What the public didn't know about the Cuban Missile Crisis

This is 'lengthy' but very interesting, particularly since our base at Karamersul, Turkey
(6933rd RSM / TUSLOG 3) is where the story begins......

By WILLIAM REED With W. Craig Reed

I have read volumes about the Cuban Missile Crisis, but nothing about the
Cuban Submarine Crisis. For good reason. That story has never been told. It
is buried in the vaults of the National Security Agency. I know. I was
there, and intimately involved. I have waited almost forty years to tell
this story. It is long overdue. I believe that the general public has a
right to know and understand what really transpired between President
Kennedy and Soviet Premier Khrushchev: why Kennedy made the decisions that
he did during that conflict, and why Khrushchev backed down. It had a lot
more to do with submarines and potential long-range missiles than it had to
do with medium-range ground-based missiles located in Cuba. Never before
revealed to the American public, the Soviet submarine force played a key (if
not the major) role in the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Thanks to a NSA Top Secret Codeword project termed BORESIGHT, every Soviet
submarine at sea, not only those advancing into Cuban waters, but around the
globe, was located and targeted by our own Polaris missiles. Confronted with
this sobering reality, Khrushchev had no choice but to back down or face
World War Three. This was the secret ace in Kennedy's hand with which he
bluffed the Soviet Premier. It was a hell of a strategic poker game, and
should not be buried in the graveyard of secret history. The Cuban Submarine
Crisis started long before 1962:

In 1956, after Nikita Khrushchev emerged as the new ruler of the Kremlin, he
exercised his new-found power by appointing Sergei Gorshkov, a seasoned
naval veteran at the relatively young age of 45, as Commander in Chief of
the Soviet Navy. Gorshkov, had earned his sea legs early in life, attaining
the rank of rear admiral at the age of 31. Nikita ... compelled Sergei to
begin dismantling larger surface warships by stating that "these large
warships are only useful for hauling around admirals." In the years that
followed many of the once proud gray veterans of the Soviet Navy were
dismantled and sold as scrap.

Gorshkov pointed his New Navy towards the development of missile-armed small
craft and submarines to counter U.S. Naval forces then being augmented ....
especially submarines. That was to be the first-line defense and offense
program for the Soviet Navy.

The nuclear-submarine program was put in full swing, but diesel-powered
units were also updated, especially the deadly Foxtrot class, which could
stay submerged for ten hours or more, operating on batteries, during which
time she was considered to be virtually undetectable.

November, 1960, Karamursel, Turkey

"We've lost them!"
"You're kidding."
"Commander, I kid you not. Been over two weeks now, and not one peep.
We've lost them."
"Reed, you can't just lose a Russian submarine ... especially not a few
dozen Russkie subs. They're out there all right, and they're transmitting."
"Of course they are. I just can't find them. They have to be in the high
frequency range ... somewhere between 3,000 to 30,000 kilocycles ... but
I've covered every frequency used for the past thirty years or so by Russian
subs, surface craft, and maybe even life rafts ... and not even a smell of a

Commander Petersen scratched his head, along with the rest of us. I should
qualify that. Commander Petersen never scratched his head exactly like the
rest of us. He was inclined to baldness, had a skin disease which was to
him, I am sure, a constant irritant, and when he scratched his head,
numerous obscene flakes emerged from his scalp, and he then carefully
removed them from under his fingernails with a small pocket-knife blade, and
ate them. It was hard to concentrate on any conversation with Commander
Petersen when he was eating his dandruff. As the Head of Operations he was
our immediate boss, but nobody took him seriously. He had long since been
promoted beyond his level of competence, and would not have dreamed of
making a decision without first consulting the senior chiefs. Petersen was
later transferred to NSA and kicked upstairs into a policy-making billet
where he could do little harm. No good field man paid the slightest
attention to official policy. The rules of the game in the field were
formulated around experience and balls enough to follow gut-level instincts.
We all understood the risk-and-reward factor of such a course of action:
guess right and you were a hero; guess wrong and you were crucified. Blindly
follow the directives of a Petersen, and you were forgotten.

But, at least in this one instance, Commander Petersen was correct. We all
agreed that the Soviet subs had to be communicating with their Fleet H.Q. in
some manner. Gorshkov didn't trust his sub commanders any more than had his
predecessors. Historically they had always been required to check in at
least once daily. If they were in foreign waters that could expand to four
times a day. There were a lot of Russian subs out there, and that
translated into one hell of a lot of signals bouncing off the ionosphere,
day and night. And now, nothing. The Naval Security Group, and the National
Security Agency, were very concerned, and we field guys were the recipients
of that concern or, one might even say, anger. Where were they? We didn't
know. Well, find them!

I had been stationed in Turkey for about one year, on a three-year tour of
duty. We maintained a number of military stations throughout that country,
and one of these was Karamursel, an Air Force base without aircraft (Air
Force Intelligence), located some hundred miles southeast of Istanbul. The
primary function at Karamursel was to monitor, by means of massive antenna
fields, any electronic emission from Turkey's Big Bear neighbor to the north
and east, as well as any transmissions from Soviet fleet units, surface or
subsurface. Special attention was focused on major Soviet missile sites,
such as that massive one at Tyuratam. By monitoring their transmissions we
were able to determine beforehand (by utilizing a number of complex
analytical processes) when a missile was to be launched, what type it was,
and its probable destination. By maintaining such monitoring stations around
the world, we could detect and analyze the special types of transmissions
associated with specific types of missiles: short range, medium range or
long range. If an unusual amount of long-range missiles were detected in the
preparation stage, then we had time to take defensive measures. If it came
down to hard ball, we would also have time to launch a preemptive strike. We
hoped. Karamursel was important, and the details of its operation very,
very Top Secret. A small corner of the station housed a Naval Security Group
detachment. I was the Chief-in-Charge of the NSG intercept operations

As far as my real boss, Captain Frank V. Mason, was concerned, I was the guy
responsible for losing the Russian subs. I was also the guy responsible for
finding them again.

Captain Mason (then Commander Mason) had also been my commanding officer
some years earlier at the Naval Communications Station, Guam, Marianas
Islands. My son was born there, and Mason and I together celebrated his
birth. We were old friends, so we could talk man to man in a manner unusual
between enlisted and commissioned ranks. It was Mason who arranged for my
transfer to Skaggs Island Communications Station outside Napa, California,
following Guam, for specialized training, and then to Turkey, to coincide
with his takeover there. He had recommended me for a commission; I was his
boy. I was letting him down. He wanted to know why.

I said, "Captain, I don't know why. I agree with you that they are
transmitting, but if they are it has to be a "burst" signal. That is
nothing new, by the way. The Germans used it towards the end of World War
Two. They recorded standard Morse-code signals, then compressed them and
sent them out in bursts of a few seconds or less. We lost the German subs
then, and we've lost the Russians subs now. Given time and enough
technological expertise one might expect to eventually DF (direction find) a
signal of some sixty seconds ... although highly unlikely ... but if Ivan is
using a burst of under a second, which I suspect he is, we will never DF it,
and even if we find it, we can't break it. You know as well as I do that
they don't send position reports in any code breakable. It will probably
turn out to be a one-time-pad sort of thing, and if we don't have the key we
sure as hell can't break the code. And get a DF on a signal of one second
or less? Forget it! I am doing all I can, Captain. If he is there, I will
find him, but that isn't going to do us a hell of a lot of good, because you
will never locate him. Unless, of course you can tell me how we direction
find from a recording!" The captain and I both got a good laugh out of that
one. Dreamland.

It was Christmas, 1960, when I finally found the lost Soviet
submarines. It happened by accident. I had been hearing a "scratchy" sound
for some time on various monitored circuits, but had passed it over as some
kind of an anomaly, a spurious emission ... whatever. It was sort of like a
burst of static ... but not quite. Then, one day, I made a
sonograph-enlarged picture of another signal that happened to have one of
these scratchy sounds almost on top of it.

Years earlier at Skaggs island what we did primarily was to record and
analyze Soviet radio transmissions. Everything was signal coded, naturally,
so the trick was to break the signal codes in order to "read" the Soviet
military or diplomatic or whatever type of correspondence. In the process we
used what was called a sonograph machine, which utilized a large drum around
which a photographic type of paper was hand wound by the operator for each
signal to be analyzed. On playback of a recorded signal, the structure or
positive-negative bauds of the signal was imprinted and enlarged for
inspection by the analyst. That work required 20/20 vision and the patience
of Job. Once we broke a signal code, which entailed figuring out from the
baud formations their equivalent letters in the Russian Cyrillic alphabet,
we sent this information to the National Security Agency. NSA engineers were
then able to construct machines that could read out these messages just as
did the Soviet machines. When NSA began to read Soviet traffic in volume,
they passed on relevant excerpts to military or political end users. Good
information could not be obtained over long periods of time. Like ourselves,
the Soviets changed signal codes frequently. Then it was back to the
drawing board and start all over again; vital, boring work.

It was the sonograph machine that enabled me to locate and analyze the
"scratchy" signal. I spread it out and took a closer look. I'll be damned!
It had bauds! Tiny bauds; the most compressed signal that I had ever
encountered ... but bauds. It was a man-made signal, and it obviously was
not one of ours. Gotcha! It was a burst signal, and it had to be a
Russian sub. It just had to be!

We fired the recording directly to the National Security Agency, and they
were ecstatic! All was forgiven. NSA put their best analysts on it and
instructed us to concentrate on obtaining as many recordings of this new
signal as possible. And suddenly we (and other Naval Security Group
intercept stations) began to find them all over the spectrum. Scratchy
signals were music to our ears ... now that we knew what to listen for. As
we obtained better recordings, I measured them carefully and deduced that
the signal had a "trigger" heading, probably meant to activate a Soviet
recording device. The trigger was a series of bauds at 345 cycles per
second, followed by a series of bauds at 142 cps. Next came the obvious
text of the message. NSA confirmed our suspicions shortly. The subs were
back! They had, of course, been there all the time.

Captain Mason received a Letter of Commendation from the National Security
Agency (he was bucking for flag rank), and I received a Letter of
Appreciation from Captain Mason (I was bucking for a commission). We were
buddies again.

We had found the Soviet burst signal, but now the question was, "What can we
do about it?" Even before NSA put their best code experts and computers to
work trying to break the text, I knew that it was unbreakable. If we could
read the text of a position report, we would obviously know the exact
location of the submarine. The Soviets would never use a repeating or
rotating code on such a transmission. There is an old saying in the code
business: "Whatever man can make, man can break." That was true in most
cases, but if you used a one-time-pad or a random scrambler device, the code
was breakable only if you were in physical possession of the "key." Fat
chance. Our only hope, I realized, was to devise a means to locate the
transmitters by direction finders. With existing technology, that was
impossible. A new concept was required.

The reason a spy tried to get on and off the air as quickly as possible was
because he knew, as we all knew, that it takes time to get a bearing on any
transmission. One direction finder will give you only the direction from
which the signal is emanating. It does not tell you how far away the
transmitter is. Three direction finders zeroing in on the signal will give
you a triangulation, and the approximate location of the transmitter. A
number of direction finders will give you a multiangulation and a much
closer location of the transmitter. That's what we needed. But the typical
burst signal was on the air for less than a second. That was okay for the
operator at a Soviet receiving station, since his triggering device would
automatically turn on his recorder. Once recorded, the operator had all the
time in the world to feed the signal into a decoding machine which contained
the key to translate the coded bauds into Cyrillic alphabet and thence to
Russian plain language. We could (and did) build a triggering device to
record the signal, but that left us with nothing more than an unbreakable

Since direction finders didn't have time to get a live bearing, our only
hope was to devise a means whereby we could obtain a bearing "after the
fact" from a recorded signal. That had never been done before. I didn't
believe that it could be done, but I was wrong. NSA engineers did exactly
that during a crash program on a par (almost) with the Oak Ridge development
of the atomic bomb during World War Two. Within months after intercepting
the first Soviet burst signal, we had stations set up and operating to
detect, record and direction find Soviet submarines. At first this was
limited to areas of primary strategic importance, but soon expanded to cover
every body of water in the world.

In common with most great discoveries, the concept was, in retrospect,
basically simple: it consisted of constructing huge circular antenna fields
in areas around the world which would be able to well receive transmissions
from critical bodies of water in which Soviet submarines normally operated.
These antennae were connected to large banks of receivers, tuned to narrow
bandwidths which overlapped and covered the entire spectrum that the
submarines might conceivably use. When a receiver encountered a trigger on a
burst signal, a wide (two inch) sixty-inch-per-second recorder switched on
immediately and recorded the signal, along with a marker, indicating the
time to the millisecond that the signal was intercepted. Since the antenna
field was circular, and divided into segments every few feet, it was also
possible to determine, tangentially, the general direction from which that
signal had been received. When combined with two or more other intercepts
which provided a triangulation or multiangulation indicating the general
direction from which the signal had emanated, one was able to determine,
after the fact, the approximate location of the submarine.

Later, when we had obtained ample space at our site locations to construct
separate antenna fields for both intercept stations and direction-finding
stations, we were afforded the luxury of comparing notes between the two to
obtain even more precise evaluations of direction. Ample space on site was a
prime consideration since, besides the large antenna fields, the space
required for the reception and recording equipment covered an area as large
as a full-sized New York apartment, and had to be fully air conditioned,
since the receivers in those days still used vacuum tubes, and generated
considerable heat. Land area sufficient for construction of a base, with
housing and other facilities for the operational personnel, had to be taken
into account. Large power plants and ancillary units had to be installed.
The project was immense in scope, and was classified Top Secret: CODEWORD.
That codeword, which designated the entire program, was BORESIGHT.

What I am saying here is so outdated that it is no longer classified, or
shouldn't be. HF (high frequency) systems such as this have been made
obsolete by VHF (very high frequency) and UHF (ultra high frequency)
satellite communications technology. The U.S. Navy, for example now uses
the SSIXS (submarine satellite information exchange system) for
communications between its submarines and shore stations. Other nations have
their own versions of this sophisticated and extremely secure communications
system. So what I have been saying is ancient history. Interesting and, I'm
sure, never before revealed, but history nonetheless. The BORESIGHT system
which I have just described is now as outdated as the Model-T Ford. It was,
however, extremely critical as a factor in solving the Cuban Missile Crisis.

But back in 1961 we were in the experimental stage regarding BORESIGHT, and
we had to train operators at outlying stations what to look for, and how to
analyze the signals when they received them. You couldn't mail them a tape,
and of course you couldn't describe anything by telephone or radio. The
tapes containing examples of burst signals had to be hand carried. That
meant by armed courier, with the tape in a briefcase attached to his arm by
lock and chain. In other words that meant me, and others like me, who knew
the signal first hand and could train operators in the field. During the
next few years I circled the globe many times helping to install BORESIGHT

In early 1962 I was notified that I had been selected for a commission in
the United States Navy. All those years of correspondence courses, night
school, and hard work at my profession had finally paid off. I was directed
to report to the LDO School, Newport, Rhode Island, in August, 1962, for
"fork and knife" training, where they would teach me how to act like an
officer and a gentleman. But I actually received my commission and ensign's
bars in Turkey on July 1. Following LDO School, I was assigned to the NSA
for duty.

National Security Agency, Fort Meade,
Maryland 1962-1965

Upon reporting in at NSA I was assigned a minor desk in Section A22, the
Soviet Submarine or, effectively now, the BORESIGHT section. As the only man
in the section with any actual BORESIGHT field-operational experience, I
encountered a great deal of confusion and misunderstanding about what the
equipment could and couldn't do. We brought in other field-experienced
personnel, and eventually worked into a competent BORESIGHT-Control

In September 1962, our U-2 over-flights finally confirmed what had been
suspected: the Soviets were installing missiles in Cuba. As far as I know,
that's all the American public ever heard about. I'm not sure that this has
ever been officially acknowledged, but I can assure you that there was a
Cuban Submarine Crisis going on simultaneously. We had received evidence of
Soviet submarine-pen construction in Cienfuegos, Cuba. How much of this came
from air surveillance and how much from on-site penetration would be pure
speculation on my part, but we were advised by reliable sources that it was
so. Soviet submarines with potential long-range missile-launching
capabilities (boomers), stationed that close to U.S. shores, with the
resultant increased ability to range up and down our coasts, posed a much
greater threat than medium-range fixed missiles in Cuba. That danger had to
be eliminated at all costs. We were told to maximize efforts to locate the
position of every Soviet submarine possible. We did so, and started to get
hit after hit on BORESIGHT.

In late October we obtained BORESIGHT fixes, and later visual sightings, of
four SovietFoxtrot-class attack boats converging on Cuba. We suspected more
on the way. That's when my boss, Commander [McPherson], who was Chief of
Section A22 (Soviet Submarine Section) at the NSA, was called to the White
House. The president and his inner circle had previously been briefed on
BORESIGHT of course, but in light of these new developments they wanted an
up-to-date confirmation of just how good it was, and a technical explanation
of precisely how it worked. Should the U.S. decide to blockade Cuba, a Wolf
Pack of near-silent Foxtrot submarines carrying nuclear-tipped torpedoes
could spell disaster ... unless we could find them.

Commander [McPherson] was a sharp, competent, naval officer, but he only
knew BORESIGHT second hand, mostly from me. In fact, he and I together had
worked up his presentation. Operationally he was on solid ground, but he was
a bit intimidated by some of the technical aspects.

"I'm sure I've got it, but I don't want to get hit with a surprise technical
question and have to tell the President that I'll get back to him on that
later. You'd best come along Reed, just in case."

A lowly ensign in the U.S. Navy invited to the White House? Unheard of.
What the hell, I thought, before I was an ensign I was an old grizzled Navy
Chief. Nobody screws around with a Navy Chief ... right? Sounds tough, but
to tell the truth, I was as nervous as a seaman recruit on the first day of
boot camp.

The briefing was actually held in the "little" White House, or annex,
off to the right side of the White House proper. I was disappointed that it
was not to be held in the Oval Office, but when I saw the size of the crowd
attending I realized why it was not. The Oval Office is in fact a small
office in size.

Commander [McPherson] gave a very good presentation, but as the briefing
progressed and the questions became more technical and precise, I was called
upon frequently to amplify. I had brought along charts and graphs which I
had previously prepared for use in a BORESIGHT manual which I was in the
process of writing. Most of the questions came from the panel of technical
experts from various agencies of the Defense Department. But there were also
occasional queries from a group of quiet "grey" men in the outer gallery. I
didn't know who most of them were, and did not especially care. We were here
to brief the President. If he wanted someone else present that was his
decision to make. I later discovered who the grey men were after reading a
book by Robert Kennedy (written in 1967 and published in 1969) titled:
Thirteen Days. Robert Kennedy was present at the briefing as well as the
other members of President Kennedy's Advisory Committee (ExComm), which in
Robert Kennedy's own words included:

"... Secretary of State Dean Rusk; Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara;
Director of the Central Intelligence Agency John McCone; Secretary of the
Treasury Douglas Dillon; President Kennedy's advisor on national security
affairs, McGeorge Bundy; Presidential Counsel Ted Sorenson; Under Secretary
of State George Ball; Deputy Under Secretary of State U. Alexis Johnson;
General Maxwell Taylor, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Edward
Martin, Assistant Secretary of State for Latin America; Llewellyn Thompson
as the advisor on Russian affairs; Roswell Gilpatraic, Deputy Secretary of
Defense; and, intermittently at various times: Lyndon B. Johnson, Adlai
Stevenson, Ambassador to the United Nations; Ken O'Donnell, Special
Assistant to the President; and Don Wilson, who was Deputy Director of the
United States Information Agency. This was the group that met, talked,
argued, and fought together during that critical period of time. From this
group came the recommendations from which President Kennedy was ultimately
to select his course of action ... The general feeling ... was that some
form of action was required ... I passed a note to the President: 'I now
know how Tojo felt when he was planning Pearl Harbor.'"

President Kennedy asked very few questions. He appeared to me to be
tired. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, a man whom I had always admired
and respected, seemed to be pretty much in charge ... at least at the
beginning of the briefing ... but as we began to cover the more detailed
technical aspects of BORESIGHT, he looked like he was falling asleep; head
down, almost on his chest. We had put in a hell of a lot of work on this
thing, and I was annoyed that SECDEF didn't seem all that interested. I
learned that my fears were totally misplaced. When the presentation
concluded, McNamara's head came up. The first question (or rather review)
came from him. He said, "Now let me see if I understand this ..." and
proceeded with the most precise and comprehensive explanation of BORESIGHT
that I have ever heard. He had memorized just about everything that we had
presented in a two-hour briefing. And he had the ability to make even bauds
and bits and radio-wave-propagation theory sound interesting. Robert
McNamara was (and probably still is) one scary guy.

As we were leaving the conference room Commander [McPherson] said to me
in an aside, "Now what do you suppose that was all about?" I knew what he
meant: SECDEF engineers must surely have known how BORESIGHT worked. They
shouldn't have to be told that again. In hindsight, I think what they
really wanted to know, and what the President had to be assured of, was:
What did a BORESIGHT position report translate to in terms of precise target
location? Was it 100 yards, or 500 yards, or five miles? A big difference
to one of our ASW weapons. If this came down to a shooting war, could we
take out one or two of the subs moving in Cuban waters, or all of them, if
needed, with one concentrated strike?

The point that we made to them, over and over, was that we had a very
limited number of BORESIGHT stations installed and operating. We would be
lucky to get a simple triangulation fix. That would put them in the right
ballpark, but it would not guarantee (without luck) the precise base pad.
Once in the ballpark, it was up to their ASW forces to find the base runner.
Given more locations, which would provide us with multiangulation fixes,
maybe six or seven DF line bearings converging on the target, we could tell
them Who was on first and What was on second.

The Cuban Missile Crisis:
My son, William Craig Reed, spent six years aboard nuclear submarines (late
70's and early 80's) as a fire control technician, espionage photographer,
and SEAL-trained navy diver and was involved in the most devastating
collision between a U.S. and Soviet submarine during the Cold War
(documented in the Writer's Press book CRAZY IVAN now available at Barnes &
Noble). Together, we compiled a precise day-to-day account of U.S. Naval
operations during the Cuban Missile Crisis, including the vital role that
BORESIGHT played in bringing that operation to a successful conclusion. In
the details of those day-to-day operations of the U.S. Naval ASW forces, we
point out time and again how the ships of our fleet were directed to the
precise locations of various Soviet submarines. They had made the mistake of
raising their antennae and sending off position reports by the burst signals
that they were convinced were undetectable, and BORESIGHJT nailed them.

There was no militant exchange involving Soviet submarines, because by this
time Khrushchev was having second thoughts. His Fleet Commander, Admiral
Gorshkov, continued to assure him that the Foxtrots, operating on battery
power, were invisible. They could not be detected by the Americans! But
Khrushchev was receiving reports hourly from his submarine commanders
contradicting this assurance. His "invisible" Foxtrots were being prosecuted
around the clock by U.S. ASW forces to the point that they were often forced
to surface under threat of depth-charge attack. Khrushchev began to realize
that he could no longer back up his threat to "sink the American naval
vessels" should they try to effect a quarantine of Cuba. On the contrary,
his Foxtrots were in imminent danger of being sunk! The deciding factor in
this exchange was, of course, BORESIGHT.

Admiral Anderson later commented in his unpublished memoirs:

"... we concentrated our whole area antisubmarine coverage to the point
that every Soviet submarine in the western Atlantic was made to surface at
least once, or several times in some instances. I had excellent cooperation
from [Admiral] Dennison in that regard, and I did follow very intensely our
successes in that respect. One incident occurred. We knew where one of
these particular submarines was located. We had that information from the
most highly classified intelligence that the Navy had at that time
[BORESIGHT]. We were very anxious to preserve that intelligence, and very
few people knew about this type of intelligence. We had a destroyer [USS
Charles P. Cecil, DDR 835] sitting on top of this submarine [Foxtrot pendant
number 911]. One evening, McNamara, Gilpatric [sic], and an entourage of
his press people came down to flag plot and, in the course of their
interrogations, they asked why that destroyer was out of line. I sort of
tried to pass it off because not only were there some of McNamara's people
there who were not cleared for this information, but some of my own watch
officers were not cleared for it in the general area of flag plot. After
some discussion, I said to McNamara - he kept pressing me - 'come inside,'
and I took him into a little inner sanctuary where only people who had
clearance for that particular type of classified information were permitted,
and I explained the whole thing to him and to his satisfaction as well."

At 10:30 AM on October 27, 1962, Secretary of State Dean Rusk turned to
McNamara and spoke words that would make history, "We're eyeball to eyeball
and I think the other fellow just blinked." All Soviet ships headed toward
the quarantine line had stopped or turned toward the Soviet Union. The
Essex received her next orders: do not fire, allow the Soviet ships every
opportunity to turn around!

What made the other fellow blink? Volumes have been written trying to
answer that question. Aleksandr Fursenko and Timothy Naftali suggest in
their book: One Hell of a Gamble, that it was because of a Russian
immigrant from the Balkans named Johnny Prokov, a bartender at Tap Room in
the National Press Club, Washington, D.C.. They contend that Prokov passed
to Anatoly Gorski, a KGB officer, information that he had overheard during a
conversation at the bar between two celebrated American journalists, Robert
Donovan and Warren Rogers, both correspondents of the New York Herald
Tribune. "Apparently Donovan was supposed to fly south that very night 'to
cover the operation to capture Cuba, which is expected to start the next day
...'" The story was that the KGB passed that information immediately to
Moscow, and Khrushchev had it on his desk within hours. He was finally
convinced that Kennedy was serious about going to war over Cuba, and that
was why he backed down. Khrushchev backed down because of a conversation
overheard at a bar? That smacks of a pretty desperate bid to find an

To this day, I contend that Khrushchev almost surely received and
understood a message from Kennedy in words to the effect that:

"We can find your boats, you can't sink our blockading ships with your
Foxtrots, and you won't be able to hide your submarines in Cuba. We know
about the submarine base that you are building in Cienfuegos, but it will do
you no good, because we will make sure that no Soviet missile-capable
submarine ever gets near Cuba again!"

Khrushchev knew as well as Kennedy that if we had their submarines
pinpointed, the ball game was over. The land-based medium-range missiles
sited in Cuba could damage a considerable segment of the United States, but
the use thereof would result in massive retaliation against both Cuba and
the Soviet Union. He stood to lose all of his Foxtrot subs now converging on
Cuba, and he would lose his submarine pens in Cuba from which he had planned
to service nuclear-powered boomers in the future off the shores of the U.S..

Khrushchev fully expected to lose the fixed missile sites in Cuba during the
first missile exchange, but he had counted on the long-range missiles aboard
his boomers to tip the balance, since those submarines (like the Foxtrot
under battery power) were heretofore considered to be undetectable.
Suddenly, it appeared that none of his submarines ... not only in Cuban
waters, but perhaps around the world ... were undetectable! He was playing
a losing hand. It was poker that Kennedy was playing, but it was good poker:

I can visualize the scene: Khrushchev bet Cuba. Kennedy said, "Call and
raise. We're going all the way on this one Nikita," and pushed the world
into the pot. It was the highest stake poker game ever played. Khrushchev
threw his cards on the table and said, "Fold!" His ace-in-the-hole had
been exposed.

Khrushchev discovered to his regret that he was now dealing with a new
Kennedy, not at all the Kennedy of the Paris fiasco. This was a man who had
assuredly grown into his presidency, and a president who was obviously
backed by a United States Congress ready and willing to risk World War
Three. The Soviet Politburo, on the other hand, was not, and prominent
members thereof were pressuring Khrushchev to ease off. This was a reckless
game that he was playing! They did not wish to risk all-out war at this
time. Khrushchev was left with no other choice but to turn his ships around
or face World War Three ... and probably a bullet.

And World War Three it would have been had there been one small
miscalculation by either side. After that hair-raising confrontation and a
short cooling-off period of rational exchange, Khrushchev agreed to pull out
all offensive-capable weapons systems from Cuba in exchange for an assurance
that the U.S. would not launch or back an invasion, and would also remove
missile sites in Turkey which were targeted on the Soviet Union. The Cuban
Missile (and Submarine) Crisis was over. I'm sure Kennedy didn't trade off
any BORESIGHT secrets to the Soviets, because we used the equipment to good
effect for some years to follow, but I can't doubt that he told them the
exact number and the exact location of their submarines in Cuban waters ...
and probably elsewhere. How we knew must have driven Ivan crazy! There is
no doubt in my mind that Kennedy did it right. We owe him.

There is also no doubt in my mind that two technological breakthroughs, one
called RADAR (developed by English scientists for combat operations just
prior to the German aerial assault against Britain in September, 1940), and
one called BORESIGHT, were highly instrumental in achieving victory in two
of the most decisive world conflicts of this century: the Battle of Britain,
and the Cuban Missile (submarine) Crisis, respectively. And one should
never forget the tenacity and the courage of the British Bulldog and the
Irish Wolfhound behind them.

Following the Cuban Missile Crisis, BORESIGHT quickly became the hottest
program at the National Security Agency. We had the full backing of SECDEF
McNamara. He insisted upon a crash program. We were to install BORESIGHT in
every corner of the Globe! He pressed our allies for the use of choice
locations in which to install the large antenna fields required, and in
which also a secure environment obtained. Security was paramount.

The remainder of 1962 and all of 1963 was a period of system refinement and
expansion. Major installations included: Adak, Alaska; Kamiseya, Japan;
Guam; Pearl Harbor; Port Lyautey, North Africa; Edzell, Scotland;
Cheltenham, England; Recife, Brazil; Winter Harbor, Maine. These were
backed up by a number of secondaries, constantly expanding.

By 1964, BORESIGHT had been designated the number two U.S. military
priority, second only to the development of U.S. Polaris ballistic-missile
nuclear submarines. It remained so closely guarded a secret for the next
twenty years or so, that nobody ever questioned publicly what effect this
program might have had in the crucial final-day talks between President
Kennedy and Soviet Premier Khrushchev. How could they have? If there had
been so much as a rumor of BORESIGHT, the NSA, the CIA, and even the
President of the United States would have sworn under oath that no such
program had ever existed. And nobody ever asked questions about the Cuban
Submarine Crisis either, since that also never existed. Right?

But there are still a few of us around who know better, including the former
Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara. He knows the story about BORESIGHT
and the Cuban Submarine Crisis as well as I do. Ask him.

A more comprehensive account of the part that BORESIGHT played in the Cuban
Missile Crisis is offered in the new book by W. Craig Reed and William Reed,
titled: Crazy Ivan, and now available from

&mscssid=PX0UPCT3KEWP9K7M1FL35J13QLBN0H54&isbn=0595006132> Barnes and
Noble.com and