Curtis LeMay to JFK during the Cuban Missile Crisis

“This is almost as bad as the appeasement at Munich.”

— Air Force General Curtis LeMay to JFK upon being told that the U.S. would respond to Soviet missiles in Cuba with a blockade, not an invasion.

The reference to British Prime Minister Chamberlain’s attempts to get along with Hitler was a special dig given that JFK’s father Joseph Kennedy had opposed the U.S. entering World War II. LeMay’s comment reflected a widespread belief in the U.S. military and intelligence circles that JFK’s foreign policy posed a threat to U.S. national security.

The comment was recorded on the White House recording system on Oct. 19, 1962.

Listen to audio at the University of Virgina’s Miller Center website or read the transcript.

12 thoughts on “Curtis LeMay to JFK during the Cuban Missile Crisis”

  1. We know from records released through Glasnost that the Russians believed that an American attack on Cuba would be the immediate prelude to a nuclear attack on the Soviet Union. Accordingly, they planned to launch a pre-emptive nuclear attack against the United States as soon as an American attack on Cuba began.

    We owe our lives to JFK’s decision to disregard LeMay’s advice.

  2. JFK harbored no illusions regarding the possibility of a US domestic coup, and cited examples when a coup would be staged against a sitting US President, in comments to Red Fay, his life-long friend. Arthur Krock, in an article posted in the New York Times (10/3/63) stated, “The C.I.A.’s growth was “likened to a malignancy” which the “very high official was not sure even the White House could control . . . any longer.” “If the United States ever experiences [an attempt at a coup to overthrow the Government] it will come from the C.I.A. and not the Pentagon.” The agency “represents a tremendous power and total unacceptability to anyone.” Therefore, I beg to differ with Mr. Robert Morrow regarding the direction for where the coup originated. Kennedy simultaneously pursued a two tract policy regarding both Vietnam and Cuba, presiding over policy that conveyed, to military leaders and the CIA, Vietnam and Cuba were not worth sending in US military combat units. JFK accurately described the conflicts in those countries as wars of nationalism and, as such, those conflicts, especially in Vietnam, were “theirs to win or lose.”
    It is duly noted there were pervasive, truculent mindsets among hard liners (read: right wing militarists) who wanted to “nuke” both the Soviet Union and Cuba, as a solution to the current Cold War conflicts. Needless to say, history has proven JFK correct (and Pres. Harry Truman), respectively, in their assessments of contrived CIA conflicts, and operational abuses.
    In proper context, Nixon’s comment about “the whole Bay of Pigs thing” was a coded message for a continued need to conceal his own role in the plan of assassinating Fidel Castro, at the behest of organized crime bosses and the CIA. The nexus of which already existed owning to ONI’s use of convicted mob pimp, Lucky Luciano, on New York’s waterfronts in 1942.
    This ONI/Mob “connection” was brokered through Myer Lansky. Years later, the CIA, through Robert Mahew (Howard Hughes’s henchman), hire (by proxy) mob drug smuggler and gambling kingpin, Myer Lansky, Tampa drug smuggler, Santos Trafficante, New Orleans mobster Carlos Marcello, and Chicago Boss, Sam “Momo” Giancana. There were other Mafiosi involved, to be sure, such as Los Angeles (Johnny Roselli), and Kansas City (Nicolas Civella), because the US mob already was operating under a Commission; but the enduring core of the active Castro assassination mob group was Johnny Roselli and Santos Trafficante. It was Trafficante who played both the Cuban and American sides against one another, as he is suspected of having his people inside Operation Mongoose and in Cuba, as mob heroin may still have been coming through Cuba’s outlying areas. Also, William Harvey headed up Staff D within Clandestine Service Division: Mexico City’s ELINT Programs, and ZR/RIFLE, the Executive Action (read: Assassination) program. Harvey, even after being exiled to Italy, maintained his “friendship” with mobster Johnny Roselli, who Harvey kept as a liaison to ZR/Rifle and Operation Mongoose.
    CIA participation in the Vietnam heroin pipeline is well documented and involved some of these same mafia and CIA personalities (Bissell and Cline, Lansky and Trafficante and others). Since the CIA had trained assassins to “hit” Castro, and practiced a scenario with Castro riding in an open vehicle, how difficult would it be to “hire” some of these assassins and turn the “hit team” on Kennedy? After all, the same (right wing and mercenary) people who planned and participated in the Bay of Pigs, then moved on to Vietnam, had just such information. They witnessed Kennedy’s alleged vacillation regarding military action in Cuba, and decided this would not happen in Vietnam. JFK had to go because he, alone, stood in the way of too many powerful groups and their plans for making immense profits from military action in Vietnam (

    Currently, illicit drug sales in North America are estimated, yearly, at $90 billion dollars.

  3. So what does this comment have to do with Oswald bringing a rifle to work , shooting a cop and trying to kill another when apprehended ?

    1. JG, are you asking, or are you objecting?

      L. Fletcher Prouty:
      “… in its buildup the CIA obtained the services of one of the military’s top communications giants, General Harold McClelland. General McClelland began with a typical military base system and then let brains and technology run their course. ….”

      Marion O. McCaw Garrison Obituary:
      “On March 21, 1942, she married John Elroy McCaw from Aberdeen. With a degree in business administration from WSU and an FCC Engineering License, Elroy was an energetic and farsighted entrepreneur who founded the first radio station, KELA, in Centralia in 1937…Throughout the war, she commuted from Washington D.C. when necessary while Elroy served at Army Air Forces Headquarters in the Pentagon as Executive Officer and Special Assistant to General McClelland, head of USAAF communications. He was also McClelland’s liaison to OSS.”

      1961 Berlin Crisis:
      “..Salinger, describing the mistake as the worst security breech in his four years at the White House… Salinger said, “When he (Mccaw) called Gen. Curtis Lemay’s office saying he was expected at a ‘National Security Council’ meeting the Genera’secretary called the White House and somehow got clearnce from Mrs.Evelyn Lincoln, the president’s secretary…”

      “Info on Special Ops Wanted Bruce McCaw writes: My father, Lt. Col. John Elroy McCaw, worked on OSS Special Projects known as operations Aphrodite, Simmons, and Javaman. He worked with OSSers John Shaheen and Jim Rand and is particularly interested in Javaman, which called for blowing up the tunnel…”

      Tampico IL. May 1,1951 “John M. Shaheen And Eastern Young Lady Wed…. while H James Rand of Cleveland, Ohio was best man.”

      1956: “includes J. Elroy McCaw and John M. Shaheen. Transaction is on basis of $1.5 million for 100% but with Baker family retaining 25 %.”

      Rand Development And Chief Have A Great Fall, Dec. 29, 1968: “James Rand owned 83,700 shares and Elroy mccaw mccaw chairman of the firm and a Seattle investor,”
      Robert Webster, 71, who died Thursday, Nov. 11, 1999: “He was employed by Edey & Duff of as a boat builder until he retired.”

      IMPACT was brought to life in April, 1943, by Mr. (then major, later lieutenant colonel) Edward K. Thompson of LIFE magazine. . Major Maitland A. Edey… “In 1942, Thompson joined the Army, where he edited a magazine for air force intelligence. By 1944, he was in charge of intelligence concerning the German Air Force.”

  4. Here is what LeMay was thinking in 1961:

    “At a Georgetown dinner party recently, the wife of a leading senator sat next to Gen. Curtis LeMay, chief of staff of the Air Force. He told her a nuclear war was inevitable. It would begin in December and be all over by the first of the year. In that interval, every major American city — Washington, New York, Philadelphia, Detroit, Chicago, Los Angeles — would be reduced to rubble. Similarly, the principal cities of the Soviet Union would be destroyed. The lady, as she tells it, asked if there were any place where she could take her children and grandchildren to safety; the general would, of course, at the first alert be inside the top-secret underground hideout near Washington from which the retaliatory strike would be directed. He told her that certain unpopulated areas in the far west would be safest.” –Marquis Childs, nationally syndicated columnist, Washington Post, 19 July 1961

  5. And how about LeMay’s reaction once the Cuban Missile Crisis was settled?: “The biggest defeat in our nation’s history!”

    As I do JFK research, I have come to the conclusion that CIA/military/shadow government rage over Cuba policy was a far, far bigger reason for the JFK assassination than Vietnam policy.

    That is why Nixon would refer to it the JFK assassination as the “whole Bay of Pigs thing” and not the “whole Saigon thing.”

    Here are some more Cold Warrior quotes, which in retrospect from what we know now, seem pretty stupid, even dangerously stupid.

    We locked Castro’s communism into Latin America and threw away the key to its removal,” growled Barry Goldwater.

    “Kennedy pulled defeat out of the jaws of victory,” wrote Richard Nixon. “Then gave the Soviets squatters rights in our backyard.”

    “We’ve been had!” yelled then Navy Chief George Anderson upon hearing on October 28, 1962, how JFK “solved” the missile crisis. Adm. Anderson was the man in charge of the very “blockade” against Cuba.

    “We missed the big boat,” said Gen. Maxwell Taylor after learning the details of the deal with Khrushchev.

    “It’s a public relations fable that Khrushchev quailed before Kennedy,” wrote Alexander Haig. “The legend of the eyeball to eyeball confrontation invented by Kennedy’s men paid a handsome political dividend. But the Kennedy-Khrushchev deal was a deplorable error resulting in political havoc and human suffering through the Americas.”

    Even Democrats despaired. “This nation lacks leadership,” said Dean Acheson, the Democratic elder statesman whom Kennedy consulted on the matter. “The meetings were repetitive and without direction. Most members of Kennedy’s team had no military or diplomatic experience whatsoever. The sessions were a waste of time.”

    1. I agree with you here.

      “…the “whole Bay of Pigs thing” and not the “whole Saigon thing.”

      Nixon understood the Saigon thing pretty well.
      That’s why he started pulled the troops out, as
      opposed to LBJ.

      But OTOH, Bell Helicopter lost at least 5,000 helicopters
      in the war. There was a lot of money to be made from Americans dying in Vietnam. I don’t think that would have happened under JFk.

  6. It is worth pointing out that some of Lyndon Johnson’s closest and most influential inner circle supporters were men such as H.L. Hunt and D.H. Byrd, both of whom were close personal friends of Gen. Curtis LeMay. H.L. Hunt, along with LBJ and Hoover, has long been a prime suspect in the JFK assassination. D.H. Byrd was a founder of the Civil Air Patrol which had such members as David Ferrie, Lee Harvey Oswald and a young Barry Seal who later became a legendary CIA drug smuggler and pilot.

    D.H. Byrd also employed Malcolm Wallace, LBJ’s personal hit man, at his company LTV. Byrd was both an oil man and a military contractor and his company received a large military contract in early, 1964. Billie Sol Estes, who is still alive today in 2012, admits planning murders with LBJ, Cliff Carter and Malcolm Wallace. One murder that stands out is the June 3, 1961 murder of Ag Dept. official Henry Marshall who was investigating Billie Sol Estes and his ties to LBJ. LBJ said in early 1961 “Get rid of him” referring to Marshall and the need to murder him.

    H.L. Hunt later gave $1 million to Curtis LeMay and supported him when he ran for VP under the American Independent ticket with George Wallace. George Wallace later said that his money men insisted that Curtis LeMay be on the ticket as VP.

    D.H. Byrd, a big LeMay supporter and friend, was the one who owned the Texas School Book Depository building. D. H. Byrd later wrote an autobiography “I’m An Endangered Species” in which he does not mention the JFK assasination. Byrd later had the so-called “sniper’s window” of the 6th floor of the TSBD removed as a memento.

    Gen. Edward Lansdale, an Air Force general with a deep CIA background was photographed 5 feet west of the TSBD on 11/22/63 and he was identified by both his peers Col. Fletcher Prouty and Gen. Victor Krulak.

    LBJ’s military attache was Co. Howard Burris. Gen. Charles Cabell was an Air Force General who was appointed deputy director of the CIA in 1963. Cabell was latered fired by JFK. Charles Cabell’s brother was Earl Cabell, the Mayor of Dallas at the time of the JFK assassination.

    Pretty much all those Air Force men mentioned and those Texas oil men and military contractors hated both JFK and Robert Kennedy with a white hot passion. Ditto LBJ and Hoover who were tight with these same circles.

  7. If you have a chance, it’s worth visiting the Cuban Missile Crisis exhibit currently on display at the National Archives on the Mall in Washington. It includes recorded snippets of discussion that took place in the White House during those tense days. One of the more interesting exchanges occurs between LeMay and JFK. At one point LeMay says “you’re in quite a fix, sir.” Kennedy replies, “what?” LeMay: “I said you’re in quite a fix.” And Kennedy replies, “Well, you’re right there with me…”

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