Memorandum of Discussion, January 28, 1961 (In which the JCS asserts that an invasion of Cuba would not be successful)

Source, U.S., Department of State, FOREIGN RELATIONS OF THE UNITED STATES, 1961-1963, Volume X, Cuba, 1961-1962

Washington, January 28, 1961.

//Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, Cuba, General, 1/61-4/61. Top Secret; Eyes Only. Drafted by Bundy and initialed by Kennedy. The meeting was held in the Cabinet Room. Another set of notes of this meeting, prepared by Lemnitzer, is in National Defense University, Lemnitzer Papers, Notes, Miscellaneous Meetings, 1961. Tracy Barnes also prepared a record of this meeting; see Document 31.



The President, The Vice President, the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, the Director of Central Intelligence, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Assistant Secretary Mann, Assistant Secretary Nitze, Mr. Tracy Barnes, Mr. McGeorge Bundy

The meeting began with a description of the present situation in Cuba by the Director of Central Intelligence. The judgment expressed without dissent was that Cuba is now for practical purposes a Communist-controlled state. The two basic elements in the present situation are a rapid and continuing build-up of Castro's military power, and a great increase also in popular opposition to his regime.

The United States has undertaken a number of covert measures against Castro, including propaganda, sabotage, political action, and direct assistance to anti-Castro Cubans in military training. A particularly urgent question is the use to be made of a group of such Cubans now in training in Guatemala, who cannot remain indefinitely where they are.

The present estimate of the Department of Defense is that no course of action currently authorized by the United States Government will be effective in reaching the agreed national goal of overthrowing the Castro regime. Meanwhile, the Department of State sees grave political dangers to our position throughout the Western hemisphere in any overt military action not authorized and supported by the Organization of American States.

After considerable discussion,/1/ the following proceedings were authorized by the President:

/1/According to a "Review of record of proceedings related to Cuban Situation," prepared by Naval Intelligence for the Director of Naval Operations on May 5, Lemnitzer's debriefing following the White House meeting on January 28 outlined the discussion as follows:

"The President wanted to know how the JCS felt about the prospects for success of a landing in Cuba by the forces being trained in Guatemala. It was indicated that they wanted a JCS study and evaluation of CIA's plan and the JCS opinion of its chances for success. The Chairman offered a personal opinion that in view of the strong forces Castro now had that the Cubans would have very little chance of success. As opposed to this, CIA took a very optimistic view of the force's ability to land and hold a beach head. The Chairman also pointed out that whereas they might be able to take a small beach head that after a relatively short time Castro would be able to mount heavy forces against them. The problem would then be one of who would come to their assistance." (Naval Historical Center, Area Files, Bumpy Road Materials)/1/

1. A continuation and accentuation of current activities of the Central Intelligence Agency, including increased propaganda, increased political action and increased sabotage. Continued overflights for these purposes were specifically authorized.

2. The Defense Department, with CIA, will review proposals for the active deployment of anti-Castro Cuban forces on Cuban territory, and the results of this analysis will be promptly reported to the President.

3. The Department of State will prepare a concrete proposal for action with other Latin American countries to isolate the Castro regime and to bring against it the judgment of the Organization of American States. It is expected that this proposal may involve a commitment of the President's personal authority behind a special mission or missions to such Latin American leaders as Lleras, Betancourt and Quadros.

Finally, it was agreed that the United States must make entirely clear that its position with respect to the Cuban Government is currently governed by its firm opposition to Communist penetration of the American Republics, and not by any hostility to democratic social revolution and economic reform. The President intends to deal with this matter himself in the State of the Union Address./2/

/2/In his State of the Union message on January 30, President Kennedy drew a distinction between opposition to Communist penetration and control in Cuba and Latin America and support for social and economic reform. See American Foreign Policy: Current Documents, 1961, p. 15.

The President particularly desires that no hint of these discussions reach any personnel beyond those most immediately concerned within the Executive Branch.

McGeorge Bundy

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