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The Jupiter Missiles and the Endgame of the Cuban Missile Crisis: A Matter of “Great Secrecy”

William Burr and Leopoldo Nuti examine the Kennedy Administration's efforts to remove Jupiter missiles from Turkey and Italy, part of a secret deal with Nikita Khrushchev to end the Cuban missile crisis.

Jupiter Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile
Jupiter Intermediate Range Ballistic Missile (IRBM) at Cigli air base in Turkey, 1963. There a squadron of 15 Jupiters was deployed becoming operational in March 1962

This is a co-publication with the National Security Archive at The George Washington University.

The Jupiter Missiles and the Endgame of the Cuban Missile Crisis: A Matter of “Great Secrecy”

Part I: Demarches to Italy and Turkey and Their Reactions

Turkey’s Defense Minister: Removal of Jupiters Would Hurt “Confidence” in U.S.; Cause Morale “Depression”

Kissinger: “Almost Everyone” in Italy’s Leadership Believed There Was U.S.-Soviet Agreement on Jupiters

Harvard professor and future Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger discussed the US withdrawal of Jupiter intermediate range ballistic missiles (IRBMs) from Italy in January 1963 talks with top Italian officials and diplomats, including Prime Minister Amintore Fanfani and President Antonio Segni, according to a declassified telegram from the US Embassy in Rome. Segni felt some “pique” that the decision had been made at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis and that three months had passed before his government learned about it. According to Kissinger, “almost everyone” he talked to in Rome believed that there had been a U.S.-Soviet “agreement” on the Jupiter withdrawal, with some of them pointing to an April 1 “deadline” for beginning the removals as an important clue.

Kissinger and his Italian interlocuters had no inside knowledge of White House policymaking but they were touching on one of the biggest secrets of the Cuban Missile Crisis: the undisclosed deal between President John F. Kennedy and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev in which the US would remove Jupiter missiles in Turkey (and by extension, the Jupiters in Italy) in exchange for the removal of Soviet missiles in Cuba.[i] Only nine US officials knew of the deal at the time: President Kennedy, his brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, national security adviser McGeorge Bundy, Secretary of State Dean Rusk, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, Deputy Secretary of Defense Roswell Gilpatric, Ambassador Llewellyn Thompson, Deputy Secretary of State George Ball, and White House adviser Theodore Sorensen.[ii] Of that group, those who lived past the 1960s and 1970s—Bundy, Rusk, Sorensen and McNamara, for example—kept the secret for years, not fully acknowledging the official status of the deal until 1989, when former Soviet ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin disclosed the details of his October 27, 1962, meeting with Robert Kennedy.[iii]

Kissinger’s report to the US Embassy on Italian suspicions is one of many declassified documents published today on the implementation of the Kennedy-Khrushchev secret deal. This posting, the first of two parts, helps reconstruct the main elements of the endgame of the Cuban Missile Crisis, 60 years later. Part I looks at the early stages, during the months immediately following the Missile Crisis, when the Kennedy administration developed and began to implement its basic approach, quietly building consensus through secret outreach to the governments of Italy and Turkey. By late January 1963, Italy was on board (albeit with some mixed feelings), but Turkey had only agreed in principle to withdrawing the Jupiters. As Part II will document, reaching an agreement with Turkey was complicated by the Turkish military’s reluctance. Moreover, NATO had to be brought into the understanding on the Jupiters, and a formal agreement with Italy was yet to be negotiated.

Documents in this posting illuminate the reactions of senior Italian and Turkish officials to US proposals to remove Jupiter missiles and replace them with Polaris submarine patrols in the Mediterranean.[iv] Turkish Defense Minister İlhami Sancar expressed concern to Robert McNamara about the impact that the US withdrawal of the Jupiters would have on his country’s “confidence” in the US and the possibility of “moral[e] depression.” While generally accepting the Jupiter withdrawal, Italian Defense Minister Giulio Andreotti told US Ambassador G. Frederick Reinhardt that it would be a “graphic step backward” in terms of Italian participation in nuclear deterrence.

Further complicating negotiations was Turkey’s insistence on “full Turkish crews” for the Polaris submarines, a proposal that US negotiators rejected. To help make the bitter pill of Jupiter withdrawal more palatable to Turkey, the US government promised earlier delivery of F-104G fighter-bomber squadrons, but Ankara was told that this would depend on “progress in negotiations that it is clear GOT [Government of Turkey] will agree to dismantle Jupiters.” This intended use of leverage would prove not to be as effective as the US may have been anticipated.

Sources of the Documents

Most of the documents in this posting are never-before-published records discovered at the US National Archives, including the State Department’s central files and the records of the US Embassy in Rome. Other important documents were found at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library. Both parts of this posting will also include material from Italian archives. Today’s posting features pages from the daily diary of Italian Prime Minister Amintore Fanfani concerning his mid-January 1963 meetings with President Kennedy and Robert McNamara on the Jupiter-Polaris replacement. One entry indicates that the prime minister raised with Kennedy and McNamara the possibility of a US-Soviet deal on the Jupiters, which they both denied.

Kissinger’s finding that “almost everyone” among senior Italian government officials suspected a US-Soviet “agreement” on the Jupiters was not the only time such suspicions surfaced. In the days and weeks after the crisis began to dissipate, mid-level State Department officials discussed rumors that President Kennedy had favored a deal and had a “keen interest” in getting the Jupiters out. In the months after the crisis, McNamara and Rusk tried to batten down suspicions of a deal, testifying before Congress that there had been no such thing. But doubts persisted.  Senator John Stennis (D-Ms), among other Senators, was convinced there had been a trade.[v]

Perspectives on the Jupiter-Polaris Arrangement

It was essential for the Kennedy administration to implement the secret deal and make good on a commitment to the Soviet leadership, but executing it had its complexities. While Khrushchev focused mainly on the Jupiters in Turkey, withdrawing the IRBMs from Italy was also a US goal. Under a coherent policy, the US could not leave Jupiters anywhere on NATO territory, although this made the diplomacy more complicated. And the withdrawal of the Jupiters could not be completely secret, because it had to be carefully and delicately coordinated with Italy and Turkey, whose governments had signed agreements accepting the missiles. Both were NATO allies, and Washington could not ride roughshod over them.

To minimize suspicions of a US-Soviet deal, the reasoning for the Jupiter withdrawals would be carefully explained to Italian, Turkish, and other NATO interlocuters. Senior US officials could not couch it simply as a matter of withdrawing the missiles; instead, the justification was to replace an obsolete and dangerous weapon system, the Jupiters, with modern and relatively invulnerable Polaris missile-launching submarines operating in Mediterranean waters. To make things look more credible, the US presented the withdrawal to the Italians as part of a package that would also include the “modernization” of NATO’s Southern European Task Force (SETAF) through the replacement of “obsolete” Corporal missiles with more modern Sergeants.

The ExComm[vi] discussions during the crisis foreshadowed key elements of the Jupiter-Polaris approach. Those who supported removing the Jupiters as an element of a negotiated settlement included UN Ambassador Adlai Stevenson, who took the lead in proposing the idea,and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, with some support from Vice President Lyndon Johnson. Basic to the argument made by McNamara and others was that the US could treat Polaris missiles as a superior replacement to vulnerable and obsolete Jupiter missiles. For example, Johnson suggested that the US could tell Turkish officials that by swapping Jupiters for Polaris, “We’re gonna give you more protection than ever…with less advertising. And it’s gonna make it less likely you’ll get hit” with Soviet missiles.[vii]

Italy and Turkey presented very different diplomatic problems. As McGeorge Bundy observed during an ExComm meeting, referring to the messages from Ambassador Reinhardt in Italy and the Ambassador to Turkey, Raymond Hare, (documents 1 and 2), the situations were as different as “night and day.” Italian officials were already receptive to the notion of removing the Jupiters in favor of more up-to-date nuclear delivery systems.[viii] At the same time, the Italian inclination for removal made things potentially more complicated, as both the Italian military and Italian diplomats were hoping for the Jupiters to be replaced with Polaris missiles to be deployed aboard the Italian cruiser Garibaldi, on which the Italian navy had installed four launching pits.

Turkish officials, however, had shown no such disposition about the Jupiters, and persuading them would be difficult. Vice President Johnson, who would not be told about the secret deal, observed that the downside was that Turkey might “fear that we were through [with it] and we wouldn’t come [to its defense.]” Johnson’s argument, along with concern about the broader impact on NATO, was shared by others inside and outside the ExComm, who were skeptical about a missile deal. Kennedy listened to the ExComm critics, but their opposition “toughened his determination” that a deal with Khrushchev was essential to minimize the risks of conflict.[ix]

As the crisis progressed, the Soviet Union focused on the removal of the Turkish Jupiters, and President Kennedy became more and more interested in a trade, a possible solution began to take shape in which the Italian missiles would be removed to facilitate the withdrawal of the Turkish ones. Ambassador Hare suggested that an Italian agreement to dismantle the missiles, coupled with the British abandoning of the Thors (which had already been agreed upon), “could be helpful in approaching Turks” (see document 2). In an ExComm meeting, McNamara observed that a possible solution was to “get Italy to go along with us,” saying that “this will put some additional pressure on Turkey.” The best way to do this, according to McNamara, would be to emphasize the obsolescence of the Jupiter as a weapon system and remove the Turkish IRBMs together with the Italian and the British missiles.[x]

The Limits of the Declassified Record and Continuing Mysteries

Reconstructing the diplomacy of the Jupiter withdrawal is difficult because, even 60 years later, many documents remain classified at the National Archives. Defense Department records on the Jupiters are not available, and dozens of documents have been withdrawn from the State Department files at the National Archives. This is partly because of inertia: As far as can be told, very few researchers - other than the authors of this posting - have requested declassification of the record, especially those concerning Turkey. Also, around 2001, many documents were removed from State Department archival files and reclassified. What may have triggered the reclassifications by the Department of Energy and the Department of Defense are some occasional references to nuclear weapons stored in Italy and Turkey but also the fact that the Jupiter was considered to be a nuclear delivery system.

The Department of Defense has treated—not always consistently—the presence of the Jupiter missiles in Italy and Turkey as a secret. Thus, when the Pentagon has reviewed documents for declassification, it has excised references to both countries, sometimes using the specious reasoning that declassifying 50- or 60-year-old records “would cause serious harm to relations between the United States and a foreign government, or to ongoing diplomatic activities of the United States government.” Yet the Italian Air Force recently re-released a semi-official history, first published in 2012, that tells the story of the Italian unit that supported the Jupiter bases, the 36ma Aero Brigata di Interdizione Strategica [36th Aerial Strategic Interdiction Brigade] (ABIS). The publication includes many photos, interviews with the men who operated the missiles, and a detailed explanation of the weapon system, along with original diagrams of the operating instructions.[xi]

One aspect of the Jupiter withdrawal story that is not easily reconstructed is the role of President Kennedy during the weeks and months after the secret deal. Only a smattering of documents in this collection shed light on this point, such as a document citing his “keen interest” in the Jupiters in November 1962 and others describing how, in December 1962, Kennedy pressed McNamara and other officials to move forward. One document indicates that Kennedy approved the State Department’s diplomatic strategy after Rusk and U.S. Ambassador to NATO Thomas Finletter presented it to him on January 5, 1963, during a trip to Palm Beach, Florida. Kennedy also spoke about the Jupiter-Polaris arrangement at length when he met with Italian Prime Minister Fanfani in mid-January. Additional light may be shed on Kennedy’s involvement when still-secret State Department and Pentagon records at NARA are declassified. Other documents, unknown to the editors, may be at the Kennedy Presidential Library. Some material, however, has not survived, such as Rusk’s records of his telephone conversations during the Cuban Missile Crisis and with President Kennedy throughout the administration.

It is worth mentioning here an additional mystery. In his conversation with Fanfani, Kennedy dropped a slightly encouraging hint to the Italian prime minister about the possibility of replacing the Jupiters by deploying the Polaris aboard an Italian ship, the Garibaldi, despite the fact that, in his briefing papers, this solution was characterized unfavorably. And yet it was Fanfani who let the matter drop, according to the available records of their conversation (both in English and in Italian)—a matter that gave rise to much speculation back in Italy. For Fanfani, probably more important than the Garibaldi proposal were the domestic political implications of the Jupiter removal, especially avoiding any adverse impact on his government coalition which relied on the support of the Socialist Party, a firm opponent of any nuclear deployments in Italy.

The US government’s management of the Jupiter problem coincided with consequential developments in UK-US relations, including the tense and difficult meetings between Kennedy and British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan in Nassau on December 20-21, 1962. There, Kennedy and Macmillan resolved how the US government would manage its decision to abandon the Skybolt air-to-surface missile, which the British had counted on to extend their nuclear deterrent force. Instead, Kennedy offered, and Macmillan accepted, Polaris submarines and missiles coupled with possible British participation in a NATO multilateral force.[xii] Needless to say, the complicated arrangements discussed at Nassau utterly baffled Italian diplomats, who were asked to make sense of them and figure out what this all meant for their country’s own strategic ambitions in the context of the withdrawal of the Jupiters.

To manage the U.S. government’s implementation of these decisions, the State Department and the Defense Department created a Nassau decisions steering group and folded the Jupiter missile problem into its work. According to Rusk’s instructions, the handful of participants working on the Jupiter issue would operate on a “more classified basis” than the other Nassau issues. Only those with a “need-to-know” would be involved. Such restrictions would ensure that only limited numbers of diplomats and defense officials knew about the Jupiter-Polaris negotiations.

Analyses and Rumors of a Trade

Document No. 1U.S. Embassy to Italy telegram 936 to State Department, October 26, 1962

On October 26, 1962, as the Cuban Missile Crisis was unfolding, U.S. Ambassador G. Frederick Reinhardt replied to a State Department inquiry about possible Italian reactions to withdrawal of the Jupiters, stating that they “would probably be manageable,” but also recommending early consultations with the Italian government if they were to “form part of negotiated settlement.” In particular, Reinhardt suggested offsetting the withdrawal with gestures to appeal to the Italian government’s craving for status, such as (a) presenting the removal as an Italian contribution to the relaxation of East-West tensions, (b) some kind of “big power consultation” between the U.S. and Italy, coupled with assurances on “the presence of Polaris submarines in the Mediterranean,” (c) “public emphasis on Italy’s role in NATO in order to counter-balance loss of value which missiles have for Italy in calling attention to its role and position in alliance,” and (d) a promise to halt further reductions of U.S. military commitments in Italy. In short, Reinhardt saw a phase-out as a possibility but something to be “be very carefully handled.”

Document No. 2U.S. Embassy Turkey telegram 587 to State Department, 27 October 1962, Secret, October 27, 1962

In an “eyes only” response to a State Department query about the Jupiters,U.S. Ambassador Raymond Hare observed that “if proper means could be found, good case could be made for removal of Jupiters from Turkey as counter for removal of Soviet missiles from Cuba.” Yet, withdrawing the missiles as part of a Cuban Missile Crisis arrangement would pose a problem that was “partly psycho-political” and “partly substantive.” With reference to the “psycho-political” problem, Hare’s explanation was framed ethnocentrically: The Turks “are proud, courageous people who do not understand concept or process of compromise.” In that context, the U.S. would lose much “if in process of Jupiter removal [the] Turks should get the impression that their interests as an ally were being traded off in order to appease an enemy.” He recommended several alternative solutions to the problem; for example, if the missiles are phased out, the U.S. could provide Turkey with a backup, such as the proposed Multilateral Force (MLF) or Polaris missiles. If Italy gave up its Jupiters, he suggests, that could help with an approach to Turkey.

Document No. 3[Office of Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs] G/PM – Mr. [Seymour] Weiss to G/PM - Mr. [Jeffrey] Kitchen, “Turkish IRBM Trade-Off,” October 30, 1962

That some officials in the State Department’s European Affairs bureau were convinced that Kennedy had approved a trade of the Jupiters in Turkey puzzled State Department official Seymour Weiss, who was convinced that the higher-ups had rejected a trade. In this memo, Weiss asked a colleague, Jeffrey Kitchen, to get an “accurate reading” on the matter.

Document No. 4Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs William R. Tyler to Secretary Rusk, “Turkish and Italian IRBMs,” 9 November 1962, with Rusk Memorandum to the President attached, “Political and Military Considerations Bearing on Turkish and Italian IRBM’s,” November 9, 1962

Weiss would push back against any efforts to remove the Jupiters, but he and others realized that President Kennedy had a “keen interest” in the matter and that Secretary of Defense McNamara had ordered that action be taken (assigning his General Counsel John McNaughton to take the lead). Nevertheless Weiss and Assistant Secretary of State William Tyler presented Secretary of State Rusk with a memorandum making the case against action on the Jupiters or at least postponing their removal until a “later time.” Paralleling arguments made during the crisis by ambassadors Hare and Reinhardt, Tyler pointed to the “symbolic and psychological importance” of the Jupiter deployments. While Tyler noted parenthetically that the Italians had “given indications of a disposition to work toward the eventual removal of the Jupiters,” the U.S. could not phase them out “without general Alliance agreement,” including Italy and Turkey’s consent, “unless we are prepared to lay ourselves open to the charge of abrogation of specific or implied agreements.” Rusk was in the know on the secret deal, but his reference to a “later time” was consistent with it and signing the memo would have placated Tyler and Weiss.

First Approaches to Italy and Turkey

Document No. 5McGeorge Bundy memorandum, “Last Conversation with the President before NATO Meeting of December 1962,” December 13, 1962

Kennedy, McNamara and Rusk moved ahead with the Jupiters matter by making plans to bring it up with Italian and Turkish defense ministers at the NATO meeting in Paris in December 1962. The goal would be to persuade them of the obsolescence of the Jupiters, the dangers that they posed during the Cuban crisis and in future crises, and the need for “better arrangements,” such as “a rearrangement of Polaris deployments.”

President Kennedy continued to monitor the Jupiter missiles problem. During a meeting with Rusk a few weeks later, McNamara explained that President Kennedy, who he had seen in Palm Beach on December 27, had asked him what steps were being taken “to remove the Jupiters.” Consistent with that, McNamara favored the “earliest possible date” and asked whether a “deadline” could be set for April 1 to begin the removals.

Document No. 6Memorandum of Conversation, Minister of Defense of Italy, Mr. Andreotti, Secretary McNamara, and Assistant Secretary Nitze, December 13, 1962

In a meeting with Italian Defense Minister Guilio Andreotti, McNamara had several matters to raise, but soon brought up the Jupiters and the need to “substitute something more responsive and less vulnerable to sabotage or direct attack.” When Andreotti raised the possibility of a naval deployment, McNamara agreed, suggesting the assignment of Polaris submarines to SACEUR (Supreme Allied Commander Europe), “with an Italian role in the targeting.” Suggesting that the U.S take the initiative on the matter, Andreotti preferred that it be settled before the spring 1963 elections.

Document No. 7Memorandum of Conversation, Robert S. McNamara, U.S. Secretary of Defense, Paul H. Nitze, Assistant Secretary of Defense (ISA), Ilhami Sancar, Minister of Defense Turkey, December 14, 1962

During his meeting with Turkish defense minister Sancar, McNamara raised the risks posed by, and to, the Jupiter missiles and the need to withdraw those “obsolete” missiles and replace them with Polaris SLBMs. Turkish officials would play a role at NATO military headquarters in targeting the missiles. Sancar expressed concern about the impact that removal of the missiles would have on Turkish “confidence” in the U.S. and the possibility of “moral[e] depression” among “the people or the army,” stressing that the U.S. (“the best of allies”) was leaving Turkey “to a condition of ‘aloneness.’” McNamara did not believe that substituting Polaris for Jupiters would have that impact. Both agreed on the importance of proceeding in secrecy.

When Sancar observed that the late delivery of F-104G’s would adversely affect morale, McNamara said that an earlier delivery date would be possible and suggested the possibility of announcing that with the removal of the Jupiters. McNamara added that “time was of the essence.”

The State Department later sent a telegram to the ambassadors in Italy and Turkey reporting on McNamara’s meetings with Andreotti and Sancar.

Document No. 8State Department telegram 537 to Embassies in Italy and Turkey, December 22, 1962

Referring to the telegram on McNamara’s meetings with Andreotti and Sancar, Dean Rusk requested that ambassadors Hare and Reinhardt return to Washington for consultation as soon as feasible “to assist in developing plans to implement” the gradual withdrawal of the Jupiter missiles. To avoid raising suspicions, Rusk explained that their “return should not be simultaneous but should be arranged so as to permit overlap in Washington.” As the Turkish matter was more complicated, he advised Hare to return before Reinhardt. The “immediate objective will be to formulate best possible tactics to employ in relation to respective governments.” The Ambassadors could “very confidentially inform Foreign Ministers and/or Defense Ministers purpose of return, indicating they will be working on technical and military aspects of proposal in preparation for further consultation with both governments.”

Document No. 9U.S. Embassy Turkey telegram 708 to State Department, December 28, 1962

In an “eyes only” message, Deputy Chief of Mission Robert Barnes informed Ambassador Hare of his discussions with Turkish foreign ministry officials on the Jupiter issue, conducted while Hare was on his way to Washington. The talks produced a general understanding on linking the missile removal with delivery of F-104 fighter-bombers and deployment of Polaris submarines. Because the Government of Turkey had never announced that the Jupiters had been installed in the first place, the U.S. would need to make the announcement first. Turkish opinion could be prepared through press leaks on the U.S. side that would cite changes in the strategic picture and the need for “new means” to “ensure Western deterrent.”

Crystalizing Plans for Diplomacy

Document No. 10Steering Group on Implementing the Nassau Decisions, “Minutes of 2nd Meeting Held January 3, 1963, at 5:00 P.M.,” January 3, 1963

The Nassau Steering Group devoted its January 3, 1963, session to Jupiter removal diplomacy. Ambassadors Finletter, Hare and Reinhardt were present as well as McGeorge Bundy and Defense Department General Counsel John McNaughton. While the papers on the Jupiter that the committee prepared remain classified, the discussion summarized here covered some of the key issues. One was to avoid the word “withdrawal” when discussing the Jupiters and to use the word “replace” instead (as in “replace” Jupiters with Polaris SLBMs). Moreover, because of concern about leaks, there would be no reference to an April 1, 1963, deadline  in communications with the Italians and Turks. As April 1 would be six months after the Cuban crisis, State Department official Seymour Weiss wanted to “go to the mat” to keep any dates out of the official discussions because he worried that too much specificity would raise suspicions of a “deal” or would sound like an “ultimatum.”[xiii] Nevertheless, an April 1 date would be used for the timing of the stationing of Polaris submarines in the Mediterranean, and some U.S. interlocuters would see it as a deadline.

The Steering Group also addressed the problems raised by the early deployment to Turkey of F-104Gs; making the fighter-bombers available by May 1963 would require the rerouting of planes that had already been assigned to the Republic of China (Taiwan), Denmark, Norway, and Greece. There would be a delay in deploying nuclear bombs for the F-104s until they were outfitted with Permissive Action Links (PALs), as required by President Kennedy, which was not likely to occur until later in the year.

Document No. 11Letter, Secretary of Defense McNamara to Defense Minister Giulio Andreotti, January 5, 1963

Members of the Nassau Decisions Steering Group worked up the texts of letters from Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara to the Italian and Turkish Defense Ministers, which President Kennedy approved when he met with Dean Rusk and Thomas Finletter in Palm Beach on January 5, 1963 (see document 6). The State Department sent the letters to Ankara and Rome later that day.

McNamara’s letters expand on the points about the need to replace Jupiters with Polaris missiles that he made to Andreotti and Sancar when he met them in Paris. To both, McNamara wrote that the Polaris force would be “on station” by April 1 as the replacement for the Jupiters. Writing to Andreotti, he also mentioned substituting “obsolete” Corporalwith Sergeantmissiles. In his message to Sancar, McNamara informed him that he is exploring the possibility of accelerated delivery of the F-104s and that “emergency actions” could make it possible to deliver the first squadron during April 1963.

Document No. 12State Department telegram 1241 to U.S Embassy Italy, January 8, 1963

In this “limited distribution” message, Under Secretary of State George Ball informed Ambassador Reinhardt of the developing plans to deploy three Polaris boats in the Mediterranean with the missiles on station by April 1. Polaris would supersede the less effective Jupiters. The Ambassador should seek agreement with the Italian Government to take the “necessary steps” to dismantle the two Jupiter squadrons. The Italians “may be quite willing” to move in this direction, Rusk suggested, having already shown they recognized the value of replacing Jupiters with Polaris. Reinhardt should advise the Italians that the U.S. government was treating the matter with “great secrecy” and was making a parallel approach to Ankara.     

The Italians would not be surprised by this initiative in light of Andreotti-McNamara discussions at the recent NATO meeting, which also covered U.S. interest in modernizing tactical nuclear delivery systems (Sergeant for Corporal missiles). U.S. views would also be repeated to Fanfani when he visited Washington, D.C.

The day before, and probably as a related move, President Kennedy invited Italian Prime Minister Amintore Fanfani for talks in Washington. During mid-December, Fanfani had expressed interest in speaking with Kennedy about the world situation, and a meeting would provide an opportunity for the President to secure a commitment on the Jupiter issue.[xiv]

Document No. 13Jeffrey C. Kitchen to the Secretary, “Status Report on the Implementation of the Nassau Decisions,” January 9, 1963

At the conclusion of this memorandum, Kitchen noted that President Kennedy approved the “plan of action” on the Jupiters on January 5, 1963. This was a reference to Kennedy’s Palm Beach meeting with Rusk and Finletter. As Kitchen observed, the letters to Andreotti and Sancar went out on January 5, and messages to Ambassadors Hare and Reinhardt were sent a few days later. The instructions to Hare are in the FRUS, and the ones to Reinhardt precede this document.

Document No. 14U.S. Embassy Italy Telegram 1327 to State Department, January 9, 1963

Following his instructions to begin reaching a deal, Reinhardt met with Andreotti. The latter asked Reinhardt “whether [the] April 1 date was important,” noting that it would be better to remove the missiles after April 1 so it would not become an election issue, where the right could “condemn a great defeat,” while the left could claim a “great victory.” Reinhardt declared that Washington wanted the action on Jupiters taken “as soon as possible,” which Andreotti accepted, observing that an “optimum solution” would be a “two key” arrangement for Polaris, which he realized was not practical in the short term.

When Andreotti noted that the decommissioning of the Jupiter sites would be a “graphic step backward” for Italy in terms of its direct participation in nuclear defense, Reinhardt mentioned the replacement of Corporals with Sergeant missiles, which Andreotti acknowledged would be “helpful” for demonstrating a U.S. “presence” in Italy.

Document No. 15U.S. Embassy Turkey telegram 765 to State Department, January 12, 1963

Ambassador Hare met with Turkish Foreign Minister Feridun Erkin about moving ahead on substituting Jupiter missiles with Polaris, emphasizing the “importance in Turkey’s getting in on ground floor of this significant move toward a stronger NATO.” Erkin implied that he was “impressed by the reasonableness of our proposals,” according to Hare, but believed that the public would have to be persuaded “that Polaris would be as effective as Jupiters in assuring security of Turkey.” Hare observed that visits to Turkish ports by Polaris submarines armed with ballistic missiles could help maintain Turkey’s “confidence” in the U.S. deterrent and in NATO.

Document No. 16U. S. Embassy Italy telegram 1367 to State Department, January 14, 1963

When Reinhardt met with President Antonio Segni, a Christian Democrat, the latter accepted the reasons for replacing Jupiters with Polaris, but said the Jupiter removal had “grave psychological and political implications” because the missiles had been a “symbol of Italian determination” to take part in the defense of the West. Worried that there was “too much neutralism” in Italy, Segni was concerned about the electoral impact of the Jupiter decision and believed that the “operation should be carried out in such a fashion as to leave no inference of a lessening of Italian participation in nuclear defense.”

The Fanfani Visit and Italian Suspicions of a Secret Deal

Document No. 17Memorandum of Conversation, “Modernization of Nuclear Missiles in Italy and the Mediterranean,” January 16, 1963

Prime Minister Amintore Fanfani’s visit to the U.S. was an opportunity to reach “a meeting of the minds” President Kennedy on the Jupiter-Polaris problem. The two had several conversations during the next two days on East-West relations, NATO nuclear issues, and the developing world, among other topics.[xv]

During this conversation, with only the U.S. translator present, Kennedy explained to Fanfani that Polaris/Sergeant missiles as a replacement for Jupiter/Corporals, along with Italian participation in an eventual MLF, should be announced “as a whole package” rather than “to have the different points of decision simply leak out, without coherence and possibly at the wrong moment.” He believed that the main elements of the agreement would find “general approval” among most political groupings in Italy. When Fanfani brought up the possibility of announcing the U.S. request on Jupiters and Polaris and then taking it to his government, Kennedy emphasized the need for quick action, adding that “it would not be desirable to allow for prolonged discussion” of the package.

At Fanfani’s request, Kennedy explained the arrangements for Polaris missions in the Mediterranean, which operated out of a base on the Iberian Peninsula (Rota, Spain), and the various options for an MLF, either surface or submarine ships. Such an approach, Kennedy believed, was a way to improve the “position of the West.” Accepting Kennedy’s assertions about the dangers of the Jupiter missiles, Fanfani nevertheless saw a “psychological” problem involving the “prestige and strength” of Italy’s armed forces. Kennedy “indicated lively interest” in Fanfani’s question as to whether the Jupiter bases could be used for “cooperative peaceful space efforts.”

At the meeting’s conclusion, Kennedy “stressed that by the following morning they should be able to combine four or five points into a proposal that would strengthen the Italian and American position within the framework of the Alliance, thus making this meeting a gain in its cohesiveness and hence political strength.”

Document No. 18Fanfani Diary Entry, January 16, 1963

Fanfani covered the events of the day in this journal entry, noting that he told Kennedy he would make no commitment on the Jupiter-Polaris replacement until he spoke with McNamara. With McNamara, Fanfani emphasized the point about using the Jupiter base for space launches. Both Kennedy and McNamara denied that there was a trade with the USSR, with the latter emphasizing the risks posed by the Jupiters during the Missile Crisis.

Document No. 19McGeorge Bundy to Secretary of State Rusk, January 16, 1963

During the luncheon for Fanfani, Bundy sent Rusk this short memo about the Fanfani-Kennedy conversation, noting the former’s concern that removing the Jupiters could lead to attacks from the right about “softness toward left-wingers who want the missiles out.” When Kennedy spoke with McNamara after the meeting, he asked him to emphasize to Fanfani the military advantages of replacing the Jupiters with Polaris. McNamara wanted to emphasize that very point to offset any talk of a “nefarious Cuban bargain” with the Soviets. Bundy also highlighted the debate between George Ball and McNamara “as to whether Jupiters themselves should be mentioned in the communique” on the Fanfani-Kennedy discussions.

Document No. 20Fanfani Diary Entry, January 17, 1963 (excerpt)

In the morning, Fanfani met with his advisers, and they agreed to accept the Jupiter-Polaris arrangement. He then met with Kennedy for a series of conversations on East-West issues and the developing countries. During their private meeting, Fanfani conveyed to Kennedy the conditions for the agreement—Polaris submarines would not be based in Italy, and Italy would be both a participant in the MLF and a member of the NATO committee establishing it. Ashe noted in his diary, Fanfani asked that language referring to “bases in the Mediterranean” (“which could lead one to suppose they are in Italy”) be removed from the “minute of understanding” of the meeting. Kennedy accepted the stipulations, and a memorandum of their understanding was prepared.

Document No. 21Memorandum on Fanfani-Kennedy understanding, January 17, 1963

The two leaders signed off on a “minute of understanding” on the MLF, replacement of Jupiters with Polaris by April 1, the substitution of Sergeant for Corporal missiles, and the possibility of using the Jupiters for “space experiments.” In accordance with Fanfani’s request, the minute was retyped to leave out the reference to bases in the Mediterranean.

Document No. 22U.S. Embassy Italy telegram 1411 to State Department, January 17, 1963

In mid-January 1963, Harvard University professor Henry Kissinger met in Rome with senior Italian political leaders—all the way up to Fanfani and Segni—to discuss U.S.-Italian relations, including the Jupiters. At that point, Kissinger had no official role in government, although during 1961-1962 he had been a White House consultant. According to his report to the Embassy, the Italian leadership understood “intellectually” why the U.S. wanted to remove the missiles but it was sorry that Italy was losing its “one-up” position among non-nuclear members of NATO. Segni felt some “pique” that the Jupiter decision had been made during the missile crisis and that three months had passed before his government learned of it.  “Almost everyone,” according to Kissinger, “suspected that withdrawal might be [the] result of [a] US agreement with Russians,” with the April 1 deadline seen as an important clue.[xvi]

The U.S. Embassy report on Kissinger’s findings arrived at the State Department the morning of January 17, 1963, with instructions for the Executive Secretariat to limit its distribution. Apparently, comments in the report linking the Jupiters to the Cuban Missile Crisis negotiations touched a nerve with Dean Rusk. He instructed Assistant Secretary Tyler to inform U.S. Embassies in Europe that Kissinger had no official role, that they should not help him meet high-level officials, that he did not represent the “Adm’s views,” and that “we want to discourage him,” although as a “distinguished professor” he should be “treated with courtesy and friendliness.” Consequently, Tyler sent that same day an “eyes only” telegram to U.S. ambassadors reminding them of Kissinger’s non-official status. Rusk did not explain to Tyler what Kissinger had done to irritate him. But with his interest in dispelling rumors of a secret deal, Rusk was probably irked not only by the thinking of Italian officials but also by the fact that other State Department officials, including code clerks, would see the Embassy telegram, as limited as its distribution was.[xvii]

Negotiations with Turkey

Document No. 23U.S. Embassy Turkey telegram 780 to State Department, January 17, 1963

In light of the Fanfani visit to the U.S., and the likelihood that the Jupiter-Polaris arrangement would be publicized, the State Department asked Hare for his estimate of Turkish reactions. Hare reported that Erkin was “perturbed” that an “impression” was being created that Turkey was “trailing behind Italians” on the Jupiter replacement issue. With a Senate debate forthcoming on the matter, Erkin did not want it to look like he was “sleeping at [the] switch” but also did not “want [to] get out in front.” Not knowing what would be said in Washington, he was not sure what “line” to take. Erkin and Hare agreed that Erkin could say in Parliament that the government was “fully informed” and would take a position that was consistent with “Turkish best interests.” Turkish officials would continue to be concerned by the appearance that they had “been outdistanced by the Italians.”

Document No. 24GTI – [Office of Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs, Office of Greek, Turkish, and Iranian Affairs] John Bowling to EUR/W- E [Director of the Office of Western European Affairs Francis E.] Meloy, “Jupiter Missiles - Ankara,” January 18, 1963

Compared with the negotiations in Italy, the talks with Turkish officials were complicated and slow moving.[xviii] One problem was Foreign Minister Erkin’s “mistaken impression” that Turkey would have a role in “manning” Polaris submarines. As desk officer John Bowling observed in this memo, Ambassador Hare saw that as a “grotesque” misunderstanding of the U.S. negotiating position, and the State Department’s reply rejected proposals for any Turkish role in commanding and staffing the submarines. All the same, Bowling saw the need for some Turkish involvement, including Turkish observers on the Polaris submarines “from time to time” and a “carefully phased” program of instruction in the U.S. beginning with “familiarization training” in the Polaris weapon system.

Other complications involved the provision of F-104Gs, including Turkey’s request to increase the number of fighter-bombers in the first squadron—which Bowling wrote was “literally impossible”—and the U.S. inability to provide a delivery date for the second squadron. He suggested that the U.S. encourage more progress with Ankara by providing information on the state of the negotiations with Italy. Optimistically, Bowling thought it “possible” to reach a “satisfactory solution in ten days or so.”

Backgrounders for the Media and CINCEUR

Document No. 25State Department circular telegram 1250 to U.S. Embassy Rome et al., January 18, 1963

This message, intended “only” for Ambassador Reinhardt, included information for use in backgrounders for officials and journalists, but only with the Department’s consent. It included comparisons of the Jupiter and Polaris missiles, a brief discussion of possible targeting arrangements for Polaris, and the possible timing of the introduction of Polaris, and the phase out of Jupiter, missiles. One point concerned “Equating of Italy and Turkey with Cuba.” U.S. officials were advised to make no comment on the matter, but if raised, officials should observe that when the Soviets equated missiles in Cuba with Jupiters in Italy and Turkey “we absolutely refused [to] accept any such comparison or deal.” A version of these points would soon go to Fanfani’s foreign policy adviser, Carlo Marchiori.[xix]

Document No. 26Joint Chiefs of Staff message to U.S. CINCEUR [Commander in Chief European Command], “Rationale of the JUPITER Decision,” January 19, 1963

That the Commander of U.S. European Command (CINCEUR), Gen. Lyman Lemnitzer, was a critic of the Jupiter removals may have informed a Joint Chiefs of Staff decision to send him a background paper explaining the “rationale of the Jupiter decision” for use in discussions within NATO.[xx]  The backgrounder provided information comparing the reliability, vulnerability, and survivability, among other features, of the Jupiter and Polaris missiles. While the withdrawal of Thor and Jupiter missiles reduced Western “nuclear potential,” those reductions would be offset by an increase from 350 to about 800 U.S. strategic ballistic missiles, “some of which will be assigned to NATO targets.” Further, it “may be assumed that there will be no reduction in the present expectation of timely damage to the ACE [Allied Command Europe] targets presently covered by the Jupiters.”

Final Decision in Italy

Document No. 27U.S. Embassy Italy telegram 1451 to State Department, January 22, 1963

The State Department sent a proposed statement (not yet identified) on the Jupiters to the North Atlantic Council (NAC) for Fanfani to consider, but the Italian prime minister was holding it “exclusively” at his office, according to this U.S. Embassy telegram. Fanfani was involved in “delicate maneuverings” on the Jupiters with the Socialists and other “center-left groups,” and leaks by “indiscreet” Foreign Office officials could harm the talks. 

Concerning President Kennedy’s proposed remarks on the Jupiters for a press conference, Fanfani understood that Kennedy had to tell them something but hoped that he would “say as little as possible.” According to Fanfani, “too much talk and too many details will give ammunition to communists and left wing” socialists.  When Kennedy held his press conference a few days later, he said the minimum and made only a passing reference to Jupiters.

Document No. 28Fanfani Diary Entry, January 24, 1963 (excerpt)

In his diary, Fanfani recorded that the Council of Ministers had approved his report on the talks with President Kennedy and the recommendation to withdraw the Jupiters on April 1, 1963. The Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Defense would have a “mandate” to implement the withdrawal. As agreed, the Jupiters would be replaced by Polaris, and the latter would not be based in Italy. Italy would support a NATO multilateral force without the tripartite directorate that French president Charles de Gaulle had espoused.

Document No. 29U.S. Embassy Italy telegram 1469 to State Department, January 24, 1963

The Embassy reported on the Council of Ministers decisions and the related communique. The latter made only general references to “modernization of arms of alliance” without mentioning Jupiters or Polaris, which was probably Fanfani’s preference. According to Reinhardt, Fanfani told him that the Council had “unanimously approved” the agreement that he and Kennedy had reached.

Loose Ends: Turkey, NATO, and Inconvenient Questions from the US Senate

Document No. 30State Department telegram 834 to U.S. Embassy Turkey, January 24, 1963

The early delivery of F-104G fighter-bombers was a crucial element in the negotiations with Turkey over the Jupiters, and U.S. planning for their transfer was moving forward. The State Department nevertheless wanted Turkish authorities to understand that the timing of the deliveries “will depend on such progress in negotiations that it is clear [that the Government of Turkey] will agree to dismantle JUPITERS.”

Document No. 31U.S. Embassy France POLTO 879 to State Department, January 25, 1963

Kennedy’s press statements and announcements by Italy and Turkey of agreements with the U.S. on the Jupiters put the U.S. Mission to NATO in an awkward position because, as Ambassador Finletter pointed out in this telegram, “most NAC members learned of withdrawal of Jupiters from press.” Moreover, an internal memo to NATO’s Secretary General complained about the U.S. failure to consult with the Alliance. Ambassador Finletter here asked the Department to provide a statement that he could make to the NAC at its January 30 meeting.

Document No. 32“Briefing on Cuban Developments,” U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Subcommittee on American Republics Affairs, January 25, 1963

During a briefing on Cuban developments to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations’ Subcommittee on American Republics Affairs, Secretary of State Rusk denied that there was any connection between the removal of the Jupiters and the solution of the Caribbean crisis, presenting the withdrawal instead as part of the “entire program of modernization of NATO forces,” together, in the Italian case, with the substitution of Corporal missiles with Sergeants (see pages 23-26).

Document No. 33State Department telegram 1416 to U.S. Embassy Rome, January 29, 1963

Responding to Finletter’s request, the State Department provided a statement on the Jupiters for the NAC meeting on January 30, 1963. It explained that the U.S. cannot bring up the matter unilaterally until consultations with Italy and Turkey had progressed. Finletter should coordinate delivery of the statement with Italian and Turkish representatives, while Reinhardt and Hare worked with the Italians and the Turks in preparing a written statement that could be presented to the NAC at a later stage. While the Italians were willing to join the statement, it is not clear whether Turkey did or whether the statement was made to the NAC on January 30.[xxi]

Document No. 34U.S. Embassy Italy Telegram 1507 to State Department, January 29, 1963

Following the Italian Government’s acceptance of the Jupiter-Polaris arrangement, Defense Minister Andreotti answered Secretary of Defense McNamara’s January 5 letter. He declared that he was ready to begin “mutual consultations” to reach “specific agreements” on removing the Jupiters and said that he would await further guidance from McNamara.

Document No. 35U.S. Embassy Turkey Airgram A-702 to State Department, “Milliyet Quotes Foreign Minister on Nuclear Missiles,” January 30, 1963

A report by the newspaper Milliyet cited Foreign Minister Erkin on the Jupiter missiles. According to the Embassy’s translation, Erkin said that the Jupiter missile bases would be “dismantled,” and that Turkey and the United States were discussing their replacement with Polaris missile-launching submarines. When Erkin was asked whether Polaris submarines would be provided, he replied that, “These are details. Talks are continuing.” Negotiations were indeed continuing, but it would take six weeks to reach an agreement.   

[i] For the principle secrets of the Missile Crisis—the Jupiter trade, the photo gap, and the covert operations against Cuba—see David M. Barrett and Max Holland, Blind Over Cuba: The Photo Gap and the Missile Crisis (College Station: Texas A&M Press, 2012), 1-2.

[ii] For those who were in on the secret deal, see Sheldon Stern, Averting the Final Failure: John  F. Kennedy and the Secret Cuban Missile Crisis Meetings (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2003), 368, and Philip Nash, The Other Missiles of October: Eisenhower, Kennedy, and the Jupiters, 1957-1963 (University of North Carolina Press 1997), 148. See also Barton J. Bernstein, “Reconsidering the Missile Crisis: Dealing with the Problems of the American Jupiters in Turkey, ” in James Nathan, ed., The Cuban Missile Crisis Revisited (New York: St. Martin’s, 1992), 94-96..

[iii]For key documents concerning the secret deal, see James Hershberg, “Anatomy of a Controversy: Anatoly F. Dobrynin’s Meeting With Robert F. Kennedy, Saturday, 27 October 1962,” The Cold War International History Project Bulletin5 (Spring 1995), 75, 77-80.

[iv] For the history of the deployments, Nash’s The Other Missiles of October remains a basic source. For the Italian Jupiters, see Leopoldo Nuti, La sfida nucleare. La politica estera italiana e le armi nucleari, 1945-1991 (Bologna: Il Mulino, 2007). See also Bernstein, “Reconsidering the Missile Crisis: Dealing with the Problems of the American Jupiters in Turkey,” and Leopoldo Nuti, “Dall'operazione Deep Rock all'operazione Pot Pie: una storia documentata dei missili SM 78 Jupiter in Italia”, in Storia delle Relazioni Internazionali, vol. 11/12, n.1 (1996/1997) e vol.2 (1996/1997), pp.95-138 e 105-149.

[v] Barrett and Holland, Blind over Cuba, 110-111; Nash, The Other Missiles of October, 156-157.

[vi] “ExComm” was the Executive Committee of the National Security Council.

[vii] Stern, Averting the Final Failure, 358. See also Nash, The Other Missiles of October.

[viii] Philip Zelikow and Ernest May, eds., The Presidential Recordings: John F. Kennedy The Great Crises, Volume3(New York: W.W. Norton, 2001), 439. See also Nash, The Other Missiles of October, 138-140.

[ix] Stern, Averting the Final Failure, 339, 358; Sheldon Stern, The Cuban Missile Crisis in American Memory: Myths and Reality (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2012), 158 (“toughened his determination”).

[x] Zelikow and May, eds., The Presidential Recordings: John F. Kennedy The Great Crises, Volume3,439.

[xi] Antonio Mariani, La 36a Aerobrigata interdizione strategica "Jupiter": il contributo italiano alla guerra fredda [The 36th Aerial Strategic Interdiction Brigade: “Jupiter”: An Italian Contribution to the Cold War] (Roma: Edizioni Rivista Aeronautica, 2022) (II edizione).

[xii] Matthew Jones, “Prelude to the Skybolt Crisis: The Kennedy Administration’s Approach to British and French Strategic Nuclear Policies in 1962,” Journal of Cold War Studies 21 (2019): 58-109.

[xiii] Mr. Weiss to Jeffrey C. Kitchen, “Jupiters – 5 p.m. Steering Group Meeting,” 3 January 1963, RG 59, Deputy Under Secretary of State for Politico-Military Affairs Subject Files, 1961-1968, box 4, Jupiters file 2.

[xiv] A detailed record of the Fanfani visit can be found in Record Group 59, Executive Secretariat Conferences Files, box 308, CF 2221 and 2222.

[xv] The memoranda of conversations are in Record Group 59, Executive Secretariat Conferences Files, box 308, CF 2222.

[xvi] According to Kissinger’s record of his meeting with President Segni, the latter was even more critical than the Embassy reported. According to Segni,  McNamara’s letter to Andreotti had “shocked” him. Claiming that he had “risked his political life” by advocating the Jupiter deployment, Segni said that McNamara was now making arguments about the danger of the Jupiters that were similar to the ones made by Communists and Socialists. If the missiles were vulnerable, why had Italy not been told earlier, he asked. Calling attention to the UN debates during the crisis, Segni believed that more was involved than met the eyes and that the Jupiters were “part of the bargain.” See Kissinger “Memorandum of Conversation with Signor Segni in Rome, January 16, 1963,” 21 January 1963, in John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, National Security Files, Staff Memoranda: Kissinger, Henry, January 1963:

[xvii] Telephone Call to Mr. Tyler, Thursday, January 17, 1963, 2:30 PM, RG 59, Records of Secretary of State Dean Rusk, box 47, Telephone Calls, 1/2/63-1/31/63. 

[xviii] Nash, The Other Missiles of October, 163-164.

[xix] H. Gardner Ainsworth to Minister Marchiori, 20 January 1963, RG 84, Foreign Service Posts, Rome Embassy Classified General Records 1946-1964, box 125, 430.1 IRBM.

[xx] Nash, The Other Missiles of October, 207 (note 8).

[xxi] State Department telegram 14327 to U.S. Embassy Italy, 30 January 1963, RG 84, Foreign Service Posts, Rome Embassy Classified General Records 1946-1964, box 125, box 125, 430.1 Italy and IRBM and NATO 1962 1963 1964.

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