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The San Cristobal Trapezoid

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Cuban missile crisis, 1962, value of photo intelligence,
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Cuban missile crisis
The San Cristobal Trapezoid
John T. Hughes with A. Denis Clift
Aerial photos give crisp, hard information, like the dawn after long darkness. As photo interpreters, my colleagues and I could recall the key features of the intermediate-range (IRBM) and medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM) sites the Soviets had been rushing to complete in October 1962: the missile-servicing buildings, the nuclear warhead storage bunkers, the oxidizer vehicles, propellant vehicles, missile shelter tents, and the missiles. San Julian, Holguin, Nuevitas, Mariel, Sagua La Grande, Remedios and San Cristobal were names that took on a special meaning after the discovery of the missiles and bombers, the peaking of the crisis, Soviet withdrawal, and my briefing to the nation on network TV on 6 February 1963, two days before the President's letter arrived.
Arthur Lundahl
A courier stepped forward to meet me as I reached the Pentagon's River Entrance. I remember the moment: 7:30 a.m., 8 February 1963, a wintery morning brightness just emerging. "Mr. John Hughes?" "Yes," I said. "I've been asked to deliver this to you." He handed me a manila envelope, return address, "The White House," in block letters, and departed.
My office was nearby inside the Pentagon in the Joint Staff spaces next to the National Military Command Center, almost directly beneath the office of the Secretary of Defense. I opened the letter. It was from the President.
As Special Assistant to Lieutenant General Joseph F. Carroll, Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), I was responsible for providing reconnaissance intelligence support during the crisis to Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, Deputy Secretary Roswell Gilpatric, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) General Maxwell Taylor, and the Joint Chiefs. There had been intensive coordination with Arthur Lundahl, Director of the National Photographic Interpretation Center (NPIC). In this capacity, he was responsible for providing critical national intelligence support to the President, Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) John McCone, and the Executive Committee of the National Security Council.
Dear Mr. Hughes:
I thought you did an excellent job on television in explaining our surveillance in Cuba. I understand it was done on short notice. I want you to know how much I appreciate your efforts. With best wishes.
Sincerely, John Kennedy
Cuba. For the past seven months, the US Intelligence Community had riveted its attention on that island nation. Its topography, road network, cities, military garrisons, storage depots, deployed ground-force units, airports and airbases, seaports, merchant shipping and naval units had been photographed, categorized and studied. US reconnaissance also zeroed in on Soviet merchant ships, fighter aircraft, surface-to-air-missile (SAM) units, missile patrol boats, and rocket forces.
Building on the CIA's initial U-2 reconnaissance flights in the summer and early autumn of 1962, the Department of Defense would eventually fly more than 400 military reconnaissance missions over Cuba during the crisis. Targeting information for each photo mission had to be developed for the JCS Joint
Copyright © /992 by John T. Hughes
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Posted: May 08, 2007 08:59 AM
Last Updated: Aug 03, 2011 02:58 PM