Sunday, 21 October 1962

President Kennedy’s fourth draft of the speech he would deliver to the nation was completed by Ted Sorenson around 11:00 a.m. that day.22 The letter to Khrushchev that would be delivered one hour prior to the speech was prepared and transmitted to Ambassador Kohler at the American Embassy at Moscow.23 Additionally, a draft resolution for the UNSC was transmitted to Ambassador Stevenson.

The letter to Khrushchev highlighted the position of the United States on the discovery of missiles in Cuba. Kennedy expressed his concern that Khrushchev may “not correctly understand the will and determination of the United States,” and simultaneously assumed“[A] U.S. military adventure against Cuba is almost beyond belief.” that Khrushchev would not advocate nuclear war which “is crystal clear no country could win”. Kennedy reminded Khrushchev that he desired to find solutions to problems through peaceful negotiation but not at the cost of an upset to the “over-all balance of power.” Kennedy clearly asserted that the US would not back down from its obligations to West Berlin. Finally, Kennedy declared that “the United States is determined to remove this threat [that the missiles in Cuba pose] to the security of this hemisphere.” He pointed out to Khrushchev that “the action we are taking is the minimum necessary to remove the threat to the security of the nations of this hemisphere. The fact of this minimum response should not be taken as a basis, however, for any misjudgment on your part.”24

The resolution that was transmitted to Ambassador Stevenson announced the concern over the developments in the Caribbean and the imposition of a quarantine line around Cuba. This resolution declared that the situation could result in conflict and called for the removal of all missiles and offensive weapons from Cuba under the auspices and guarantees of United Nations observers. The resolution further called for a summit between the United States and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.25

Admiral Anderson briefed President Kennedy on his concept for the naval blockade. He had forty Navy ships in position and twenty-seven more on the way and required no call-up of Naval Reserve forces at this time. He envisioned the enforcement of the blockade with a cruiser intercepting any incoming ship in accordance with international rules. Anderson recommended a twenty-four hour grace period to allow the Soviets time to transmit instructions to their ships and to better position the US Navy. The subject of rules of engagement came up and Secretary McNamara indicated he favored responses with force against hostile action.26

Still not aware that the Americans knew about the missiles in Cuba, the GRU (the Main Intelligence Directorate of the Soviet General Staff, the Glavnoje Razvedyvatel'noje Upravlenije) noted a significant increase in military activity in the United States. They reported aircraft convoys headed towards Puerto Rico, an increase in the number of SAC bombers airborne, and a growing US Navy presence in the Caribbean. They were even aware that McNamara had ordered senior military officers to remain “near the Pentagon to participate in a series of intensive meetings.”27