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That whole "canceled" air strikes thing...


Dennis Berube
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Grayston Lynch (who sailed along with Robertson on command ships for the Brigade - at Bissell's direction but against JFK's directives that no American's would be involved with the actual landings) later wrote that they were assured that there would be no Cuban air to oppose the landing and described being shocked when they were radioed at sea that they would be facing air attacks at the beach head.  He wrote of trying to advise the Brigade commanders about tactics to cope with that and of course he and Robertson manned the fifty caliber machine guns on the command ships, the only real anti-aircraft weaponry available.  He and Lynch had mounted the guns prior to sailing, apparently at their own initiative, in order to provide suppression fire during the landings. 

Lynch was also adamant that given the heavy equipment and tanks being landed their was no way they could ever have offloaded and had the ships away and out of Cuban waters by daybreak - which had been one of JFK's primary demands for the operation.  

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Gene is right about this being a great thread.  Thanks Dennis, Jim, Larry, Robert, David, and Gene.  This gives a much broader and clearer picture than what I've read previously.  Though Larry has alluded to some of this not too long ago and Destiny Betrayed was my first clue that JFK cancelling the air strikes wasn't true.  

You all make me wonder though about another aspect.  If I may put my ignorance on full display (tell me when I'm wrong, please).

What became the BOP originated Under Eisenhower.  It was a CIA project.  Nixon was his liaison with them.  If he'd been elected it most likely would have proceeded in the original location with full support of the US Air Force and Navy and Marines with troops to follow.

Did the plans change as soon as the election was over?  Maybe better said, did they start evolving immediately?  From a forceful invasion to he might not support it, let's revise it so he will?

Then ultimately a plan to fail?  Deceiving both the Anti Castro Cubans and JFK.

Bissel was no stooge, he wouldn't have gotten to the position he was in under Dulles if he was.  Keeping Esterline and Hawkins away from JFK was deliberate, as was his lieing to them about the airstrikes.  

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On 9/22/2020 at 7:36 PM, Ron Bulman said:

What became the BOP originated Under Eisenhower.  It was a CIA project.  Nixon was his liaison with them.

It must be stressed that the pinnacle of the "chain of command", organically speaking, in regards to the Eisenhower-era, anti-Castro terrorist operations, was not the Central Intelligence Agency.

As a point of fact, all evidence indicates that it was an ad-hoc group that existed within the superstructure of the National Security Council called the "5412/2 Committee", sometimes referred to as "Special Group", that existed within another organization called the "Operations Coordinating Board".

Here is a CIA document that cartoonishly chronologized it's history:

https://www.cia.gov/library/readingroom/docs/LOC-HAK-301-1-9-6.pdf

While it is a fact that CIA Deputy Director for Plans Richard Mervin Bissell Jr. was tasked to oversee the planning for ousting Prime Minister Fidel Castro, the staff that authorized the operation was not the CIA.

While I do not have all of the resources in front of me to cite my following statement, it appears that the personnel who oversaw the Eisenhower-era, anti-Castro terrorist operations on the National Security Council's, Operations Coordinating Board, 5412/2 Committee were the following men:

  • US Vice President Richard Milhous Nixon
  • US Under Secretary for Political Affairs Livingston Tallmadge Merchant
  • US Navy Chief of Naval Operations ADM. Arleigh Albert Burke 
  • CIA Director Allen Welsh Dulles
  • CIA Western Hemisphere Division Chief COL. Joseph Caldwell King
  • US National Security Advisor Gordon Gray
  • CIA Special Assistant for Paramilitary Psychological Operations Charles Tracy Barnes
  • US Vice President's Assistant for National Security Affairs Brig. Gen. Robert Everton Cushman Jr.
  • US Interdepartmental Task Force on Latin American Affairs Chief Adolf Augustus Berle Jr.
  • US Deputy Secretary of Defense Thomas Sovereign Gates Jr.
  • US Under Secretary of State Clarence Douglas Dillon 
  • Special Military Attaché to President of the United States COL. Vernon Anthony Walters

As far as I can tell, those twelve men represented the United States government's covert action capabilities and violent position against Castro's Cuba, before President Kennedy took the oath of office.

I would like to stress once again, the 5412/2 Committee was not a CIA entity, though CIA personnel did operate on it's staff.

I hope this is at least a starting point for answering your question Mr. Bulman.

 

 

Edited by Robert Montenegro
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Ron, for the full details on the evolution and chains of decision making I really have to refer you to the book where I go through its backstory and inception.  The project itself began with a proposal from JC King as head of the Western Hemisphere Directorate.

King  proposed launching a formal covert action program against Castro - King had earlier recommended to Dulles that Castro simply be assassinated. Eisenhower had already tasked the CIA with the Castro problem and they had been active in intelligence work on the island already.

The CIA initially took that proposal to the Special Group which referred it up to the NSC and Eisenhower as standard practice.  Eisenhower approved it as strictly a deniable project - leaving it under Special Group oversight. 

At that point Bissell was given high level project responsibility under Dulles, while the project itself ran under Western Hemisphere (J.C. King) and was operationally tasked to Esterline. A very unusual management arrangement which the CIA IG faulted for many of the project's problems.

In its first phase it was largely propaganda and political action with a modest paramilitry effort involving only 100 trained Cuban volunteers to be inserted to stimulate on island resistance.  An air element was not added until summer of 1960.

When phase 1 totally failed, it was reconstructed by Bissell and Hawkins as the amphibious insertion of a heavy infantry Brigade...what followed was very much an iterative process with Bissell interacting with both the Special Group and members of the NSC as well as Eisenhower's national security council following the election.

Eisenhower never really engaged with the phase 2 proposal nor did he issue another National Security Directive approving it.   Ultimately JFK did issue a directive but it was very limited and only talked about supporting the return of Cuban volunteers to Cuba.

In Denial has the timelines, the details of the project evolution, and citations; I will also be covering this in an upcoming JFK Lancer virtual conference presentation.

 

Edited by Larry Hancock
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On 9/23/2020 at 5:42 AM, Larry Hancock said:

In Denial has the timelines, the details of the project evolution, and citations; I will also be covering this in an upcoming JFK Lancer virtual conference presentation.

I defer to Mr. Hancock, of course!

"In Denial: Secret Wars with Air Strikes and Tanks?" is a brilliant read!

 

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Much appreciated Robert, too be honest its a bit of a slog in places but it was a challenge to capture the minutia and the give and take of the various meetings and memos.  On the other hand some of that is necessary to contrast with how simplistic the common historical treatments have been.

As an example, the dialog about air strikes has been portrayed almost entirely in terms of the exchanges (or lack thereof) of Day 1.  But when you dig into the memos you find Hawkins and Esterline arguing for the necessity of extensive strikes and air cover as early as December.  In fact those exchanges were so ongoing and so heated that it becomes clear that Esterline's suspicion he was pulled from the highest level meetings during the last few weeks in order for Bissell to minimize the issue is well justified. 

Outside of that, I was intrigued to find the Navy liaison writing that the rules of engagement (ROE) for the Trinidad plan called for Navy air over the ships as they came in to port to offload - it appears to have assumed Navy combat air patrol over the harbor itself. That level of CAP was dramatically reduced during the shift of the plan to Zapata and there were constant changes to the Navy ROE   -  its unclear how far down the operations chain from Bissell the ROE changes were  communicated but those directly in contact with the Brigade clearly expected far more air support than Bissell was authorizing.

Grayston Lynch also wrote that the Navy totally failed to provide the authorized combat air protection for the Brigade's ships that retreated to sea under Cuban air attack - which in turn led them to flee so far that the authorized return for a second attempt at resupply the night of Day 1 never materialized.

 

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On 9/23/2020 at 4:42 AM, Robert Montenegro said:

It must be stressed that the pinnacle of the "chain of command", organically speaking, in regards to the Eisenhower-era, anti-Castro terrorist operations, was not the Central Intelligence Agency.

As a point of fact, all evidence indicates that it was an ad-hoc group that existed within the superstructure of the National Security Council called the "5412/2 Committee", sometimes referred to as "Special Group", that existed within another organization called the "Operations Coordinating Board".

Here is a CIA document that cartoonishly chronologized it's history:

https://www.cia.gov/library/readingroom/docs/LOC-HAK-301-1-9-6.pdf

While it is a fact that CIA Deputy Director for Plans Richard Mervin Bissell Jr. was tasked to oversee the planning for ousting Prime Minister Fidel Castro, the staff that authorized the operation was not the CIA.

While I do not have all of the resources in front of me to cite my following statement, it appears that the personnel who oversaw the Eisenhower-era, anti-Castro terrorist operations on the National Security Council's, Operations Coordinating Board, 5412/2 Committee were the following men:

  • US Vice President Richard Milhous Nixon
  • US Under Secretary for Political Affairs Livingston Tallmadge Merchant
  • US Navy Chief of Naval Operations ADM. Arleigh Albert Burke 
  • CIA Director Allen Welsh Dulles
  • CIA Western Hemisphere Division Chief COL. Joseph Caldwell King
  • US National Security Advisor Gordon Gray
  • CIA Special Assistant for Paramilitary Psychological Operations Charles Tracy Barnes
  • US Vice President's Assistant for National Security Affairs Brig. Gen. Robert Everton Cushman Jr.
  • US Interdepartmental Task Force on Latin American Affairs Chief Adolf Augustus Berle Jr.
  • US Deputy Secretary of Defense Thomas Sovereign Gates Jr.
  • US Under Secretary of State Clarence Douglas Dillon 
  • Special Military Attaché to President of the United States Brig. Gen. Vernon A. Walters 

As far as I can tell, those twelve men represented the United States government's covert action capabilities and violent position against Castro's Cuba, before President Kennedy took the oath of office.

I would like to stress once again, the 5412/2 Committee was not a CIA entity, though CIA personnel did operate on it's staff.

I hope this is at least a starting point for answering your question Mr. Bulman.

 

 

Yes, this is very informative.  I've read before I think thanks to Larry, but forgotten about the 5412 Committee.  I didn't remember C. (Clarence) Douglass Dillion, JFK's Secretary of the Treasury, I.E. head over the Secret Service at the time of his death, thus his protection, was on it.  

Larry's last post about Bissel minimizing Esterline still makes me wonder, would he do so, over time, without consulting others?

Ordering In Denial tomorrow.   

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Ron, I repeatedly asked the same question about Bissell's behavior and you see it discussed from multiple angles in the book.  One factor which has to be taken into account was that Bissell had made several project management decisions (against strong objections from Esterline and others) which led the first phase of the project to be carried out in a quite different fashion than either the earlier Guatemala effort or the most recent CIA covert military action in Indonesia.

Those decisions had resulted in the total failure of the first phase despite all the promises made to Eisenhower.  As of November both he and Dulles had failed to deliver on a what had turned into a huge project, almost totally unlike what Eisenhower had authorized. Its pretty clear Bissell was taking little advice from anyone throughout, certainly not the people with actual military experience. 

That's not the only factor but a big part of the whole story is that almost all the discussion in the media and the history books about the Bay of Pigs has been in the context of only about three months (or more often three days) in early 1961 - in reality the discussion needs to be about what had been in progress for over a year before the landings occurred.

 

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But Larry, Fitzpatrick talks about that in his report.

In fact, he devotes a whole section to it..And he ridicules it by titling it  something like "Supplying Castro".

He describes the CIA efforts to bolster the resistance groups on the island as a complete failure.  And actually even worse than that, since a lot of  the parachuting of supplies were captured by Castro's forces. I actually think that is one of the sections that really got the hierarchy at CIA pissed off at Kirkpatrick.  Because as I was reading it I thought, what a comedy of errors.  Here we are giving supplies and arms to the guy we are trying to dislodge. 

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Fitzpatrick literally and in detail gutted Bissell's management of the project - which was of course an indictment of Dulles as well, who exercised virtually no oversight of Bissell and appears to have had very limited information about either phase of the project. Doing so exposed some of the fundamental structural problems with the whole organization of the project including J.C. King's and Cabell's involvement.

In that regard the CIA Historian did a similar job, including harsh commentary on King and Cabell.

The Phase 1 plan called for active air supply and even air strike support beginning by September...neither happened.  The few supply drops that eventually did occur not only failed to supply the resistance groups but in several instances exposed them to Castro's security forces.

And the maritime effort was totally nonexistent during that period except for a few small boats borrowed locally by CIA officers.  It was only in Feb 1961 that a handful of larger boat missions were accomplished.

Unlike in earlier projects, most recently in Indonesia, Bissell  refused to utilize regular military resources or even contract pilots for the air missions or maritime missions into Cuba.  And he insisted on using the Agencie's air arm, which of course he was more familiar with but which had never supported covert operations on the scale as called for in the evolving plan. He may have been a fine manager for a developmental project like the U-2 but when he tried to apply highly structured bureaucratic controls to regime change, he was truly out of his depth.

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3 hours ago, James DiEugenio said:

And actually even worse than that, since a lot of  the parachuting of supplies were captured by Castro's forces. I actually think that is one of the sections that really got the hierarchy at CIA pissed off at Kirkpatrick.

Here is a highly redacted version of CIA Inspector General Lyman B. Kirkpatrick's after action report, via Peter Kornbluh:

https://nsarchive2.gwu.edu//NSAEBB/NSAEBB341/IGrpt1.pdf

If you scroll down to page 98 of the report, section "J. Clandestine Paramilitary Operations -- Air", subsection "9. Rice and Beans", CIA IG Kirkpatrick actually states that Prime Minister Fidel Castro's Cuban Revolutionary Army captured sixty-three tons worth of the arms and ammunition that were covertly dropped into Cuba meant for stay-behind CIA terrorists already staged in Cuba before the Zapata invasion force even hit the beaches!

Hell, the according to CIA IG Kirkpatrick's own report, the CIA practically armed five battalions worth of Castro's soldiers in the months leading up to the invasion!

Must be why the CIA hardliners replaced Kirkpatrick with John S. Earman Jr. in 1962. 

CIA Inspector General Earman was a veteran of the joint Office of Policy Coordination-State, Army, Navy, Air Force Coordinating Committee "Operation Bloodstone" which oversaw the recruiting of tens of thousands of unrepentant Nazi and Western Eurasian fascist collaborators and grafted them into the newly formed Office of Special Operations, which placed thousands of Waffen-SS commandos within the joint United States Army Special Forces CIA Special Activities Division.

Clearly, Lyman B. Kirkpatrick had pissed off some powerful elements of the covert operations community if he was replaced by John S. Earman Jr., a cold warrior's cold warrior who covered up some of the more perverse details of the "MK/Ultrabehavior modification program... 

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3 hours ago, Larry Hancock said:

Unlike in earlier projects, most recently in Indonesia, Bissell refused to utilize regular military resources or even contract pilots for the air missions or maritime missions into Cuba.  And he insisted on using the Agency's air arm, which of course he was more familiar with but which had never supported covert operations on the scale as called for in the evolving plan. He may have been a fine manager for a developmental project like the U-2 but when he tried to apply highly structured bureaucratic controls to regime change, he was truly out of his depth.

One of the most fascinating, and quite frankly, perverse episodes that occurred, surrounding the planning phase of "Operation Zapata" are the one-hundred and nineteen survey questions that were submitted to the Central Intelligence Agency by Admiral Robert Lee Dennison, Commander in Chief, United States Fleet Forces Command, Atlantic (CINCLANT).

According to Peter H. Wyden's 1979 book "Bay of Pigs – The Untold Story", ADM. Dennison forwarded a survey of 119 questions on 20 December 1960, to the CIA planners involved in "Operation Zapata", that concluded the actual planning of the invasion has been wholly inadequate!

Purportedly, in response, the Central Intelligence Agency representatives only answered twelve of his one-hundred nineteen questions!

Talk about a slap in the face to the military support elements!

Think of it though, whatever plans ADM. Dennison saw in December 1960, they were not up to his standard, and certainly, he knew the invasion force was going to fail.

I should note, Admiral Robert Lee Dennison was no stranger to covert activities.

In 1948, when he was Naval aide to President Harry Truman, ADM. Dennison was in charge of the then newly formed Continuity of Government operations which oversaw the construction of clandestine communication networks and bunker hold-outs all over the District of Columbia!

ADM. Dennison also oversaw the construction of the Camp David communication bunker (code-named "Shangri-La") that Allen Welsh Dulles was hold-up in in the days following the murder of President Kennedy...

Here is a link to some references about ADM. Dennison's COG operations: 

https://www.google.com/books/edition/Raven_Rock/pGYNCgAAQBAJ?hl=en&gbpv=1&bsq=Dennison

Edited by Robert Montenegro
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Dennison had learned of the CIA's project primarily because a couple of CIA officers walked into a Navy base under his command and attempted to requisition a couple of large craft for the project...with no authorizations, only stating the President had approved it.

That sort of thing tends to generate conversations and after learning of the project from Bissell (in support of the requisition) he pushed back with his list.

Not only did he not get most of his questions answered, it was only later that a single Navy amphibious officer was assigned as liaison to the project, only coming in during its final couple of months - and with orders to talk and coordinate only with Bissell.

This all ties into the reality that the military was not even given a plan to evaluate, or brought into the process. until JFK directed that the CIA had to have a JCS review. They only had bits and pieces relating to Bissell's requirements for equipment and support.

We are fortunate that the Navy liaison actually wrote an article for a Navy historical digest - which reveals things about the Navy role never shared with any of the inquiries or the Taylor Commission.

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