Friday, October 18, 2013



Washington, D.C. (JFK+50) 51 years ago today, October 18, 1962, was the third day of what would be the 13 day Cuban Missile Crisis, the closest the world has come to nuclear war.

President John F. Kennedy met in the Oval Office with several representatives of the Soviet government including UN Ambassador Andrei Gromyko*.

The meeting, which included Vladimir Seyemenov, Deputy Minister and Anatoly Dobrynin, Soviet ambassador to the United States, began at 5 p.m. and lasted for two hours.

Gromyko read a statement from a prepared text in which his government restated that all assistance to Cuba was strictly for defensive purposes.

Having the U2 photographs in his desk drawer, JFK knew better but he didn't let on that he knew the situation to be otherwise.

In a interview later in December, JFK said that he did not show Gromyko the photographs because his "information was incomplete" and he didn't want to give the Soviets the advantage of publicly announcing the presence of the missiles before he did.

JFK referred to this meeting in his address to the Nation of October 22, 1962...

"Only last Thursday, as evidence of this rapid offensive buildup was already in my hand, Soviet foreign minister Gromyko told me in my office...that 'Soviet assistance to Cuba (was)...solely (for the) defensive capabilities of Cuba and that if it were otherwise...(his) government would never become involved in rendering  assistance.'"

Andrei Gromyko with Dean Rusk
Photo by Yoichi Okamoto (1967)
LBJ Library Image

*Andrei Gromyko (1909-1989) was born in Staryja Hramyki, Russia and became a member of the All Union Communist Party Bolsheviks in 1931.  In 1936, after 3 years in the study of economics, he did research and gave lectures at the Soviet Academy of Sciences.

AG entered the diplomatic service in 1939 and would serve 28 years as Soviet Minister of Foreign Affairs.


Washington, D.C. (JFK+50) 51 years ago this evening, October 18, 1962, the Executive Committee of the National Security Council, or EXCOM, met at the White House to discuss the options for responding to the discovery that nuclear missiles had been placed in Cuba by the Soviet Union.

In addition to the President and Vice-President, other participants were:

Robert S. McNamara, Secretary of Defense
Dean Rusk, Secretary of State
C. Douglas Dillon, Secretary of Treasury
Bob F. Kennedy, Attorney General
Llewellyn Thompson, Special Assistant for Soviet affairs
George Ball, Under Secretary of State
McGeorge Bundy, National Security adviser
John McCone, CIA director
Art Lundahl, director National Photo Interpreting Center
General Maxwell Taylor, chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff

Early in the discussions, President Kennedy asked Arthur Lundahl how many different missile sites were identified.  

Mr. Lundahl answered 23.

Arthur Lundhaul
Photo courtesy of Sandy Spangnolo

General Maxwell Taylor said:

"All of our (response) plans are based on...(the)...assumption that we would attack with conventional weapons against an enemy who is not equipped with operational nuclear weapons."

The President asked...

"How quick is our communication with Moscow?"

Llewellyn Thompson answered that it would take from five to six hours to communicate with the Kremlin.

Mr. Thompson, later in the meeting, expressed his preference for a naval blockade of Cuba along with a demand for the missiles already in place to be dismantled.

Robert Kennedy originally supported military action but in this meeting appeared to be leaning toward a blockade.