Wednesday, July 20, 2016

General Krulak SACSA and JFK

General Krulak and JFK

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Marine Gen. Victor H. Krulak 

Colonel Walter M. Higgins, Jr. wrote the memo of the minutes of the September 25, 1963 meeting of the Joint Chiefs of Staff that detailed the briefing Desmond FitzGerald gave on CIA Cuban operations and planning, including the study of the July 20, 1944 plot to kill Hitler to  be used against Castro.

Higgins wrote that FitzGerald felt that there had been great success in getting closer to the military personnel who might break with Castro, and stated that there were at least ten high-level military personnel who are talking with CIA but as yet are not talking to each other, since that degree of confidence has not yet developed. He considers it as a parallel in history; i.e., the plot to kill Hitler; and this plot is being studied in detail to develop an approach.

Higgins worked for the Special Assistant for Counterinsurgency and Special Activities (SACSA) under General Victor "Brute" Krulak, one of the most decorated Marines and combat hero of three wars, World War II, Korea and Vietnam.

In the South Pacific, Krulak allegedly crossed paths with JFK when the PT boat skipper took 50 of Krulak's marines off an island under fire, and one of the marines died in JFK's bunk, prompting Krulak, as the legend goes, to promise JFK a bottle of Three Feathers whiskey.

As chief of SACSA, Krulak reported directly to the Secretary of Defense, and often briefed the President on his specialty - counter insurgency warfare, but his focus was on Vietnam, not Cuba, which was something of a CiA side show that the military assisted the CIA with supplies and training.

Krulak used to tell the story of how once, late in the day, he visited JFK in the Oval Office, delivering the bottle of Three Feathers whiskey he had promised him nineteen years earlier for taking his men off that island in the South Pacific. Krulak said that they reminisced about the war and the marine who died in JFK’s PT boat bunk while drinking whiskey.

According to biographer Robert Coram, (“Brute – The Life of Victor Krulak, U.S. Marine, Little, Brown, 2010), “Over the years there would be many stories about how Krulak went from San Diego back to Washington. The true story is that JFK read General Maxwell Taylor’s “The Uncertain Triumph,” which convinced him to move away from Eisenhower’s nuclear doctrine of massive retaliation and instead to embrace the concept of smaller wars. Kennedy urged the military to place far more emphasis on counterinsurgency as a way to handle what was becoming a growing problem in Vietnam and in other locations around the world….To sidetrack Kennedy’s ideas – not to implement them – the Joint Chiefs of Staff came up with a new job, special assistant for counterinsurgency and special activities – SACSA,…and be among those who met regularly with the president.”

Krulak had successfully developed the use of the helicopter in combat in Korea, delivering troops and supplies and evacuating the dead and wounded and he envisioned their use in combat in Vietnam, where counter insurgency meant not only defeating the enemy on the battlefield, but "winning the hearts and minds of the people."

As his biographer put it: “Reduced to basics, Krulak’s job was to develop America’s techniques for fighting a counterinsurgency war in Vietnam and to develop programs that would enable JFK to measure America’s progress and the progress of South Vietnam as an ally. To do this, Krulak had to push not only the reluctant American military and the slow-moving State Department but also the American people to undergo a radical shift in their thinking about the war. This war was not about taking the hill…”

Krulak is quoted as saying, “Protection is the most important thing you can bring. After that comes health. And after that, many things – land, prosperity, education, and privacy to name a few.”

According to Coram, “In the counterinsurgency part of his White House job, Krulak was an abject failure. He never got across to the American military or the American people what a war of national liberation was all about, what the Vietnam War meant to the United States, and why America had a stake in Southeast Asia. One reason he failed was that the government itself did not understand these issues.”

 “During these meetings, Krulak was duel-hatted. As the special assistant for counterinsurgency, he was the government’s top expert on counterinsurgency matters. As the special assistant for special activities, he held one of the most sensitive jobs in the U.S. government: liaison between the military and the CIA. This was the blackest of the black holes and involved some of the most highly classified matters of national defense. It meant that in Vietnam (and Cuba), Krulak was in charge of psychological warfare and covert activities against the enemy, a job that in a few years would be turned over to a much larger group with the innocuous name Studies and Observation Group (SOG).”

After one briefing where there were reports of large desertions by South Vietnamese regular army troops, JFK sent Krulak and a mid-level State department officer, both going in different directions when they got there,  with Krulak flying by helicopter to remote military bases close to the combat. When they returned and gave such disparate reports, JFK asked if they went to the same country.

“The arcane, secretive, and highly sensitive practice of ‘disinformation’ was Krulak’s responsibility during the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962. Even today it is difficult to sort out what was real and what was a ruse during those days when the world came close to nuclear war. And despite a host of books about the crisis, the CIA, and clandestine operations, it is difficult to know exactly which of the black arts Krulak was practicing. That he was involved is made clear in several books. But doing what? Dis the war planes being moved to Georgia and Florida herald an attack on Cuba, or were they a diversion? Was there really a host of American submarines in Cuban waters, or was that a rumor designed to pull the Cuban navy offshore?”

Krulak, it appears, could have been like the Marine hero of “Seven Days in May,” played in the movie by Kurt Douglas, a mid-level officer who picked up on the coup d'etat the Joint Chiefs of Staff were planning, and warned the president, except Krulak apparently wasn't paying close attention to the Cuban affairs, where the coup plans to be used against JFK were brewing.

“According to the White House visitor log, his first one-on-one meeting with Kennedy came on August 21, 1963. Between then and November 1, he had ten private meetings with the president, which lasted anywhere from twenty minutes to more than two hours. The subject of most of those meetings is listed simply as ‘Vietnam.’ No topic is listed for others.”

Colonel Fletcher Prouty (USAF) was the first to call attention to Krulak and the SACSA office in the Pentagon was just down the hall from Prouty and the ACSI – Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence (US Army Reserves) - the intelligence unit that was keeping tabs on what was going on in Dallas.

After the death of the President Prouty sent Krulak a photo of a man in suit and tie walking past the Texas School Book Depository on the day of the assassination, asking if he recognized the person, to which Krulak replied that it sure did look like their old friend Gen. Lansdale, who like Krulak, specialized in covert ops, counter-insurgency and psychological warfare in Cuba and Vietnam.

John Newman traced Lansdale's movements and learned Lansdale was in Fort Worth that morning, possibly in the same hotel JFK and LBJ stayed that night.

Was Lansdale in Dallas that day? Both Prouty and Krulak thought so.

While Krulak was preoccupied with Vietnam, Cuba was the subject that comes into play in regards to the assassination, and the Higgins memo, besides calling attention to the CIA’s study of the July 20, 1944 assassination attempt on Hitler, and its adaption to use against Castro, there are other bullet point issues that come into play.

Other issues in the Higgins Memo – that was written for General Krulak by his assistant concerning communications, planning, security and a letter that was so secret it could only be read and returned to sender:

 14. General LeMay then questioned the advisability of utilizing a communication technique to install a radio capability which would permit break-in on Castro broadcasts. He stated that an Air Force officer named McElroy was available to talk to Mr. FitzGerald on the matter, and Mr. FitzGerald accepted this offer.

15. The conference closed with General LeMay directing that Mr. FitzGerald's planners meet with General Krulak's people and work out the details as to how the military can assist in supporting these operations. After Mr. FitzGerald departed, General LeMay gave added directions to Colonel Higgins to initiate necessary steps for planning.

16. After the JCS meeting Admiral Riley called Colonel Higgins into his office and read a letter from Mr. McGeorge Bundy which discussed secrecy measures necessary related to Cuba CIA operations. Admiral Riley directed Colonel Higgins to have the nature of this letter put out through SACSA control to SACSA contact points to insure an adequate system for secrecy within the military services. Admiral Riley stated he was returning the letter to Mr. Gilpatric as he did not want written communication by SACSA, but to put this out orally. This was transmitted to Colonel Wyman who will take the action to prepare an appropriate memorandum for the record to be filed with General Ingelido in accordance with further direction by Admiral Riley.

17. General Wheeler, Chief of Staff of the Army, called and questioned us concerning SACSA's access for the knowledge of such operations as mentioned in the McGeorge Bundy letter. I advised him that our Pendulum system was in being but that I would look into it in greater detail to determine that it met the letter as well as the spirit of the memorandum. I stated I believed this was so but had not had reason to do it until this date and therefore did not give him a positive answer at that time.

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