INT: Now let's get into the Cuban Missile Crisis and I want you to tell me how you got involved in the crisis and what your role was?
SG: Well, as Chief of the Missile and Space Division, I was focused primarily on activities in the Soviet Union, but I had one branch that was looking at non-Soviet missile activities, headed by a man named Norman Smith. He was looking at what was going on in Cuba. We knew the Soviets were sending a tremendous amount of military equipment to Cuba. We were able to determine they were deploying surface to air missiles in Cuba. We were concerned about coastal defense missiles in Cuba, but the question was, are they going to deploy offensive missiles in Cuba? Now most of us in the intelligence community, CIA, myself included, did not believe the Soviets would put offensive missiles in Cuba. We explained this extensive surface to air missile deployment and this coastal defense missile deployment as the Cubans and the Soviets preparing Cuba in case there was ever another Bay of Pigs, another attempt to invade Cuba. And these surface to air missiles would shoot the B-26's and airplanes out of the air and the Cubans knew very well the Bay of Pigs failed, at least in part, because Kennedy did not authorize air support to that operation. So if you had another invasion with air support, these surface to air missiles would be very capable, the coastal defense missiles would keep the ships and things away from the coast, so that in most of our views, these were very good reasons for the deployments we received. Now, John McCone, director of CIA, felt there was more involved and he in fact wrote a personal note to President Kennedy believing that offensive missiles would be deployed in Cuba. The intelligence community reviewed all of the evidence. Now you should also understand there was a lot of human intelligence coming out of Cuba through Miami and through other sources and a lot of these reports, which we called human intelligence, and there must have been a thousand of 'em, would talk about missiles being moved different cities in Cuba. Well, I looked over these reports in minute detail and most of them could be explained as being a surface to air missile because the description would not be sufficiently large to be an offensive missile. So ninety per cent of those reports could be explained away, as not being offensive missiles. Looking at this big stack of reports, five of them really worried us and worried me because there would be a description of a canvas covered object going through a town at night - always late at night, these missiles would be moved - and this particular missile trailer could not turn a corner. It had the very difficulty, it had to back up and this source was describing both this long telephone-like missile,... canvas-covered object, he didn't call it a missile, but it couldn't get around the corner. If this had been a surface to air missile, they would have had no trouble, so this report and others like that were the basis on which, when the U-2 started flying, these five reports were used to target the U-2 where to go to look and that was the mission on the fifteenth of October, which actually discovered offensive missiles. So my role was looking at all of these reports, trying to find out if there was any evidence of offensive missiles in Cuba and then to explain the import and then to participate in the preparation of the estimate, which we did, which we did not believe the Soviets would deploy offensive missiles in Cuba to which McCone differed with us and McCone turned out to be right.
INT: Now, at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis I want you to explain about how you pieced together, with the photographic information and Penkovsky's information, the information that was necessary to inform the President.
SG: Well, when the mission flew on the fifteenth of October and provided the photographs, they came into the National Photo Interpretation Center at around four, five o'clock in the afternoon. The photo interpreters started looking at these pictures and one of my branch chiefs was there and when he looked at 'em, he called me on the phone and said, we have something very hot, you'd better come down here immediately. So I went to the Photo Interpretation Center. When I got there, the photo interpreters laid out the photographs of these canvas-covered objects. There was no question in my mind that we had offensive missiles in Cuba. The question was, what type of offensive missile is this and they could give very precise measurements of the length of this canvas-covered object. Now if this were a missile without its nose cone - you see nose cones are normally mated later - then it would be one type of missile, but if the nose cone was on, it would be a different one. So essentially, that measurement said if this is a complete missile with the nose cone, it would be an SS-3, a relatively short-range missile. If the nose cone is not on, it would be an SS-4, which is an eleven hundred-mile range missile. Now, knowing from Penkovsky and others that the nose cone is normally not mated, it was my judgement that this was an SS-4 and then if you look at a map, an SS-4 with a thousand, eleven hundred mile range can reach Washington and so my view was if the Soviets are going to deploy offensive missiles into Cuba, they would not deploy something that could only hit the southern part of the US when they had a missile that could hit Washington and that would be a real deterrent. So my judgement immediately was that this is an SS-4 missile, even though we didn't actually see the missile, we saw a canvas-covered object and we could see the erector that went with it and we could see all the information that we thought unambiguous, that we had an offensive missile and working with the PI's and looking at the range and looking at the data we had from Penkovsky, and looking at the data from the Moscow parades, where we had pictures of the missiles, we discerned that this was an SS-4 and that's when I advised my boss that night.
INT: If I can just ask you to put together a sort of almost a version of that in which you explain to an audience - because I think it is very interesting - that when you were peering at those photographs, in effect what was going through your mind were a number of different sources of information that you had to help you understand what you were looking at and you just touched on them, but they were rather spread out. I mean, you had photographic evidence, ... coming from photographs and you had the information that came from Oleg Penkovsky, a spy, and you had information that came from the May Day Parades in Red Square when the rockets would go by, and then there's if you like a combination here, human and technical intelligence and then there's your own analysis of it. Now could you just and explain that...
INT: Don't worry about the date, because I'm much less concerned about the date than I am by you trying to explain to us this very interesting thing that there's a combination here that helps you, it isn't one thing alone, that stands alone, but it's a judgement based on these different sources of intelligence, 'cos in our film we're trying to look at human intelligence and signals intelligence, do you see what I mean? OK.
SG: Well, you're doing an evaluation of a ballistic missile's capabilities, specifically the missiles that we saw on photography in Cuba, it's like putting together a jigsaw puzzle. You have a piece of information here that comes from human sources that tells you about it, of which Penkovsky was clearly a critical aspect on the manuals and how these missiles operate. You had photographic information, both of missiles in the parade in Moscow, but photographic information of the test range where these missiles had been tested. You had telemetry information which told you the characteristics of the missile, that it was a liquid fuel missile, how you would have to operate the missile, so these combined, give you a sufficiently clear picture that when we looked at the missiles in Cuba and when we get the question about how will they operate, how long will they operate, all the things that were asked during that first Ex-Comm committee meeting, it was a combination of intelligence sources put together by intelligence analysts, including the photo interpreters and the missile experts, which gave you an understanding to be able to, one, identify the missile, two, determine its characteristics, it carries a three thousand pound payload which could be two megaton warhead on the front end of the missile, so all of these things fit together which an intelligence officer uses to provide the conclusions.
INT: So just tell me, when you were trying to work out what you were dealing with here that might threaten this country, how did you put this puzzle together, how did you use these disparate sources of information and explain to us that you had these disparate sources of information.
SG: Well, speaking specifically about ballistic missiles and particularly the type of missiles that we ended up having in Cuba, the intelligence community, all of us analysts, used a variety of sources of information in order to make the complete picture. Specifically, we had photographic information taken by the U-2 of the missile site, photographic information taken when the Soviets would drag their ballistic missiles through Moscow on their May Day Parades and we had attaches and had very good pictures of those pictures there. We had good pictures of the test parades, where we knew the missile had been tested. We had excellent telemetry information, which gave us the internal characteristics of the missile, gave us essentially its range, its payload carrying capability, the fact that it could carry three thousand pounds, which would equate roughly to a two megaton warhead, so these combination of intelligence sources permitted us to know sufficient amount of the missile, so that we could answer the questions that policy-maker asked us during the Cuban Missile Crisis. Now, I should emphasize that Penkovsky's information about the manuals, as to how these missiles operated in the field was critical to the Cuban Missile Crisis because there the question was not the characteristics of the missile as much as the question as how long before that missile can be fired and to answer that question you must have the knowledge of how those missiles operate in the field with the troops and this is where Penkovsky's information gave us the basis for answering the first question that the President asked.
INT: Tell me about going to the White House.
SG: Well, after we had identified the missiles in Cuba and reported these to the senior officials, we met with the Deputy Director of Intelligence at about seven o'clock in the morning, the next morning, and we prepared a three paragraph introduction to the subject which General Carter, who was acting Director of CIA because McCone was on the West Coast, for him to give at the Ex-Comm committee that meeting that morning. Art Lundahl, the Director of the Photographic Interpretation Center, and Sidney Graybeal, myself, were sent to the White House with our briefing boards of the missiles in Cuba to brief McGeorge Bundy, the head of the National Security staff, so we went to the White House, we laid out the pictures, the briefing from McGeorge Bundy. Dillon came in and we gave the same briefing to Dillon. Bobby Kennedy came in, we gave the same briefing to Bobby Kennedy and he took off to go upstairs to the personal quarters of President Kennedy to tell him. We stayed in the White House all morning until the first Ex-Comm committee meeting took place at around eleven o'clock and then we all went into the Cabinet Room and we waited for the President. The President came in, good morning gentlemen, sat down and a side light, which is kind of interesting to me personally, is the door that the President had come through all of a sudden burst open and Caroline Kennedy came in and essentially said, Daddy, Daddy, they won't let my friend in. The President got up, went over, put his arm around her, took her out of the room, came back within a minute and says, gentlemen, I think we should proceed. The meeting started. What transpired at the meeting is General Carter read the three paragraphs, essentially what was the status, suggested the President should look at the evidence. Art Lundahl, head of the NPA, had these very large briefing boards which he laid on the table in front of President Kennedy, McNamara on the right, Rusk on the other side, so the three of 'em could see them and Lundahl said this is Cuba, this is San Forego , so forth. Then he mentioned, these are offensive ballistic missiles and he specifically pointed to them on the chart. The first question the President asked was, how long before they can fire those missiles? And Art Lundahl said, well, Mr. Graybeal is the missile expert. So he turned to me, I stood up behind the President, McNamara and Rusk and for the next probably five to ten minutes fired one question after the other. In answer to the President's question, how long can they fire these missiles, I relied primarily on the combination of intelligence sources, but mainly Penkovsky's information, which told us how these missiles operated in the field. But, there were major uncertainties involved, namely these missiles had been shipped by boat from the Soviet Union to Cuba, how were they put? Was there Cosmoline on 'em, how were they stored? How long would it take them to clean these missiles up? So it was slightly different than the way they would operate in the Soviet Union. So there was uncertainty in this problem and which I explained to the President. We did not know exactly the condition of these missiles, but I told we do know how these missiles operate in the Soviet Union and using Penkovsky's information, went through what would be required in terms of them putting the missile on the erector, erecting the missile, bringing in and fuelling the missile, put the fuel in. You have to spin up the giros to get them going and then you're able to launch. So you're talking hours in order to be able to get that missile ready to go, provided it's all been cleaned up and ready. The first question that McNamara asked, where are the nuclear warheads, 'cos obviously the missile is no good without the payload and we told him, again based on Penkovsky's information, in the Soviet Union the nuclear warhead travels with the missile. These have been shipped overseas with the warhead on the boat