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Cuban missile crisis, 1962, value of photo intelligence,

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Trapezoid          
           
were forming a "point defense" to protect some extremely important weapons emplacements or installations.   That evening General Carroll, my colleague John McLauchlin and I reported directly to Deputy Secretary Gilpatric. He asked me the same question that the President would ask Art Lundahl the following morning. It was the same question that would be asked by each of the select senior US officials being informed of the discovery as they looked at the tiny objects and patterns on our photographs of the Cuban countryside: "Are you sure that these are Soviet MRBMs?" I answered, "I am convinced they are." The next morning, Lundahl told the President he was "as sure of this as a photointerpreter can be sure of anything...."
        
This deployment pattern was similar to those identified near ballistic-missile launch sites in the Soviet homeland. The stationing of these SA-2s, together with human-source reporting of missiles in western Cuba, strongly suggested that there were offensive Soviet ballistic missiles to be found within the San Cristobal trapezoid.    
        
Shift In Responsibility     
       
           
The President's advisers largely agreed that the new evidence warranted resuming U-2 missions over western Cuba. New requirements were issued for photographic reconnaissance of the San Cristobal area. Because of continuing concern over the international repercussions should one of the U-2s be shot down, it was decided that future U-2 missions should be flown by the Air Force. If any questions about the flights should arise, they would be acknowledged as military reconnaissance missions.   Strategic Surveillance  
     
  The urgent work of the Executive Committee would begin on the morning of 16 October. While the world remained ignorant of the mounting crisis, those supporting the President and the Executive Committee were aware of the responsibility and trust that had been given us. The President needed absolute confirmation of the presence and numbers of MRBMs and any other offensive weapons that the Soviets had in place in Cuba. He needed time to marshal US ground, sea and air forces and to consider the options for their use should military action be required. He also needed time to decide how best to confront Khrushchev with the evidence, and he had to plan how to implement the US response. Secrecy was essential. More documentary evidence was required.
        
 The 4080th Strategic Wing of the Strategic Air Command, based at Laughlin Air Force Base in Del Rio, Texas, was given the assignment. The next flight was set for 14 October, with Major Rudolph Anderson, USAF, as the pilot. The mission went flawlessly, and copies of the photography were sent by courier to NPIC, Navy analysts, the Strategic Air Command (SAC), and other key commands.   
           
         U-2s from SAC were moved to Florida. Between 15 and 22 October, they flew 20 missions over Cuba to search the entire island. These reconnaissance flights helped us to understand what the Soviets were up to and what stage of weapons deployment they had reached. This information enabled the Intelligence Community to give the President and his advisers its best judgment as to whether the missiles were operational and, if not, when they would most likely become operational.
 Evidence of MRBMs       
         
 Photo interpreters at NPIC called me at the Pentagon on 15 October. MRBMs had been found and confirmed. I called General Carroll to tell him what I had just heard and that 1 was on my way to NPIC. He asked me to give him another call as soon as I had personally reviewed the evidence.    
         
 After a quick look at three or four of the frames, I called General Carroll back and told him that the film showed ballistic-missile carriers, associated equipment, and support trucks. The U-2 camera had caught an MRBM convoy just as it was preparing to pull into the cover of a wooded area.      
    As a result of highly classified and urgent work, the community would determine that the first of the MRBMs would become operational on 28 October.
      
           
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Posted: May 08, 2007 08:59 AM
Last Updated: May 08, 2007 08:59 AM