JFK COUP D’ETAT – THE ADMINISTRATIVE DETAILS
By William E. Kelly (firstname.lastname@example.org )
Rather than the act of a lone, deranged gunman, if the assassination of President John F. Kennedy was a conspiracy, it was more specifically defined as a covert intelligence operation, the purpose of which is to shield the actual perpetrators.
As a covert coup, however, and not just a whispered conspiracy, there is documentation and records that reflect the policy, administration, payments, management, training, assignments and tasks necessary to successfully execute the Dealey Plaza operation.
This historical administrative record shows that the assassination was not the work of a lone-nut nor a renegade CIA-Mafia-Cuban intelligence network, but a well planned, coordinated, integrated and official program – an inside job – coup d’etat by a domestic, anti-Communist network active in the anti-Castro Cuban project.
It is possible to document and detail the official approval of the covert intelligence operations that led to the assassination because a direct relationship can be established between those at the top who requested, approved and directed three specific anti-Castro Cuban maritime operations – the Bayo-Pawley raid (June 8, 1963), the Rex mission (Oct. 26-30, 1963) and the activities of Clare Booth Luce’s “boys,” which included Julio Fernandez and others in the DRE network that operated in Louisiana and Florida in the summer and fall of 1963.
In records released in batches unrelated to the JFK Act, documents from the National Security Council, Special Operations Group and Cuban Coordinating Committee – Covert Operations in Cuba (CCC-COC) all establish an administrative and paper trail, set a time-line of related covert events, lists the names of those in the CCC-COC loop who attended the relevant meetings, and detail the types of operations planned and approved by the President and eventually utilized against him.
They also help us identify those who were responsible for carrying them out, and we can follow them from the marching orders approved at these meetings to what we know actually happened at both the sea level and in the streets of Dallas.
While many hundreds if not thousands of plots and plans were hatched against Castro and Cuba by the anti-Castro exiles, the CIA and the Mafia, these three naval operations can be directly connected the assassination. Not part of Mongoose, these were part of a specific and different covert action scheme devised and approved in the spring of 1963.
From documents published in THE KENNEDYS AND CUBA (by Mark J. White, 1999, Ivan R. Dee Publisher, 1332 North Halsted Street, Chicago, Ill. 60622), it is possible to trace the Cuban operations related to the assassination back to their origins in administrative policy.
According to Mark White, “John Kennedy, it can be argued, changed as a president during the final year of his life. The Cuban missile crisis appears to have sobered him, increasing his inclination to make the cold war safer. Examples of this new resolve came in the summer of 1963, with his famous speech at American University, noteworthy for its conciliatory attitude toward the Soviet Union, and signing of the Test Ban Treaty, which limited nuclear testing. A more progressive phase in his civil rights policies in 1963, with the introduction in Congress of a sweeping bill designed to end segregation, can be viewed as the domestic counterpart to this more accommodating thrust in his foreign policy”
As White also points out, “…when JFK and his advisors did turn their attention to Castro, their attitude was strikingly and troublingly reminiscent of their pre-missile crisis outlook: they remained determined to use covert means to undermine Castro’s position. In June 1963 JFK gave the go-ahead for a CIA plan to carry out sabotage and other hostile action against Cuba. It was a sort of condensed version of Operation Mongoose. Some of the documents…demonstrate that Russian officials soon learned of the resumption of covert U.S. pressure on Cuba, making this issue a bone of contention between the superpowers in the fall of 1963.”
After setting the covert sabotage actions into motion, these operations were supplemented by a second, ostensibly secret, back-channel diplomatic approach to détente with Cuba. Just as the anti-Castro operations were penetrated by Cuban G2 double-agents, and made known to the Russian leaders, the secret back channel negotiations were made known to the covert saboteurs.
“In contrasting to this continuing effort to harass Castro, however,” White writes of the dichotomy, “the Kennedy administration pursued another clandestine strategy in the fall of 1963, this one aimed at generating a dialog with the Cuban leader. William Attwood…kept senior administration officials abreast of his efforts. Had Kennedy not been assassinated, this initiative may conceivably have brought about an accommodation with Castro.”
As for RFK, concludes White, “Robert Kennedy, such a conspicuous figure on the Cuban matters in 1961-62, was less prominent in 1963 in shaping administration policy towards Castro. But his role remained significant.”
White’s synopsis of a Memorandum for the Record Drafted by Chairman of the JCS Taylor as “Contingency planning for an attack on Cuba, an important feature of the Kennedy administration’s covert approach towards Castro before the missile crisis, continues in 1963, with JFK’s active involvement.”
A revision of the basic invasion plan for Cuba CINCLANT was reviewed and approved by the JCS on February 26, 1963, with “the most significant change in the basic invasion plan since last October has resulted from our increasing capability to introduce large numbers of troops and heavy equipment into the objective area early in the operation. This capability is being achieved by the reactivation of 11 LSTs…and programmed acquisition of additional C-130 aircraft.”
A February 28, 1963 memo, datelined Washington, reflects a meeting of the JCS with the President, which lasted from 5:30 p.m. to 6:45 p.m., with the following subjects being the principle topics of discussion:
“a. The Cuban Invasion Plan. (1) The Chiefs discussed the time-space factors in the implementation of CINCLANT Operation Plan 312 and 316. [1. These were contingency plans for an attack on Cuba, developed before the missile crisis.]…The President was shown why it would take approximately 18 days from decision to D-day from the present troop and ship dispositions. In order to reduce this time to something like 7 days, considerable prepositioning would be required in order to get Army/Marine units to the East Coast and to assemble the necessary cargo shipping. The Chiefs expressed the view that it was unlikely that a period of tension would not proceed a decision to invade Cuba which would allow ample time for preparatory measures; hence, it was undesirable to make permanent changes of station of Army and Marine unites which would upset the present disposition of strategic reserve forces.
(2) The President expressed particular interest in the possibility of getting some troops quickly into Cuba in the event of a general uprising. He was told that only the airborne troops could arrive with little delay, that the first Marine elements would require about 7 days before landing. He asked the Chiefs to develop specific plans in anticipation of the need for this kind of quick reaction.”
On April Fools Day, April 1, 1963, the Cuban Coordinating Committee – Covert Operations in Cuba (CCC-COC) met, the subject of an April 3 memo from Gordon Chase of the National Security Council to McGeorge Bundy, the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs. It included a still classified agenda and matters discussed by the Cottrell Committee, which White identifies as “An interdepartmental committee, chaired by Sterling J. Cottrell, in early 1963 to coordinate the administration’s covert and overt Cuban policies.”
Among those in the CCC-COC meeting were Secretary Vance, Joe Califano, Dick Helms, Dez FitzGerald and Bob Hurwitch, who discussed “Ballon Operations Over Havana, a plan that was “well under way,” given favorable winds, that would release balloons containing hundreds of thousands of leaflets designed by the CIA propaganda shop, which “attack Castro’s henchmen and contain cartoons illustrating sabotage techniques.” Another review is scheduled before this is put into operation.
Also on the agenda of this meeting was finding appropriate installations for the “Training of CIA-Sponsored Cuban Exiles on Military Reservations – CIA and the Army,” and “The Russian Language Programs – The Committee decided in favor of instituting three programs (Radio Liberty, Radio Caribe, and an intrusion program…”
In summary, Gordon Chase notes, “In approving the three programs for Special Group considerations, the committee recognized that they will probably be of marginal value only: however, they will cost us very little, financial or otherwise.”
Under agenda item number four, “Sabotage of Cuban Shipping – The Committee…will recommend to the Special Group the incendiaries which would be timed to go off in international waters and the abrasives in the machinery. While the propaganda boost might be nil, they are easier to effect than limpets and could really hurt Castro.”
Then Chase tells McBundy, “The Committee gave the CIA the option of using its own Cubans or of using DRE as a cut-out.”
The DRE are the anti-Castro Cuban Student Revolutionary Directorate, whose members interacted with Oswald before the assassination.
Then the meeting briefly discussed “The Redirection of Cuban Exile Group Operations,” asking themselves the question of “what is an acceptable target?”
In response, “Dick Helms pointed out that although these groups may start out to get a non-Soviet target, once you let them go, you can never really be sure what they will do.”
Let me repeat that: “DICK HELMS POINTED OUT THAT ALTHOUGH THESE GROUPS MAY START OUT TO GET A NON-SOVIET TARGET, ONCE YOU LET THEM GO, YOU CAN NEVER REALLY BE SURE WHAT THEY WILL DO.”
Bob Hurwitch, the memo mentions, “seemed to favor the approach that attacks and sabotage should appear to come from inside rather than outside Cuba.”
Rather incredulously, Chase concludes, “The Committee came to no decision on this one. More thinking is needed.” Indeed.
On the same April 3rd day Gordon Chase wrote that memo to McBundy, RFK met with his Russian ambassador Dobrynin and reported to the President that, “We exchanged pleasantries. He told me that Norman Cousins had asked to see Khrushchev and he had arranged it…Another point that was made was a sharp and bitter criticism about the raids that had taken place against Russian ships.”
It is noted that, “[3. On March 26, anti-Castro group L-66 sunk the Baku, a Russian vessel, at the Cuban harbor of Caibarien only a week after another Soviet ship had been attacked in a Cuban port.]”
“These were piratical acts and the United States must take responsibility for them. It isn’t possible,” RFK quoted Dobrynin, “to believe that if we really wanted to stop these raids that we could not do so. They were glad to hear of the steps that are being taken lately but in the last analysis the specific acts, namely, the arrests that we made would be the criteria by which they would judge our sincerity. The Soviet Union questions whether in fact we wish to end these attacks for our criticism of them has been not that they were wrong but they were ineffective. The clear implication was that if the raids had been effective they would have had our approval.”
About a week later, on April 9, 1963, Joseph A. Califano, Special Assistant to the Secretary of the Army wrote a memo to his boss, Cyrus R. Vance, which White describes as, “JFK decides which of the covert operations proposed him (See previous docs) would be carried out.”
Under the Subject, “President Action on Special Group Items Concerning Cuba,” Califano checks off the items, beginning with, “1. The President rejected the balloon item on the recommendations of Ed Morrow,” so the project that was “well underway,” was scuttled before it could get off the ground because JFK talked about it with Ed Morrow.
“The President approved the propaganda item (inciting Cubans to harass, attack and sabotage Soviet military personnel in Cuba) provided every precaution is taken to prevent attribution.”
“The President approved the sabotage of cargos on Cuban ships and the crippling of ships (through sand in the gears, etc.); With respect to Russian language broadcasts, the President (a) rejected such broadcasts by exile groups over Radio Caribe in the Domincian Republic, ( rejected black intrusion on the use of such broadcasts on Radio Liberty from North Carolina, pending consultation with Lleweellyn Thompson.”
“We have also agreed with CIA that we would spot about 20 inductees now in training at Fort Jackson whom we consider to have the necessary characteristics for CIA operations inside Cuba. These personnel, along with those given jump training under 5 above, would also be used in advance of the introduction of Special Forces, should there be a decision to invade Cuba.”
Sterling J. Cottrell, the Coordinator of Cuban Affairs to the Special Group, wrote a memo on April 18, 1963, which White says, “reviews current covert actions against Castro and poses the question whether these actions should be intensified.”
Under SUBJECT: “Proposed New Covert Policy and Program Toward Cuba,” Cottrell wrote, “A. The following guidelines are being used in our present covert policy towards Cuba: 1. Producing comprehensive intelligence related to our basic policy objectives….2. Intensifying covert collection of intelligence within Cuba, especially within the regime. 3. Supporting the efforts of certain Cuban exiles, who are associated with the original aims of the 26 of July Movement [1. A reference to the original effort to spark a revolution in Cuba when Castro and his cohorts tried to seize the Moncada military barracks in 1953.] and who believe that the Castro regime can be overthrown from within in order that they may: 1) cause a split in the leadership of the retime… create a political base of opposition…4) The use of a variety of propaganda media to stimulate passive resistance….5) The placing of incendiary devices and/or explosives with suitable time delay within the hull or cargo to disable or sink Cuban vessels and/or damage their cargos while on the high seas…6) Introduce abrasives and other damaging material….”
Cottrell then poses the questions, “1) Should the U.S. move beyond the above policy to a program of sabotage, harassment and resistance activities? 2) What kind of effective action can be taken? 3) What capabilities do we possess? 4) What repercussions can we expect?”
In this memo, Cottrell also says, “Surface attacks by maritime assets firing on Cuban ships in Cuban waters. When the maritime asset cannot reach the target, shore based attacks on shipping in port or passing the offshore keys will be undertaken….Considerations: Attack craft from the sea would be manned by Cubans. Shore based attacks by paramilitary trained Cubans firing on ships with recoilless rifles, rocket launchers or 20mm cannon. First sea attack in May and once monthly thereafter. First shore based attack in June. These operations would disrupt coastal commerce. US would probably be blamed. Cuban reprisal measures possible. Soviets likely allege US culpability….Externally mounted hit and run attacks against land targets. Examples: molasses tanker, petroleum storage dumps, naval refueling base, refineries, power plants.”
Under “Considerations,” Cottrell notes, “Operations conducted by Cubans with paramilitary training. High possibilities of complex operations going awry. First attack in April, with one per month thereafter. Effects would be increased exile morale, some economic disruption. Repercussions would include charges of US sponsorship and increased Cuban security force activities…”
Cottrell includes an attachment on the subject of “A Covert Harassment/Sabotage Program against Cuba,” which states, “This paper presents a covert Harassment/Sabotage program targeted against Cuba: including are those sabotage plans which have previously been approved as well as new proposals…Loses in men and equipment with the attendant adverse publicity must be expected. Even without such loses, US attribution would be claimed. When policy and guidelines of the overall sabotage program are established, it will be possible progressively to develop up to a limit additional covert assets and support capabilities. However, materially to increase the pace of operations, a period of four to six months is required. Ultimate limiting factors are weather, length of ‘dark of the moon’ period each month and appropriate targets. A source of additional agent personnel is from Cuban personnel trained by the US Military Forces under the recent programs, but released to civilian status….”
That April 29th 1963, RFK and members of the Standing Group of the National Security Council met in Washington at 5pm, but the memo prepared by McGeorge Bundy has yet to be declassified and released, other than its title: “A Sketch of the Cuban Alternatives.”
The same day, JFK sent a memo to Secretary of Defense McNamara, pressing his request for the military to develop contingency plans for Cuba. JFK wrote, “Are we keeping our Cuban contingency invasion plans up to date? I notice that there have been a number of new judgments on the amount of equipment that the Cubans have. I thought last October the number of troops we planned to have available was rather limited and the success of the operation was dependent upon, in large measure, our two airborne divisions getting in and controlling the two airfields. It seems to be that we should strengthen our contingency plans on this operation.”
In Washington, on June 8, 1963, an unidentified CIA officer wrote a paper for the Standing Group of the National Security Council on the Subject of “Proposed Covert Policy and Integrated Program of Action Towards Cuba.”
“Submitted herewith is a covert program for Cuba within the CIA’s capabilities. Some parts of the program have already been approved and are being implemented. Being closely inter-related, the total cumulative impact of the courses of action set forth in this program is dependent upon the simultaneous coordinated execution of the individual courses of action.”
“This program,” the officer notes, “is based on the assumption that current U.S. policy does not contemplate outright military intervention in Cuba or a provocation which can be used as a pretext for an invasion of Cuba by United States military forces. It is further assumed that U.S. policy calls for the exertion of maximum pressure by all means available to the U.S. government, short of military intervention…”
In the “Discussion of Components of an Integrated Program,” they mention the collection of covert intelligence, propaganda actions “to stimulate low-risk sabotage and other forms of passive resistance,” and the “exploitation and stimulation of disaffection in the Cuban military.”
As for General sabotage and harassment, “These operations will be conducted either by externally held assets [Note: Presumably a reference to Cuban émigrés] now available or existing external assets or those to be developed. Assets trained and controlled by the CIA will be used as well as selected autonomous exile groups. Initially, the emphasis will be on the use of externally held assets with a shift to internal assets as soon as operational feasible….”
Under “Support of autonomous anti-Castro Cuban groups to supplement and assist in the execution of the above courses of action,” six items are listed. “1) It is the keystone of the autonomous operations that they will be executed exclusively by Cuban national motivated by the conviction that the overthrow of the Castro/Communist regime must be accomplished by Cubans both inside and outside Cuba acting in consonance.”
“2) The effort will probably cost many Cuban lives. If this cost in lives becomes unacceptable to the U.S. conscience, autonomous operations can be effectively halted by the withdraw of US support, but once halted, it cannot be resumed.”
“3) All autonomous operations will be mounted from outside the territory of the United States.”
“4) The United States Government must be prepared to deny publicly any participation in these acts no matter how loud or even how accurate may be the reports of US complicity.”
“5) The US presence and direct participation in the operation would be kept to an absolute minimum….
“6) These operations would not be undertaken within a fixed time schedule.”
The very day that the CIA prepared this paper for the Standing Group of the NSC, June 8, 1963, a team of Cubans led by Eddie Bayo and Americans (John Martino, Richard Billings) left Florida aboard William Pawley’s boat the Flying Tiger II, on a mission to the Cuban coast near Baracoa, where Bayo and his men were infiltrated.
William Turner, [in Rearview Mirror, p. 194] reports, “In 1995 ex-Cuban security chief General Fabian Escalante told me that Bayo’s boat was found swamped near Baracoa, but there were no signs of its occupants.”
On June 19, 1963, JFK held a meeting at the White House concerning the “Proposed Covert Policy and Integrated Program of Action towards Cuba.” Present were Higher Authority (JFK), Secretary McNamara, Under Secretary Harriman, Mr. McCone, Mr. McGeorge Bundy, Mr. Thomas Parrott, Mr. Desmond FitzGerald and Air Force Chief of Staff, Gen. W. F. McKee.
According to the report of the meeting, prepared by Desmond FitzGerald, “The program as recommended by the Standing Group of the NSC was presented briefly to Higher Authority who showed a particular interest in proposed external sabotage operations. He was shown charts indicating typical targets for this program and a discussion of the advantages and disadvantages ensued. It is well recognized that there would be failures and a considerable noise level….Mr. Bundy described the integrated nature of the program presented and made the point that, having made a decision to go ahead, we be prepared to give the program a real chance. Mr. Harriman stated that the program would b ‘reviewed weekly’ by the Special Group….”
“Higher Authority,” the report notes, “asked how soon we could get into action with the external sabotage program and was told that we should be able to conduct our first operation in the dark-of-the-moon period in July although he was informed that we would prefer to start the program with some caution selecting softer targets to begin with. Higher Authority said this was a matter of our judgment. Although at one stage in the discussion Higher Authority said that we should move ahead with the program ‘this summer’ it is believed that Mr. Bundy will be able to convince him that this is not a sufficiently long trial period to demonstrate what the program can do.”
Although there is a break in the official records so far released, the Summer of 1963 was extremely active, especially in New Orleans and Florida, where the Cuban émigrés “externally held assets” prepared to be infiltrated to Cuba and CIA backed marine raiders deposited commandos and assassins in Cuba and Russian, Cuban and some neutral ships were attacked at sea.
The covert operations devised and approved by the Standing Committee of the National Security Council, Sterling J. Cottrell and the Special Group, Cuban Coordinating Committee – Covert Operations in Cuba (CCC-COC) and the President, were now operational, and because the Cuban assets were penetrated by the Cubans, the fact that these operations were approved at the highest levels of government was known to the Russian leaders. And it was a card they had to play.
In Washington (on September 10, 1963), Ambassador-at-Large Llewellyn E. Thompson prepared a memo of his conversation with the Russians and JFK’s response. As described by Mark White, the editor The Kennedys and Cuba, “In a secret message to JFK, Khrushchev makes clear that he is aware of the recent resumption of sabotage by the United States against Cuba. He also warns Kennedy that the Soviet Union will respond if Cuba is attacked.”
“Responding to Khrushchev’s September 10 message, JFK tries to change the subject from sabotage against Cuba to Cuban subversion in Latin America.”
Llewellyn notes that the official policy of the US remains the response to the March 26th attack on the Russian ship Baku, “In keeping with the March 30, 1963 declaration by the Department of State and Justice concerning hit and run attacks by Cuban exile groups against targets in Cuba, the law enforcement agencies are taking vigorous measures to assure that the pertinent laws of the United States are observed…”
But they weren’t being observed as far as the CIA backed Cuban raiders were concerned, at least those whose ships were based and docked in Florida.
At the same time that the anti-Castro Cuban raiders were attacking Russian and Cuban ships at sea and depositing commandos and assassins in Cuba, Castro and JFK were involved in a back channel dialog that began in New York City on August 26, 1963 when special US delegate to the UN William Attwood met Seyodou Diallo, the Guinea Ambassador to Havana.
Attwood, a former roommate of JFK at prep school (who introduced him to Mary Pinchot Meyer), and former editor at Look magazine, had previously served as US ambassador to Guinea (March 1961-May 1963) before being posted to the UN. According Attwood’s memo on the meeting, Diallo “went out of his way to tell me that Castro was isolated from contact with neutralist diplomats by his ‘Communist entourage’…Diallo, had finally been able to see Castro alone once and was convinced he was personally receptive to changing courses and getting Cuba on the road to non-alignment…”
As White describes the situation, “By the autumn of 1963 the Kennedy administration was pursuing a two-track policy towards Castro. While sabotage activities against Castro continued, an effort was under way to develop a secret dialog with Castro, with a view to achieving some sort of accommodation between Havana and Washington…”
In the first week of September 1963, Attwood read Lisa Howard’s article “Castro’s Overture” [War/Peace Report, September 1963], which Attwood knew was based on her interview with Castro in April. As summarized by Attwood, “This article stressed Castro’s expressed desire for reaching an accommodation with the United States and a willingness to make substantial concessions to this end.”
Attwood talked personally with Lisa Howard on September 12, “and she echoed Ambassador Diallo’s opinion that there was a rift between Castro and the Guevara-Hart-Alveida group on the question of Cuba’s future course.” That same day Attwood expressed these opinions with Under Secretary of State Harriman in Washington.
In his chronology of the negotiations (written on November 8, 1963), Attwood states:
“On September 23, I met Dr. Lechuga at Miss Howard’s apartment. She has been on good terms with Lechuga since her visit to Castro and invited him for a drink to me(e)t some friends who had been to Cuba. I was just one of those friends. In the course of our conversation, which started with recollections of my own talks with Castro in 1959, I mentioned having read Miss Howard’s article. Lechuga hinted that Castro was indeed in a mood to talk. I told him that in my present position, I would need official authorization to make such a trip, and did not know if it would be forthcoming. However, I said an exchange of views might well be useful and that I would find out and let him know.”
After meeting with RFK in Washington the next day, RFK told Attwood he would pass on the information to McGeorge Bundy.
Attwood then reported, “On September 27, I ran into Lechuga at the United Nations, where he was doing a television interview in the lobby with Miss Howard. I told him that I had discussed our talk in Washington,….meanwhile, he forewarned me that he would be making a ‘hard’ anti-US Speech in the United Nations on October 7,…”
Besides Attwood’s back channel communications with Lechuga, Attwood also got further input from other sources, as he mentions, “On October 18, at dinner at the home of Mrs. Eugene Meyer, I talked with Mr. C. A. Doxiades, a noted Greek architect and town-planner, who had just returned from an architects congress in Havana, where he had talked alone to both Castro and Guevara, among others. He sought me out, as a government official, to say he was convinced Castro would welcome normalization of relations with the United States if he could do so without loosing too much face…”
Two days later, Lisa Howard asked Attwood to make a telephone call to Major Rene Vallejo, a Cuban surgeon who is identified as “Castro’s right hand man and confidant.” Howard explained how Vallejo assisted her in meeting Castro, “and made it plain he opposed the Guevara group.” Attwood and Vallejo then had a number of telephone conversations from Howard’s New York apartment.
On October 21 1963 Gordon Chase, the National Security Council aide to McGeorge Bundy, called Attwood from the White House to be brought up to date, and Attwood concluded that “the ball was in his court.”
That night, the CIA raider ship Rex pulled out of its moorings at West Palm Beach, Florida, not far from President Kennedy’s Florida home, on a mission that would create the considerable noise level that would make the cover of the New York Times.
The Rex was on a mission, according to William Turner (Rearview Mirror – Penmarin Books, CA. 2001, p. 185-186), “a sabotage attack on a shore installation in Pinar del Rio Province,” and deposit a team of commando assassins infiltrators. “It was a CIA operation,” with an all Cuban crew, says Turner. He also reports, “When a mission was scheduled, they received a phone call, then a nondescript CIA van picked them up and took them to the West Palm Beach berth where the Rex was tied up. The dockage fees were paid by a CIA front, Sea Shipping Company, which operated out of a post office box.”
The Captain of the Rex, Alejandro Brooks, received his orders from Gordon Campbell, the director of the CIA’s naval operations. “The men belonged to the Commando Mambises,…the CIA’s elite, the Green Berets of the secret war. They were led by Major Manuel Villafana, a spit-and-polish officer who had commanded the Bay of Pigs air force. Villafana insisted that his men be paid low because he wanted them driven by hate, not money.”
According to Turner, “The Rex was not listed in Jane’s Fighting Ships. It was a World War II subchaser pulled out of the mothball fleet at Green Cove Springs, Florida. Painted a classy dark blue, the 174-foot vessel could cut through the waves at twenty knots. It flew the blue-and-white flag of Nicaragua, whose strongman, General Luis Somoza, had hosted the Bay of Pigs invasion brigade…”
“There were oversized searchlights, elaborate electronics gear that towered amidships, and a large crane on the aft deck capable of raising and lowering twenty-foot speed boats,” wrote Turner. “After the Rex put to sea, its guns were brought up from below decks and secured in their topside mounts: two 40-mm naval cannon, a 57-mm recoilless rifle, and two 20-mm cannon.”
Having interviewed some of the crewmembers, Turner got a full report on what happened. “The target on this mission was the giant Matahambre copper mine near Cape Corriente on the bootheel of Pinar del Rio Province…when the Rex arrived at the landing zone, there was a sense of foreboding: the Cape Corriente light, normally flashing a warning to maritime traffic, was dark….As the vessel came to a stop, two specially designed fiberglass speedboats, called Moppies, slid down the high-speed davits on the afterdeck…They were to link up with two commandos who had infiltrated a week earlier to reconnoiter the target. The answer came back in the wrong code; it was a trap.”
“The commandos fired at the riverbank,” only to be raked by return fire from heavy machine guns. One raft was torn apart by tracer bullets, spilling the dead and dying into the water…Then one of the Moppies was framed in the searchlights of a Russian built P-6 patrol craft: the Rex quartermaster piloting it surrendered….Brooks made a feint toward open sea, then doubled back and hugged the coastline…The move paid off. Minutes later, a pair of Cuban helicopters…dropped flares…..(illuminating)…the 32,500 ton J. Louis, …carrying a cargo of bauxite from Jamaica to Texas. Five Cuban MiGs began strafing….US Navy Phantom jets took off and headed for the scene. But just before arriving, the Phantoms were called back….”
A few days later Fidel Castro appeared on Cuban television and described the Rex, and introduced two of the men missing from the Rex, quartermaster Luis Montera Carranzana and Dr. Clemente Inclan Werner, a Mambasie.
When questioned by the press, White House press secretary said, “We have nothing to say.”
On November 1, 1963, not only the CIA and the Cubans knew the details, but everyone who read the New York Times, who published a photo of the Rex on their front page and reported the ship was registered out of Nicaragua, owned by the Belcher Oil Company of Miami, and leased to the Collins Radio Company International, of Richardson, Texas, for the ostensible purpose of “electronic and oceanographic research.”
Since reporting to Gordon Chase of the NSC on October 21, the day of the Rex mission, William Attwood had progressed further with the back channel negotiations in New York. Attwood later reported, “On October 28, I ran into Lechuga in the UN Delegates Lounge…. I said it was up to him and he could call me if he felt like it. He wrote down my extension.”
On October 31, Halloween, (David Phillips birthday), Vellejo in Cuba called Miss Howard, reporting that Castro, “…would very much like to talk to the US official anytime and appreciated the importance of discretion to all concerned.”
A week after Attwood reported the progress of his negotiations with the Cubans to Bundy and Chase at the White House (on November 5), a meeting was held in Washington, with CIA Director John McCone presenting an update on the situation in Cuba and an evaluation of the sabotage program.
Besides the President, Secretaries McNamara, Rusk, Vance and RFK, General Taylor was there, along with Sec. Gilpatrick, and from the CIA, Helms, FitzGerald and Shackley puts in an appearance.
McCone’s memo reports that he opened the meeting with a brief resume of conditions in Cuba along these lines, “1) Cuba still belongs to Castro though his grip is weakening, 2) The military remains essentially loyal to Castro, 3) the internal security forces and apparatus are effective, 4) The economy is bad and deteriorating, 5) The Soviets are continuing a gradual withdraw, 6) Training of Cubans continues, 7) The only equipment which has been withdrawn has been the advanced C-band radar for SAM and certain communication equipment…”
“McCone then stated that the program which had been followed for the last several months, having been approved about the first of June [June 19], was integrated and interdependent one part on the other and therefore should be considered as a comprehensive program and not a number of independent actions.”
FitzGerald also made a presentation, a progress report on the six-point covert program proposed by the CIA [on June 8] and endorsed by JFK.
According to the meeting minutes, “Rusk had no problem with infiltration of black teams…However he opposed the hit-and-run sabotage tactics as being unproductive, complicating our relationship with the Soviets and also with our friends and indicated a connection between our sabotage activities and the autobahn problem.” [Note: Berlin]
McCone concludes, “The President asked questions concerning the immediate operations, and the next one on the schedule was approved.”
The same day McCone conducted this meeting, McGeorge Bundy, the President’s Special Assistant for National Security Affairs wrote a memo, described by White as indicating that “JFK was interested in generating a dialog with Castro via intermediaries, though he did not want the talks to commence in Cuba.”
On November 11, Vallejo called Lisa Howard to reiterate the need for security about the back channel talks, and to say, as Attwood later reported, “Castro would go along with any arrangements we might want to make…He emphasized that only Castro and himself would be present at the talks and that no one else – he specifically mentioned Guevara – would be involved. Vallejo also reiterated Castro’s desire for this talk and hoped to hear our answer soon.”
Attwood and Bundy talked again the next day (November 12) and Attwood visited Howard’s apartment on November 13, but when they called Vallejao at home in Cuba, there was no answer, so the sent a telegram.
The following day (November 14) Vallejo called Howard, and set up a phone call for November 18 when, as Attwood reported. “Miss Howard reached Vallejo at home and passed the phone to me. I told him….of our interests in hearing what Castro had in mind….Vallejo…reiterated the invitation to come to Cuba, stressing the fact that security could be guaranteed. I replied that a preliminary meeting was essential to make sure there was something useful to talk about, and asked if he was able to come to New York…” Attwood and Vellejo then talked about setting “an agenda” for a later meeting with Castro. On November 19, Attwood reported this conversation to Gordon Chase.
Even before the assassination the accused assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, was associated with Cubans of the Student Revolutionary Directorate (DRE), whose members included the CIA raider boat crew sponsored by Clare Booth Luce, who previously featured them in Life magazine.
On November 22nd, 1963, John Martino, one of the crewmembers of the June 8, Flying Tiger II mission, expressed foreknowledge and details of the assassination, and previously appeared in Dallas with other anti-Castro Cuban exiles (ie. Odio) who associated with the accused assassin.
Shortly after the assassination, Dallas policeman J.D. Tippit would be killed in Oak Cliff, allegedly by the same man accused of assassinating the President. At the time of Tippit’s murder, the same accused assassin and alleged cop killer would be seen in Oak Cliff in a Plymouth sedan owned by Tippit’s good friend, who worked at Collins Radio, of Richardson, Texas, the company that leased the Rex.
The night of the assassination, Clare Booth Luce received a telephone call from one of the Cuban crewman of the boat she sponsored, Julio Fernandez, who said he had a tape recording of the accused assassin and additional evidence that he was a pro-Castro Communist, continuing the black propaganda operation to blame the assassination on Castro.
The Dealey Plaza operation that resulted in the assassination of the President was directly connected to these three specific covert anti-Castro Cuban maritime missions that became known – the June mission of the Flying Tiger II, the Oct. 21-30 mission of the Rex and the operations of the DRE boat crew sponsored by Clare Booth Luce.
All three of these covert maritime operations that are associated with what happened at Dealey Plaza can be traced back to their administrative origins at the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the DOD (CINCLAT revised), the Cuban Coordinating Committee – Covert Operations in Cuba (CCC-COC), the Cottrell Committee of the Special Group, the Standing Group of the National Security Council and the covert sabotage operations approved by the President.
It is most likely that sometime before November 22 the crewmembers of these operations learned about the Atwood-Lechuga back channel negotiations, which provided motivation for their compliance with the Dealey Plaza operation, the assassination of the President and coup d’etat.
On the day of the assassination, William Attwood recognized the significance of his back channel actions, and wrote a memo detailing what occurred for the record and suspected the complicity of the anti-Castro Cubans when he wrote, “If the CIA did find out what we were doing, this would have trickled down to the lower echelon of activists, and Cuban exiles, and…. I can understand why they would have reacted so violently.”