Monday, November 29, 2010

Col. Frank M. Brandstetter

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Cover of Portrait of An Intelligence Officer, published in Europe.

Footnote from PDS Dallas COPA 2010 Talk:

50. Crichton’s collaborator in the 1950s study, fellow 488th member Lt. Col. Frank Brandstetter, was in turn a friend of men like:

1) David Phillips, in charge of Covert Action at the Mexico City Station when Oswald allegedly visited there; Phillips had known Brandstetter since both men were together in Havana in the 1950s (Carlisle and Monetta, Brandy, 146-47)
2) Gordon McLendon, wealthy Dallas businessman whom Jack Ruby described as one of his six closest friends (20 WH 39);
3) George de Mohrenschildt, the oilman whom some see as a handler for the Oswalds in 1962; and also Dorothe Matlack and Sam Kail, the Army Intelligence personnel who coordinated George de Mohrenschildt’s April 1963 visit with CIA and Army Intelligence in Washington
4) Philippe Thyraud de Vosjoli, a French intelligence (SDECE) agent who worked closely with Angleton in Washington. On 11/22 de Vosjoli reportedly panicked on hearing of Kennedy’s death, packed a few clothes into a van, and departed Washington to join Brandstetter in Acapulco. (Tom Mangold, Cold Warrior, 131-33).

BK Notes: Also see references to Manuel Ray, Meyer Lansky, Fidel Castro and others of interest.

From: Our Man In Acapulco: The Life and Times of Col. Frank M. Brandstetter by Rodney P. Carlisle and Dominic J. Monetta (University of North Texas Press, 1999) p. 129

...he met Lieutenant Colonel William B. Rose, chief of the Army Intelligence Reserve Branch Office of the Assistant Chief of Staff, Intelligence (ACSI) at the Pentagon. The contact would later prove momentous, changing the course of Brandy’s military career.

Despite Brandy’s career changes in his private life, he meant to continue his service to army intelligence. He vowed he would not disappear into a reserve control group without duties.

Over the next year Brandy, at age forty-six, began a series of adventures which allowed him to pursue both his personal career in the resort hotel business and his military career as an intelligence officer which he had kept alive through the doldrums of the 1950s. Interestingly, he accumulated more U.S. Army Reserve credit points than any other officer in the Reserve.

Chapter 11 Cuba Si!

When Brandy was pursuing legal action in Dallas to recover his share of proceeds from Sans Souci, he had obtained a copy of Conrad Hilton’s life story, Be My Guest. He thought about the new concepts in Hilton’s hotel work, especially the idea of an international chain of hotels. Brandy considered that there might be a match between his own background in languages, his rich experiences, and the needs of the expanding chain. He checked the business directories and discovered that the president of Hilton International was John Hauser. Hilton International had set up a hotel in Puerto Rico as their first, semi-overseas operation, and then had plans to expand in Latin America, Europe, and the Near East

…In late 1957 Brandy went to New York to meet Hauser. The two men immediately liked one another. Hauser, a marine combat officer in the war, suggested that Brandy might appreciate an appointment as manager for a planned hotel in West Berlin, and after a lunch at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York, they shook hands on the offer. Brandy was aboard with the Hilton organization.

Suddenly, Hauser called him in. The hotel in Germany was still under construction. Hauser told Brandy to take a plane to Havana that night. There were problems getting the hotel there into operation and they needed a trouble-shooter….

Brandy flew to Havana that evening, 13 February 1958, to undertake the position. Barbera, who was under medical care at Timberlawn in Dallas, could visit him periodically with a nurse in attendance….

Local ownership was in the hands of the Cuban Culinary Workers’ Union. The union’s leader Sr. Aguille, had the union’s own man, Jose Menendez, appointed as general manger…As Brandy investigated both the delayed delivery of materials and work, he discovered a system of bribes reaching ten or fifteen percent over cost had been required for every detail of construction…The hotel was a mess….Hilton had sent a project manager, Peter DeTulio, to oversee completion of the work, but DeTulio was finding one frustration after another….

Conrad Hilton had recruited the noted gambling expert and author, John Scarne, to serve as the corporation’s representative for inspecting casinos associated with the various hotels in the chain….In effect, Scarne’s job was to identify staff members who were stealing, either from the house or the customers….Scarene had served in the Navy during World War II,….Scarene quietly pointed out that the gambling operation, like most of the major casinos in Havana, was conducted through contract by a group with mob connections. He identified one or two famous member of the American underworld who would stop by the casino occasionally, including Meyer Lansky….

The party of Hilton executives, including Conrad Hilton himself, John Hauser, Charles Bell, who was in charge of food and beverage for Hilton International, and Arthur Elminger,….

…The rumors of Fidel Castro’s forces raiding against the repressive regime of Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista, had apparently scared off the tourists, even though the attacks were concentrated several hundred miles away on the eastern end of the island in Camaguey and Oriente provences….

….Manuel Ray, the chief engineer, who had struck Brandy as a thoughtful type with little to say, warned there would be some serious consequences as a result of the layoffs….

The next morning, 9 April 1958,….Four Cuban security police officers strode into the room….The security forces “Blue Buick” had grown famous under the tough regime of Batista, those arrested for questioning and taken away in it usually never came back.

Inside the car, he received a once-over. A burley security police type on each side squeezed him in with his arms and legs locked back; each delivered tight blows to his stomach, kidneys, face. Saying nothing, they continued to beat him as the big car drove slowly through the busy streets of Havana to the headquarters of Police District Nine…

…Clearing his head, Brandy read the nameplate: Major Ventura. This man was notorious, the so-called “Butcher of Havana.” ….Esteban Ventura….

…The Hilton organization, however, could not spare Brandy for a three-week reserve duty. After some difficulty, Brandy was later able to put in two weeks at the Summer Fourth Army Area Intelligence School in Texas. When he returned to Havana, he wrote to Colonel William Rose at the Pentagon, in the Office of Assistant Chief of Staff-Intelligence (ACSI). Brandy reminded him that he would need a new billet in 1959, and sent along a collection of documents amplifying his military background. Rose remembered Brandy very well and responded within a week that he was glad to hear Brandy was “back in Havana, where [he could] take good care of our interests.” Rose suggested that Brandy contact Colonel Sam Kail, the U.S. Army military attaché at the American Embassy in Havana. Brandy followed up, conferring with Kail regularly about the situation in Havana.

Brandy began to learn more about the political situation by listening to discussions and gathering information from ordinary people, from journalists like Jules DuBois,…..When someone pointed out that “the Communists” were in the hills, Manuel Ray corrected him….The peasant soldeiers wore crucifixes and many were devout Catholics, not Communists at all. In the summer, Brandy sent a confidential report via Colone Kail to Army G-2, suggesting an overthrow of the Batista regime by Castro’s forces would soon take place….As an army man, Brandy found the all-knowing tone from State and CIA frustrating, even wrong-headed…

p. 143:
….One noon, Brandy had lunch with Colonel Sam Kail, the military attaché from the U.S. Embssy. Kail and Brandy worked out tentative plans for an evacuation of American tourists if the revolution reached Havana. After lunch, they were irritated to find themselves stuck in the elevator between floors….The Hilton name, Brandy feared, was attracting more and more anti-American attention….

…Soon however, he picked up a rumor from his grapevine that Manuel Ray was a Castro supporter. It seemed to fit, the more he thought about it…A few days after the revolution was completed, Manual Ray, former chief engineer of the Havana Hilton, received a cabinet appointment by the new Castro-led government minister of public works. Ray had apparently been in charge of all the sabotage in Havana in the summer of 1958.

Listening to reporters and his other sources on the grapevine, Brandy heard another, even more frightening rumor. The word was circulating that when the Castro people took over Havana, they would burn the Havana Hilton to the ground. He decided to establish liaison with the Castro forces, and planned to carry a letter through the liens to Castro, inviting him to make the Hilton his headquarters, when and if his troops arrived in Havana. Young Fred Lederer found Brandy in his office, preparing the letter….

…The Conrad Hilton Suite could be the CP – Command Post – for Castro himself. Brandy visualized the communication lines, internal security, and defense perimeter. He had experience setting up and staffing CPs in World War II, so it would be natural.
If Castro came to the city, the invitation would save the hotel….Lederere came from a Prussian military family, was bright and had guts….Lederer’s attempt to get through to Castro occurred on Christmas Eve, 1958….

…Jules DuBois, the Chicago Tribune reporter who had written favorably of Castro, had contacts in the revolutionary camp….

…Batista had fled to the Dominican Republic….Years later, after reading CIA officer David Atlee Phillips’s account of the same evening in The Night Watch, Brandy noted that Phillips claimed to have been the first to hear of the evacuation of Batista at 4:00 A.M. the next time Brandy saw his friend Phillips, he told him had the jump on him!

He knew the end was coming at 8:00 P.M. the night before, beating the CIA by eight hours. Phillips and Brandy had a good laugh over the issue.

…As the party wound down,….Brandy issued an order that the guests should not check out – he had in mind the evacuation plans developed earlier with Colonel Kail at the American Embssy, as well as the plans for Castro forces to stay in the hotel….
…Briefly, Brandy had an exchange with Manuel Ray, who confirmed that the mob intended to burn the hotel. Brandy handed him his jacket and went down to the lobby. From the mezzanine, a few guests observed what happened next. Among them was Philippe de Vosjoli, head of French Intelligence – the SDECE (Service de Documentation Exterieure dt de Contre-espionage) – in Cuba, Canada, the United States, the Caribbean, and Mexico. Unknown to Brandy, de Vosjoli was staying at the hotel with his wife. He later recorded the events in his autobiography, Lamia, ‘dedicated to Brandy, wherein he recorded seeing “a physically fit man in a white shirt with short sleeves…calmly blocking the path of an armed, angry mob.”
Brandy met the mob and stood his ground at the entrance to the hotel lobby, explaining the hotel was not American property. It belonged to the Cuban people – to the Cuban Culinary Workers’ Union. Hilton managed it, but if they burned down the hotel they would be destroying the Cuban workers’ savings, not American property.
The crowd waved machetes, pistols and rifles…..Gradually, the crowd began to quiet, then broke into groups and argued….The standoff lasted fifteen minutes, then the rioters moved on…

…Meanwhile, the American Embassy evacuation plans that Colonel Kail and Barndy had workd out months before was quietly taking effect….

The barbudos, Brandy remembered, tended to be well behaved by comparison to some of the tourists….

Philippe de Vosjoli, who had observed Brandy confronting the rioters in the lobby of the hotel on 1 January, approached Brandy and introduced himself. Brandy immediately liked the straightforward, pro-American, and strongly anti-Communist Franch agent. De Vosjoli explained his dilemma. He believed a leak somewhere in the French security arrangements might cause the Communists among Castro’s forces to target him personally as a potential enemy. He wanted to evacuate without attracting notice. Brandy believed he should do a favor for a fellow Allied officer, especially one in the same line of business.

He included Philippe de Vosjoli and his wife in the group of American tourists…De Vosjoli would remember Brandy’s kindness in later years, and would share with him many confidences and insights into the problems of Communist penetration of security agencies in the Western democracies. The friendship later grew, based as it was on mutual respect and the memory of the shared risks during the Castro takeover.
…Offshore, by pre-arrangement through Colonel Kail, three U.S. Navy destroyers cruised in international waters, to provide protection and an escort for the ferry across the ninety miles to Key West and the United States….

…Among the New Year’s party-goers who wrote in appreciation were Dr. Curtice Rosser of Dallas, who was Brandy’s friend and Barbara’s personal physician, Ernest Dumler, an industrialist from Pittsburgh; John Thompson, a military reporter for the Chicago Tribune, and Frank Sherman, an attorney from New York City….

Meanwhile the local general manger of the hotel, Jose Menendez, went into hiding…
For the first week of the revolution, Castro remained in Oriente province, finally moving into Havana on 8 January 1959 as order was restored by his troops. The motorcade proceeded directly to the Hilton. As Castro and his entourage entered, Brandy introduced himself and explained that the Conrad Hilton Suite was at the disposal of the Castro party. Brandy had taken the trouble to freshen up the suite with flowers and stock the refrigerator with soft drinks and beer. Castro and his group took a quick look, then declined to stay because the facilities were “too plush.” However, a few days later the group returned, and Castro and his senior officers moved into the suite.

Brandy was summoned by Castro’s security and bodyguards to taste the first meals brought by room service, to ensure against poisoning. Brandy did so, and then arranged for Fred Lederer, the food and beverage manager, to do the tasting…
For a few weeks the Conrad Hilton Suite was converted, just as Bandy had planned, into the Castro forces’ command post….

Frank suggested to Colonel Kail at the embassy that it would be a good idea to arrange for an American news organization to conduct a full-scale television interview with Castro, so that more could be learned about him. Although full assessments of the Castro forces were available, little was known about Castro, the man. Brandy also suggested that the ACSI approach General David Sarnoff, U.S. Army, ret., and Chairman of the Board of RCA (which controlled NBC), as someone who could be trusted. Sarnoff had served as General Eisenhower’s communications officer during the Second World War. Sarnoff recommended that Jack Paar, host of the “Tonight Show,” conduct the interview.

In Cuba, Colonel Kail worked with Brandy to arrange the event…The questions, although innocuous, were exactly the sort needed by the U.S. Army to build a more complete picture of the human side of the new leader of Cuba. Brandy thought back to his days in the Field Intelligence Detachment,….. served as interpreter during the interview.

Chapter 13 Crown, Semenenko and Hilton p. 156

Brandy served the 1959 session of his annual active duty at the Pentagon in the Office of the Army Chief of Staff, Intelligence (ACSI), working under his first ACSI “Big Brother,” Colonel Bob Roth, in the Collection Division….This duty marked his change from Mobilization Resere to a career over the next eighteen years of working directly for ACSI, sometimes on active duty, and at other times, after retirement, on a strictly unpaid and voluntary basis.

Over that time, the officer to whom he reported at ACSI would change almost every two years. In the ACSI office, continuity was provided by Mrs. Dorothe K. Matlack, a long-time civil servant and chief of the Exploitation Section of the Assistant Chief of Staff-Intelligence (ACSI-CX). Dorothe (pronounced Dorothy) personally knew Brandy and other officers who worked to supply a continuing stream of good quality
“humanit,” or human intelligence. Brandy could continue the work of “eyes and ears” that he had begun under Ridgway, knowing that his “Big Brother” in Washington, whoever he would be over time, would receive his reports and that they would at least be considered and reviewed properly. Brandy’s standard operating procedure was to contact only one officer, his “Big Brother” from ACSI, thus protecting himself from possible exposure…

After departing the Pentagon, he visited the executive offices of Hilton International in New York City. He learned that John Hauser was no longer president of Hilton International, the position having been filled by Robert J. Caverly, a new executive…

He moved back to Dallas to be near Barbar, who was in a sanitarium there. He retained both his status as a Hilton manager on leave of absence and his status as a reserve lieutenant colonel, with annual active duty to be served at the Army Chief of Staff Intelligence at the Pentagon….

Brandy now settled into work as vice president and part owner of an auto-leasing business, Continental Leasing. The company,…operated by Dallas businessman Scott Walker, had been established in 1957. The headquarters of the firm later moved to Shreveport, Louisiana….

During this time, Brandy was developing a private plan that he hoped would affect the Cuban situation. He worked on a proposal to acquire used engines from the U.S. Army, particularly large engines from decommissioned army tanks, refurbish and box them, and then sell them in Cuba in 1959….

Meanwhile, he kept in touch with Colonel William Rose at the Pentagon office of the Assistant Chief of Staff-Intelligence. Rose arranged for Brandy to be assigned for training on weekend duties to the 488th Strategic Intelligence Team in Dallas. He contributed to a study of the capability of the Soviet oil fields, working with oil and mining engineer Colonel Jack Crichton, MI and U.S. Army, ret., who was later to explore the oil and gas reserves in the former Soviet Union during the 1990s….

That summer, Brandy finally received a phone call from Hilton headquarters. Effective 1 July 1959, there was an opening in Mexico, to take over as manager of a Hilton-supervised property in Acapulco, the Las Brisas….

Brandy noticed one employee on the records – Ron Urbanek…during World War II he had worked on the Red Ball Express, the truck line that supplied ammunition and other supplies in 1944 and 1945 from the channel ports to Patton on the front in a massive operation…

p. 289:

….After less than an hour, Bronfman convinced Brandy to assume the general manager’s position at Seagrams de Mexico for a year and a half to two years….Brandy met with Harold Fieldsteel, executive vice president for Finance and Administrtion of JES; with F. Shaker, vice president, International Administration and James E. McDonough, who was president of Seagrams Overseas Sales Company (SOSCO)….

P. 314:
During 1980 conservative writers and commentators, like those on Gordon McLendon’s radio stations, argued that American support for the embargo of South Africa was extremely hazardous to the national security of the United States….

Brandy also participated in an association organized by David Atlee Phillips for ex-CIA officers. Phillips had served as chief of the CIA’s Caribbean and Latin American division before his retirement in 1975. He became distressed at the exposes of CIA officers, mainly stemming from the activities of Senator Frank Church’s committee and the work of investigative reporters following the Watergate scandals. Phillips hoped to provide money that could serve as a legal defense fund for such officers, especially if they were libeled in the press and needed to file suit to restore their names. The organization could also conduct, as an outside group, public relations efforts to improve the image of the service as a whole. Brandy urged Phillips to expand his group to include not only former CIA officials, but also officers from other intelligence services, sucha as the army, navy, and air force. Accordingly, Phillips, with the approval of other CIA members, organized the Association of Former Intelligence Officers (AFIO). It was Brady’s responsibility to recruit the nucleus of former heads in the intelligence community, now retired, to represent the army, navy and air force. He did this by recruiting Vice Admiral Fritz Harlfinger, U.S. Navy, ret., and Lieutenant General John Davis, U.S. Army, ret., formerly of the ACSI, and deputy director of the National Security Agency (NSA). Brandy was offered a directorship, but he turned it down because of his comparatively low rank as a colonel. The organization needed leaders with significant Washington experience, with “Beltway” knowledge. He prevered to remain in the background…

p. 335. Photo caption: General Walter Dornberger, father of the German rocket program, visits his close friend Brandy at Casa Ternquilidad (Mexico) in 1977.
…Later, when Dornberger passed away, his widow sent the general’s personal library, correspondence files, and mementos given him at West Point and elsewhere to Brandy. She knew that Brandy was an avid collector of such materials and would cherish and preserve them. He dutifully added them to his space collection.

….With Brandy’s supervision and recommendation to Deke DeLoach, Carlos Solana, his chiefi of security, had participated with a small group of Mexican security men in training at the FBI’s facility in Quantico, Virginia,….

…Al Kaplan, who served as Brandy’s public relations man in the 1970s through his own company, moved on to be national director of tourism for the US-Mexico Chamber of Commerce…

After the divorce, Brandy married again. He had met Marianne Porzelt at one of the backgammon tournaments organized at his home…They were married 26 December 1978; the best men were Gordon McLendon and the ex-President of Mexico, Miguel Aleman….

Much of Brandstetter’s career as a G-2 officer and as a reservist with the staff of the army’s Assistant Chief of Staff-Intelligence (ACSI) was confidential, and for that reason, documentation on a number of his activities was inappropriate, or where permissible, difficult to obtain… - v=onepage&q&f=falsexxx

Also See: Brandy: Portrait Of An Intelligence Officer by Chuck Render and Frank M. Brandstetter. (Elderbery Press, Aug. 2007)

Book Summary of Brandy: Portrait Of An Intelligence Officer (Europen Edition)

Chuck Render was born in Southern Illinois where he joined the Air Force Reserve on his 17th birthday in January of 1955. He resigned as a Technical Sergeant flight engineer in 1965 and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant. He completed his baccalaureate and masters degrees at Murray State University in Kentucky and taught math, reading and music in Bluford, Illinois before completing his doctorate at the University of Illinois. He became Assistant Director of Administrative Studies at the University of Illinois Medical Center in Chicago, and then Director of Institutional Analysis with rank of Associate Professor at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. In 1985, he was recalled to active duty in the Pentagon, serving in the Office of the Chief of Air Force Reserve and then with the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs with duties in Operations and Plans. He retired from the military as a full "bird colonel" in 1995 after 40 years as an Air Force Reservist and moved to Clarksville, Tennessee.

Frank Maryan "Brandy" Brandstetter (right) was born in 1912 in Bratislava and schooled by the Sisters of Charity and military officers throughout his childhood. In his mid-teens, he became a penniless immigrant on the streets of New York and began a life-long career, working his way up through the ranks in the hotel business. In January of 1941, he was sworn in as a U.S. Army Private, was promoted to Sergeant, but was plucked from the ranks, commissioned as a Second Lieutenant, and assigned to Army Intelligence. After jumping with the famed 506th "Band of Brothers" on D-Day, he served at General Matthew B. Ridgway's side throughout the war and afterward in thefledgling U.N. Organization. Brandy served his country for more than 50 years as an Army Reservist, on active duty and off, even at his own expense after his mandatory retirement age. As this book was being written, he was still residing in his fortress-like Casa Tranquilidad (House of Peace) on the mountainside in Acapulco, several hundred yards below the giant landmark cross and chapel he built.


Unknown said...

Hello Bill,

Thanks for yet another informative and intriguing article. You may be interested to know that Professor Peter Dale Scott discusses Frank Brandstetter, Philippe Thyraud de Vosjoli, and the importance of Acapulco to our fields of awareness during an interview I conducted with him just last week.

My conversation with Professor Scott may be heard here:

Thank you for you valuable contributions.

Lee Shepherd said...

Brandstetter was trained under Major John Singlaub. He was associated with Lynn "Buck" Compton who was a prosecutor in the Sirhan Sirhan trial. If you follow Samuel Bronfman's connections you'll find Louis Bloomfield. Bloomfield, a former agent with the Office of Strategic Services linked to JFK’s assassination via Clay Shaw. Bloomfield’s brother, Bernard, was close friends with Bronfman who founded Distillers Corporation Limited, which acquired Joseph E. Seagram & Sons in 1928 and made a fortune taking advantage of U.S. Prohibition laws during the 1920s. During that time, Bronfman dealt with the unsavory Al Capone of Chicago and the Jewish Mafia Purple Gang out of Detroit and his parents were Russian-Jewish-Romanian refugees of anti-Semitic Czarist pogroms (massacres). According to New York Times staff reporter, Nathaniel Popper, the Bronfman family was, at one time "perhaps the single largest force in the Jewish charitable world.” The Bronfman's were also long-time associates of mob lord Meyer Lansky and among Israel’s primary international patrons.