, to avoid being cast in the role of aggressor. Both Mr. Rusk and Mr. Berle believed that no present decision on the proposed invasion was necessary, but both made clear their conviction that U.S. policy should not be driven to drastic and irrevocable choice by the urgencies, however real, of a single battalion of men.

The President pressed for alternatives to a full-fledged "invasion," supported by U.S. planes, ships and supplies. While CIA doubted that other really satisfactory uses of the troops in Guatemala could be found, it was agreed that the matter should be carefully studied. Could not such a force be landed gradually and quietly and make its first major military efforts from the mountains--then taking shape as a Cuban force within Cuba, not as an invasion force sent by the Yankees?

The State Department envisioned a long and complex effort to win support and understanding--from other American States for a strong line against Castro--the Dominican Republic thrown in. Mr. Berle believed that the President's own authority and leadership would be needed in making the U.S. view understood both at home and abroad. The President asked that the State Department prepare a clear statement of the course it would recommend, and meanwhile he urged all concerned to seek for ways in which the Administration would make it clear to Latin Americans that it stands squarely for reform and progress in the Americas.

The only new action authorized at the meeting was the organization of a small junta of anti-Castro Cuban leaders, to be supported by a larger Revolutionary Council. This junta will have a strong left-of-center balance, and it will be a response to the urgent demands of the troops in Guatemala for a sense of political direction and purpose. Its members will be selected for their ability, among other things, to join the landing force./1/

/1/In a separate memorandum on this meeting, also prepared on February 9, Bundy noted that the discussion resulted in a decision by the President to authorize the encouragement of a junta and a revolutionary council, and that plans would be prepared for extensive diplomatic conversations and possible public statements on the nature of the Cuban problem. He added that alternative plans for action by anti-Castro Cubans would be explored. Beyond that, no other action "will be taken until after further authorization from the President." (Ibid.)

McG. Bundy/2/

/2/Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.

41. Memorandum From the Chairman of the Task Force on Latin America (Berle) to Secretary of State Rusk

Washington, February 9, 1961.

//Source: Department of State, ARA/CCA Files: Lot 66 D 501, Inter-Agency Staff Study. Secret.

This refers to the White House discussion yesterday./1/

/1/See Document 40.

CIA are preparing and sending over a paper indicating the danger that a number of countries will go over the watershed, in case the operation we discussed yesterday is abandoned. This will come to you, and if they are right, we shall have some stiff decisions to make early next week.

I'm assuming that the White House meeting authorized taking soundings to ascertain the possibility of OAS or Rio Pact Ministers' action. We are working on and will have an outline of the scope of such explorations. The CIA paper may suggest an enlargement of the meas-ures which we may want to ask the other American countries to authorize.

42. Editorial Note

Cuba was discussed under two separate headings at the 476th meeting of the National Security Council on February 9, 1961. The available record of the discussion is very limited, however. According to the Record of NSC Actions, approved by the President on February 11, a proposed purchase of Cuban molasses by a United States firm was discussed under the heading of "Significant World Developments Affecting U.S. Security." The Council also discussed Cuba in conjunction with an oral report by the Secretary of State under the agenda item entitled "Discussion of Crisis Areas." No further substantive record of the NSC discussion has been found. (Department of State, S/S-NSC (Miscellaneous) Files: Lot 66 D 95)

43. Memorandum From the President's Special Assistant (Schlesinger) to President Kennedy

Washington, February 11, 1961.

//Source: Kennedy Library, Papers of Arthur Schlesinger, Cuba 1961, Box 31. Top Secret.

As you know, there is great pressure within the government in favor of a drastic decision with regard to Cuba.

There is, it seems to me, a plausible argument for this decision if one excludes everything but Cuba itself and looks only at the pace of military consolidation within Cuba and the mounting impatience of the armed exiles.

However, as soon as one begins to broaden the focus beyond Cuba to include the hemisphere and the rest of the world, the arguments against this decision begin to gain force.

However well disguised any action might be, it will be ascribed to the United States. The result would be a wave of massive protest, agitation and sabotage throughout Latin America, Europe, Asia and Africa (not to speak of Canada and of certain quarters in the United States). Worst of all, this would be your first dramatic foreign policy initiative. At one stroke, it would dissipate all the extraordinary good will which has been rising toward the new Administration through the world. It would fix a malevolent image of the new Administration in the minds of millions.

It may be that on balance the drastic decision may have to be made. If so, every care must be taken to protect ourselves against the inevitable political and diplomatic fall-out.

1. Would it not be possible to induce Castro to take offensive action first? He has already launched expeditions against Panama and against the Dominican Republic. One can conceive a black operation in, say, Haiti which might in time lure Castro into sending a few boatloads of men on to a Haitian beach in what could be portrayed as an effort to overthrow the Haitian regime. If only Castro could be induced to commit an offensive act, then the moral issue would be clouded, and the anti-US campaign would be hobbled from the start.

2. Should you not consider at some point addressing a speech to the whole hemisphere setting forth in eloquent terms your own conception of inter-American progress toward individual freedom and social justice? Such a speech would identify our Latin American policy with the aspirations of the plain people of the hemisphere. As part of this speech, you could point out the threats raised against the inter-American system by dictatorial states, and especially by dictatorial states under the control of non-hemisphere governments or ideologies. If this were done properly, action against Castro could be seen as in the interests of the hemisphere and not just of American corporations.

3. Could we not bring down Castro and Trujillo at the same time? If the fall of the Castro regime could be accompanied or preceded by the fall of the Trujillo regime, it would show that we have a principled concern for human freedom and do not object only to left-wing dictators.

If the drastic decision proves necessary in the end, I hope that steps of this sort can do something to mitigate the effects. And, if we do take the drastic decision, it must be made clear that we have done so, not lightly, but only after we had exhausted every conceivable alternative.

Arthur Schlesinger, jr./1/

/1/Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.

44. Memorandum From the Chairman of the Task Force on Latin America (Berle) to Secretary of State Rusk

Washington, February 14, 1961.

//Source: Department of State, ARA/CCA Files: Lot 66 D 501, Inter-Agency Staff Study. Secret.



As the White House conference/1/ broke up, we

/1/No other record of this conference has been found.

(a) arranged leadership for the camps;

(b) kept the operation standing;

(c) agreed the situation would need review not later than early next week.

Should we not set up another White House meeting late this week to determine the next step?

In this connection the CIA paper/2/ I referred to in an earlier memorandum/3/ has probably reached you. I have seen it. It suggests that dismantling the Cuban operation may mean explosions in three or four countries in Central America. If this is accurate, we should be prepared for the consequences of dismantling.

/2/A possible reference to a draft of the paper on Cuba submitted by the CIA to the White House on February 17; see Document 46.

/3/Document 41.

The countries involved are [1 line of source text not declassified] Nicaragua and Guatemala.

I think the danger may be a little overdrawn [1-1/2 lines of source text not declassified] though Guatemala may be an issue, but we do have to get our lines straight.

45. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (Mann) to Secretary of State Rusk

Washington, February 15, 1961.

//Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, Cuba, General 1/61-4/61. Top Secret; Eyes Only. Drafted by Mann.


The March 1960 Plan/1/

/1/Reference is to a memorandum prepared in the CIA entitled "A Program of Covert Action Against the Castro Regime," which was approved by President Eisenhower on March 17, 1960. For text, see Foreign Relations, 1958-1960, vol. VI, pp. 850-851.

Attached for your consideration is a list of my conclusions concerning the March 1960 plan which has been under discussion. If my conclusions are accepted, there can, of course, be no certainty we will not be faced with the necessity, perhaps before this year is out, of using armed force. If this should become necessary we would, I believe, be far better off to do whatever has to be done in an open way and in accordance with the American tradition after preparing public opinion both at home and abroad. If you should decide not to press at this time for a collective decision to recognize a rebel government in Cuba, we might explore, in a very general and tentative way, the possibility of getting agreement in principle that something along this line will be done if conditions within Cuba seem to offer a more solid basis for such action at the time the Foreign Ministers Meeting/2/ is held. I am intrigued with the thought that a great many of the impediments to dealing with the Cuban situation would be cleared away if a rebel government could be recognized.

/2/Reference is to the projected but still unscheduled Meeting of Consultation of Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the American Republics. The seventh such meeting was held in San Jose, Costa Rica, August 22-29, 1960. The eighth meeting was not held until January 22-31, 1962, in Punta del Este, Uruguay.

Finally, I thought it would be desirable for Mr. Berle, before he leaves for Brazil, to have a pretty clear idea of your views on the substantive points so that he can speak confidently and effectively.



The March 1960 Plan

What is proposed is the landing of a brigade of approximately 800 men from bases in Guatemala and Nicaragua, supported by an air strike from the same bases either simultaneously with the landing or 24 hours preceding it. Naval craft, with some "contracted" United States nationals aboard, would transport the brigade and supply logistic support. It is planned that the brigade, if unopposed and if surprise were achieved, would be able to consolidate their position and hold a beachhead for a limited number of days. If internal support does not materialize, it is planned that the brigade could either march directly to nearby mountains or be withdrawn from the beach to other nearby beaches from whence they could move into the mountains. Once in the mountains they would operate as a guerrilla unit.

My conclusions regarding this proposal are as follows:

(1) The military evaluation of this proposal is that "ultimate success will depend upon political factors, i.e., a sizeable popular uprising or substantial follow-on forces."/3/ It is unlikely that a popular uprising would promptly take place in Cuba of a scale and kind which would make it impossible for the Castro regime to oppose the brigade with superior numbers of well armed troops.

/3/See Document 35.

(2) It therefore appears possible, even probable, that we would be faced with the alternative of a) abandoning the brigade to its fate, which would cost us dearly in prestige and respect or b) attempting execution of the plan to move the brigade into the mountains as guerrillas, which would pose a prolonged problem of air drops or supplies or c) overt U.S. military intervention; a JCS staff officer has estimated there is at least a 10% chance that U.S. forces would be required unless alternative (a) were adopted.

(3) Execution of the proposed plan would be in violation of Article 2, paragraph 4, and Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations,/4/ Articles 18 and 25 of the Charter of the Organization of American States,/5/ and Article 1 of the Rio Treaty, which, in general, proscribe the use of armed force with the sole exception of the right of self-defense "if an armed attack occurs."

/4/For text of the Charter of the United Nations, see A Decade of American Foreign Policy: Basic Documents, 1941-1949, pp. 95-110.

/5/For text of the Charter of the Organization of American States, signed at Bogota, Colombia on April 30, 1948, see ibid., pp. 230-242.

The Castro regime could be expected to call on the other American States (Article 3, paragraph 1 of the Rio Treaty) to assist them in repelling the attack, and to request the Security Council (Chapter 7 of the UN Charter) to take action to "maintain and restore international peace and security." The chances of promptly presenting both international organizations with a fait accompli are, in my opinion, virtually nil. It would therefore be extremely difficult to deal with Castro demarches of this kind. We could not disassociate ourselves from our complicity with Guatemala and Nicaragua; and if we tried to do so, both Ydigoras and Somoza are in possession of sufficient information to implicate the United States in the eye of reasonable men.

(4) Since the proposal comes closer to being a military invasion than a covert operation of the Guatemala type, account must be taken of the possibility that the execution of this proposal would attract to Castro additional support within Cuba. More important, a majority of the people of Latin America would oppose the operation, and we would expect that the Communists and Castroites would organize and lead demonstrations designed to bring about the overthrow of governments friendly to us. At best, our moral posture throughout the hemisphere would be impaired. At worst, the effect on our position of hemispheric leadership would be catastrophic.

(5) Time is running against us in Cuba in a military sense since it is probable Castro soon will acquire jet aircraft, since he may acquire missiles and since Castro needs time to train his army and militia. Nevertheless, Defense does not currently consider Cuba to represent a threat to our national security. If later it should become a threat we are able to deal with it. If so, new developments which make Cuba an immediate threat to our national security might increase our chances of obtaining hemispheric support for collective action.

(6) The intelligence community was, and probably still is, unanimously of the opinion that time is running against us in Cuba in the sense that a declining curve of Castro popularity is offset by a rising curve of Castro control over the Cuban people. Nevertheless, it is not impossible that rifts between leaders in the Castro regime, mounting economic difficulties and rising resentment with terrorist methods will lead to the eventual overthrow of the Castro regime by the Cubans themselves, aided only by the more "conventional" type of covert activities now being carried out. In any case, time is not currently running against us in terms of Latin American public opinion; there has already been a significant decline in Castro's popularity in Latin America, a trend which we have reason to hope will continue, assuming Castro continues to employ the same methods. If one looks at the Castro problem in the context of the struggle between the East and the West for Latin America, if one assumes the success or failure of the Castro policies to achieve a better life for the masses will significantly influence future hemisphere thought and action, and if one assumes that discipline and austerity will be hallmarks of Castroism, the political advantages to us of letting Latin America see for itself the practical results of applying communist theory in a Latin American country could well give us a decisive advantage in the ideological hemisphere struggle ahead of us.

(7) I therefore conclude it would not be in the national interest to proceed unilaterally to put this plan into execution.

(8) I also conclude that in spite of the difficulty maintaining or re-creating our Cuban "asset", we should consider proceeding as planned only if we receive strong support for collective action by the two-thirds majority required by the Rio Treaty. The chances of obtaining this agreement within the time limits imposed on us by the plan are not good. The attitudes of Quadros, Lleras, Betancourt and Frondizi may well be decisive. Mexican support is not expected. Venezuelan support would certainly be conditional on simultaneous action against Trujillo.

(9) To determine whether Latin American support will be forthcoming it will be necessary discreetly to make soundings. There is no chance of obtaining Latin American support for a resolution authorizing the use of armed force against Cuba. Our best chance of getting support would be to propose a resolution for the collective recognition of a rebel government. The Latin Americans would understand the relationship between recognition of a rebel government and the Cuban "asset" in Central America without being told, i.e. that the recognition of the government would give at least a color of legality to support the proposed operation. A possible resolution along this line for Cuba is at Tab (A)/6/ and a possible resolution on the Dominican Republic is at Tab (B).

/6/None of the draft OAS resolutions attached to the source text is printed.

(10) The resolution at Tab (A) would be subject to the juridical objection that the rebel government does not control significant portions of Cuban territory and to the objection that not all members of the revolutionary junta are resident in Cuba. To this we would have to answer that the rebel government speaks for the guerrillas in the mountains who have been fighting for months. In any case, we will be much better off in the UN and the OAS if we are debating this issue than if we are debating the issue of whether the proposed operation constitutes an armed attack. It would offer the additional advantage of converting our posture from covert to overt, a posture which is in keeping with the American tradition.


Alternative Proposal

(11) Assuming you do not wish to engage in soundings to determine whether there is support for a resolution along the lines suggested at Tab (A) or having made the soundings we do not receive strong support from the American community, we should determine whether there would be support for collective action, short of the use of armed force, directed to the insulation of Latin America from Cuba and steps to control and, if possible, eliminate Castro-communist subversion. A draft resolution along these lines is at Tab (C).

(12) If the March 1960 plan is abandoned, it will be necessary to determine what use is to be made of the brigade, including the feasibility of their introduction into the mountains of Cuba as guerrillas. This would require further study.


Search and Seizure

(13) Consideration has also been given to the feasibility of reducing the future military risk by interception on the high seas of arms, including jets and missiles, destined for Cuba. This has been abandoned as impracticable because of staff opinion that this would be clearly illegal and because of the probability that our friends and allies would be no more amenable now to a search and seizure procedure than they were during the Guatemalan venture. Furthermore, this procedure would have the disadvantage of bringing us head on into conflict with the Soviet Union.


Other Considerations

(14) Outside the scope of this list of conclusions are non-ARA questions such as estimates of probable reactions of our NATO Allies and the Sino-Soviet Bloc.

[end of document]


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

Join the mailing list