INT: One of the things that puzzles me is that the Russians had started shipping massive amounts of equipment, men, ships were going to and from on a daily basis into Cuba well before the U-2 flew over. Why was that not picked up?
SH: Oh it was. The community... as a community had picked up and there was no way for the Russians to hide that. all of the ships that the Soviets were sending to Cuba, nobody was absolutely certain what it was, but if you looked at the evening American newspapers and the various cartoons, political cartoons, showing all of these nice husky young men, marching off what amounted to troop ships, everybody having a Hawaiian shirt on, and sneakers or shorts or what have you, and they march off in brigade formation practically, these were not tourists who were visiting Cuba. Everybody knew that. We were watching it very carefully and if you watched the statements from the White House, over and over again, who were making remarks about, look, this is getting serious and could be important and in September of '62, about Labor Day, I think, [clears throat], the Labor Day weekend, the President issued a statement to the effect that so far that all we've seen is defensive weapons going in. Should they be offensive weapons, it could be serious and we have to take another hard look at it, something like that. This was enough of a warning and the Soviets knew we were watching 'em. The Soviets could tell various American military planes flying over their ships, taking pictures from... various heights. yeah, we could tell that something was going on, but nobody, except John McCone, came up with a decent idea of what was happening and what McCone's idea was that when we saw the SAM sites, the surface to air missiles, which are smaller weapons and they're not the large inter-continental ballistic missiles, when he saw these being put out all around Cuba, his whole purpose was, in terms of briefing people, was that you don't puSAM sites out just to have SAM sites, they're there to protect something and we haven't found yet what they gonna protect. Well, that was in September. By October and we had the fligover... the [inaudible] over the Pienado Rio Province and the San Cristobel site, yeah, we knew what they were protecting. They were protecting the in-coming long-range missiles, the IRBMs and they didn't have any ICBMs, but they had IRBMs and the MRBMs. The medium-range for the MRBMs and the intermediate range for the IRBMs and those would have been able to hit all the major cities of the United States, except perhaps those in Washington State and, of course, hit practically any city they wanted to in Central and the North and South American continent.
INT: You told me earlier there was one of the agencies, who shall remain nameless, was completely under the wrong impression of what was going on.
SH: That's true. One of the agencies of the intelligence community, and there's no point in naming names, but one of the agencies did come up with an analysis pointing out that all these Russian ships crossing the Atlantic over and over again, including the large [inaudible] ships which we were looking at very carefully, the only reason they were doing this was to take out of Cuba all the excess military hardware they probably put into Cuba. people do make mistakes and after the missile crisis was over the DCI at that time directed this particular agency to in the future collect, don't analyze and whether that's true today or not, I don't know, that's some thirty years ago.
INT: So what happened? In comes the pictures, undeniable proof, that now there are missiles in Cuba, what was the reaction of the agency?
SH: Well, it's easy to say that we finally knew what the problem was and nobody knew how to handle it, of course, and the agency and several of its officers were directed by the President and the special group, which was no longer called a special group, it became called the Excom, executive committee, of the National Security Council and the President put quite a number of people on the Excom, all senior people, including those in government, some out of government, and the idea was to tell the various leaders of particularly the NATO countries what these pictures meant and what they looked like and eventually what the US position was going to be, which we didn't know until later on that month. but every country that we went to, that these gentlemen went to, with the pictures, big blow-up pictures, and the ones that were sent up to Adelai Stephenson at the UN, all were there to prove a point. Finally, we had the evidence that Soviet missiles were being put into Cuba, despite the fact that the Soviet Foreign Minister Gromyko, in a visit with the President in October before the missiles were discovered, were publicly announced, had told the President that only defensive weapons were going in, no offensive weapons, and nobody wanted it and the President did not try to tell Gromyko that we had the evidence right then and there, we could have showed it to him, but we didn't.
INT: What was your personal reaction when you found about the missiles?
SH: the personal reaction was very simply, from a human point of view, there was going to be a hell of a lot of work to do and as part of what happened then, I remember I was in the office for seventy two hours straight, without a break, and Bill Harvey came over into my office, I was two doors down from him, and he says - this was on a weekend, the Saturday, the first Saturday of the week before the President made his speech - and he said, you get out of here. And I said, why, I got a lot of work to do, I got to get these counters out and so on. He said, out. And so he said, go home, shave, shower get some rest and then I'll be in touch with you, but don't come back until I call you. So, I ended up being ordered out on a Saturday, came home, couldn't tell my family a word about it, of course, and all I told my wife was, don't wake me for a little while, but be sure you wake me up before dinner time, so I can get ready to go back again. Well, she didn't do that and it was Sunday morning when I was aroused by my wife saying, Bill Harvey's on the phone. And I looked at the clock and I oh practically did some damage to my wife, but I didn't. I withheld my anger. And Bill said, how you doing? And I said, fine. He said, can you come in, you're my last fresh troops? I said, I'm on my way. Well, I shaved and got out of here and ran. it was tough. we had a lot of tidying up to do in terms of knowing who was going to go where, getting ready to go in with the troops if necessary. 'cos in times of hostilities, what amounts to a hot war, the agency and the Defense Department had an agreement, I don't know if it's still in effect, called the Command Relationship Agreement, that in times of hostilities, CIA in the field comes under the command of the local theatre command US theatre commander and so we were all getting ready to go into Cuba if we had to with the forces. And we could see and knew that enough force was being put into the State of Florida, with equipment, tanks and planes and, you know, sealing wax and ships and what have you, I'm surprised that the State of Florida didn't sink into the ocean, we had that much stuff there, I mean, we, the US government. And we all expected in the task force that we would have to go in with the forces. That's where we were. It was close.
INT: Were you frightened?
SH: No, not really frightened, because there's a strange thing too. About, oh the fifth day or thereabouts, fourth or fifth, maybe the sixth day, us working stiffs, looking at all the intelligence for all the various sources, something was clear on the Russian side. Either we didn't have the intelligence or we couldn't get it or whatever, but we couldn't see any sign of Soviet mobilization. And we were wondering, have we won this already, before it even gets started? because you don't start getting ready for a missile war, unless you're gonna call up your troops and call up your forces. maybe the Soviets did it all by telephone line, land line, and so we couldn't pick up anything, I don't know. But there was no indication at least at my level, that the Soviets were doing anything except making big noise with their arguments and their statements and what have you, but it just talk and we didn't see any effort on the part of the Soviets to get ready to fight a war and, as I say, some of my friends said to me, have we won already? I said, don't be too sure, I haven't got a clue what they're up to. But it was frightening, yeah, from that point of view it was, we just didn't know. We were all ready to go in if we had to, but we just didn't know and we did not know at the time that the Soviets had nuclear weapons on the island and that they had tactical nuclear weapons, which would have been a real mess, because if they'd fired one of those against any of our invading forces, I can't imagine any President sitting back and not pressing the button and pushing the big ones out at the same time. But, we were moving ahead and that's mostly a military problem, not ours, but it was kind of hairy at that time.