THIRTEEN LIES: KENNEDY AND THE 1962 CUBAN CRISIS.
The second part of the series that relates what really happened
1962 Cuban missile crisis.
By Servando González
TNA News with Commentary
The New Australian
La Nueva Cuba
8. The Soviet had deployed the missiles with cunning and stealth. In shipping
missiles to Cuba, the USSR was accused of stealth and deception. This
accusation of deceit runs throughout all official US statements. The evidence
indicates, however, that Soviet stealth and deception were faked. The available
record suggests that, in fact, the Russians went to great pains to let the
Americans discover the missiles. There is evidence that the Soviets sped up their
pace of work and camouflaged the missiles only after they were sure the
Americans had discovered them.
The plan to set up the missiles was carried out in such a way that they
inevitably be discovered by the Americans. If one assumes that the anti-aircraft
SAM's were intended to protect the installations of the strategic missiles, then they
should have been installed and ready to shoot the US planes before the strategic
missiles arrived. Actually the SAM's and other associated anti-aircraft nets only
became operational when the construction of the strategic missile sites was well
along, and the Soviets employed almost no camouflage at all to hide either set of
weapons. In any case, since the SAM's could not shoot down planes flying below
10,000 feet, these anti-aircraft missiles would not have been useful in the event of
an American invasion.
Both the MRBM's and the IRBM's were above ground and located in soft terrain,
very vulnerable to any type of enemy attack. Although a single installation of
MRBM could be built in a matter of days, the Russians were progressing very
slowly in their installation. They seemed to be in no great hurry, and worked only
during daylight hours.
The Cubans were concerned about the role of the American intelligence
surveillance, but the Russians dismissed their concern and gave the matter no
importance. The Cuban intelligence services were also aware that the CIA was
interrogating Cuban refugees at the Opa Locka military base in Florida. The large
number of refugees arriving in Miami was providing the CIA with a great deal of
information. Castro proposed to stop the emigration flood by eliminating all
available means of escape from the island, but the Soviets proposed to leave things
In that way, reasoned the Russians, the CIA would obtain a lot ofcontradictory
information and soon stop relying on the credibility of the refugees. Many of the
departing refugees had seen missiles, but, in most cases, these were just
antiaircraft SAMs. To the Cubans' dismay, the Soviets even suggested that,
instead of trying to hide evidence of the missiles, it was better to let it be obvious.
For the first time the Cuban personnel working at the antiaircraft missile sites were
The Cubans knew the quality of the American air surveillance technology.
several occasions Castro asked the Soviets to give him SAMs, and let his people
operate them, but the Russians were reluctant. Although most of the Cubans
assigned to the missile bases were engineering students from Havana University,
the Soviets only allowed them to operate the radars.
By the beginning of August the Russians complained to the Cuban government
about the lack of discipline and seditious demonstrations of the university students
at the missile bases. Apparently the Cubans were frustrated by the Russians'
inaction in the face of overflying American U-2 planes. Fidel himself had to make an
inspection visit to the bases in order to calm down the Cubans there. Apparently
Fidel convinced everybody, with one important exception: Ché Guevara. Major
Guevara said that he would only change his opinion if somebody convinced him
that the American spy planes flying over Cuba were not jeopardizing the operation.
But he finally opted to accept Fidel's orders.
Contrary to the opinion of most American analysts, almost all SAM antiaircraft
sites in western Cuba had reached operational status by the beginning of August,
1962. From that early date the Soviets could have fired on the American spy planes
if they had wanted to.
On the morning of October 14, 1962, a U-2 entered Cuban air space and flew
the province of Pinar del Río. The Cubans watched the plane on the radar screens,
appalled as the Russians did nothing. Later Castro complained bitterly about the
Russian inaction. Why were the Soviets permitting the American planes to discover
the missiles? It was at the Excomm meeting the morning of the 23rd of October
that CIA Director John McCone reported that the Russians were beginning to
camouflage the missile sites. Nobody could explain why they had waited so long to
9. Finally, the CIA smelled a rat, Kennedy approved the U-2 flights, and
Anderson photographed the missiles. According to most American analysts, what
initiated the crisis were the U-2 photographs of Soviet missile sites in Cuba on
October 14, 1962. US leaders might have received information three weeks earlier if
a U-2 had flown over the western part of Cuba in the last week of September. But,
quite unexplainably, the U-2s were prevented from flying over that part of Cuba,
precisely where intelligence reports indicated that the missiles were most likely to
On August, 1962, a U-2 returned with photographs of Russian SA-2 antiaircraft
missiles being unloaded at Cuban docks. More U-2s came back with fresh pictures
of more SA-2s. But President Kennedy insisted there was no evidence that the
Russians were moving in offensive missiles that could threaten the United States.
Though all evidence pointed to the province of Pinar del Río in
the western part of
Cuba as the most likely location for missile sites, a very strange thing happened:
after September 5 no U-2 flights were directed over that part of the island. It was
not until October 14, that a U-2 plane, reportedly by chance, took the now famous
photographs of the sites under construction. Yet, the word that there were Russian
missile sites in Cuba was so widespread that even Time magazine ran an article on
September 21 showing a map of Cuba clustered with Soviet ground-to-air missiles,
mainly in the western part of the island, west and south of Havana.
In retrospect it is clear that both the Americans and the Russians were
subtle cat-and-mouse game, the Russians trying, by every means, to get the
Americans to discover the missiles, and the Americans trying not to discover them.
10. An American invasion of Cuba would have brought nuclear war with the
Union. The day after the Bay of Pigs invasion began, Khrushchev sent President
Kennedy a message appealing to him to stop the aggression. The tone of the
message, however, was not in accordance to the man who some months earlier
had boasted with apocalyptic visions. "As for the USSR, there must be no mistake
about our position. We will extend to the Cuban people and its government all the
necessary aid for the repulse of the armed attack on Cuba. . . We are sincerely
interested in the relaxation of international tensions, but if others go in for its
aggravation, then we will answer then in full measure." The fact is that when the
invasion began Castro wired Russia for help or at least for open solidarity, but
Khrushchev ignored him until the Cuban militia had definitely beaten the invaders.
Khrushchev's "missile rattling" about Cuba was not the first case of such
He had before threatened with rockets over Suez, over the landings in Lebanon and
Jordan, and over Berlin. Khrushchev also threatened Britain and France with
long-range missiles at the time of the Suez crisis, but not before he was certain
that the crisis was effectively over. When the Matsu-Quemoy crisis of the fall of
1958 erupted, Soviet support came in the form of two threatening letters from
Khrushchev to Eisenhower. But Khrushchev's guarantees and promises of help to
Communist China were extended only after it had become clear that the United
States was not going to intervene in the affair and the threat of war was gone.
Therefore, it is safe to assume that, at most, an American invasion of Cuba would
have brought a strong condemnation from the USSR delegate at the UN, and a
barrage of threats in the Soviet press for internal consumption only, and nothing
11. After the crisis was over, Khrushchev and Kennedy signed a secret pact
guaranteeing the non-invasion of Cuba. In 1970 Secretary of State Henry Kissinger,
disturbed over the submarine base the Soviets were building in Cienfuegos, a port
on the Southern coast of Cuba, hunted through the State Department's files looking
for the written agreement he was sure President Kennedy had signed with
Khrushchev. He found, to his utter amazement, that there was none.
Moreover, if the agreement ever existed, it has the dubious honor of having
applied retroactively, because the American harassment of the anti-Castro Cubans
in the US began just after the Bay of Pigs invasion, a year and a half before the
Cuban missile crisis. If American presidents from Kennedy on have proved unwilling
to get rid of Fidel Castro, it is not because a non-existent pact forbids them to do
so, but because of some other secret reasons unknown to us.
12. General LeMay was a mad warmonger out of control. General Curtiss LeMay,
Air Force Chief, argued forcefully with the President that a military attack was
essential. When the President questioned him about what the Soviet response
might be, General LeMay assured him that there would be no reaction at all. Later
the Kennedys and their buddies, as usual, made derogatory comments of General
LeMay's statements behind his back.
But LeMay was not a mad warmonger as he is depicted in the film, nor was
alone. Former Secretary of State Dean Acheson made his arguments that an air
attack and invasion represented the only American alternative to the US He added
that the President of the United States had the responsibility for the security of the
American people and of the whole world, that it was his duty to take the only action
which could protect that security, and that this meant destroying the missiles in
Shortly before his tv address to inform the nation of his decision to impose
blockade on the Soviet ships bound for Cuba, President Kennedy met with the
members of the Cabinet and informed them of the crisis for the first time. Then, he
met with leaders of Congress. According to Robert Kennedy, this was the
President's most difficult meeting. Many congressional leaders were sharp in their
criticism. They complained that the President should take a more forceful action —
a military attack or an invasion of Cuba —, and that the blockade was far too weak
When Senators Richard Russell and William Fulbright were informed of the
situation in Cuba and the presidential decision to blockade the island, they argued
that a blockade could not be effective in the short time remaining before the missile
sites became operational. In fact, if one assumed that the nuclear warheads were
already in Cuba, as it was logical to suppose at the time, a blockade of the island
seemed to be a foolhardy decision.
Dean Acheson, one of the most notable critics of President Kennedy's decisions
during the crisis, wrote later that, though the American strategy during the crisis
was wrong, it succeeded in obtaining the withdrawal of the missiles simply by
"dumb luck". Acheson's recommendation for decisive military action, namely an air
strike over Cuba, was flatly rejected by Kennedy. And Acheson was not the only
one with little praise for Kennedy's decision-making abilities. General Douglas
McArthur, though crediting Kennedy with political cunning, called the President
"just dumb when it comes to decision making."
13. On October 28, 1962, a missile battery under Soviet command shot down
Rudolf Anderson's U-2.Not so fast Louie! According to Seymour Hersh, there is
strong evidence that, on October 26, 1962, a Cuban army unit attacked and overran
a Soviet-manned SAM base at Los Angeles, near Banes, in the Oriente province,
killing many Soviets and seizing control of the site. This was the very base that
later fired the SAMs which destroyed Anderson's U-2.
Hersh based his article on information partly drawn from an interview with
Department of Defense analyst Daniel Ellsberg, who was himself citing classified
material from a post-crisis study of the event. The speculation is based on an
intercepted transmission from the Soviet base at Los Angeles indicating heavy
fighting and casualties. Adrián Montoro, former director of Radio Havana Cuba, and
Juan Antonio Rodríguez Menier, a senior Cuban intelligence officer who defected in
1987 and is now living in the US, seem to confirm Ellsberg's thesis.
*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.