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John Simkin

John Martino

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John Martino was born in Atlantic City, New Jersey, in 1910. In his youth he got into trouble with the police as a result of his involvement in illegal gambling.

In 1935 Martino moved to Miami. Soon afterwards he was arrested for running a lottery. During the Second World War Martino moved to Long Island and in 1943 he was arrested for loan sharking.

Over the next few years Martino learned a great deal about electronics and became a specialist in gambling machines. This included developing devices that increased the profits of casino owners.

In 1956 Martino was invited by Alan Roth to do some work in Cuba. Roth was manager of the Deauville Casino in Havana, owned by Santos Trafficante. Over the next three years Martino made a series of extended trips to the island. A fellow worker at the casino was a man called Louis McWillie, a close friend of Jack Ruby.

In the summer of 1959 Martino was once again in Cuba. While in the Deauville Casino he made critical comments about Fidel Castro, the new leader of the country. He was overheard by a Castro supporter who reported him to the authorities. On 29th July, 1959, Martino was arrested and charged with trying to help people associated with Fulgencio Batista to escape from the island. Martino was held in prison for the next three years and was not released until October, 1962. With the help of Nathaniel Weyl, the right-wing journalist, Martino produced a book about his experiences, I Was Castro's Prisoner.

Martino returned to the United States where he became involved in anti-Castro activities in Miami. Others involved with him included a former United States Ambassador, William Pawley, Gerry P. Hemming, Felipe Vidal Santiago, Eddie Bayo and Frank Sturgis.

In the winter of 1962 Eddie Bayo claimed that two officers in the Red Army based in Cuba wanted to defect to the United States. Bayo added that these men wanted to pass on details about atomic warheads and missiles that were still in Cuba despite the agreement that followed the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Bayo had originally fought with Fidel Castro against Fulgencio Batista. He disagreed with Castro's policies after he gained power and moved to Miami and helped establish Alpha 66. His story was eventually taken up by several members of the anti-Castro community. William Pawley became convinced that it was vitally important to help get these Soviet officers out of Cuba. To help this happen he contacted James Eastland, the chairman of the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee about this matter.

William Pawley also contacted Ted Shackley, head of the CIA's JM WAVE station in Miami. Shackley decided to help Pawley organize what became known as Operation Tilt. He also assigned Rip Robertson, a fellow member of the CIA in Miami, to help with the operation. David Sanchez Morales, another CIA agent, also became involved in this attempt to bring out these two Soviet officers.

In June, 1963, a small group, including Martino, William Pawley, Eddie Bayo, Rip Robertson and Richard Billings, a journalist working for Life Magazine, secretly arrived in Cuba. They were unsuccessful in their attempts to find these Soviet officers and they were forced to return to Miami. Bayo remained behind and it was rumoured that he had been captured and executed. However, his death was never reported in the Cuban press.

In an article published in January, 1964, Martino claimed in had important information about the death of John F. Kennedy. He argued that in 1963 Fidel Castro had discovered an American plot to overthrow his government. It was therefore decided to retaliate by organizing the assassination of Kennedy. Martino and Nathaniel Weyl both claimed that Lee Harvey Oswald had been in Cuba in 1963 and had been recruited by Cuban intelligence to kill Kennedy.

Martino told his friend, Fred Claasen, that he was not telling the truth about the Cubans being behind the assassination of Kennedy. He admitted that he had been involved in the conspiracy by acting as a courier delivering money. He also told the same story to his wife Florence Martino.

Shortly before his death in 1975 Martino confessed to a Miami Newsday reporter, John Cummings, that he had been guilty of spreading false stories implicating Lee Harvey Oswald in the assassination. He claimed that two of the gunmen were Cuban exiles. It is believed the two men were Herminio Diaz Garcia and Virgilio Gonzalez. Cummings added: "He told me he'd been part of the assassination of Kennedy. He wasn't in Dallas pulling a trigger, but he was involved. He implied that his role was delivering money, facilitating things.... He asked me not to write it while he was alive."

Fred Claasen also told the House Select Committee on Assassinations what he knew about Martino's involvement in the case. Florence Martino at first refused to corroborate the story. However, in 1994 she told Anthony Summers that her husband said to her on the morning of 22nd November, 1963: "Flo, they're going to kill him (Kennedy). They're going to kill him when he gets to Texas."

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/JFKmartino.htm

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James DiEugenio, review of Larry Hancock's Someone Would Have Talked (March, 2008)

http://www.ctka.net/someone_would.html

I have spoken to Larry Hancock on several occasions. I like him and some of the Lancer Group people he is associated with, like Debra Conway. But Hancock's book Someone Would Have Talked is a decidedly mixed bag.

From the title, it tries to circumvent the notion that Warren Commission defenders always trot out. Namely: If there was a conspiracy to kill President Kennedy, why has no one talked about such an enterprise before or since? The book enumerates several people who did do just that. But its real aim is to outline the actual conspiracy as he sees it. And he tries to tilt that conspiracy in a certain way. It's the way he tilts it that I have some major problems with.

The first chapter focuses on John Martino. Martino was involved with a Mafia-owned hotel in Cuba prior to Castro's revolution. He was then arrested and jailed by the revolutionaries. Once he was released in 1962 he began to speak out against Castro, joined up with some para-military types like Felipe Vidal Santiago and Gerry Hemming, and was also a speaker on the John Birch Society circuit. He died in 1975. But before he passed away he spoke about what he had heard of the plot to kill Kennedy to a couple of friends and to his wife. One of the friends, Fred Claasen, went to the House Select Committee on Assassinations. According to Hancock, the HSCA did only a perfunctory investigation of the claims. Later on, in Vanity Fair, (December of 1994) Anthony Summers fleshed out the story more fully. Hancock, on page 16, puts the Martino findings in synoptic form:

1. Cuban exiles manipulated Oswald in advance of the plot and two of them were snipers in Dealey Plaza.

2. Oswald was a U. S. government undercover operative who was approached by anti-Castro exiles representing themselves as pro-Castro.

3. Oswald was supposed to meet an exile contact at the Texas Theater. Oswald thought he would help him escape the country, but the actual plan was to shot him. Tippit's killing aborted this. Therefore the planners had to have Ruby murder Oswald.

4. The motorcade route was known in advance, and the attack was planned thoroughly in advance.

It is interesting to note here that shortly after this, in Chapters 3 and 4, Hancock begins to summarize the story of Richard Case Nagell, another person who had knowledge of the assassination. I think to any knowledgeable and objective observer comparing the two stories, Nagell's is more compelling. For by 1975, when the Martino story first surfaced, all of the enumerated points above were realized as distinct possibilities or contingencies by most serious researchers. The one exception being the anti-Castro exiles presenting themselves to Oswald as pro-Castro. But this would be the most speculative part also, since the only people who could actually verify it would be Oswald and the Cubans who approached him. And since I have noted elsewhere, most of the Cubans in this milieu are notoriously unreliable, that would leave Oswald.

I said that by 1975 Martino's information was pretty well known to serious investigators. But really, as Hancock relates it, it was known earlier than that. For by the end of 1968, all of the points -- except as noted -- were working axioms of the New Orleans investigation by DA Jim Garrison. To use just one investigator's testimony, researcher Gary Schoener has said that Garrison was "obsessed" with the Cuban exile group Alpha 66. At one time, he thought they were the main sponsoring group manipulating Oswald, and that they had pulled off the actual assassination.

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James DiEugenio, review of Larry Hancock's Someone Would Have Talked (March, 2008)

http://www.ctka.net/someone_would.html

I have spoken to Larry Hancock on several occasions. I like him and some of the Lancer Group people he is associated with, like Debra Conway. But Hancock's book Someone Would Have Talked is a decidedly mixed bag.

From the title, it tries to circumvent the notion that Warren Commission defenders always trot out. Namely: If there was a conspiracy to kill President Kennedy, why has no one talked about such an enterprise before or since? The book enumerates several people who did do just that. But its real aim is to outline the actual conspiracy as he sees it. And he tries to tilt that conspiracy in a certain way. It's the way he tilts it that I have some major problems with.

The first chapter focuses on John Martino. Martino was involved with a Mafia-owned hotel in Cuba prior to Castro's revolution. He was then arrested and jailed by the revolutionaries. Once he was released in 1962 he began to speak out against Castro, joined up with some para-military types like Felipe Vidal Santiago and Gerry Hemming, and was also a speaker on the John Birch Society circuit. He died in 1975. But before he passed away he spoke about what he had heard of the plot to kill Kennedy to a couple of friends and to his wife. One of the friends, Fred Claasen, went to the House Select Committee on Assassinations. According to Hancock, the HSCA did only a perfunctory investigation of the claims. Later on, in Vanity Fair, (December of 1994) Anthony Summers fleshed out the story more fully. Hancock, on page 16, puts the Martino findings in synoptic form:

1. Cuban exiles manipulated Oswald in advance of the plot and two of them were snipers in Dealey Plaza.

2. Oswald was a U. S. government undercover operative who was approached by anti-Castro exiles representing themselves as pro-Castro.

3. Oswald was supposed to meet an exile contact at the Texas Theater. Oswald thought he would help him escape the country, but the actual plan was to shot him. Tippit's killing aborted this. Therefore the planners had to have Ruby murder Oswald.

4. The motorcade route was known in advance, and the attack was planned thoroughly in advance.

It is interesting to note here that shortly after this, in Chapters 3 and 4, Hancock begins to summarize the story of Richard Case Nagell, another person who had knowledge of the assassination. I think to any knowledgeable and objective observer comparing the two stories, Nagell's is more compelling. For by 1975, when the Martino story first surfaced, all of the enumerated points above were realized as distinct possibilities or contingencies by most serious researchers. The one exception being the anti-Castro exiles presenting themselves to Oswald as pro-Castro. But this would be the most speculative part also, since the only people who could actually verify it would be Oswald and the Cubans who approached him. And since I have noted elsewhere, most of the Cubans in this milieu are notoriously unreliable, that would leave Oswald.

I said that by 1975 Martino's information was pretty well known to serious investigators. But really, as Hancock relates it, it was known earlier than that. For by the end of 1968, all of the points -- except as noted -- were working axioms of the New Orleans investigation by DA Jim Garrison. To use just one investigator's testimony, researcher Gary Schoener has said that Garrison was "obsessed" with the Cuban exile group Alpha 66. At one time, he thought they were the main sponsoring group manipulating Oswald, and that they had pulled off the actual assassination.

I wish we all knew the full truth of the conspiracy, however since we do not it seems strange to characterize my view of it with the term “tilt”. That implies that someone does know the exact truth and can measure the degree to which others are “tilting” their version of it. The book reflects my research, the sources I found most credible and my own conclusions. I have intentionally introduced certain chapters (including “End Game”) as theory and identified specific segments (including the analysis of Johnson’s actions) as speculation.

In 1963 Martino was demonstrably associating with and known to CIA officers and military operations staff including David Morales, Rip Robertson and Eugenio Martinez. He played a seminal role in instigating and participating in a risky Cuban penetration mission involving former ambassador William Pawley (the mission also had documented CIA support, not to mention Life magazine photo coverage). After the assassination he was extremely active in promoting the “Castro did it, Oswald was working for Castro” propaganda and aggressively promoted that story to the FBI (at the time only his family knew that was a total creation, shortly before his death he shared it with a business partner and a friend). Unlike Nagel, we have considerable specific information on Martino’s associates and CIA contacts; we also have family members that are living and willing to share first hand information about his activities before and after the assassination.

Nagell’s story had already been told in detail by Dick Russell and others. Martino’s full story had not been told before, indeed nobody had realized that Martino was closely connected to CIA officer David Morales, even mentioning Morales by his real name in his book about Martino’s Cuban imprisonment. More importantly, Martino identified himself as being involved in the conspiracy, described his rather minor role and made a series of very specific statements about the conspiracy – which can be tested. A good portion of the book is structured to explore and evaluate those statements. In contrast Nagel made no direct observations about the Dallas conspiracy. He did state that he had become aware of a general plan to kill JFK and blame it on Castro a full year earlier in Mexico, that he observed Cuban exiles impersonating Castro agents in contact with Oswald and tried to warn Oswald off from them. The plot known to Nagell involved something planned to happen in September in or around Washington D.C.; Nagell himself was first on the run from Cuban exiles and then in jail in the weeks before Dallas.

Martino himself described his participation in the conspiracy, his role as a courier and his prior knowledge of the conspiracy. A good deal of the book is devoted to testing his statements to that effect. I will acknowledge that there is ambiguity in my specific wording as to his telephone calls on November 22,, certainly his family was convinced that he was talking to Cuban friends, some in Miami and some most likely in Dallas. One of his good exile friends was admittedly in Dallas that day and Martino himself traveled to Dallas that fall. I will qualify this point in the next edition.

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