Marine Corps Commandant General David Shoup (left) and Chief of Naval Operations Admiral George Anderson (center) meeting with JFK in the Oval Office on October 29, 1962. Photo by William J. Smith / AP
In this Oval Office meeting on the 14th day (October 29, 1962) just before lunch, Marine Corps Commandant General David Shoup and Chief of Naval Operations Admiral George Anderson gave Kennedy a sense of what an invasion of Cuba might look like.
There were still a lot of unknowns, they said, and they advocated for continued low-level surveillance flights, something that had been debated at length in the morning ExComm meeting. The Joint Chiefs of Staff were eager to gather as much detailed information as possible on the Soviets weapons and troops in Cuba so that they could
“We’d really make a shambles of it.”
calibrate their military planning to the size and nature of the Soviet military presence on the island. In recent days, low-level surveillance photos had revealed the presence of four combat regiments, each with sophisticated battlefield weapons, including nuclear-capable short-range rockets known as FROGs (or Luna to the Soviets).
But even with those unknowns, they were also very confident in a quick victory if ordered to invade. It would start with waves of air strikes and end with storming the beaches. “We’d really make a shambles” of Cuba’s defenses, Anderson predicted.
Tape 43, Presidential Recordings Collection, President’s Office Files, John F. Kennedy Library. Excerpted from a transcript to published in David Coleman, ed., The Presidential Recordings: John F. Kennedy, volume 4 (New York: W.W. Norton, 2013).