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Esterline, Pawley, Corcoran, Droller & Barnes


John Simkin
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I thought this was an interesting section of Jake Esterline's interview with Jack Pfeiffer about the Bay of Pigs operation on 10th November, 1975.

Jack Pfeiffer: I have a question, and it is what was Pawley's relation to this whole operation... and your relation with Pawley seems to have been quite close, too.

Jack Esterline: I think it was a hangover relationship from the things that Bill Pawley had done as quite a wheel with a number of very senior people during the Guatemalan operation ... that they felt that Bill, who had been very closely tied into Cuba ... that he was a very prominent man in Florida... that there were a lot of things that he might be able to do, in the sense of getting things lined up in Florida for us... and also his ties with Nixon and with other republican politicos. I used to deal with him quite a bit before.... From my point of view, we never let Bill Pawley know any of the intimacies about our operations, or what we were doing. He never knew where our bases were, or things of that sort. He never knew anything specific about our operations, but he was doing an awful lot of things on his own with the exiles. Some of the people that he had known in Cuba, in the sugar business, etc. I guess he actually was instrumental in running boats and things in and out of Cuba, getting people out and what not, and a variety of things that were not connected with us in any way. He was a political factor from the standpoint from J.C.'s standpoint. I don't know whether Tommy Corcoran entered in at this point... I think Tommy Corcoran was strictly in Guatemala. I guess Corcoran didn't come into this thing, at least not very much.

Jack Pfeiffer: His name turns up once or twice.

Jack Esterline: Yes, I met him once, in connection with Cuba, but I don't remember who... for J.C King, but I don't remember why, at this point. It wasn't anything of any significance. My feeling with Pawley... he was such a hawk, and he was every second week... he wanted to kill somebody inside... . It was from my standpoint - we were trying to keep him from doing things to cause problems for us. This was almost a standing operation.

Jack Pfeiffer: This is what I was wondering, because Tracy Barnes, I know on a number of occasions, seemed to make it quite clear that what the Agency had to be careful of was getting hung with a reactionary label, and then at the same time that was going on, here is all of this conversation back and forth with Pawley and his visits...

Jack Esterline: Really to keep him from doing something to upset the applecart from our standpoint. In that sense, I did fill that role in part for a long time; and the net result of the thing is that Bill thinks I am a dangerous leftist today. If I hadn't been a foot dragger, or hadn't taken all these dissenting opinions of this, things in Cuba would have been a lot better.

Jack Pfeiffer: Was Pawley actually involved in the covert operation in Guatemala?

Jack Esterline: Yes, he, well I am sure he was, in a...

Jack Pfeiffer: I mean, with you as far as you...

Jack Esterline: Not I personally, but he was involved with State Department. I said Rubottom a couple of times, I didn't mean Rubottom, I meant Rusk. He was involved - especially in Guatemala with Rubottom or whoever Secretary of State was, and Seville Sacassaa and Somoza and whoever Secretary of Defense was in getting the planes from the Defense Dept., having them painted over, the decals painted over and flown to Nicaragua where they became the Defense force for that operation.

Jack Pfeiffer: I ran across some comment that he had made to Livingston Merchant.

Jack Esterline: They were good friends, and knew each other. But to my knowledge, he never had any involvement like that during the Bay of Pigs days, although you'd have to ask Ted Shackley about what they did later, because I think he ran some things into Cuba for Ted Shackley.

Jack Pfeiffer: That is beyond my period of interest. He was involved in a great amount of fund raising activity, in the New York area apparently - pushing or raising funds in the New York area - wasn't Droller involved in this too? What was your relation with Droller... were you directing Droller's activities, or was Dave Phillips running Droller...

Jack Esterline: Oh, I sort of ran Droller, except I never knew what Tracy Barnes was going to do next, when I turned my back. Droller was such.an ambitious fellow trying to run in... trying to run circles around everybody for his own aggrandizement that you never knew... but Droller would never have had any continuing contact with Pawley, because they had met only once, and I recall Pawley saying that he never wanted to talk to that "you know what" again. He was very unhappy that somebody like Gerry... he just didn't like Gerry's looks, he didn't like his accent. He was very unfair about Gerry, and I don't mean to be unfair about Gerry - the only thing is that Gerry was insanely ambitious. He was his own worst enemy, that was all.

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I thought this was an interesting section of Jake Esterline's interview with Jack Pfeiffer about the Bay of Pigs operation on 10th November, 1975.

Elsewhere in the interview he lets something fly which I consider pretty much a bombshell. He says that Artime, who was Hunt's buddy, Cubela's contact, and the purported leader of the Cuban exile force in Nicaragua, was a drug smuggler!!!! If this is true and Artime was in bed with the mob, then pretty much everything falls in place, from the weird coincidence of the Cubela meeting to the weird coincidence of a Nicaraguan intelligence agent planting false stories in Mexico to Hunt's being in Dallas.

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Elsewhere in the interview he lets something fly which I consider pretty much a bombshell. He says that Artime, who was Hunt's buddy, Cubela's contact, and the purported leader of the Cuban exile force in Nicaragua, was a drug smuggler!!!!  If this is true and Artime was in bed with the mob, then pretty much everything falls in place, from the weird coincidence of the Cubela meeting to the weird coincidence of a Nicaraguan intelligence agent planting false stories in Mexico to Hunt's being in Dallas.

This is what he said:

Tony Varona is a scoundrel, hopeless. He is a scoundrel, a cheat, and a thief - only to be surpassed by Artime, who was all of those, who probably made, in addition to stealing money from us, probably made a lot of money in the drug traffic in the last few years, among other things. He is a good friend of Howard Hunt, but I see him as a rogue.

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Another interesting part of the interview:

Jack Pfeiffer: What about JFK?

Jake Esterline: JFK was an uninitiated fellow who had been in the wars, but he hadn't been exposed to any world politics or crises yet if he had something else as a warm up, he might have made different decisions than he made at that time. I think he was kind of a victim of the thing. I blame Nixon far more than I do Kennedy for the equivocations and the loss of time and what not that led to the ultimate disaster. Goodwin, I just thought was a sleazy; little self-seeker, who I didn't feel safe with any secret. His consorting with Che Guevara in Montevideo had rather upset me at the time...

Jack Pfeiffer: How about McNamara did you get involved with him at all?

Jake Esterline: No.

Jack Pfeiffer: Bobby Kennedy?

Jake Esterline: I wouldn't even tell you off tape. I didn't like him. He's dead, God rest his soul.

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Pat wrote:

Elsewhere in the interview he lets something fly which I consider pretty much a bombshell. He says that Artime, who was Hunt's buddy, Cubela's contact, and the purported leader of the Cuban exile force in Nicaragua, was a drug smuggler!!!! If this is true and Artime was in bed with the mob, then pretty much everything falls in place, from the weird coincidence of the Cubela meeting to the weird coincidence of a Nicaraguan intelligence agent planting false stories in Mexico to Hunt's being in Dallas.

Artime, of course, died at a very young age (of cancer, only two weeks after it was diagnosed) and as I recall when there was renewed interest in the case (mid-seventies). Cancer does not sound like a "mysterious death" but it does make you wonder.

In weberman's web-site, he states some people were concerned that Artime was a double agent. That possibility of course opens up myriad questions.

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Esterline certainly didn't pull any punches. He called Varona an imbecile which I thought was amusing.

Tommy Corcoran is an interesting character indeed. The following is from the Brown Alumni Magazine.

Even in 1960 Corcoran was still making connections. According to Mutual Contempt, a book about Lyndon Johnson and Bobby Kennedy by Clinton speechwriter Jeff Shesol ’91, Corcoran caught John Kennedy alone in an elevator during the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles that year and, with the door slamming repeatedly on his foot, asked Kennedy for permission to sound out Johnson, who was then Senate majority leader, for the vice presidency. Kennedy gave him permission to approach Johnson. “Tommy,” he said, “you have peculiar abilities.”

James

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In weberman's web-site, he states some people were concerned that Artime was a double agent. That possibility of course opens up myriad questions (Tim Gratz)

I remember reading some obscure reference to Artime being a double agent some time back. I find it difficult to believe given what he went through at the Bay Of Pigs and his close relationship to E. Howard Hunt.

Drugs are a different matter though. Artime was connected to pilot Hector Varone who was suspected of running drugs up from South America. Of course that would never convict him in a court of law but curious to say the least.

For some reason, I am not able to attach a photograph of Artime and Varone.

James

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