The Charlotte News

Wednesday, October 27, 1937


Site Ed. Note: On the foggy evening of October 27, 1962 in Rice Stadium, 45 days after the President had spoken there about placing a man on the moon before the end of the decade, Rice and Texas played to a 14-14 tie, knocking number one and previously undefeated Texas from the top of the charts. Rice to that point had a record of 0-3-1, their only tie having been to LSU in the opener, September 29. Rice’s final record that year was 2-6-2; but they tied the one which counted most to their fans—and perhaps to the rest of the free world at large.

Texas, incidentally, finishing the year at number 4 in the polls, would go otherwise with an unblemished record, until their final game. That one they lost 13-0 to number 8 LSU, which had finished the regular season 8-1-1.

That final game was the Cotton Bowl of New Year’s Day, 1963.

This day of the Cuban missile crisis, the penultimate day, would also be its toughest, as, unknown to the world at large, the world was being held together by at best baling wire, and the cords were unraveling fast.

Not only would the second troubling letter come from Moscow, made public by TASS, demanding now a new condition for withdrawal of the missiles in Cuba, that being the withdrawal of U. S. missiles in Turkey, but even more troubling, a U-2 pilot, Major Rudolf Anderson, recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross for his service in the Korean War, would be shot down by a SAM site while flying a photo reconnaissance mission over Cuba.

This latter incident, the first loss of life during the Crisis, presented a decision before the President of gravest implications: would he follow the rules of engagement which he himself had approved at the start of the Crisis, that the SAM site responsible for any hostile action against Americans would be taken out immediately by a SAC strike? But if so, just as U. N. talks are beginning, just as some ray of daylight regarding peaceful solution to the Crisis had shown through the hazy bloodstained-glass window of yesterday, what would be the Soviet response? Soviet soldiers manning the SAM site would be killed. In response, no doubt, all negotiations in New York would cease. We would then have no choice but to conduct the air strike on the missile sites; the Soviets would respond somewhere, likely Berlin, or possibly in Turkey, possibly from the operational missile sites in Cuba against the United States, however unlikely that prospect was then deemed for the stated policy in the President’s message of Monday that any such launch would result in an immediate retaliatory response against the Soviet Union; regardless of the type of response by the Soviets, there would be a response, and there would follow general war, with its inevitable attendant risk of nuclear exchange.

The rope of which Khrushchev spoke in his letter of the previous day was now being pulled tauter and tauter by unseen forces, seemingly calculating matters to work against peaceful resolution of the conflict, one so far remaining in the cold. The question, the primary question then to resolve, therefore was to determine who was pulling at the ends, and to wrest their hands away so that the governments and their responsible officials could reach a mutual accord without warfare, without appeasement merely delaying the inevitability of war as at Munich in 1938. If not the White House on this side, if not Khrushchev as designated leader of the Communist Party and hence the Soviet Union, then who?

True, as to the most compelling issue at hand thrusting EXCOMM in the direction of air strike, the missing and later determined as dead pilot was not flying an offensive mission, and the Soviets and Cubans had to understand that, as U-2 reconnaissance flights were as ordinary as morning toast and coffee through the previous months and even years, since the beginning of the January Revolution in 1959.

So why did it happen, now, just as talks were beginning and peace had a chance to win the day? We had not done anything to cause harm immediately in Cuba. No precipitous situation had occurred since the previous day’s more amicable tones had pervaded. Not since the Bay of Pigs, in fact, other than a lot of loose talk from the other side of the aisle in Congress and among those stirrers of the cattle in the hinterlands. But that was all understood now, or should be, by the Soviets, as loose talk, not the official policy of the government.

Why now? Was Castro in control of the SAM sites? Did he want a war? Were there hard-liners in the Soviet Union who, unlike Khrushchev’s overtures toward peace appeared to convey in the October 26 letter, wanted a hard and bitter conflict to settle the matter once and for all time, not a continuing hard and bitter peace in stalemate? Had there been a coup? Was the pressure toward that end the impetus for the rambling, sometimes incoherent, letter of the previous day, building to a peace offer? Did the new letter with its additional demand therefore forecast new demands, over Berlin or other NATO interests, to be made subsequently were we to accede to that one?

The President faced these tough issues this day, one like no other during his thousand days in office. It would tax to the limit his instincts, his human compassion, and his desires to foment peace, not war—and would end with the rope tighter than ever, where it had appeared to be slackened to afford the potential for achieving the greatest amity between the super powers in recent times, just 24 hours earlier.

The first gambit presented was to understand the two letters and figure a way to get around the demand for the missiles in Turkey. The second, and even more important, but now inextricably bound with the first, was to determine whether in fact the action downing the U-2 was deliberately hostile, as the orders had prescribed it must be before counter-action would be mandated.

But through it all, one could hear in the distance the moanful, melancholic, precipitant stroke of the augurous chord wrung from the vihuela, the signal of challenge, within la corrida del toro. A cannon, for the first time in the Crisis, had let loose its loaded boom, killing an American.

And time itself was running low in the hourglass. The original time frame provided by Defense Intelligence and CIA, not altered, but even accelerated in the interim, had been two weeks before several of the missiles would become operational. That time expired at the latest Monday, perhaps already had. There was doom on the horizon.

Three EXCOMM meetings would occur this day. In the first Secretary McNamara reported that the tanker Graznyy was still moving toward the blockade line, now about 600 miles away. It was believed that there was no offending cargo onboard. Nevertheless, it would be stopped and searched, as it was not certain what it carried. If it were to refuse to stop, after being hailed, the order in place was to sink it.

Undersecretary Ball suggested that we needed to inform the Soviets of our quarantine zone. The President echoed this concern and ordered that U Thant be told to inform the Soviets of the precise parameters of the zone so that an informed decision could be made by the Soviets to order the tanker back or to have it deliberately violate the quarantine line.

McNamara again requested nighttime reconnaissance missions. This time, the President stated he would hold on that decision until the afternoon, but that preparations should be made for such a mission, and a public announcement of it prepared. Two further daytime reconnaissance missions were approved, the one in the morning, which would take the life of Major Anderson, and one for the afternoon.

The discussion then turned to the missiles in Turkey. Paul Nitze, who had been assigned by the President to study the possibility of the trade, urged against it. Turkey would object strongly to loss of the missiles, even though obsolete. Ball agreed with this assessment and that it would be easier to persuade Italy to give up its Jupiters. (There was no discussion of the offer by Harold Macmillan for Britain to give up its 60 missiles as relayed to the President the previous evening.) Nitze further conveyed his fear that the next step would be a demand from the Soviets that all missiles be removed from NATO countries in Europe.

Now came over the teletype the second letter, which had been released to TASS and was thus public. The President believed this new position of the Soviets, regarding the missiles in Turkey, would receive wide public support throughout the world, to avoid war. He counseled making the previous day’s letter from Khrushchev public. He also counseled consideration of this option on Turkey, as he had already suggested earlier, because of the obsolescence of the missiles there.

It is worth a pause here in the chronology to consider whether or not there was an internal struggle going on within the White House and between the White House and the Joint Chiefs, to avoid war, to stand down the hawks who sought it at every available turn. Were they even fostering it, through the Northwoods plan, through Mongoose? Stimulate the provocation to invade and remove the Castro government, even if the risk was nuclear annihilation. General LeMay, after all, had asserted his determined belief that the Soviets would do nothing in response to bombing the missile installations and even the airfields and MiGs. That the path would be clear for invasion. But the President understood from having been a combat sailor in the Pacific that the brass-hats were sometimes headstrong beyond the reality confronting them, that their eagerness for conflict, born of their training as professional soldiers, sometimes outran their ability to step back and use their own good common sense to avert it. To allow their creative instincts which nurtured the survival of man against the jungle for time immemorial to conquer their fight instinct, being governed by fear: hence the rationale brilliantly formed by the founders, for civilian leadership of the military, a civilian, popularly elected Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces, not beholding to the command structure of professionally trained military men.

But this group of military men, the President also recognized, had come to be entrenched by events facing them in the hard, hot struggles of World War II, some even as foot soldiers before that in World War I, followed by the divisions of the post-war Europe, and the leadership of their old Commander, General Eisenhower, who led them to victory after D-Day.

This group, too, not just the missiles in Cuba and the Soviets, had to be stood down.

Was this, then, a point of ploy by the White House to effect that goal? That is, that the Scali message from Fromin the previous day was relayed back as an acceptable conclusion to the matter, that there was then the letter to U Thant to get the diplomatic track rolling, that the President had made it clear to foreign leaders, including Macmillan the previous day, that the U.S. would likely accede to removal of the missiles in Turkey if it were proposed by the Soviets, and that this willingness was conveyed to the Soviets through back channels, leading to the new demands by the Soviets?

Someone not keeping track of the facts, the obsolescence of the Turkey missiles, would be sure to jump on the bandwagon shouting no to "appeasement", with all its negative connotations. But the President also understood that the equation between the Soviets and Nazis was a false one. The Soviets were involved in economic and philosophical struggles, not racial superiority, even if the means governing them was dictatorship and totalitarianism, an evil to our mode of thinking.

But wait. Was not a form of totalitarianism yet occurring within a few hundred miles of Washington, within the public school systems of the South and the racist parents within those stubborn school districts, bent on electing pols in turn bent on fomenting a form of revolution, refusing for now seven years the Supreme Court’s ruling to desegregate the public schools? Was this not also a form of totalitarianism: was this not also the equivalent of Nazism, of Communism, in all its worst stripes? The answer was cold and plain: it was.

There would be no war, and the President was going to see to it, General Curtis LeMay and former head of the Joint Chiefs Lyman Louis Lemnitzer be damned—and damned they and their totalitarian stripe ought be for fomenting it in the first place.

The President left the meeting for a bit and then returned. He stated that the construction work on the missiles in Cuba must be stopped now. We should discuss with the Turkish government the danger confronting them, the danger of nuclear annihilation in the ensuing week, if the missiles were not removed.

The discussion on the missiles in Turkey went back and forth. Secretary McNamara pointed out that the nuclear warheads belonged to the United States, but not the missiles themselves, which belonged to NATO.

The President stated that, because of the inconsistencies in the two letters from the Kremlin, we could only now talk to the Soviets once the construction on the missile sites ceased. He stated that it was possible that the varying statements coming in quick succession formed a smoke screen, to buy time to enable further construction on the missile sites, in turn to give greater bargaining power in the talks, ultimately then leading to Berlin.

Now came a telephone call from Ambassador Stevenson in New York, and the President’s immediately subsequent statement that it was obvious that the Soviets were limiting our hand in Cuba to obtain concessions outside the hemisphere.

The tide of distrust was now mounting feverishly.

Next came news to EXCOMM of a public announcement by the Turkish government that they would not tolerate loss of their missiles. Following that, as the rest of the publicly released statement by the Soviets was transmitted, it looked to EXCOMM that the actual demand was not merely for the missiles in Turkey but also the missiles throughout NATO, even though no such demand was ever pointedly expressed.

The President concluded the first meeting of the day, in order to meet with the state governors conference being kept waiting. He left EXCOMM with the thought that it would not be politically viable to invade Cuba and risk general war over missiles in Cuba, compromising also Berlin, if it were possible to get the missiles out by trading obsolete missiles in Turkey. We must convince the Turkish government that it would be in their best immediate interests to get rid of these obsolete missiles. We should not go to war over obsolete missiles.

The second meeting of the day of EXCOMM with the President, after a meeting at the State Department without him, occurred at 4:00. The first matter reported was the missing flight of Major Anderson’s U-2. McNamara reported that numerous low-level missions that day had also been fired upon from the ground. The President again delayed a decision on nighttime reconnaissance, pending a full report on the day’s missions.

To add insult to injury, Secretary Rusk reported that a U-2 had accidentally over-flown Soviet territory and the Soviets were aware of it.

The President responded that there would be no public comment unless the Soviets made something of the incident. There would be a message sent to U Thant in New York to be delivered to the Soviets immediately, demanding that construction on the missile sites cease before any talks could begin. At the same time a letter would be sent to Khrushchev, accepting the basic thrust of the first private letter, but stating that any discussion over NATO interests would need to be delayed until talks could be concluded in New York and the missiles removed from Cuba.

After the President left the meeting for a few minutes, Secretary McNamara indicated that since our reconnaissance missions were now receiving fire, we could not perform only a limited air strike on the missiles but would have to attack the airfields as well, the generalized air strike plan discussed the previous week. We should look now, he counseled, to the full air strike followed by the invasion in Cuba as the only viable option for getting the missiles out before they were operational, in time to prevent them from becoming a calculated pawn for further concessions. And the Soviets, he believed, echoing General LeMay’s statements of October 19, would not respond by attacking Turkey or any other NATO interest.

Ambassador Thompson, however, cautioned that it was not possible to draw a conclusion from one mission being fired upon that we should respond with a full retaliatory strike.

Was it deliberately hostile, or simply one gun implacement not getting the message from the higher command?

Intelligence from the CIA, recall, was that the sites were manned by Soviet, not Cuban personnel. Why the peace tenders, and then suddenly the shooting at flights which should have been realized as reconnaissance only? The assumption at the time, too, was that the missiles were controlled only by Soviet directive, a misunderstood premise, and that the Soviets, out of a sense of self-preservation, would not initiate a nuclear attack directly on the United States from Cuba. For if they did, they knew that our missiles would let fly immediately for Moscow. Inside of 20 minutes, both countries would be in ruins. But, of course, Secretary McNamara was not aware of the letter to Khrushchev of the previous evening, that still ringing chord of the vihuela, that Mr. Castro did have the authority to launch, did have the operational missiles with which, on eight hours notice to the site commanders, to do it, and was prepared in the event of air strike and invasion, to do just that, to launch a nuclear strike on the United States, to "end the problem". Just how realistic that was, of course, in hind sight, with the 500 sorties flying over the island, and the two weeks’ past reconnaissance missions having amassed most of the crucial data to determine the precise locus of the sites, was, fortunately, never brought to the test in the ring. For, recall also that Secretary McNamara had cautioned a week earlier that an air strike would at best obtain on its initial day’s sorties destruction of two-thirds of the missiles. Whether the 500 sorties contemplated for the initial air strike could knock out thereby all of the operational missiles, therefore, was something of a turkey shoot, albeit one where the turkey’s head may be as that of the ostrich, and not observable as such from the air. And the prizes for the best shooting at the fair were perhaps only posthumous medals, posthumously provided from Mount Weather, provided, that is, that the government could even withstand the time necessary to reach this refuge from nuclear winter, or that at the Greenbrier, before the end came.

The President returned to the meeting with General Lemnitzer, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs since being appointed to that role by President Eisenhower in September, 1960, re-stationed to Great Britain recently to begin service shortly as Commander of European Forces, after the President named in his stead Maxwell Taylor as Chairman on October 1.

Lemnitzer had been relieved as head of the Joint Chiefs over his obsession with Cuba, leading to his approval of the Northwoods project which Kennedy rejected. Indeed, it was the ramblings of a wild man, simulated attacks on United States soil by pro-Castro groups in the South, to drum up public support against Castro, downing of drone chartered jets, chartered to fly over Cuba, by scrambled Soviet MiGs, in actuality American jets painted to resemble MiGs, with manifests listing fictitious college students, and ensuing press reports of a chartered plane full of college students being shot down, all to supply an excuse for invasion of Cuba to take out Castro. And on and on the report rambled into never, never land, sounding like a report from the Abwehr to the Nazi conspirators in New York in 1941, and not far from being that in fact, rather than something issuing from the United States government. It was pure fiction and pure lunacy from the C.I.A.: yet, Lemnitzer signed his triple L’s to it.

One might call Northwoods instead, whether having anything directly to do finally with Lyman Lemnitzer or not, by its ultimate and obviously directly resultant manifestation: the ever elusive, ineluctable and enigmatic Oswald.

Though present for the rest of this EXCOMM meeting, there is no record that General Lemnitzer directly participated. Perhaps, the President wanted him there as ears, to receive briefing for the status as it would affect NATO in Europe; perhaps, too, as a silent statement, of which General Taylor might report back, to avoid the appearance to the more hawkish of the Joint Chiefs that there was any coercion going on by the White House of their old Ike-appointed leaders in the good old days of the 1950’s, to avoid the war they appeared so desirous of effecting to the end of removal of Castro. Perhaps, the President was conveying symbolically that he was in charge, that there would be no Mongoose, no Northwoods, without his expressed approval. Whatever the reason, Lemnitzer had been summoned to the meeting by the President, and sat in on it for the first time since the beginning of the Crisis and the formation of this executive committee.

The President now counseled calling an emergency meeting of NATO leaders to discuss the options: air strike and follow-on invasion of Cuba, with all its attendant risks of general war, involving primarily NATO interests, or trading away obsolete missiles in Turkey.

McNamara suggested waiting on such a meeting until we had made a firm decision on the air strike and invasion, tomorrow at the latest. The President ultimately agreed on this delayed call of a NATO meeting.

The President discussed the contents of a reply letter to Khrushchev. Should it mention Turkey? Or should it ignore the second letter and respond only to the first, indicating assent to ending the quarantine, agreeing not to invade Cuba, in exchange for the missiles being removed, stressing that all construction must immediately halt on the sites as a condition precedent to any talks or discussion whatsoever? But if we made no mention of Turkey, the President mused, then Khrushchev might use it as a rejection of the second offer, and thus reiterate the demand for the removal of the missiles in Turkey, delaying thereby for another crucial 24 hours resolution of the Crisis, thus buying time to make more sites operational, necessitating then the air strike and invasion. How, then, to respond? Ignore the second letter, and respond only to the first, or respond to both?

General Taylor now provided the Joint Chiefs’ recommendations: On Monday, unless in the meantime the Soviets agreed to render the missiles non-operational, there should be an air strike, followed, seven days later, by an invasion per the plans in place from the previous week.

Secretary McNamara inquired of the President as to what should be the response if the reconnaissance flights were fired on during their missions Sunday; McNamara recommended firing back.

The President said that the reconnaissance flights would continue next day without fighter escort, but if fired upon, we would be prepared to knock out the SAM site responsible. Yet, we would wait before making that decision firm, to ascertain the response by the Soviets to the letter to U Thant regarding the requirement that the missile site construction cease at once before any talks could begin, as well as the response to the more generalized thrust of the proposed agreement.

The President also considered a letter to the Turkish government to persuade them to ask the United States to remove our missiles, this approach so that the United States would not appear to be muscling an ally to relinquish its defenses, defenses which in fact had no longer any strategic significance in the overall plan of the defense of Europe to maintain the strategic nuclear balance, a tie, whereby any firing of any missile by anyone would result in the immediate and total annihilation of that party’s interests, their entire country laid in ruins—the ultimate goal of the Cold War, stalemate, rather than either the Guns of August or the Big Guns of 1939, 1940, 1941 and onward.

Now came the final news from General Taylor that the U-2 wreckage from the morning missing flight had been discovered on the ground in Cuba and that Major Anderson was dead. He counseled hitting on Sunday the SAM site responsible.

Secretary McNamara stated dramatically that our only option now appeared to be air strike. We should, however, seek to minimize the risk, he said also, paradoxically, and worthy only of a worthy, of attack on Turkey by the Soviets by removing the missiles from Turkey. If the Soviets attacked Turkey in response to an invasion or air strike in Cuba, we must be prepared to attack them with conventional ground and naval support immediately.

To that, interjecting for the first time since the initial meetings of EXCOMM the previous week, Vice President Johnson now spoke, and with sensible, strategic eloquence: why would we not relinquish the missiles in Turkey if we were prepared to take them out anyway?

In support of the question’s coldly obvious answer, Undersecretary Ball added that we could replace the loss of these missiles immediately with Polaris submarines assigned to the area.

This was now a good point on which to end the meeting and break for dinner. So it was.

During the next hour, the President finalized and sent the final draft of his response to Khrushchev, not ignoring the second letter completely, but de-emphasizing it, delaying any consideration of the "other armaments" until after the crisis was resolved immediately. The text of the letter, sent at 8:05 p.m., released to the press and hand delivered to the Soviet Embassy in Washington, was as follows:

I have read your letter of October 26th with great care and welcomed the statement of your desire to seek a prompt solution to the problem. The first thing that needs to be done, however, is for work to cease on offensive missile bases in Cuba and for all weapons systems in Cuba capable of offensive use to be rendered inoperable, under effective United Nations arrangements.

Assuming this is done promptly, I have given my representatives in New York instructions that will permit them to work out this weekend--in cooperation with the Acting Secretary General and your representative--an arrangement for a permanent solution to the Cuban problem along the lines suggested in your letter of October 26th. As I read your letter, the key elements of your proposals--which seem generally acceptable as I understand them--are as follows:

1) You would agree to remove these weapons systems from Cuba under appropriate United Nations observation and supervision; and undertake, with suitable safeguards, to halt the further introduction of such weapons systems into Cuba.

2) We, on our part, would agree--upon the establishment of adequate arrangements through the United Nations to ensure the carrying out and continuation of these commitments--(a) to remove promptly the quarantine measures now in effect and (b) to give assurances against an invasion of Cuba. I am confident that other nations of the Western Hemisphere would be prepared to do likewise.

If you will give your representative similar instructions, there is no reason why we should not be able to complete these arrangements and announce them to the world within a couple of days. The effect of such a settlement on easing world tensions would enable us to work toward a more general arrangement regarding "other armaments", as proposed in your second letter which you made public. I would like to say again that the United States is very much interested in reducing tensions and halting the arms race; and if your letter signifies that you are prepared to discuss a detente affecting NATO and the Warsaw Pact, we are quite prepared to consider with our allies any useful proposals.

But the first ingredient, let me emphasize, is the cessation of work on missile sites in Cuba and measures to render such weapons inoperable, under effective international guarantees. The continuation of this threat, or a prolonging of this discussion concerning Cuba by linking these problems to the broader questions of European and world security, would surely lead to an intensification of the Cuban crisis and a grave risk to the peace of the world. For this reason I hope we can quickly agree along the lines in this letter and in your letter of October 26th.

An hour after this letter was dispatched, and some two hours after another important meeting, not known to the whole of EXCOMM was planned and then executed, after dinner and thought, at 9:00, a third EXCOMM meeting of the day convened, the only day during the Crisis when EXCOMM would meet virtually for the entire day, even if the President was now reported to be consumed about 90% of the time with the Crisis, sometimes spending 17 hours per day on it. The truth, of course, was that during the hot points of the Crisis he was preoccupied, as a practical matter, all of the time with the Crisis.

Secretary McNamara recommended, and the President approved, the mobilization of 14,000 troops and 300 troop carriers, to be ready to carry out an invasion. The President decided that if the response to our offer to the Soviets was negative, and if reconnaissance flights were fired upon again on Sunday, then we should respond by taking out the SAM site responsible.

The Graznyy, which was only a tanker, should not be stopped for now, per the Attorney General’s recommendation, if it ran the quarantine line. But other Soviet bloc ships would be stopped if they entered the zone. Since the Graznyy was over a day away from Cuba, a decision whether to stop it could be delayed until Sunday. Increased pressure on the quarantine also might be considered, by adding provisions of life to the embargoed items, concluded the President.

There followed discussion about planning a NATO meeting and that we should only set forth the alternatives, trading the missiles in Turkey which were obsolete or conducting an air strike on Monday and subsequent invasion, assuming for the moment that the Soviets refused the demands conveyed through U Thant at the U.N. We must not, however, said the President, appear to be dictating matters to NATO, that we should make it clear, as recommended by Rusk, that we were working with them in a unified, conciliatory manner, not dictating policy of the United States. At the Attorney General’s suggestion, the President agreed that we should not state a preferred course of action to NATO as yet, that we should use the meeting on Sunday only as a briefing to them of the situation and we should not yet raise the suggestion of trading the missiles in Turkey. The Attorney General also recommended that we should wait a day to determine the course of action, air strike and invasion or not, to await the outcome of the talks in New York and whether or not we should be willing to trade the Jupiter missiles in Turkey to accomplish the deal the Soviets now proposed. Our ambassador to Turkey would not yet propose, concluded the President, the trade of the missiles there.

Further low-level reconnaissance was authorized for the following morning. If these planes were fired upon, we would fire back, now affirmed the President.

The last formal meeting of the day then ended.

More had happened that fateful night outside the knowledge of the full EXCOMM: Robert Kennedy had secretly met with Ambassador Dobrynin at 7:45, laid out the urgency for resolution, that an answer to the new proposal would have to come inside of 12 to 24 hours. The situation had worsened because of the news of the killed U-2 pilot; we were going to start shooting back. That could only lead to escalation. Kennedy then rebuffed Dobrynin’s complaint that the U.S. was violating Cuban air space, that the problem was well beyond that now. The proposal was to guarantee a pledge that the United States would not invade Cuba in exchange for dismantling and removal, under U. N. inspection, of the missiles in Cuba, and conversion of the missiles already in place to immediate non-operational status, plus ceasing all construction work on the sites. The United States would immediately end the quarantine. When Dobrynin raised the issue of the missiles in Turkey, the Attorney General responded that the issue could be handled privately only, as there could be no formal quid pro quo on these missiles, as any bartering in Turkey was a matter for NATO to determine. But, he assured, that since these missiles were scheduled for removal in a year anyway, the President would accelerate that timetable, such that they would be removed within five or six months, but only if the agreement in that regard remained private and was not released to the press. Any public disclosure of this condition would nullify the entire arrangement and would be denied by the United States as a condition of the agreement.

These proposals obviously dovetailed the President’s letter sent at 8:05 to the Soviet Embassy, but adding the more definite private proposal regarding the future talks on "other armaments" within NATO.

But the mode of expression in the private meeting was far more aggressive and dogmatic than in the letter: either remove the missiles and agree to do so on Sunday, within 12 to 24 hours, or we would proceed to remove them on Monday, said the Attorney General. Those were the tough, unvarnished demands conveyed to the Soviet Ambassador in person at the Justice Department. If the Soviets took retaliatory action to an air strike to remove the missiles, we would likewise respond: there might be dead Americans, but there would also be dead Russians, said the Attorney General.

Dobrynin would depart the meeting grimly, and without suggestion of any great hope for either its receipt in time for the deadline indicated or its acceptance by that point. Nevertheless, the Attorney General cautioned him that the deadline was firm, that "drastic consequences" would follow a failure to agree to these terms, not an ultimatum, a statement of fact. Dobrynin clearly understood the catastrophic potential should the deadline be crossed without resolution.

The world went to bed this Saturday night, full of its usual buzz, full of football scores and post-game analysis, and whiling time on the quadrangle by shouting to the girls to toss away their undergarments to the college boys down below, time-worn traditions, full of hopes and dreams, fears and qualms, titillations and thumping disappointments, prayers for church in the morning, curses for the forces of evil in the afternoon, all not realizing fully that it had, dependent on the following day’s decisions of the men responsible for governing them worldwide, perhaps 48 hours left to exist at all.

Incidentally, we don’t know whether at the University of North Carolina in the past couple of days of 2007 there have been any rallies in which the student participants yelled such things as "block that ship" and "go to Hell, Fidel, go to Hell", but we’ve heard such things in Kenan Stadium there on the campus hurled, not at Fidel, though once upon a time later, to encourage first and ten, at Ho Chi Minh, across the field of battle to upcoming Saturday opponents for decades now, and without so much as a single bullet being fired—that is save for the little cannon down on the field firing that time-honored game-opening null charge to send palpitations through the crowd’s hearts and thereby fire them up a bit for the afternoon’s festivities—en la corrida del toro.

And, forty-five years ago this date, U.N.C., on its way to a not-so-hot 3-7 season under Mr. James Hickey, would beat Wake Forest 17-14, under the likewise not so elegant generalship of Mr. Billy Hildebrand and his vaunted warriors, there in Kenan Stadium one crisp October afternoon. The previous opponent, also producing a win, was the University of South Carolina.

The story today, however, 45 years later, is that U.N.C., as before, is having a season not so hot thus far, having won only two. Their last opponent was number 7 South Carolina, to whom they lost by the measure of a touchdown. The opponent this date, albeit not in Kenan Stadium, was also Wake Forest. The outcome, however, was a bit different from the one 45 years ago; this time it was 37-10 for the Deaconate boys.

Yet, there will come another season.

And, our current President, just this week, has announced an increase in pressure on Cuba to rid itself of dictatorship. An offer has been made of substantial monetary aid to enable modernization of the island’s infrastructure, implementation of internet facilities, for instance, and generally increased educational opportunities for its young, provided that democratic elections will be held, and continued on a regular interim.

It’s a good idea. We hope it succeeds.

Since October, 1962, save for some loose talk in the months following the Cuban missile crisis, equally as loose, though not as widespread or wild, with near religious fervor in some parts in the mix, as in the months between April, 1961 and October, 1962, and occasional flare-ups politically since that time, we haven’t bothered Cuba very much and Cuba hasn’t bothered us at all.

Nevertheless, the people of Cuba do not truly have self-determination in their leadership, and do not enjoy free elections and free access to information about the world outside their island. And many have been deprived of their friends’ and family’s camaraderie now for decades as a result, nearly a half century since an oppressive, murderous regime, albeit one given support by corrupt interests within the United States, was overthrown, by one unfortunately tainted with misunderstood labels and therefore misunderstood intentions, leading on to a half century of mutual fear and misunderstanding.

Of course, we have to speculate also whether truly the United States does, itself, have truly free elections and free access to information about its government’s activities within the present, even if information flows with reasonable freedom about its past.

Perhaps, therefore, we should couple a stipulation to that offered gift to the Cuban people, that we, the United States, shall hold free elections on a given interim and afford free and honest flow of information from our government to the people to whom it is bound by unconditional social contract, embodied within the framework of our Constitution, to serve, if Cuba will do likewise.


Here, more of the buzz in the press of the day… As back home, we continued, beside our nighttime reconnaissance bed, to pray.

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