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Soviet Foxtrot Submarines: The Cuban Missile Crisis

May 3, 2017

Operation Mongoose and the planned US forces invasion of Cuba

On February 23, 1962 Kennedy proclaimed (Proclamation 3447) “an embargo upon trade between the US and Cuba” and prohibited “the importation into the United States of all goods of Cuban origin and all goods imported from or through Cuba … (prohibited) all exports from the United States to Cuba.”

Kennedy’s intent was to undermine Fidel Castro’s government and deprive it of resources:

“The present Government of Cuba is incompatible with the principles and objectives of the Inter-American system; and, in light of the subversive offensive of Sino-Soviet Communism with which the Government of Cuba is publicly aligned …”

The reality was JFK and his brother, Robert F. Kennedy (RFK) had a vendetta against Castro. RFK was very strong about it.

In his book
One Minute to Midnight, Michael Dobbs talks about how angry Kennedy was to learn on October 16, 1962 that Khrushchev had effectively "double-crossed" him by promising earlier that he would not install offensive nuclear weapons in Cuba. Dobbs said JFK sputtered, "He can't do this to me."

While JFK most surely was frustrated and angry, the reality was many months earlier Kennedy had kicked off plans to overthrow Castro — "Operation Mongoose," a CIA project.

For their part, the Cubans and their Soviet patrons feared an American military invasion of the island which would be a blow to communism. They were right to fear that.

You will see as we continue that there were two planning and execution efforts underway: Operation Mongoose, a CIA counterinsurgency effort designed to weaken the Castro government to the point where there was an insurrection against him. The other was a planned invasion employing massive US force.


The Truman administration expressed concern over Soviet "psychological warfare." In turn, the National Security Council (NSC) authorized NSC 4-A, December 1947. It stipulated that psychological warfare and covert action were solely Executive Branch functions and it assigned covert action. That was largely because CIA already was in charge of psychological warfare. Then on June 18, 1948 the NSC replaced NSC 4-A with NSC 10/2 which directed CIA to conduct covert action for the US government. CIA's Office of Policy Coordination (OPC) assumed responsibility for organizing and managing covert operations. NSC 10/5, October 1951, expanded CIA's covert authorities to include conducting guerrilla warfare.

The Eisenhower administration took steps to narrow CIA's authorities. President Eisenhower approved NSC 5412 on March 15, 1954. It reaffirmed CIA's responsibility for conducting covert actions abroad and defined covert actions. But CIA now had to coordinate with the State and Defense Departments. It designated the Operations Coordinating Board to do that. NSC 5412/1 reaffirmed all that but designated the Planning Coordination Group (PCG) as responsible for coordination covert operations. According to James Marchio, it was to "generate new ideas and coordinate U.S. political warfare activities aimed at exploiting S Viet and East European vulnerabilities. The PCG's demise six months later reflected the continuing problems encountered by the new national security bureaucracy in waging political warfare."

Office of the Historian Department of State said :

"NSC 5412/2 of December 28, 1955, assigned to representatives (of the rank of assistant secretary) of the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, and the President responsibility for coordinating covert actions. By the end of the Eisenhower administration, this group, which became known as the 'NSC 5412/2 Special Group' or simply 'Special Group,' emerged as the executive body to review and approve covert action programs initiated by the CIA." The membership would vary according to the situation at hand.

The NSC 5412/2 Special Group (SG) was chaired by the PresidentÂ’'s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs McGeorge Bundy, and included Deputy Under Secretary of State U. Alexis Johnson, Deputy Secretary of Defense Roswell Gilpatric, Director of Central Intelligence Allen Dulles, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Lyman Lemnitzer. It would now assume greater responsibility for planning and reviewing covert operations.

Operation Mongoose

President Kennedy came into office in January 1961. Prior to coming into office, the CIA briefed him on a CIA plan developed during the Eisenhower years to train Cuban exiles to invade Cuba. The expectation was that once done, the Cuban people would rise up and overthrow Castro. Eisenhower had approved the plan in March 1960. Shortly after coming into office, Kennedy approved the plan. Kennedy's number one concern was to keep evidence of US involvement out of the invasion.


As a result, the Bay of Pigs invasion occurred on April 15, 1951 with B-26s painted to look like Cuban aircraft conducting bombing raids. On April 17 the Cuban exile force, known as Brigade 2506, invaded. Due to a succession of failures and blunders, Castro's forces crushed the invasion and some 1,200 members of the brigade surrendered. The photo shows the invasion force landing on the beach.

One result of this what that Kennedy asked General Maxwell Taylor, USA (Ret.) to serve as his adviser and investigate the failed Bay of Pigs invasion. He formed the Taylor Committee, tasked to find out what went wrong with that operation. The committee consisted of Taylor (chair), Attorney General RFK, Admiral Arleigh Burke, Chief of Naval Operations (CNO), and the Director Central Intelligence (DCI), Allen Dulles. Taylor submitted his report in June 1961.

The Taylor Committee, also known as the Taylor Commission, assigned blame for the failure of the invasion to CIA. The CIA's Inspector General (IG) concluded the same. By November 1961 Kennedy forced the CIA Director, Allen Dulles to resign, though he awarded Dulles with the National Security Medal.

John A. McCone, shown here, replaced Dulles on November 29, 1961. He had a problem with the whole Bay of Pigs concept. He did not believe the Cuban people would turn against Castro. He said CIA should have called in some of its agents who had the pulse of the Cuban people and military before executing the plan. Had CIA done that the Bay of Pigs invasion would likely have been shelved. He said, "The people in Cuba don't want these Harvard-trained Cubans to come in and take over." In short, most resistance to Castro had either been destroyed or melted away. Indeed after Castro crushed the invasion, the Cuban people rallied to his side.

From November 1961 to October 1962 a Special Group (Augmented) (SGA) was formed. It was established only to work the Cuba issue. Its membership was the same as the Special Group plus Attorney General Robert Kennedy and General Maxwell Taylor (as Chairman). Its task was to exercise responsibility for "Operation Mongoose," a major covert action program aimed at overthrowing the Castro regime in Cuba. President Kennedy officially authorized Operation Mongoose on November 4, 1961.

The SGA appointed Brigadier General Edward Lansdale, USAF, to lead Operation Mongoose. Lansdale was a well-known name in clandestine operations from WWII onward. JFK recalled him from Vietnam to work on this effort. Lansdale was in charge, but RFK was to oversee the work. RFK did much more than oversee — he was intimately involved with the project. The SGA, chaired by General Taylor, oversaw the operation. Planning got underway on or about November 21, 1961.


CIA set up Task Force W for Operation Mongoose, William K. Harvey, shown here, in charge. The SGA provided guidance. CIA established a station called "JM WAVE" in southern Florida on the South Campus of the University of Miami, formerly Richmond Naval Air Station (NAS). The photos show a few of its buildings. It's cover name was Zenith Technological Enterprises. It had about 200 American operatives who deployed about 2,200 Cuban exiles in various front operations and safe houses throughout the area. Task Force W engaged in a host of covert actions against Cuba, inside and outside Cuba, including plans to assassinate Castro, and including coordination with the Mafia.

On January 18, 1962 Lansdale outlined what he called the "Cuba Project." It was designed as a political action movement with overt US support capped by probable US military intervention, consisting mostly of sabotage, acts of terrorism, blowing up factories etc., to include attempts to assassinate Castro.

On February 20, 1962 Lansdale presented his plan for “Operation Mongoose.” Please note this was before the US confirmed ballistic missiles were actually in Cuba. He designed his plan to overthrow the Communist regime in Cuba. According to Dobbs, the plan looked generally like this:

  • "Phase I: Action. March 1962. Start moving in.
  • "Phase II: Build-up. April - July 1962. Activating necessary operations inside Cuba for revolution and concurrently applying the vital political, economic, and military-type support from outside Cuba.
  • "Phase III: Readiness. 1 August 1962. Check for final policy decision.
  • "Phase IV. Resistance. August-September 1962. Move into guerrilla operations.
  • "Phase V: Revolt. First two weeks of October 1962. Open revolt and overthrow of the Communist regime.
  • "Phase VI: Final. During month of October 1962. Establishment of new government."

By March 1962, a CIA memorandum sought a brief but precise description of the ostensible reasons by which the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) would consider justification for an invasion of Cuba. The JCS had long wanted to do that. And McCone felt it was inevitable. Mongoose began to blend in with invasion planning. Mongoose as I see it would set things up, building up incidents and other actions inside Cuba to disguise an invasion. The reality was the US was sponsoring terrorism in Cuba. The memo said in part:

"The desired resultant from the execution of this plan would be to place the United States in the apparent position of suffering defensible grievances from a rash and irresponsible government of Cuba and to develop an international image of a Cuban threat to peace in the Western Hemisphere."

Lansdale would come forth with other ideas as well, swamping the staff with paper, but ostensibly no hard results. Some ideas were wild, too wild to raise here.

In August General Taylor, the chairman of the SGA, told Kennedy there was virtually no chance to overthrow the Castro government without using military force. The initial planning was to use indigenous Cubans to do the job, a way to achieve "plausible deniability" for Kennedy.

On August 23, 1962 National Security Advisor McGeorge Bundy, shown here, issued National Security Action Memorandum (NSAM) 181, and sent it to the Secretaries of State and Defense, Attorney General, Acting Director CIA and General Taylor.

Among other things, NSAM 181 urged Operation Mongoose be developed “with all possible speed,” and asked, among other things, for opinions on a naval blockade or invasion beyond Mongoose. Director McCone told Kennedy that a major problem with Mongoose was that the US was reluctant to use American assets. He also felt US policy was too cautious. Taylor also recommended Operation Mongoose be more aggressive.

The Cuban Project developed multiple plans and executed some. President Kennedy was dissatisfied with the project as it had accomplished very little. Dobbs wrote, "What the Kennedys got in the end was a revolution on paper, complete with stages, careful tabbed binders, dates for achieving different objectives, and an unending stream of top secret memos." The reality was in the case of Cuba at least, Lansdale did not know how to foment a revolution, especially against a revolutionary. Some of the Cuban Project in one form or another lasted certainly into the 70s and maybe the 80s.

The earlier sub-sections of this report about
Operation Anadyr, the massive Soviet shipment of arms to Cuba, and Detection of these efforts informed you of the many actions taking place between the USSR and Cuba and pieces of solid intelligence throughout the summer and fall 1962 indicating the Soviets were involved in a major effort to build up Cuban military capabilities. I'll not go through all that again. Suffice to say that it was becoming increasingly obvious the Soviets were transporting and setting up a first class air defense system in Cuba and a first class defensive system to thwart and defeat an American invasion.

Movement toward Invasion

On September 27, 1962 General Curtis Lemay, USA, chief of staff, USAF (CSAF), approved a plan for coordinated air attacks in advance of an airborne assault and amphibious landing in Cuba. All forces were to be in place and ready to go by October 20. Lemay felt war with the USSR was going to happen one way or another, so it might as well be now, when the US had the Soviets outgunned with ballistic missiles, an Air Force and Navy.

I'll point out here that General Maxwell Taylor, up until now chairing the SGA as a civilian, was recalled to active duty by Kennedy and tapped to be the chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS). Both the president and RKF admired him greatly.

On October 2, Secretary of Defense (SecDef) McNamara ordered Admiral Robert Dennison, Commander-in-Chief US Atlantic Command (CINCLANT) to prepare to blockade Cuba. The Air Force and Navy were also alerted to prepare to attack Cuba. Mongoose remained on the table. Actually it had never left the table except to be expanded, refined and debated. CINCLANT issued the order to execute Plan 312, the airstrike on Cuba. Dennison ordered his forces to increase their readiness to invade using Plan 312 or Plan 316, the invasion of Cuba.

CINCLANT Plan 312 called for an 8-18 day air campaign prior to a land amphibious and airborne invasion. Plan 316 employed the XVIII Airborne Corps, II Marine Amphibious Force, CINCLANT Reserve, and Special Operations forces for the invasion. Some eight divisions, infantry and airborne would be involved plus other supplementing forces.

President Kennedy authorized increased U-2 overflight surveillance. CIA U-2s continued flying in October 1962.

By October 4, 1962 the SGA concluded it needed more intelligence including more probes by CIA agents inside Cuba. The SGA also said there needed to be more sabotage operations, and "All efforts should be made to develop new and imaginative approaches to the possibility of getting rid of the Castro regime."

If Operation Mongoose had one important positive impact, it would be that inserting agents into Cuba produced a treasure trove of intelligence, especially with regard to shipping, unloading and transporting.

On October 3, 1962, orders went out to increase surveillance of the approaches to Cuba.


Then the hammer fell. The other shoe dropped. On October 14, 1962 an USAF U-2C reconnaissance overflight mission flown by Major Richard Heyser, USAF, photographed the San Cristobal area where the speculation was that a MRBM missile unit might be deployed. Indeed the MRBMs were there. Up until this point, Kennedy had indicated he did not believe the Soviets would put ballistic missiles in Cuba: he thought that too great a risk for them.


Kennedy was informed of the U-2’s MRBM photography on October 16. He identified a list of advisers he wanted to meet that morning in a group that would become known as ExComm, the Executive Committee of the National Security Council (NSC). This is a photo of the ExComm meeting on October 29, to give you an idea.

As of October 16, the Mongoose plan called for demolitions of bridges, attacks against the Chinese Communist embassy in Havana, mining of harbors, setting fire to tankers outside major ports, and attacks against oil refineries.

General Taylor, now CJCS, was well aware that US options against Castro were wide ranging. However he persistently insisted that any attack against Cuba in any form would inevitably require the US to invade. Taylor maintained that any air attack, for example, would not lead to 100 percent destruction of the ballistic missiles. Even if an air attack destroyed a large percentage of the missiles, Taylor was sure the Soviets would get to fire a few off at the US.

The JCS had insisted for many months that fomenting a revolutionary uprising inside Cuba would not work. It wanted Castro out and said the only way to do that was through direct US military intervention. General Lemay told Kennedy the Strategic Air Command (SAC) was ready to go in right away.

No decisions had yet been made in Washington about implementing a naval blockade of Cuba. One of the hangups every time the subject was raised had to do with whether the Soviets would blockade Berlin, even Italy or Turkey, in response.

Then, an SS-5 IRBM site was detected on October 17. The SS-5 would have a 2,200 mile range. The Guided Missile and Astronautics Intelligence Committee (GMAIC) concluded 24 to 32 MRBMs could be operational in a week, not two weeks, but the IRBMs probably could not be operational until December 1962. It was later learned that no SS-5s actually made it to Cuba, but construction at the sites moved ahead.


The JCS now recommended air attacks against the missile sites. Moral arguments were presented and seemed to sway the decision-makers. That is, would the world see an attack as a “Pearl Harbor in reverse.” As a result, the blockade seemed to rise to the top. The map displays the SAM site locations in September 1962. There presented a lot of targets but also presented a formidable challenge to attacking aircraft.

Mongoose had evolved mainly into a sabotage kind of operation, a counter-insurgency. Lt. General Marshall Carter, USA, the Deputy Director of CIA, shown here, felt jurisdictional disputes between the JCS and the intelligence community were inhibiting Mongoose. He also noted it took too long to get approval for a Mongoose operation. Furthermore, there were logistics problems supplying agents inside Cuba and the agents themselves had their own agendas. Carter now believed that events had made Mongoose plans "too hard to do." The JCS stuck to its desire to invade. Indeed, by this time Mongoose intelligence was proving more valuable for invasion planning than bringing down Castro.

During the afternoon of October 20, Kennedy instructed he wanted attention focused on a blockade. He did not want to start a nuclear war. A Special National Intelligence Estimate (SNIE), SNIE 11-19-62 was prepared on October 20. It estimated 16 SS-4 MRBMs were already operational and could be fired within eight hours of a decision. It also lists the other weapons now in Cuba. On October 16 Kennedy was told none of the ballistic missile sites were operational. Four days later he was told 16 MRBMs were operational. Not good.

Intercepts by NSA stations revealed the upgrade of the Cuban air defense system had been completed. On October 20, NSA reported this conclusion. That presented huge problems for the air attacks envisioned prior to the invasion.

The NSC decided on October 21, 1962 to impose a naval blockade of Cuba.


President Kennedy gave final approval to a "quarantine" plan on October 21, most of us know as a naval blockade. Calling it a blockade introduced legal hassles over whether it was an act of war. Calling it a quarantine avoided those. Secretary of State Rusk briefed Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin and provided him a copy of the impending Kennedy speech about the blockade. A copy of the speech was also provided to the Kremlin.

JFK also received a briefing on that day from General Walter Sweeney, USAF, the commander Tactical Air Command (TAC). Kennedy directed him to be prepared to conduct the air attacks against SAM sites and MiG airfields anytime after the morning of October 22.

On 22 October, President Kennedy revealed the missile buildup to the world on TV at 7 pm. It was a 17 minute speech. The purpose of the blockade was to enforce a “strict quarantine on all offensive military equipment under shipment to Cuba.” Kennedy warned the Soviets the US would retaliate if there were a nuclear attack launched from Cuba, and he placed US military forces in the Western Hemisphere on heightened alert. He said the US would “regard any nuclear missile launched from Cuba against any nation in the Western Hemisphere as an attack by the Soviet Union on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response against the Soviet Union.” Twenty-two interceptor aircraft went airborne in case of a Cuban military reaction.

With the announcement of the blockade made on October 22, planning sped up for a potential invasion of Cuba to, among other things, to dismantle the missiles.


This photo shows MacDill AFB, Tampa, Florida during the crisis. The Air Force had 95 F-84F fighter-bombers there during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

B52 B47

A host of military actions ensued on October 22, most associated with the invasion plan:

  • USAF B-52s (left photo) were put on alert. The requirement was for one-eighth of the B-52 force to be in the air at any given time. This goal was to be achieved by October 23. ICBM crews were alerted.
  • SAC dispersed 183 B-47 nuclear bombers (right photo) to 33 civilian and military airfields.
  • The Air Defense Command (ADC) dispersed 161 aircraft to 16 bases in nine hours. All ADC aircraft were armed with nuclear weapons, a first.
  • JCS set DEFCON 3 at 7 pm. All military forces went to DEFCON 3 except US Air Forces Europe (USAFE). This meant that all US military forces were to increase their readiness above that required for normal readiness, and the US was to be ready to mobilize within 15 minutes of notification.
  • Polaris nuclear submarines in port were dispatched to preassigned stations at sea.
  • The Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), General Lauris Norstad, USA, was directed to ask other NATO members to increase their alert status. British PM Harold MacMillan urged Norstad not to take this action, and Norstad complied.

On October 23 President Kennedy and his ExComm discussed what to do if a U-2 were shot down. The ExComm decided to attack the SAM site that shot it down if “evidence of hostile Cuban action” had been established.

Fidel Castro placed all Cuban armed forces on their highest alert. Moscow also put Warsaw Pact forces on alert and raised battle readiness at home.

On October 25, CIA’s McCone informed the ExComm that some of the Soviet ballistic missiles were operational. Kennedy later issued NASM 199 authorizing the loading up nuclear weapons aboard aircraft under the command of the SACEUR.

The JCS directed CINCLANT to prepare to strike SA-2 sites within 12 hours should a U-2 be shot down. Flights over Cuba intensified, six USN submarines sailed to the area on October 25 and four more were scheduled for October 26, estimating arrival between October 29-31, 1962. P2V aircraft from Naval Air Station (NAS) Patuxent were alerted to surge flights over the area.

On October 26 CIA produced a memo saying construction of the MRBM and IRBM sites was proceeding without interruption. ExComm considered activating civil defense programs but decided against that.

Also during the morning of October 26, Mongoose remained on Kennedy’s mind. He urged ExComm to get back to deliberating Mongoose plans and instructed CIA and the JCS to cooperate on Mongoose planning. He tasked the State Department to develop a crash program to set up a new civil government in Cuba after the invasion and occupation. McCone now started to meld Mongoose and invasion planning. He urged they be coordinated, though Mongoose would take second priority.

McNamara informed the president to expect heavy casualties from an invasion. CINCLANT projected losing over 18,000 during the first ten days of fighting. The Pentagon thought more like 18,500 in the first ten days, even without nuclear explosions. Losses would increase significantly if nuclear weapons were employed.

Castro told Khrushchev that an American invasion was likely to occur within a few days, though Khrushchev’s memoirs said that he understood Castro to say the next few hours. Castro recommended a first strike. In turn, Castro ordered Cuban air defense weapons to fire at all US aircraft overflying the island.

US low level reconnaissance flights had identified additional targets so the airstrike plan was revised. It now called for three massive strikes per day until Cuba’s air capabilities were destroyed —- by massive, some 1,190 bombing sorties were planned for the first day.

October 27 was a wild day.


On October 27, an U-2 mission from a SAC base in Alaska inadvertently strayed over Soviet territory and the pilot called for help. The U-2's track is shown in white launching from Eielson AFB in eastern Alaska flying an air sampling mission over the North Pole. Capt. Charles Maultsby, USAF, said he was blinded by the aurora borealis, or northern lights and had trouble taking fixes with the stars. He inadvertently overflew the Soviet Union. A MiG was scrambled from Pevek AB and MiGs were also scrambled from Anadyr AB. The Pevek MiG (red line) accompanied the U-2 as he flew south but was not able to engage. MiGs from Anadyr AB (yellow line) also tried to intercept him but again were unable to engage. The Alaskan Air Command (AAC) scrambled two F-102 fighter interceptors armed wth nuclear warheads. They intercepted the MiGs and then guided the U-2 to an airstrip at Kotzebue on the western tip of Alaska. The U-2 pilot was able to get his aircraft out of Soviet airspace without any hostile action and land her safely.


As though this were a harbinger of events to come, at about noon October 27 the Soviets in Cuba fired two SAMs at a U-2 piloted by Major Rudolph Anderson, USAF, designated “target number 33.” The aircraft was destroyed and Anderson killed. Apparently the Soviets feared the U-2 was going to photograph a cruise missile site 15 miles from the USN base at Guantanamo, Cuba. The SA-2s were fired from the Banes missile site. Anderson actually had begun a flight path that would have taken him out of Cuba air space when he was attacked. He was hit as he approached the Cuban shoreline.

Later in the day two RF8U-1P low level reconnaissance aircraft flew over San Cristobal and Sagua la Grande and Cuban troops opened fire with anti-aircraft artillery (AAA). One US aircraft was hit but both safely returned to base.

According to Dobbs, JCS at about this time had released a new attack schedule:

  • Air strikes against SAM sites: two hours after the "go"
  • Full air strike: 12 hours
  • Invasion: Decision Day plus seven days.
  • All forces ashore: Decision Day plus 18 days.

Dobbs was talking about JCS Memorandum 844-62 of October 27, 1962 signed by General Taylor, to the president through he Secretary of Defense. It said:


  • CINCLANT Oplan 312, "Operation Rock Pile," was to be executed no later than morning, October 29. There would be three attack waves each day for seven days, with a planned 1,190 sorties the first day. They were to destroy the missile sites, air defenses and airfields.
  • Execution of CINCLANT Plan 316, "Operation Scabbards" would follow on November 6,1962. Two U.S. Army airborne divisions, the 101st and 82nd, would parachute into Cuba with 23,000 troops. The 101st would secure Mariel beaches for the 1st Armored Division to land. The 82nd was to capture four airports in the Havana area including the international airport in Havana and San Antonio de los Banos south of Havana. The First Marine Division would land east of Havana. The 1st Armored Division would land at Mariel west of Havana, and together the 1st Armor and 1st Marines would go around Havana in a pincer movement cutting off the capital from the missile sites. These forces would then capture missile sites at San Cristobal, Sagua la Grande, and Remedios to the east. All together 120,000 troops would invade across a 40 mile strip from Mariel to Tarara Beach. Three aircraft carrier battle groups, including the nuclear-powered carrier, USS Enterprise, would provide air support.

On October 28, 1962, a message was received from Khrushchev. It told Kennedy the missiles in Cuba will be dismantled and returned to the USSR. ExComm members seemed relieved, but not the JCS. Admiral George Anderson remarked, “We have been had.” General Curtis Lemay suggested the US “go in and strike on Monday anyway.” Lemay also said, "It's the greatest defeat in our history. We should invade today." The JCS instructed its commanders not to relax alert procedures, worried the Soviet message was an “insincere proposal meant to gain time.”

The JCS asked CINCLANT on October 28 to reevaluate the invasion plan and determine whether modifications are required. JCS directed CINCLANT to consider whether tactical nuclear weapons, air and ground, should be added.

On October 29, 1962, Major General Paul S. Emmerick, Director of Plans and Policy, JCS/J5 informed the Director, Joint Staff of a checklist of actions to be taken at Strike Hour (S) minus 48 hours. He said the checklist had once been given "considerable impetus" but its importance had diminished. Nonetheless, he felt it a good idea to review it. It included a State Department draft dated October 27, 1962 which outlined the objectives of "Operation Raincoat:"

  • Execute a sequence of actions that will increase pressure on the USSR and Cuba to dismantle and remove the ballistic missiles; failing that,
  • Destroy them in an air attack.
  • Presented major prerequisites before a decision to strike at S minus 12 hours:
  1. A veto of the US resolution in the Security Council
  2. Evidence that no major actions are underway to dismantle the missiles
  3. Rejection or low probability of implementation of the US version of the Latin American nuclear free zone proposal.

In response to JCS direction, CINCLANT on October 29 ordered US forces engaged in operations against Cuba be armed with tactical nuclear weapons, but they should not be employed unless Cuban or Soviet forces employ nuclear weapons first.

On October 30, 1962 Operation Mongoose was terminated. However, three of the 10 six-man sabotage teams had already deployed to Cuba. The Soviet missiles were removed by the end of December 1962.

Harvard Historian Jorge Domínguez has said Mongoose may have been on "hold" but the US "returned to its policy of sponsoring terrorism against Cuba as the confrontation with the Soviet Union lessened." Derek Leebaert, who taught foreign policy at Georgetown University and served as director of the U.S. Army Historical Foundation, Providence Hospital in Washington, D.C., and of other public service institutions wrote, "The Executive Committee of the National Security Council recommended various courses of action, 'including ‘using selected Cuban exiles to sabotage key Cuban installations in such a manner that the action could plausibly be attributed to Cubans in Cuba’ as well as ‘sabotaging Cuban cargo and shipping, and [Soviet] Bloc cargo and shipping to Cuba.' "

That said, at least one Free Rocket Over Ground (FROG) surface-to-surface missile with a nuclear warhead remained in Cuba according to a November 2, 1962 memo to Kennedy from General Taylor. Taylor expected that some of the remaining Soviet weapons would be manned by Soviet soldiers. Admiral Dennison, aware of this, responded his forces also had nuclear capabilities. The JCS did not think the Soviets-Cubans would go the nuclear route if US forces invade. Taylor felt the plan to invade is "adequate and feasible."

Taylor's memo also said, "(If nuclear weapons were used against the invasion, US forces would "respond at once in overwhelming nuclear force against military targets. If atomic weapons were used, there is no experience factor upon which to base an estimate of casualties. Certainly we might expect to lose very heavily at the outset if caught by surprise, but our retaliation would be rapid and devastating and thus would bring to a sudden close the period of heavy losses."

On November 9, 1962, the CINCLANT provided the JCS with a special plan to destroy all IL-28 medium bombers at San Julian and Holguin, "Operation Hot Plate:"

F-100 Super Sabres

  • Employ 16 F-100 aircraft as a strike force
  • Employ eight F-104 aircraft to provide close cover for the strike forces
  • Strike Force was to proceed to the target at 500 ft or below
  • The F-104 aircraft orbit outside the F-100 force until the strike is complete. It will engage any enemy aircraft that threaten the strike force.

President Kennedy certainly had exercised the US military almost to its maximum during all this. But this was not an exercise. My instinct says Kennedy never was serious about an invasion. I have found he was not very serious about implementing his naval blockade either. Perhaps that was all for the best. Indeed as time went on, he was not all that concerned about the ballistic missiles either. He saw all this as a political game against Khrushchev: Who would blink first kind of thing. One is forced to wonder.

However, Mongoose and Mongoose-type operations with other names continued on after the Cuban Missile Crisis. Avram Noam Chomsky has argued that "terrorist operations continued through the tensest moments of the missile crisis … They were formally canceled on October 30, several days after the Kennedy and Khrushchev agreement, but went on nonetheless".

The roots of the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962

Soviet “Operation Anadyr” - The plan

Soviet transport ships on the move and the US Naval Blockade

Detecting key Soviet weapons systems in Cuba

Operation Mongoose and the planned US forces invasion of Cuba

A chronology of events in Washington