EURO-CUBA NEWS: Missile Crisis Special (2) - 14/10/02
Euro-Cuba News is an email magazine that has been published from London since  November 1999. It aims to provide up to the minute coverage of news from Cuba, on Cuba's international relations and on solidarity actions with Cuba from around the world. This service is free and welcomes input from its readers including comment, articles and solidarity news. Euro-Cuba News is not affiliated to any other organisation.  
Paul Davidson (Editor)
1) More Revealed on Cuban Missile Crisis - Associated Press
2) 40 years after - new sources on the Cuban Missile Crisis, October 1962: - Art Heitzer
3) For Cubans, missile crisis was a time of courage - Allentown Morning Call
5) Cuba Missile Crisis Draws 'Lessons' - Associated Press
6) Castro Blames Khrushchev for Crisis - Associated Press
7) Missile Crisis Cited to Make Opposite Points - New York Times


More Revealed on Cuban Missile Crisis

Associated Press - By ANITA SNOW

HAVANA (AP) - Key actors in the 1962 Cuban missile crisis meeting here Saturday have learned that fast-moving events 40 years ago nearly spun out of control and brought them closer to nuclear disaster than they ever imagined.

Studying newly declassified documents at a conference on the crisis, Cuban, American and Russian protagonists were told the most dangerous day of all was Oct. 27, 1962 - when a U.S. Navy destroyer dropping depth charges off the Cuban coast almost accidentally hit the hull of a Soviet submarine carrying a nuclear warhead.

The U.S. military ``did not have a clue that the submarine had a nuclear weapon on board,'' Thomas Blanton, director of the National Security Archives, told reporters Friday night.

The nonprofit archive at George Washington University collected many of the documents for study during the three-day conference on the crisis that started Friday.

The depth charges ``exploded right next to the hull,'' Vadim Orlov, the submarine's signals intelligence officer, said in a written account of the incident. ``It felt like you were sitting in a metal barrel, which somebody is constantly blasting with a sledgehammer.''

At first, submarine crew members considered using the nuclear weapon, thinking that war had erupted, Orlov wrote in his account. But they ultimately surfaced, showing themselves to their American pursuers and defusing the tension.

Another document showed that U.S. intelligence officials had photographed only 33 of the 42 medium-range missiles in Cuba that the Americans later discovered were there at the time. Intelligence officials also never found any nuclear warheads, which they later learned had been kept on the island.

The historic papers underscored the danger of a nuclear attack - either accidental or deliberate - that existed during those tense October days.

``A real war will begin, in which millions of Americans and Russians will die,'' Anatoly Dobrynin, the Soviet ambassador to the United States, quoted then-U.S. Attorney General Robert Kennedy as telling him in a top secret memo, now declassified, on Oct. 27, 1962.

``The situation may get out of control, with irreversible consequences,'' Robert Kennedy warned after an American spy plane was shot down over Cuba and President Kennedy was pressured to order pilots to return fire if fired upon.

Cuban President Fidel Castro participated in the conference's closed door sessions Friday and Saturday, as did former Defense Secretary Robert McNamara and other key advisers from the Kennedy administration.

As events began spinning out of control in late October 1962, Castro began expecting a U.S. airstrike on Soviet facilities on the island and was prepared to shoot down American combat aircraft if they invaded Cuba, according to a top secret military directive to Gen. Issa A. Pliyev, head of Soviet forces in Havana.

The Soviets were prepared as well.

``In case of a strike on our facilities by American aircraft it has been decided to use all available air defense forces,'' the directive said.

A portion of the documents, made available to The Associated Press in Washington, demonstrate that the crisis did not end on Oct. 29, 1962, with the Soviet Union's agreement to remove the offensive weapons, as was widely believed.

Weeks after the Soviet Union agreed to pull the missiles from Cuba, Khrushchev worried that an ``irrational'' Castro would renew tensions with the United States - and perhaps provoke war.

Cuba ``wants practically to drag us behind it with a leash, and wants to pull us into a war with America by its actions,'' Khrushchev said in a Nov. 16, 1962, letter to diplomatic aides in Cuba.

During conference sessions on Friday, participants also looked at American covert actions following the disastrous CIA-backed invasion of Cuba's Bay of Pigs in April 1961 and how they intensified Cuban fears of a U.S. military attack.

The missile crisis began in mid-October 1962 when President Kennedy learned that Cuba had Soviet nuclear missiles capable of reaching the United States. The crisis was defused two weeks later when the Soviet Union agreed to remove the missiles.

Former Kennedy aides Arthur Schlesinger Jr., Richard Goodwin and Ted Sorensen are attending the conference, as well as former CIA analyst Dino Brugioni, who interpreted American spy photos of Soviet missiles in Cuba.

40 years after - new sources on the Cuban Missile Crisis, October 1962:
Art Heitzer
Top officials involved in the October 1962 Cuban Missile from the US, Cuba, and former Soviet Union, including from the Kennedy administration, have gathered in Havana 40 years later to discuss the events when the world teetered on the brink of nuclear war. At a similar conference in Cuba 10 years ago, former US Secty. of Defense Robt. McNamera indicated that while tens of thousands of US troops were on full alert and on the verge of being sent to implement the invasion recommendations by top US military leaders  -- he & other US officials had not known that the small Soviet garrisons in Cuba were already armed with battlefield nuclear weapons and had authority to use them in defense against such an attack. This year, we now learn that four Soviet submarines near Cuba were also nuclear armed, and that a US destroyer was meanwhile dropping "warning" depth charges against at least one of them -- which was on the verge of launching its weapon in defense. Per US military doctrine at the time, either of these incidents would have resulted in a nuclear attack on the USSR, and presumably a similar Soviet attack in return.  
This conference has again been coordinated by Cuba with the renowned National Security Archive, from George Washington University in Washington, D.C. Important documentation has been newly released, including as available from the sources below.
The coverage of these events in the US frequently fails to include much recognition of the attacks and threats against directed against Cuba during this period, including sabotage & assassination attempts, such as under Operation Mongoose. Much of this is included in Jane Franklin's posting, The Cuban Missile Crisis: An In-Depth Chronology,  at:
Substantial new information on the October crisis, including some primary documentation, is being posted daily by the National Security Archive. at:
Also on that site is the very sobering documentation on the 1962 US Jt. Chiefs of Staff recommendation re Cuba, which is also pertinent to today's debate today about terrorism and the possible unilateral use of power against alleged "rogue states" (often a category listed as including Cuba).  The Jt. Chiefs passed on their support for staging actual and contrived terrorism against US personnel -- in order to set the stage for a US invasion of Cuba; see: The actual Jt. Chiefs memo is at:
Any comments or additions are welcome.

Art Heitzer
Law Offices of Arthur Heitzer
606 W. Wisconsin Ave  Suite 1706
Milwaukee, WI  53203
414-273-1040 ext.12
For Cubans, missile crisis was a time of courage
Allentown Morning Call - By Matthew Brown - October 11, 2002

It was 40 years ago that world teetered on nuclear armageddon.

SAN CRISTOBAL, Cuba | -- Surprised by the rumble of the flatbed trucks, Radem Cruz Soto joined neighbors streaming out of their one- and two-story concrete homes in this farming community to throng the main road for a closer look.

The transports carried no insignias; the pink-faced young men wore ordinary clothes. But when he saw the missiles, Cruz Soto understood. The 19-year-old economics student swelled with pride — and a feeling of relief.

Eighteen months earlier, a force of exiles organized, armed and trained by the United States had landed at Playa Giron, a stretch of beach at the mouth of the Bay of Pigs, in an attempt to wrest the Caribbean nation from the socialist revolution of Fidel Castro.

The attack was a disaster, but U.S.-backed insurgents continued to hold the Sierra del Escambray mountains around the southern port city of Trinidad in Sancti Spiritus province. Officials in Havana saw the work of the CIA in warehouse fires, factory explosions and plots on Castro's life. Cubans braced for a larger invasion, this time by U.S. troops.

But with the unannounced delivery of the Soviet R-12 and R-14 medium-range ballistic missiles, it seemed to Cruz Soto that long-awaited help finally had arrived. In nuclear weapons capable of striking most cities in the continental United States, he believed, Cuba now had the deterrent it needed to pursue its new brand of socialism free of interference by the colossus to the north.

''We needed a line of defense,'' remembers Cruz Soto, now 59. ''To me, the missiles were fundamental.''

Forty years ago this coming Monday, spy plane photographs of Soviet base construction here at the foot of the Cordillera de Guaniguanico mountains would trigger the most dangerous confrontation of the Cold War.

But while Americans remember the Cuban missile crisis as a moment when the world seemed to teeter on the edge of nuclear armageddon, to Cubans it was a time of courage and defiance, a brief instance when the little country had the strength to stand up to its overwhelming adversary.

''A war would have been horrible,'' says Salvador Massip Soto, who was a member of the Cuban Air Force in October 1962. ''But what I remember most, the thing that still calls my attention, is that there was no fear.''

Indeed, Cubans say it wasn't until Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev agreed to take the missiles back — a deal Castro learned about through news reports — that they felt vulnerable.

''Many eyes of Cuban and Soviet men who had been willing to give their lives with sublime dignity filled with tears when the surprising, sudden and practically unconditional decision to withdraw the arms was announced,'' a bitter Castro wrote to Khrushchev days after the agreement. Perhaps you are unaware the extent to which the Cuban people had prepared themselves to fulfill their duty to their country and to humanity.''

'Awaiting an invasion'

On the leafy grounds of the Museo de la Revolucion in Old Havana lies the battered turbine of the U-2 piloted by Maj. Rudolf Anderson during the crisis, and the Soviet missile launcher used to shoot it down. Inside the former presidential palace, the state-run museum displays a map of the naval blockade ordered by President John F. Kennedy and a photo of anti-aircraft artillery brigades defending the storied stretch of Havana seafront called the Malec.

These artifacts of what Cubans call ''la Crisis de Octubre'' are presented as part of a larger narrative, one also represented by newspaper headlines describing U.S. sanctions against Cuba and the tank commanded by Castro to defend the Bay of Pigs.

''The first thing to understand is that the Crisis of October didn't begin in October,'' says senior guide Elio Pena Martinez, the museum's resident expert on the era. Cubans say it was the failed April 1961 landing at Playa Giron that led Castro to seek Soviet protection.

''We were awaiting an invasion,'' says Massip Soto, who was operations chief for a helicopter squadron at the Baracoa Air Base near Havana. Running his fingers over a map, he outlines what his commanders believed would be the U.S. battle plan.

''The Marines would land here, between Mariel and Santa Fe and here, in the Santa Cruz area,'' he says, tapping stretches of coastline on either side of the capital. ''These are very deep ports, so they would be good for landing. The 82nd Airborne, and maybe the 101st, would drop in here'' — a broad expanse south of Havana — ''to cut off the city.''

Pena Martinez lived in Havana at the time.

''We never knew when it would come,'' he says. ''My brother and I would not leave the house without taking the rifle.''

The Cuban concerns were not unfounded. The United States had developed plans to invade the island. The CIA was devising plots to assassinate Castro. Operation Mongoose, authorized by Kennedy in November 1961, combined diplomatic pressure, economic sanctions and military threats with industrial sabotage and support for insurgents.

When Castro asked for conventional missiles to defend Cuba, Khrushchev saw an opportunity.

In the years since World War II, the United States had surrounded the Soviet Union with hundreds of nuclear warheads. The Soviets, meanwhile, had no more than 50 weapons capable of striking the United States. Missile bases 90 miles from Florida could even the strategic balance.

Khrushchev proposed sending nuclear missiles to the island. Castro agreed to take them. The first arms arrived in mid-September.

'Our inevitable weapons'

In San Cristobal, police cleared the Avenida Maceo in advance of the caravan. The Soviet soldiers, their sunburned faces glistening in the tropical heat, smiled and waved to their Cuban companions.

After years of tension with the stronger United States, the missiles brought Cubans a sense of relief.

''It was a mechanism of security,'' says Massip Soto. ''Everyone felt more secure. Perhaps now we would have better understood all of the political implications.''

From the beginning, Cuba and the Soviet Union differed over whether to publicize the acquisition. Castro favored announcing a mutual defense pact; Khrushchev told him they should wait until the arms were assembled and present their presence to Kennedy as a fait accompli.

In a secret 1968 speech to the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party, published this month in ''Sad and Luminous Days'' by James G. Blight and Phillip Brenner, Castro called Khrushchev's approach ''the first weakness.''

''Cuba is a sovereign, independent country, and has a right to own the weapons that it deems necessary, and the U.S.S.R. to send them there, in the same light that the United States has felt it has the right to make agreements with dozens of countries, and send them the weapons as that they see fit, without the Soviet Union considering it had the right to intercede,'' he said. ''From the very beginning it was a capitulation, an erosion of our sovereignty.''

Soviet troops setting up bases all over the island, even in civilian clothes, proved difficult to hide.

''It was a secret that everyone knew,'' Massip Soto says.

Everyone except the Americans. At the United Nations on Oct. 8, 1962, then Cuban President Osvaldo Dortico told the General Assembly, ''I repeat we have sufficient means with which to defend ourselves; we have indeed our inevitable weapons, the weapons which we would have preferred not to acquire and which we do not wish to employ.''

The U.S. delegation failed to catch the hint. It wasn't until a week later, on Oct. 15, that CIA analysts examining photographs taken the day before by U-2 pilot Maj. Richard Heyser of the San Cristobal site discovered the missiles.

'There was no panic'

Kennedy ordered the blockade, mobilized hundreds of thousands of troops for an invasion, and demanded that Khrushchev remove the missiles.

Eleven years old at the time, Rafael Saumell Muoz remembers images of Castro and Kennedy flickering across the family television screen. He recalls shortages of milk, butter, rice and beans during the crisis, and seeing U.S. planes flying low over the island. Looking out over the Malec from his father's high-rise apartment in Havana, he says, he could see the line of U.S. ships stretching across the horizon.

''Obviously we were very aware of retaliation the Americans were ready to take against Cubans,'' Saumell Muoz says. ''People were concerned about dying, and losing everything. But I want to stress this point. I don't remember that my family ever lost their sense of humor. The adults kept their sense of hope.''

Other Cubans share similar memories. ''There was no terror. There was no panic,'' Massip Soto says.

But with Soviet ships approaching the blockade, Kennedy preparing for action, and Castro deploying all of Cuba's military to defend the island, not everyone was calm.

'Humiliation and surrender'

As Earth edged toward global thermonuclear war, the United States and the Soviet Union opened negotiations. Castro was left out of the back-channel discussions.

''We were a little ignored by the big ones,'' Massip Soto says. ''The Soviet Union marginalized Cuba. They gave them much without consulting us.''

Kennedy's pledge not to invade the island would provide little comfort. Khrushchev's agreement to remove the missiles would strain relations between Havana and Moscow for years.

While the rest of the world gasped its relief, Cuba felt ignored, betrayed and abandoned.

''Cuba did not want to live at the expense of humiliation and surrender; for that, you do not have to be a revolution-ary,'' Castro told Central Committee members in his secret speech.

Forty years after the crisis, Pena Martinez still sees injustice in the U.S. focus on Cuba.

''There is no paper, no document that says only the great powers have a right to have nuclear weapons,'' the museum guide says. ''The United States doesn't attack Russia. The United States doesn't attack China. The large ones respect each other. The little ones fall by the wayside.

''The only way to avoid war is to arm yourself. We would have preferred to die fighting than to give up the missiles.''


National Security Archive Update, October 10, 2002
For more information, contact: Thomas S. Blanton or Peter Kornbluh 011 537 880 1845

HAVANA, Cuba, 10 October 2002 - Senior surviving veterans of the Cuban missile crisis arrived today in Havana for a historic 40th anniversary conference co-organized by the National Security Archive at George Washington University.  At an airport arrival ceremony, Cuban vice president Jose Ramon Fernandez greeted former US secretary of defense Robert McNamara, JFK speechwriter and counsel Theodore Sorensen, JFK aide and Pulitzer-Prize-winning historian Arthur Schlesinger Jr., Gen. William Y. Smith (USAF), JFK aide Richard Goodwin, CIA analyst Dino Brugioni, and other US veterans and scholars.  Also attending the conference as honored observers are several members of the Kennedy family spanning three generations.  Earlier this week, a distinguished delegation of Russian veterans arrived in Havana from Moscow, including former deputy foreign minister Georgy Kornienko, missile deployment planner Gen. Anatoly Gribkov, former defense minister Dmitry Yazov, and KGB officer Nikolai Leonov. 
This historic conference - titled "La Crisis de Octubre: una vision politica 40 anos despues" - begins at 10 a.m. on Friday, October 11, and will feature four panels: (1) from the Bay of Pigs to the missiles, (2) the missiles and the October crisis, (3) the November crisis and aftermath, (4) lessons from the crisis. 
At the center of discussions will be thousands of pages of newly declassified documents - from the Cuban government itself, from the CIA, the Pentagon and the White House, from the Soviet Foreign Ministry and the Politburo, and from Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Brazil, Canada, Great Britain, and Mexico - providing for the first time the Cuban and multi-national perspectives on a crisis previously seen only in superpower terms. 
Archive director Thomas Blanton said, "The conference room will echo with words that resonate today, such as 'intelligence failure,' 'pre-emptive strike,' and 'weapons of mass destruction. 
On Sunday, October 13, conferees will visit the last surviving structure from the Soviet deployment in 1962, a nuclear warhead bunker at the San Cristobal missile site west of Havana. 
On Monday, October 14, participants will depart Havana.  On this day in 1962, a high-altitude U-2 spy plane took the first photographs of the Soviet medium-range ballistic missiles in Cuba - at San Cristobal. 
The conference will meet at the Palacio de Convenciones in Havana, Cuba.  Most participants will be housed at the Hotel Palco next door.  Phone: 011-53-7-337235.  Fax: 011-53-7-337236. 
The conference room itself is closed to the press, except for the opening ceremony at 10 a.m. on October 11; but the organizers will hold daily press briefings each afternoon summarizing the discussion and releasing key documents addressed that day.  The visit to the missile site is open to the media. 
The National Security Archive co-organized with Cuban institutions the highly successful 40th anniversary Bay of Pigs conference last year in Havana; this year, the Archive is also working with Brown University's Watson Institute. Peter Kornbluh directs the Archive's Cuba project.

*        *        *        *        *      *        *        *       *        *        *        *


       * Robert S. McNamara US Secretary of Defense (1961- 1968) and member of the ExComm during the crisis. Later President of the World Bank.
       * Theodore C. Sorensen Counsel to JFK in 1962, chief speechwriter, and participant in the ExComm. For 11 years was policy adviser, legal counsel and speechwriter to Senator and President Kennedy.
       * Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. Aide to JFK in 1962, specializing in Latin America. Later Pulitzer Prize winning historian of JFK and RFK.
       * William Y. Smith Air Force Major and aide to General Maxwell Taylor at the White House and the JCS in 1962. Later chief of staff, SHAPE ; Deputy Commander U.S. EUCOM; four star general.
       * Richard Goodwin Special Assistant to JFK and later Deputy Assistant Secretary for Inter-American affairs at the State Department.
       * Dino A. Brugioni Career CIA officer in charge of "all-source" intelligence and briefing preparation at the National Photographic Interpretation Center in 1962.
       * Raymond L. Garthoff Career CIA and State Department analyst, serving as State's Special Assistant for Soviet Bloc Politico-Military Affairs in 1962. Later US Ambassador to Bulgaria and Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution.
       * Captain John Peterson Watch officer on the USS Beale, the US Navy destroyer that chased and surfaced a Soviet submarine on October 27, 1962. A career anti-submarine warfare and sonar specialist, he retired in 1980.
       * Captain William B. Ecker A US Navy reconnaissance commander, he flew the first low-level flight confirming the missiles in Cuba on October 23rd, 1962, and many additional overflights of Cuba.
       * Wayne Smith U.S. Embassy political officer in Havana from 1958 until the closing of the Embassy in January 1961. After the Bay of Pigs, assistant to the State Department's assistant secretary for Latin America, Adolf Berle; later, director for Cuban affairs in the State Department.

       * Georgy Markovich Kornienko Soviet attaché at the USSR Embassy in Washington in 1962. Later head of the US Desk of the Foreign Ministry and First Deputy Foreign Minister under Gromyko.
       * Anatoly I. Gribkov Head of the Operations Department of the USSR General Staff in 1962 and a main planner of Operation Anadyr. Official representative of the Defense Ministry in Cuba (Oct.- Nov. 1962). Later Chief of Staff, Warsaw Pact.
       * Dmitry Timofeevich Yazov Colonel and Commander of the special motorized rifle regiment Olgin in Cuba in 1962. Later Marshal of the Soviet Union and Minister of Defense (1987-1991).
       * Nikolai Sergeevich Leonov Senior officer of the First Directorate of the KGB. KGB resident in Nicaragua in 1962. Interpreter for Castro during May 1963 visit to USSR.

       * Leonid Ivanovich Sannikov Senior Lieutenant and Political Officer of the missile regiment which first deployed the R-12 in Cuba in 1962.
       * Igor Alexandrovich Amosov Soviet military attaché in Cuba 1966-71. Currently at the Institute of Military History (Moscow) and General Secretary for the Russian Commission of Military History.
       * Vadim Orlov Intelligence officer on Submarine B-59 at the quarantine line during the crisis.
       * Sergo Anastasovich Mikoyan Executive Secretary to his father, First Deputy Premier Anastas I. Mikoyan on trip to Cuba after the crisis. Senior Research Fellow, Institute of Latin America, Academy of Sciences of the Russian Federation and editor of journal on Latin America.

Cuba Missile Crisis Draws 'Lessons'
Associated Press

HAVANA (AP) - American protagonists during the Cuban missile crisis said Thursday they hoped a reflection on events 40 years ago would help clarify how the world was nearly plunged into nuclear war.

``How did it happen? How close did we come to nuclear war? Why didn't nuclear war start? What lessons can be drawn to reduce the risk of nuclear war?'' Robert McNamara, Defense Secretary under President John F. Kennedy, said after arriving. ``That's why I'm here.''

Speaking on the eve of a three-day conference involving key American, Cuban and Russian actors in the crisis, McNamara said he was stunned at a similar gathering in Havana a decade ago when he learned how many Soviet missiles had been kept in Cuba.

For decades, former American officials didn't know ``you had 162 nuclear warheads on your soil ... putting 90 million Americans at risk,'' McNamara said.

``When I asked President (Fidel) Castro what would have happened if we had attacked, he said: 'We would have disappeared,''' McNamara said.

The former defense secretary refused to draw parallels between the missile crisis and President Bush's current calls for a pre-emptive strike on Iraq, saying he could not second-guess a sitting U.S. leader.

As for the naval quarantine he personally recommended be placed around the island on Oct. 16, 1962, after the missiles were discovered, McNamara said: ``a quarantine is the opposite of a pre-emptive action.''

Former Kennedy aides Arthur Schlesinger Jr., Richard Goodwin and Ted Sorenson are also attending. Also there is ex-CIA analyst Dino Brugioni, who analyzed the now famous American spy photos of Soviet missiles in Cuba.

Among Cuban actors in that historic episode who are expected to participate are 76-year-old Castro, then a young revolutionary leader in power for just three years. Vice President Jose Ramon Fernandez, a key organizer of the conference and a military commander at the time of the crisis, will also attend.

For two days, the men who made critical decisions during those nerve-racking days will study newly declassified documents with officials from the National Security Archive in Washington, which brought much of the historic paperwork to light.

``Together we will make a new history out of an old history full of conflict that brought the world to the brink of nuclear war,'' said Thomas Blanton, director of the international research institute at George Washington University. ``This is a major act of diplomacy ... it is a display of faith in dialogue.

The conference will feature meetings in Havana on Friday and Saturday. The group will travel on Sunday to sites related to the crisis, including a missile silo in the western province of Pinar del Rio.

The crisis erupted in mid-October 1962 when Kennedy learned that in Cuba there were Soviet nuclear warheads capable of reaching American shores just 90 miles to the north. It was defused two weeks later when Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev agreed to remove the missiles from the island.

In honor of the late American president, several Kennedy family members are attending the conference. They include Ethel Kennedy, widow of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, the president's brother who was attorney general and a key player in the crisis.

Castro Blames Khrushchev for Crisis
Associated Press - By ANITA SNOW

HAVANA (AP) - President Fidel Castro said on the eve of the 40th anniversary of the Cuban missile crisis that Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev helped create the conflict by misleading President Kennedy - indicating that there were no nuclear weapons on the communist island.

Castro's comments, which came in an interview with ABC's ``20/20'' program, coincided with a conference here bringing together Cubans and Americans who played roles during the real life Cold War drama. ABC, which will broadcast the interview Friday, made the transcript public Wednesday.

``He believed what Khrushchev told him,'' Castro said during the interview, conducted this week in Havana. ``Therefore, Kennedy was misled. That was a very big mistake on the part of Khrushchev ... one that we opposed vehemently.''

The crisis began in mid-October 1962 as Kennedy became convinced that there were Soviet nuclear warheads on the island just 90 miles south of theFlorida coast. Their discovery brought the world to the edge of nuclear  conflict.

As President Bush musters support to oust Saddam Hussein, former members of the Kennedy administration are heading to the Cuba conference to revisit that earlier standoff.

Former Defense Secretary Robert McNamara and former special aide Arthur Schlesinger Jr. are among those expected at the conference, aimed at showing a lesser known view of the crisis: Cuba's. Castro is also expected.

In his ABC interview with Barbara Walters, Castro said his country did not agree to accept the missiles out of fear, and ``we would have rather not had them in order to preserve the prestige'' of Cuba.

He also said officials on the communist-run island did not like being considered ``the Soviet base in the Caribbean.''

Still, Castro indicated respect for Khrushchev and his support of the Cuban revolution.

``Even though Nikita was a bold man, he was a courageous man ... and I can make criticisms of him ... of the mistakes he made. I have reflected a lot on that,'' Castro said. But misleading Kennedy, the Cuban president said, ``was his main ... flaw.''

The crisis, marking the Cold War's tensest moments, was defused when Khrushchev agreed to remove the missiles from Cuba.

Cuban Vice President Jose Ramon Fernandez, an organizer of the conference, was an army commander when Castro put 400,000 soldiers in position to repel a possible invasion of the island.

As Kennedy's words clicked onto the paper rolling off the teletype machine at military headquarters Oct. 22, 1962, Fernandez knew the Americans meant business.

``I had the impression that war was probable,'' recalled the 79-year-old Fernandez, now a vice president in Castro's government. ``I was also preparing myself to die, all the while hoping that I would stay alive.''

Kennedy's message to the United States and the world was direct.

``Within the past week, unmistakable evidence has established the fact that a series of offensive missiles is now in preparation on that imprisoned island,'' Kennedy said in his speech to the nation. ``The purpose of these bases can be none other than to provide a nuclear strike capability against the Western Hemisphere.''

Earlier that day, about 2,500 relatives of U.S. forces stationed at Guantanamo Bay were given 15 minutes to pack a bag each before evacuated to Norfolk, Va.

``I was ordered to destroy papers and help move ourselves elsewhere because obviously the ministry (of defense) would be a target,'' Fernandez told The Associated Press this week.

Most Americans invited to the conference, including McNamara, Schlesinger, former Kennedy speechwriters Richard Goodwin and Ted Sorensen and ex-CIA analyst Dino Brugioni, will arrive Thursday.

Also attending are several Kennedy family members, including Ethel Kennedy, widow of Robert F. Kennedy, the president's brother who was attorney general and a key player in the crisis.

Along with the gathering, Cuba will release some formerly classified documents about the days known here as the Crisis of October.

The nonprofit National Security Archive at George Washington University will also release newly declassified American documents about the crisis.

During a similar conference last year, Cuban organizers worked with the National Security Archive to release a wealth of U.S. and Cuban documents about the unsuccessful CIA-backed Bay of Pigs invasion.

The missile crisis conference will feature seminars on Friday and Saturday. Participants will visit crisis-related sites, including a former missile silo in the western province of Pinar del Rio.

Fernandez said he hoped new lessons would emerge for politicians and military leaders, ``to never again take the world to the brink of nuclear catastrophe.''

Missile Crisis Cited to Make Opposite Points
New York Times - October 8, 2002 - By CHRISTOPHER MARQUIS

WASHINGTON, Oct. 7 — President Bush and one of his leading Democratic critics, Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, both invoked the memory of 1962 Cuban missile crisis tonight to drive home sharply divergent views of how to handle Iraq.

Mr. Bush contended that the missile crisis underscored the importance of pre-emptive action against an enemy, even in the absence of "final proof, the smoking gun."

"As President Kennedy said in October of 1962: `Neither the United States of America nor the world community of nations can tolerate deliberate deception and offensive threats on the part of any nation, large or small. We no longer live in a world,' he said, `where only the actual firing of weapons represents a sufficient challenge to a nation's security to constitute maximum peril,' " Mr. Bush said.

But Senator Kennedy said that President Kennedy, his brother, had carefully avoided a pre-emptive assault against Cuba, instead imposing a naval quarantine after the Soviet Union prepared sites there for nuclear missiles.

A "preventative military action," Senator Kennedy argued, was ill advised both then and now.

"Might does not make right," Senator Kennedy said tonight. "America cannot write its own rules for the modern world. To attempt to do so would be unilateralism run amok."

The Cuban missile crisis was one of the most harrowing episodes of the cold war. In October 1962, American spy planes confirmed that the Soviets were constructing sites for missiles able to reach the United States.

The Soviets denied the presence of missiles in Cuba. President Kennedy and his staff discussed three options: an invasion or air strikes, a quarantine, or a settlement through the United Nations.

In the end, President Kennedy took the middle road, enforcing a naval blockade on Oct. 22. On Oct. 28, Premier Nikita S. Krushchev of the Soviet Union backed down, ordering the missile sites dismantled, but only after securing a secret pledge from Mr. Kennedy that he would not invade Cuba.