October 23rd in the Cuban Missile Crisis
Follow the inside story of the Cuban Missile Crisis as it evolves day by day from now through October 28!
Read: Yesterday Tomorrow Beginning of Series
(Photograph: JFK signs Proclamation 3504, establishing a blockade of Cuba, October 23, 1962.)
The Blockade is Declared
Tuesday, October 23, 1962, was the eighth of the “Thirteen Days” Bobby Kennedy referred to in the title to his book about the Cuban Missile Crisis. It was on this day that the American public first learned of the missiles in Cuba.
JFK’s speech on Monday night was translated into Spanish and broadcast live from some twelve radio and TV stations in Florida. As soon as the President finished, Fidel Castro ordered a complete mobilization of his reserves, then went to the office of his favorite newspaper and literally dictated the story for the next day’s front page. By Tuesday morning, the population of the entire island was digging in, prepared for an invasion they expected any day. There was no response to Kennedy’s speech from Moscow, however.
The president signed Proclamation 3504 (text following) on October 23 authorizing the quarantine of Cuba. The United States Navy moved ships into position to enforce the quarantine, which was set to go into effect Wednesday morning, October 24.
Text of Proclamation 3504
INTERDICTION OF THE DELIVERY OF OFFENSIVE WEAPONS TO CUBA
BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
WHEREAS the peace of the world and the security of the United States and of all American States are endangered by reason of the establishment by the Sino-Soviet powers of an offensive military capability in Cuba, including bases for ballistic missiles with a potential range covering most of North and South America;
WHEREAS by a Joint Resolution passed by the Congress of the United States and approved on October 3, 1962, it was declared that the United States is determined to prevent by whatever means may be necessary, including the use of arms, the Marxist-Leninist regime in Cuba from extending, by force or the threat of force, its aggressive or subversive activities to any part of this hemisphere, and to prevent in Cuba the creation or use of an externally supported military capability endangering the security of the United States; and
WHEREAS the Organ of Consultation of the American Republics meeting in Washington on October 23, 1962, recommended that the Member States, in accordance with Articles 6 and 8 of the InterAmerican Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance, take all measures, individually and collectively, including the use of armed force, which they may deem necessary to ensure that the Government of Cuba cannot continue to receive from the Sino-Soviet powers military material and related supplies which may threaten the peace and security of the Continent and to prevent the missiles in Cuba with offensive capability from ever becoming an active threat to the peace and security of the Continent:
NOW, THEREFORE, I, JOHN F, KENNEDY, President of the United States of America, acting under and by virtue of the authority conferred upon me by the Constitution and statutes of the United States, in accordance with the aforementioned resolutions of the United States Congress and of the Organ of Consultation of the American Republics, and to defend the security of the United States, do hereby proclaim that the forces under my command are ordered, beginning at 2:00 P.M. Greenwich time October 24, 1962, to interdict, subject to the instructions herein contained, the delivery of offensive weapons and associated materiel to Cuba.
For the purposes of this Proclamation, the following are declared to be prohibited materiel:
Surface-to-surface missiles; bomber aircraft; bombs, air-to-surface rockets and guided missiles; warheads for any of the above weapons; mechanical or electronic equipment to support or operate the above items; and any other classes of materiel hereafter designated by the Secretary of Defense for the purpose of effectuating this Proclamation.
To enforce this order, the Secretary of Defense shall take appropriate measures to prevent the delivery of prohibited materiel to Cuba, employing the land, sea and air forces of the United States in cooperation with any forces that may be made available by other American States.
The Secretary of Defense may make such regulations and issue such directives as he deems necessary to ensure the effectiveness of this order, including the designation, within a reasonable distance of Cuba, of prohibited or restricted zones and of prescribed routes.
Any vessel or craft which may be proceeding toward Cuba may be intercepted and may be directed to identify itself, its cargo, equipment and stores and its ports of call, to stop, to lie to, to submit to visit and search, or to proceed as directed. Any vessel or craft which fails or refuses to respond to or comply with directions shall be subject to being taken into custody. Any vessel or craft which it is believed is en route to Cuba and may be carrying prohibited materiel or may itself constitute such materiel shall, wherever possible, be directed to proceed to another destination of its own choice and shall be taken into custody if it fails or refuses to obey such directions. All vessels or craft taken into custody shall be sent into a port of the United States for appropriate disposition.
In carrying out this order, force shall not be used except in case of failure or refusal to comply with directions, or with regulations or directives of the Secretary of Defense issued hereunder, after reasonable efforts have been made to communicate them to the vessel or craft, or in case of self-defense. In any case, force shall be used only to the extent necessary.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the seal of the United States of America to be affixed.
Done in the City of Washington this twenty-third day of October in the year of our Lord, nineteen hundred and sixty-two, and of the Independence of the United States of America the one hundred and eighty-seventh.
A Note on the ExConn Tapes
As noted previously, JFK had ordered a recording system to be installed in the Cabinet room, which he could operate by pressing a button under the table. As a result, virtually all ExComm meetings were recorded; these recording were released to researchers and the public only in the last decade or so.
While many people think that Richard Nixon was the first president to tape White House conversations, the practice went back to FDR. The biggest difference between Nixon’s system and those of his predecessors was that the Nixon system was fully automatic, and earlier systems were turned on and off at the President’s discretion.
You can listen to some of the actual recordings here. For transcripts of the recordings, look here.
Guest post by Douglas Niles, author of Final Failure: Eyeball to Eyeball, an alternate history of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Doug and I co-authored three alternate history military thrillers: Fox on the Rhine, Fox at the Front, and MacArthur’s War. He is also known for his fantasy novels and is an award-winning game designer.