THIRTEEN LIES: KENNEDY AND THE 1962 CUBAN CRISIS
By Servando Gonzalez
TNA News with Commentary
The New Australian
La Nueva Cuba
Some time ago I found on the Web a joker's site with suggestions about
deductions you can legally claim to lower your taxes. One of them was, go watch a
Kevin Costner movie and deduct it as a charitable contribution. Last week I followed
the guy's advice and saw Thirteen Days. Believe me, it was not worth the effort.
Next time I'll rather pay my taxes in full.
Though we are used to Hollywood's freedoms in telling history, I always
movie for entertainment. If I want to know about history I read it in a good book.
Initially, film makers never made any claim that what they were creating was
nothing other than fiction, and I never had a problem with that. Lately, however,
there is a growing trend to pass some of Hollywood's fiction as history, and this is
something I don't like one bit.
As a card-carrying compassionate Liberal, Kevin Costner feels a strong
for starring in politically correct movies. When applied to history, however, political
correctness is equivalent to the distortion of the past to justify the politics of the
present; that is, lying. Thirteen Days, Costner's latest film about the Cuban missile
crisis, is a politically correct movie.
Thirteen days is as full of lies as Robert Kennedy's homonymous book in
film is mostly based. The rest of the lies come from some recent studies about the
crisis made by "serious" historians. Among the most flagrant lies depicted in the
1. In some scenes, soldiers jump from trucks to ready intermediate range
Unless the Soviets had implemented affirmative action at the time and had enlisted
some Africans as privates, one must assumethat the soldiers manning the
missiles in the film are Cuban. It is true that some Cuban troops had been
authorized to work on the installation of the SAM bases. But, with the exception of
Fidel Castro, Raúl Castro, and Ché Guevara (none of which are black), the Cubans
were strictly forbidden to access the strategic missile bases, or even come close
to their perimeter guarded by seasoned Soviet special troops.
2. Kennedy and his close associates were surprised and shocked with the
unexpected discovery of strategic Soviet missiles in Cuban soil. It seems that their
surprised was faked, because as early as August, 1962, the word was out in
Washington that the Soviets were building missile launchers for weapons already in
Cuba. Between August 31 and October 12, 1962, Senator Kenneth Keating made
ten Senate speeches and fourteen public statements about the developments in
Cuba. He was merely saying publicly what the American intelligence community,
apparently his source of information, was muttering as loudly as they could.
Cuban refugees, leaving the island in drones, had been reporting sightings
army trucks carrying extremely long cigar-shaped objects covered by tarpaulins.
Some of the refugees strongly suspected that the cigar-shaped objects they had
seen riding on Soviet trucks on Cuban highways were not Siberian Cohibas for
Castro. But, instead of paying attention to the growing concern, White House press
secretary Pierre Salinger criticized the television networks for giving Keating the air
time to express his concerns
3. We were more close to the brink than ever before. During the crisis
Kennedy ordered to defuse the nuclear warheads of the American missiles in
Turkey, allegedly to avoid an accident. It was also reported that, even during the
most dangerous moments of the crisis, Kennedy didn't alert the civil defense or
show any curiosity about learning how to use the secret codes to unleash a
nuclear attack. Strange behavior indeed for the commander-in-chief of a country at
the brink of a nuclear attack.
But one of the most striking things of the Cuban missile crisis is that
never placed their troops, nor the civilian defense, under alert. This astonishing fact
is mentioned in most of the early accounts of the crisis. Recently declassified top
secret CIA documents confirmed the fact. At 10:00 in the morning of Tuesday the
23rd of October, CIA Director John McCone reported a strange thing to the
ExComm: no signs of a general alert of Soviet forces in Cuba or around the globe
had been reported
A top secret CIA memo of October 25 clearly states that "We still see no
any crash procedure in measures to increase the readiness of Soviet armed
forces." A top secret memo of October 26 gives the first indications of a state of
alert, but in some European satellite countries, not in the Soviet Union. As late as
Friday, October 26, American intelligence reported from Cuba, from Moscow, and
from the United Nations, that the Russians were not ready for war. It is only on
October 27 that a top secret CIA memo clearly acknowledges that "No significant
redeployment of Soviet ground, air or naval forces have been noted. However, there
are continuing indications of increased readiness among some units."
Surprisingly, even at that late date, the Soviets had made no attempt to
their civil defense nor to prepare the population for the eventual use of fallout
shelters. This was quite significant, because the Soviets had devoted considerable
effort toinstructing their civilian population in civil defense and had invested
considerably in fallout shelters.
4. Now it can be told: we were even more closer to the brink than most
think. During a three-day meeting that took place in Havana with the presence of
Cuban, Soviet, and American scholars and officials, among them Robert S.
McNamara, new declassified documents of the crisis from the different parties
involved were made available to the scholars. It was during this meeting that a
Soviet official, Army General Anatoly Gribkov, who allegedly was responsible for
planning the operation in 1962, dropped a bombshell when he confirmed the
presence of both strategic and tactical nuclear warheads on Cuban soil. Gribkov
provided no evidence to support his claims.
However, notwithstanding Gribkov's unsubstantiated claims, one has to be
naive to believe that the Soviet Union could commit nuclear suicide in defense of a
small island lost in the Caribbean whose leader was an unstable, self proclaimed
"Marxist." That would have been a totally foolish decision. But Nikita Sergueyevich
Khrushchev — a.k.a. the "Butcher of Budapest," and the "Hangman of the
Ukraine"-- was anything but a fool.
5. The Soviets had deployed 32 nuclear warheads in Cuba in 1962. The American
intelligence never confirmed the presence of nuclear warheads on Cuban soil. They
never found evidence of nuclear warheads in Cuba and Kennedy gave specific
orders about not verifying the extraction of nuclear warheads by boarding and
inspecting the Soviet ships leaving Cuba after the crisis.
Lately, perhaps enticed by juicy grants from American foundations, some
ex-Soviets have engaged in a fierce competition to tell some Americans what they
love to hear. In 1989 Gen. Volkogonov revealed that 20 nuclear warheads were in
Cuba. In 1992, Gen, Gribkov raised the number of nuclear warheads in Cuba to 48.
In 1996 Lt. Col. Anatoly Dukuchaev raised the ante to 162 nuclear warheads in
Cuban soil in 1962. Like rabbits, the nuclear warheads in Cuba keep multiplying. If
this fierce competition keeps heating up fueled by American money, one of these
funny Russians may end up by claiming that there were more nuclear warheads in
Cuba than the number the Soviets actually had at the time.
The main force behind this concerted effort in proving that nuclear warheads
Cuba is Robert McNamara, whose main goal has been to find justifications for his
absurd policies as Secretary of Defense during the Kennedy administration.
Recently McNamara found support for his theories from none other than his former
executive action target, Fidel Castro, and from a group of Russians, among them,
Sergei Mikoyan, an old KGB hand. But McNamara, Castro, and the ex-KGB
operatives are very questionable sources of intelligence.
6. The Soviet officers in the field in Cuba had an open hand to use nuclear
without further authorization from Moscow. According to Gribkov, General Pliyev,
the Soviet military commander in Cuba, had been given authorization to fire nuclear
devices against an American invasion force if he considered it necessary, without
further authorization from the Kremlin.
However, it is very difficult to believe, as some American researchers
senior Soviet officers now claim, that Russian field officers in Cuba had been
authorized to use tactical nuclear warheads without further authorization from
Moscow. Such an action would have been tantamount to mass suicide, since a
single nuclear warhead fired by Russian troops in Cuba would had been equivalent
to a declaration of nuclear war between the United States and the Soviet Union.
One has to be very naive, or have had as many vodka bottles as Gribkov, to believe
that the Kremlin, whose zeal over the control of nuclear devices bordered paranoia,
would have committed that act of sheer madness.
7. The plan was Khrushchev's idea to protect Castro from an American invasion.
his memoirs Khrushchev claims that the main reason for sending strategic missiles
to Cuba was because Castro feared an American invasion. But it is very difficult to
believe that Khrushchev planned to install missiles in Cuba to protect Castro just a
few days after Khrushchev had tried to overthrow the Cuban leader by force.
Actually, in April of 1962, after Castro discovered and neutralized the plot, he
expelled from Cuba Soviet Ambassador Kudryatvsev (who also moonlighted as a
senior GRU officer) and a group of his embassy thugs.
Moreover, simple logic dictates that no great power is going to give missiles
newcomer who just asks for them. The USSR installed missiles where it wanted,
and nowhere else. When Mao asked for missiles the Soviets turned him down flat.
Neither before 1962, nor after, did the Soviets deploy nuclear warheads beyond
their borders. It was not until many years later, only after they had developed
reliable devices to control its arming, that the Soviets allowed a limited number of
nuclear warheads to cross their borders, and always under strict control of KGB's
If the Soviets didn't trust their own army, why, then, would they risk
missiles so close to the unstable, trigger-happy Castro? If anything, what
Khrushchev would have loved was having the Americans doing the dirty job he
failed to accomplish, by invading Cuba and helping him getting rid of the unreliable
The Soviet commitment in Cuba had proved to be a calamitous failure. As
from the Kremlin, Castro was unpredictable, volatile, undisciplined, and often
nonsensical. His wholesale executions, mass arrests, and terrorist adventures
against his Latin American neighbors, together with the sight of hundreds of
thousands of Cubans attempting to flee his rule, raised the very Stalinist specter
Khrushchev was trying to dispel. Moreover, Castro was making a shambles of the
Cuban economy and neglected to pay attention to "suggestions" coming from
In such circumstances the sensible course for Khrushchev was to cut his
and get out of the game, particularly considering that the Soviet lines of supply to
Cuba were long and extremely vulnerable. But to leave Cuba voluntarily would have
been tantamount to an admission of failure and would had involved substantial loss
of face. If, however, Castro could be eliminated as a result of American
"aggression," then Khrushchev and the USSR could retreat from Cuba, their honor
relatively untarnished. After an American invasion of the island the failure of
Communism in Cuba could be blamed not on deficiencies in Soviet-style
communist management of Cuban affairs, but on "Yankee Imperialism."
*Servando Gonzalez is a Cuban-born American writer. He was an officer in
Cuban army during the missile crisis. His upcoming book The Secret Fidel Castro:
Deconstructing the Symbol will appear this Spring.
Copyright © 2001. All rights reserved.