121. Memorandum of Conversation
Washington, April 18, 1961.
//Source: Naval Historical Center, Area Files, Bumpy Road Materials. Top Secret. This memorandum apparently was based on a tape recording later transcribed by Wilhide. The transcription printed here begins, as indicated in mid-conversation. The earlier portion of the conversation may not have been transcribed, and no record of it has been found. Wilhide was Burke's aide at the time.
ADMIRAL BURKE'S CONVERSATION WITH CDR WILHIDE, 18 APRIL 1961
Adm Burke . . . Before we got started about 1140, I went down to his/1/ office--about ten minutes after I got the word. Then he heard that McNamara and Lemnitzer were coming back. So we went down to the garage into a little anteroom there and talked for a few minutes. Then McNamara and Lemnitzer went over in their car. Gilpatric, Buzz Wheeler, Breitweiser/2/ and I went over--I guess Breitweiser went in McNamara's car--all to the White House. We got over there in the Cabinet Room./3/ The President was talking with CIA people, State Department people and Rostow and a lot of other people. They were talking about Cuba. Real big mess.
/1/It is not clear to whom Burke was referring at this point. A chronology prepared from the records in Burke's office indicates that he received a phone call from Gilpatric at 11:27 a.m. proposing arrangements to go to the White House for a meeting on Cuba. (Ibid.) Since he went to the White House with Gilpatric, he may have stopped at Gilpatric's office.
/2/Major General Robert A. Breitweiser, Director for Intelligence of the Joint Staff.
/3/The President's appointment book indicates that this meeting began at noon and lasted until 1:25 p.m. Participants included, in addition to the President, Vice President Johnson, Rusk, McNamara, Robert Kennedy, Lemnitzer, McGeorge Bundy, Bohlen, and Foy Kohler. (Kennedy Library, President's Appointment Book) Burke's account indicates that the CIA was also represented and that other members of the Department of Defense, JCS, and the Department of State were present at the meeting.
Nobody knew what to do nor did the CIA who were running the operation and who were wholly responsible for the operation know what to do or what was happening. A lot of things have happened and they have caused to happen and we the JCS don't know anything whatever about. We have been kept pretty ignorant of this and have just been told partial truths. They are in a real bad hole because they had the hell cut out of them. They were reporting, devising and talking and I kept quiet because I didn't know the general score. Once in a while I did make a little remark like "balls." It wasn't very often. It was a serious meeting. They didn't know what the President should do. . . . When it came out as to what could the United States do--it was all Navy. The upshot of it was that the President moved into his room--his office with Rusk, McNamara, Dulles, Lemnitzer and me. We talked a little bit in there about what could we do, Rusk not being in favor of doing very much. Then we came out. I was sent for again and I was asked could we find out what the score really was, by landing people in helicopters or something like that. That was all right. I wrote some dispatches/4/ and did some things. Over there. And I came back.
/4/Documents 122 and 123.
Then Bobby Kennedy called me up and said the President is going to rely upon you to advise him on this situation. I said it is late! He needs advice. He said the rest of the people in the room weren't helpful. (Call from the President)/5/
/5/The transcript indicates that the President called Burke again 20 minutes later. No further information is given regarding either call.
What do you do. He is bypassing Lemnitzer, the Chairman, the SecDef, SecNav, CIA and the whole works and putting me in charge of the operation. That is a helluva thing. We had better watch this one.
Cdr Wilhide: He must realize what he is doing.
Adm Burke: I told Bobby Kennedy this was bypassing. He said he knew.
[Here follows discussion relating to Admiral Burke's concern about
the implications of short-circuiting the usual channels of responsibility
in the management of the crisis.]
122. Telegram From the Chief of the Subsidiary Activities Division (Gray) to the Commander in Chief, Atlantic (Dennison)
Washington, April 18, 1961, 1:37 p.m.
//Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, Cuba, Subjects, Taylor Report. Top Secret; Flash; Limited Distribution. According to the memorandum for the record prepared by Commander Mitchell, which traced the evolution of the rules of engagement, this message, sent on behalf of the JCS, was authorized by a telephone call to the JCS Operations Center from Admiral Burke at the White House. (National Defense University, Taylor Papers, Box 12, Cuba, Paramilitary Study)
JCS 994309. Bumpy Road. Exclusive for Adm Dennison and Adm Clark from Gen Gray.
1. With unmarked naval aircraft fly photo and eyeball reconnaissance ASAP to determine situation on beach.
2. 12 Castro tanks reported on Red Beach operating against Cuban revolutionaries. We need data on situation ASAP.
3. Use officer observers with amphibious experience if quickly practicable, to give us judgement of situation. There may be Castro MIGs in area.
4. Aircraft protect themselves from attack. Take all possible
precautions to avoid having operations identified as US. Make
complete and frequent reports. More later.
123. Telegram From the Chief of the Subsidiary Activities Division (Gray) to the Commander in Chief, Atlantic (Dennison)
Washington, April 18, 1961, 2:49 p.m.
//Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, Cuba, Subjects, Taylor Report. Top Secret; Operational Immediate; Limited Distribution. According to a memorandum for the record prepared by Commander Mitchell, this message, sent on behalf of the JCS, was authorized by a telephone call to the JCS Operations Center from Admiral Burke at the White House. (National Defense University, Taylor Papers, Box 12, Cuba, Paramilitary Study)
JCS 994317. Bumpy Road. Exclusive for Adm Dennison and Adm Clark from Gen Gray.
1. Following preparatory actions directed at high-level conference in light of loss of Red Beach, tank and air attack on Blue Beach and reported four Castro T-33's and three Castro MIGs in action.
a. Prepare unmarked Navy planes for possible combat use. Number suitable in view of above left to your discretion. This instruction in addition to earlier message regarding recce mission./1/ Amphibious group move to within four hours steaming of landing area. Prepare unmarked boats for possible evacuation of anti-Castro forces.
2. New subject. We are operating almost entirely in the dark. Forward assessment of situation as you see it. Any information at all would be helpful.
3. FYI. There is no intention of intervening with US forces.
124. Telegram From the Chief of Naval Operations (Burke) to the Commander in Chief, Atlantic (Dennison)
Washington, April 18, 1961, 3:23 p.m.
//Source: Naval Historical Center, Area Files, Bumpy Road Materials. Top Secret; Limited Distribution. A "chronology of events on Cuba taken from the records in Op-00 immediate office" indicates that this message was sent as a back channel message. (Ibid.)
182023Z. Exclusive for Adm Dennison and RAdm Clark from Burke. There is little information here on status of operation. Few reports available indicate operation may be in desperate straits. No general uprising in Cuba yet.
What is most urgently needed here is information on which to make an assessment of the situation or a judgment on what to do at high levels.
Following questions at high-level conference were asked:
A. Can anti-Castro forces go into bush as guerillas?
B. Could anti-Castro forces be evacuated from beach by unmarked United States amphib boats?
C. Is there a possibility that anti-Castro forces can break through?
Following possible United States actions were discussed:/1/
/1/In his initial draft of this message Burke wrote: "Nobody here wants to commit United States forces to bail out this affair, but if situation is as bad as reported something may have to be done." (Ibid.)
A. Unmarked Naval aircraft fly cover over beach area to protect anti-Castro forces from air attack.
B. Unmarked Naval aircraft destroy Castro tanks.
C. Unmarked Naval aircraft furnish close air support.
D. Unmarked amphib boats from United States evacuate anti-Castro forces from beach.
E. Land experienced Marines by either helicopter or boat to assess situation and give judgment on what to do.
F. Large air drops by United States Air Force aircraft to anti-Castro forces.
G. Danger in all above actions of United States involvement. No
decision was made to do any of these but air drop. The same subjects
may be discussed later.
125. Telegram From the Commander of Special Task Group 81.8 (Clark) to the Commander in Chief, Atlantic (Dennison)
USS Essex, Caribbean, April 18, 1961, 4:42 p.m.
//Source: Naval Historical Center, Area Files, Bumpy Road Materials. Top Secret; Operational Immediate. Repeated to JCS, COMCARIBSEAFRON, COMWESTFOR, and COMNAVBASE GTMO.
182142Z. Exclusive for Dennison, Gray, Smith, McElroy and O'Donnell from Clark. Bumpy Road Int Sum.
1. Pending recovery my eyeball recco flight following is summary of messages intercepted between CEF beach commander and Dolores plus some addressed to Mallard.
2. From Brigade Commander Blue Beach intercepted at 181715Z./1/ "Blue Beach must have jet air support in next few hours or will be wiped out. Under heavy attacks by MIG jets and heavy tanks." Intercepted at 1703Z./2/ "Blue Beach under attack by MIG 15s and T-33s. Request jet support or cannot hold. Situation critical." Intercepted at 1728Z./3/ "Without jet air support cannot hold. Have no ammo left for tanks and very little left for troops. Enemy just launched heavy land attack supported by tanks. Cannot hold for long." Intercept at 1509Z./4/ "Under heavy attack supported by 12 tanks. Need air support immediately. Red Beach wiped out. Request air strikes immediately."
/1/12:15 p.m. All times cited in the message are on April 18.
3. From Brigade Commander to Colonel Mallard relayed from Marsopa/5/ at 1825Z./6/ "Under heavy attack supported by 12 tanks. Need air support immediately. Red Beach wiped out. Request air strikes. Need ammo of all types immediately. 4 B-26 ETA beach head 181900Z. Request Navy air CAP for beachhead. If not provided expect loss 4 B-26. Confident you can provide. Advise."
/5/Code name for Blagar.
4. All above held by Mallard's boss by other means. My work with CEF to date incicates they are a well organized and professional group.
5. 6 B-26 passed over me heading north at 182120Z./7/
6. My eyeball recco report in about one hour.
126. Telegram From the Commander in Chief, Atlantic (Dennison) to the Commander, Key West Forces (McElroy)
Norfolk, April 18, 1961, 4:52 p.m.
//Source: Naval Historical Center, Area Files, Bumpy Road Materials. Top Secret; Operational Immediate. Repeated to JCS, COMNAVB GTMO, and CTG 81.8.
182152Z. Bumpy Road. Exclusive for RAdm McElroy info RAdms O'Donnell,
Clark, Gen Gray from Dennison. Up to 4 MIGs have been reported
in the objective area. In the event we have to give support against
MIGs desire you paint out US markings on six F3H, arm them with
Sidewinders and/or Sparrows and prepare them for combat operations
in the objective area by daylight 19 April. Any launch directive
will be issued by CINCLANTFLT. Hold close and try conceal above
127. Telegram From the Commander of Special Task Group 81.8 (Clark) to the Commander in Chief, Atlantic (Dennison)
USS Essex, Caribbean, April 18, 1961, 5:12 p.m.
//Source: Naval Historical Center, Area Files, Bumpy Road Materials. Top Secret; Emergency. Repeated to JCS, COMCARIBSEAFRON, COMKWESTFOR, and COMNAVBASE GTMO.
182212Z. Exclusive for Dennison, Gray, Smith, O'Donnell and McElroy from Clark. Bumpy Road. Eyeball recco report over area about 2120Z./1/
1. Convoy of large Castro tanks (10 to 14) with trucks and lorries on road from Gallinas extending to point about three miles south moving south and east. Only a few troops seen with convoy. No others sighted.
2. CEF tanks and trucks burned out alongside road near La Seiba. No sign of CEF troops.
3. No air activity seen. No sign of artillery or infantry action.
4. Own evaluation Red Beach wiped out. Attacks on other beaches
thus far have been almost entirely by air.
128. Telegram From the Chief of the Subsidiary Activities Division (Gray) to the Commander in Chief, Atlantic (Dennison)
Washington, April 18, 1961, 5:29 p.m.
//Source: Naval Historical Center, Area Files, Bumpy Road Materials. Top Secret; Operational Immediate; Limited Distribution. Repeated to CTG 81.8, Exclusive for Admiral Clark from Gray.
JCS 994349. Bumpy Road. Exclusive for Adm Dennison and Adm Clark from Gen Gray.
1. CIA received report from Barracuda/1/ that she has been hit by bomb and 20 MM in air attack.
/1/Code name for the Barbara J.
2. Request you render assistance. If unable to save, request you
remove the crew and destroy.
129. Telegram From the Commander in Chief, Atlantic (Dennison) to the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Norfolk, April 18, 1961, 6:06 p.m.
//Source: Naval Historical Center, Area Files, Bumpy Road Materials. Top Secret; Operational Immediate; Bumpy Road. Exclusive for General Gray from Admiral Dennison. Repeated for information to CTG 81.8, Exclusive for Clark from Dennison.
182306Z. Bumpy Road. Exclusive for General Gray info RAdm Clark from Dennison.
A. JCS 994317 DTG 181949Z Notal./1/
B. CTG 81.8 182212Z./2/
1. Have ordered Phibron 2 with BLT 1/6 embarked to move to an area bounded by latitudes 21 and 21-30N and longitude 80 and 81W. He will paint out markings on boats and be prepared to evacuate CEF forces if directed.
2. TF 24 including Northampton and Independence with attack air group CVG 7 aboard proceeding southward at 24 kts to Mayport area for possible further movement south.
3. Phibron 8 with BLT embarked ordered to expedite arrival at GTMO Opare ETA 222300Z./3/
/3/April 22, 6 p.m.
4. COMKWESTFOR ordered to sanitize 6 F3H2 equipped with air to air missiles to be available first light 19 April.
5. CTG 81.8 (Clark) reported results eyeball recco by reference B.
6. COMFAIRJAX undertaking on urgent basis to obtain covert high alt A3D photo recco of objective area. This to be done 18 April if possible but good result unlikely because of poor late afternoon light.
7. Appreciate the need to do all possible to minimize evidence of our participation but point out that all US aircraft are exclusively USN types and will be recognized as such.
8. New subject. I too have been operating in the dark which has been generated by not being completely advised of CEF operations, the sudden laying on of requirements which could have been forecasted, and no intelligence assessment of situation within Cuba. My own assessment based on a very high degree of ignorance is that CEF operations are not going well and that if result is either inconclusive or total collapse we may expect strong retaliatory effort probably against Guantanamo.
9. It is inevitable that our participation will gradually become
known to a degree at least by many people including those in Castro's
government. Time is not on our side and it is certainly important
to do all possible to tip the scales in favor of CEF. Have no
suggestions at this time beyond continuing measures I have outlined
130. Memorandum of Conversation
Washington, April 18, 1961, 6:50 p.m.
//Source: Department of State, Central Files, 737.00/4-1861. Confidential. Drafted by McSweeney.
Mr. McSweeney, Director, Office of Soviet Union Affairs
Mikhail A. Menshikov, Soviet Ambassador
Georgi M. Kornienko, Counselor, Soviet Embassy
The Secretary said he wished, on behalf of the President, to deliver to the Ambassador the President's reply to the statement from Chairman Khrushchev to the President. He referred to the fact that Khrushchev's statement had been made public and said that the President's statement would also be publicized. He then handed the President's letter to Chairman Khrushchev to the Ambassador. (Attached)/1/
/1/The text of the attached letter was released to the press immediately after it was conveyed to Ambassador Menshikov. It is also printed in Department of State Bulletin, May 8, 1961, pp. 661-662. Ambassador Stevenson read Kennedy's reply to Khrushchev during the evening session of debate in the First Committee on April 18. (U.N. doc. A/C.1/5R.1154) For Khrushchev's letter, see Document 117.
The Ambassador said that he would transmit the communication to his government, adding that personally he did not think it answered the question posed.
The Secretary said that if we were to understand that the Soviet Government planned to act in accordance with the doctrine set forth in the December 1960 communique of the Communist leaders,/2/ then it is inevitable that there will be serious trouble. We believe that it is in the interest of both peoples and governments to seek out solutions which will insure peace, but this cannot be a one-sided effort--we must find the means of recognizing the real issues between us and bring our positions into adjustment. The Soviet Government must understand the importance to the United States of peace and well-being in this hemisphere. The President's reply is directed toward that point.
/2/Reference is to the manifesto issued from Moscow on December 6, 1960, by the leaders of 81 national and regional Communist parties, which proclaimed the unity of all Communists in a continuing struggle against capitalism. (The New York Times, December 7, 1960)
Ambassador Menshikov said the Soviet Government will never recognize intervention in the affairs of other countries as indicating a desire to have peace. Such intervention, he said, would only produce the contrary of peace.
The Secretary said that he could not accept a lecture from the Soviet Union regarding intervention, having in mind the activities all over the world since 1945 of the Soviet Union.
Ambassador Menshikov said that the Soviet Union had never intervened in the affairs of other countries--that this is a strict policy of the Soviet Government which has been followed consistently. He said the Soviet Government cannot fail to notice the introduction of forces into other countries to suppress the freedom and independence of those countries.
The Secretary asked if Mr. Menshikov were referring to Hungary.
The Ambassador said he referred to Cuba. As regards Hungary, he said, the Secretary should know what happened there. Without going into details, he would only reaffirm that in the Hungarian affair the Soviet Union had been asked by the legitimate government to help suppress counter-revolution. This the Soviet Union did.
The Secretary indicated that further conversation seemed unnecessary and the Ambassador left.
Letter From President Kennedy to Chairman Khrushchev
Washington, April 18, 1961.
Mr. Chairman: You are under a serious misapprehension in regard to events in Cuba. For months there has been evident and growing resist-ance to the Castro dictatorship. More than 100,000 refugees have recently fled from Cuba into neighboring countries. Their urgent hope is naturally to assist their fellow Cubans in their struggle for freedom. Many of these refugees fought along side Dr. Castro against the Batista dictatorship; among them are prominent leaders of his own original movement and government.
These are unmistakable signs that Cubans find intolerable the denial of democratic liberties and the subversion of the 26th of July Movement by an alien-dominated regime. It cannot be surprising that, as resistance within Cuba grows, refugees have been using whatever means are available to return and support their countrymen in the continuing struggle for freedom. Where people are denied the right of choice, recourse to such struggle is the only means of achieving their liberties.
I have previously stated, and I repeat now, that the United States intends no military intervention in Cuba. In the event of any military intervention by outside force we will immediately honor our obligations under the inter-American system to protect this hemisphere against external aggression. While refraining from military intervention in Cuba, the people of the United States do not conceal their admiration for Cuban patriots who wish to see a democratic system in an independent Cuba. The United States Government can take no action to stifle the spirit of liberty.
I have taken careful note of your statement that the events in Cuba might affect peace in all parts of the world. I trust that this does not mean that the Soviet Government, using the situation in Cuba as a pretext, is planning to inflame other areas of the world. I would like to think that your government has too great a sense of responsibility to embark upon any enterprise so dangerous to general peace.
I agree with you as to the desirability of steps to improve the international atmosphere. I continue to hope that you will cooperate in opportunities now available to this end. A prompt cease-fire and peaceful settlement of the dangerous situation in Laos, cooperation with the United Nations in the Congo and a speedy conclusion of an acceptable treaty for the banning of nuclear tests would be constructive steps in this direction. The regime in Cuba could make a similar contribution by permitting the Cuban people freely to determine their own future by democratic processes and freely to cooperate with their Latin American neighbors.
I believe, Mr. Chairman, that you should recognize that free peoples in all parts of the world do not accept the claim of historical inevitability for Communist revolution. What your government believes is its own business; what it does in the world is the world's business. The great revolution in the history of man, past, present and future, is the revolution of those determined to be free.
John F. Kennedy/4/
/4/Printed from a copy that indicates President Kennedy signed
131. Telegram From the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the Commander in Chief, Atlantic (Dennison)
Washington, April 18, 1961, 7:57 p.m.
//Source: Naval Historical Center, Area Files, Bumpy Road Materials. Top Secret; Operational Immediate; Limited Distribution. Repeated to CTG 81.8, Exclusive for Clark from Gray.
JCS 994363. Bumpy Road. Exclusive for Adm Dennison and Adm Clark from Gen Gray. For your info possibility exists that C-130 A/C with markings removed may be used for night drops on Blue Beach beginning 19-20 April until further notice./1/
/1/A note on the memorandum for the record prepared by Mitchell
concerning the rules of engagement reads: "These air drops
by C-130 were never conducted." (National Defense University,
Taylor Papers, Box 12, Cuba, Paramilitary Study)
132. Telegram From the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the Commander in Chief, Atlantic (Dennison)
Washington, April 18, 1961, 7:59 p.m.
//Source: Naval Historical Center, Area Files, Bumpy Road Materials. Top Secret; Operational Immediate; Limited Distribution. Repeated to CTG 81.8, Exclusive for Clark from Gray.
JCS 994364. Bumpy Road. Exclusive for Adm Dennison and Adm Clark
from Gen Gray. As feasible and without violating current restrictions
request you determine location of airfields from which fighter
aircraft attacking CEF beachhead are operating.
133. Telegram From the Chief of Naval Operations (Burke) to the Commander in Chief, Atlantic (Dennison)
Washington, April 18, 1961, 8:37 p.m.
//Source: Naval Historical Center, Area Files, Bumpy Road Materials. Top Secret; Limited Distribution. Drafted by Burke. A "chronology of events on Cuba taken from the records in Op-00 immediate office" indicates that this message was sent as a back channel message. (Ibid.)
190137Z. Exclusive for Adm Dennison from Burke. Bumpy Road. Authorities appreciated CTG 81.8 182212Z/1/ but still want to know whether CEF can go into bush as guerrillas at a time Commander CEF thinks organized resistance no longer feasible. Johnny/2/ maybe could get dope from Mallard.
Authorities would like to be sure CEF could become guerrillas whenever they desire so that point could be emphasized in our publicity, i.e. that revolutionaries crossed the beach and are now operating as guerrillas. In other words if CEF can not hold beach head or fight their way inland it would be desirable for them to become guerrillas and head for a known destination and be supplied by air. Anything you can do to get answer to that question would be appreciated.
Next subject was getting wounded out if that becomes necessary. I suggested that wounded could be taken off beach in CEF ships who later could ask Essex to take them as humanitarian move. Clark would have to make arrangements through Mallard. Wounded should be kept in Essex until suitable hospital arrangements could be made on beach in some place inaccessible to news hawks.
Authorities are concerned that if CEF cannot become guerrillas for any reason Cardona may ask United States to evacuate those who can not get into bush. I replied we could evacuate with Phibron Two tomorrow night if U.S. Government made decision to do so. Boats would necessarily have to be handled by U.S. personnel. We could send some Marines ashore, if U.S. made decision to do so, to cover evacuation. We might also have to fly air cover to protect evacuation from air attack. I did not know whether this operation should be done at night or in daylight if evacuation were necessary. Request advice.
If it does become necessary to evacuate, Clark will need also to use what helicopters he can to get data as well as men.
Suggest you fly another recon over beach in morning to get data
but JCS should be informed you intend to do so.
134. Telegram From the Chief of Naval Operations (Burke) to the Commander in Chief, Atlantic (Dennison)
Washington, April 18, 1961, 9:17 p.m.
//Source: Naval Historical Center, Area Files, Bumpy Road Materials. Top Secret; Limited Distribution. Repeated to CTG 81.8, Exclusive for Clark from Burke.
190217Z. Exclusive for Adm Dennison and RAdm Clark from Burke. Bumpy Road. I was asked once again if it were possible to land an experienced Marine (or Naval officer who has amphibious knowledge) on beach with CEF without danger of him being killed or captured or it becoming known U.S. was involved. The urgency stems from lack of knowledge here of true situation on beach and what should be done now without overtly involving United States. If Johnny/1/ thinks it could be done within his own resources with little danger it should be done. I have said it too likely to fail but I may be wrong.
Please advise, Exclusive to Burke only, on this one along with
any further information on situation or comments on how to get
135. Telegram From the Commander of Special Task Group 81.8 (Clark) to the Commander in Chief, Atlantic (Dennison)
USS Essex, Caribbean, April 18, 1961, 11:52 p.m.
//Source: Naval Historical Center, Area Files, Bumpy Road Materials. Top Secret; Operational Immediate. Passed to JCS at 2:01 a.m. in CINCLANT telegram 190701Z, Exclusive for Gray from Dennison. (Ibid.)
190452Z. Bumpy Road. Exclusive for Dennison from Clark.
1. Following clear text from Brigade Commander to base intercepted "Do you people realize how desperate the situation is? Do you back us up or quit? All we want is low jet cover and jet close support. Enemy has this support. I need it badly or cannot survive. Please don't desert us. Am out of tank and bazooka ammo. Tanks will hit me at dawn. I will not be evacuated. Will fight to the end if we have to. Need medical supplies urgently."
2. Following intercepted from Marsopa/1/ "If we cannot get Santiago to cover us on way in and out and low jet cover feel Cuban crew will mutiny. Crew ready to mutiny now. Request immed answer."
/1/Code name for the Blagar.
[end of document]
to Foreign Relations of the U.S., Vol. X, Cuba.