INTERVIEW WITH DINO BRUGIONI
INTERVIEWER: First of all, can I ask you the tricky one, can we have your name and your title for the transcripts?
DINO BRUGIONI: OK, my name is Dino Brugioni, that's D I N O B R U G I O N I.
INT: Thank you. First of all, can I take you back to the early part of 1960... sixties, what was your role then and what were you particularly in doing at that time?
DB: Well, it started actually in 1954. I was selected to be part of the cadre of what later became the National Photographic Interpretation Centre and my job was chief of the information branch and as such, I received all the information from communications intercepts, from Penkowski, from all the secret sources, and then as we started flying the Soviet Union, I would prepare notes for Mr. Lundahl and I prepared the photography. So that when Mr. Lundahl briefed the photography, he had on three by five cards a series of notes about the photography and about other sources of information. So when Lundahl was briefing, he was briefing what we call an all-source briefing, that is using intelligence from many sources, but how it played in to the aerial photography. So the first thing was in July fourth 1956 we start flying the Soviet Union and within two months - there was about a hundred of us - we could prove there was no bomber gap. Then we started flying over the Suez and Eisenhower used the U-2 in a tactical situation. Then we over-flew Tibet and then we over-flew the Chinese offshore islands, then we flew Lebanon, so the U-2 was being used in a tactical situation. But then periodically, we were flying over the Soviet Union, not only were we flying over the Soviet Union, but then we persuaded the British that they should fly some missions too and so the British RAF flyers flew some U-2 missions over the Soviet Union. Now, all this information proved first that there were no bomber gap and then second - and I was right on the verge of saying that there was no missile gap - these were two of the principal issues of the 1960s.
INT: So Cuba being, a small island in the Caribbean, didn't seem to have much going for it, why was Cuba being over-flown?
DB: Well, Eisenhower became intrigued with Cuba and he didn't like Castro and for that matter neither did Nixon, and so there were reports about Soviet influence and Communist influence in Cuba, so he said, well, let's go in and take a look. So in October 1960, we started flying over Cuba and this was very important because this established the database. we had photography that we could compare later photography to and determine whether there were any changes or not.
INT: Later, the following, what 1962 which is the core of our programme, there started to be a huge build-up of Soviet ships going towards Cuba, what was being picked up by the agency?
DB: Well, the Soviets started sending material to Cuba and it's what we called a package. There were T54 tanks, there was self-propelled artillery, there were Mig aircraft and so forth. So in 1962, the shipments really increased to Cuba and we were watching 'em very carefully. First, as the ships left Russia, especially if they came through the Med, they were photographed in Sicily, they were photographed in Gibraltar, they were photographed all the way to Cuba and then, once they arrived and the equipment was unloaded, then we would spot where the equipment went in Cuba. So there was a very close and almost a perpetual watch on Cuba.
INT: Was there a feeling in the summer of '62 that there was a build-up to something important going on?
DB: Yes. To a number of us, 'cos we saw... all over Cuba, you'd see tents and it was obvious that a sizeable number of Russians were coming in. And we were claiming these tents were Russians and there was some trouble in the intelligence community, they said, well, how could you prove that they were Russian? Well, we could see certain discipline in these units that we thought we Russian, in that the equipment was parked in a precise manner, the tents were laid out in a precise manner and so we were watching this very, very carefully.
INT: Then suddenly you started getting photographs SAM sites going in, what did that mean?
DB: Yes. A key mission was August the twenty ninth and we started finding SAM sites in Cuba and from the spacing of them, it looked like it was going to be a defence of the whole island. When Mr. McCone was shown these photographs, he became very irate. He said,, damn it, he said, they're not putting 'em in there to protect the cane-cutters, they're putting 'em in there to blind our reconnaissance eye. Well, this was, as I indicated, in August, late August, September the twelfth, a Chinese nationalist U-2 was shot down over China and this precipitated a big debate between two factions. On one side were McCone and Bobby and on the other side were McGeorge Bundy and Dean Rusk. They didn't want any flights, they wanted peripheral flights only, flying around the periphery of Cuba. Bobby and McCone wanted penetrations of Cuba. Well, these flights continued, but at the same time, this was the hurricane season and there were four hurricanes, one right after the other, and so that the weather would be bad for flights. But finally a mission was okayed for October the fourteenth and this was... There was a trapezoidal area in Cuba in which the Cubans were being moved out and the Russians were being moved in and we wanted to take a look at this, because this sounded pretty ominous that something was going on that the Russians didn't want people to see. And so on that mission - it was flown by Major Heiser of the Strategic Air Command - the mission is processed by the navy, we get it on the fifteenth. By that afternoon, we found one, and then later we found two sites in Cuba that we were convinced were SS4 sites. Mr. Lundahl said, now work until you get done, work through the night, make any excuses that you want to with your family, but stay with it. By nine o'clock...