The Cuban Missile Crisis at 55

Maps and charts prepared by Cuban historians for the 55th
anniversary of the missile crisis showing deployments of Soviet forces
(missiles and troops), range of Soviet missiles, and scope of U.S. naval
blockade. (© Ediciones GEO, 2017; © Instituto de Historia de Cuba, 2017)

Published: Oct 16,

Briefing Book #606

Edited by William Burr and Peter Kornbluh

For more information contact: Peter Kornbluh,

U.S. Planned for Military
Occupation of Cuba

“All Persons in Occupied Territory Will Obey Promptly
All Orders,” Stated Occupation Proclamation

CIA Post-Mortems: “Photo-Gap” on Missile Installations
Created by Restrictions on U-2 Overflights


Washington D.C., October 16, 2017 – The U.S.
military drew up plans to occupy Cuba and establish a temporary government
headed by a U.S. “commander and military governor” during the 1962 missile
crisis, according to the recently declassified “Military Government
Proclamation No. 1” posted today by the National Security Archive at The George
Washington University.  

“All persons in the
occupied territory will obey immediately and without question all enactments
and orders of the military government,” stated the proclamation. “Resistance of
the United States Armed Forces will be forcefully stamped out. Serious
offenders will be dealt with severely,” it warned. “So long as you remain
peaceable and comply with my orders, you will be subjected to no greater
interference than may be required by military exigencies.”

Once the “aggressive
Castro regime has been completely destroyed,” and the U.S. installed a new
government “responsive to the needs of the people of Cuba,” the proclamation
concluded, the U.S. armed forces would “depart and the traditional friendship
of the United States and the government of Cuba will once more be assured.”

To prepare the Cuban
populace for the invasion, the U.S. military planned to airdrop thousands of
leaflets over Cuban cities and the countryside. The leaflets would warn Cuban
citizens to “remain at home” because “everything that moves is a target.”
“Within the next few days,” the leaflets stated, “U.S. armed forces will take
temporary charge of your country.”

Final preparations
for the U.S. invasion and occupation of Cuba were halted on October 28, when
Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev announced he was withdrawing the missiles from
the island. His decision was the result of a secret, back-channel agreement to
remove the Soviet missiles from Cuba in exchange for Kennedy’s commitment to
pull out U.S. Jupiter missiles positioned in Turkey.

“The resolution of
the missile crisis averted what would have assuredly become the bloodiest
military confrontation in the history of Latin America, between the ‘Colossus
of the North’ and a revolutionary Caribbean nation” according to Peter
Kornbluh, who directs the Archive’s Cuba Documentation Project. Unbeknownst to
the U.S. intelligence community, Kornbluh noted, in addition to the
intercontinental ballistic missiles the Soviets had brought tactical
battlefield nuclear weapons to Cuba—and planned to deploy them against a U.S.
invasion force.

The occupation
documents were recently obtained by Archive analyst William Burr through a
series of Mandatory Declassification Review (MDR) requests to the U.S.

From MDR requests to
the CIA, Dr. Burr also obtained two substantive post-mortems on missile
crisis-related intelligence gathering, posted here today. The CIA Inspector
General’s report focused on “handling of raw intelligence information” between
mid-July and mid-October 1962; it covered efforts to gather field reports and
other intelligence on the arrival of Soviet equipment to Cuba, disagreements
with the Defense Department on interpretations of intelligence and the
constraints on distributing reports through the intelligence community “which
may have diluted the impact of this information on the community at large.”

A second
post-mortem, “CIA Handling of the Soviet Build-up in Cuba,” drafted by a senior
officer in the Office of Current Intelligence, Richard Lehman, noted that as
early as September 27, 1962, the CIA had intelligence on the arrival of
surface-to-surface missiles in Cuba, but was restricted from circulating that
information without corroborating photographic evidence, which could only be
obtained from U-2 reconnaissance.  

The Lehman report
described a September 10, 1962, White House meeting that included Attorney
General Robert Kennedy, Secretary of State Dean Rusk and National Security
Advisor McGeorge Bundy, after a U-2 plane had been shot down over China, and
the Soviets had protested a reconnaissance mission over Sakhalin Island. “As a
result, most of the participants were – to varying degrees – reluctant to
chance another U-2 incident at this time. This meant that they were naturally
hesitant to authorize any flights over areas [in Cuba] where SA-2s
[anti-aircraft batteries] might be operational.”  Rusk, according to the
Lehman report, vetoed a CIA proposal for two extended U-2 flights over Cuba
that might have detected construction of the ICBM missile sites. Indeed,
U-2 flights over the Cuban interior did not resume until October 14, when
reconnaissance photography captured concrete evidence of the missile sites.

This lengthy hiatus
of reconnaissance flights over mainland Cuba, according to Burr, resulted in
the famous “photo-gap”—as described by David Barrett and Max Holland in their
book, Blind Over Cuba: The Photo Gap and the Missile Crisis.  “The CIA
post-mortem helps us to understand the lag between earlier intelligence
collection from agents and refugees on Soviet missile activities and the
October 14, 1962, U-2 flight that detected them weeks after those initial
reports,” said Burr. “Under the ground rules set at the highest levels of
the Kennedy administration, none of this information reached the President
until the U-2s detected the missile sites weeks after the Soviets had begun
work on them.”



Document 1

CINCLANT, message to Joint Chiefs of Staff, “Military Government
Proclamation No. 1,” 20 October 1962, Top Secret

Source: MDR release
from U.S. Navy “Blue Flag Messages,” U.S. Navy Heritage and History Command

As the U.S. military
prepared to invade Cuba, officials at the Atlantic Command drafted a
proclamation of military occupation for the Cuban people.  It falsely
accused Cuba of “violating international law and the freedom and independence
of nations,” and claimed the United States had been “required to enter into
armed conflict with the [Cuban] forces.”  The proclamation vested “all
powers of government, executive, legislative, and judicial and all jurisdiction
in the occupied territory and over its inhabitants” in the hands of a U.S. military
governor; it directed that “all persons in the occupied territory will obey
immediately and without question all enactments and orders of the military
government.”  Once the “aggressive Castro regime has been completely
destroyed” and arrangements for a democratic successor made, the proclamation
concluded, “United States armed forces will depart and the traditional
friendship of the United States and the government of Cuba will once more be

Document 2

CINCLANT Message to Joint Chiefs of Staff, “Proposed Leaflet,” 20
October 1962, Top Secret.

Source: MDR release
from U.S. Navy “Blue Flag Messages,” U.S. Navy Heritage and History Command Archives

If the U.S. invaded
Cuba, the Joint Chiefs planned to airdrop thousands of leaflets across the
island warning citizens that Cuba would be a free fire zone.  The proposed
language warned Cubans to “stay at home,” because “everything that moves is a target.”  The
leaflet would advise them that “within the next few days U.S. armed forces will
take temporary charge of your country.”

Document 3

CINCLANT Message, “Leaflet Target List,” 20 October 1962, Top

Source: MDR release
from U.S. Navy “Blue Flag Messages,” U.S. Navy Heritage and History Command

The U.S. military
planned an initial leaflet drop in urban and metropolitan areas, as well as the
countryside across the nation, including Havana, Santa Clara, Matanzas, and the
northern half of the Isle of Pines. The drop plan called for “max leaflet bomb
load per aircraft, and an “altitude of burst which will insure wide dissemination
of leaflets.” One type of leaflet would accompany a ground invasion; another
would be used “in conjunction with air operations.”

Document 4

CIA Inspector General, “Handling of Intelligence Information
During the Cuban Arms Build-up,” 12 November 1962, Top Secret, with comments by
Director of Central Intelligence John McCone, excised copy

Source: CIA MDR
release, under appeal

After the missile crisis,
the CIA quickly conducted two major post-mortems on its intelligence gathering
and distribution.  This Inspector General’s report focused on constraints
on the circulation of agent and refugee reports about missile deployments
during September and early October 1962. A publication “ban” tightly limited
circulation of such reporting. No intelligence reports about offensive
missile deployments could be published without photographic corroboration. That
kept information on the missile deployments from reaching the Central
Intelligence Bulletin, much less the President’s Intelligence Checklist. 
According to the IG, “at least eight widely disseminated reports in September
and early October … might have found their way into publications had it not
been for the ban.” Intelligence also failed to reach higher levels because of
skepticism among intelligence analysts about “refugee and agent reporting.”
Moreover, “extreme caution” at top levels limited the scope of U-2 flights over

Document 5

CIA, Richard Lehman to Director of Central Intelligence, “CIA
Handling of the Soviet Build-up in Cuba, 1 July – 16 October 1962,” 14
November 1962, Top Secret, Excised copy, with cover memoranda attached

Source: CIA, MDR
release; currently under re-review

This report by
Richard Lehman with the Office of Current Intelligence to John
McCone addresses the “photo gap” caused by high-level constraints on U-2
flights over Cuba before 14 October 1962.  In September 1962, the report
suggests, there was a “lack of urgency” in the U.S. government about the
possibility of missile deployments in Cuba.  Lehman highlighted a White
House meeting on 10 September 1962 where U.S. officials decided to sharply
limit U-2 flights over Cuba. Taking place right after Soviet protests of a U-2
flight over Sakhalin Island and China’s shoot-down of a Taiwanese-flown U-2,
“most of the participants were to varying degrees reluctant to chance another
U-2 incident at this time.”  Consequently, Secretary of State Rusk
objected to a CIA proposal for two extensive overflights and “insisted,
instead, that coverage of the rest of Cuba should be designed so that
peripheral flights over international waters would not be combined with
overflights of Cuban territory.”  The CIA subsequently carried out two
peripheral flights and two overflights, one over the Isle of Pines and the
other over eastern Cuba. Consequently, no U-2 flights over central Cuba took place
between late August and 14 October 1962.