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 Cuban Missile Crisis: Robert F. Kennedy Papers

Cuban Missile Crisis:
Robert F. Kennedy Papers

3,584 pages of documents produced or accumulated by United States Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, while acting in his role as an advisor to President John F. Kennedy concerning the Cuban Missile Crisis.


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These documents were declassified through the National Archives and Records Administration's National Declassification Center and made available to the public on October 11, 2012.

According to the head of the National Archives, David S. Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, "Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy played a crucial role in the peaceful resolution of the crisis, and researchers and the public are keenly interested in the information and insights contained in these documents."

These files were transferred from the Department of Justice to the National Archives after Robert Kennedy resigned his post as Attorney General soon after the assassination of John Kennedy.

The coverage contained in these files are of events, deliberations, and actions, usually outside of the scope of the jurisdiction and responsibilities of the Attorney General. However Robert Kennedy's special relationship as both the brother of and special advisor to President Kennedy made him the closest man to JFK during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

The materials include papers, memorandums, correspondence, reports, notes, doodles, hand written material, accounts of Executive Committee meetings, and notes on private meetings with President Kennedy. This collection also includes telegrams, cables, and reports sent by the CIA, State Department, and FBI related to the Cuban Missile Crisis and its aftermath.

One folder of material maintained by Attorney General Kennedy included copies he kept of memos written to the President about meetings RFK had with Russian ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin, copies of correspondences to and from President Kennedy and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, and draft copies of speeches made by President Kennedy concerning Cuba.

Highlights from this collection of documents include:

 1962 Letter from Premier Khrushchev to President Kennedy
September 1962 Letter from Premier Khrushchev to President Kennedy
One page from a 17 page September 1962 correspondence sent by Premier Khrushchev to President Kennedy, which was passed from Ambassador Dobrynin to Attorney General Kennedy, who gave it to the President.

 Handwritten note made by Robert Kennedy on October 16, 1962 listing the Hawks and the Doves
during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Handwritten note made by Robert Kennedy on October 16, 1962 listing the Hawks and the Doves during the Cuban Missile Crisis
This note handwritten by Robert Kennedy on October 16, 1962 lists the initial split between the ExComm advisors to President Kennedy on the action that should be taken against the Soviet Union and Cuba. Names are written under two columns, "Blockade" and "Strike." The first use of the collective term "hawks and doves" was applied to those making the choice between to the two basic paths to take during the missile crisis. "Hawks" wanted an instantaneous military action taken against Cuba, airstrikes to destroy the missile capability deployed in Cuba. Doves believed that negotiations held during a blockade could lead to the removal of the nuclear threat in Cuba.

Listed under Blockade are:

Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara
Deputy Secretary of Defense Roswell Gilpatric
Secretary of State Dean Rusk
Former United States Ambassador to the Soviet Union Llewellyn Thompson
United States Ambassador to France Chip Bohlen
United States Ambassador to the United Nations Adlai Stevenson
Undersecretary of State Robert Lovett
Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs Edwin Martin
Under Secretary of State George Ball
Deputy Under Secretary for Political Affairs Alexis Johnson
John Kennedy speech writer Ted Sorensen

Listed under Strike are:

National Security Adviser McGeorge Bundy
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Maxwell Taylor
Members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff as a group
Former Secretary of State Dean Acheson
Treasury Secretary Douglas Dillon
CIA Director John McCone
Assistant Secretary of Defense Paul Nitze, who the note shows was moved from the Blockade to the Strike column.

 Letter to Fidel Castro from the Department of State drafted at the beginning of the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Letter to Fidel Castro from the Department of State drafted at the beginning of the Cuban Missile Crisis
A draft of a State Department letter written to Fidel Castro on October 17, 1962. It represents the first efforts to establish diplomatic communications between the Unites States and Cuba during the missile crisis. Historians at the State Department have previously said that they could not find any of the drafts of the early communications with Castro made during the crisis.

Transcription of first page:

1. The US has full info on the missile bases being
constructed in Pino del Rar province. Medium range
missiles capable of reaching a substantial portion of
US territory and most of the countries in the
Caribbean area are being installed at three sites.
They obviously have no use except with nuclear heads.
It also seems clear that they can only be operated
by Soviet Military, not Cubans.

2. Their presence raises grave issues of national
security for the US and the Western Hemisphere as
a whole as the President and the Congress have made
clear. They represent Soviet offensive bases in Cuba
as well as a ground-to-ground missile capability
capable of attacking the US and many of the Caribbean
countries. In Soviet hands they are clearly offensive
and not defensive weapons.

3. By putting these in Cuba the Soviets have also
raised grave issues for Cuba. To serve their interests
they have justified the Western Hemisphere countries in
making an attack on Cuba which would lead to the
immediate overthrow of your regime. At the same time´┐Ż

Cuban Missile Crisis State Department Document listing options to take during the crisis.
Cuban Missile Crisis State Department Document listing options to take during the crisis
This October 25, 1962 State Department memo titled "Political Path," outlines several options. One option is for a direct meeting between Khrushchev and President Kennedy. Another option listed was to put under United Nations control both the Soviet missiles in Cuba and the American missiles based in Turkey.

Cuban Missile Crisis Department of State cable concerning establishing secret negotiations with Cuba.
Cuban Missile Crisis Department of State cable concerning establishing secret negotiations with Cuba
This formerly classified cable documents the work to establish back-channel negotiations with Cuba. It proposes to use Brazil as a go-between to establish secret communication with Cuba.

Transcription of first page of cable:

We believe time has come for representative friendly country
to discuss with Castro alone predicament in which soviet actions
have placed him. We also believe Brazilian ambassador in
Havana is best person to do this and therefore wish you to see
Hermes Lima as soon as possible to secure his agreement to
instruction to their ambassador along following lines. Naturally
we would hope matter could be handled by Brazilians with
greatest discretion. Report reaction NIACT.

Would wish instructions to Ambassador Luis Batian Pinto to
read substantially as follows:

1. The world now knows without any question and in great
detail the nature and size of the buildup of Soviet offensive
missile capability in Cuba. There can be no valid question
in anyone's mind on this point.

2. The action of the Soviet Union in using Cuban soil as sites
for offensive nuclear missiles capable of striking most of the
Western hemisphere has placed the future of the Castro regime
and the well-being of the Cuban people in great jeopardy.

Robert Kennedy drawing of the table seating senior officials at an ExComm meeting on the Cuban Missile Crisis
Doodle drawn by Robert Kennedy, a diagram of the seating arrangements of senior officials at an ExComm meeting.



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