October 24, 1962
EXCOMM MEETS IN MIDST OF MISSILE CRISIS
Washington, D.C. (JFK+50) The Executive Committee of the National Security Council, or EXCOMM, met this morning at 10 in the Cabinet Room at the White House.
Cuban Missile Crisis
Photo by Cecil Stoughton
JFK Library Photo
On Monday, President John F. Kennedy announced the United States would set up a quarantine or blockade of the island of Cuba & would turn back “any ships…. found to contain cargoes of offensive weapons.”
The meeting began with CIA Director John McCone reporting that 22 Soviet ships were heading for the “Quarantine Line” 500 miles to the East of Cuba.
Later in the meeting, Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara reported that 2 Soviet ships, Kimovsk & Yuri Gagarin, were approaching the “Quarantine Line” with a Soviet submarine stationed in between.
McCone, getting more up-to-date information, said that 6 Soviet ships, in Cuban waters, “have either stopped or reversed direction.”
CIA Director (1962)
At this dramatic point in the crisis, Secretary of State Dean Rusk said:
“We stood eyeball to eyeball & the other fellow just blinked.”*
Secretary of State
LBJ Library Photo (1968)
*According to Michael Dobbs, in “One Minute to Midnight” (2008), evidence now available in the National Archives & JFK Library indicates that the Soviet “turnaround” was actually done on Tuesday morning, October 23, 1962, or 24 hours before the EXCOMM meeting of the 24th.
Dobbs states that historians “failed to use these records to plot the actual positions of Soviet ships on the morning of Wednesday, October 24, 1962.”
I do not think this new information changes the fact that the Cuban Missile Crisis was the closest the world ever came to nuclear war or that President Kennedy, along with his advisers, as well as Premier Khrushchev & his advisers, made decisions of historic proportions that prevented a nuclear war.
October 24, 1962
GENERAL POWER ORDERS FORCES TO DEFCON-2
Omaha, Nebraska (JFK+50) General Thomas Power of the Strategic Air Command (SAC), headquartered here in Omaha, ordered his forces to DEFCON-2 this morning, one step from “imminent nuclear war”.
The order came in the midst of the “Cuban Missile Crisis” with reports of Soviet submarines off the East Coast of the United States.
DEFCON-2 is the highest military alert level ordered in United States history.
General Power reportedly also broadcast an alert message on non-scrambled, open radio channels.
General Thomas Power
Strategic Air Command
CHART OF DEFCON RATINGS
DEFCON 5 Lowest military readiness
DEFCON 4 Increased intelligence watch
DEFCON 3 Medium military readiness*
DEFCON 2 War readiness
DEFCON 1 Nuclear war imminent
*On 9-11-2011, US forces were ordered to DEFCON 3
October 24, 1962
JFK WARNS “DON’T CELEBRATE….EARLY”
Washington, D.C. (JFK+50) President Kennedy dined at the White House tonight with the Attorney General, Robert F. (Bobby) Kennedy & his wife, Ethel, along with journalist Charles Bartlett.
With the day’s events seemingly going JFK’s way, Mr. Bartlett proposed a toast to celebrate the turning around of Soviet ships from the “Quarantine Line”.
The President replied: “You don’t want to celebrate in this game this early.”
During the dinner, National Security Adviser McGeorge Bundy kept the President informed on the crisis.
At one point JFK said: “We still have 20 chances out of a hundred to be at war with Russia.”*
*Later after the dinner guests had left the White House, JFK phoned Mr. Bartlett & said: “You’ll be interested to know that I got a cable from our friend (Khrushchev). He said those (Soviet) ships are coming through.”
The Yuri Gagarin
October 24, 1963
JFK SIGNS MILLS-RIBICOFF ACT ON MENTAL RETARDATION
Washington, D.C. (JFK+50) President Kennedy signed “HR 7544” this morning at the White House.
The Mills-Ribicoff Act is designed to reduce the number of mentally retarded babies born in the United States each year.
The measure will provide prenatal care for needy women & thus reduce the number of children born mentally retarded.
“We can say with some assurance, that, although children may be the victims of fate, they will not be the victims of our neglect.”
JFK in the Oval Office