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Operation Anadyr
Result Cuban Missile Crisis
(no combat took place) Flag of the Soviet Union.svg
Commanders and leaders
Issa Pliyev
Georgy Abashvili
47,000 troops,
three R-12 missile regiments,
two R-14 missile regiments

Operation Anadyr (Russian: «Анадырь») was the code name used by the Soviet Union for their Cold War (1962) secret operation of deploying ballistic missiles, medium-range bombers, and a division of mechanized infantry in Cuba to create the army group that would be able to prevent an invasion of the island by U.S. forces.[1] Plans were to deploy 60,000 troops, three R-12 missile regiments and two R-14 missile regiments. Troops were transferred by 86 ships, that conducted 180 voyages from ports at Baltiysk, Liepāja, Sevastopol, Feodosiya, Nikolaev, Poti, Murmansk, and Krondstadt. Between mid-June 17 and mid- October, 24 launching pads, 42 R-12 rockets, including six training ones, some 45 nuclear warheads, 42 Il-28 bombers, a fighter aircraft regiment (40 MiG-21 aircraft), two Anti-Air Defense divisions, four mechanized infantry regiments, and other military units (47,000 troops in total) were transferred. The fighter regiment deployed was the 32nd Guards Fighter Aviation Regiment (32 Gv IAP) flying MiG-21F-13s, deployed from Kubinka. The 32nd Regiment was renamed 213th Fighter Aviation Regiment during the deployment.[2] The deployment was uncovered by U.S. reconnaissance aircraft on October 14. Two days later the fact of Soviet missile presence on Cuba became known to the U.S. President and military command and the Cuban Missile Crisis started.[1]

Range of Soviet Medium- and Intermediate-Range Ballistic Missiles Deployed to Cuba

Soviet Denial and Deception in Operation Anadyr[edit | edit source]

Operation Anadyr certainly was a missile and troop deployment, but it also involved a complex denial and deception campaign. The Soviet attempt to position nuclear weapons on the island nation of Cuba in Operation Anadyr occurred under a shroud of great secrecy, both to deny the United States information on the deployment of these missiles to the island and deceive the United States' political leadership, military, and intelligence services on Moscow's intentions in Cuba. The parameters of Anadyr demanded that both medium and intermediate-range ballistic missiles be deployed to Cuba and operable before their existence was discovered by the United States, and the Soviet General Staff and the Soviet political leadership turned to radical measures to achieve surprise in this manner.

Soviet Military Denial and Deception[edit | edit source]

Perhaps the most fundamental deception in Operation Anadyr was the deployment's codename itself. "Anadyr" would suggest anything but a movement of Soviet troops to the Caribbean to an American intelligence analyst pouring over intercepted Soviet military communications. The Anadyr, in fact, is a river which flows into the Bering Sea, and it is also the name of the capital of a district in the USSR and a remote bomber base, both in the far north of the Soviet Union. Both the American analyst and the lowly Soviet soldier, prone to start rumors and leak information, surely would have expected the upcoming operation to be a military exercise in the northern vastness of the USSR.[3]

In the early planning stages of Operation Anadyr, only five senior officers on the General Staff were privy to the details of the deployment or its actual location. All the planning was done by Colonel General Ivanov, General Anatoly Gribkov, Lieutenant General Mikhail I. Povaliy, Major Genera Yeliseyev, and Colonel Kotov. These five officers alone prepared the every last feature of the enterprise, enough work to keep scores of staff busy for weeks, but so stringent was the demand for secrecy, no one else was allowed into this small coterie. The plans that were made even were handwritten to deny knowledge of the operation to even a single secretary.[4]

The logistical preparations for Anadyr were equally covert. Men and materiel were moved by railway to four northern ports and four on the Black Sea. Foreigners were barred from the ports during this period, but regardless, most loading occurred under the cover of darkness. Troops awaiting the voyage were restricted to barracks prior to departure and were denied contact with the outside world. The same restrictions were placed on the sailors of the transport ships. During the wait, Soviet soldiers kept busy by constructing false superstructures with plywood to hide the ships' defenses and even on-deck field kitchens. Metal sheets were placed over missiles and missile launchers, which were too large to be stored below decks on most vessels, to prevent detection by infrared surveillance. Other military equipment was stored below decks. Agricultural equipment and other non-military machinery was placed on deck to add to the subterfuge. Once underway, the Soviet troops were not allowed on deck, except at night and only in small groups.[5]

Instructions to the troops and ships' crews were carried by special couriers to deny Western intelligence services the opportunity to intercept electronic communications regarding the operation. The ships' captains received their instructions, which revealed their final destination, only after they had put out to sea. The instructions were given to them by a KGB officer aboard who had been entrusted with the envelope prior to departure. Every vessel carried thick folders of information on various countries for the officers aboard to review. Only after the destination was revealed were they specifically instructed to study Cuba.[6]

Soviet denial and deception measures were equally rigid upon the ships' arrival in Cuba. The Soviet vessels unloaded at eleven different ports to complicit adversarial surveillance. While non-military equipment was unloaded in broad daylight, materiel with obvious military qualities was offloaded only under the cover of darkness and transported to its end destination after nightfall as well. The same applied to major troop movements, and all Soviet military positions were generally in sparsely populated areas of the island. The Soviet troops were even forbidden to wear their uniforms further to make a Soviet military presence deniable. Instead, they wore civilian attire. Simultaneously, the Soviet media trumped the massive agricultural assistance that the Soviets ostensibly were providing to their Cuban comrades as a false explanation for the men and equipment.[7]

Soviet Diplomatic Denial and Deception[edit | edit source]

The Soviets employed an equally dazzling array of diplomatic ruses to maintain the guise over their activities in Cuba. First Secretary Nikita Khrushchev embarked on a tour of the Soviet Republics in Central Asia during much of the duration of Anadyr. During this time, Khrushchev explicitly avoided all hostile references to the United States.[8]

The Soviet Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Dobrynin was a primary instrument in transmitting the diplomatic assurances that only defensive weaponry was being supplied to Cuba. On September 4, 1962, for instance, the Ambassador personally asked Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy to inform President John F. Kennedy that no ballistic missiles or other offensive armaments had been transported to Cuba. Dobrynin was repeating a message from Khrushchev himself. Later, Dobrynin would again deny the existence of Soviet missiles in Cuba.[9]

Equally, a KGB officer, Georgi Bolshakov, posted at the Soviet Embassy was a source of disinformation regarding Anadyr. Bolshakov met regularly with Robert Kennedy, who believed him to be an honest diplomatic and back-channel communications channel to Khruschev. Robert Kennedy seemed to personally trust the Soviet, and the President came to rely upon his information. Throughout the duration of Operation Anadyr, Bolshakov assured the Kennedy brothers that Moscow had no aspirations of turning Cuba into a forward strike base. Bolshakov only lost their trust when the President was shown actual photographs, taken by a Lockheed U-2 surveillance aircraft, of Soviet ballistic missiles on Cuban soil.[10]

The Soviet media was also complicit in transmitting disinformation about Soviet intentions in Cuba to the world's political leaders and public. On September 11, the Telegraph Agency of the Soviet Union claimed that the Soviet Union was supplying exclusively defensive weaponry to Cuba to deter American aggression and that the USSR had no need to site offensive weapons outside of its own soil. Pravda even censored elements of a speech made by Fidel Castro which hinted at an ability to strike the American homeland from Cuba.[11]

Kennedy was not the only president that the Soviets attempted to deceive. Incredibly, they also fed false information to the Cuban Communists, overemphasizing the American threat to Cuba, to persuade them to allow Soviet nuclear weapons to be deployed to the island. Cuban political leadership, especially Fidel Castro, and the Cuban intelligence services received falsified reports from their Soviet counterparts on the nature and extent of the American menace. Khrushchev so adamantly desired to affect the strategic nuclear balance between the two superpowers that he attempted to deceive his Cuban proxies so that, in turn, they would unquestioningly allow Soviet ballistic missiles and nuclear warheads to be placed on Cuban soil. The Soviet KGB first began doctoring information and transmitting it to the Cubans in 1961 and continued to do so through the Cuban Missile Crisis. Soviet diplomatic warnings began soon thereafter. Khrushchev himself emphasized the American threat in conversations with Castro and Castro's deputies and personally proposed the deployment of Soviet missiles to Cuba in the late spring of 1962, a proposal which was soon accepted.[12]

Some non-Soviets, however, were privy to accurate information regarding both the American threat and Soviet intentions. Amazingly, the KGB waged a deception campaign in support of Anadyr which included feeding partially or even wholly correct information to the Cuban émigré community in Miami, Florida. The Soviets knew the information from Cuban exile organizations was perceived by the American intelligence services to be highly unreliable. They assumed correctly that the Americans would discount such warnings as blatant falsehoods that the Cuban émigrés hoped would prompt an American invasion of Cuba and overthrow of the existing regime.[13] This misevaluation was bitterly remembered by the Cuban exile community in the United States. Cuban expatriates, particularly The Truth About Cuba Committee, later condemned the Kennedy administration for its failure to perceive Soviet activities in Cuba despite accurate reports.[14]

U2 Image of Soviet Nuclear-Capable Missiles in Cuba

Aftermath of Operation Anadyr[edit | edit source]

The Soviet denial and deception campaign in Operation Anadyr proved highly effective, and the eventual discovery of the missile emplacements, which occurred after they were operational, was almost inevitable. U.S. imagery analysis of the Soviet vessels sailing for Cuba had proven fruitless; no indication that the ships carried anything other than non-military equipment was visible. Some American analysts speculated that some over the larger ships might be carrying nuclear-capable ballistic missiles in their holds, but no definitive evidence existed until those very missiles were already emplaced on Cuban soil.[15] Finally, on October 14, an American U-2 reconnaissance aircraft photographed Soviet ballistic missiles on Cuban soil. The President received the images two days later. On October 23, six Vought F-8 Crusader reconnaissance aircraft gathered clearer images from a lower level as definitive proof to the world of the deployment of Soviet nuclear weapons to Cuba. The following morning, President Kennedy authorized the blockade which began the actual Crisis.[16]

Operation Kama[edit | edit source]

A part of Operation Anadyr was Operation Kama, a plan to forward-base seven Soviet ballistic missile submarines in Mariel, Cuba, much like the United States bases ballistic missile submarines in Holy Loch, Scotland. The operation began on October 1, 1962 with the departure of four diesel-electric attack submarines to the Caribbean Sea to clear the way. All four submarines were Project 641 boats, known to NATO as the "Foxtrot" class. The boats were the B-4, known as Chelyabinski Komsomolets, the B-36, the B-59, and the B-130.

Kama failed independently of Anadyr; none of the ballistic missile submarines ever departed for Cuba, and all four of the attack submarines were detected and followed closely by American destroyers and ASW aircraft. (Some of the destroyer crews harassed the Soviet submarines by dropping hand grenades overboard, which did no harm to the boats but made it clear that depth charges could follow at any time.) Equipment failures and the skill of the destroyer crews prevented three of the submarines from breaking contact long enough to surface and recharge their batteries; those three suffered the ignominy of surfacing in sight of their enemy, an action that in time of war would have caused their death or capture. Only Chelyabinski Komsomolets successfully broke contact and returned to the Soviet Union without being forced to surface.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 Great Russian Encyclopedia (2005), Moscow: Bol'shaya Rossiyskaya Enciklopediya Publisher, vol. 1, p. 649
  2. http://www.airforce.ru/history/cold_war/cuba/index_en.htm
  3. James H. Hansen, "Soviet Deception in the Cuban Missile Crisis," Studies in Intelligence 46.1 (2002): 50.
  4. Ibid; General Anatoli I. Gribkov and General William Y. Smith, Operation Anadyr (Chicago: Edition Q, 1994), 24.
  5. Hansen, "Soviet Deception in the Cuban Missile Crisis," 52-53.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Ibid; Gribkov and Smith, Operation Anadyr, 38-40.
  8. Hansen, "Soviet Deception in the Cuban Missile Crisis," 56.
  9. Jerrold L. Schecter and Peter S. Deriabin, The Spy Who Saved the World (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1992), 330; Raymond L. Garthoff, Reflections on the Cuban Missile Crisis (Washington, D.C: Brookings Institution, 1989), 29; Hansen, "Soviet Deception in the Cuban Missile Crisis," 56.
  10. Christopher Andrew and Oleg Gordievsky, KGB: The Inside Story (New York: HarperCollins, 1990), 470-473.
  11. Garthoff, Reflections on the Cuban Missile Crisis, 25, 30; Hansen, "Soviet Deception in the Cuban Missile Crisis," 56.
  12. Domingo Amuchastegui, "Cuban Intelligence and the October Crisis," Intelligence and National Security 13.3 (1998): 97, 99-100; Hansen, "Soviet Deception in the Cuban Missile Crisis," 51-52.
  13. Ibid., 55; Amuchastegui, "Cuban Intelligence and the October Crisis," 101; Luis V. Manrara, Betrayal Opened the Door to Russian Missiles in Red Cuba (Miami: Truth About Cuba Committee, 1968), 45.
  14. Ibid.
  15. Hansen, "Soviet Deception in the Cuban Missile Crisis," 52.
  16. Michael Dobbs, One Minute to Midnight (New York: Vintage, 2008), 3, 63-67.

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