IT HAD BEGUN one day early in April, 1960, when two visitors walked
into the office of Roberto Alejos in the Edificio Townson in
Alejos, a handsome, athletic businessman, was one of the wealthiest
coffee-growers in Guatemala. His brother, Carlos, was Guatemala's
Ambassador to Washington. But there were two other facts about
Roberto Alejos that interested his visitors this day: He owned two
huge fincas, plantations, in Guatemala, both in remote areas. And he
was the closest friend, backer and adviser of Miguel Ydigoras
Fuentes, the highly individualistic and unpredictable President of
that Central American Republic.
The visitors were Americans. One was Robert Kendall Davis, a close
friend of Alejos. Davis bore the title of First Secretary of the
American Embassy in Guatemala City. A charming Californian of
forty-three, graying at the temples, he looked the part of a
diplomat. But it was an open secret in sophisticated political and
diplomatic circles in Guatemala City that Davis was the CIA station
chief in Guatemala. The CIA agent who accompanied him was less well
known; he had recently returned to Guatemala after a three-year
Davis and his companion had no small request. They wanted to know if
Alejos would help arrange secret training sites in Guatemala for
Cuban anti-Castro exiles. They also wanted to know whether Alejos
could fix it for them to talk to President Ydigoras.
The CIA had good reason to approach Ydigoras gingerly. They were
aware that he felt the United States regarded him as politically
erratic. His election two years before had been greeted by
Washington with less than enthusiasm, and Ydigoras knew it. Late in
January, 1958, according to Ydigoras, a mysterious visiting American
had called on him at his suite at the Maya Excelsior Hotel in
Guatemala City. At this point, the Guatemalan Congress had not yet
chosen him to be President.
As Ydigoras later related the story on nation-wide television, the
visitor, who gave his name as "Mr. Karr," opened a suitcase
containing $500,000 in United States currency and offered it to
Ydigoras if he would withdraw. The CIA knew that rightly or wrongly
Ydigoras, who declined the money, became convinced that "Mr. Karr"
was a CIA agent, although he possessed no evidence of that.
Now the CIA was asking Ydigoras to risk his political career by
permitting the United States to establish secret training camps in
Guatemala. Nevertheless, when Alejos approached him, Ydigoras agreed
to meet discreetly with Davis at the President's private residence,
the Casa Crema, located on the grounds of a military school. (Ydigoras,
understandably, had declined to live in the Presidential House where
President Carlos Castillo-Armas had been murdered on July 26, 1957.
Castillo-Armas had come to power in 1954 in a CIA-engineered coup
that overthrew President Jacobo Arbenz Guzman, whose regime was
honeycombed with Communists.)
When Davis, Alejos and Ydigoras got together, the Guatemalan
President, who had no use for Communism or Castro, agreed to allow
the Cuban exiles to train in his country, He designated Roberto
Alejos to handle the details of the project for him.
Now Guatemala was to become the staging area for the overthrow of
Fidel Castro's regime in Cuba.
The CIA told Alejos that it would like to find privately owned land,
with trustworthy owners, for use as training sites. Alejos suggested
his own plantations. CIA, after looking over several other possible
sites, selected as its main base Helvetia, the Alejos coffee ranch
in the Boca Costa, the Pacific slope region of southwestern
Helvetia was particularly suitable for the CIA's purpose. It had no
access roads, and was a self- contained city with 100 kilometers of
private roads winding through 5,000 acres. The estate rose to 8,000
feet along the slopes of Santiago Volcano, which had erupted in 1928
and was still active. The training area, or "Trax Base," as the camp
came to be known, was at 4,000 feet. It was well above and out of
view of the main ranch building. The nearest habitation was the
remote village of San Felipe. Retalhuleu, the other town in the
area, was twenty-five kilometers from Helvetia. Guns could be fired
and military maneuvers held at the ranch with complete security and
The entire plantation was heavily guarded, so there was little
chance that any curious outsider would stumble into the Cuban exile
camp, or penetrate its secrets. If the volcano behaved, the CIA
would have an ideal mountain hideaway to begin training the exiles
who would topple Fidel Castro. It would be Guatemala, 1954 all over
The Americans who called on Roberto Alejos in the Edificio Townson
that day in April, 1960, were acting on the authority of the
President of the United States. Their visit was a direct result of
an order given by President Dwight D. Eisenhower on March 17, 1960.*1
On that day Eisenhower authorized the secret training and arming of
the Cuban rebels.
The President turned over the task of arming and training the Cuban
exiles to Allen Dulles. Dulles in turn placed the project in the
hands of Bissell.
A highly articulate, highly intelligent man, Richard-Mervin Bissell
did not fit the popular conception of a master spy, any more than
did Dulles. Bissell liked to refer to himself as a "high risk man,"
and it was he who ran the U-2 spy plane program.
Bissell was graduated from Groton, Yale and the London School of
Economics. He took his Ph.D. at Yale in 1939, taught economics there
and at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and worked in the War
Shipping Administration during World War II. In 1948 he joined the
Marshall Plan, rising to the post of Acting Administrator. He
entered the CIA in 1954.
The CIA's original plan, as it evolved under Bissell's direction,
was to build up the underground within Cuba through a long, slow
period of guerrilla infiltration by exiles trained in Guatemala.
The CIA designated one of its most energetic agents, with the cover
name of Frank Bender, to be the top agency representative in dealing
with the fragmented Cuban exile groups. Bender, whose real identity
was carefully protected, became an almost mythical figure to the
Cuban refugees. He was rumored to be everywhere -- in New York,
Miami and Guatemala -- during the months that followed. After the
Bay of Pigs, he was said to have been spotted in the Congo.
Most of the exiles believed Bender was a European who had fought
with the French Maquis during World War II. Another account had
Bender as an assistant to top Allied planners during the North
African invasion in 1942.
Those who met him described the CIA field chief as a man in his
fifties, perhaps 185 pounds, of medium build. He smoked a pipe, wore
glasses, was well mannered and displayed a good knowledge of
history. Bender established headquarters in New York, which with
Washington, Miami and Retalhuleu became the four key centers of the
The CIA's first task was to try to weld the squabbling and emotional
exile groups into some semblance of cohesion, and to select
promising leaders. The Cuban who looked most promising was Manuel
Artime Buesa, a young firebrand orator who had fought in the hills
with Castro in 1958. Artime accepted a job with the Institute of
Agrarian Reform when Castro overthrew Dictator Fulgencio Batista on
New Years day, 1959, and became Premier. But Artime broke with
Castro later that year and fled Cuba in a boat. Now, at twenty-eight
and violently anti-Castro, he was the secretary general in Miami of
the Movimiento de Recuperacion Revolucionario, the MRR.
Another Cuban leader contacted by the CIA early in the planning
stage was Manuel Antonio de Varona, former Premier of Cuba under
President Carlos Prio Socarras, the man Batista had overthrown.
By the end of May, 1960, five exile groups had been organized as a
revolutionary frente, or front, with Varona as coordinator.*2
At a meeting in New York, the CIA promised financial support to the
newly formed frente. Bender dispatched agents into Miami. The CIA
began pumping what eventually became millions of dollars into the
frente and its successor, the Cuban Revolutionary Council. The CIA
funds were deposited in a Miami bank and drawn by the frente through
checks signed by an accountant named Juan Paula.
The first exiles were being recruited for the training camps. In the
back streets of downtown Miami, in the bars, hotels, old rooming
houses and apartments of the Cuban refugee community, the exciting
word began to spread that something big was afoot.
Sometimes their leaders flew to New York for conferences with the
CIA. When there was a crisis, Bender would fly to Miami.
The news would pass among the exile community: "Mr. B. is coming."
In May of 1960, less than a month after Davis had approached Alejos,
the first Cubans arrived at Helvetia. The detachment of thirty-two
men had entered Guatemala as "surveying engineers." At Helvetia they
were trained as communications experts.
Alejos already had radio facilities for communication with the rest
of the ranch; these were now greatly expanded by the CIA and
installed in a warehouse near the main building.
The first group of Cubans lived comfortably in the Alejos guest
house. But as more trainees flowed into Helvetia, the Trax Base was
built on the mountainside, with barracks completed in June. The base
was also known by its code name, "Vaquero," which means cowboy in
Spanish. As cover for the entire operation, the Guatemalan Army
allowed Alejos to train 400 Guatemalan troops at the ranch. They
doubled as armed guards to keep potential snoopers and the 1,300
coffee workers out of the Trax area. CIA instructors, as well as
logistics and accounting officials from the agency, were also housed
at the base.
In addition to Helvetia, training took place at two other sites.
Alejos owned a sugar plantation at San Jose Buena Vista, halfway
between Retalhuleu and Guatemala City. The terrain proved excellent
for parachute jump training and mass maneuvers. Amphibious landings
were practiced on the Pacific coast below Retalhuleu.
In July the CIA began construction of a secret airstrip at
Retalhuleu. The existing strip there was inadequate for the C-46s,
C-54s and B-26s that would be brought in. The airstrip contract was
awarded to Thompson-Cornwall, Inc., a big American construction firm
with offices in the Chrysler Building in New York. The firm, already
in operation in Guatemala, had the necessary heavy equipment
available in the area.
Alejos fronted for CIA on all financial transactions in Guatemala,
and it was he who signed the airstrip contract.*3 The initial payment
for paving was $450,000. Before it was over, the airstrip and
air-base facilities at Retalhuleu cost the CIA $1,200,000.
In August the crash job of constructing the airstrip was completed.
Since there had to be some explanation for the existence of a modem
airstrip in the middle of nowhere, foreign diplomats in Guatemala
were told it had been built for exporting "fruit and frozen shrimp."
President Ydigoras, his son and adviser, Miguelito Ydigoras, and the
foreign diplomatic corps journeyed to Retalhuleu to cut the ribbon.
But the CIA overlooked one detail. A few of the more observant
diplomats noticed that, curiously, there were no markings at all on
the planes that were to transport the fruit and seafood delicacies.
Miguelito had to talk fast. "The planes," he explained soothingly,
"are waiting here to have markings painted on them."
The training of exiles also moved forward in the United States. In
Miami the CIA instructed them in weapons handling and guerrilla
tactics. The training took place in the Everglades and even in Miami
hotels. In Louisiana one group trained under the leadership of
Higinio "Nina" Diaz, an MRR leader.
Once the airstrip had been completed at Retalhuleu, the airlift of
trainees from Florida to Guatemala could begin in earnest. The
routine was always the same. A Cuban would make contact with the CIA
through the exile groups. If he passed preliminary screening, he
would be picked up, brought to a CIA "safe house" at night, and from
there, with elaborate hocus-pocus, flown from the mysterious,
guarded Opa-locka Airport in Miami to Retalhuleu. Sometimes other
airstrips in Florida were used for the clandestine flights, and the
CIA had occasional troubles with overzealous local police officers.
The Hendry County sheriff's office once investigated a report that
unmarked, unlighted planes were picking up groups of men at night
from an abandoned airstrip at Clewiston, Florida, near Lake
Okeechobee. After the sheriff began poking around, the men
disappeared. The CIA had another narrow brush with local guardians
of the law shortly before midnight on October 27, 1960, when a plane
without lights landed at Opa-locka. Since the place had not been
used as an airfield by the Navy for five years, a Miami patrolman
radioed Opa-locka police to investigate. They did, but were waved
away by a sentry who explained it was "just a plane low on gas."
Meanwhile, the CIA was not overlooking the propaganda front.
In August, 1960, the frente hired Lem Jones, veteran New York
public-relations man and former press secretary to Wendell Willkie.
Jones had once worked for Twentieth Century-Fox and Spyros P.
Skouras, but nothing had prepared him for the production he was
about to get into now.
Jones had a friend in the CIA. He decided to call him to make sure
that his representation of the Cuban exiles would be in the national
interest. He gave him the names of some of the Cubans in the frente.
A half-hour later the CIA man called back. He seemed surprised. Do
you realize, he asked Jones, what you have gotten into? Then he
lowered his voice: A man would call in a half-hour and say he was a
mutual friend and would meet Jones alone.
It was the beginning of a series of cloak-and-dagger meetings
between Jones and the CIA men. Sometimes the meetings took place in
hotel rooms; the CIA also favored Grand Central Terminal. Thus
Jones, at the request of the CIA, reported to the agency on his
activities for the frente, which in turn was being financed by the
Jones went through a harrowing escapade in September, 1960. That was
the month Castro arrived in New York for the United Nations session
and staged his famous chicken-plucking episode in the Shelburne
Hotel in Manhattan. To counter Castro's appearance in New York, the
CIA decided to dispatch two busloads of Cuban mothers from Miami to
Manhattan in a "Caravan of Sorrow."
The CIA financed and organized the caravan, which was to end with
the mothers praying in Saint Patrick's Cathedral. But when the
chartered Greyhound buses left Miami, the CIA did not have a man
aboard. Jones had made elaborate preparations for television and
newspaper coverage along the way, but somehow the two busloads of
mothers got lost for two days. Only one woman on the bus spoke
English, and she had her problems as the caravan inched northward.
Four of the women were pregnant and the buses had to stop every few
miles for them. Finally the caravan got to Washington, off schedule.
The CIA, which could not publicly show its hand, hurriedly called
Jones in New York and asked for his help in arranging publicity in
the capital. Jones called a Washington press agent he knew, who did
The next day the "Caravan of Sorrow" reached Philadelphia, where
Jones had it halted. He had visions of the buses pulling into New
York in the dead of night sans press coverage. In the morning the
Greyhounds limped into Manhattan; much to Jones' relief, a picture
of the mothers praying in Saint Patrick's made the New York papers.
In Washington, there were more momentous activities at hand. As
Richard M. Nixon and John F. Kennedy battled across the autumn
landscape for the presidency,*4 the CIA plan, under Bissell's
guidance, was undergoing a gradual metamorphosis. From the original
concept of isolated guerrilla landings, it moved toward the idea of
a larger operation that really amounted to a pocket-sized invasion.
By October it was decided that a force of perhaps four hundred men
would make a landing in Cuba in the late autumn. This group would be
a major, well-trained and well-supplied guerrilla unit within Cuba.
It would serve as a focal point for other guerrillas to rally
around. At the same time, there would be a large-scale program of
air drops to resupply and strengthen the guerrillas in the Escambray,
the Sierra Maestra and other areas inside Cuba. Supplies would also
be brought in by the CIA in small boats.
To fly the clandestine air-drop missions over Cuba, the CIA needed
pilots. The story of Sergio Garcia, one of the men who flew these
missions, is fairly typical.
In August, 1960, Garcia managed to smuggle his wife and newborn son
out of Havana into Miami. He was screened by Americans, who also
gave him a lie-detector test in a motel on Segovia Street in Coral
Gables. Two nights later he was flown to Guatemala by the CIA.
For a time Garcia practiced dropping paratroops and cargo near
Retalhuleu. In November he began flying a C-46 over Cuba, dropping
supplies in the Escambray. The C-46s had no guns and there were
Castro air force markings on them. At that time the air operations
at Retalhuleu were under the supervision of an American CIA man
known as "Colonel Billy Carpenter," a cover name similar to his real
one. In all, dozens of overflights of Cuba were carried out by the
exile pilots between November, 1960, and March, 1961.
The men flying these missions over Cuban territory were told that if
they were captured they were to say they worked for an air transport
company owned by the Alejos brothers and had strayed off-course.
They were also told to destroy all documents beforehand. The pilots
were given the telephone number of a Mr. G. in Miami. If forced down
outside of Cuba, they were to call him at once.
When Garcia was briefed at Retalhuleu by the American CIA advisers,
he was told to look for lights that would shine at a designated
place and time for about ten minutes. As a result, the missions had
to be timed to the second.
The flights would come in over the sea at fifty to a hundred feet to
avoid Castro's radar. Garcia climbed to 1,000 for the drop, then
zoomed back down to sea level and headed for home, chasing the
wavetops. Since he frequently encountered anti-aircraft fire in
areas supposed to be friendly, Garcia concluded that the CIA's
contacts with the underground were not as good as they might be.
He was right. Back in Washington, Bissell and the other CIA
operators were dismayed at the lack of success of the air drops.
Almost without exception they were flown properly, but the guns and
ammunition seldom reached their targets.
Bissell had continual difficulties in organizing the drops. He
realized that unless the guerrillas had radios, small beacons and
one or two trained people on the spot, the drops would miss their
targets. To make an air drop successful, a guerrilla unit has to be
able to communicate in code ten to twelve hours before a drop, in
order to notify the senders of any change in location. But the
guerrillas inside Cuba were communicating by runners back to Havana,
a slow, ineffective means.
The CIA was unable to get radios, beacons and trained experts into
Cuba, partly because Castro moved much more rapidly than had been
anticipated in creating an effective counter-intelligence and
As Castro had learned when he fought against Batista in the Sierra
Maestra, militiamen sent into the mountains in small groups tended
to defect to the guerrillas when they made contact. Instead of
sending his troops in small groups into the Escambray, Castro
deployed them in large numbers around the mountains. He cordoned off
the area and prevented the movement of couriers and food into the
The CIA's troubles were compounded by what the Americans considered
to be the impossibility of organizing a clandestine operation among
"talkative" Cubans. There were leaks, and as a result, agents were
being picked up by Castro's intelligence men. Messages went astray
and nothing seemed to go right.
In the late fall, bad weather set in and prevented small boats from
landing with equipment for the guerrillas. Later, tons of supplies
were landed by boat, but the CIA was never sure they were being
properly distributed once inside Cuba.
In short, for a variety of reasons, the CIA never succeeded in
getting a secure and effective underground operating inside Cuba,
equivalent to that inside Europe during World War II.
This was a vitally important factor, because it led directly to the
decision by the CIA to abandon the guerrilla concept and to invade
Cuba in strength.
On November 13, 1960, a portion of the Guatemalan Army rebelled
against President Ydigoras and captured Puerto Barrios, a banana
port on the Caribbean. The Cuban exile pilots at Retalhuleu were
enlisted to help put down the rebellion. Apparently, the CIA
reasoned that if Ydigoras were overthrown, the new government might
shut down the training camps.
One Cuban pilot flew a C-46 loaded with troops to Puerto Barrios, as
the CIA's B-26s bombarded the rebel stronghold. He actually touched
down at the airport in Puerto Barrios, in the mistaken belief that
it was in government hands. When his plane drew gunfire, the pilot
immediately took off again without unloading any troops. Cuban and
American pilots flew the B-26s in this secret sidelight to the Bay
of Pigs operation.
The Guatemalan Army rebellion quickly collapsed and the potential
threat to the CIA camps was averted. But some Guatemalan politicians
later blamed the uprising on the existence of the training camps.
And, unknown to the world, CIA aircraft and pilots had been used to
put down an internal uprising in Guatemala.
On November 18, 1960, ten days after his victory, President-elect
Kennedy summoned Dulles and Bissell to Palm Beach and received a
briefing on the state of the Cuban operation.
Already, reports of the training had begun to seep into public
print. It started in Guatemala on October 30, when La Hora, a
Guatemala City daily, carried a front-page article by its editor,
Clemente Marroquin Rojas, stating flatly that "in Guatemala an
invasion of Cuba is well under way, prepared not by our own country
Guatemalans were soon gossiping about the CIA's operation at the
Alejos ranch. In November, also, the Hispanic American Report,
edited by Ronald Hilton of Stanford University, published a story
about the Retalhuleu base. The academic journal has limited
circulation, but the Nation magazine, with a wider audience, picked
up the Hilton disclosures in its November 19 issue, under a headline
that asked: "Are We Training Cuban Guerrillas?"
The cocoon of secrecy in which the CIA had, of necessity, wrapped
the Cuban operation, was beginning to unwind dangerously.
In January, as the change-over from the Eisenhower to the Kennedy
Administration was taking place, things began to happen all at once,
on several levels. On January 3, as one of his last diplomatic
moves, President Eisenhower broke off diplomatic relations with
Castro. In its January 7 issue the Nation unveiled a detailed story
about the Retalhuleu base by Don Dwiggins, the aviation editor of
the Los Angeles Mirror. Then, on January 10, real trouble came to
the CIA in the form of a front-page story by Paul P. Kennedy in the
New York Times, datelined Retalhuleu. It didn't mention CIA, but it
told of training going on at the base under the instruction of
"foreign personnel, mostly from the United States."
Hasty denials were issued in Guatemala and Washington. State
Department spokesman Lincoln White said: "... As to the report of a
specific base, I know absolutely nothing about it."
The exile training posed an extremely knotty problem for those
newspapers which had learned something about it. The Miami papers,
for example, were not unaware of what was going on under their
noses. What was their responsibility to a free society, during
peacetime? Was it to report the truth to their readers, or to
suppress the truth for the government?
Once the Times story had run, Miami editors decided there was no
further point to playing the game with the CIA. John S. Knight, the
president of the Knight newspapers and owner of the Miami Herald,
had withheld stories about the Guatemala and Florida training camps
at the request of the highest level of the United States Government.
The day after the Times broke the Retalhuleu story, the Miami Herald
published a story on the Guatemalan camp, and another on the
Opa-locka air traffic. A box alongside the story explained:
Publication of the accompanying story on the Miami-Guatemala airlift
was withheld for more than two months by the Herald. Its release was
decided upon only after U.S. aid to anti-Castro fighters in
Guatemala was first revealed elsewhere.
The lid was off now, but despite the Times and Miami Herald stories,
the fact that the United States was training Cuban exiles for a
return to their homeland did not penetrate the mainstream of news.
Most Americans remained quite unaware that an invasion was in the
January was the month of Kennedy's inauguration. Official Washington
ignored the deep snow that blanketed the capital and attended a
round of gay parties ushering in the New Frontier. In Cuba the
guerrilla movement in the Escambray collapsed. With this collapse,
any lingering thoughts of guerrilla infiltration disappeared. There
would be a full-scale invasion. Where the landing force had been
contemplated at 400 in October, it was now progressively and slowly
increased in size. Recruiting was stepped up and more men and
material began to flow into Retalhuleu.
Parallel to this development, pressures began to operate on
President Kennedy to approve the invasion as soon as possible. The
CIA warned him that the rainy season would hamper the landing and
make the Guatemala camps unusable if the invasion was postponed much
beyond the spring; the CIA also felt that the exiles could not be
held together much longer because of morale factors.
The operation was surfacing in the press, and President Ydigoras was
urging that a decision of some sort be made. Most important of all,
the CIA concluded that between six months and a year from January,
1961, Russian-trained Cuban pilots would be returning to Cuba, and
that that alone would make this invasion impossible.
President Kennedy and his advisers were tasting the wine of victory
and of power. The young, energetic administration suffered from a
bad case of overconfidence; virtually no one at the White House
stopped to think about possible failure. And deep inside the secret
bureaucracy, the exile operation had acquired something of a life of
In Washington it is not simple to stop a project, overt or covert,
once it is under way. Politically, if President Kennedy had halted
the invasion plan, he would have risked criticism for abandoning a
project started by President Eisenhower, a project designed to
overthrow Castro and rid the hemisphere of Communism.
But beyond all that, the President relied on the strong assurances
of the CIA and the less enthusiastic assurances of the Joint Chiefs
of Staff that the operation could succeed. He was not an expert, so
he would have to take the word of the experts.
By the end of January, the CIA had selected the invasion site. It
was to be the town of Trinidad, in Las Villas Province, on the
southern coast of Cuba. Bissell and his advisers had selected
Trinidad for tactical reasons. A landing on the south coast was
mandatory, since the jumping off point for the invasion would be
Central America. The north coast of Cuba would have been too far
away for the invading planes and ships to operate effectively.
But along the south coast of Cuba the charts showed a barrier reef,
except at the mouths of rivers. Trinidad was located at such a river
mouth, and it also had a small port which could be made usable. The
terrain near Trinidad offered a good chance of sealing off and
securing the beachhead. In addition, Trinidad was near the Escambray.
If something went wrong, it was thought, the invaders could melt
into the hills to carry on the fight.
There were some drawbacks, however. The airstrip at Trinidad was not
large enough to take B- 26s. And there was a detachment of Castro's
militia at Trinidad, which could offer immediate resistance. On the
other hand, the CIA hoped that shortly after the landing, it could
recruit about 1,000 troops from the local population of
Under Eisenhower. there had never been any plan to use United States
armed forces in the Cuban operation. Kennedy reached the same
decision, even though the operation had changed in scope and size.
Because it was later to become a point of confusion and controversy,
it should be understood that Kennedy's decision was that the formal,
overt armed forces of the United States -- the Army, Navy, Air Force
and Marine Corps -- would not be used in the invasion. His decision,
of course, did not apply to covert forces, including the B-26s,
guns, ships and Cubans under the control of the CIA. These could and
would be used.
Since the operation was secret, or was supposed to be, it remained
under Bissell's and the CIA's direction and control. The Joint
Chiefs of Staff in the Pentagon, the nation's top military
commanders, were consulted as the plans developed, but they did not
have primary responsibility.
The Joint Chiefs were briefed on the operation for the first time in
January, 1961, although the Office of Naval Intelligence had earlier
stumbled on the fact that some kind of CIA operation was under way.
The ONI did not know exactly what the CIA was up to, however.
The CIA's proposal for a landing at Trinidad was sent to the Joint
Chiefs for their consideration. After studying it, they submitted an
opinion signed by General Lyman L. Lemnitzer, the chairman of the
Joint Chiefs, saying that the plan for a landing at Trinidad would
have an even chance of success.
Among the Cubans sent to Guatemala after the decision to increase
the size of the invasion force was Mario Abril, the private in E
Company who on April 15 was to watch the B-26s droning overhead from
the deck of the Houston.
He and his family had fled Cuba in 1960. A sensitive youth of
nineteen, Mario had soft brown eyes and a quiet nature. But he was
determined to join the fight against Castro. His experience was
"I met a CIA man named Roger at La Moderne Hotel, South West 8th
Street on the [Tamiami] Trail. Many of my friends from Cuba were
getting training and I heard about it and that's how I got into it.
Roger gave us training in explosives and in underground propaganda.
Sometimes he did it right in the hotel, and sometimes he took us to
the Everglades to shoot with .45-caliber guns. He was about forty
years old and he was good, he knew his stuff.
"In January  I heard about the training camps. I went to the
recruiting office for those camps at 27th Avenue and 10th Street,
"One night, March 13, they took us to an old house in Coconut Grove
and we put on khaki uniforms there with blue baseball caps, boots
and duffel bags. It was at night, about 8:00 P.M. We got taken into
a truck and we went to Opa-locka. There was about a hundred of us
and we waited there for a while. Two Americans joined us. They were
dressed just like the rest of us, khaki uniforms and blue baseball
caps. So they took us to a DC-4. It had no seats, you know, just
seats along the side, and we were packed in on the sides. When there
was no more room, they put the rest of them on the floor of the
"When we arrived at Retalhuleu, it was around dawn on March 14. We
had a real good breakfast there, bacon, ham, everything we wanted.
That felt real good, so I began to like the looks of this place, you
know, because we had such a good breakfast."
"About noon we reached camp and we got field mess, dishes and
jackets, and I thought, well, we traveled all night, so maybe we
rest today. But no, the same day we started shooting with M-1 rifles
and they took us up eight, nine thousand feet to practice. There
were clouds all around us. So that night I thought we were going to
bed, because we started out the whole day before with no rest, but
we had lessons in machine guns. So finally they let us go to bed and
we slept a long time."
"We were in Trax Base. After about five days they gave us a choice
of battalions we could join and I chose the Second Battalion because
I had a couple of friends there in E Company. There were about 175
men in the battalion and 40 in E Company. Each battalion had an
American instructor. Bob was the second battalion instructor.
Another was Jim and another was Juan, who was the only one who spoke
Spanish. The chief of the whole place was Colonel Frank.*6 He was
strong, very strong, like a bull. He wore the same uniform we did.
But he had a .38-caliber revolver on his hip, like all the American
instructors. They all had a revolver. We took hikes and learned to
shoot .50-caliber machine guns and mortars and Browning automatic
rifles and bazookas."
"When it rained there, you couldn't walk, the roads were covered
with water and mud. Every afternoon it rained, and it was some mess,
I tell you."
"Every day the American instructors told us that we would have air
cover, and that no tanks are going to fight against us. When I was
training in bazookas I asked our instructor, Bob, 'What is this for?
If we are not going to fight against tanks, what do you need
bazookas for?' 'Just in case,' he said. And they told us that the
B-26 bombers would give us control of the air."
Almost to a man, members of the brigade say that their CIA advisers
promised the invaders would have "control of the air" or "air
cover." Few of the Cubans claim that there was any clear promise
that U.S. Air Force or Navy planes would provide this control or
protection. Rather, this was the conclusion many of the exiles drew.
Possibly, some of the CIA advisers wanted to leave this impression.
Under the plan, of course, it was the exile air force, specifically
the B-26 bombers, that was to provide "control of the air." It would
do so by knocking out Castro's air force on the ground, thus making
air cover over the beaches, during the landing operations,
To accomplish this key objective, the CIA created a sizable air
force. It had sixteen B-26s initially. During the invasion eight
more were added, making a total of twenty-four. In addition, the
rebels had six C-46s and six C-54s. These transports were used in
the air drops over Cuba prior to the invasion, and would drop
paratroops during the invasion.
To head the Cuban pilots, the CIA selected Manuel Villafana
Martinez, an ex-Cuban Air Force pilot who spent three years in jail
on a conspiracy charge against Batista. Luis Cosme, the ex-Cuban Air
Force fighter pilot who led the April 15 B-26 strike, was named
There were sixty-one Cuban pilots at Retalhuleu, plus navigators,
radio operators and maintenance men. Six American instructors stayed
with these pilots throughout the months of training and the
invasion. Others were rotated in and out.
"Billy Carpenter," the Air Force colonel who was the chief American
adviser at first, was replaced by "Lou," who was in turn replaced by
"Gar," the top CIA air operations adviser during the actual
invasion. Other American advisers included "Billy Belt," a young
blond instructor; "Stevens," who told Cubans he had false teeth
because the Chinese Communists had pulled out his real ones during
the Korean War; and "Seig Simpson," a tall, ruddy-faced man who had
a Japanese wife.
None of the CIA advisers used their real names, although several
used correct first names. General G. Reid Doster, the chief of staff
of the Alabama National Guard, at Birmingham, used the name "Reid"
when he was at Retalhuleu as a CIA adviser. Many of the CIA
instructors were from the Birmingham area. Several of the Americans
were recruited by the CIA through a Miami front from among National
Guard pilots who had flown B-26s in World War II.
The B-26s had two-man crews and no tail gunners or guns. These were
eliminated to make room for extra fuel to increase the range of the
bombers. Each bomber that took off from Happy Valley normally
carried ten 2600 pound bombs or six 500-pounders. In addition, each
was armed with eight five-inch rockets and eight 50-caliber machine
guns, each with 360 rounds of ammunition. Although the normal
take-off weight for a B-26 is 36,000 pounds, these bombers lumbered
off the runways at 40,000 pounds. They were formidable machines of
war, but Castro's jets could fly higher and faster. And without tail
guns, the bombers were defenseless from the rear.
By now the training camps had become a sensitive politica1 issue in
Guatemala. Early in February, President Ydigoras wrote a letter to
President Kennedy, saying that morale in the camps was high and the
troops ready for action. He urged that the invasion take place
immediately. Behind his move was the private alarm of the Guatemalan
Government over the unrest in the camps. From their viewpoint, the
sooner the invasion, the sooner the camps could be closed and the
whole thorny issue removed.
Roberto Alejos flew to Washington with the Ydigoras letter. He
called on President Kennedy at the White House and also met with
As the pressure mounted, in late February and early March, the CIA
and the Joint Chiefs were having trouble behind the scenes in
agreeing on a landing site for the invasion. About two weeks after
the Joint Chiefs had given a landing at Trinidad a fifty-fifty
chance, three alternative sites were submitted to them by the CIA,
which had decided it no longer favored Trinidad, partly because the
airstrip there was too small for B-26s.
The Joint Chiefs studied the three alternate sites overnight, then
held one meeting. They then said the best of the alternate sites
would be the Bay of Pigs, but that there would be less chance of
ultimate success at the Bay of Pigs than at Trinidad to the east.
Nevertheless, they advised that the invasion go ahead in any event.
The Chiefs selected the Bay of Pigs mainly because there were only
two access roads leading to the beach. These highways were flanked
by swamps. Castro's forces would have to come this way, and the
roads could be bombed by the invaders. By the same token, the Chiefs
warned that it would be more difficult for the invaders to break out
of the beachhead at the Bay of Pigs than at Trinidad. The CIA's
military experts, however, felt the Bay of Pigs was at least as good
a site as Trinidad, or better.
While this was going on in Washington, in Guatemala the CIA was
having trouble with a group of Cubans who objected to Artime and
Captain Jose Perez San Roman, the CIA's hand-picked leaders. The
dissidents received rough treatment from the CIA. They were flown to
a remote jungle airstrip at Sayaxche, in Peten Province, and then
spirited upriver in canoes to a point where the CIA maintained what
was euphemistically called a "reindoctrination camp." Actually, it
was a CIA prison from which the bitter Cubans were released only
after the Bay of Pigs.
From the beginning the CIA had taken political as well as
operational control of the exile movement, and it tended to favor
the more conservative elements in the community. Now a rival group
appeared on the scene.
In May, 1960, Manolo Ray, the Minister of Public Works under Castro,
broke with the regime and went underground. In November he escaped
to the United States. Ray maintained that he believed in the
original social aims of Castro's revolution, but he took the
position that Castro had betrayed those aims by leading Cuba down
the Communist path. Ray and his followers belonged to the Movimiento
Revolucionario del Pueblo, the MRP. It presented a strong competitor
on the left to the CIA's frente on the right.
With the target date for the invasion fast approaching, something
had to be done to prevent a political split in the exile ranks.
Under CIA prodding, the frente and the MRP were tenuously patched
together in a new organization, the Cuban Revolutionary Council.
Selected to head the Council was Dr. Jose Miro Cardona, a colorless
but dignified fifty-nine-year-old former Havana attorney. The son of
a Spanish general who fought for Cuban independence, he was Premier
of Cuba for the first six weeks of Castro's regime. He had resigned
as Premier but was named Ambassador to the United States by Castro
in July, 1960. Instead of taking the job, Cardona went into asylum
in the Argentine Embassy. He came to the United States three months
later on a safe- conduct pass.
The formation of the Council was announced in New York on March 22
at a press conference arranged by Lem Jones. On April 3 the State
Department released a White Paper on Cuba. It was not generally
realized at the time, but the document was designed to prepare
public opinion at home and abroad for the secret invasion now only
two weeks away. The White Paper said the Castro regime "offers a
clear and present danger" to genuine social, economic and political
reform in the Americas. Castro had betrayed the revolution, it said,
and Cuba had become "a Soviet satellite." Clearly, it was an attempt
to provide a form of philosophical underpinning for the imminent
Behind the scenes in Washington, a few voices were raised in
opposition to the invasion. Senator J. William Fulbright, the
outspoken Arkansas Democrat who headed the Senate Foreign Relations
Committee, was invited by the President to ride with him to Palm
Beach on March 30. Fulbright, who had heard rumors of the invasion
plans, handed a memorandum to the President when he boarded Air
Force One, the presidential jet.
It is worth quoting from, because Fulbright displayed an almost
uncanny clairvoyance about what was to come:
Millions of people still think the United States instigated the
Castillo-Armas invasion of Guatemala in 1954; but the U.S. hand in
that enterprise was far better covered than it is today with regard
to the Cuban exiles. Furthermore, as the Cuban exiles intensify
their activities aimed at overthrowing Castro, the more difficult it
will become to conceal the U.S. hand ...
Consideration must also be given to the nature and composition of
the government which succeeds Castro ... The Front ... is without
the kind of leadership necessary to provide a strong, vigorous
liberal government ...
The prospect must also be faced that an invasion of Cuba by exiles
would encounter formidable resistance which the exiles, by
themselves, might not be able to overcome. The question would then
arise of whether the United States would be willing to let the
enterprise fail (in the probably futile hope of concealing the U.S.
role) or whether the United States would respond with progressive
assistance as necessary to insure success. This would include
ultimately the use of armed force; and if we came to that, even
under the paper cover of legitimacy, we would have undone the work
of thirty years in trying to live down earlier interventions. We
would also have assumed the responsibility for public order in Cuba,
and in the circumstances this would unquestionably be an endless can
of worms. 
Fulbright also suggested that "even covert support of a Castro
overthrow" probably violated the treaty of the Organization of
American States as well as United States neutrality laws.
On April 4 the President met with his top advisers at the State
Department. He went around the table asking their opinion on the
invasion plan. Only Fulbright, who had been invited by the President
to attend, spoke up firmly against the operation.
From the start the CIA had established liaison with the State
Department to keep the tight circle of officials privy to the plan
informed of its progress. Late in 1960, when Christian A. Herter was
still Secretary of State, he had named Whiting Willauer, former
Ambassador to Honduras, as his special assistant for the Cuban
The CIA assigned Tracy Barnes
*7 to maintain liaison with Willauer.
Previously, Barnes had been under cover in the embassy in London.
After the Kennedy Administration took over, Willauer was dropped,
but Barnes continued to report to the State Department. Principally,
he spoke to Adolf A. Berle, a Latin American adviser to the
President, and Thomas C. Mann, then Assistant Secretary of State for
Inter-American affairs. They were among the few department officials
besides Dean Rusk who knew about the invasion.
Late in March, Under Secretary of State Chester Bowles, during a
period as Acting Secretary, learned of the invasion plan. On March
31 he wrote a memo to Rusk opposing it. He also asked Rusk to
guarantee him half an hour to present his opposition to President
Kennedy in the event the plan was approved. However, Bowles came
away from his talk with Rusk with the belief that there would be no
large-scale invasion. In the remaining two and a half weeks Bowles
paid little attention to the matter; he had formed the impression it
would be, at most, a small guerrilla landing.
Early in April the Cuban pilots at Retalhuleu were handed sealed
envelopes and told to open them only after they were in the air.
They obeyed. The orders were to proceed to Puerto Cabezas,
Nicaragua, the misnamed Happy Valley that was to be their home for
the next few weeks. The entire air operation, including the American
advisers, moved from Guatemala to Happy Valley. The exile brigade
was airlifted to Puerto Cabezas, their port of embarkation. There, a
CIA fleet had been assembled. What amounted to a sizable secret navy
had been put together by the CIA chiefly under cover of the Garcia
Line Corporation, of 17 Battery Place, New York.
The steamship line was Cuba's biggest. The twenty-five-year-old
company, headed by Alfredo Garcia, owned half a dozen vessels. It
had main offices in New York and Havana. It also had branch offices
in Houston, Texas, and Lake Charles, Louisiana, cities for which two
of its ships were named. In the pre-Castro era it plied between East
Coast ports, Havana and Central America, carrying rice and sugar.
After Castro, Alfredo Garcia's five sons, Eduardo, Marcos, Alfredo
Jr., Lisardo and Francisco, came to the United States. The CIA
needed a navy, and the Garcia Line, since it was Cuban-owned and the
only Cuban shipping company still operating from Havana, was perfect
cover. And the Garcias wanted to help, despite the risks.
The CIA secretly leased the ships. Working chiefly with Eduardo, the
agency then mapped out a complex plan to get the vessels to Puerto
Cabezas at the last possible moment. The line continued to serve
Castro right up to the invasion. Alfredo remained behind in Cuba,
which further served to divert suspicion. (He didn't leave there
until March 21.)*8
As D-Day approached, one by one the Houston, Lake Charles, Rio
Escondido, Caribe and Atlantico sailed for Puerto Cabezas. Their
crews were told nothing at first, and believed they were on a normal
voyage to Central America. At Puerto Cabezas they were informed
about the invasion and given the choice of leaving. A few did --
they were held by the CIA at Puerto Cabezas until the invasion was
Each of the ships had about twenty-five crewmen, so there were more
than a hundred seamen in all who suddenly found themselves in the
middle of a shooting war. The ships were 2,400 tons, except for the
smaller Rio Escondido. The CIA also purchased two World War II LCIs,
the Blagar and Barbara J., and added them to the invasion fleet.
The Garcia Line provided cover as well as transportation; some of
the exiles recruited by the CIA were handed papers to fill out that
led them to believe they were signing up, technically at least, as
able-bodied hands with the Garcia Line.
While the CIA assembled its secret navy, there were important
political moves back in the United States. On April 8 Miro Cardona,
in a press conference at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York, issued a
call to arms urging Cubans to rise up and overthrow Fidel Castro.
The same day Federal Immigration agents in Miami arrested Rolando
Masferrer, a notorious Batista henchman who, under the dictator, had
run a much-feared and much-hated private army known as "The Tigers."
Masferrer, who had fled Cuba the same day as Batista, was spirited
to Jackson Memorial Hospital after his arrest and placed under
guard. A "No Visitors" sign was posted on the door. The hospital
listed Masferrer as a "possible coronary," but an attending
physician told newsmen: There seems to be some misrepresentation. No
coronary is evident."
Masferrer, it was announced, had been picked up as the result of a
letter from Dean Rusk to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, which
said in part: "The continued presence at large of Rolando Masferrer
in the United States and particularly in Florida is prejudicial to
our national interest from the point of view of our foreign
relations." Two days later a Federal grand jury indicted Masferrer
on charges of conspiring to outfit and send a military expedition
against Cuba, a violation of the United States neutrality laws.*9
Masferrer was charged with breaking the law for mounting an invasion
of Cuba -- ten days before the government mounted its own secret
invasion. Masferrer's character and reputation are irrelevant to the
cynical manner of his arrest.
Ten days after the Bay of Pigs disaster Federal Judge Emmett C.
Choate ordered Masferrer released and accused the Federal Government
of having shipped him off to a "government concentration camp" in
Texas. Assistant United States Attorney Paul Gifford said the
Immigration Service acted on direct orders from President Kennedy.
"The President," said Judge Choate, "has no authority to direct
anyone to disobey the law." Seven months later, on November 9, 1961,
the government quietly dropped the case against Masferrer without
One possible reason for Masferrer's arrest is that the
administration believed that charging him with invading Cuba would
divert suspicion from the government's own invasion plans, then in
the final stage of preparation. It was a case of a straight
political arrest, something not normally associated with life in the
In addition, the President believed that Masferrer's arrest would
demonstrate to the exiles and the world that the United States had
no sympathy for Batista supporters. This became clear on April 12,
when the President told his news conference:
Department's recent indictment of Mr. Masferrer, of Florida, on the
grounds that he was plotting an invasion of Cuba, from Florida, in
order to establish a Batista-like regime, should indicate the
feelings of this country towards those who wish to re-establish that
kind of an administration inside Cuba."
On April 10, at a White House meeting, the final decision was made
to change the landing site from Trinidad to the Bay of Pigs.
President Kennedy personally approved the change. The CIA believed
that this was a political and foreign-policy decision by the
President, prompted by concern over potential world reaction. There
would be no shooting of civilians at the Bay of Pigs because hardly
anyone lived there, while at Trinidad there was a sizable local
It was also thought that the landing at the Bay of Pigs would be
virtually unopposed and would have the appearance of an effort to
resupply guerrillas, of being a smaller and more spontaneous
operation. In short, that it would have better cover.
Despite the fact that the Joint Chiefs predicted the invasion would
have less than an even chance at the Bay of Pigs, they went along
with the choice.
The Chiefs normally make a distinction between the initial chances
of success and ultimate success. In this case, they pointed out that
success after the establishment of a beachhead depended upon certain
psychological factors inside Cuba, factors which it was not the
responsibility of the military to assess. What the Joint Chiefs
meant, of course, was that the question of whether the militia and
people of Cuba would rise up if sparked by an invasion was an
intelligence problem that fell within the purview of the CIA.
The CIA predicted there would be such an uprising if the beachhead
could be established and held. The intelligence agency forecast no
immediate uprising inside Cuba. Rather, it argued that all would
depend on the success of the operation. If the landing was
successful, Bissell expected defections among Cubans, although he
did not expect them for at least a week after the invasion. The plan
was to establish a beachhead; then use the Bay of Pigs airstrip to
strike at Castro's communications, and other vital installations. A
new Cuban government would be declared at the beachhead by the
Council members, and it would then be recognized by the United
States. If all this could be done, the CIA argued, Cuba would break
The final week before D-Day, the Joint Chiefs were, by and large, an
unhappy group. Some of them were irritated by the continual changes
in the invasion plan. Accustomed to the strict discipline of an
Eisenhower, they were bewildered by what they considered the
informality and lack of procedures of the new administration.
Although Admiral Arleigh Burke has declined to comment on the Bay of
Pigs, he was disturbed at the way the plan was being constantly
modified. At one point Burke was told that the Navy would have to
stay outside the three-mile limit off Cuba. Then it became the
twelve-mile limit; then the twenty-mile limit. He was first told
that the Navy would not make contact with the invasion fleet at all;
then that three destroyers could escort the ships, then two
destroyers. At one point the Navy was told that submarines could be
deployed in the area, then it was told: "No submarines."
The Chiefs were told that the invasion was not a Pentagon operation
and that they could give advice only when called upon. Because of
the secrecy involved, they were not allowed to take their staffs
into their confidence; this, of course, cut down on their overall
It was made crystal-clear to the Pentagon that no United States
armed forces were to be used in the actual invasion; however,
Burke's destroyers could escort the exile fleet to a point offshore.
If the ships were spotted en route to Cuba from Puerto Cabezas, they
were to turn around and head back to port. In this event, United
States ships and aircraft had the authority to protect the fleet
against attack as it returned to Nicaragua.
In April, Burke was acting as the executive agent for the Joint
Chiefs. In that role, and in his capacity as Chief of Naval
Operations, he ordered elements of the Atlantic Fleet to move into
position off Cuba. Moving with the fleet was a battalion of Marines
from their base at Vieques Island, off the eastern end of Puerto
The President had made it clear the Navy was not to take part in the
invasion itself. But it was possible that if the landing ran into
trouble the President would change his mind and order the Navy and
Marines to help. For this reason Burke moved his ships into position
off Cuba; he informed both Allen Dulles and the President of his
Now the President stated publicly what he had privately decided: On
April 12, at his news conference, he served notice that no United
States forces would invade Cuba. He was asked how far the United
States would go in helping "an anti-Castro uprising or invasion of
Cuba." He replied:
"First, I want to say that there will not be,
under any conditions, an intervention in Cuba by the United States
armed forces. This government will do everything it possibly can,
and I think it can meet its responsibilities, to make sure that
there are no Americans involved in any actions inside Cuba."
The next day Cuban crew members of the eight B-26s that were to fly
in the April 15 raid went into security isolation at Happy Valley.
If forced down outside of Cuba, the pilots were instructed to say
they were defecting FAR pilots. This was so that their statements
would dovetail with Zuniga's cover story in Miami. They were warned
not to land at the United States Naval Base at Guantanamo.
Now, four days before D-Day, the CIA 's fleet sailed from Puerto
Cabezas. The second and fifth battalions were crammed aboard the
Houston, along with large quantities of ammunition. Their target was
Playa Larga, at the upper end of the Bay of Pigs. The third and
fourth battalions, both heavy-weapons detachments, and the sixth
infantry battalion were aboard the Rio Escondido and the other
ships. Their objective was Giron Beach, on the eastern edge of the
wide bay, which pokes like a finger into the southern coast of Cuba.
The first battalion, the paratroopers, would be going in by air
behind the beaches.
On Saturday, April 15, as the fleet steamed for Cuba, the B-26
bombers struck. Zuniga landed in Miami, and Roa and Stevenson
clashed in the UN. Now, on Sunday, April 16, at Happy Valley, the
CIA assembled the Cuban pilots. The American advisers told the
Cubans that Castro's planes had been destroyed by the raid the
previous day. They displayed a blowup of a U-2 photo to support
Actually, one of the U-2 photos taken in these final hours before
the landing alarmed the CIA. It showed gravel piled on the runways
of the airstrip at the Bay of Pigs.
Aboard the Houston this Sunday, Private Mario Abril and the other
men of E Company attended briefings by their commanders. They were
shown aerial photographs to help them memorize landmarks.
"They gave us whiskey in little cans, real bad, yeah, black. I
didn't wait, I drank mine right there. I got my ammunition. I got a
whole metal can of cartridges, and six hand grenades. My gun, I
cleaned up. I tied the bandoleers around my chest and I got ready.
That was 5:00 P.M. At six, we got a speech by the boss. He told us
not to smoke, not to light a light or anything, because we were
getting near Cuba.
"So I couldn't smoke, I thought the best thing to do was rest. I
knew we were going to have a hard time, so I lay down on the deck.
It was 6:30. The next thing I know, they woke me up. It was dark. My
squad leader woke me up, and when I got up, I saw the coast over
there. We were really there then. I saw, on my right, some lights,
like a storm, you know, and they told me those were the other guys.
They were on Giron Beach. They were already fighting.
"I looked at my watch and it was around 1:30 in the morning. The
ship started to slow down. We were there. We were in the Bay of
*1 The date was revealed by Eisenhower at a Cincinnati press
conference June 13, 1961, following the Bay of Pigs disaster. The
former chief executive said he had issued orders when President to
"take measures to help these people organize and to help train them
and equip them."
*2 Besides Artime's MRR and Varona, who headed the Movimiento de
Rescate Revolucionario, the frente members were Jose Ignacio Rasco
of the Movimiento Democratico Cristiano; Justo Carrillo of the
Asociacion Montecristi; and Aureliano Sanchez Arango, former Foreign
Minister of Cuba and head of the Triple A, which later pulled out of
*3 Davis continued to coordinate the Cuban operation for CIA from the
embassy at Guatemala City. U.S. Ambassador John J. Muccio was
generally aware of what was going on at Helvetia but did not become
officially involved, since the operation was "black."
*4 As will be shown in a later chapter, the invasion preparations
played a major part in the secret behind-the-scenes calculations of
both the Nixon and Kennedy camps during the 1960 presidential
*5 Lemnitzer acted for himself, Admiral Arleigh Burke, Chief of Naval
Operations; General Thomas D. White, Chief of Staff of the Air
Force; General George H. Decker, Army Chief of Staff; and General
David M. Shoup, Commandant of the Marine Corps. Later, some of the
chief's papers were signed by Burke, in the absence of Lemnitzer.
An ex-Marine who had fought at Iwo Jima in World War II. Later
some CIA analysts concluded it would have been wiser to choose a
commander with experience in battalion-strength landings rather than
a massive assault like Iwo Jima. The first commander of Trax Base
was "Colonel Vallejo," a high ex-Philippine Army officer who had
fought the Huks. He was replaced by "Colonel Frank" when the CIA
shifted from a guerilla operation to a larger amphibious landing.
*7 The CIA man who briefed Stevenson in April.
*8 The day after the invasion Castro seized the company, but of
course, Alfredo had already fled. Later, disheartened by the failure
of the invasion, he sold the ships that weren't sunk and liquidated
the steamship line.
*9 However, after the Bay of Pigs, Attorney General Robert Kennedy
disagreed with a legal brief submitted by 132 lawyers charging that
the CIA-backed Bay of Pigs invasion violated United States and
international law. "The neutrality laws," said the Attorney General,
"are among the oldest laws in our statute books ... Clearly they
were not designed for the kind of situation which exists in the
world today ... No activities engaged in by Cuban patriots which
have been brought to our attention appear to be violations of our
*10 After the invasion failed, the CIA was accused of making a faulty
prediction that there would be an uprising. Allen Dulles responded
in his book, The Craft of Intelligence, by stating: "I know of no
estimate that a spontaneous uprising of the unarmed population of
Cuba would be touched off by the landing." Dulles clearly chose his
words with great care. His statement amounted only to a denial that
the CIA had forecast a "spontaneous" uprising at the moment of the
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