'Go in There and Frig Around With the Missiles, You're Screwed': The Moment General Mocked JFK Behind His Back at the Height of Cuban Missile Crisis Caught on Tape
by Daniel Bates
It was the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis and the nation was supposed to be pulling together.
But John F Kennedy’s top generals were actually bad-mouthing him behind his back – whilst standing in the White House.
When the former US President left the room Marine Corps Commandant General David Shoup said that Mr Kennedy was doing things ‘piecemeal’ and needed a talking to.
He even mocked his Commander in Chief and ridiculed the way he had spoken in front of some of his closest advisors.
The disclosures shed new light on the tensions within Mr Kennedy’s office in the run-up to the Cuban Missile Crisis.
From 1962 onwards – the year it took place – the President had a high tech recording device put into the Oval Office and the Cabinet Room of the White House.
In total he recorded 248 hours of meetings and 17 hours of phone conversations, plus his own private reflections until he was shot dead in November 1963.
The recordings show Mr Kennedy agonising over the situation he was in when Russia deployed nuclear missiles in Cuba.
Mr Kennedy said: ‘We do nothing, they have a missile base there with all the pressure that brings to bear on the United States and damage to our prestige.
‘If we attack Cuban missiles or Cuba … we would be regarded as the trigger-happy Americans who lost Berlin. We would have no support among our allies.
‘Which leaves me only one alternative, which is to fire nuclear weapons – which is a hell of an alternative – and begin a nuclear exchange, with all this happening.’
Air Force chief of staff General Curtis LeMay then famously told him: ‘You're in a pretty bad fix, Mr President’.
But the tapes reveal that after Mr Kennedy and Defence Secretary Robert McNamara went out the room, General Shoup launched into his own tirade - without realising the tape was still running.
He told General LeMay: ‘You pulled the rug right out from under him’.
General Shoup added: ‘I agree with that answer, General, I just agree with you, I just agree with you a hundred percent.
‘Somebody's got to keep him from doing the goddamn thing piecemeal. That's our problem.
‘Go in there and frig around with the missiles. You're screwed. You go in there and frig around with anything else, you're screwed.’
In fact Mr Kennedy was taking the threat very seriously and the recordings show he had gone so far as to make plans for firing warning shots.
He had set up war games to see how things would play out in the event of a war, and even ordered that should it happen the sailors would have to give up their cameras.
Mr Kennedy, who was acutely aware of the power of the media, did not want any images in the press he had no control over.
Speaking to ABC News Caroline Kennedy, Mr Kennedy’s daughter and only surviving child, said that the new insight given by the tapes was fascinating.
She said: ‘I think you really get a sense of just how scary it was to the people in the room.
‘It wasn't just outlining a set of options. It was really that they felt this sense of, you know, this could be life or death for not just the people in the room, but our whole country’.