The Nature of Secret Team Activity:
A Cuban Case Study
_______THE CALL WAS FROM MIAMI AND WAS PLACED TO A covert CIA phone drop in Washington. It came from a Cuban underground contact point on the campus of the University of Miami. The control point there had just received a call from an undetermined location in Mexico. The call had been made by the pilot of a Cuban crew that had been lost and had made a forced landing. The crew was safe and the plane was intact... but in Mexico.
An old C-54, a former U.S. Air Force four-engine transport, had taken off the night before from the secret Cuban training base at Retalhuleu in Guatemala. It was flown by a Cuban crew, and their target had been a drop-zone in the Sierra Madre mountains of Cuba. Everything had gone wrong. The dropzone had been cleared and approved by Washington just a few hours before take-off yet, it had been hostile. Either intelligence had been bad or the Cuban ground reception party had been captured. The signals from the ground had been right, luring them in with confidence; but as soon as they began the drop, the whole mountainside had erupted with small arms fire. They had been ambushed, and they had been lucky to get down safely over the waves and back across the Caribbean.
Hours later, somewhere over Central America, in pre-dawn darkness they had circled over a heavy layer of clouds, watching their gas gauges, waiting for the sunrise, and hoping for a break in the clouds so they could let down. Fearful of the mountains and with their radio navigation equipment unreliable, they dared not let down until they had clear contact with the ground. At that point they cared little for all of the precautionary instructions of the Agency mission commander that had been given them during their briefing before they took off all they wanted to do was to find a safe place to land. They knew the plane was stateless; that it was unmarked and had no insignia. It did not even have a legal call sign. In fact, the big transport was very special. Although it looked like any other C-54 or DC-4, a trained observer would have noted those things, and that it had unusual radios, no engine decals, and no manufacturer's labels. It was "clean", a non-attributable air plane. It had been "sanitized" and was the pride of the clandestine operators' art.
It could have been flown anywhere in the world, and if it had been lost on some clandestine mission, the finder -- whether he was Cuban, Congolese, or Russian -- might have assumed that it had been operated by Americans, but he would not have been able to prove it. In other words, the U.S. Government, if required, could have plausibly disclaimed ownership of the plane and that it had had anything to do with the plane, its crew, and its cargo.
This plane had been on many flights along the Iron Curtain borders, on leaflet drops and on electronic intelligence missions. It had been used for para-drop missions in Greece and in Jordan. It had been to the Congo and had delivered "black" cargoes to the Katangese even while other U.S. Air Force C-130 aircraft were flying Congolese troops and supplies against the rebels. It had been to Clark Field near Manila, flying Tibetans to and from operational training sites. It had often been to the old World War II B-29 superfortress bomber bases in Saipan where Southeast Asians were being trained in sabotage tactics and paramilitary civic action programs. But on this flight its crew had been Cuban.
A former Cuban airline pilot was at the controls, and one of his old co-pilots was with him. The Navigator had at one time trained with the Cuban Air Force; and the radioman, also a Cuban, had been trained at a U.S. Air Force school under cover as a member of a "Nicaraguan Training Mission". The crewmen were all natives of Cuba, and all were working with the CIA at that secret base that had been cut out of the open country of western Guatemala.
In keeping with clandestine operational procedures, the crew had been frisked before they got on the plane and had been given "sanitized" uniforms for the trip so that they would have no identification with them in the event they fell into enemy hands - in this case a somewhat meaningless precaution, but routine anyhow.
However, in typical old-school pilot fashion the pilot had written certain radio frequency numbers on his wrist with a ball-point pen, and some of those numbers were a code for the telephone number of the contact office in Miami.
Later that morning, after sunrise, they had flown further to the north seeking a clearing in the clouds through which may could descend. As soon as they found one, they let down into a broad valley and found a small, marked airfield. They landed, and skidded across the field into a nearby farm. The first thing they did was to look for a telephone. While they were placing that call, the airport manager and his apprentice came out to see what had happened. After a few moments of eavesdropping, the manager had all the information he needed. The old Mexican drew a gun and the crew was captured "somewhere" in Mexico. They were not heard from again until after their Cuban friends had attacked the beach at the Bay of Pigs, had been imprisoned by Castro, and ransomed by the United States. It was only after all of these events that the Mexicans released the crew and permitted them to return to Florida. However, their phone call had started some frantic work in Miami and in Washington.
The weather map had shown that the heavy cloud cover over Central America gave way to broken clouds further north in Mexico. The CIA called the Pentagon and asked for assistance, and a call was made to the air attaché in Mexico City. He inquired among his Mexican friends about a transport plane but learned nothing at first. Then, several days later, he heard a rumor that a large transport had made a forced landing at a very small southern airfield. He and a CIA man who worked in Mexico City under the cover of a cargo airline made a quick trip to that field. As they approached they saw the telltale marks of the skidding stop which had been made by the DC-4 in the fresh turf. The plane was gone. When they landed, the airport manager met them. He told them enough to confirm that the plane they were looking for had been there, that the Mexican air force had flown it away, and that this Mexican and his apprentice knew all there was to know about the incident.
Some time later, the attach was invited to call upon Mexican air force headquarters. He learned that the Mexicans had looked this plane over carefully and did not want to keep it. However, the Mexicans added that they were sure the Americans would be willing to exchange this special plane for another just like it. Not long after that, the old black-flight DC-4 was returned to its operational base at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. The CIA arranged for the Mexican air force to receive a good-as-new DC-4 from the U.S. Air Force, and far to the south an airport manager, his apprentice, and his son (the husband of the telephone operator who had heard the whole story too) all sported brand-new 1961 Ford Thunderbird automobiles from some unknown donor.
This true story is not really important except that it raises certain questions that will shake most Americans. For example: How does one government agency "buy" a U.S. Air Force transport aircraft, convert it to a civilian aircraft, and then give it as tribute to another country in exchange for one which was lost on a clandestine mission? Or, how does a government agency purchase three new 1961 Ford Thunderbird automobiles and deliver them to a remote site in Mexico and give them to some Mexicans? Who makes such decisions? Why Thunderbirds? Why pay tribute to Mexico for the airplane that quite obviously, once it had been identified, belonged to the United States? (Its very strangeness made it easier to identify if desired and harder to identify if disclaimed.) It would have been stateless only if the United States had disclaimed it. When the United States claimed it, why didn't this Government expect the Mexicans to give it back? Who decides such things? And how is all this done in total secrecy?
Then to the next level of questions. Who in the Government believes that once tribute is paid to another country such as Mexico the problem ends there? Does it not occur to these same officials that Mexicans speak to Guatemalans and to Nicaraguans and even to Vietnamese -- and perhaps to Russians and Chinese as well? Who kids whom? Does the gift of a DC-4 close the case and really buy silence, or does it more likely escalate the problem? And then what does all of this behind-the-scenes duplicity do to foreign relations? Doesn't it raise some international eyebrows and make some people wonder who is running the foreign affairs of the United States in the first place? Isn't that exactly what Mr. Krushchev wanted to know when he challenged Eisenhower either to reveal those who had sent the U-2 over Russia without the President's permission and authorization or to accept the blame himself, signifying that United States foreign policy included the authorization of covert operations?
If the Mexicans received tribute for one such mistake, would it be surprising to learn that the Indonesians had demanded even more tribute for a bigger mistake? Or when government leadership shifts back and forth as has happened several times in Laos, doesn't anyone stop to think about the tales that are told by those on both sides to their new "friends"? What are the Indians telling the Russians about us now in 1972 concerning our actions there in 1962? Or what have the Pakistanis been telling the Chinese concerning their participation in the former U-2 operations or in the Tibetan-support activities that had been launched from Pakistan? Doesn't all of this make it seem rather insincere and even hypocritical for some Americans to charge other Americans with security indiscretions when officials in the Government have been telling thousands of foreign people -- officials and peons -- that the United States has been playing the clandestine game to the hilt? How can anyone honestly charge Jack Anderson, The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Boston Globe, Daniel Ellsberg, or anyone else with serious violations of security when some of these same sacrosanct individuals who point the finger have themselves approved of such things as the payment of tribute for our clandestine indiscretions and misdeeds all over the world?
All of these questionable operations have begun from such small first steps. In the beginning of the Cuban exercise the CIA had made contact with the Ydigoras family in Guatemala for the use of a large tract of farmland for a training site and an airfield. This site was developed to include a full-sized airport, from which heavy transports, bombers, and training planes operated on a very heavy schedule. Although this site was remote, it was certainly not secret. The extent of the activity that took place there was such that it did not take long before there was no secrecy and no possibility for denial that something very special was taking place. The whole world knew that a major clandestine operation was under way and that the United States and Guatemala, at least, were involved. Who paid Guatemala for all of this? And was it paid to individuals or was it all paid to the Guatemalan Government? These questions give clues to some of the characteristics of the CIA and ST operations.
The ST members have become so powerful and ambitious that sometimes they no longer respect the basic fundamentals of their profession. As far back as 1948 the CIA had been given limited authority by the National Security Council (NSC) to carry out only those clandestine operations that the NSC directed. This authority is contained in a series of documents, the first of which was issued in the summer of 1948 and was called NSC 10/ 2. When the NSC granted this authority, it did so with the firm stipulation that any such special operation must be truly clandestine, that it must be performed in such a manner that if the exercise failed or was otherwise discovered, the U.S. Government would be able plausibly to disclaim its role in the operation, and further -- what would seem most obvious, but was added for emphasis -- that it must be truly secret and concealed.
These basic parameters, as established by the NSC, have never been officially retracted, although they have been badly abused by oversight. During the Truman and Eisenhower years "clandestine" meant clandestine, and the ability to disclaim the operation plausibly meant that, too. But as operations became more frequent and increased in size and scope, as they did against Castro in 1960 and 1961, the CIA became forgetful of these strictures upon its methods of operations. From time to time even Presidents have permitted a relaxation of their stringent application. The Pentagon Papers reveal how this doctrine had been disregarded especially with regard to the OPLAN-34, the so-called "covert" raids against Laos, Cambodia, and North Vietnam.
By 1961, the CIA had succeeded in building such a broad base within the bureaucracy of the U.S. Government that any meaningful reference to the CIA must take into consideration the existence of this vast infrastructure and must not be limited to the legal or "Table of Organization" CIA. Most references to the CIA and to the Secret Team's book are to that part of the CIA that is not under the Deputy Director of Intelligence. He is responsible primarily for intelligence production and not for covert activity. By 1961, the non-intelligence, the clandestine, and the support sectors of the Agency had become so large and so predominant that they far outnumbered the professional band of intelligence specialists assigned to the DD/I both at home and abroad. By 1961, it had become apparent that the CIA played a split- personality role to suit its own purposes. It would speak of CIA reports which said one thing, when it would be doing exactly the opposite with its undercover, covert sections. This, too, becomes readily apparent to the diligent reader of the Pentagon Papers.
Lest the tremendous significance of such a change taking place within the U.S. Government be insufficiently regarded, consider the words of Arnold Toynbee, the eminent British historian and friend of the United States, as set forth in The New York Times of May 7, 1970:
"To most Europeans, I guess, America now looks like the most dangerous country in the world. Since America is unquestionably the most powerful country, the transformation of America's image within the last thirty years is very frightening for Europeans. It is probably still more frightening for the great majority of the human race who are neither Europeans nor North Americans, but are Latin Americans, Asians and Africans. They, I imagine, feel even more insecure than we feel. They feel that, at any moment, America may intervene in their internal affairs with the same appalling consequences as have followed from American intervention in Southeast Asia."
For the world as a whole, the CIA has now become the bogey that Communism has been for America. Wherever there is trouble, violence, suffering, tragedy, the rest of us are now quick to suspect the CIA had a hand in it. Our phobia about the CIA is, no doubt, as fantastically excessive as America's phobia about world Communism; but in this case, too, there is just enough convincing guidance to make the phobia genuine. In fact, the roles of America and Russia have been reversed in the world's eyes. Today America has become the world's nightmare.
When an uncontrolled and perhaps uncontrollable team can flaunt the historic and traditional codes of civilization by disregarding the honor and sovereignty of other countries large and small, by intervening in the internal affairs of other countries for reasons real and contrived, the rest of the world does fear for its own welfare and for the future of this country. When President Eisenhower accepted the responsibility for the U-2 flights over the Soviet Union, no one would have questioned that he did this for correct and honorable reasons. National Aeronautics and Space Administrator (NASA) Keith Glennan had already made a public statement that the U-2 was operating out of Turkey as a NASA high-altitude, flight-research aircraft and had strayed over Russian territory inadvertently in high winds. Then, Nikita Krushchev produced the wreckage of the U-2 deep in Russia near Sverdlovsk, it made a mockery of the NASA cover story; and when he produced the pilot alive and well, it demolished the rest of the plausible disclaimer. The CIA was caught without a plausible cover story, and the President had to choose. He could either discredit Allen Dulles and the CIA for operating that clandestine flight and a long series of flights without his knowledge, or he could, as Eisenhower did, stand up and take the blame himself on the basis that he knew of and had ordered the flights and was in complete control of everything done in the foreign arena by this Government. The latter choice would mean that the President of the United States is Commander in Chief during peacetime clandestine operations as he is in time of war. This is a totally new doctrine born of the vicissitudes of the Cold War.
Many have considered this a very noble stand on the part of President Eisenhower, and it was. However, this public admission by the Chief of State that he had directed clandestine operations within another state is exactly the type of thing that reduces the prestige and credibility of United States in the family of nations to the condition described by Arnold Toynbee. Interference in the internal affairs of one nation by another is an unpardonable violation of international law and custom.
The entire Bay of Pigs build-up and operation went much further in flaunting this international code of ethics. At least the U-2 operation on a worldwide scale had been managed in such a manner that the chances for success were great. That the flights were operated in small units with great secrecy and the stipulation that they be strictly clandestine and plausibly disclaimable in the event of failure was not outwardly flaunted until, perhaps, the Gary Powers flight. But the Cuban program was otherwise.
By the time Cuban operations had been expanded to the point that they had become the beginnings of the bay of Pigs operation, activity of all kinds had been discovered and compromised by the press of the world. There were no more secrets. The participation and support of the United States was known to be taking place in Puerto Rico, Panama, Guatemala, and Nicaragua, in addition to some unscheduled action in Mexico. Yet the ST continued to launch an increasing number of special operations without regard for real secrecy.
There was not only a breakdown in the traditional ethics of international relations but there was also a serious degradation of the usual high standard of technical operational methods within the Government. The flights from Guatemala themselves were not tactically sound nor were they politically effective. Most of these flights not only failed miserably to accomplish what the CIA thought they would do, i.e., put in place underground cadres of guerrillas and provide equipment and communications material for other underground groups in Cuba; but as a result of their amateurism and failures, they played into the hands of Castro. They never did become a rallying point for anti-Castroites. On the contrary, they exposed and compromised them and led to many unnecessary firing-squad deaths. The flight paths, by their crossing and recrossing, pinpointed and exposed ground-reception parties, which were mopped up by Castro's troops; in other cases, aircraft were lured over drop-sites that proved to be ambushes. The whole series of operations exposed the weaknesses of ClA's tactical capacity. The CIA cannot properly direct large operations. It has led many small ones successfully; but has failed miserably in a number of large ones.
An important oversight inherent in such activity was mentioned by David Wise and Thomas B. Ross in their book, The Invisible Government. They reported The Chiefs (U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff) 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 effectiveness.
This was only a part of the story. The Chiefs were told to keep hands off, yet the Agency was operating down through all services to the tactical level, taking supplies, arranging training, utilizing all forms of transportation. However, few if any military personnel even knew enough of what was really going on to give proper advice had they been asked. This is one of the greatest weaknesses of the ST's classified method of operation.
Because the ST acts in response to intelligence-data inputs, it does not operate in compliance with or in support of a plan or policy. It creates an umbrella or catch-all policy such as "anti-Communism", then declares that all of its operations are anti-Communist, and attempts to justify what it does solely on that basis. To clarify by example:
A Cuban reported to another Cuban who was in touch with a CIA contact man in Miami that be had friends back in Cuba who were willing to blow up a major sugar refinery, but they had no munitions or other equipment necessary to do this. The CIA Cuban reported this to his contact. A meeting was arranged right away in a "safe" house -- for example, in the Latin American Geological Survey offices somewhere on the campus of the University of Miami. The first Cuban showed on a map where his friends were and explained what they planned to do. The CIA contact man proposed that the first thing to do would be to establish contact with them and then to place a clandestine radio with them. To test the zeal and veracity of the informant, it was suggested that this be done by putting him ashore at night near the target. He agreed, on the assurance that he would be picked up the next night. He was taught how to use the clandestine radio and was provided with a special kit of munitions. He was put over the beach and directed to bring one Cuban out with him for further training. All went well to that point. At no time in this almost automatic-response process did anyone in the CIA ask, "Why are we doing this?" The simple Pavlovian animal-instinct to go ahead and do it because it was an anti-Castro move was all the agents needed at this stage of activity.
But this is where it always starts. Of course, the ST members would have right on their side in their almost religious missionary zeal to do good. The first agent would not only have heard that the Cubans planned to blow up the sugar refinery; but they would have flavored this with ideas of the injustice there and with accounts of the brutality of Castro's police. And they would have pledged that the reason they wanted to kill Castro was that they want to bring democracy to their homeland and to all Cuban people.
The "fun and games' must always be founded upon sanctimonious grounds. At the same time lip service is paid to do-gooder causes, there is scarcely ever any practical consideration of whether or not such an action, or those that will follow whether the initial action succeeds or fails, are really in the best interests of the United States.
The exfiltrated Cuban was given rudimentary demolition training at a remote site in Florida and was taught to use signal lights and panels, as well as the radio. Less than a week later, he was back in Cuba at work with his neighbors in the sugar refinery gang.
Although everything seemed to have gone well, these inexperienced though patriotic Cubans had no understanding of the Castro operated, Communist-perfected block system that was in effect in Cuba and that blanketed the entire island. No one in the CIA had warned them about this, if the thought had ever crossed their minds. As soon as the first Cuban had been exfiltrated, his absence was duly noted by the "system". He had not appeared for work at the refinery, but not a word was said there. A teacher at school was tipped off to make a discreet inquiry of the man's child: "Could your father come to school to see your pretty drawings?" "Well no, teacher, you see my father is not feeling well. He's sick." Then a state medical technician stopped by his home and asked to see the father "because it has been reported he is sick". The mother explained that he was not really sick; it was his uncle in Santiago who was sick, and he had gone to see the uncle. So the net was drawn tighter. Even before he had been returned to Cuba, a Castro agent had been infiltrated into the refinery work crew, and by the time the patriot returned, Castro's men were ready. They waited, alert. They listened to all of the plans. Perhaps they joined in encouraging the plans.
Then, on the night of the raid on the refinery everything went wrong. The whole cabal had been rounded up, and in no more time than it took for the radio operator to flash an emergency signal to Miami, it was all over. The reaction to the first information input by that first CIA agent had doomed those men to death, and their families and friends to lives of misery. Castro's control, rather than being weakened, had been strengthened by the brutal elimination of a few more men of blind courage and the example of that same fate for others who might wish to conspire with the Yankees.
In this example, which is a true case, if the attack had been successful, what good would it have done? Do such random bits of vandalism and sabotage actually further the foreign policy goals of the United States? Is this kind of anti-Castroism really pro-American? The very little harm to Castro and his Government, if any, that might possibly have been done, could not conceivably generate enough benefit to the United States ever to compensate for the loss this country suffers when such activities fail, as they so often do. This brings to mind the prophetic words from the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyam,"I wonder often what the Vintners buy One half so precious as the stuff they sell."
Nevertheless, the ST takes even such a gross failure as a challenge. They interpret it as some sort of Castroite dare, and they leap into action again to gamble with other men's lives. In Miami and in Washington the failure of this first raid was only the beginning. Word was flashed to CIA that a Castro attack had wiped out an anti-Communist underground cell. Instead of leaving the blown operation at that, the CIA readied the next step. No mention was made of how the initial contact was begun nor of the agent-assisted first attempt, which was the provocation to Castro. Instead, it was made to look as though Castro's attack upon the people was entirely unprovoked except by their anti-Communism.
As the next level of reaction, the CIA suggested an attack over the beach against that sugar refinery in reprisal for Castro's so-called "brutal attack upon the anti-Communist Cubans". It would be added as part of the "line" that one of the reasons for this next attack would be to show "the Cuban people that the United States was right behind them". A briefing along these lines was prepared and delivered to the Special Group of the NSC as much for intragovernmental public relations and flag-waving as for the approval the CIA felt it should get for this covert operation which was expected to be closely supported by Americans. In this manner small clandestine operations escalate, even though there may have been no real foreign policy guideline for such courses of action.
The CIA selected a team of Cubans from one of the major training sites in the United States or Central America and trained and equipped them for the major reprisal raid against the Castro provocation against innocent Cubans. The U.S. Navy was requested to provide offshore assistance limited to action in international waters. The Navy would launch and recover a small, fast boat which would make the actual landing. A date during the dark phase of the moon was picked, the weather checked, and the small boat with the special Cuban team aboard was launched. They were crack demolitions experts, familiar with the Navy SEAL-team method of high-speed operation. They made a successful landing and approached the refinery. The block system was already alerted and had been waiting. Sentry dogs picked up the men as they moved ashore, and the whole team was wiped out. Their rafts were found hidden on the beach, and when the sentry boat returned for the preplanned recovery, the correct light signals, beaten from the team by Castro's experts, lured the fast boat near the beach into an ambush. In the sky above, Castro's planes, alerted to the position off shore, observed the waiting U.S. Navy vessel and confirmed that this action had official U.S. Government support.
Again, things did not stop there. The challenge was greater.
Americans had been involved closely in that activity. The urge to outwit and to whip Castro was strong. The next round of attacks was to be even greater effort, until the ultimate invasion at the Pay of Pigs. This type of scenario happened many times and in varying target areas and with new characters and new supporting casts. Some of them were successful to the extent that the teams participating accomplished their assigned tasks, or said they did, and returned safely. Others were lost, as this first one was. And in every case it may be certain that success or failure resulted in massive punitive action against the local population. It wasn't long before all Cubans prayed that they would not be the "lucky and fortunate anti-Communists" selected by the benevolent Americans for the next anti-Castro strike.
The CIA's greatest strength derives from its ability to activate various parts of the U.S. Government, usually the Defense Department, with minor inputs designed to create reaction. It finds a minor fact, which it interprets and evaluates to be Communist inspired, or inspired by some other favorite enemy (Trujillo or De Gaulle), then it feeds this item into the White House and to Defense, where a response re- action takes place predictably and automatically. To carry this to the next level, the CIA, by utilizing its clandestine facilities, can stir up the action it wants for further use in turn to stir up a re-action response within the U.S. Government structure. Although such actions and re-actions usually begin on a very small scale, they escalate rapidly as in Indonesia, Tibet and Greece. (They went completely out of control in Southeast Asia.)
It is the type of game played by the clandestine operator. He sets up the scene by declaring in many ways and over a long period of time that Communism is the general enemy and that the enemy is about to strike or has begun a subversive insurgency campaign in a third country. Then the clandestine operator prepares the stage by launching a very minor and very secret, provocative attack of a kind that is bound to bring open reprisal. These secret attacks, which may have been made by third parties or by stateless mercenaries whose materials were supplied secretly by the CIA, will undoubtedly create reaction which in turn is observed in the United States. (This technique was developed to a high art in the Philippines during the early Magsaysay build-up to the point where the Huks were actually some of Magsaysay's own troops disguised and set upon the unwary village in the grand manner of a Cecil B. De Mille production.)
The next step is to declare the enemy's act one of "aggression" or "subversive insurgency", and then the next part of the game is activated by the CIA. This part of the operation will be briefed to the NSC Special Group, and it will include, at some point, Americans in support. So it will go, as high and as mighty as the situation and authorities will allow. It is not a new game. It was practiced, albeit amateurishly and uncertainly, in Greece during the late forties, and it was raised to a high state of art under Walt Rostow and McGeorge Bundy against North Vietnam, to set the pattern for the Gulf of Tonkin attacks. In fact, a number of the leading actors in the cast of key characters in the greatest scenario of them all, "The War in Vietnam", received the earliest training in the Greek campaign of the forties. All of the mystery surrounding those actions was unveiled in the Pentagon Papers with the revelation of such things as the covert OPLAN-34.
Operations arising in this manner and from such sources are, unfortunately, frequently the result of the endeavors of the overambitious, the irresponsible, and the ignorant. They are often enmeshed with and enhanced by the concealed drives of the special interest groups like the Marines who wanted a share of Vietnam in 1964, the general-contractor interests who wanted to dig a big hole in the shore and call it "Cam Ranh Bay", the Special Forces Green Berets who wanted to resurrect the doughboy, and many others who simply wanted to sell billions of dollars worth of armaments. Such operations are carried out by those who either do not care about the results or who do not see far enough ahead to understand the consequences of what they are doing.
This is a delicate subject and needs much understanding. Many innocent and totally loyal men become involved in these activities; but the trouble is that they come upon the scene after the first provocations have been made, and they are generally unaware of them. An allowance must be made for the fact that the provocation can come from either side. Neither side is all right or all wrong. But the fact remains that most of the men who become involved in these activities do so after there has already been some clandestine exchange. They are trying to correct what they believe has been a serious abuse. They do not know where the real action began; to put it simply, they don't know whether they came in on the first or the second retaliation strike. Very few would ever be party to striking first in any event. So the first strike takes place in deep secrecy. No one knows this hidden key fact. This is a fundamental game of the ST.
They have this power because they control secrecy and secret intelligence and because they have the ability to take advantage of the most modern communications system in the world, of global transportation systems, of quantities of weapons of all kinds, of a worldwide U.S. military supporting base structure. They can use the finest intelligence system in the world, and most importantly, they are able to operate under the canopy of an ever-present "enemy" called "Communism". And then, to top all of this, there is the fact that the CIA has assumed the right to generate and direct secret operations.
When we stop and think what the real struggle is and what we have been doing, we are faced with the stark realization that what has been going on is not anti-Communist, nor is it pro-American. It is more truthfully exactly what those wise and wily chess players in the Kremlin have hoped we would do. They have been the beneficiaries of our own defense-oriented, reaction prompted, intelligence-duped Pavlovian self-destruction. How can anyone justify the fact that the United States has lost fifty-five thousand men in Indochina and that the Russians have lost none and then call that anti-Communist -- or worse yet, pro- American?
How can anyone note that we have poured more than $200 billion into Indochina since 1945 and that the Kremlin may have put up somewhere between $3 and $5 billion as their ante to keep the game going, and then call that tragic ratio anti-Communist and pro-American? How can anyone believe that after more than twenty-five years of clandestine and overt engagement in Indochina that finds ourselves wasted and demoralized and precariously degraded in the eyes of much of the world, including our friends, we have accomplished anything that is really anti-Communist and pro-American? What do words have to mean and what do events have to prove to wake us all up to the fact that pro-American actions are those that strengthen this country and that anti-Communist actions are those that weaken Communism. It certainly bothers the Kremlin not at all to see Americans dying in Asia and to see Asians dying at the hands of the Americans.
There are tens of thousands of loyal, dedicated, and experienced men in the DOD, both military and civilian, who have the type of experience it takes to make an operation effective. In matters of tactics and logistics there are few men in the world who know more about the subject than they do. However, the ST operates behind such a shield of secrecy that they keep facts of what they are doing from these experts as well as from the enemy. As a result, all of these people who could help are left out. The very men who by their experience and ability could make these operations succeed, or who would have the good sense to say that they have no hope of success, are ignored and excluded from participation at the very time when they are needed the most. Once these minor actions are set in motion on the basis that they are anti- Communist, whether they succeed or fail they escalate unless specifically halted by top-echelon authority, and then the whole pattern of events is locked in as anti-Communist whether or not this really is so. Furthermore, these very difficult operations are left in the hands of the inexperienced, the irresponsible, and the ignorant.
Whenever an operation grows to the extent that the Bay of Pigs project did, the President and at least the NSC must insist that the finest men in the country be brought in to assist with the planning, the tactical details, and the essential logistics, and that these men should have the right to veto the project if need be, not just to remain silent, as has happened in the case of men as high as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Such silence even in the face of the CIA is inexcusable, even though the men involved in stating their case might be fired, as happened to one of the military chiefs after the Cuban rocket crisis of 1962.
Everyone understands that a certain amount of secrecy, used properly and applied with an eye to the impact which the normal erosion of time plays on events, is essential. However, when secrecy becomes a means of existence itself, when operations take place that never should have been permitted had they been fully revealed, when operations take place that grow out of all proportion to the action originally proposed and briefed to higher authority, and when all of this is veiled in unnecessary secrecy applied within the U.S. Government and against some of the people whose assigned responsibilities would most qualify them to know what was going on, then this type of secrecy is totally wrong and leads to the ghastly and insidious situation that has been quite honestly and accurately described above by Arnold Toynbee. And lest there be those who wish to brush aside Toynbee as an old meddler, let us recall the wise words of Harry S. Truman when he wrote that the, "CIA is being interpreted as a symbol of sinister and mysterious foreign intrigue and a subject for cold war enemy propaganda."
When one of our own Presidents feels that he must warn that the CIA, which he created, has become a tool of enemy propaganda against the United States, it is time to underscore that things are not as they should be.
The very fact that the CIA would not allow the Joint Chiefs of Staff to take their staffs into their confidence regarding the Cuban invasion is one of the deepest problems such an ad hoc type of operation creates. This is a two-edged problem, however. No chairman of the JCS, especially not the very experienced and able Lyman L. Lemnitzer, should ever have permitted such a thing to have happened. If what Wise and Ross wrote is true -- and we don't question it -- and if it was known to the chairman of the JCS that he could not use his experienced staff as they have stated it, then it certainly must have been the duty of that chairman to make this known to the Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara, and to President Kennedy. The law gives him that right and it gives him that duty. The chairman is quite properly in the position to take such matters to the President, and he could at any time have done so. Why didn't he?
It would seem to have been an easy solution; but as with other things in this confusing area, it was not that simple. For one thing, there was so much he did not know about the total plan. If he knew the whole operation and then did not speak to the President, that would be one thing: but if he knew only fragments of the plan and if he had been told by his higher authority, namely the Secretary of Defense and the President that an invasion was not contemplated, then it would be an entirely different matter. It should be recalled that early Cuban action began during the Eisenhower Administration and that these early projects did not involve an invasion. In fact, all of the Eisenhower-era schemes were extremely modest when it came to actions against Cuban soil and property.
Furthermore, President Eisenhower, having been sorely hurt by the U-2 affair and all that it did to his plans for a summit conference and a final peace crusade, had positively directed that overflights and clandestine operations be curtailed. He did not want the next administration to inherit anything in that category from his regime.
However, immediately following the election of John F. Kennedy things began to move; stalled activities began to stir. This all took place very secretly and most certainly without instructions or approval from the President and his Secretary of State Christian Herter and Defense Secretary Thomas Gates. It was not unknown to the Secretary of Defense and to his deputy; but the extent of their knowledge may have been unclear, since they had no reason to believe that such things had been rekindled without Presidential direction. (We shall see later the language of the law involved and the distinction between the terms, "by direction" and "with approval".)
As a result of these unusual events it was not until the middle of January 1961 that the chairman of the JCS heard his first reasonably accurate and complete briefing of what the CIA was contemplating on the shores of Cuba. This was a strange time for such a briefing, because in less than a week the Secretary of Defense would have departed and a new one would have taken office, and in that same week the Eisenhower team would have left and John F. Kennedy would have become President. Therefore, even if the chairman had seen fit to carry this information to the Secretary of Defense and to the President, he could scarcely have expected either of them to have been in a position to have done much about it just at that time.
This business of the exploitation of the right moment by the ST is interesting and has been quite apparent in other situations. We have earlier discussed the crucial ninety-day period just before and after the assassination of President Kennedy. This was another such time.
In the Bay of Pigs project the Secretary of Defense or his deputy was briefed almost daily. Furthermore, the same briefing that was given to them would usually be given to the chairman of the JCS or to his executive officer. However, these briefings were piecemeal, arising from events day by day and not from a plan, and they were often colored and fragmented by cover-story inserts. In retrospect, the view of the Bay of Pigs which a man like General Lemnitzer or Robert McNamara had was something like what would happen if someone showed a long movie to them a few frames at a time each day. As a result of this technique, who can blame a busy Secretary of Defense or Chairman if he is not able to piece all of these things together to find the central theme or plot.
This may sound unreal, but in the helter-skelter of activity in official Washington this is exactly what happens, especially with secret operations.
When an operation begins as a minor action, as did the first steps of the Cuban activity, no one knows what may evolve. At that point, with only tenuous bits of information, it seemed ridiculous to take each item to the President, the Secretary of State, and Secretary of Defense for their edification and approval. Yet, because clandestine affairs must be so closely held and because of the limits of the need-to-know restrictions, this is what happened. These busy men received the minor briefings along with the major ones. it became a question of either tell them or tell no one. Thus, as each day's moves occurred, the CIA and the Focal Point Offices agreed either to tell no one or to tell only the top men. This decision did nothing to overcome the fact that these top men were getting the story piecemeal.
Later, there were some relatively major steps, such as planned over-the-beach sorties involving the U.S. Navy in offshore support of CIA and Cuban saboteurs. Only then was the Secretary of Defense told that the CIA was going to put some men into Cuba to blow up a refinery the following night. Such briefings were complete with charts, maps, and pictures from U-2s or other such sources. If the Secretary of Defense questioned any part of the plan with respect to approval, the briefer would say, for example, "This is all part of the 'training and arming authority' for Cuban exiles that was approved by the NSC 5412/2 committee on March 17, 1960." The usual reply at that point from the Secretary would be, "O.K., but be sure Lemnitzer and Burke [Admiral Arleigh Burke, former Chief of Naval Operations] know about it." Then the mission would be ordered into action. By this process, such missions were not so much approved as they were not specifically disapproved.
The ST knew that it could use and depend upon Allen Dulles to gain approval for the big steps along the way by having him get an O.K. for an overall amorphous project, such as "training and arming exile Cubans". Then they could take it from there bit by bit. From that time on, everything they did in conjunction with the Cubans was to be attributed to that initial blanket approval. Their control over all events by means of secrecy kept anyone else from knowing the whole plan. Most of the time they did not really have any plan anyhow. Each event was derived from an earlier one or from a new bit of intelligence data input.
The Air Force, for example, protested the utilization of active-duty personnel on a full-scale basis in Guatemala, but did agree to permit aircraft and crews to fly in and out of Guatemala regularly with supplies and to deliver Cubans there. The Air Force was aware of the uncertain condition of the Ydigoras Government then precariously in power and did not want to have its personnel "sheep-dipped" (a cover category which meant that they would be non-attributable to the Air Force and thence technically stateless in Guatemala).
The Air Force held out for official accreditation of its own men to the U.S. Ambassador in Guatemala before it would permit them to remain at the Cuban/Guatemalan base. It received a signed agreement from the Department of State acknowledging the cover status of its men as "civilians" while on duty in Guatemala. (The State Department does not like to do this, because it automatically includes that department in the clandestine game.) These men then lived at the training base at Retalhuleu and trained Cubans to fly the C-46, C-54 (DC-4), and the combat-ready B-26 medium bomber. There were from eight to sixteen World War II B-26s at Retalhuleu. By Latin American standards this was the equivalent of a major air force.
As the Air Force had suspected, there was an attempt to overthrow Ydigoras. At first the coup group appeared to be victorious. Then the CIA and Air Force men realized that if the rebels took over the government, they and everyone else at Retalhuleu would become hostages of the rebel government and might even end up in Cuban prison camps. They were in a desperate position. Their choice was either to fly back to Florida and leave the Cubans, or to fight. The Air Force pilots were all combat veterans of the Korean War. They chose to fight. They got target information from loyal Guatemalans who flew with them to Guatemala City, where they bombed and strafed the rebel headquarters. Caught completely by surprise, and defenseless against this unexpected force, the rebels surrendered. Troops loyal to Ydigoras, and others who swung back to him in the face of this great show of power, cleaned up the remainder of the opposition, and the rebellion collapsed. Ydigoras was back in power, with Yankee help born of desperation. This was the only victory of the invasion task force.
Here again, the CIA had gotten in over its head. If that force of Americans, Filipinos, and Cubans who were at Retalhuleu, along with all of their equipment, had been captured by the rebels, their ransom -- like that exacted quietly by the Mexicans of the downed DC-4 -- would have been stupendous. As it was, the United States had to pay heavily for the invasion's failure in other ways.
At Puerto Cabezas in Nicaragua the CIA had gathered all the clandestine aircraft and considerable quantities of supplies and ammunition to support the invasion. Many of these aircraft were lost to Castro's jets; but vast amounts of equipment and some of the planes remained. With the collapse of the invasion, this material was unused. The U.S. pilots returned to Florida with a few planes. Later, the CIA asked the Army and Air Force mission personnel in Nicaragua to gather up and return all of this equipment. These officers were told by the Nicaraguans very politely and firmly that there was not a thing left at Puerto Cabezas. Since it was all black cargo, it was stateless and it was title-less. The United States never got any of it back. And this was only a fraction of the loss.
All Latin American countries keep a very close eye on the apportionment of U.S. military aircraft, ships, and other material made available to other Latin American states. The formula for the balance of forces is very complex, and this arrangement is a most delicate issue.
Other nations soon observed that Nicaragua had been given a large force-supplement of B-26s and C-46s. The B-26s were specially modified and carried much more firepower per aircraft than those that had been given to other Latin American nations. The other military supplies, guns, rockets, and mountains of ammunition were also noted. The Nicaraguan Government would not reveal how it obtained this unscheduled largesse and the U.S. Government could not. The other governments guessed, and no doubt knew; but they too played the game. They just kept the pressure on.
Needless to say, the U.S. Government had to make similar equipment available to a number of Latin American countries. The cost of all of this, plus the logistics support of this equipment, which goes on year after year, is another of the many high cost-factors that should be added to the total cost of the Bay of Pigs fiasco. Again, because of security -- secrecy from Americans, not from the enemy -- these facts have remained undeclared, along with so many others over the years.
Early in 1960, President Eisenhower had authorized the secret training and arming of Cuban exiles in the United States. Thousands of able-bodied Cubans had fled their homeland, and many of them were dedicated to fighting their way back in and throwing Castro out. Eisenhower's approval was very general and nonspecific; it in no way contemplated anything like the invasion. It was understood that any special operation which would involve Cuba, planned at any time, would have to be cleared by the DCI in accordance with existing directives. This meant presenting the operation to Special Group 5412/2.
In what appeared to the DOD as a separate and certainly inconspicuous action, the CIA began to utilize a portion of Ft. Gulick, a de-activated U.S. Army base in Panama. Gradually, a group of Cubans, identified in Panama only as Latin American trainees in a Military Assistance Program (MAP), began to increase in size and activity there. The CIA soon found that this burgeoning camp needed military doctors. In accordance with an agreement between the CIA and the DOD, the Agency asked the Army for three doctors. At that time the Army had a shortage of doctors, so it turned down the request for support from the CIA. Then the Navy was asked; it too turned down the request, on the basis that Navy doctors on an Army post would be conspicuous and would not fit into the cover story. The CIA did not need flight surgeons; so it did not ask the Air Force for doctors.
With these refusals in hand, the CIA made a direct appeal to the office of the Secretary of Defense and won support for its request. This was the very first covert action in the long chain of events that ended in the invasion of the beach at the Bay of Pigs on April 17, 1961. At the time of the request for these doctors, no one anywhere in the Government of the United States ever dreamed that the little mound that was being built would ever become that mountainous disaster which finally resulted. It is characteristic to note that the ClA's request was honored and then directed from the Office of the Secretary of Defense. At that top echelon the Office of Special Operations acted as the liaison between the CIA and the DOD. What most people in Defense were totally unaware of was that in the very office that was supposed to serve the military departments and shield them from promiscuous requests, there were concealed and harbored some of the most effective agents the CIA has ever had. Their approval of CIA requests was assured. The amazing fact was that their cover was so good that they could then turn right around and write orders directing the service concerned to comply with the request.
There may have been some mention of the end-use of these doctors for the Cuban training program. But if there was any mention, it would have meant little or nothing to those who had not been briefed.
The Secretary of Defense and the chairman heard many more such requests during the next twelve months, but the complexities of the veil of secrecy woven by the Secret Team around the project was such that no one ever saw the whole plan. The use of the control device of need-to-know classification made this possible. As this control is generally practiced, the CIA accepts that a group of men have "the clearances" after a very thorough review by its own resources and, as requested, those of the FBI.
Always, in the case of CIA work, this clearance begins at the top secret level. Beyond this, men are cleared for individual areas of information. A man may have a top secret clearance and a "North Side" clearance, meaning that he may be given both classifications of information. However, those in control of North Side may decide arbitrarily that certain men may not have some of the information even though they have the necessary clearance. The control team simply states that those men do not have a need to know, and from that time on, unless they are reinstated, they are excluded from all, or part of the project. There are, of course, some sensible and reasonable reasons for such practices; but that is not what is important here. The fact is that this exclusionary process is used as a tool, arbitrarily.
One way to make sure that there is little opposition to a proposed activity is to exclude possible opponents on the basis of lack of need-to-know. Thus, even though men are in high-ranking, policy-making jobs and have the appropriate top secret and other special clearances, they may be kept in the dark about ST plans, and they will never know it -- at least not for a while. Thus Adlai Stevenson, Ambassador to the United Nations at the time of the Bay of Pigs, was not informed about the projected plans until the very last minute, when rumors and news releases appearing in The New York Times were being spread everywhere. Even then, Tracy Barnes, the CIA man sent to brief Stevenson, gave a vague and incomplete picture of the operation.
The CIA could, if pressed, prove that the OSD and the JCS had been briefed almost daily from early 1960 until the very day of the invasion. But in spite of this kind of bit-by-bit briefing, it was not until just before John Kennedy's inauguration in late January l961 that the JCS got any kind of a reasonably thorough briefing. By that time it was much too late. The ST had strong armed the early Eisenhower authorization of the training and arming of Cubans into an invasion of a foreign country, during the "lame duck" period of his administration.
Need-to-know control can also be bent in the other direction in order to secure the support of potential allies and further those allies' careers. Members of the Team who strongly favored the election of John F. Kennedy over Richard Nixon played a very special role in the 1960 election campaign. Nixon presided over the NSC and therefore knew in detail the plans that were intended to have been carried out under the earlier Eisenhower authorization. For one thing, he knew that such authorization did not include anything like the invasion of a foreign country. At the same time it was assumed that Senator Kennedy, as an outsider, did not know those highly classified details. However, he did know. In his book, Six Crises, Nixon wrote that Kennedy was told about the invasion by Allen Dulles during the traditional CIA briefing for candidates. But there was more than that to the story, too, it appears.
A former staff member from the OSD recollects that during the summer of 1960 he was sent to the Senate Office Building to pick up and escort to the Pentagon four Cuban exile leaders, among them one of the future commanders of the Bay of Pigs invasion forces, who had been meeting with the then-Senator Kennedy. Those men -- Manuel Artime Buesa, Jose Miro Cordona (first Premier of Cuba under Castro), Manuel Antonio de Varona (former Premier of Cuba before Bastista regime) and the fourth man, who may have been Aureliano Sanchez Arango (former Foreign Minister of Cuba) -- were all supposed to be under special security wraps. They certainly were not expected to be exposed to members of Congress, least of all to a Senator who was close to being nominated as the Democratic flagbearer. However, certain CIA officials had introduced them to Kennedy, thus making sure that he knew as much about the plans they were contemplating as did Nixon. In fact, Kennedy may have learned more than Nixon as the result of this personal meeting -- an opportunity Nixon did not have -- with the Cuban refugee front and with its American secret sponsors.
Throughout this period in 1960, Eisenhower had directed that the Cuban exiles' training and arming be kept at a low level. He felt that he should not bequeath to the incoming administration, whether Republican or Democratic, any such clandestine operations, small as they were under the limited proposal which he had approved. As a result, any plans for expansion of Cuban activities were made to appear by the ST to be the Cubans' alone. The CIA carefully saw to it that the Cubans had the means to travel to and visit such activist headquarters as the American Legion convention and other avowedly anti-Castro strongholds. As the political campaign picked up momentum so did the Cuban exiles' activities, with John Kennedy playing a strong, quiet role on their behalf. His support further endeared him to the CIA, because the anti-Castro project was their biggest special operation at that time since the Tibetan and Laotian projects had began to wane.
When the candidates appeared on television together during the crucial campaign debates, Nixon, abiding by security restrictions which, in his case, he could not disavow even if he had wished to, limited himself in his discussion of the Government's plans for Cuba. This official control did not publicly apply to Kennedy. Since he had been briefed by Allen Dulles, he could have been warned about security violations; but the CIA can be quite liberal with respect to security when it is to that Agency's advantage. As a result, Kennedy could and did openly advocate the overthrow of the Castro Government, and for the strong position he won popular support from a great number of the voters.
Nixon's frustration and anger at Kennedy's calculated tactics were clearly evident on the television screen. As television audiences have learned in the years since those famous debates, when Nixon feels frustration and anger on television he shows it, and when he felt both during the Kennedy debates the audience knew it, and Kennedy made points. Many observers believe that that confrontation over Cuba was one of the peak moments during the debates, when Kennedy scored most heavily -- and of course most observers credit Kennedy's performance during the debates with his narrow margin of victory in the election. Few knew that his carefree television position on Cuba was in reality Nixon's official stand in time security-bound NSC record.
That Kennedy's connection with the Cuban refugees before his election was anything but casual or fortuitous was demonstrated nearly two years later. On December 29, 1962, in the Orange Bowl in Miami, before a national television audience, at a welcome-back celebration for the ransomed prisoners of the Cuban Brigade, before a thundering ovation from the jammed stadium, the President spoke informally with the Brigade and with the tens of thousands of Cubans who came to pack the stadium. At one point during the ceremonies, the President walked among the former prisoners, chatted with them, and then threw his arm over the shoulders of one of them. If those watching in the stadium and on TV thought he had chosen the man at random, they were mistaken. The Cuban he embraced was his old friend who had visited him in his Senate offices during the summer of 1960 and also at his West Palm Beach home. This man was Manuel Artime, a leader of the invasion.
One of the most significant aspects of ST work is its control of operational planning by need-to-know secrecy. And as we stated earlier, such control seriously limits the level of competency that can be brought to a major operation such as the Bay of Pigs. The CIA never really knew what to do about Castro and Cuba. During the latter days of 1958, the CIA assembled a staff of Cuban 'experts' under the leadership of its old Western Hemisphere Division hands such as Colonel J. C. King. But the real inside men, those who had responsible roles in these operations and in their so-called planning, are never discovered. The first somewhat obvious reason usually given is that of course those names would not show up because the Agency very wisely kept them concealed under proper security.
This may be part of the answer, but it is more probable that they never would have been linked with the exercise for two other reasons. First, they were truly faceless and practically meaningless participants in the action; they were in their jobs simply to see that things rolled along. Second, because once such an operation has been briefed to the NSC and the lower, middle level of the Agency's operations and support staffs know that the green light is on, they begin to move in all directions, and from that time on there is very little real leadership. Money becomes obtainable, equipment is made available, travel is abundant, the horn of plenty spills over, and all is hidden in secrecy. Partly by plan but mostly by the simple fact that no one at the top restrains the action of these activists at the lower levels. Everything begins to happen everywhere at the same time. There is a special sort of Murphy's Law about clandestine activities once they have received an initial and very general approval: "If anything can happen, it will." The U.S. Government is simply not constituted to become aware of and to control such faceless and random activities as those that take place under the shield of secrecy once the game has been discovered and perfected by the often amorphous ST. Nothing demonstrates this better than the single bitter underlying reason for the failure of the Bay of Pigs operation.
The Bay of Pigs effort failed for the lack of effective leadership, and for no other reason. It could have worked and it could have succeeded. Everything was there that had to be there. The goals were not so grand that they could not have been achieved: "To maintain an invasion force on Cuban territory for at least 72 hours and then to proclaim the free Government of Cuba there on that bit of territory." After that, it would have been up to the Organization of the American States and the United States to support them. But the Bay of Pigs operation did not have leadership when it was most needed. Allen Dulles, the man at the helm, was not even in Washington. Perhaps he thought the invasion could run by itself. For whatever reason he had in mind, Allen Welsh Dulles was not even in the United States at the time of these crucial landings.
As poorly planned as this over-the-beach operation was, it could have been a success within the original parameters of the effort. Jose Miro Cordona had been told that when the invasion forces had been on Cuban soil for seventy-two hours, had raised the Free Cuba flag on Cuban soil, and had proclaimed themselves to be the new government, he would be delivered to the beachhead. Then, when he appealed for assistance from the Organization of American States, the United States would give his "Government of Free Cuba" the assistance it needed
It was expected that once such a government had been established, albeit on the flimsiest grounds, Cubans would flock to its support, and that once U.S. Government assistance was visible and real -- such as U.S. warships off the coast, U.S. aircraft flying unopposed all over Cuba, and even U.S. Marines at the beachhead -- then the decay of Castro's Cuba would be certain. In essence, this is what the Cubans believed. It may have been what the CIA had in mind as it got caught up in the fervor of the training and arming authorized by President Eisenhower. However, no one could say that Eisenhower, the tough and experienced commanding general of the greatest invasion force of all time, had ever suggested or approved the invasion of Cuba clandestinely with a force of less than two thousand Cuban exiles. Whatever the Cuban project had grown to in the hands of the CIA took place after election day in 1960.
The leadership on the beach was competent enough for the job at hand. The Cubans themselves were good. The tactical leadership back in Nicaragua both for the invasion and for the small air strikes was adequate. The substratum of U.S. military personnel attached to the CIA to bring some order out of the training program was competent, especially the U.S. Marine Corps colonel who worked so hard and effectively to see that the little band of Cubans had some idea of what to do when they hit the beach. The U.S. Air Force officers attached to the CIA who pulled together the small hard-hitting air force of World War II B-26s and C-46s were skilled and combat qualified. But above them leadership was practically nonexistent.
No proper official would have approved of the Bay of Pigs operation unless there was a guarantee that Castro would not have been able to give it any effective air opposition. The few close-in, hard-core officers who knew the real plan would never have given any support to the plan if they did not have assurances that Allen Dulles would be able to guarantee that Castro's few combat-ready aircraft would have been bombed out of existence before the men hit the beach. This was the fundament upon which the operation was established; it was its failure that sealed its doom.
Before the first Cuban exiles' B-26 attacks on Castro's aircraft, U-2 pictures detailed exactly where Fidel's planes were and how many there were. The first wave of B-26s hit those planes and destroyed them, with the exception of the three T-33 jet trainers, two B-26s, and a few old British Sea Furies. In modern air- weapons-system technology the T-33 is a very low-order combat aircraft, and actually it has very little combat capability. However, it is a big jump better than the B-26 bomber in air-to-air combat. Therefore, until these three T-33s had been located and destroyed, there was to be no invasion. The B-26s and the Sea Furies could be handled and ignored. Castro's B-26s were not nearly as effective as the newly modified ones of the Cuban exiles.
It had just happened that the three T-33 jets had been flown to a small airfield outside of the Havana area for the weekend. The chance removal of these planes saved them from the first attack.
The Bay of Pigs instructions called for additional air strikes to get all of Castro's planes if this was not accomplished by the first strikes. This prerequisite was simple and necessary. Damage assessment photos not only showed that the T-33s had escaped, but they showed where they were, lined up on an airfield near Santiago. With this knowledge, a flight of B-26s at Puerto Cabezas in Nicaragua was loaded with bombs and fueled for the long flight to the target. These were excellent B-26s, which had been modified by the CIA to have a cluster of eight 50-caliber machine guns firing from the nose. This gun-pack is most lethal and unsurpassed for the type of operation contemplated. The guns could have made mincemeat of Castro's T-33s on the ground. In the air, the T-33s would have chopped them up. Thus the plan was for these planes to leave Puerto Cabezas at an early hour to assure undetected arrival at the target at sunrise and to permit them to sweep in over the airfield with the sun low and at their backs to give them as much groundfire protection as they could get.
As late as one thirty that morning the CIA agent who was in charge of these planes in Nicaragua had not received the expected message from Washington that would authorize their take-off. Later, acting on his own initiative and to keep the excited and ready-to-go Cubans quiet, he permitted them to start their engines on condition that they wait for his signal for take-off. Meanwhile in Washington, heated arguments had arisen over the air strikes. There was so much opposition to the second strike that those who sought the authority to release these planes were unable to gain approval.
On the one hand, General Cabell, the Deputy Director of Central Intelligence, and Richard Bissell, the Deputy Director of Plans, and the man who was responsible for the entire operation, were second-level officials. They were unable to release the planes on their own authority, and they were opposed by others, some of whom were of Cabinet level. It became a question of who would awaken the President at his Glen Ora retreat in Virginia in an attempt to get his approval. Neither Cabell nor Bissell had the authority to do that, and Allen Dulles was not in Washington. At this crucial time when his agency was faced with its most momentous crisis, a crisis of leadership, Dulles had left Washington to go to Puerto Rico to address the convention of the Young Presidents Organization. He was the man who could have given permission for the planes to go, or who could have gone to the President himself for that authority. On that fateful night the CIA was leaderless. The opposition stood its ground, and the air strike was not ordered to attack the jets at Santiago. This was the key to the failure of the whole operation. Those three jets destroyed no less than ten B-26s, along with some ground equipment, and sank the vital supply ship offshore.
Perhaps if one CIA agent had taken a short bicycle ride, the whole invasion would have been a success. The Cuban pilots in those B-26s on the ground at Puerto Cabezas, with their engines running, were on the point of mutiny. They were going to go without word from Washington, except for one thing. The agent who had the sole authority there to release them had told them that Washington was making a last-minute check of the target photographs and that they had better wait until he got the word. They half believed him. Later, his own faith in the system wavered badly, and he knew that as the moments ticked away the last chance the B-26s would have to get to the target airfield before sunrise would be gone. After that, Castro s jets could be expected to be gone.
Nearby, the agent had a bicycle that he used for his trips back and forth to the operations shack where the circuit to Washington was. During those last few moments he looked at that bicycle, certain that if he just got on it and rode away toward the shack the Cubans would go without waiting for his signal. The temptation was great. He had worked with some of those Cubans for two years; he knew how badly they wanted the operation to succeed. But his own discipline was stronger, and he did not take that ride. Finally, it was too late. The crews shut down the engines and got out of the planes.
Far across the Caribbean the small invasion fleet approached the shore secure in the belief that Castro's planes had been destroyed. They hit the beach shortly after sunrise, and it wasn't long before they came under heavy air attack. They knew then that their time was limited. To add to this tragedy, the same B- 26s that were to have wiped out the jets were ordered over the beach to give the invasion troops some firepower against ground opposition. The B-26s were shot down by those jets which only a few hours earlier they could have destroyed. And in sunny Puerto Rico the DCI entered a convention hall to give a speech to a group of young businessmen. This was the kind of elite group he liked. He was at his best among them, and he enlisted their support on behalf of the Agency, which was "saving the world from communism." Many of those same men have since traveled throughout the world on matters concerning business, wearing around their necks the mark of the Agency -- the shoulder strap of a new camera. These same men eagerly went from country to country as special agents for the CIA. But when the chips were down and those brave Cubans had been landed on the beach by the CIA, Allen Dulles was not there. He was perhaps the one man in Washington, had he been there, who could have sent those bombers out that morning for the purpose of destroying Castro's jets.
The Bay of Pigs operation serves as an excellent example of what is good and what is bad about clandestine operations and about the way they are developed, supported, and managed by the ST. From the first assistance to the first small group of Cubans in Miami, from the first light plane touchdown on a remote road in Cuba to exfiltrate one or two men to the huge operation involving thousands of men and tens of millions of dollars worth of equipment, to the tragic failure on the beach and the imprisonment and eventual payment of ransom tribute to Castro, the Bay of Pigs operation was nothing but a somewhat related series of escalating events which, simply stated, just got out of hand after the election of John F. Kennedy.
Some peripheral incidents that have not been apparent are worth a word. After Castro took over Cuba, he nationalized industry and kicked all Americans out of the country. Those companies that had been doing business in Cuba suffered heavy losses. Among the worst of these losses were those felt by the sugar companies. The stock of some of these firms traded at very low rates, if it could be traded at all. With the Cuban support program moving into high gear after the election of Kennedy, a large number of CIA personnel made heavy purchases of these deflated stocks, and word spread to some of their friends that a flyer in sugar stock might be worth the gamble. So orders to buy sugar stock went out all over the country.
The stockbroker community in Washington is most sophisticated. Over the years they see a lot of inside buying for reasons they have no way of knowing. In an attempt to ferret out some of these deals, they have developed their own expertise in divining what is going on. When the sugar purchases were at their peak, some of these brokers called their sources in the Pentagon on the assumption that if something was going to happen in Cuba the military would know about it. Of course, very few military knew about the invasion, and those who did would not have the temerity to let anyone know, most of all a broker. So the brokers were not getting much help in the usual channels. However, one broker who happened to hit on an idea, called a certain mutual fund group where he had reason to believe that there was some more than routine contact with the secret areas in the government. He was able to learn that they had been buying a little sugar stock. He put two and two together and inadvertently started a small buying spree among his and his company's clients.
Needless to say, the sugar balloon burst on those beaches in Cuba; but there have been many other times when the very special inside scoop the ST is able to control has led to some very good investments. More will be said about this as more is learned about the early days of the Indochina affairs during the past ten years. It does not take anyone long to become an avid ST booster once he has sipped the elixir of certain and easy money derived from an inside tip on a sure thing.
In Special Operations, black flights deliver black cargo into denied or unwitting areas. "Black" in this sense is usually synonymous with clandestine. A black cargo would not go through customs, USA or foreign. A black cargo, might be a defector from the communist world being flown to a safe house in the USA or other host country. If the black flight crossed the ocean, it would be known as a "deep water" flight. Clandestine shipments are made by all modes of transportation, including submarines and PT boats.
DCI--Director of Central intelligence; DDCI is his Deputy. below these men are three other Deputy Directors:
If a military chief of staff did disagree so deeply with a plan briefed to him by the CIA that he decided to discuss his views with others, it is more than likely the CIA would charge him with a security violation or withdraw his clearance, or both. The Agency would attack him on security grounds, not on substantive grounds or on the merits of the case.
To add to this confusion, Mr. Thomas Gates was Secretary of Defense and Mr. James Douglas his deputy until January 20, 1961 (Kennedy's inauguration, and then Mr. Robert McNamara and Mr. Roswell Gilpatric followed them. Mr. Douglas told the author on January 19 at 4:30 p.m. that there had been no transition briefing between them.
A hypothetical name in this instance. Such code names are given in great numbers to all operations and even to various phases or segments of classified operations.
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