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
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
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
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
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 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
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.
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
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.
 See, http://www.ourdocuments.gov/doc.php?flash=true&doc=94.
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
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 Amazon.com.
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 http://www.servandogonzalez.org.
His book, Psychological Warfare and the New World Order: The
Secret War Against the American People appeared in late 2010
and is available at Amazon.com.
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 Amazon.com.
Servando's new book (in Spanish) La CIA,
Fidel Castro, el Bogotazo y el Nuevo Orden Mundial, just
appeared, and is available at Amazon.com
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.