Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Tampa Plot in Retrospect

                                            JFK at MacDill AFB, Florida, November 18, 1963

Former SS Agent Blaine said that he has kept some of the advance reports on the Tampa trip, reports that had previously been reported destroyed. 

The Tampa Plot in Retrospect - By William Kelly 

Four days before he was killed in Dallas President Kennedy visited Tampa, Florida, where he addressed the Steelworkers Union and then later in Miami the Inter-American Press Association (IAPA) to whom he delivered a major speech on Cuba, part of which was said to have been designed to confirm his support for a coup in Cuba.

In the course of this trip, which included a long motorcade that began and ended at MacDill AFB, Kennedy met privately with the commander of MacDill, a base where a quick-strike unit was prepared to intervene in Cuba if called upon to do so. As Peter Dale Scott has pointed out, MacDill AFB was the recipient of the special message from Dallas PD officer Stringfellow informing the Quick-Strike unit that the accused assassin was a Cuban Communist, a possible instigation to mobilize. 

Also in the course of the visit to Tampa, the Secret Service and local authorities investigated a plot to kill the president, a conspiracy that included shooting the President with a high powered rifle while he rode in the motorcade, and a patsy, Gilberto Lopez, a Cuban affiliated with the FPCC who was trying to get back into Cuba, and eventually did so, via the same route Oswald allegedly tried to take via Texas and Mexico City.

News of the Tampa plot was confined to a single newspaper report, and picked up by the UPI, but Lamar Waldron and Thom Hartmann explore this plot further and in some detail in their books “Ultimate Sacrifice” (Carroll & Graf, 2005) and “Legacy of Secrecy” (Counterpoint, 2008).

While their view of the assassination is somewhat warped by the adherence to their theory that what happened at Dealey Plaza was planned by Mafia dons in league with some CIA officers and Cubans planning a “C-Day” coup and US invasion of Cuba, much of what they have uncovered is true and can be independently verified.

Laying the basic ground work in “Ultimate Sacrifice – John and Robert Kennedy, the Plan for a Coup in Cuba, and the Murder of JFK,” at first they intentionally neglected to name their primary suspect to lead the Coup in Cuba, a coup that the CIA was unmistakably plotting. Desmond Fitzgerald (on September 25, 1963) informed the Joint Chiefs of Staff of their “Valkyrie” plan, based on a failed plot to kill Hitler adapted to Cuba. This plan targeted disenchanted Cuban military officers and a few revolutionary figures close to Castro. 

That alone is a major research breakthrough, and if they would have stopped right there and entwined the details of how that Cuban coup planning was redirected to Dealey Plaza, it would have been enough, but they further developed their theory with the additional details - that the Kennedys had a approved a coup in Cuba to take place on C-Day (Dec. 1) and that this plot was hijacked by Mafia dons Santo Traficante and Carlos Marcello and used to kill Kennedy.

Although he is not named in the first edition of their book, Juan Almeida is identified in hastily published follow up edition after Almeida was named by others.

My primary problems with their work is centered on the fact that they made up the term “C-Day” for the date of their planned coup and invasion of Cuba, so it is not a term you will find in any government records, although the idea of a coup in Cuba was the subject of many discussions that are memorialized in memos and documents, especially the military records found among the Califano papers, released under the JFK Act [ and posted on-line at Mary Ferrell ]

It has also been brought to our attention that on the date of the supposed coup, it has been documented that Almeida was in an airplane on the way to Africa to lead Cuban forces in the Congo, so he was in no position to lead a coup in Cuba and in any case, he didn’t, and is still considered in the good graces of the Castro government in Cuba.

My other problem with the Waldron/Hartman theory is that the coup plan was known to, infiltrated and hijacked by Mafia dons, when in fact the CIA and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who were in cahoots in the Valkyrie Plot, were quite capable of redirecting the Havana coup from Castro to Kennedy without any help from their Mafia friends, though they certainly could have been used in some of the tactical aspects (ie. silencing the Patsy).

Nor do I think that their extensive use of anonymous sources contributes to their credibility, though I believe their unidentified ONI source as having shadowed Oswald and destroying official government records related to Oswald immediately after he was arrested.

That said, Waldron and Hartmann have done extensive research into the Tampa plot, and reported what they knew in their books, some of which is quoted here.

In “Ultimate Sacrifice” (p. 145), they write: “Authorities had received credible reports of threats against JFK, and Tampa authorities had uncovered a plan to assassinate JFK during his long motorcade there...Long-secret Congressional reports confirm that ‘the threat on November 18, 1963 was posed by a mobile, unidentified rifleman shooting from a window in a tall building with a high power rifle fitted with a scope.’ One Secret Service agent told Congressional investigators that ‘there was an active threat against the President of which the Secret Service was aware in November 1963 in the period immediately prior to JFK’s trip to Miami made by ‘a group of people.’”

“The Tampa threat was confirmed to us by Chief of Police (J.P.) Mullins, who also confirmed that it wasn’t allowed to be published at the time. However, as with Chicago, JFK knew about the Tampa assassination threat. In the words of a high Florida law-enforcement official at the time, ‘JFK had been briefed he was in danger.’”

                                                JFK at MacDill - Mary Ferrell Photo Archives

“After JFK arrived in Tampa on November 18, 1963, newspapers say that he was first ‘closeted’ with ‘General Paul Adams, commanding officer of the Strike [Force] Command’ for a ‘secret session at MacDill.’ Joining General Adams were the commander of the Tactical Air Command headquartered at Langley AFB, Virginia, and the Commander of the Army Command based at Fort Monroe, Virginia…The Strike Force Command is known as Central Command, or CentCom, today. It was described in newspapers at the time as ‘the nation’s brushfire warfare force,’ designed for rapid deployment to trouble spots…Following his brief meeting with the military leaders, JFK continued a heavy schedule of speeches and public appearances. His main motorcade for the public lasted about forty minutes….”

                                              JFK at MacDill - Mary Ferrell Photo Archives

After the motorcade JFK addressed the United Steelworkers at the International Inn, where Waldron and Hartman say, “Just four days later, Trafficante would go to the site of JFK’s last speech in Tampa, the International Inn to publicly toast and celebrate JFK’s death in Dallas.”

After that Tampa speech, Kennedy went to Miami to address the media, and reportedly included in his speech, a special message for those who were contemplating a coup in Cuba.

“The Tampa Police Chief on November 18, 1963, J.P. Mullins, confirmed the existence of the plot to assassinate JFK in Tampa that day. While all news of the threat was suppressed at the time, two small articles appeared right after JFK’s death, but even then the story was quickly suppressed. Mullins was quoted in those 42-year old articles, and he didn’t speak for publication about the threat again until he spoke with us in 1996, confirming not just the articles but adding important new details.” (p. 254)

“The Tampa attempt is documented in full for the first time in any book later; but briefly, it involved at least two men, one of whom threatened to ‘use a gun’ and was described by the Secret Service as ‘white, male, 20, slender build,’ 28.….According to Congressional investigators, ‘Secret Service memos’ say ‘the threat on Nov. 18, 1963 was posed by a mobile, unidentified rifleman shooting from a window in a tall building with a high powered rifle fitted with a scope.’ 29. That was the same basic scene in Chicago and Dallas.”

“Chief Mullins confirmed that the police were told about the threat by the Secret Service prior to JFK’s motorcade through Tampa, which triggered even more security precautions. One motorcade participant still recalls commenting at the time that ‘at every overpass there were police officers with rifles on alert.”

“Secret Service agents in Tampa were probably subjected to the same pressure for secrecy as those in Chicago…It also explains why, in the mid-1990s, the Secret Service destroyed documents about JFK’s motorcades in the weeks before Dallas, rather than turn them over to the Assassinations Records Review Board as the law required. 36 As noted earlier, that destruction occurred just weeks after the authors had first informed the Review Board about the Tampa attempt.” 37 (p. 256)

“There is clear evidence that the Secret Service and other agencies handled the serious JFK assassination attempts in Chicago and Tampa far differently from earlier assassination attempts we’ve researched. Since just after JFK’s election, most attempts to kill him would briefly make the newspapers at the time of the incident. 38 That was even true for minor, routine threats to JFK in Chicago and Tampa in the fall of 1963,…”

“The Tampa attempt was kept completely out of the news media at the time of JFK’s visit, and for four days afterward. Only two small articles about the Tampa attempt finally appeared after JFK’s death, one in Tampa on Saturday, November 23. By the time the next article appeared in Miami on Sunday, the authorities had clammed up and were no longer talking. There were no follow-up articles in either paper. 40 The two articles went unnoticed by Congressional investigators and historians for decades…”

“What made the attempts to kill JFK in Chicago and Tampa (and later Dallas) different from all previous threats was the involvement of Cuban suspects – and a possible Cuban agent – in each area. In addition, these multi-person attempts were clearly not the work of the usual lone, mentally ill person, but were clearly the result of coordinated planning. The Chicago and Tampa assassination attempts took place… when US officials were making plans for dealing with the possible “assassination” of “American officials” in retaliation for US actions against Castro…”

“In both the Tampa and Dallas attempts, officials sought a young man in his early twenties, white with slender build, who had been in recent contact with a small pro-Castro group called the Fair Play for Cuba Committee (FPCC). In Dallas that was Lee Harvey Oswald, but the Tampa person of interest was Gilberto Policarpo Lopez, who – like Oswald- was a former defector. 44 We later document eighteen parallels between Dallas suspect Lee Harvey Oswald and Gilberto Policarpo Lopez, but here are a few: Like Oswald, Lopez was also of interest to Navy Intelligence. Also similar to Oswald, Gilberto Lopez made a mysterious trip to Mexico City in the fall of 1963, attempting to get to Cuba. Lopez even used the same border crossing as Oswald, and government reports say both went one way by car, though neither man owned a car. Like Oswald, Lopez had recently separated from his wife and had gotten into a fistfight in the summer of  1963 over supposedly pro-Castro sympathies. 45 Declassified Warren Commission and CIA documents confirm that Lopez, whose movements parallel Oswald in so many ways in 1963, was on a secret ‘mission’ for the US involving Cuba, an ‘operation’ so secret that the CIA felt that protecting it was considered more important than thoroughly investigating the JFK assassination.” 46

 “Since the initial publication of Ultimate Sacrifice, a few additional references to Tampa have surfaced. On June 10, 2005, - five months before the first public revelation of the Tampa attempt in our book – the Secret Service’s advance agent for JFK’s trip to Tampa made an intriguing comment during an interview with researcher Vince Palamara. Retired agent Gerald Blaine said there were ‘more characters’ for the Secret Service to worry about ‘in Tampa’ than in Dallas. Blaine said ‘we were really concerned about that. We did a lot of work on that.’ Palamara writes that “Blaine added that he was riding in the lead car with the Chief of Police’ during JFK’s Tampa motorcade.” 36 (p. 718)

(36 Vince Michael Palamara Survivor’s Guilt: The Secret Service & the Failure to Protect the President (Pennsylvania, 2005, pp. 20, 21)

Also see:
2. “Threats on Kennedy Made Here,” Tampa Tribune 11/23/63; “Man Held In Threats to JFK,” Miami Herald 11-24-63 – it is bylined Tampa (UPI), so it may well have appeared in other newpapers.
3. Frank DeBenedictis, “Four Days before Dallas,Tampa Bay History Fall/Winter 1994

[BK Notes: If anyone can obtain the Tampa Tribute Article “Man Held in Threats to JFK” of 11/23/63, I’d like to have the text copy so I can post it, as well as Frank’s article.]

Military ready for action. Caption reads: Initial USAF deliveries to MacDill AFB, Florida, in November 1963, were 29 "borrowed" Navy F-4Bs (given USAF serial numbers, but eventually returned). These 12th and 15th Tactical Fighter Wing aircraft were soon joined by production F-4Cs. Both types appear in this photo.

Vince has posted the original news report on the Tampa threat here: (Thanks Vince!)
11/18/63 Tampa, FL threats | vincepalamara

Threats On Kennedy Made Here

Tampa police and Secret Service agents scanned crowds for a man who had vowed to assassinate the President here last Monday, Chief of Police J.P. Mullins said yesterday.

In issuing notice to all participating security police prior to the President’s motorcade tour in Tampa, Mullins had said: “I would like to advise all officers that threats against the President have been made from this area in the last few days.”

A memo from the White House Secret Service dated Nov. 8 reported:

“Subject made statement of a plan to assassinate the President in October 1963. Subject stated he will use a gun, and if he couldn’t get closer he would find another way. Subject is described as: White, male, 20, slender build,” etc.

Mullins said Secret Service had been advised of three persons in the area who reportedly had made threats on the President’s life. One of the three was – and still is – in jail here under heavy bond.

Mullins said he did not know if the other two may have followed the Presidential caravan to Dallas.

Sarasota County Sheriff Ross E. Boyer also said yesterday that officers who protected Kennedy in Tampa Monday were warned about “a young man” who had threatened to kill the President during that trip.”


Paul Harris said...

Very insightful piece. I was wondering if any researcher has looked whether a Carcano was ever delivered from Kleins Sporting Goods to a mailbox alledgely belonging to Gilberto Policarpo Lopez?

Vince Palamara said...

Bill, HERE IS THE ARTICLE you requested:

Vince Palamara

William Kelly said...

Thanks Vince, You're the best!

longryder said...

Hello Bill I just joined this site and look forward to being educated and adding some good stuff as well..My question is ..Did I understand you correctly when you said that JFK was planning an invasion of Cuba that December. That is very difficult for me to believe unless all of the warming up to the Soviets and Kennedy's plans for seeking peace was a ruse. Everything I read about those dark days from '61-'63 had the CIA doing all of the crazy stuff to push JFK for air cover for the invasion the CIA had orchastrated at the Bay of Pigs...can you let me know if I was reading it correctly ..or was I miostaken?

William Kelly said...

Hi, Good to hear from you. I don't believe JFK planned to invade Cuba in Dec. '63, that's Lamar Waldron's C-Day theory. While I think he is right in that one of the plots to kill Castro was hijacked and redirected at JFK, I don't believe the Mafia did the hijacking, but rather the Pentagon.

Unknown said...

Prior to JFK's arrival, Joseph Milteer, a financier of anti-Castro paramilitarists and rightwing political groups had spoken with William Somerset an undercover police asset, about the plot to kill the president in Florida. In the tape-recorded conversation, Milteer states that Kennedy is to be killed via rifle fire from tall buildings, and that a patsy had already been selected. Apparently, this is a reference to Gilberto Lopez.
As for JFK participating in a "C-Day" plan to invade Cuba on Dec. 1, 1963, this is illusory, a case of CIA disinformation based on statements and papers produced by the CIA and its assets. Those I have spoken with inside the Kennedy administration with regard to this allegation vehemently deny that John F. Kennedy was involved with any plot to stage a further invasion of Cuba. One high-ranking official whose position would have involved him in the military logistics of such a plot, when asked about the Haldron-Thom claim of JFK approving a planned invasion of Cuba in late 1963, was so incensed at the allegation, that he rose up out of his chair, eyes bulging, and shouted, "BULLSHIT!" This reaction was wholly uncharacteristic of him, an affable, pleasant, humorous JFK intimate. He went on to hotly deny the claim that Kennedy was involved in a plot that would violate the agreement he had fashioned that helped prevent World War III during the tense nuclear showdown of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Another JFK aide and close friend of the president stated that Kennedy was wholly committed to honoring the terms of the agreement that he had fashioned governing the Soviet withdrawal and removal of missiles from Cuba. While there are bits of truthful information that the CIA used in concocting its story - typical of agency disinformation efforts - the overall Haldron-Thom allegation is without foundation.

Unknown said...

CORRECTION: I meant to say "Waldron-Thom." My apologies for the erratum.

Paul said...

...There is also smoke around the Nagell link to a plot involving left leaning sharpshooter Vaughn Malowe being set up as a patsy in an attempt in L.A. at the premiere of PT109... That would be three, yes three, Free Play for Cuba potential fall guys... Very ZRrifle...very David Atlee Phillips

Unknown said...

Might Miami resident William D. Pawley, architect of the June, 1963 Pawley-Bayo raid on Cuba, have participated in the Tampa plot? In April, 1963 he wrote a letter to Nixon he stated: "All of the Cubans in this part of the country believe that to remove Castro you must first remove Kennedy, and that is not going to be easy." He might have seen Kennedy's visit to Tampa as an ideal opportunity to effect that "removal."

Scott Kaiser said...

How is it that everyone has heard of the Tampa, Chicago and the Dallas planned plots, but don't know about the Miami or New York plots? Bill Holland, you are correct about Pawley, but it wasn't "just" the Tampa plot Pawley was the financier of. It took time, patience, and the right pasty.

Unknown said...

Why is it that during all this no one has mentioned Stu Knight in Tampa Vince Palermo never even mentioned him and the ultimate sacrifice