In fact, however, the crisis was not about Soviet missiles but about the Cuban Revolution and the determination of the U.S. billionaire families to crush the "dangerous" example that Cuba’s workers and farmers set by taking political power, overturning capitalist rule, and embarking on a socialist revolution that shows the road forward for working people worldwide.
In the newly published Pathfinder book October 1962: The ‘Missile’ Crisis as Seen from Cuba, author Tomás Diez, using declassified U.S. government papers as well as a range of Cuban sources, documents Washington’s plans for a large-scale military assault on Cuba in 1962.
In April 1961, after 72 hours of hard-fought combat, Cuba’s revolutionary armed forces and popular militias crushed a U.S.-organized mercenary invasion at the Bay of Pigs. From that day on, as Diez’s book demonstrates in detail, "U.S. policy makers at the highest levels acted on the conclusion that the revolutionary government of Cuba could be overthrown only by direct U.S. military action," notes Mary-Alice Waters, one of the book’s editors, in her preface.
Within days of the U.S. defeat at the Bay of Pigs, Kennedy created a working committee made up of Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, CIA director Allen Dulles, Admiral Arleigh Burke, and Gen. Maxwell Taylor, head of the committee, to draw up plans for a series of covert military actions aimed at creating conditions that could allow direct U.S. armed intervention and the overthrow of the revolutionary government. Their plan assigned the Pentagon a leading role in these actions.
The CIA launched a plan of terror, Operation Patty, designed to carry out armed actions throughout the island leading to the assassination of Cuban revolutionary leaders Fidel and Raúl Castro and a simulated attack on the U.S. naval base at Guantánamo that could provide a pretext for a direct U.S. military intervention. The Cuban government uncovered these plans and captured the plotters.
On April 29, 1961, President Kennedy, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, and other top U.S. officials reviewed a "contingency" plan to deploy U.S. forces in Cuba. The initial plans called for 60,000 U.S. troops, the number estimated necessary to gain "complete control of the island... within 8 days," according to the document. McNamara ordered the Pentagon to begin inducting Cuban counterrevolutionaries into the U.S. armed forces to be able to mask a direct U.S. invasion.
In November 1961 the Kennedy administration launched "Operation Mongoose," under the personal guidance of the president’s brother, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy--a multifaceted campaign of sabotage, subversion, and assassinations. The guidelines for this program, drafted in March 1962, stated: "In undertaking to cause the overthrow of the target government, the U.S. will make maximum use of indigenous [Cuban] resources, internal and external, but recognizes that final success will require decisive U.S. military intervention. b. Such indigenous resources as are developed will be used to prepare for and justify this intervention and thereafter to facilitate and support it."
Between January and August 1962, U.S.-organized forces carried out 5,780 actions--sabotage against industrial targets, burning of canefields, assassination attempts against Cuban leaders, acts of piracy, and infiltration of commando groups on Cuban territory.
Throughout 1962 the U.S. government also began organizing several rounds of military maneuvers to train soldiers for an invasion and justify internationally the presence of large U.S. military forces near Cuba.
In April 1962 the U.S. military conducted an exercise called Landphibex, involving four aircraft carriers and more than 50 warships. In this exercise, carried out on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques, 40,000 marines landed on an "enemy island" and established a beachhead.
In August the U.S. Air Force took part in Swift Strike 2 in North and South Carolina to train units in air support for troops. The operation included four army divisions, six squadrons of tactical fighter planes, and two squadrons of tactical reconnaissance aircraft, totaling 70,000 soldiers and 500 aircraft.
In September, another large exercise--Jupiter Spring--was conducted with airdrops of three divisions of the 18th Airborne Corps. Additional air, land, and sea troops, including ships from the Mediterranean and Pacific fleets, reinforced the Atlantic Command.
‘Track D: Full-scale invasion’
These aggressive moves culminated during the October 1962 crisis. Kennedy established a special group of top government officials, later known as the Executive Committee of the National Security Council (ExComm), to supervise Washington’s moves. On October 17, ExComm discussed a series of military options, including a naval blockade that could lead step by step to air strikes and what they called "Track D--Full-scale invasion, to ‘take Cuba away from Castro.’ "
Washington went ahead with a naval blockade of Cuba, an act of war disguised under the name "quarantine."
On October 24, the U.S. armed forces went to the highest level of combat readiness. Several overlapping military exercises involving tens of thousands of U.S. troops, including a mock naval landing on Vieques supposedly to overthrow an imaginary tyrant named Ortsac--Castro spelled backward.
The troop deployment was as follows:
Navy: 85,000 men and 183 warships, including 40,000 combat marines ready for an invasion.
Air Force: 148,000 troops, including 15,000 troops and 1,000 aircraft sent to Florida. A quarter of Washington’s B-52 bombers, with their nuclear payloads, were kept in the air at all times.
Army: 100,000 troops were mobilized, including 14,500 paratroopers--larger than the force that landed on the beaches of Normandy in France during World War II.
Schlesinger and others, in denying that Washington had plans to invade Cuba, have asked: If the Kennedy administration wanted to invade Cuba why didn’t it do so?
The answer to that question is contained in a report submitted to Kennedy by the Joint Chiefs of Staff on October 26, at a decisive moment in the crisis. At Kennedy’s request, the generals estimated the number of U.S. casualties that would be expected during the U.S. invasion they were weighing. Taking into account the resistance they anticipated from the Cuban people, the Joint Chiefs of Staff estimated almost 18,500 U.S casualties in the first 10 days of fighting--with more than 4,460 on the first day alone. That was greater than the U.S. casualties in the first five years of the war in Vietnam.
From that moment on, Kennedy turned Washington’s course away from their well-advanced invasion plans.
In other words, it was the unflinching response by hundreds of thousands of working men and women in Cuba--armed and ready to defend their revolution in face of imminent imperialist assault, that saved the world from nuclear holocaust in October 1962.
And that is what has kept Washington from attempting a military assault on revolutionary Cuba for the past 40 years.
Front page (for this issue) | Home | Text-version home