President Kennedy: Okay - let's have it.
NPIC Photo Interpreter: Gentlemen, as most of you now know, a U-2 over Cuba Sunday morning took a series of disturbing photographs. Our analysis at NPIC indicates that the Soviet Union has followed up its conventional weapons build-up in Cuba with the introduction of surface-to-surface, medium-range ballistic missiles, or MRBMs. Our official estimate at this time is that the missile system is the SS-4 'Sandal'. We do not believe that the missiles are as yet operational. Iron Bark reports that the SS-4 can deliver a three-megaton nuclear weapon 1,000 miles. So far we've identified 32 missiles serviced by about 3,400 men, undoubtedly all Soviet personnel. Our cities and military installations in the southeast as far north as Washington, D.C., are in range of these weapons, and in the event of a launch would have only five minutes warning.
General Marshall Carter: Five minutes, gentlemen.
Gen. Max Taylor: In those five minutes, they could kill 80 million Americans - and destroy a significant percentage of our bomber bases, degrading our retaliatory options. The Joint Chiefs' consensus, Mr. President, is that this signals a major doctrinal shift in Soviet thinking - to a first-strike policy. It is a massively destabilizing move.
Robert Kennedy: How long until they're operational?
NPIC Photo Interpreter: General Carter can answer that question better than I can.
Gen. Max Taylor: GMAC - Guided Missiles Intelligence Committee - estimates 10-14 days. A crash program could limit that time. However, I must stress that there may be more missiles - that we don't know about. We'll need more U-2 coverage.
President Kennedy: Gentlemen, I want first reactions here. Assuming for the moment that Khruschev has NOT gone off the deep end - and intends to start World War Three - what are we looking at?
Dean Rusk: Mr. President, I believe my team is in agreement. If we permit the introduction of nuclear missiles to a Soviet satellite nation in our hemisphere, the diplomatic consequnces will be too terrible to contemplate. The Russians are trying to show the world they can do whatever they want, wherever they want, and we're powerless to stop them. If they succeed...
Robert Kennedy: It'll be Munich all over again.
Dean Rusk: Yes. Appeasement only makes the aggressor more aggressive. And the Soviets will be emboldened to push us even harder. Now we must remove the missiles one way or another. Now it seems to me the options are either some combination of international pressure & action on our part, until they give in - or - we hit them. An air strike.
President Kennedy: Dean, how does this all play out?
Dean Acheson: Your first step sir, will be to demand that the Soviet withdraw the missiles within 12 to 24 hours. They will refuse. When they do you will order the strikes, followed by the invasion. They will resist and be overrun. They will retaliate against another target somewhere else in the world, most likely Berlin. We will honor our treaty commitments and resist them there, defeating them per our plans.
President Kennedy: Those plans call for the use of nuclear weapons. So what is the next step?
Dean Acheson: Hopefully cooler heads will prevail before we reach the next step.
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