MORE REVEALED ON CUBAN MISSILE CRISIS
The Associated Press
The Miami Herald
La Nueva Cuba
Protagonists in the 1962 Cuban missile crisis discovered that events at
of that Cold War drama may have brought them closer to nuclear war than they
Newly declassified U.S., Cuban and Soviet documents discussed during a
three-day conference that began Friday underscore the danger of a nuclear attack
— either accidental or deliberate — that existed during those tense October days.
``A real war will begin, in which millions of Americans and Russians will
Anatoly Dobrynin, the Soviet ambassador to the United States, quoted then-U.S.
Attorney General Robert Kennedy as telling him in a top secret memo, now
declassified, on Oct. 27, 1962.
``The situation may get out of control, with irreversible consequences,''
Kennedy warned after an American spy plane was shot down over Cuba and
President Kennedy was pressured to order pilots to return fire if fired upon.
Also on Oct. 27, 1962, the most dangerous day of the crisis, notes from
Joint Chiefs of Staff detail a series of alarming events in addition to the shooting
down of the U-2 spy plane.
There was a Joint Chiefs' recommendation for an air strike and invasion
and reports that Cuban anti-aircraft units were given authority to open fire against
``enemy aircraft'' starting on Nov. 18.
Some of the notes were taken from transcripts of Joint Chiefs meetings
October-November 1962 dealing with the Cuban missile crisis. The documents
were declassified under the Freedom of Information Act.
Many documents studied during the conference were collected by the National
Security Archive, a nonprofit research group at George Washington University in
Washington. Archive researchers were also participating in the conference.
Cuban President Fidel Castro was participating in the conference's closed
sessions, as were former U.S. Defense Secretary Robert McNamara and other key
advisers in the Kennedy administration.
As events began spinning out of control in late October 1962, Castro began
expecting a U.S. airstrike on Soviet facilities on the island and was prepared to
shoot down American combat aircraft if they invaded Cuba, according to a top
secret military directive to Gen. Issa A. Pliyev, head of Soviet forces in Havana.
The Soviets were prepared as well.
``In case of a strike on our facilities by American aircraft it has been
decided to use
all available air defense forces,'' the directive said.
A portion of the documents, made available to The Associated Press in
Washington, demonstrate that the crisis did not end on Oct. 29, 1962, with the
Soviet Union's agreement to remove the offensive weapons, as is widely believed.
Weeks after the Soviet Union agreed to pull the missiles from Cuba, Khrushchev
worried that an ``irrational'' Castro would renew tensions with the United States —
perhaps even provoke war.
Cuba ``wants practically to drag us behind it with a leash, and wants to
pull us into
a war with America by its actions,'' Khrushchev said in a Nov. 16, 1962, letter to
diplomatic aides in Cuba.
During conference sessions on Friday, participants also looked at American
actions following the disastrous CIA-backed invasion of Cuba's Bay of Pigs in April
1961 and how they intensified Cuban fears of a U.S. military attack.
The conference took on special relevance as President Bush now ponders
pre-emptive strike against Iraq.
The missile crisis began in mid-October 1962 when President Kennedy learned
that Cuba had Soviet nuclear missiles capable of reaching the United States. The
crisis was defused two weeks later when the Soviet Union agreed to remove the
Former Kennedy aides Arthur Schlesinger Jr., Richard Goodwin and Ted Sorensen
are attending the conference, as well as former CIA analyst Dino Brugioni, who
interpreted American spy photos of Soviet missiles in Cuba.
Conference participants on Sunday will travel to sites related to the crisis,
a missile silo in the western province of Pinar del Rio.