The Charlotte News

Friday, October 22, 1937


Site Ed. Note: This date in 1962 would provide the first announcement outside the top echelons of government of the presence of offensive missiles in Cuba, and our intent to quarantine the island from the introduction of offensive military equipment. The quarantine would apply both to Soviet ships and non-Soviet ships.

The President would draft a letter to Nikita Khrushchev, explaining the intended action, and would alert Soviet Ambassador Dobrynin of the text of the speech thirty minutes before broadcast. Former Presidents Hoover, Truman, and Eisenhower were also briefed by President Kennedy on the crisis and each of the former Presidents had supported the Presidentís intended course of action.

In the afternoon, EXCOMM, now formerly designated, would meet again to discuss further preparations for the quarantine and the speech. Robert Kennedy indicated his belief that without OAS approval of the blockade, it would be illegal, thus stressing the need to obtain this approval right away. Dean Rusk expressed his opinion, however, that with the introduction of nuclear arms into the balance, no nation would read with the same literal terms as with conventional weaponry international law regarding blockades, and thus he believed that there would be no objection.

It was established on Sunday that OAS approval would first be sought before calling for a meeting of the Security Council at the U.N. The latter, however, would be done upon obtaining OAS approval, thus invoking the Rio Treaty of 1947, Articles 6 and 8.

Stress would be given in the speech to the distinction to be made between the introduction of missiles in Cuba, that they were brought in secretly, and that of the U.S. missiles in Turkey and Italy, introduced in 1959 with statements of notice issued to the Soviets at the time.

Finally, the President discussed his reasons for ruling out an air strike as an initial step, having only finally reached that decision on Sunday morning: the air strike would not be certain to take out all of the missiles, and since there was uncertainty even as to the location of some of the missiles, the air strike would incur the substantial risk of a retaliatory nuclear response, and, in any event, would lead to the necessity for invasion, also thereby increasing the risk of nuclear war; moreover, the surprise air strike carried with it the stigma of analogy to the surprise attack at Pearl Harbor.

Three hours later, the seventeen-minute speech, which was carried live by the three networks at 7:00 p.m., and broadcast from ships in the Caribbean to Cuba to avoid radio jamming equipment, laid forth candidly the presence of the missiles, the reasons why they must not be tolerated, the intent of the quarantine to eliminate them, and the dangers which lay ahead with this course of action. It referred to the lessons learned in the lead-up to World War II in the 1930ís, that allowing military aggression to continue unabated only leads to war, and that this mistake must not be repeated. The speech concluded with a direct appeal to the "captive people" of Cuba, asking them to consider what the "puppet" Castro regime had done in betraying their nationalist revolution by allowing the steady encroachment of a foreign power, the Soviet Union, now insisting on the presence of missiles threatening both the United States and its allies in Latin America, thus precipitating the need for the present quarantine.

What the speech did not mention was that 18 of the MRBMís were now reported operational and that as many as fifty might be operational by December. Undoubtedly, there was concern that doing so might cause undue panic and lead to insistence by the public and Congress on an immediate invasion, without the full realization of the problem of not being able to hit all of the missiles and therefore its potential for stimulating immediate and disastrous consequences, if not from Cuba, from the Soviet Union, if not aimed at the United States, at Berlin.

The next step, on Tuesday, would be to obtain a resolution of the OAS approving the quarantine. Also, with the cat out of the bag and the Soviets now aware of the U.S. knowledge of the missiles, low-level flight photography could begin. This operation carried with it the substantial risk, however, of incurring anti-aircraft fire, in which case there would be pressure from the Joint Chiefs to take out the battery responsible, and the results of that sort of conventional response, the President knew, could quickly escalate beyond anyone's control. The first such flight on Tuesday would be by Commander William Ecker, and would confirm in close-up what the U-2 photographs had shown from 70,000 feet.

Many miles and many changes within Administration thinking had gone by in just the period of seven days. The October 19 issue of Time, for instance, had reported from the President's stop in Indianapolis, before the evidence of the missile installations, the following:

Looking Ahead. Then the President took off for Indianapolis and, although he did not identify him by name, a sharp attack on Indiana's Republican Senator Homer Capehart, who has been urging a blockade or even an invasion of Cuba.

Said Kennedy: "This is no time for rash and irresponsible talk. This is the time for men who talk softly and carry a big stick." The President praised Democrat Birch E. Bayh Jr., Capehart's opponent in November, as a man who would never join "those self-appointed generals and admirals who want to send someone else's son to war."

In the same issue appeared this article, (which we shall dub, quite rightly, "Mellow Yellow Tasket").

And, this article, appearing in the October 26 issue, which obviously hit newstands before the October 22 announcement, cynically benching as mere campaign fuel the Kennedy Administration warnings regarding imminent trouble from the Soviet Union over Berlin, with the West German and British leadership joining the doubting Thomas chorus.

The following week's issue of Time would sing a very different tune. So would a grateful West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer and Mr. Macmillan.

"First there is a mountain...

[And, for right now, we do not have the rest of the monthís News pieces for you. We shall obtain them, however, shortly. Estamos apesadumbrados para retrasamos.]

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