top of page

Kennedy Administration Considered and Rejected Surprise Attack on Cuba

Oct. 29, 1962 - President Kennedy (pictured with Gen. Curtis LeMay) and his advisers gave long and serious thought to ordering a surprise air attack on Soviet missile bases in Cuba before deciding that a limited blockade could achieve their objectives. Administration officials recalled that the final decision was made for moral as well as tactical reasons. Grave questions were raised in the President’s inner circle about the blot that an assault on Cuba would place on the U.S. record and the repercussions it would have around the world. The discovery of Soviet missile installations two weeks ago led to the immediate study of a variety of responses. Inaction was quickly rejected as intolerable and humiliating. Invasion was soon recognized as an excessive response — the immediate objective was elimination of Soviet bases, not of the Castro Government. Protests for action by international organizations, the President and his staff agreed, would be ineffective. So, the choice was narrowed to blockade or air attack. Overriding the concerns about the human cost of an attack and the possibility of serious repercussions in Berlin and elsewhere was the general feeling that a surprise attack would be contrary to the country’s tradition, history, and aspirations, that it would be a response not commensurate with the provocation, and that it would permanently damage the President’s ability to promote responsible conduct in international relations.


bottom of page