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Materials from the 40th Anniversary Conference
Havana, Cuba
10-12 October 2002

The tip of a Soviet R-12 (SS-4) medium-range missile, now a museum piece, points into the Havana sky
The Cuban Missile Crisis, 1962
A National Security Archive Documents Reader
Edited by Laurence Chang and Peter Kornbluh
Ordering information for this book is available at the W.W. Norton & Co. website. Or by phone:
800-233-4830 (U.S.)
717-346-2029 (Outside U.S.)

Follow this link for a list of US and Soviet veterans of the Cuban Missile Crisis attending the conference.

More images from the height of the crisis, 24-28 October 1962.

Listen to audio clips on the Cuban Missile Crisis from the Kennedy White House.

Read the press release from 10 October 2002, including images from the early period of the crisis and a list of US and Soviet veterans attending the conference.

Read the press release from 11 October 2002, 1:00 PM, including documents from the period before the crisis and U-2 and US Navy low-level photos of Soviet MRBM's and nuclear warhead bunkers from 14-23 October 1962.

Read the press release from 12 October 2002, 1:00 PM, including documents from the November crisis.

11 October 2002

5:00 PM EST
For more information, contact:
Thomas S. Blanton or
Peter Kornbluh 202 / 994-7000
  • Havana conference on Cuban missile crisis reveals dangers unknown at the time
  • New documents show US located only 33 of 42 missiles, zero warheads during crisis
  • US Navy dropped grenades on nuclear-armed Soviet sub at height of crisis
  • Cubans thought malaria more dangerous on Oct. 24, but expected invasion by 27th.

Havana, Cuba, 11 October 2002, 5 p.m. - During the second session of the historic 40th anniversary conference on the Cuban missile crisis, participants including Cuban president Fidel Castro and former US secretary of defense Robert McNamara discussed newly declassified documents showing that events were spinning out of control at the height of the crisis, with the danger of an accidental or deliberate nuclear exchange even greater than policymakers believed at the time. US intelligence never located the nuclear warheads for the Soviet missiles in Cuba during the crisis, and only 33 of what photography later showed was a total of 42 medium-range ballistic missiles.

On the most dangerous day of the crisis, Saturday, 27 October 1962, notes from the Joint Chiefs detail a crescendo of alarming news, ranging from a U-2 spy plane straying into Soviet airspace (1341 hrs.), a U-2 missing and then determined shot down over Cuba (1403), the Joint Chiefs' recommendation (1600) to the President for the air strike and invasion plan starting no later than Monday, low-level reconnaissance pilots reporting anti-aircraft fire from the ground in Cuba (1800), the President commenting to his top advisers that "time is running out" (1830), and a briefing on the latest photography showing "the missiles are on the launchers" in Cuba (1940). Within five minutes of this briefing, the President's brother was meeting with Soviet ambassador Dobrynin to tell him "time is of the essence and we shouldn't miss the chance," reiterating the President's pledge not to invade Cuba and assuring Dobrynin the US missiles would come out of Turkey in 4-5 months as long as nothing was said publicly about it.

In the middle of this sequence of escalating tensions, according to new documents released today, the US Navy was dropping a series of "signaling depth charges" (equivalent to hand grenades) on a Soviet submarine at the quarantine line. Navy deck logs show the depth charges at 1659 and 1729 military time. At the conference table in Havana were the US Navy watch officer, Captain John Peterson, who ordered the depth charges as part of standard operating procedure for signaling submarines, and the Soviet signals intelligence officer, Vadim Orlov, on the receiving end inside submarine B-59, where the depth charges felt like "sledgehammers on a metal barrel." Unbeknownst to the Navy, the submarine carried a nuclear-tipped torpedo with orders that allowed its use if the submarine was "hulled" (hole in the hull from depth charges or surface fire).

Further evidence of the escalating danger came from a series of military documents declassified by the Cuban government. In an October 24th meeting with his commanders, Fidel Castro remarked that they needed to resume fumigation flights because the danger from lack of fumigation (ie. malaria) was at that point even greater than the danger of invasion. By October 27, however, commander in chief Castro had ordered his anti-aircraft gunners to fire on US reconnaissance planes and fully expected an all-out US air strike and invasion within 24 to 72 hours.

The conference is meeting at the Palacio de Convenciones in Havana, Cuba. Most participants are housed at the Hotel Palco next door. Phone: 011-53-7-337235. Fax: 011-53-7-337236. The conference room itself is closed to the press but the organizers are holding daily press briefings each afternoon summarizing the discussion and releasing key documents addressed that day.

The National Security Archive co-organized with Cuban institutions the highly successful 40th anniversary Bay of Pigs conference last year in Havana; this year, the Archive is also working in partnership with Brown University's Watson Institute. Peter Kornbluh directs the Archive's Cuba project.

Documents highlighted in this afternoon's session include:

Chronology Compiled for The President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board (PFIAB), "Chronology of Specific Events Relating to the Military Buildup in Cuba," Undated [Excerpt].

DOD, Transcripts, SECRET, “Notes taken from Transcripts of Meetings of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, October-November 1962: Dealing with the Cuban Missile Crisis.”

DOJ, Memorandum, TOP SECRET, “Memorandum for the Secretary of State from the Attorney General,” on Robert Kennedy’s October 27 Meeting with Dobrynin, October 30, 1962.

USSR, Cable, TOP SECRET, Dobrynin Report of Meeting with Robert Kennedy on Worsening Threat, October 27, 1962.

U.S. Navy, TOP SECRET/SECRET/FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY, Charts/deck logs of anti-submarine warfare operations related to USSR submarine B-59, October 1962.

USSR, Memoir, “Recollections of Vadim Orlov (USSR Submarine B-59): We will Sink Them All, But We will Not Disgrace Our Navy,” (2002).

Aspectos importantes contenidos en los informes ofrecidos por los jefes militares reunidos el día 24 de octubre de 1962 en el Estado Mayor General con el Comandante en Jefe Fidel Castro.

USSR, draft directive, Directive to the Commander of Soviet Forces in Cuba on transfer of Il-28s and Luna Missiles, and Authority on Use of Tactical Nuclear Weapons, September 8, 1962.

USSR, directive, TOP SECRET, Malinovsky’s Order to Pliyev, October 22, 1962.

USSR, Directive, TOP SECRET, Prohibition on Use of Nuclear Weapons without Orders from Moscow, October 27, 1962, 16:30.

USSR, Directive, TOP SECRET, CC CPSU Presidium Instructions to Pliyev in Response to His Telegram, October 27, 1962.

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