Getting to Know the Presidents from the Intelligence Community’s Perspective

February 10, 2014

Presidents Day originated as a holiday to celebrate George Washington’s birthday on February 22nd. As a result of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act of 1968, the holiday was changed to the third Monday in February. While the holiday commemorates  George Washington, it also honors Abraham Lincoln whose birthday is ten days before Washington’s on February 12th. Consequently, Presidents Day always falls between the two birthdays. Let’s also give a shout out to two other Presidents whose birthdays fall in February – Ronald Reagan’s birthday on February 6th and William Henry Harrison on February 9th.

In recent years, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has been declassifying documents and releasing historical collections giving the public access to fascinating and relatively unknown U.S. history. These collections have been made available through GPO’s bookstore and have been the topic of previous blog posts.

In honor of Presidents Day, Government Book Talk is taking a look at two recent books published by the CIA focusing on the relationship between Presidents and the intelligence community.

Crafting the U.S. Intelligence Community

Crafting an Intelligence Community-Papers of the First-4-DCIs ISBN 9780160920523The CIA’s predecessor, the Central Intelligence Group, was created after World War II in response to the success and usefulness of intelligence gathering during the war. The booklet and accompanying DVD Crafting an Intelligence Community: Papers of the First Four DCIs looks at the first Directors of Central Intelligence (DCI) and their relationships with President Truman and Congress during the initial years of the newly created intelligence agency during the transition from wartime to peacetime. History buffs and President Truman enthusiasts will particularly enjoy pouring through the 800 recently declassified documents from the DCIs from 1946-1953 that are found on the DVD.

The CIA Center for the Study of Intelligence and CIA Historical Collections Division describe this multimedia publication:

Admiral Sidney W. Souers, General Hoyt S. Vandenberg, Admiral Roscoe H. Hillenkoetter and General William Bedell Smith accepted President Harry S. Truman’s challenge to craft an intelligence organization.  Each man marked his tenure with his unique brand of leadership that provided his successor with the foundation needed for the next step toward the Central Intelligence Agency of today.

 The Crafting of an Intelligence Community collection of 800+ Agency documents along with 600 supplemental items shows the day-by-day activities, decisions, staff meetings and contacts that confronted each DCI.  They ran the gamut of choosing a secretary to responding to a Presidential question to an evening social event with various ambassadors and dignitaries.

Briefing the Presidential Candidates and Presidents-Elect

CIA Getting To Know the President: Intelligence Briefings of Presidential Candidates, 1952-2004 ISBN 9781929667192Getting To Know the President: Intelligence Briefings of Presidential Candidates, 1952-2004 (Book and DVD) or in Audio Book version was recently featured in the Washington Post for being the federal government’s first downloadable audio book available on GPO’s Federal Digital System (FDsys). The book is an historical account of the information sharing process between the intelligence community and Presidential candidates and Presidents-elect during campaigns and administration transitions.  The early chapters when this practice was not yet well-established provide the greatest insight to the briefing process.

It starts with the transition periods from the Dwight D. Eisenhower to Harry Truman administration through the candidate and Presidential briefings of Presidents John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, ending with President George W. Bush.

An interesting anecdote from the book occurs during the period leading up to the 1960 election when then-Vice President Richard Nixon was running against then-Senator John F. Kennedy. At the time, there were concerns regarding the intelligence briefings on Cuba and the U.S.’s policy towards the Castro government. The recent revolution in Cuba that led to a Soviet-supported communist government was a hot topic during the election and the Presidential debates. Since Nixon was running for President while serving as Vice President, he was privy to information on the covert actions that had been underway in Cuba during the Eisenhower administration. Vice President Nixon raised concerns over what information was shared with Kennedy by the DCI Allen Dulles and how it could affect Kennedy’s positions during the election and the success of the covert actions. This was the first time the CIA was part of a political campaign raising questions on which topics and to what extent Presidential candidates should be briefed.

Here is an excerpt from the book detailing this fascinating controversy:

Well before the Cuba liberation issue came to a head in October, the outgoing Eisenhower administration had realized that covert action planning on Cuba could be a political bombshell. Following one of Allen Dulles’s briefings of the National Security Council in early August, for example, the vice president pulled the DCI aside to ask him whether Kennedy and his running mate, Senator Lyndon Johnson, were being provided information on covert action projects, specifically those related to Cuba. Dulles gave a carefully crafted answer to the effect that Kennedy was being told a little but not too much. According to former Agency officials familiar with the exchange, Nixon reacted strongly to Dulles’s reply, saying, “Don’t tell [Kennedy] anything. That could be dangerous.”

In his own account of these events, published in 1962, Nixon charged that Kennedy, before the election of 1960, had knowledge of covert action planning “for the eventual purpose of supporting an invasion of Cuba itself.” This charge prompted a formal press release from the White House on 20 March 1962 denying that Kennedy had been told of any plans for “supporting an invasion of Cuba” before the election. The White House denial was backed up by Dulles, by then a former DCI, who explained that Nixon’s comments were apparently based on a misunderstanding of what was included in the briefings he had given Kennedy.

Senator-Kennedy-DCI-DullesImage from “Getting to Know the Presidents”: Senator Kennedy with former DCI Allen Dulles heading to a press briefing on the information the CIA provided Kennedy and Johnson. Source: White House

Celebrate Presidents Day and get to know the Presidents from the intelligence community’s perspective with these new CIA publications or any of the publications found in the GPO Bookstore’s Presidential History collection, which also includes the popular Public Papers of the Presidents collection.

HOW DO I OBTAIN THESE PUBLICATIONS?

About the author: Our guest blogger is Emma Wojtowicz, Public Relations Specialist in GPO’s Office of Public Affairs. 

Additional images and content provided by Government Book Talk Editor Michele Bartram is Promotions and Ecommerce Manager for GPO’s Publication and Information Sales Division in Washington, DC, and is responsible for online and offline marketing of the US Government Online Bookstore (http://bookstore.gpo.gov) and promoting Federal government content to the public.


Remembering Camelot: Best of the old and new official publications about John F. Kennedy

November 19, 2013

For the World War II generation, it was December 7, 1941 that was a “date which will live in infamy.” For today’s Americans it is September 11, 2001. For my parents’ generation, November 22, 1963, is the infamous day that everyone remembers where they were when they heard the news that President Kennedy had been shot. The assassination of President John F. Kennedy is one of the most historic—and horrific— days of the 20th century, and its impact is still being felt today.  It’s hard to believe it has been 50 years this week since the tragic events unfolded in Dallas, Texas.

In commemoration of this important milestone in our Nation’s history, the U.S. Government Printing Office has assembled a number of Official Federal publications that help us reflect on the huge legacy left by “JFK” in his short but impactful 1,000 days in office.

JFK as a Senator and Presidential Candidate

When John F. Kennedy was running for President, he was a United States Senator from Massachusetts.  These publications give insight to the man during this period of transition from active Senator to President-elect.

Getting To Know the President: Intelligence Briefings of Presidential Candidates, 1952-2004, including John F Kennedy, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton. ISBN 9781929667192Senate, 1789-1989, Volume 3: Classic Speeches, 1830-1993 contains the text of some of the most famous speeches by United States Senators, including a young Senator John F. Kennedy.

Getting To Know the President: Intelligence Briefings of Presidential Candidates, 1952-2004 (Paperback) and the Audiobook-MP3 edition are new publications that tell the story of how the CIA and the US Intelligence Community begin to brief Presidential candidates and Presidents-elect, including JFK and Lyndon Johnson, on vital intelligence issues even before they take office.

JFK’s Army for World Peace

?????????Image: Candidate Senator John F. Kennedy at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor. Source: JFK Library

Two weeks after an improvised presidential campaign speech in October 1960 to a crowd of 10,000 cheering students at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor where he asked “How many of you are willing to work in the Foreign Service and spend your lives traveling around the world?” Senator Kennedy proposed “a peace corps of talented men and women” who would dedicate themselves to the progress and peace of developing countries.  Encouraged by more than 25,000 letters responding to his call, newly elected President Kennedy took immediate action to make the campaign promise a reality and established the Peace Corps on March 1, 1961, with his brother-in-law, R. Sargent Shriver, as its leader.

A Life Inspired: Tales of Peace Corps ServiceThe lasting legacy of the Peace Corps’ and its ongoing inspiration to America’s younger generations is clearly shown in these two books. A Life Inspired: Tales of Peace Corps Service (Paperback) (it also available as an eBook) is a collection of autobiographical reminiscences by 28 former Peace Corps volunteers, while Crossing Cultures With the Peace Corps: Peace Corps Letters From the Field is a collection of actual letters from Peace Corps volunteers serving in various nations.

JFK’s Foreign Policy: Cold War Warrior

President Kennedy was confronted with some dramatic foreign policy issues from his first days in office, not least of which was how to avoid nuclear war with the Soviet Union over their missiles in Cuba.

History of the Office of the Secretary of Defense: The McNamara Ascendancy, 1961-1965 (eBook) John F. Kennedy isbn 999-000-55551-6History of the Office of the Secretary of Defense: The McNamara Ascendancy, 1961-1965 (eBook) tells the story of Kennedy’s Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara, including his relationship with Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, the transformation of the Department of Defense as a part of Kennedy’s New Frontier, and the Pentagon’s handling of the Cuban Missile Crisis, Bay of Pigs episode, and the onset of the Vietnam War.

More than a mere historical text, The Joint Chiefs of Staff and National Policy, Vol. 8, 1961-1964 provides a fascinating inside look at the Joint Chiefs’ participation and their point-of-view in dealing with the following foreign crises from the U.S.S.R. arms race, Berlin Wall construction, Cuba, to Laos, expansion of NATO, support for Israel, and more – while working with new thinking in the Kennedy and Johnson presidential administrations.

Part of the Department of State’s famous Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) Series, Foreign Relations of the United States, 1961-1963, V. 5, Soviet Union presents a full accounting of the overall nature and structure of United States-Soviet relations that made up the Kennedy Administration’s Cold War diplomacy. It also refers to some of the intelligence and analysis of the initial build-up of Soviet missiles in Cuba that ultimately led to the Cuban Missile Crisis, as well as the complete official record of President Kennedy’s meetings with Soviet Chairman Premier Nikita Khrushchev at the Vienna Summit Conference, June 3-4, 1961.

Penetrating the Iron Curtain: Resolving the Missile Gap With Technology (Book and DVD)  ISBN: 9780160920547For more in-depth information about the Cuban Missile crisis and Cold War Kennedy style, read the new Penetrating the Iron Curtain: Resolving the Missile Gap With Technology (Book and DVD)  from the CIA which contains analysis and hundreds of recently declassified intelligence documents about the Soviet missile build-up and perceived US missile gap.

CIA Analysis of the Warsaw Pact Forces: The Importance of Clandestine Reporting (Book and DVD)  ISBN: 9780160920509Also interesting is the recently released CIA Analysis of the Warsaw Pact Forces: The Importance of Clandestine Reporting (Book and DVD) which studies the reaction by the Soviets to the West’s formation of NATO including West Germany by establishing a military bloc of Communist nations with the Warsaw Treaty of May 1955. This study continues CIA’s efforts to provide a detailed record of the intelligence derived from clandestine human and technical sources from that period.

A City Torn Apart: Building of the Berlin Wall (Book and DVD) ISBN: 9780160920455Many around the world have heard the famous quote from the Kennedy anti-Communist speech at the Berlin Wall on June 26, 1963, in which he says: “Today, in the world of freedom, the proudest boast is ‘Ich bin ein Berliner.’” The Berlin Wall became a symbol of Cold War hostilities between the US and the Soviets.  A City Torn Apart: Building of the Berlin Wall (Book and DVD) is a new multimedia book with DVD that covers the period of 1945 to the end of 1961, during the Kennedy administration with a vast collection of recently declassified CIA documents, videos, and photographs that show Berlin’s journey from a battered post war region occupied by the Allies to a city literally divided – with its western half becoming an island of freedom surrounded by a sea of Communist repression.

How JFK inspired America to “Send a Man on the Moon”

In response to both real and perceived Soviet threats, President Kennedy gave his “Urgent National Needs” speech to Congress on May 25, 1961, where he stated that “I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this [1960s] decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to the Earth.”  This statement turned to real policy and eventually manned missions to the moon. JFK’s lasting legacy to the U.S. space program is incalculable.

Exploring the Unknown: Selected Documents in the History of Exploring the Unknown: Selected Documents in the History of the United States Civil Space Program: V. VII: Human Spaceflight: Projects Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo NASA History Series ISBN 780160813818the U.S. Civil Space Program: V. I: Organizing for Exploration  is part of the NASA historical collection and provides a selection of expert essays and key official documents about the organizational development of NASA and the U.S. civil space program, including Senator then President Kennedy’s memos and inspirational speeches and Vice President Johnson’s early involvement that intensified after becoming President.

Exploring the Unknown: Selected Documents in the History of the United States Civil Space Program: V. VII: Human Spaceflight: Projects Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo  expands Kennedy’s vision of manned spaceflight into reality with Projects Mercury, Gemini and Apollo, providing essays and the key documents that outlined manned space program budgets, proposals, and even the selection of lunar landing spots and choices of symbolic items to bring to the moon.

NASA's First 50 Years: Historical Perspectives; NASA 50 Anniversary Proceedings ISBN: 9780160849657In this thoughtful retrospective, NASA’s First 50 Years: Historical Perspectives; NASA 50 Anniversary Proceedings, a wide array of scholars turn a critical eye toward the achievements of NASA’s first 50 years, probing an institution widely seen as the premier agency for exploration in the world, carrying on a long tradition of exploration by the United States and the human species in general.

Civil Rights and the Brothers Kennedy

After the Supreme Court ruled unanimously in Brown v. Board of Education in 1954 that racial segregation in public schools was unconstitutional, desegregation was a slow process in many Southern school districts and universities.

John F. Kennedy Presidential Library's account of James Meredith, the African-American student whose attempt to register at the University of Mississippi in 1962 led to a showdown between state and federal authorities and the storming of the campus by a segregationist mob. JFK Library "Ole Miss" micrositeImage: The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library’s account of James Meredith, the African-American student whose attempt to register at the University of Mississippi in 1962 led to a showdown between state and federal authorities and the storming of the campus by a segregationist mob. Source: JFK Library “Ole Miss” microsite

By President Kennedy’s election, civil rights activists were pushing for more equality, resulting in violent attacks and confrontations by staunch segregationists that required Federal involvement such as Federal marshals being called in by JFK’s brother and Attorney General Robert Kennedy to protect Alabama freedom riders, as well as forced integration at “Ole Miss” University of Mississippi.

Role of Federal Military Forces in Domestic Disorders, 1945-1992 ISBN: 0-16-072361-2 and 0-16-072364-7The book Role of Federal Military Forces in Domestic Disorders, 1945-1992 (Paperback) and (Hardcover) chronicles the U.S. Army’s response to major social events in contemporary American society, particularly the civil rights movement, including the integration showdown at the University of Mississippi in 1962 and other racial disturbances of the 1960s, all the way to the 1992 race riot in Los Angeles.

The End of Camelot

The practice of referring to the Kennedy Administration as Camelot came from a post-assassination interview for Life magazine with First Lady Jacqueline (Jackie) Kennedy, who referred to the years of Kennedy’s presidency before his assassination as an “American Camelot.”  She said that President Kennedy was fond of the music to the popular 1960-63 smash Broadway musical, Camelot, the lyrics of which were penned by Kennedy’s Harvard classmate, Alan Jay Lerner.  The First Lady mentioned that the President and she often listened to a recording of the hit title song before going to sleep, with JFK  particularly enjoying the phrase: “Don’t ever let it be forgot, that once there was a spot, for one brief shining moment that was known as Camelot.” Once the article was released, other journalists picked up on Mrs. Kennedy’s reference, and the world has used it ever since.

First Ladies by the White House Historical Association ISBN 9780912308838Jackie Kennedy’s historic role as First Lady is outlined in the beautifully done First Ladies of the United States of America book by the White House Historical Association which profiles the many courageous First Ladies, from Martha Washington to Jacqueline Kennedy, up to Hillary Rodham Clinton and Laura Bush.

The end of Camelot came with President Kennedy’s assassination by Lee Harvey Oswald. Afterwards, President Lyndon Johnson created a commission, chaired by Chief Justice Earl Warren to investigate the events that led to the assassination and any possible conspiracies.

The U.S. Government Printing Office (GPO) produced, in what was perhaps its single most important publication of the 1960s, the official results of this investigation in the Report of the President’s Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy.  It became known unofficially as the Warren Commission Report or the Warren Report, named for Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren who chaired the commission.

C732-1-WH64Image: Chief Justice Earl Warren presenting the Final Report of The President’s Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy– printed by the U.S. Government Printing Office. September 24, 1964. Source: White House

Before it was released to the public on September 27, 1964, special security measures were set up at GPO to prevent any unauthorized disclosure of the manuscript.  A half century later, GPO is releasing a FREE digital version of the full, 900-page original Warren Commission Report from GPO’s FDsys (Federal Digital System) database.

Today it is still fascinating to re-live the events surrounding the events in Dallas in 1963 from eye witnesses.  In addition to witness testimony, the Report contains numerous photos, maps, diagrams, and illustrations.

The post-President Kennedy assassination audio tape recordings of conversations between various individuals in Washington, DC, and Air Force One pilots and officials on board during the flight from Dallas to Andrews Air Force Base are also available on FDsys.

johnjr-salutes-dad-jfkImage: John F. Kennedy, Jr. salutes his father’s coffin at President Kennedy’s funeral, with his widow First Lady Jacqueline (Jackie) Kennedy, daughter Caroline, and brothers Edward (Ted) Kennedy and Robert (Bobby) Kennedy.

These Official publications are part of the legacy of President John F. Kennedy and help us remember his 1,000 days of an American Camelot.

HOW DO I OBTAIN THESE JFK PUBLICATIONS?

You can find these official John F. Kennedy publications by clicking on the links above or through any of these methods:

  • Shop Online Anytime: Buy them online 24/7 at GPO’s Online Bookstore under the 35- John F. Kennedy collection (found under the US & Military History category Presidential History section).
  • Order by Phone: Call our Customer Contact Center Monday through Friday, 8 am to 5:30 pm Eastern (except US Federal holidays). From US and Canada, call toll-free 1.866.512.1800. DC or International customers call +1.202.512.1800.
  • Visit our Retail Store: Buy a copy of any print editions from this collection at GPO’s retail bookstore at 710 North Capitol Street NW, Washington, DC 20401, open Monday–Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., except Federal holidays, Call (202) 512-0132 for information or to arrange in-store pick-up.
  • Go to a Library: GPO provides copies of these publications to Federal Depository libraries worldwide. Find them in a library near you.

About the Author: Government Book Talk Editor Michele Bartram is Promotions Manager for GPO’s Publication and Information Sales Division in Washington, DC, and is responsible for online and offline marketing of the US Government Online Bookstore (http://bookstore.gpo.gov) and promoting Federal government content to the public.


Hawks vs. Doves: The Joint Chiefs and the Cuban Missile Crisis

October 18, 2012

50 years ago this week, the world stood on the brink of nuclear war as the Cuban Missile Crisis unfolded. The United States finally decided to first blockade rather than immediately attack Cuba to prevent the Soviet Union from finishing installation of missiles that could reach the continental United States. This article introduces the little-known story of the battles between the “hawks” and the “doves” in the Kennedy Administration as related in a new publication, The Joint Chiefs of Staff and National Policy, Vol. 8, 1961-1964.

When President John F. Kennedy finally announced the naval blockade of Cuba and the reasons for it on national television, Americans huddled together, practiced nuclear drills, and prayed for some peaceful solution to prevent all-out nuclear war. Only decades later did the full story of brinkmanship, bravado and brilliance come out about what really happened behind the scenes during those two weeks.

Image Credit: The Arizona State Library, Archives and Public Records

A little known side of the story comes from the top military commanders who were serving the Kennedy administration during the crisis, found in the surprisingly fascinating book titled The Joint Chiefs of Staff and National Policy, Vol. 8, 1961-1964, from the Office of Joint History of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The Joint Chiefs of Staff during the Kennedy Administration

This accounting of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during this tumultuous period in the history of American foreign affairs goes beyond the normal third party historian’s post mortem, since the author was actually able to meet with several members of the joint chiefs in the 1970’s to add more of their personal insights, including Admiral Arleigh Burke, Admiral George Anderson, General Lyman Lemnitzer, Chairman during 1960-1962, and the Chairman who succeeded him, General Maxwell D. Taylor.

Image: President John F. Kennedy meets with the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Photograph includes: (L-R) United States Marine Corps General David Shoup; United States Army General Earle Wheeler; United States Air Force General Curtis LeMay, President Kennedy; Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Maxwell Taylor; United States Navy Admiral George Anderson. West Wing Lawn.  White House. Washington, D.C. Credit: Robert Knudsen. White House Photographs. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston

What results is an interesting amalgam of history and a peek into the tensions between military joint chiefs and the civilians to whom they reported. Describing the relationship of the Kennedy administration and the military establishment, author Walter S. Poole says: “During 1961-1962, relations between the JCS and their civilian superiors were often awkward and even confrontational” particularly between Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara and Lemnitzer.

The old-school Joint Chiefs were concerned about the new approach to foreign policy being espoused by the Kennedy administration, and tensions grew. According to the author:

“What most concerned the JCS was an apparent erosion of US credibility that emboldened communist leaders to pursue more adventurous policies. President John F. Kennedy and Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara pursued what they conceived as more flexible approaches to strategy and crisis management.”

Quick Background on the Cuban Missile Crisis

In 1962, the Soviet Union was losing the arms race with the United States. In late April 1962, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev conceived the idea of placing intermediate-range missiles in Cuba to double the Soviet strategic arsenal and provide a real deterrent to a potential U.S. attack against the Soviet Union from the Jupiter missiles the U.S. had just placed in Turkey.  Ever since the failed Bay of Pigs invasion the previous year, Fidel Castro felt a second attack by the U.S. on Cuba was inevitable, so he agreed to host the missiles as protection.

Image: Initial U.S. intelligence estimates of possible U.S. targets within range of the nuclear-capable Soviet SS-4 medium-range ballisticmissiles (MRBMs) and SS-5 intermediate-range ballistic missiles (IRBMs) found by the U-2 spy plane surveillance photographs if they were launched from Cuba.  Credit: Bettmann/CORBIS

On October 15, 1962, the National Photographic Intelligence Center confirmed that secret reconnaissance photographs from an American U-2 spy plane flight the day before were finally able to definitively prove the suspicion that Soviet medium-range and intermediate-range ballistic missiles capable of hitting Atlanta, the Midwest, Washington, DC, and even Los Angeles and Seattle were indeed in place and in the process of being installed and ready in Cuba within days. In response, President Kennedy and Secretary McNamara assembled the Executive Committee of the National Security Council call “ExComm” as a task force that, together with the Joint Chiefs of Staff and experts from the State Department and other intelligence agencies, would debate the United States’ options to deter the Soviets from nuclear escalation.

To Blockade, Strike or Invade?

Earlier in September 1962, after cloud-obscured U-2 photos had hinted at Soviet build-up in Cuba, the Joint Strategic Survey Council had submitted a recommendation for blockading rather than invading Cuba, on grounds that a blockade would be less dramatic, require smaller resources, cause fewer casualties, and be more plausibly related to upholding the Monroe Doctrine. In his 1823 annual message to Congress, President James Monroe had established this doctrine followed by the U.S. ever since that warned European countries not to interfere in the Western Hemisphere, stating “that the American continents… are henceforth not to be considered as subjects for future colonization by any European powers.

However, as the crisis unfolded, the primary debate among the military commanders of the Joint Chiefs was over whether to carry out an all-inclusive attack against Soviet and Cuban forces on the island or a surgical strike confined to just attacking the missiles themselves, the nuclear storage sites, and Soviet MiG planes.

Both President Kennedy and McNamara thought that an all-inclusive attack would inevitably lead to invasion of Cuba, and then possible counter-attacks elsewhere by the Soviets or escalation to all-out war.

But General Taylor reported that the Joint Chiefs and the combatant commanders felt “so strongly about the dangers inherent in [only] the limited strike that they would prefer taking no military action. They feel it’s opening up the United States to attacks which they can’t prevent, if we don’t take advantage of surprise.” Taylor added that his personal inclination was “all against invasion, but nonetheless trying to eliminate as effectively as possible every weapon [present in Cuba] that can strike the United States”.

According to the reports by the author, the Joint Chiefs were opposed to only attacking the medium-range ballistic missiles themselves, saying it would incur “an unacceptable risk” and that not attacking the enemy’s planes would expose the continental United States and Puerto Rico to air attack and could cause unnecessary casualties among the garrison at Guantanamo and the forces assembling for invasion.  Instead, the JCS initially recommended “also hitting tactical missiles, aircraft, ships, tanks, and other appropriate targets, as well as imposing a ‘complete’ blockade.


Image: A meeting of the Executive Committee of the National Security Council in the Cabinet Room during the Cuban Missile Crisis, October 29, 1962, 10:10-10:58am. Clockwise from left: Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy (standing); Assistant Sec. Defense Paul Nitze; Dep. USIA Dir. Donald Wilson; Special Counsel Theodore Sorensen; Exec. Sec. NSC Bromley Smith; Special Assistant McGeorge Bundy; Sec. Treasury Douglas Dillon; Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson; Ambassador  Llewellyn Thompson; William C. Foster; CIA Dir. John McCone (hidden); Under Secretary of State George Ball (hidden); President John F. Kennedy; Sec. State Dean Rusk; Sec. Defense Robert McNamara; Dep. Sec. Defense Roswell Gilpatric; Chairman JCS Gen. Maxwell Taylor. Credit: Photo by Cecil Stoughton, JFK Library ST-A26-18-62

The Blues vs. the Reds

Even more fascinating was the story of the war gaming techniques used. To quickly develop two alternative scenarios for the President to consider, the ExComm task force split into two groups that constantly exchanged position papers and critiqued each other’s work. The “Blues,” who were to prepare the scenario for a surprise air strike, included General Maxwell Taylor, Robert Kennedy, Treasury Secretary Douglas Dillon, Director McCone, Dean Acheson, and McGeorge Bundy. The “Reds,” drafting the blockade option, included Chief of U.S. Naval Operations Adm. George Anderson, Marine Corps Commandant David Shoup, Secretary Rusk, Deputy Secretary Gilpatric, and Theodore Sorensen.

Image: On October 11 last week, certain documents from Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy’s personal papers about the Cuban Missile Crisis were declassified. In it was the above personal list of who RFK thought among the ExComm were the “Hawks” who favored an air strike (shown in the right column labeled “Strike”) vs. the “Doves” who favored a blockade of Cuba (in the left column). Note that the “Chiefs” meaning the Joint Chiefs of Staff along with General Taylor are shown on the “Hawks” Strike side of his list on the right.  Source: The National Security Archive

In less than two days, two complete scenarios were prepared and presented to President Kennedy on October 20, with competing input coming from the Pentagon and the State Department.

From this insider accounting of events, we learn that the Chairman thought that the probable sequence of events to be green-lighted would be: a political approach; a warning; air attack on the missile sites; blockade; and, if necessary, invasion, with the earliest air strike date set for October 21 (optimally the 23rd), and an invasion to begin on October 28.

However, to find out exactly what happened and how the drama played out behind the scenes, pick up a copy of this fascinating book.

HOW DO I OBTAIN The Joint Chiefs of Staff and National Policy, Vol. 8, 1961-1964”?

  • Buy it online 24/7 at GPO’s US Government Online Bookstore.
  • Buy it at GPO’s retail bookstore at 710 North Capitol Street NW, Washington, DC 20401, open Monday-Friday, 9am to 4pm, except Federal holidays, (202) 512-0132.

Find this and other Government publications about Cuba in our Cuba collection.

About the Author:  Michele Bartram is Promotions Manager for GPO’s Publication and Information Sales Division and is responsible for online and offline marketing of the US Government Online Bookstore (http://bookstore.gpo.gov) and promoting Federal government content to the public.


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