Count-Down to Open Conflict

Washington lurches toward confrontation with Cuba and the Soviet Union.

Seventy-first Chapter in a Series Chronicling the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962

The October 5th U-2 Mission

Mission 3098, flown the day after McCone’s meeting with the Strategic Group Augmented (see Chapter 70 in this series (http://napavalley.patch.com/blog_posts/unleash-the-u-2s-34f6ed72), was a peripheral flight. It found an additional surface-to-air missile (SAM) site near Manzanillo, at the southeastern end of Cuba. See the map of October U-2 missions at the head of this chapter.

October 6th: Orders from CINCLANT

On October 6th, the Commander in Chief Atlantic ordered designated military units to go to the highest state of readiness for the invasion of Cuba.

The next day CINCLANT recommended the establishment of a Military Emergency Zone for air traffic control in the South Florida area to ensure that non-military air traffic stayed well clear of military air traffic should air strikes be ordered. The Joint Chiefs of Staff approved establishing the MEZ when and if it was needed.

These preparations, and the amphibious landing practices begun in April and continuing in the Caribbean into early October sound like sensible preparations for the possibility of military action against the Castro regime, should it be necessary.

The Danger Behind the Military’s Preparations

We must remember, however, that the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the U.S. military’s highest leaders, had been lobbying hard since early spring for a military-only solution to the “Cuban problem.” What they wanted, in plain language, was a no-holds-barred invasion to overthrow the Castro regime and replace it with a pro-U.S. government (see chapters 29-31 in this series concerning “Civilian Control of the U.S. Military”)

If the Kennedy administration had given in to this pressure, it would have told the world it favored a militaristic over a diplomatic foreign policy. If it went in this direction, the administration ran the danger of ceding the Joint Chiefs precedence over the State Department and possibly over the White House itself in foreign policy matters.

The October 7th U-2 Mission

Mission 3100 discovered four additional completed SAM (surface-to-air-missile) sites at Chamsas, Senado, Manati, and Esmeralda along Cuba’s northern shore. See this mission’s track on the CIA chart at the head of this chapter.

Max Holland writes that neither this mission nor the mission of October 5 found “any evidence of offensive missiles.” Holland writes, “The 7 October peripheral overflight skirted what would turn out to be the SSM [surface-to-surface-missile] complexes in central Cuba, but the photo-interpreters were unable to detect any sites, presumably because of the oblique coverage.”

October 8th: Cuba’s President Orates at the United Nations

President Dorticos of Cuba told the United Nations General Assembly that Cuba would defend itself against invasion. “We have indeed … the weapons which we would have preferred not to acquire and which we do not wish to employ.”

Dorticos is probably referring not only to the strategic and tactical missiles already in Cuba, but also to the longer-range strategic missiles on their way. Since no one one in the U.S. intelligence community had yet obtained positive proof of the presence in Cuba of any offensive weapons, Washington would almost certainly have interpreted Dorticos’s remarks as empty chest-beating by the hyper-emotional and mendacious Castro regime.

The next day the New York Times reported on p. 1 that Dorticos had encountered intense anti-Cuban outbursts during his “shouted” speech at the United Nations. According to the article, anti-Castro claques interrupted Dorticos four times with their own shouts. Some of them threw yellow leaflets from the visitors’ gallery.  The police reportedly arrested 33 of the estimated 700 anti-Castro demonstrators across the street from the UN building.  

Ambassador Adlai Stevenson’s reply pointedly referred to the original U.S. trust in Castro’s early promises of reforms after his 1959 takeover. But then, Stevenson said, Castro had betrayed his promises with kangaroo court trials, summary executions, and the suppression of elections and religious freedom.

Next Week: The Final Steps to Confrontation

The Cuban Crisis now enters a few days’ lull. Next Tuesday the President and his advisors take the final steps to bring the United States into open confrontation with the Soviet Union and Cuba.


Email your questions to phufstader@sbcglobal.net or post a comment.

Sources and Notes

Mission 3098 is described on p. 165 in Dino Brugioni’s Eyeball to Eyeball: The Inside Story of The Cuban Missile Crisis (Robert F. McCort, ed.). New York: Random House, 1991.

CINCLANT’s October 6th orders are documented on p. 369 of Lawrence Chang and Peter Kornbluh, eds., The Cuban Missile Crisis, 1962: A National Security Archive Document Reader. New York: The New Press, 1998.  These orders and the decision to establish an MEZ when it was needed are also documented in Chief of Naval Operations, “Advance Preparatory Action, 2-21 October.” The Naval Quarantine of Cuba. http://www.history.navy.mil/faqs/faq90-5.htm#anchor445839.

Mision 3100 is summarized on p. 307 of X, Norman Polmar and John D. Gresham, DEFCON-2: Standing on the Brink of Nuclear War during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Hoboken: John Wiley and Sons, Inc., 2006.

Dino Brugioni also discusses this mission on p. 165 of his Eyeball to Eyeball: The Inside Story of The Cuban Missile Crisis (Robert F. McCort, ed.). New York: Random House, 1991.

Max Holland’s comments appear on p. 10 and in footnote 70 on p. 18 of his “The ‘Photo Gap’ that Delayed Discovery of Missiles.” Central Intelligence Agency, Studies in Intelligence, Vol. 94, No. 4, first posted on the CIA’s website at “Center for the Study of Intelligence” in April 2007.

Dorticos’s statement to the United Nations General Assembly is documented in Chang and Kornbluh, p. 370. The Times article was by Lawrence O’Kane: “Cuban President Bids U.N. Condemn “Blockade” by U.S.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Belle (Orchid Lady) October 08, 2012 at 08:52 PM
You know, reading your blogs really highlights the importance of remembering history. It seems that right now we are in somewhat of a mirror image of these events in the middle east. Our two choices for president are not dissimilar to the choices the President Kennedy had two chose from, a militaristic or diplomatic role in the world. Thanks again for writing this blog!
Peter Hufstader October 08, 2012 at 09:27 PM
You are absolutely on target. And, like1962, this is an election year, though a presidential one, unlike 1962.Generaly speaking, the best solutions in foreign affairs are diplomatic, but with the general knowledge that there is a military option in the background if the diplomatic fails. George Kennan, father of Congainment, once remarked that you have no idea how useful it is when you are negotiating with a foreign power to have a nice little army not far away—or words to that effect. Thanks for writing!
Peter Hufstader October 08, 2012 at 09:28 PM
In my previous comment I meant Containment, of course!
Belle (Orchid Lady) October 09, 2012 at 10:51 PM
I enjoy your blogs very much Peter! I suppose that the diplomatic approach is always the best first choice (IMHO) military action cannot be 'taken back' as can diplomacy if it fails. There are always situations I think that military action is required, usually they are the result of failed diplomacy. I guess I think of it like if I had a neighbor who was loud all the time, had a messy yard and constantly blocked my drive way, I think the best approach is to speak with them, and find out if there is a way we can fix the situation and live side by side. I don't think walking over and punching my neighbor in the face would help, and in fact if my neighbor was tougher than me, I might end up getting an appropriate 'beat down', at which point diplomacy is no longer on the table. Iran and Syria are similar to living next door to a (bad) Law Enforcement Officer (example of an authority position) who regularly hits beats their children. At what point do you get involved knowing that this 'person' can retaliate, and drain your already over taxed resources? Perhaps (probly) bad analogies, but it's a powder keg over there, and I don't want to light the fuse.
Peter Hufstader October 09, 2012 at 11:11 PM
Thanks again for writing, Belle. One of the interesting challenges of the Cuban Missile Crisis is figuring out why and how Kennedy's final solution to those missiles in Cuba worked. That solution was NOT the Joint Chiefs' solution, i.e. bomb 'em into submission. But what made it work? More later!


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