Saturday, April 18, 2009

Venezuelan Arms Cache - A Northwoods Operation?

Venezuelan Arms Cache - A Northwood’s Operation?

According to the textbook on the investigation of homicide, if the motive is elimination, then attention must be given to the victim's most recent business interest. What was on his desk at the time? (1)

For John F. Kennedy, Cuba was on his mind, and the two most important items on his Oval Office desk at the time were the back channel negotiations with Castro (2), and the discovery of an arms cache on a Venezuelan beach that seemed to have originated in Cuba and were destined to be used by terrorists.(3)

Having the evidence that Castro was exporting his revolution to South America, according to Richard Helms, the messenger, sparked President Kennedy to remark: "Great work, be sure to have complete information when I get back from my trip [to Dallas]. I think we may have got him now." (4)

Of course that never happened, and LBJ, when he did get back to Washington from Dallas, didn't take the bait and refused to have anything more to do with covert Cuban operations, possibly because he knew that those same operations were used to kill Kennedy.

Having Kennedy approve the covert operations against Castro that were used at Dealey Plaza was part of the Valkyrie operation tactics from the General's plot to kill Hitler that were used by the CIA/DOD Special Group counterinsurgency unit against Castro. (5) It was this specific plot that was redirected to kill President Kennedy.

While the President had rejected the Northwood plans to fabricate an incident to provoke an invasion of Cuba, the "black propaganda" operations to justify an invasion continued, including the possibility, probability that the Venezuelan Arms Cache was one such incident. (6)

Framing Lee Harvey Oswald for the assassination of President Kennedy, the shenanigans at Guatamano (as Greg Parker notes) and the Bay of Tonkin incidents are other Northwoods type - "black propaganda" operations that are specifically designed to appear and are officially designated as the work of the enemy opposition.

The Venezuelan Arms Cache incident stands out however, as it is entwined with the assassination, and affected U.S. foreign policy towards Cuba, justifying the economic sanctions imposed by the Organization of American States (OAS). (7)

I also suspect that if the origin of the 6.5 ammunition found on the sixth floor of the TSBD were actually traced, it would stem from a stash of arms that were taken from either the Huma, La. bunker in 1961, those stolen from a Texas Army Reserve supply dump in 1963, the arms from the Cuban commando training camp at McLaney's in LaComb, La. in July 1963, or somehow related to this Venezuelan Arms Cache, which is said to have originated in Belgium. (8)

It seems like you can't be objective about this incident. On the one hand you have Stephen Rabe using it as an example Kennedy's continued aggression against Castro, David Kaiser and Lamar Waldron citing it to advance their argument of mafia responsibility for Dealey Plaza, while Phil Agee and Joe Burkhauser Smith suspect it’s a Northwood operation that the US spooks manufactured.

Then you have Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, pointing to the fine work of the "Special Group on counterinsurgency" for the success in keeping the arms from the terrorists and democracy alive in Venezuela. (9)

"The Special Group on counterinsurgency," the same guys, under the command of Gen. Krulak, who were utilizing the Valkyrie plot tactics against Castro. (10)


From The Most Dangerous Area in the World – John F. Kennedy Confronts Communist Revolution In Latin America, by Stephen G. Rabe (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1999) [p. 107] :

President Kennedy tried to help his Venezuelan friend find damning evidence against Castro. While in Washington in February 1963, (Venezuelan President Romulo) Betancourt publicly denounced Castro, advising the National Press Club that "we should continue constantly and unremittingly our actions against this regime in Cuba to encircle it, to cut it off without ceasing and failing." 26

After meeting with Betancourt, the president wrote to CIA Director John McCone that "it is obvious that the Communists in Venezuela support Castro. Do we have any information that could be presented in a public forum, such as the OAS, that would indicate that the link between the anti-Betancourt terrorists and Castro is direct? 27

That link surfaced on a Venezuelan beach in November 1963, when Venezuela announced that it had discovered a cache of Cuban arms, consisting of eighty-one rifles, thirty-one machine guns, and ammunition for heavy weapons. These arms were allegedly left for insurgents determined to disrupt the upcoming Venezuelan presidential election. CIA officers brought one of the rifles in the cache to Robert Kennedy, who then sent it on to his brother. The president was shown where the coat of arms was sanded off the rifle. According to Richard Helms, a pleased president said: "Great work. Be sure to have complete information for me when I get back from my trip [to Dallas]. I think maybe we've got him now." 28

The Cuban intervention surprised intelligence analysts in Washington, for Castro had not previously exported arms, although they also noted that Castro reportedly stated "he would like very much to get rid of 'Betancourt and company.'" 29

In fact, some have subsequently questioned the validity of the discovery. Joseph Burkholder Smith, who had previously served as CIA chief of station in Caracas, has implied that CIA operatives, responding to presidential pressure, engaged in a form of "black propaganda" and planted the arms. Philip Agee, a former CIA agent who turned against the agency, also recalled that he immediately suspected that the Caracas station, working with Venezuelan agents, planted the arms. But neither man had hard evidence to sustain his suspicions. As Agee recorded in the diary he reconstructed, "For the sake of discretion I haven't asked." Perhaps predictably, Fidel Castro charged that the CIA had "faked" the evidence. Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev seconded the Cuban's allegation. 30.

The arms cache incident provided an opportunity for the Johnson administration to intensify, in McGeorge Bundy's words, "our present nasty course" against Cuba. CIA Director McCone showed President Johnson "the evidence that proved absolutely that arms had been imported into Venezuela from Cuba." 31

The administration, through the U.S. Information Agency, launched a massive anti-Cuban campaign throughout Latin America. Venezuela lobbied Latin Americans, telling them that serial markings on the weapons and intercepted messages provided irrefutable proof that Cuba had violated the nonintervention principle of the OAS charter. In July, 1964, the OAS acted on the Venezuelan complaint; by a vote of 15 to 4, it called on member states to break relations and impose economic sanctions on Cuba. Cuba was effectively ostracized from the inter-American community, with only Mexico ignoring the sanctions…..
p. 108

"Reflecting on Betancourt's constitutional success, Attorney General Kennedy claimed that the Special Group on counterinsurgency that he directed "was responsible for the preservation of the democratic system in Venezuela." Without U.S. assistance to the military and police, "Venezuela would have been taken over by the Communists." 32.

[BK Notes: Stephen Rabe background and his abstract on the Kennedy's aggression against Castro]

After the Missiles of October: John F. Kennedy and Cuba, November 1962 to November 1963


Professor of history at the University of Texas at Dallas. His most recent book is The Most Dangerous Area in the World: John F. Kennedy Confronts Communist Revolution in Latin America (University of North Carolina Press, 1999). Copyright 2000 Center for the Study of the Presidency


In analyzing U.S. relations with Cuba during the Kennedy administration, scholars have focused on the Bay of Pigs invasion, Operation Mongoose, and the Cuban missile crisis. Less attention has been given to the state of U.S.-Cuban relations in the aftermath of the missile crisis and during the last year of President John F. Kennedy's life. Scholars have assumed, however, that Kennedy was in the process of reevaluating his hostile policies toward Cuba. This article challenges those assumptions by closely examining what Kennedy and his administration intended for Cuba. The article is based on new documentary evidence. It suggests that the Kennedy administration never renounced its policy of overthrowing Fidel Castro.

[BK Notes: David Kaiser also mentions the Venezuelan Arms Cache in his book on the assassination, but fails to mention that the Rex was leased by Collins Radio, of Richardson, Texas, which has more direct ties to the assassination]


From: The Road to Dallas (Harvard, 2008)– David Kaiser [Page 295]

…The situation was so potentially explosive that Bundy asked Chase to list all the American officials who knew that the United States was behind the raids. There turned out to be at least thirty, Chase replied, including Thomas Hughes of the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research, Assistant Secretary of Defense Cyrus Vance, and Vance's two deputies for Cuban matters, future Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare Joe Califano and future Secretary of State (then Lieutenant Colonel) Al Haig. 14

A few weeks later, on September 29, Chase asked subordinates to consider the possibility that Castro might somehow retaliate, as he had publicly threatened to do early in the month. 15

And on October 21 he suggested that the government might do well to lift some of its restrictions on autonomous raids, so that the CIA would not be held solely responsible for every action that took place. 16

On October 31 Castro himself identified the 174-foot boat Rex, moored in Palm Beach, as the mother ship for a recent attack that resulted in the capture of several raiders in small boats. Reporters discovered that the Rex's berthing fees were paid by the Sea Key Shipping Company, a mysterious entity with a post office box address. The owner of the Rex, J. A. Belcher, was an oil company executive who bought the ship from a Nicaraguan company owned by the Somoza government. He denied any involvement in the raids. 17

On November 8, 1963, the Venezuelan government indicated that it had discovered a cache of about three tons of arms, with serial numbers removed, on a beach. They accused Castro of having sent the weapons into the country, and an OAS delegation later claimed to have seen Cuban insignia on them. 18

Evidence from American archives, however, suggests that the cache may have been a plant the execution of a long-discussed plan dating back to August 31, 1962. The first hint comes in a memorandum written by General Edward Lansdale, head of Operation Mongoose, listing possible psychological actions against Cuba.

Psychological Activity: 24. Make available to the International Narcotics Commission documented evidence of Cuban exportation /importation of narcotics. (State)…This activity will be undertaken only on a spot basis, coordinated with U.S. objectives in the specific country. 19

The September 6 comment of Thomas Parrott, General Maxwell Taylor's assistant at the White House, on this point are somewhat more enlightening despite deletions in the released version.

I would suggest a couple of additional activities: (a) under number 25, calling for the [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] Bloc arms in Latin American countries, this could be extended to include [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] propaganda materials and perhaps sabotage materials; ( the possibility of [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] Incidents which could lead to the breaking of diplomatic relations by selected countries….

Paragraph 25 was deleted in its entirety from a revised September 12 version that Lansdale submitted for Bundy's approval. In a September 14 meeting of the Mongoose task force, "the 12 September addendum to the Phase Two Mongoose Operation was discussed and the entire Phase Two was approved in principle as a platform from which to proceed. Activities which may be especially sensitive are to be brought before the Group, and this body wishes to be kept generally advised on progress." 21

The minutes continue:

[1 paragraph (3 lines of source text) not declassified]

CIA Headquarters and all WH stations are to be especially alert for any shipments of arms or other subversive material from Cuba to other Latin American countries. (Chief, Task Force W says this alert has been laid on and is in force.)

In May 1963, an undated list of "Additional Actions Against Cuba" included the following (the second paragraph apparently consists of CIA comments):

7. Deception operations involving the laying down of arms caches containing Soviet, Czech and Chicom arms in selected areas of Latin America, ostensibly proving the arms were smuggled from Cuba.

7. [comments] The key consideration in such an operation is the possibility that the 'discovery' of such arms caches might lead to embarrassment for the Administration since arms smuggling is one of the points most often stated for the U.S. possibly taking a more aggressive action against Castro. This type of operation, while feasible, is an extremely difficult and dangerous one to undertake in terms of making the operation plausible and foolproof. 22

Then, six months later, three tons of arms turned up on a northwestern Venezuelan beach. The story broke in the newspapers on November 12, and on November 27 – five days after JFK's assassination – Rusk informed the new President, Lyndon Johnson, that Venezuela planned to make a public announcement that the arms were of Cuban origin. 23

In Richard Helm's fifth appearance before the Church Committee, on September 11, 1975, the former director described the incident this way:

Mr. Kelly. Mr. Ambassador, was it your perception that the Kennedy Administration's program against Cuba and the pressure to implement that program vigorously was any different in 1963 than it was in 1962?

Mr. HELMS. Well, I find this a difficult question to answer for the simple reason that I don't have any recollection in 1963 once the operations – put it this way – cranked up again, that there were any particular limitations placed on what we were attempting to do. I realize that the character of some of them were changed. I think they must have changed because the conditions in Cuba had changed, the Cuban Missile Crisis had changed relations. We learned a great deal about Cuba because of the Cuban Missile Crisis itself.....

…But I do not recall having been told by anyone in authority that there is any less interest or intention on the part of the Kennedy administration to unseat the Castro government. And I do recall that sometime, I guess it was in the summer or fall of 1963, talking to Mr. Robert Kennedy about the problem of Castro's efforts to send arms and trained guerrillas and so forth into other Latin American and Central American countries. And it just seemed to me that this was dangerous indeed, particular after the difficulties we'd had with Castro and the Cuban Missile Crisis, and my general recollection is that Mr. Kennedy said, yes, but what can the President do? If you bring him evidence that Castro is sending arms and trained guerrillas and so forth to Latin American countries, then you give him something to work with. But under the circumstances, what can he do, what can any of us do?

Well, by chance, sometime after that, and I don't recall how long but it wasn't a terribly long time. The Venezuelan authorities, as I recall it, or maybe it was one of the Agency operations in Venezuela in conjunction with the Venezuelan security people or police, found a large arms cache on, I think way out in the country in Venezuela, and they also found through some penetration or agent, rather, a plan of some guerrillas, Venezuelan guerrillas, in touch with the Cubans to tie off certain sections of Caracas with armed men and so forth, and bring the city to a halt…..But out of this cache were found some weapons and among those weapons I actually was given a submachine guns, which I believe was manufactured in Belgium, and on that submachine gun there was a place where there had been an insignia and the insignia had been brazed off, so that to the naked eye you could see nothing. But when the technicians in the Agency actually [began] to work with the chemicals and so forth, they were able to bring up for very short periods what was underneath. In other words, what the insignia had been long enough to photograph it.

And so we had photographs of what was on that thing, and it was the insignia of Castro's Cuba. So that these had obviously been sent from Belgium manufacture for the Cuban account. In other words, they had manufactured them and sent them to Cuba. 24

Given the sensitivity of planting an arms cache, we do not know whether any documents showing that the CIA was actually behind the Venezuelan operations ever existed, much less if they will ever be released.

But the arms cache was discovered, it did not, for reasons we shall examine, lead to any major new action against Castro. [p. 301]

[BK Notes: Ah, but they did lead to major new action against Castro, at least according to the PIIE, whose chronology of key events includes the Venezuelan Arms Cache as the reason the OAS began economic sanctions against Cuba, sanctions that are just now being reversed.]

Peterson Institute for International Economics
Case Studies in Sanctions and terrorism
Case Study 60-3
US v. Cuba (1960- : Castro)
Chronology of Key Events

Case Studies in Sanctions and Terrorism: Cuba

President John F. Kennedy prohibits shipments of cargoes paid for by the US government ... Following discovery of arms cache of Cuban origin in Venezuela, ...

July 1964

Following discovery of arms cache of Cuban origin in Venezuela, and led by US and Venezuela, OAS calls for mandatory sanctions covering all trade except food, medicine (then about $18 million annually); severing of diplomatic relations (Chile, Bolivia, Uruguay, Mexico dissent). (Doxey 37; Schreiber 389)

[BK Notes: Don Bohning also calls attention to what an impact the Venezuelan Arms Cache had on OAS]


US Policy Towards Cuba: Still Stuck in a Time Warp

Mongoose was a multi-agency program devised in late 1961 by then White House aide Richard Goodwin and overseen by Bobby Kennedy, the President's brother and U.S. Attorney General. Its day-to-day direction was under Air Force Brig. Gen. Col. Edward Lansdale, a somewhat quirky and flamboyant officer who had made a reputation in the Philippines as a counter-insurgency expert.

Landsdale, in a January 18, 1962, program review of Mongoose, noted under the heading of economic warfare that the "State [Department] is basing future economic actions, including plans for an embargo on Cuban trade, on the outcome of the forthcoming OAS meeting.…" 10

In a follow-up memo to Lansdale dated February 16, 1962, Robert Hurwitch, the State Department's officer in charge of Cuban Affairs and the department's representative for Mongoose, noted that "the outcome of the OAS meeting provided excellent political basis in a multilateral context for a U.S. embargo on trade with Cuba. Upon termination of the MFM [meeting of foreign ministers] the Department reiterated its previous recommendation that an embargo be imposed. The President took this action February 3, 1962." 11

On two later occasions, decisions affecting the embargo under both the Johnson and the Ford administrations also were predicated on action by the OAS foreign ministers.

Venezuela convoked a July 1964 foreign ministers meeting in Washington after a Cuban arms cache destined for anti-government guerrillas was found on a Venezuelan beach in November 1963.

The meeting's final resolution – with Chile and Mexico dissenting – called on member states to (1) sever diplomatic relations with Cuba; (2) suspend all trade with the island nation except for humanitarian purposes; and (3) suspend all sea transportation except that necessary for reasons of a humanitarian nature. 12

Again, in July 1975, in Costa Rica, the foreign ministers essentially reversed what they had approved in 1964 and resolved that each country was free to "normalize or conduct their relations" with Cuba as they saw fit. 13

While the action served to relieve the pressures within the OAS over Cuba policy, it did nothing to modify the view from Washington. It is a view stuck in a time warp through 47 years, 10 U.S. presidents and 16 years after the end of the Cold War.

[BK Notes: In his review of Legacy of Secrecy, Jimmy DiEugenio calls attention to the way the Venezuelan Arms Cache story is treated by those with an agenda]

Legacy of Secrecy by Lamar Waldron with Thom Hartmann. Reviewed by James DiEugenio

...In this regard I must note that the authors pay me a backhanded compliment in this book. My review of Ultimate Sacrifice was fairly coruscating and it received some notoriety within the research community. Waldron and Hartmann clearly read it and took it seriously because they try and counteract several of my criticisms. One of the most serious ones was my relating of an anecdote in Richard Helms' autobiography entitled A Look Over my Shoulder. On November 19, 1963 Helms visited Robert Kennedy's office and told him that Castro was shipping a large amount of arms into Venezuela in order to upset their upcoming elections. (Helms, pgs 226-27). Helms has RFK saying nothing. He looks at the evidence the CIA took in—a foreign made submachine gun allegedly retrieved from an arms cache-and told Helms to go see President Kennedy. Helms and his assistant do so and JFK asked a couple of questions about how that large a shipment of weapons got through. They then left and later that day, Helms asked Kennedy's assistant, Ken O'Donnell, for a picture.

Now, in my original critique I posed the question that if C-Day was coming up in 12 days, and if all the principals involved in this episode were knowledgeable about it i.e. RFK, JFK and Helms, why would the CIA Director even bother to see the Kennedys if he knew we were invading Cuba shortly? This story shot a harpoon into the guts of their whole C-Day scenario. Because the authors maintained that even though McNamara, Rusk, and Bundy did not know about C-Day, Helms did. And it would be impossible for all four not to know. But this story, in Helms' own book, indicates he did not. When they relate this tale in Legacy of Secrecy (p. 36), they leave out the capper. In his book, Portrait of a Cold Warrior (p. 383), CIA analyst Joseph B. Smith mentions this specific arms seizure. And from the reports on it, he deduced that the CIA planted the weapons. So if Helms knew about C-Day, why did he go to the trouble of planting those weapons if he knew we were invading Cuba anyway?

This is their hapless reply to that question: Helms was testing JFK to see if he was getting cold feet about the invasion. But the problem is there is not any indication of this in Helms' book. On anyone's behalf. But further, the authors now contradict themselves in another important way to give their phony spin a pretext in reality. In their first book, they characterized JFK's back channel to Castro through people like Lisa Howard, Jean Daniel, and William Attwood as going nowhere. In my review, I showed this was false. There was progress being made and JFK was very interested in that progress continuing. I postulated that what Helms was actually trying to do with the planted arms cache was to scuttle those talks since he knew that JFK did not want Cuba interfering in Venezuela's elections. Now, sit down before you read the next sentence. Waldron and Hartmann have stolen my explanation and try and make it work for them! Now they say that Helms was doing all this to ensure the invasion against the back channel's imminent success. Without noting that in their previous volume they said there would be no point in doing such a thing since the talks were useless.

To me, the rearranging of facts, recasting of events, and posthumous mind reading into Helms' psyche, all this is not scholarship. Plain and simple, it is CYA….


Joseph B. Smith, in Portrait of a Cold Warrior (Putnam, 1976), p. 373:

Between the Argentine elections in 1963 and the Chilean election of 1964, my attention was once again focused on Cuba. Gerry Droller had become branch chief of the countries of the "Cono Sur," the southern cone of Uruguay, Paraguay, Argentina, and Chile. He came down to Buenos Aires to remind us Cuba was more important than any of them.

"Listen, this guy Des is a genius and he's got the inside track to the Whit House," Gerry explained. "I also think J.C.'s going to retire soon and Des will run the whole division in name as well as in fact. Already we get dozens of old FE hands in the division and more guys from Germany too. WH Division is now all chopstick users and umlaut speakers. And we're all supposed to concentrate on Cuba."

The matter we all concentrated on from December, 1963, until the summer of 1964 was making the discovery of a small arms cache on the coast of Venezuela seem important enough proof of Castro's interventionist intentions that the OAS would declare Cuba an outlaw nation and refuse to allow OAS members to have political or economic relations with her. I initially paid little attention to the news of the discovery of these arms that came from Caracas just after John Kennedy's assassination. I still hadn't gotten over the terrible shock of the President's death when I received a cable saying headquarters wanted maximum press coverage given to the announcement on December 3, 1963, that the OAS had agreed to investigate Venezuelan charges the arms had been secretly delivered by Castro's forces for the use of Venezuelan leftist guerrillas....

....The new chief of covert action operations for WH came down to Buenos Aires just before Christmas to explain how important the Venezuelan arms cache discovery was considered. Dramatically, he related how much the discovery had meant to John Kennedy. "The President had been pressuring us for months before he was killed to come up with some solid proof that Castro was exporting his revolution. He wanted to make his anti-Castro crusade a Latin American cause not just a U.S. mission. He wanted to have some really convincing evidence of Castro's interference in the affairs of Latin countries so that we could get the OAS to take collective action against Castro. This discovery is what he was looking for."

Herb (Ray Herbert, J.C. King's deputy as chief of Western Hemisphere WH division CIA) explained that the news of the discovery had come in from Caracas just the day before President Kennedy left for Texas. He and another officer rushed over to see Bobby Kennedy with the cable. Bobby called the President and he ordered them to come immediately to the Oval Office. "President Kennedy was extremely pleased and excited about the prospects," Herb said. "It was very late in the evening when we left the White House. I think this was the last piece of business he took up before he left Washington. We all like to think we're running this operation for him."

Herb presented us the case against Cuba. The arms had been found on a remote peninsula served only by one secondary road and with no large settlements nearby. Local fishermen had discovered the cache by accident. No Venezuelan guerillas ever had come near the spot. Herb’s story was that on such a coast a boat could land at night with little chance of being detected, the stuff stashed in the dunes, and picked up some subsequent night by the revolutionaries receiving Castro's assistance.

We were working very closely, Herb said, with the Venezuelan authorities to establish complete proof the arms had come from Castro and investigations were going on in Europe and Canada. Some of the arms had been traced to a Belgian manufacturer and Belgian security officials were helping us find records that would show when they were purchased by the Cubans. The Canadians had already advantageously found us proof that a sixteen-foot aluminum boat found hidden with the arms had been sold by a Canadian firm to the Cuban Agrarian Reform Institute just one month before the arms were discovered.

He was most excited about a story from a Venezuelan leftist in the custody of the Venezuelan security police. The prisoner confessed that maps found in his apartment showed where attacks were to be made in Caracas, using these arms, on the eve of the December 1, 1963, presidential elections. Also found in his apartment were instructions on how to use the arms found in the cache. They were a type of weapon which hitherto had not been used by any Venezuelan rebel groups.

The story of the maps sounded familiar to me. I couldn't remember anything about arms instructions, but I remembered the maps were found in this man's apartment way back when I had been Venezuelan desk chief.

"Aren't these the maps we found the other year and couldn't make any sense of?" I asked.

"Yes, that's right," Herb replied. "Our intelligence assistant on the Venezuelan desk got the material out again right after we found the arms and she came up with a beautiful research job we sent to Caracas for the police to use in questioning the suspect. He's confessed."

I was not too impressed with this evidence of the Venezuelan guerrillas' intended use of the arms. It sounded to me as though we might have manufactured it to meet President Kennedy's requirements for an OAS case. I was especially unimpressed by the confession. There are few prisoners of security police in Latin America who refuse to confess. If they don't confess they usually have died in the process of making up their minds, having thought too long about the matter with their heads under water or something.

"I like the touch about the boat's being sold by Canadians to the Cuban Agrarian Reform Institute. Makes it sound as though Castro's trying to be real spooky, using a cover likes the Agrarian Reform Institute to deliver arms." I couldn't resist saying. "How did we actually get the arms there?"

Herb looked at me very hard. "Joe, you are too fond of black operations. Of course, we didn't put the arms there ourselves. Come on."

.....A week after my visit to the camp, Des Fitzgerald came to Buenos Aires. As Gerry Droller had predicted, Des was now WH Division chief and this was his first swing around the hemisphere to visit his new stations. He gave us all a short pep talk - the theme of which was the importance of the success of the OAS sanctions operation. He also briefed us on the overall status of other operations against Cuba being run from JMWAVE, but he sounded a trifle discouraged.

"If Jack Kennedy had lived," Des said, "I can assure you we would have gotten rid of Castro by last Christmas. Unfortunately, the new President isn't as gung-ho on fighting Castro as Kennedy was."

"What do you mean by 'gotten rid of,' Des?" I asked.


"Well, you know, Joe, we don't use that language," he replied. "Just say I mean he wouldn't still be doing business in Havana."

Des asked me what I thought about the guerrillas in Salt. I told him I didn't think there was a shred of evidence that they were receiving any support from Castro. "They're just a bunch of bored middle-class kids, Des, who maybe had a fight with their parents."

..."Well," mused Des, "maybe we have enough friends in Argentina that somebody important might just say he thought Castro was helping them."


Here's some more docs on the Venezuelan Arms Cache.
(Thanks to Rex at Mary Ferrell)

Of course as soon as you get into the official government records, the first thing you come up with are reports from people like General Krulak at SACSA, Al Haig, Sam Halpern and Joe Califano, who is diligently trying "crash" research into the exact origins of the arms cache, and he finds that they originated with the US military and were shipped to Cuba via the port of New Orleans.

And then there's Frank Forini Sturgis' report from Miami about the relative of a Venezuelan government minister in Miami trying to by guns and ammo in May, 1963, which is disseminated to various government agencies.

I also found a quote from Bohning's Castro Obsession in which President Johnson asks Fulbright's advice and rants about the Cuban arms shipment, and Bohning informs us that Helms showed LBJ the same Cuban machine gun that he showed JFK right before they killed him.

While at least one cable dismisses the Venezuelan Arms Cache as a joke, the other drums up media support and refers to editorials and media assets, including The Miami Herald, who were cranked up to promote the story.

Then there's Luis Eduardo Sanchez Madero, the hapless Venezuelan they arrested and tied to the arms cache, even though the maps found in his apartment were in CIA hands a year earlier (according to Joe B. Smith).

The mainstream media, personified by Mark Weisberd in The Use of Force, pretty much assumes that the OAS explanation that the arms were Cuban is correct and the consequences were the Cubans being booted from the OAS. Not even a hint of a question regarding the origin of the arms cache.

Califano is getting the military investigators in Canada and Europe to investigate the boat, the guns and the ammo in December 1963, at the same time they were investigating the origins of the rifle and the ammo that killed President Kennedy.

Where are their reports on what they found out?


“TO JOINT STAFF, SERVICE AND OSD CONTACT POINTS: This is our final working draft of the paper on Control of Arms Movement. I have sought to work in your contributions whenever feasible. Please submit your views 0900, 14 March 1963.”

Major General, USMC

p.20 - 27;relPageId=20




Sources: Fortress Cuba, Jay Mallin, p. 103
Comments: In Nov 1963, Venezuelan police arrested Sanchez (a Venezuelan citizen) and in his apartment found detailed plans for assassination of President Betancourt. Sanchez had been in Cuba.;relPageId=4





Page 4;relPageId=4

SUBJECT: Interdepartmental Meeting on Communications Pertaining to Contraband Shipments of Arms or Personnel to Venezuela and Columbia.

Participants, John H. Crimmins, Coordinator of Cuban Affairs, State; Vance, Califano, Col. Jack F. Wilm, J-3, Joint Staff; Col. Robart G. Rushforth, J-6, Joint Staff; Haig, Des Fitz, Mr. James Smith of the CIA

“A meeting was held in the office of the Secretary of the Army at 1000 hours on December 14, 1963 for the purpose of discussing problems related to contraband shipments of arms and personnel to Columbia and Venezuela. Specifically, the meeting was convened to initiate appropriate action designed to provide for the prompt communication of intelligence associated with contraband shipments and to provide responsive operational communications associated with cooperative surveillance and intercept efforts by US and indigenous military forces.”

Joseph Califano.

(Source – C.O. Watervliet Arsenal)

“In further reference to the M57 Rifles, it is also verifiable that the US Army did shop weapons of this make and model to Cuba in 1957. Definite proof is available on a shipment of 6 on requisition number HA-10-03-7-009. They were shipped from Anniston Army Depot through the New Orleans Port on Bill of Lading Number 7108185. The commercial carrier was the Cummings Truck Company. The voucher number was 280054. They were physically received in Cuba on 28 March 1957. (Source – MIDA and New Orleans Port.)

cc: Mr. Sam Halpern,

The Castro Obsession by Don Bohning.
Page 239 [/b]

Johnson started thinking about Cuba when he became president, however, as indicated by a December 1 conversation with Senator J. William Fulbright, a conversation which also reflected concerns about Vietnam. Johnson asked Fulbright what he should be doing about Cuba. Fulbright said he didn’t think “we ought to stir that up any. I think this election sound good – what I heard of it today – in Venezuela. I think the god-damned thing ought to be let alone, as of the moment. I think if you don’t stir it up….”

Johnson interrupted: They’re shipping arms all over the damned hemisphere. [Helms had shown him a Cuban rifle two days before that had been seized as part of the Venezuelan arms cache.]

Fulbright: That we ought to stop. I thought you meant about going into Cuba.

Johnson: No, I’m not getting into any Bay of Pigs deal! No, I’m asking you what we ought to do to pinch their nuts more than we’re doing. Whey don’t you give me a one-page memo on what you’d do, if you were President, about Cuba?

Fulbright: You mean, exclusive of any direct interference?

Johnson: I mean what you’d do, if you were President, about Cuba. Inclusive or exclusive of anything. Just what you’d do. And get your good brain to working. I’d like to look at it and see….

As president, Johnson’s first serious formal session on Cuba policy came December 19, 1963, with a high-level briefing in the White house. The meeting generated an advance flood of papers from various agencies and departments, recommending everything from a presidential statement supporting internal dissents to tightening the economic embargo, sabotage air strikes, and accelerating efforts at rapprochement….

…The agency’s covert action program, according to the report “is designed to support other governmental measures to proliferate and intensify the pressures on Castro to encourage dissident elements, particularly in the military, to carry out and eliminate Castro and the Soviet presence in Cuba.”

The report saw the “ultimate objective” as replacing the Castro regime “with one which will be fully compatible with the goals of the US and will cooperate with US efforts to establish friends and stable regimes throughout Latin America.”

…McGeorge Bundy, who had remained in the White House as Johnson’s national security assistant, laid out for his new boss a comprehensive twenty-two page paper on Cuba policy in advance of the December 19 meeting. Its elemental nature clearly indicated the new president had only a basic knowledge of the Kennedy administration’s Cuba policy….

[b]Use of Force, by Arthur Mark Weisburd
Page 186[/b]

Cuba/Venezuela (1963, 1966,1967)

In November 1963 an arms cache, subsequently proven by the OAS to be of Cuban origin, was discovered in Venezuela; the arms were intended to aid Venezuela’s Communist Party overthrow the government of that state. 122

Cuba’s motives, apparently, were straightforwardly ideological – it sought to help bring about the replacement of a non-Communist government with a Communist one. 123

The main international response to this action was that the OAS which voted 15-4 (Venezuela not voting) in July 1964 to impose trade sanctions against Cuba because of its behavior and also called on OAS members to end diplomatic relations with Cuba; only Bolivia, Chile, Mexico, and Uruguay voted against the resolution. All of these except Mexico duly ended diplomatic relations with Cuba by September 1964; all fifteen states that had voted for the resolution had ended relations with Cuba prior to July 1964. 124;relPageId=3

December 23, 1963

MR. FRANK K. SLOAN, Dep Asst Sec/Def ISA (Regional Affairs)

SUBJECT: Interdepartmental Coordinating Committee of Cuban Affairs:
Interim Report by US Military on Venezuelan Arms Cache

The attached report outlines the status of the US military technical team’s research on the Venezuelan arms cache. It was submitted to State on December 23 and his circulated to points of contact for information.

Joseph A. Califano, Jr.
General Counsel

Cc: Mr. Yarmolinsky (OSD)
Col. LeRoy Nigra (DIA)

Mr. Califano
LtCol Haig

Department of State

SUBJECT: interim Report by US Military on Venezuelan Arms Cache

Outlined below is an interim report on the status of the investigation of the US military investigating team concerning the Venezuelan arms cache. It is suggested that a report along the following lines be provided to the Venezuelan government on December 23, 1963.

“The US military investigating team which visited Venezuela from 12 December 1963 to 16 December 1963 succeeded in obtaining clear and adequate identification of many of the items of arms and ammunition found in the Venezuelan arms cache. Photographic evidence as well as the identification by arms and ammunition experts on the team provided clear proof that many of the items found were in fact of US origin. There is evidence that some of the ammunition lots found in Venezuela were shipped to Cuba from the US in 1957. There is also evidence that weapons of the type found in Venezuela were shipped by the US to Cuba in 1956 and 1957.

“Investigation based on the items identified by the team is now progressing. This investigation involves an almost total world-wide survey of the disposition of specific lot numbers of ammunition by caliber and type found. Attempts are being made to trace weapons by serial number from the time of manufacture during the immediate post World War II period. Actual laboratory investigation of certain materials is being pursued to determine their origin and also to trace their transmittal from a US source to a Cuban destination.

Mr Califano

“Principal difficulties which have been encountered to date have been the problems of researching the records on transactions which took place more than three to five years in the past. The records retirement program of the US Government provides that most records such as shipping documents, bills of lading, requisitions and related records are removed from file and either destroyed or placed in permanent storage. Their identity either becomes lost or confused. Despite the inherent difficulties involved, some significant success has been achieved and at this point it is believed that certain documentation is available which will verify the transmission of particular lots of ammunition from US depot through a US Port of Embarkation to Cuba. Research is continuing on these cases to insure that we have absolute and incontrovertible proof of such transactions. It has been determined that the following items are lots of which were found in the Venezuelan cache which were definitely of US manufacture and origin and which were shipped to Cuba in 1957. Adequate documentation has been found which indicates place of manufacture, and dates of shipment to Cuba with appropriate bills of lading and the Port of Embarkation.

Rocket, HEAT, 3.5 inch M28A2
Lot No. COP 4-802

Cartridge, 57 mm. HE, M306A1 W/F PD
M503A1 Lot No. LOP 13-54

“The team has also researched the source of certain of the weapons contained in the cache. At this point it is know that the 57mm recoilless rifles were fabricated at the following US facilities:

National Pneumatic Corporation
Firestone Corporation
Sunbeam Corporation

Concrete evidence has been uncovered that 57mm recoilless weapons of the make and models found in Venezuela were shipped to Cuba in 1957. Additionally, although no positive identification has been made of the 3.5mm rocket launchers found in the cache, positive proof has been uncovered confirming that weapons of this type were shipped by the US to Cuba in 1956 and 1957.

“The 57mm recoilless weapons referred to above have also been traced to Aberdeen Proving Ground where they were proof-fired prior to delivery. Investigation continues in an effort to trace the onward movement of the weapons. Extreme difficulty is being encountered in this process because of the fact that the US Army, in view of the magnitude of the bookkeeping task, discontinued the shipment of weapons by serial number during World War II. It is therefore very difficult to trace a specific weapon through the supply system. Nevertheless, at present there exists verifiable evidence that US manufactured weapons and ammunition of the type found in the Venezuelan arms cache were shipped to the Cuban government during the period 1956-1957.

“Certain laboratory work has been accomplished on the fabric containers discovered in the cache used to package Composition C3. The Natick Laboratories in the State of Massachusetts have determined that these specific bags are of US origin. The canvas coving is of US Army origin dyed with a US Navy dye. The rope attachments are of both US Navy and US Army and US commercial origin. At this point investigation continues on this item. It is believed, since it is a non-standard item that must have been manufactured for a specific purpose. It has been determined also that the 3.5 inch HEAT rockets bearing lot numbers SZ 1-44A and SZA 1-58 are of Italian origin. The Commanding General of the United States Army, Europe is investigating the disposition of two separate lots manufactured under a US off-shore procurement contract in Italy to determine if documentation exists which could substantiate any shipments having been made to Cuba.

”Lot number AYR L-3 of. .50 caliber ammunition has been determined to be an off-shore procurement item. These items were made in Raufoss Arsenal in Norway in 1958. The entire quantity of ammunition shipped under this contract was a MPA commitment to Pakistan. The Commanding General of the United States Army, Europe has researched this lot and has documentary evidence that 17 boxes containing 3400 rounds of this item disappeared somewhere between Norway and Pakistan. At this point, there appear to be no further means of tracing these rounds and efforts in this regard have been temporarily abandoned.”

Joseph A. Califano, Jr.
General Counsel


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