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12 Unanswered Questions About he Cuban Missile Crisis

By Servando Gonzalez

Who controls the past controls the future;
who controls the present controls the past
—George Orwell, 1984.

One of the unintended consequences of the end of the Cold War was that liars on both sides (read spies and intelligence officers) joined forces to misinform. For example, a decade ago gathered in Havana none other than Robert McNamara, Alexei Aleseyev, Sergio Mikoyan, Fidel Castro and other professional disinformation specialists. The reason for the meeting was to discuss about the missile crisis of October 1962.

The crisis, which allegedly began 50 years ago when an American U-2 plane discovered that the Soviet Union had installed missile bases in Cuba for medium-range strategic nuclear missiles, is still a hot topic in the history of the Cold War. Documents declassified a few years ago, and countless new books on the subject, have given us a vision, indeed terrifying, of the dangerous time when, according to these authors, the world was on the brink of nuclear war. According to them, the missing pieces of the puzzle fit together perfectly well to give us a coherent picture of what actually happened during the crisis.
Maybe too well.

The truth, however, is that despite everything that has been written, some key questions remain unanswered. I am offering below a few pieces of the puzzle that are still missing, but they are not the only ones.

Question 1. According to Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, the idea of placing nuclear missiles in Cuba to defend the Castro government from an American attack came during a trip he made to Bulgaria from 14 to 20 May, 1962. But a few days earlier, on May 5, Cuban Ambassador Faure Chomón definitely had returned from Moscow and its successor, Carlos Olivares, who was appointed twelve days later, still remained in Cuba without presenting his credentials to the Soviet government. The unexpected replacement of Chomón and his urgent return to Cuba coincided with the discovery and subsequent neutralization by Fidel Castro of a coup attempt to overthrow him. The failed coup had been coordinated by the Soviet ambassador in Havana Sergei Kudryavtsev, and seconded by several key members of the traditional pro-Soviet Cuban Communist Party.

Ambassadort Kudryavtsev, whom Barron in his book KGB called a "master of subversion," had another job besides being ambassador. His real job was to act as a senior Soviet KGB intelligence officer in Havana and prepare the conditions for a takeover by the Russians after Casto was deposed. But Castro discovered the plot and summarily expelled Kudryavtsev from Cuba along with a group of his embassy officials and KGB agents on 20 May 1962. However, as senior Soviet intelligence officers never act motu proprio, but strictly by-the-book, one can safely surmise that Kudryavtsev anti-Castro activities followed orders from the top Soviet leadership, most likely from Khrushchev himself.

In diplomatic language, when two countries respectively withdraw their ambassadors it means that the relations are at a very low point, usually close to a breakup. Why was precisely after a failed attempt to overthrow Fidel Castro and when relations between the two countries were so unfriendly, that Khrushchev got the wild idea of placing nuclear missiles in Cuba to protect Castro from an American attack? Was Khrushchev crazy?

Question 2. According to most American authors who have studied the crisis, a key element in its successful solution by President Kennedy was the important role played by Colonel Oleg Penkovsky, a colonel in Soviet military intelligence (GRU), who had been recruited by the CIA. It was a remarkable coincidence, these authors said, that a few months before the crisis Penkovsky had provided the CIA with a copy of the operating manual of the same type of missiles that the Soviets later emplaced in Cuba. Penkovsky was arrested by the Soviet authorities a day before the beginning crisis and allegedly sentenced to death and executed some months later. Even today the CIA recruitment of Penkovsky is considered one its greatest successes, which contributed greatly to restoring the lost prestige after the resounding failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion.

But top officials of the MI6, the British intelligence service, had a very different opinion about Penkovsky. To them, who were actually those who made the first contacts with the Soviet officer and then passed it on to the CIA, Penkovsky was the main element of a disinformation operation of the Soviet intelligence. Apart from the irregular way in which Penkovsky was recruited — Penkovsky tried on several occasions to be recruited by British intelligence, but they always refused because considered him an agent provocateur — there is strong evidence indicating that, from their first contact with the British, Soviet intelligence was aware of Penkovsky’s activities.

For this and other reasons, Peter Wright, the famous British spy hunter and former deputy director of MI5 (the British FBI), is convinced that Penkovsky was actually a key element in a Soviet disinformation operation.

So if, as it appears, Penkovsky actually worked for the Soviet intelligence services, or they had him under surveillance because from the beginning knew of his treachery, why they allowed Penkovsky to give the CIA such detailed information about exactly the type of missiles they were to deploy in Cuba, which later helped the CIA to identify them on Cuban soil?

Question 3. According to secret Soviet government documents, made available to researchers a few years ago, Soviet officers in Cuba had complete autonomy over the use of nuclear missiles, to the point where they can be fired at will without the express permission of Moscow. If true, this would have violated all procedures established by the Soviet army on the use of nuclear weapons.

The Soviets have always been very careful in the control of their nuclear weapons, to the point that, although the Army officers had control over rocket artillery missiles with conventional warheads, the nuclear warheads remained apart, controlled by special units of the KGB Spetsnaz. According to their standard operating procedure, the mating of nuclear warheads to missiles was made only following express orders strictly validated by the Soviet high command after having been authorized by the Prime Minister. These regulations were in place before the crisis and maintained thereafter. So, why the Soviets, as alleged in the case of the missiles in Cuba, so drastically violated strict security procedures established by the Soviet military doctrine on the use of nuclear weapons?

Question 4. In its issue of November 24, 1990, the French magazine Le Monde published parts of a secret speech that Fidel Castro addressed to the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party in 1968, in which he confessed his "immense love" for the nuclear missiles the Soviets had deployed on Cuban soil. It is known that, on October 22, at a critical moment of the crisis, Cuban army units assaulted and occupied for several hours a battery of Soviet missiles anti-aircraft missiles in the eastern part of Cuba, until they were outmanned by Soviet special units, with heavy casualties on both sides. That was the battery that shot down a U-2 during the crisis. The unusual fact was later published in the Washington Times by Daniel Ellsberg, then an intelligence analyst for the U.S. Defense Department, and later confirmed by Adrian Montoro, ex-director of Radio Havana Cuba, in an article he wrote for the New York Times.

Those who participated in the crisis on the U.S. side repeatedly mentioned Khrushchev's inexplicable folly of placing nuclear missiles in Cuba. All agreed that jus a single nuclear missile fired from Cuban territory to the United States would have caused a devastating U.S. military response directed not only against Cuba, but also against the Soviet Union. Why Khrushchev, who was no fool and knew perfectly well the extraordinary love that trigger happy Fidel felt for the nuclear missiles, placed so dangerously close to Castro the nuclear trigger that could have brought the total destruction of the Soviet Union?

Question 5. According to the official story, what finally convinced Castro, who at first was not all get to over the idea of accepting the missiles, was the certainty that President Kennedy was planning an attack on the island. The ultimate proof was submitted in the confidential notes of a conversation that Soviet journalist Alexei Adzhubei, Izvestia’s editor and Khrushchev’s son-in-law, had with President Kennedy a few days earlier in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts. According Adzhubei, Kennedy had brought up the subject of the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956, reminding him that at that time the United States had not intervened. This, according to the Soviets, was a clear warning that when the Americans invaded Cuba, the Soviets, in return, should refrain from intervening.

The problem with this theory is that Americans who were at the meeting have denied time and again that Kennedy had mentioned Hungary during the interview, let alone that the U.S. had plans for an invasion of Cuba. All information in this regard seems to confirm the veracity of the American version. Apparently the secret report was a lie specially designed by Adzhubei to convince Castro to accept rockets. Apparently Khrushchev was so eager to convince Castro into accepting the missiles that he went to the point of lying about an impending American attack that did not really exist. But, why?

Question 6. Available evidence shows that that Fidel Castro really wanted at the time was that the Soviet Union admitted Cuba to the Warsaw Pact or at least sign a separate military treaty with the Cuban government. But, if one is to believe Premier Khrushchev, the best solution to protect the government of Fidel Castro from a U.S. invasion was installing nuclear missile bases in Cuba.

According to secret Soviet documents brought to light a few years ago, when Americans discovered what looked like strategic missile bases on Cuban soil, they were ready to be fired, and nuclear warheads were already in the island, ready to be matted with the missiles. But, surprisingly, as the crisis went on, Khrushchev gave in to U.S. pressure and withdrew the missile bases from Cuba. In his memoirs, the Soviet leader claims that his decision was because he had received concrete evidence that Kennedy had decided to launch an attack on Cuba.

So, according to his logic, Khrushchev placed nuclear missiles in Cuba to deter or repel an American attack on the island, and then withdrew them when he was told that the U.S. was going to attack Cuba. Khrushchev’s strange behavior cannot be explained by cowardice or incompetence, because the Soviet military often demonstrated its courage and military domination of technology in the war against the Nazis. Why, then, Khrushchev withdrew the missiles at the precise moment when they could have been used for the purpose for which they were installed in Cuba? This explanation does not make head or tail.

Question 7. Most American authors who have studied the crisis believe that Khrushchev made a huge miscalculation when he placed nuclear missiles in Cuba, because instead of discouraging an American attack, actually encouraged it. But there are elements that suggest that, contrary to what these authors’ claim, Khrushchev did not commit any error in calculation.

In its National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) circulated in September 1962, just a few days before the crisis, CIA intelligence analysts, despite all the rumors that the Soviets were building strategic missile bases in Cuba, refused to consider this possibility. The main reason, experts and intelligence analysts from the CIA concluded, was that the Soviets had never transferred nuclear warheads beyond its borders. Another important reason was that Khrushchev had to be aware that the installation of nuclear missile bases in Cuba would trigger a devastating U.S. attack on the island. Soviet secret documents and references made in Khrushchev's own memoirs seem to confirm this view. If this is true, why Khrushchev ordered to build the missile bases in the knowledge that, far from discouraging, this will surely provoke a U.S. attack?

Question 8. One aspect that caught the attention of CIA’s intelligence analysts was that the Russians had not camouflaged the missile bases. In photos taken by U-2s, the bases are perfectly defined, without any camouflage concealing them. This is very strange, because the Soviets were experts at masking. Maskirovka always constituted an important aspect of Soviet military tactics, and camouflaging techniques always received special attention in the Soviet military schools. However, it was not until October 23, a day after Kennedy announced on television the discovery of missile bases on Cuban soil, that the Soviets began hastily attempting to camouflage them.

The fact that the Soviet officers used no camouflage to mask the missile bases caused deep unease among some senior Cuban officials, including Che Guevara. In a secret speech delivered months after to senior members of his “Communis” party,” Castro mentioned the unexplainable fact, and said that he thought the Soviets had done it on purpose. If, as it appears, this is true, why the Soviets wanted the Americans to discover the missile bases?

Question 9. The facilities that appeared to be strategic nuclear missile bases were surrounded by anti-aircraft rocket batteries (SAMs), whose primary purpose was to protect the bases against air raids, particularly from spy planes. But engineering students at the University of Havana, who had been assigned as advisers to the radar units of the SAM bases, observed how their radar screens showed the U-2 flying over the bases without Soviet officials making the minimum attempt to shoot them down.

This Soviet behavior angered the Cuban students, who did not understand the cause of the failure of the Soviets to shoot down the spy planes. This anger grew to the point that in some bases it reached almost to the levelt of a revolt. Only the presence of Che Guevara, called urgently to the SAM batteries, managed to calm them down. However, when he in turn informed of the situation on the bases to Castro, Guevara told him that he himself did not understand the Soviet’s behavior. Why the Soviets did not attempt to shoot down American spy planes with the very rocket batteries whose sole purpose was to bring down American spy planes?

Question 10. According to the official U.S. version of the facts, what sparked off the crisis were the photos taken by a U-2 spy plane flying over the western part of Cuba on October 14. The truth is that since August the U.S. intelligence services were certain that there were Soviet missile bases on Cuban soil. Between August 31 and October 10, Senator Kenneth Keating had made fourteen public statements and ten speeches in the Senate, denouncing the inaction of the Kennedy administration about the existence of missile bases in the western part of Cuba. Cuban refugees who were flying from Cuba to Florida by the hundreds, commented on the strange activities of the Russians in the western part of the island.

However, despite all the evidence pointed towards the west, Kennedy suddenly banned the U-2 to fly over the western part of Cuba, and flights were concentrated in the eastern region. It was not until the pressure of public opinion and Senator Keating became intolerable that Kennedy ordered to resume flights over the western part of the island. It was in this first flight after the restart of the flights that a U-2 plane photographed what looked like missile bases. Why Kennedy did not want the U-2s to discover the Soviet missiles in Cuba?

Question 11. According to the official U.S. version of the crisis, the high definition photographs taken by a U-2 plane on October 14 provided incontrovertible evidence of the presence of nuclear missiles in Cuba. But the fact remains that nobody actually saw the missiles, much less touched them. What we have seen are photos of some construction sites that CIA analysts thought were similar to what they believed were strategic missile sites appearing in photographs taken by U-2s flying over the Soviet Union.

However, in his book The Soviet Army, former Soviet officer Victor Suborov tells how, in the early sixties, nuclear rockets that paraded through Red Square were actually dummies. The Russians, experts in the art of maskirovka and desinfomatzia since the time of Potemkin, had built during the Second World War a giant factory west of the Ural mountains exclusively dedicated to the manufacture of all kinds of war material of props, from inflatable rubber tanks to wooden MiGs and missile dummies.

CIA subsequently admitted that it had no agents in the field that might have physically verified the existence of the strategic nuclear missiles on Cuban soil. When the Soviets were shipping back to the Soviet Union what they claimed were strategic nuclear missiles, Kennedy had an excellent opportunity to order the Navy to board the ships and physically verify the withdrawal of the missiles, but he did not. Why Kennedy decided not to verify the existence of the missiles and their actual withdrawing from Cuba?

Furthermore, the U-2 pictures, which allegedly provided incontrovertible proof of the existence of nuclear missiles on Cuban soil, have been published in high resolution and are available on the web.[1] Surprisingly, such photos only show long objects covered with tarps and a few concrete bunkers which allegedly contained the nuclear warheads. But the vaunted nuclear missiles do not appear anywhere. Why most books and articles about the crisis continue to maintain the theory that the U-2 pictures provided incontrovertible proof that there were nuclear missiles on Cuban soil in 1962?

Question 12. According to documents declassified after the fall of the Soviet Union and confessions of some Soviet officers who participated in the operation, when the missiles were discovered by the U-2s, their nuclear warheads were already in Cuba, and were returned to the Soviet Union together with the missiles. However, all documents of the crisis Americans and one repeated over time, but assumed that the nuclear warheads were on Cuban soil, this was never proved. However, as Kennedy refused to authorize offshore verification, the presence of nuclear warheads on the Soviet ships was never confirmed.

But there is something even more important. From the beginning of the sixties the U.S. had the technology for the remote detection of gamma radiation from nuclear warheads. By this time they had installed in the Dardanelles some powerful equipment that can detect radiation, and the presence of nuclear warheads on Soviet submarines sailing through the Strait. However, none of the official documents produced during the crisis has brought information that these teams had registered radiation from Soviet ships crossing the Strait supposedly carrying nuclear warheads to Cuba.

Many of the photos taken during the crisis show U.S. Navy aircraft flying over Soviet ships only a few feet above the masts. Presumably, some of these aircraft carried equipment capable of detecting gamma radiation. But no information whatsoever has been offered about detecting radiation from nuclear warheads on the ships allegedly carrying missiles and nuclear warheads back to the Soviet Union. So, if the Soviets really had nuclear warheads in Cuba, why nobody ever detected radiation from these?

More Questions Than Answers

Some professional disinformation specialists have conspired to make us believe that, with regard to the missile crisis, all has been said and explained. The first book about the missile crisis was written by CFR agent Elie Abel. Then Graham T. Ellison (CFR), wrote Essence of Decision, a book that most people still consider the ultimate analysis of the decision making process during the crisis.

According to Allison, the Soviet failure to camouflage the missiles may have had a simple answer: stupid bureaucratic procedures in the Soviet Army. Missile sites had never been camouflaged in the Soviet Union, so the construction crews at the sites did what they usually do: build the missile sites according to the installation manuals because somebody forgot to retrain them before they went to work on this mission.

But, knowing the operational procedures of the Soviet Army this explanation seems a bit too simplistic to be credible. First of all, the officers and enlisted men assigned to the job of missile emplacement are normally not common soldiers, but specially trained personnel. Secondly, even with the existence of stupid bureaucratic procedures common to all armies, it is difficult to believe that they had made such a gross mistake, particularly if they were trying to place the missiles in Cuba using deception and stealth as the American official version claimed. Finally, Allison contradicts himself when, just two paragraphs before advancing his theory, he mentions that “The clandestine manner in which the missiles were shipped, unloaded, and transported to construction sites reveals the hand of Soviet intelligence agencies. Secrecy is their standard operating procedure.”

Talking to journalists at a news conference on February 1963, CFR agent Robert McNamara mentioned the so-called “photographic gap” that occurred between September 5 and October 14. According to McNamara, the U-2 missions during that period “didn’t relate” to the areas where the Russian missiles were eventually found. That was short of a tacit admission that the CIA had failed to photograph the western half of the Island — the area where all evidence pointed that the missiles were most likely to be — during the six weeks preceding the flight that allegedly discovered the long-range missiles.

Those who needed to know had been assured that any missile emplacements would have been discovered by the U-2 reconnaissance flights over Cuba. But they were not told that these flights were bypassing the important areas allegedly to avoid antiaircraft batteries or SAMs already installed by the Soviets. But, after being ordered to fly over the suspect areas in Cuba, early in October the U-2 flights were inexplicably canceled.

After the crisis, the White House justified this decision by saying that Hurricane Ella had prevented air surveillance, but we know that Ella did not form until October 16. Even before the crisis was over, suspicions arise that the U-2 flights over Cuba had not been scheduled in an optimal manner. Later, in early 1963, the possibility of a “photographic gap” in U-2 coverage of Cuba was examined in detail by the Stennis Committee, but the charges were rejected as “unfounded.” However, the Stennis Report curiously ignored the critical questions of the U-2 paths over the Island between September 5 and October 24, merely observing that these flights “completed the coverage of those areas of Cuba which had been spotlighted as required early attention.” Yet, during cross examination by Congressmen Minshall and Ford in early February, 1963, Defense Secretary McNamara (CFR) admitted to the “photographic gap” of some 38 days in U-2 coverage of western Cuba.

Though in his book Collision Course author Henry Pachter makes no reference to the “photographic gap,” he somewhat admits its existence in references to vague hints by administration sources that, because of the threat of Soviet SAM antiarcraft missiles in Cuba, reconnaissance flights during September had been limited to “side ways approaches.” Roger Hilsman’s 1964 article on the missile crisis gives no further explanation or consequences of the “photographic gap.”

Even more significantly, in his now classic study of the alleged failures in national intelligence estimates, author Klaus Knorr (CFR) didn’t mention the “photographic gap” or even the role played by the U-2 in the intelligence gathering during the crisis. Some years later Theodor Sorensen (CFR) remarked that U-2 incidents elsewhere in the world led to a “high-lever reexamination of that airplane’s use” over Cuba and “some delay in flights,” but gave no additional information. Later in 1965 Roberta Wohlstetter (CFR) suggested that the Kennedy administration knew the Soviets had operations SAM sites in western Cuba, so the may have been extremely cautious in scheduling U-2 flights over the Island for fear of losing a plane.

Additional disclosures concerning a change in policy concerning U-2 flights over Cuba were made by Elie Abel (CFR) and Roger Hilsman. Not even Graham T. Allison (CFR) gave a clear explanation for the failure of U.S. intelligence, due to a “photographic gap,” to discover the missiles earlier.

Therefore, the fact remains that on September 10 a high level decision was made and express orders were given, prohibiting direct overflights of western Cuba —the part of the Island where all evidence pointed to the presence of strategic missile sites. This unexplainable decision led to the now famous “photographic gap.”

Many years later, CIA photo interpreter Dino Brugioni offered a much more credible explanation: It was not the hurricane Ella that kept the U-2 from flying over the western part of Cuba, “but rather the dereliction, bumbling, and intransigence of [Secretary of State Dean] Rusk (CFR) and [Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs McGeorge] Bundy (CFR).” “Because of Bundy’s and Rusk’s stalling actions, there had been no U-2 photos of Cuba for over two weeks.”

As expected, Foreign Affairs, the CFR conspirators’ main disinformation organ, has just published on its web site some articles basically centered on the “lessons” of the Cuban missile crisis and its applicability to future crises. Now, given the fact that the “lessons” are based on the conspirators’ false narrative of the events, one have to conclude that these “lessons” are wrong.

Nevertheless, the fact remains that, 50 years after, none of the above questions I have asked above have been satisfactorily answered. Moreover, I believe that a coherent answer to these questions will not be provided by the CFR professional disinfomers because the answers will show us a very different picture than the one they are still trying hard to make us believe.

Finally, a logical question can come to mind: Why these professional disinformers, most of them CFR members, spend so much time and effort muddying the historical waters? The answer is relatively simple: Because, true to the Orwellian principle that he who controls the past controls the present and the future, giving credibility to false past fears like the Cold War, the CFR disinformers lend credence to present false fears like the War on terror.
The questions I have posed in this article are fully answered in my book The Nuclear Deception: Nikita Khrushchev and the Cuban Missile Crisis.


[1] See, The ever lying Wikipedia, has published a U-2 photo claiming that “This U-2 reconnaissance photo showed concrete evidence of missile assembly in Cuba. Shown here are missile transporters and missile-ready tents where fueling and maintenance took place,” ( The photo, however, actually shows no concrete evidence of strategic nuclear missiles on Cuban soil. Also, how did they know that fueling and maintenance of the missiles took place under the tents? Chi lo sa!


Servando Gonzalez, a Cuban-born American writer, semiologist and intelligence analyst, was an officer in the Cuban army during the missile crisis. He has written books, essays and articles on Latin American history, intelligence, espionage, and semiotics. Servando is the author of Historia herética de la revolución fidelista, The Secret Fidel Castro, The Nuclear Deception: Nikita Khrushchev and the Cuban Missile Crisis and La madre de todas las conspiraciones, all available at

He also hosted the documentaries Treason in America: The Council on Foreign Relations and Partners in Treason: The CFR-CIA-Castro Connection, produced by Xzault Media Group of San Leandro, California, both available at the author's site at

His book, Psychological Warfare and the New World Order: The Secret War Against the American People appeared in late 2010 and is available at Or download a .pdf copy of the book you can read on your computer or i-Pad. His book, OBAMANIA: The New Puppet and His Masters, is available at

Servando's new book (in Spanish) La CIA, Fidel Castro, el Bogotazo y el Nuevo Orden Mundial, just appeared, and is available at and other bookstores online. He is already working on his next book, The Council on Foreign Relations and the Betrayal of the American People: A Chronology of Treason, which he plans to have ready by early next year.




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