Cuban missile crisis, 1962, value of photo intelligence,

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with four launchers. If these sites were completed, their missiles would significantly affect the strategic balance.    October, the Intelligence Community published its views on the implications of the committee's options in SNIE 11-19-62, "Major Consequences of Certain US Courses of Action on Cuba. "
       SNIE l1-19-62 was cautious about the likely results of either a selective or a total blockade of Cuba. It argued that nuclear warheads could be delivered covertly aboard aircraft or submarines evading the blockade, that the Soviet missiles already in Cuba would still be poised to strike, that it would not weaken Castro's regime, and that either a selective or total blockade would give the Soviet Union time to mobilize world pressure against the US. The SNIE judged that neither type of blockade would necessarily escalate to war, either in Cuba or elsewhere, and that the Soviets would not be driven to immediate military retaliation.
The U-2 mission of 15 October discovered a third dimension to the impending nuclear threat. In late September, US maritime surveillance had spotted a merchant ship bound for Cuba carrying a number of large crates on its deck. To deduce their content, US photointerpreters had to resort to the fledgling "science" of cratology.    
Unique dimensions, shapes, volumes and other features of the apparently innocuous-looking crates allowed the analysts to determine with some precision by mid-October that the crates contained disassembled IL-28/BEAGLE bomber aircraft.
         The estimate also judged that whatever the nature of any US military action against Cuba, it would not be likely to provoke Khrushchev and his colleagues into launching all-out nuclear war. The authors wrote:
The U-2 photographed 21 of these crates, one with the top open and the BEAGLE fuselage exposed, at San Julian Airfield on the 15th. This was our first sighting of part of the total force of 42 bombers the Soviet Union was delivering to the San Julian and Holguin Airfields.    
    We believe that there would probably be a difference between Soviet reaction to all-out invasion and Soviet reaction to more limited US use of force against selective objectives in Cuba. We believe that the Soviets would be somewhat less likely to retaliate with military force in areas outside of Cuba in response to speedy, effective invasion than in response to more limited forms of military action against Cuba. We recognize that such an estimate cannot be made with very great assurance and do not rule out the possibility of Soviet retaliation outside of Cuba in case of invasion. But we believe that a rapid occupation of Cuba would be more likely to make the Soviets pause in opening new theaters of conflict than limited action or action which drags out."  
Meeting With Gromyko        
At the White House, the Executive Committee weighed the new evidence in its deliberations on the best course of action to recommend to the President. On 18 October, the President proceeded with an office call by Soviet Foreign Minister Gromyko, an appointment that had been made many weeks before. Without tipping his hand about the US discovery of the Soviet MRBMs, IRBMs and bombers in Cuba, President Kennedy underscored to Gromyko the unacceptability of Soviet offensive nuclear weapons on the island. Gromyko responded with assurances that the weapons being introduced were strictly defensive.     
         The President's Decision   
SNIE's Judgments           
      Proponents of the alternate options of US response continued to argue within the Executive Committee until the President authorized a selective blockade of
The Executive Committee soon narrowed the options to airstrikes against the missile sites and bomber bases versus a naval blockade of the island. On 20   



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Posted: May 08, 2007 08:59 AM
Last Updated: May 08, 2007 08:59 AM