By Col. Fletcher Prouty
From President to Ambassador, Cabinet Officer to Commanding
General, and from Senator to executive assistant-all these men have their
sources of information and guidance. Most of this information and
guidance is the result of carefully laid schemes and ploys of pressure
groups. In this influential coterie one of the most interesting and effective
roles is that played by the behind the scenes, faceless, nameless,
ubiquitous briefing officer.
He is the man who sees the President, the Secretary, the Chairman
of the Joint Chiefs of Staff almost daily, and who carries with him the
most skillfully detailed information. He is trained by years of experience
in the precise way to present that information to assure its effectiveness.
He comes away day after day knowing more and more about the man he
has been briefing and about what it is that the truly influential pressure
groups at the center of power and authority are really trying to tell these
key decision makers. In Washington, where such decisions shape and
shake the world, the role of the regular briefing officer is critical.
Leaders of government and of the great power centers regularly leak
information of all kinds to columnists, television and radio commentators,
and to other media masters with the hope that the material will surface and
thus influence the President, the Secretary, the Congress, and the public.
Those other inside pressure groups with their own briefing officers have
direct access to the top men; they do not have to rely upon the media,
although they make great use of it. They are safe and assured in the
knowledge that they can get to the decision maker directly. They need no
middleman other than the briefing officer. Such departments as Defense,
State, and the CIA use this technique most effectively.
For nine consecutive, long years during those crucial days from
1955 through January 1, 1964, I was one of those briefing officers. I had
the unique assignment of being the “Focal Point” officer for contacts
between the CIA and the Department of Defense on matters pertaining to
the military support of the Special OperationsJH of that Agency. In that
capacity I worked with Allen Dulles and John Foster Dulles, several
Secretaries of Defense, and Chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as well
as many others in key governmental places. My work took me to more
than sixty countries and to CIA offices and covert activities all over the
world— from such hot spots as Saigon and to such remote places as the
South Pole. Yes, there have been secret operations in Antarctica.
It was my job not only to brief these men, but to brief them from the
point of view of the CIA so that I might win approval of the projects
presented and of the accompanying requests for support from the military
in terms of money, manpower, facilities, and materials. I was, during this
time, perhaps the best informed “Focal Point” officer among the few who
operated in this very special area. The role of the briefing officer is quiet,
effective, and most influential; and, in the CIA, specialized in the high art
of top level indoctrination.
It cannot be expected that a John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, a
Richard Nixon, or a following President will have experienced and learned
all the things that may arise to confront him during his busy official life in
the White House. It cannot be expected that a Robert McNamara or a
Melvin Laird, a Dean Rusk or a William Rogers, etc. comes fully
equipped to high office, aware of all matters pertaining to what they will
encounter in their relationship with the Congo or Cuba, Vietnam or
Pakistan, and China or Russia and the emerging new nations. These men
learn about these places and the many things that face them from day to
day from an endless and unceasing procession of briefing officers.
Henry Kissinger was a briefing officer. General John Vogt was one
of the best. Desmond Fitzgerald, Tracy Barnes, Ed Lansdale, and “Brute”
Krulak, in their own specialties, were top-flight briefing officers on
subjects that until the publication of the “Pentagon Papers,” few people
had ever seen in print or had ever even contemplated.
(You can imagine my surprise when I read the June 13, 1971, issue
of the Sunday New York Times and saw there among the “Pentagon
Papers” a number of basic information papers that had been in my own
files in the Joint Chiefs of Staff area of the Pentagon. Most of the papers
of that period had been source documents from which I had prepared
dozens — even hundreds — of briefings, for all kinds of projects, to be
given to top Pentagon officers. Not only had many of those papers been in
my files, but I had either written many of them myself or had written
certain of the source documents used by the men who did.)
The briefing officer, with the staff officer, writes the basic papers.
He researches the papers. He has been selected because he has the
required knowledge and experience. He has been to the countries and to
the places involved. He may know the principals in the case well. He is
supposed to be the best man available for that special job. In my own case,
I had been on many special assignments dating back to the Cairo and
Teheran conferences of late 1943 that first brought together the “Big Four”
of the Allied nations of WW II: Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill,
Chiang Kai-shek and Joseph Stalin.
The briefing officer reads all of the messages, regardless of
classification. He talks to a number of other highly qualified men. He may
even have staff specialists spread out all over the world upon whom he
may call at any time for information. Working in support of the “Focal
Point” office, which I headed, there were hundreds of experts and agents
concealed in military commands throughout the world who were part of a
network I had been directed to establish in 1955-1956 as a stipulation of
National Security Council directive 5412, March 1954.
In government official writing, the man who really writes the paper-
-or more properly, the men whose original work and words are put
together to become the final paper— are rarely, if ever, the men whose
names appear on that paper. A paper attributed to Maxwell Taylor, Robert
McNamara or Dean Rusk, of the Kennedy era, would not, in almost all
instances, have been written by them; but more than likely would have
been assembled from information gathered from the Departments of
Defense and State and from CIA sources and put into final language by
such a man as General Victor H. Krulak, who was among the best of that
breed of official writers.
From 1955 through 1963, if some official wanted a briefing on a
highly classified subject involving the CIA, I would be one of those called
upon to prepare the material and to make the briefing. At the same time, if
the CIA wanted support from the Air Force for some covert operation, I
was the officer who had been officially designated to provide this special
operational support to the CIA.
If I was contacted by the CIA to provide support for an operation
which I believed the Secretary of Defense had not been previously
informed of, I would see to it that he got the necessary briefing from the
CIA or from my office and that any other Chief of Staff who might be
involved would get a similar briefing. In this unusual business I found
rather frequently that the CIA would be well on its way into some
operation that would later require military support before the Secretary
and the Chiefs had been informed.
During preparations for one of the most important of these
operations, covered in some detail in this book, I recall briefing the
chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Lyman L. Lemnitzer, on the
subject of the largest clandestine special operation that the CIA had ever
mounted up to that time: and then hearing him say to the other Chiefs, “I
just can’t believe it. I never knew that.”
Here was the nation’s highest ranking military officer, the man who
would be held responsible for the operation should it fail or become
compromised, and he had not been told enough about it to know just how
it was being handled. Such is the nature of the game as played by the
I have written for several magazines on this subject, among them the
Armed Forces Journal, The New Republic, the Empire Magazine of the
Denver Sunday Post, and The Washington Monthly. It was for this latter
publication that I wrote “The Secret Team”, an article that appeared in the
May 1970 issue and that led to the development of this book.
I have lived this type of work; I know what happened and how it
happened. I have known countless men who participated in one way or
another in these unusual events of Twentieth Century history. Many of
these men have been and still are members of the Secret Team. It also
explains why much of it has been pure propaganda and close to
nationwide “brainwashing” of the American public. I intend to interpret
and clarify these events by analyzing information already in the public
domain. There is plenty.
Few concepts during this half century have been as important, as
controversial, as misunderstood, and as misinterpreted as secrecy in
Government. No idea during this period has had a greater impact upon
Americans and upon the American way of life than that of the containment
of Communism. Both are inseparably intertwined and have nurtured each
other in a blind Pavlovian way. Understanding their relationship is a
matter of fundamental importance.
Much has been written on these subjects and on their vast
supporting infrastructure, generally known as the “intelligence
community.” Some of this historical writing has suffered from a serious
lack of inside knowledge and experience. Most of this writing has been
done by men who know something about the subject, by men who have
researched and learned something about the subject, and in a few cases by
men who had some experience with the subject. Rarely is there enough
factual experience on the part of the writer.
On the other hand, the Government and other special interests have paid writers huge amounts to write about this subject as they want it done, not truthfully. Thus our history is seriously warped and biased by such work.
The mystery behind all of this lies in the area we know as
“Clandestine activity”, “intelligence operations”, “secrecy”, and “cover
stories”, used on a national and international scale. It is the object of this
book to bring reality and understanding into this vast unknown area.
The Cold War was the most expensive war in history. R.
Buckminister Fuller wrote in Crunch of Giants:
We can very properly call World War I the million dollar war and
World War II the billion dollar war and World War III (Cold War) the
trillion dollar war.
The power structure that kept the Cold War at that level of cost and
intensity had been spearheaded by the Secret Team and its multinational
covert operations, to wit:
This is the fundamental game of the Secret Team. 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, and when needed, the full support of a
world-wide U.S. military supporting base structure. They can use the
finest intelligence system in the world, and most importantly, they have
been able to operate under the canopy of an assumed, ever-present enemy
called “Communism.” It will be interesting to see what “enemy” develops
in the years ahead. It appears that “UFO’s and Aliens” are being primed to
fulfill that role for the future. To top all of this, there is the fact that the
CIA, itself, has assumed the right to generate and direct secret operations.
L. FLETCHER PROUTY
Colonel, U.S. Air Force (Ret’d)
The Secret Team
Chapter 1 The “Secret Team” —
The Real Power Structure
The most remarkable development in the management of America’s
relations with other countries during the quarter-century since the end of
World War II has been the assumption of more and more control over
military, financial and diplomatic operations at home and abroad by men
whose activities are secret, whose budget is secret, whose very identities
as often as not are secret — in short, by a Secret Team whose actions only
those implicated in them are in a position to monitor and to understand.
For the purposes of this historical study, the choice of the word
“Team” is most significant. It is well known that the members of a team,
as in baseball or football, are skilled professionals under the direct control
of someone higher up. They do not create their own game plan. They work
for their coach and their owner. There is always some group that manages
them and “calls the plays”. Team members are like lawyers and agents,
they work for someone. They generally do not plan their work. They do
what their client tells them to do. For example: this is true of agents in the
Central Intelligence Agency. It is an “Agency” and not a “Department”
and its employees are highly skilled professionals who perform the
functions their craft demands of them. Thus, the members of the highest
level “Secret Team” work for their masters despite the fact that their own
high office may make it appear to others that they, themselves are not only
the Team but the Power Elite. This recalls a story related by the Rt. Hon.
Lord Denning, Master of the Rolls, of Great Britain, during WW II.
Winston Churchill had left the Admiralty to become Prime Minister.
Frequently he would come down to the Admiralty basement on his way
from #10 Downing Street, to his underground, bomb-proof bedroom. He
made it his practice to visit the Officer in Charge for up-to-date
Intelligence and then stroll into the Duty Captain’s room where there was a
small bar from which he sometimes indulged in a night-cap, along with his
On this particular night there had been a heavy raid on Rotterdam.
He sat there, meditating, and then, as if to himself, he said, “Unrestricted
submarine warfare, unrestricted air bombing ~ this is total war.” He
continued sitting there, gazing at a large map, and then said, “Time and the
Ocean and some guiding star and High Cabal have made us what we are.”
This was a most memorable scene and a revelation of reality that is
infrequent, at best. If for the great Winston Churchill, there is a “High
Cabal” that has made us what we are, our definition is complete. Who
could know better than Churchill himself during the darkest days of World
War EE, that there exists, beyond doubt, an international High Cabal? This
was true then. It is true today, especially in these times of the One World
Order. This all-powerful group has remained superior because it had
learned the value of anonymity. For them, the Secret Team and its
We may wish to note that in a book “Gentleman Spy, the Life of
Allen Dulles” the author, Peter Grose cites Allen Dulles response to an
invitation to the luncheon table from Hoover’s Secretary of State, Henry L.
Stimson. Allen Dulles assured his partners in the Sullivan & Cromwell
law firm, “Let it be known quietly that I am a lawyer and not a diplomat.”
He could not have made a more characteristic and truthful statement about
himself. He always made it clear that he did not “plan” his work, he was
always the “lawyer” who carried out the orders of his client whether the
President of the United States, or the President of the local bank.
The Secret Team (ST) being described herein consists of security-
cleared individuals in and out of government who receive secret
intelligence data gathered by the CIA and the National Security Agency
(NSA) and who react to those data, when it seems appropriate to them,
with paramilitary plans and activities, e.g. training and “advising” — a not
exactly impenetrable euphemism for such things as leading into battle and
actual combat — Laotian tribal troops, Tibetan rebel horsemen, or
Jordanian elite Palace Guards.
Membership on the Team, granted on a “need-to-know” basis,
varies with the nature and location of the problems that come to its
attention, and its origins derive from that sometimes elite band of men
who served with the World War II Office of Strategic Services (OSS)
under the father of them all, General “Wild Bill” William J. Donovan, and
in the old CIA.
The power of the Team derives from its vast intragovernmental
undercover infrastructure and its direct relationship with great private
industries, mutual funds and investment houses, universities, and the news
media, including foreign and domestic publishing houses. The Secret
Team has very close affiliations with elements of power in more than
three-score foreign countries and is able when it chooses to topple
governments, to create governments, and to influence governments almost
anywhere in the world.
Whether or not the Secret Team had anything whatsoever to do with
the deaths of Rafael Trujillo, Ngo Dinh Diem, Ngo Dinh Nhu, Dag
Hammerskjold, John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, Martin Luther
King, and others may never be revealed, but what is known is that the
power of the Team is enhanced by the “cult of the gun” and by its
sometimes brutal and always arbitrary anti-Communist flag waving, even
when real Communism had nothing to do with the matter at hand.
The Secret Team does not like criticism, investigation, or history
and is always prone to see the world as divided into but two camps —
“Them” and “Us”. Sometimes the distinction may be as little as one dot, as
in “So. Viets” and “Soviets,” the So. Viets being our friends in Indochina,
and the Soviets being the enemy of that period. To be a member, you don’t
question, you don’t ask; it’s “Get on the Team” or else. One of its most
powerful weapons in the most political and powerful capitals of the world
is that of exclusion. To be denied the “need to know” status, like being a
member of the Team, even though one may have all the necessary
clearances, is to be totally blackballed and eliminated from further
participation. Politically, if you are cut from the Team and from its
insider’s knowledge, you are dead. In many ways and by many criteria the
Secret Team is the inner sanctum of a new religious order.
At the heart of the Team, of course, are a handful of top executives
of the CIA and of the National Security Council (NSC), most notably the
chief White House adviser to the President on foreign policy affairs.
Around them revolves a sort of inner ring of Presidential officials,
civilians, and military men from the Pentagon, and career professionals of
the intelligence community. It is often quite difficult to tell exactly who
many of these men really are, because some may wear a uniform and the
rank of general and really be with the CIA and others may be as
inconspicuous as the executive assistant to some Cabinet officer’s chief
deputy. Out beyond this ring is an extensive and intricate network of
government officials with responsibility for, or expertise in, some specific
field that touches on national security or foreign affairs: “Think Tank”
analysts, businessmen who travel a lot or whose businesses (e.g. import-
export or cargo airline operations) are useful, academic experts in this or
that technical subject or geographic region, and quite importantly, alumni
of the intelligence community — a service from which there are no
unconditional resignations. All true members of the Team remain in the
power center whether in office with the incumbent administration or out of
office with the hard-core set. They simply rotate to and from official jobs
and the business world or the pleasant haven of academe.
Thus, the Secret Team is not a clandestine super-planning-board or
super-general-staff. But even more damaging to the coherent conduct of
foreign and military affairs, it is a bewildering collection of semi-
permanent or temporarily assembled action committees and networks that
respond pretty much ad hoc to specific troubles and to flash-intelligence
data inputs from various parts of the world, sometimes in ways that
duplicate the activities of regular American missions, sometimes in ways
that undermine those activities, and very often in ways that interfere with
and muddle them. At no time did the powerful and deft hand of the Secret
Team evidence more catalytic influence than in the events of those final
ninety days of 1963, which the “Pentagon Papers” were supposed to have
The New York Times shocked the world on Sunday, June 13, 1971,
with the publication of the first elements of the Pentagon Papers. JH The
first document the Times selected to print was a trip report on the situation
in Saigon, credited to the Secretary of Defense, Robert S. McNamara, and
dated December 21, 1963. This was the first such report on the situation in
Indochina to be submitted to President Lyndon B. Johnson. It came less
than thirty days after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and
less than sixty days after the assassinations of President Ngo Dinh Diem
of South Vietnam and his brother and counselor Ngo Dinh Nhu.
Whether from some inner wisdom or real prescience or merely
simple random selection, the Times chose to publish first from among the
three thousand pages of analysis and four thousand pages of official
documents that had come into its hands that report which may stand out in
history as one of the key documents affecting national policy in the past
quarter-century — not so much for what it said as for what it signified.
This report is a prime example of how the Secret Team, which has gained
so much control over the vital foreign and political activities of this
Most observers might have expected that the inner group of men
who had worked so closely with President Kennedy for three years would
have lost heart in those days following his tragic death. On the contrary,
they burst forth, as though from strong bonds and fetters and created this
entirely new report, thus shaping the future of the Indochina conflict.
Their energy and their new sense of direction seemed almost to rise from
the flame of Kennedy’s tomb in Arlington.
During those hectic months of late summer in 1963 when the
Kennedy Administration appeared to be frustrated and disenchanted with
the ten-year regime of Ngo Dinh Diem in Saigon, it approved the plans for
the military coup d’etat that would overthrow President Diem and get rid
of his brother Nhu. The Kennedy Administration gave its support to a
cabal of Vietnamese generals who were determined to remove the Ngos
from power. Having gone so far as to withdraw its support of the Diem
government and to all but openly support the coup, the Administration
became impatient with delays and uncertainties from the generals in
Saigon, and by late September dispatched General Maxwell D. Taylor,
then Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS), and Secretary of Defense
McNamara to Saigon.
Upon their return, following a brief trip, they submitted a report to
President Kennedy, which in proper chronology was the one immediately
preceding the remarkable one of December 21, 1963. This earlier report
said, among other things “There is no solid evidence of the possibility of a
successful coup, although assassination of Diem and Nhu is always a
possibility.” The latter part of this sentence contained the substantive
information. A coup d’etat, or assassination is never certain from the point
of view of the planners; but whenever United States support of the
government in power is withdrawn and a possible coup d’etat or
assassination is not adamantly opposed, it will happen. Only three days
after this report, on October 5, 1963, the White House cabled Ambassador
Lodge in Saigon: “There should be… urgent covert effort … to identify
and build contact with possible alternate leadership.” Knowledge of a
statement such as this one made by the ostensible defenders and
supporters of the Diem regime was all those coup planners needed to
know. In less than one month Diem was dead, along with his brother.m
Thus, what was considered to be a first prerequisite for a more
favorable climate in Vietnam was fulfilled. With the Ngo family out of the
way, President Kennedy felt that he had the option to bring the war to a
close on his own terms or to continue pressure with covert activities such
as had been under way for many years. Because the real authors were well
aware of his desires, there was another most important statement in the
McNamara-Taylor report of October 2, 1963: “It should be possible to
withdraw the bulk of U.S. personnel by that time….” [the end of 1965]
This statement came at a key point in time.
Like the others, it was written by Secret Team insiders who knew
the President’s mind and how far they could go in setting forth ideas which
he would accept and yet be acceptable to their own plans. Reports such as
the October 2, 1963, document were not written in Saigon and they were
not written by the men whose names appeared on them.
This pivotal report was written in Washington by members of the
ST. Although it contained a lot of updated material from Saigon (some of
which had been transmitted to Saigon verbatim for the express purpose of
having to then re-transmitted back to Washington for inclusion in the
report — with the all-important Saigon dateline), one may be certain that
this report contained a skillful mixture of what the President wanted to
hear and what its authors in Washington wanted the President to read.
Therefore, when it included the blunt and unequivocal statement that “it
should be possible to withdraw the bulk of U.S. personnel by that time”,
the authors, cover and undercover, were in tune with the times. They knew
the President was favorably considering means to extricate the United
States from Vietnam.
The ST had had its day with Kennedy on the beaches of the Cuban
Bay of Pigs. Kennedy had minutely reviewed that debacle, and from that
time on he was ever alert for the slightest sign of any undercover operation
that might expand and get so out of hand as to involve this country in any
more such disasters. The Team had come a long way since that dismal
period in April 1961, and had learned well how to use and thrive with Jack
Kennedy, in spite of his caution. One way to do this was to be certain to
spell things correctly — meaning hewing close to his line while retaining
ST initiative. It is a safe bet to say that this forecast of personnel
withdrawal by the end of 1965 was the maneuvering time they wanted and
what Kennedy would accept, in their language, so that he too would have
time to get re-elected and then carry out his own decisions as he had
related them to Senator Mansfield. It appears that Kennedy felt that with
the obstacle of the Diem regime out of the way, he would have the
opportunity to disengage this nation from the war that he had so far been
able to keep from becoming a runaway overt action. Up to the end of
1963, all U.S. Army troops in South Vietnam, with the exception of a
small number in the Military Advisory and Assistance Group (MAAG)
and a few other such positions, were there under the operational control of
the CIA. This was flimsy cover and it was a poor device to maintain that
the United States was not overtly involved in military activity in
Indochina; but the device did achieve its purpose of keeping the level of
the war to a minimum.
Within thirty days of the Taylor-McNamara report, Diem and his
brother were dead. The Government of South Vietnam was in the hands of
the popular and powerful General Duong Van “Big” Minh. Minh was a
strong enough man to have made Vietnamization work. But within another
thirty days President Kennedy was dead, and the Government of the
United States was in the hands of Lyndon B. Johnson. “Big” Minh may
have been the man Kennedy wanted in Saigon, but he did not last long
with the new Johnson Administration. Four days after Kennedy’s death, on
November 26, 1963, President Johnson issued an order reaffirming United
States policy in South Vietnam and at the same time referring to the new
Government of General Minh as a “provisional government”, presaging
and assuring the inevitability of another change in the near future.
President Johnson’s advisers wanted a “benevolent” military regime in
Saigon, and they wanted one which would be more suitable than Minh’s.
Kennedy would have had Minh rally around him a popular and strongly
independent Vietnamese administration. After Kennedy’s death, U.S.
policy called for leadership in Saigon which would accept continuing
United States participation in the internal affairs of that Government.
Less than fifteen days after the death of Kennedy, Secretary of
Defense McNamara was on his way back to Saigon to assess the situation
under General Minh and to report to the new President of the United
States. This time, the McNamara report was, to quote The New York
Times, “Laden with gloom”. His assessment laid the groundwork for the
long haul and included decisions to step up the covert war against North
Vietnam in early 1964 and to increase American aid to South Vietnam.
Within ninety days the Government of “Big” Minh was eased out of office
and replaced by the more tractable General Nguyen Khanh.
There are those who say that because he had approved certain covert
operations in Indochina, President Kennedy was planning to expand the
war. It is true that accelerating cover operations is like stoking the fire; but
we should weigh Kennedy’s actions against the fact that the United States
had been actively involved in clandestine operations in Indochina since
1945 as well as in other areas of the world for many years, and that these
activities did not signify that the administration concerned had embarked
upon a course leading to open warfare.
The paramount condition underlying any approval for clandestine
operations is absolute control at the top. The ST will come up with
operational schemes all the time and will seek approval for as many as it
believes it can get away with. The only way to cope with this is for the
President to make it clear that there will be no covert operations without
proper approval and that he will always be in a position to cancel or
disapprove of any and all operations as he sees fit. Truman and
Eisenhower knew this and practiced it. Kennedy learned it at the Bay of
Pigs. Eisenhower had terminated major operations in Tibet, Laos, and
Indonesia without escalating them into open war. Until his death Kennedy
had held the line at the limited level of covert activities in Indochina, and
American participation there was restricted to an advisory capacity. (Of
course, we all recognize that this advisory role was, in many cases, pure
Clandestine operations that are small and strictly controlled with a
fixed and time-limited objective can be terminated at any time, whether
they succeed or fail. However, clandestine operations that become large,
that are permitted to continue and to be repeated, that become known or
compromised — and yet still continue, as in Laos — are very dangerous and
can lead to open hostilities and even war. Thus, when the ST proposed a
vastly escalated covert campaign against North Vietnam in December
1963, they were laying positive plans for the major military action that
followed in 1965 .[31 Within thirty days after Kennedy’s death all of this
changed drastically. In his report of December 21, 1963, McNamara
stated: “Viet Cong progress had been great during the period since the
coup. We also need to have major increases in both military and USOM
(United States Operations Mission) staffs.”
Later, he added, “Our first need would be immediate U-2 mapping
of the whole Laos and Cambodian border, and this we are preparing to do
on an urgent basis.” And then, “One other step we can take is to expand
the existing limited but remarkably effective operations on the Laos side,
the so-called Operation HARDNOSE… Plans to expand this will be
prepared and presented for your approval in about two weeks.” And
further, “As to the waterways, the military plans presented in Saigon were
unsatisfactory, and a special Naval team is being sent a once from
Honolulu to determine what more can be done.”
Then he noted: “Plans for covert action into North Vietnam were
prepared as we had requested and were an excellent job. . .General Krulak
of the JCS is chairing a group that will lay out a program in the next ten
days for your consideration.” All of these statements were evidence of
typical, thorough ST groundwork.
McNamara closed out this report — which was so vastly different
from the earlier October 2 one that he and Maxwell Taylor had submitted
to President Kennedy — by saying: “We should watch the situation very
carefully, running scared, and hoping for the best, but preparing for more
forceful moves if the situation does not show early signs of improvement.”
This was not the report of a group that was planing to wind down
the war. It was a report that delineated various avenues of endeavor and
that looked well into the future. This was the first such report made to
President Johnson, and it was not designed to be reassuring. On the same
day that the McNamara report was being handed to President Johnson, a
former President was writing a totally different statement for the
readership of the general pubic. President Harry S. Truman, observing the
turn of events since the death of President Kennedy, and pondering
developments since his Administration, wrote for the Washington Post a
column also datelined December 21, 1963:
For some time I have been disturbed by the way the CIA has been
diverted from its original assignment. It has become an operational and at
times a policy-making arm of the government… I never had any thought
that when I set up the CIA that it would be injected into peacetime cloak-
and-dagger operations. Some of the complications and embarrassment that
I think we have experienced are in part attributable to the fact that this
quiet intelligence arm of the President has been so removed from its
intended role that it is being interpreted as a symbol of sinister and
mysterious foreign intrigue and a subject for cold war enemy propaganda.
Truman was disturbed by the events of the past ninety days, those
ominous days of October, November, and December 1963. Men all over
the world were disturbed by those events. Few men, however could have
judged them with more wisdom and experience than Harry S. Truman, for
it was he who, in late 1947, had signed unto law the National Security Act.
This Act, in addition to establishing the Department of Defense (DOD)
with a single Secretary at its head and with three equal and independent
services ~ the Army, Navy, and Air Force — also provided for a National
Security Council and the Central Intelligence Agency. And during those
historic and sometimes tragic sixteen years since the Act had become law,
he had witnessed changes that disturbed him, as he saw that the CIA “had
been diverted” from the original assignment that he and the legislators
who drafted the Act had so carefully planned. Although even in his time
he had seen the beginning of the move of the CIA into covert activities,
there can be little doubt that the “diversion” to which he made reference
was not one that he would have attributed to himself or to any other
President. Rather, the fact that the CIA had gone into clandestine
operations and had been “injected into peacetime cloak-and-dagger
operations”, and “has been so much removed from its intended role” was
more properly attributable to the growing and secret pressures of some
other power source. As he said, the CIA had become “a symbol of sinister
and mysterious foreign intrigue”.
There can be no question that the events just prior to this statement
heavily influenced his arriving at these disturbing conclusions. It is
possible, but quite improbable, that Harry Truman knew about the
McNamara report of the same date. But the coincidence between the
appearance of Truman’s commentary and of McNamara’s report is
compelling, especially since McNamara’s report was the first selected by
The New York Times for publication in its expose of the Pentagon Papers.
Now that the McNamara report has been published and has emerged
from the depths of security, it can be added that this pivotal report was not
written by McNamara; it was not even written in Saigon. This report, like
the one dated October 2, was actually written by a group of ST and near-
ST members and was drafted by them solely to impress upon the new
President their idea of the increasing gravity and frightful responsibility of
the war in Indochina. It was not for nothing that the Times noted that this
report was “laden with gloom” and that it offered nowhere any easy or
quick panacea for early victory in Indochina. It was not untended to do so.
In fact, it did just the opposite. It left no room for any course of action
other than eventual escalation of the war. This report and the ones that
followed close upon it were carefully and skillfully written to instill into
the new President an indelible belief that the war in Vietnam was the
greatest issue facing the Free World. They hammered home the fanciful
belief that if South Vietnam fell before the onslaught of Communism, the
whole world would be engulfed.
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.nl 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
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.
he 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
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
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.
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
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
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[41 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
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
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.
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
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
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 CIA’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
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 “[51
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 1961 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.
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
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
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.
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
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 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.
1. 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.
Ratcliffe: It’s now Monday, May 8th, and we’re here again with Fletcher Prouty today to discuss the Kennedy assassination on November 22, 1963, including examination of the types of power groups, or power-group base, that seems to have its hand in all this and how this was a very seminal event for post-World War II directions in United States Government policies and agendas.
What Would Entail Conducting A Proper Murder Investigation?
I’d like to begin with an open-ended question, positing: Knowing what you know now, if you were put in the position of being in charge of investigating Kennedy’s assassination the day after he was murdered, when almost everyone in any way involved was still alive, and you had subpoena power, etc., what witnesses would you call and what leads would you pursue?
Prouty: That certainly is a fundamental question. Of course we all realize that a trial for the act of murder, in the United States, by law, by tradition, is the function of state governments. What should have been done immediately was to have the State of Texas begin to solve that murder, without any delay in court.
The body of President Kennedy should not have been moved from Texas. The autopsy should have been completed by the same people that were there when he was brought into the hospital. The police should have been the same police that were on duty when the President was moving through town. The very next day those policemen — all of them — should have been convened in a meeting so that everything they knew would be put down and recorded immediately including the long conversations that had been had with Lee Harvey Oswald the night that he was picked up. Because most of us will recall that he was not picked up on the charge of having shot the President. He was picked up on a collateral charge of having something to do with the death of a policeman named Tippett.
It’s rather interesting to note that some newspapers printed the story that Officer Tippett had been sent to arrest Oswald — and note that was immediate printing — that was before the cover story came in. Later papers went along with the cover story that Oswald for some reason got in an argument with Tippett and shot him. That had nothing to do with the original factual reports at the time.
First of all, if any of us were on the spot and were charged with solving that murder, we’d have done the same thing you do with any murder: we’d have policemen and detectives on the spot and immediately begin to ask the questions that would solve this murder which was clearly the result of the actions of several people, highly trained, and with a lot of other people in the area taking part in the business of this whole assassination. The cover-up is actually a larger operation than the shooting.
If this work had been done that way, the possibility is that there would have been no mystery, from the time of the autopsy right in the Parkland Hospital. Because it was clear that the President had been hit in the back (that’s a wound produced by a shot from the back); that he had been hit in the throat (a wound by a shot from the front); that he had been hit in the forehead (that’s a wound created by another shot from the side-front); that the back of his head had been completely blown off (that’s made by a weapon that fired a bullet through his head and blowing off the back of his head); and that there was a bullet that hit a man named Tague who was a block and a half down the street. In other words, a low-trajectory bullet, not one from the sixth floor going down to hit the pavement — this one went a block and a half beyond the president’s car (520 feet) and hit the curb, threw a fragment of the bullet, or curb, up that hit Mr. Tague in the face — and photographers took pictures of him with blood running down his face — that’s another bullet.
So there’s four bullets right there. That minimum number of shots disproves the entire Warren Commission Report. Police would have handled that information immediately. They would have gone to the places where those shots originated from, and begin to solve the crime the same as any other crime.
There are reports of them locating a British 303 rifle, of a German Mauser rifle, and of this Italian Carcano rifle, from this same period of time — within hours. Any police department would have resolved that immediately by finding the rifle that had been fired, by matching it to the bullets, and discarding the other bullets. If the normal police activity that takes place in any small town in the country had been put into motion within moments of that crime, it would have been solved before midnight. And, we remember, Oswald was not even charged with the death of Kennedy until after midnight. So even that aspect of it is illusory. And then they interviewed Oswald all during that night and claimed that they never took any notes at all. That’s fabulous. They couldn’t have done that in a police service — unless the policemen were part of the conspiracy — then you say to the police: “You’re part of the conspiracy — because why didn’t you take notes?” You could have stopped that thing immediately. And, with the body there to match it to all this evidence, there would have been none of these things about “all the bullets from a single man up in . . . “
Now, as soon as you throw out the “Lone Assassin” scenario (and it has taken the press in this world 30 years to throw out the idea that Oswald was “the lone assassin”) — The House Committee Study (in the late seventies) came up with the idea that they are convinced, because they found more bullet — more rifle-firing-sounds on the sound tapes than three, that they think there was a conspiracy.
The newspapers haven’t even picked that up. If you read a newspaper today, whether printed in San Francisco or Singapore, it says: “President Kennedy was killed by a lone assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald.” That is evidence of one of the most powerful cover-up situations ever created: that for 30 years they can force the media of the world — to speak like parrots with respect to the death of Kennedy — that he was killed by a lone assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald. They will not print anything else — although 99% of the people of this world believe that the President was killed otherwise. It’s fascinating to think about how solid and how powerful this cover-up arrangement is.
Then when you begin to add to that the fact that the plan to kill a President can only mean one thing: that the people who made that plan intended to control the United States of America. Then you begin to see that they have the power to kill the President, and to create the cover-up, and of course to take over the Presidency for the objectives that they had. Those things begin to clarify who did it, how they did it, why they did it. That’s what you do with any crime. So, if I had been in charge of the investigation of the President’s death in Dallas for the next 24 hours afterwards, I think within 6 or 8 hours we’d have solved the crime. There would have been none of this “lone assassin” business.
Now, the important point about having people realize that there was not a lone assassin is the next step: that, if there was a group, and if they conspired to kill the President, then they had an objective. A lone assassin doesn’t have to have an objective. He can be a nut — somebody who just fired the gun and he’s a nut. That’s what they try to make us believe. But the minute you say there were people who planned to kill the President, whether it was Castro and his people, whether it was Khrushchev and his people, whether it was the Mafia and their people, or some other hate group, they had an objective. At least we are maturing in our thinking about Kennedy’s death; by now we can say “the Mafia did it”, or “Castro did it” — at least we are pointing the finger to groups that have an objective. I think within the next three or four years they will finally begin to come around to what this objective was. And we may become mature enough in this country by 40 years after Kennedy’s death to begin to lay down exactly what happened at the time he was killed: that an extremely powerful group within the United States government set up the objective of killing Kennedy in order to control the progress of the government in the direction they wanted for the next eight-ten-twelve-years. There’s no question about it, looking back.
In Context: August-November 1963
Ratcliffe:In that current scenario there are various groups that have at times been identified as the initiators of this murder. Stories have been put out positing Castro wanted to kill him, or the Mob, all of whom seem derelict in the ability — which was not of Castro or Khrushchev or the Mob’s capabilities — to engineer events like getting the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court to head up a commission to cover it up, or the complicity of the Dallas police department, or whoever else — the authorities either locally or federally — who played key roles in the post assassination alteration of stories and evidence to conform to a lone nut scenario.
Prouty: That’s what I’m saying: when we finally mature ourselves enough to realize that the President was not killed by a lone assassin (who had no real motive) — the minute we move ourselves into saying that some organization did it (whether it’s Castro, Khrushchev, Mafia, whatever), immediately we are saying there was a motive. Now the motive is that of a group, and their objective was the control of the government of the United States.
He had made a speech at the UN, saying that he was not going to have NASA arrange the shot to the moon by itself, but he was going to merge our space agency in with the Russian space agency in a cooperative attempt to go to the moon. He thought that would be internationally palatable, it would help ease the pressures of the Cold War, and would really make progress for the world, as well as putting a man on the moon. That upset the tens of thousands of people who worked for NASA, and their industrial supporters throughout the industry, and a lot of other people who only believed in anticommunism and in the Cold War. But Kennedy had done that, within 90 days before his death.
Another event that a lot of other people have not noticed, because it’s a little more intricate, is that at the time Kennedy became President one of the biggest aircraft procurement projects ever designed was on the boards. The Eisenhower administration had not settled it and they handed it over to the Kennedy administration, assuming of course that they thought Nixon was going to be elected and he would solve the problem. It was called the TFX Fighter Program. With that much money (upwards of $6-7 billion dollars I believe, which in those days was an enormous amount of money), there was enormous pressure on the selection of this TFX fighter.
Kennedy’s selection process involved a consortium with the General Dynamics Company of California versus the proposals from the Boeing Company. In this process, the Kennedy administration drastically changed the method of weapons procurement that had existed since World War II. One of the active participants in this was Arthur Goldberg, the Secretary of Labor (a very politically astute gentleman), who saw that the Kennedy election over Nixon was by a very, very narrow margin. What Goldberg proposed was that, if the companies bidding for the aircraft owned properties and factories in areas where Kennedy needed the vote, then the one with the most factories in the most needed areas should be given the contract, simply so that that money would flow in areas that would be politically expedient to Kennedy’s reelection in 1964.
A lot of people were violently opposed to that procurement plan. Within the Pentagon, for example, Secretary McNamara set up a series of offices where, posted on the walls were Department of Labor county-divided maps of the whole United States — county by county, state by state. McNamara’s staff would draw the colored markers on there — for every element of the General Dynamics proposal, they’d set a color up for the counties that General Dynamics covered, and for each Boeing proposal, they would do likewise.
By the time they got to make the decision on the aircraft late in 1962, they decided to purchase the General Dynamics plane versus, you might say, the more popular (at least within the military-industry complex) Boeing proposal. The final McNamara decision to give that contract to General Dynamics staggered the industry, and it’s a very powerful industry to have in opposition.
In addition to that, and at the same time, Mr. McNamara’s Deputy Secretary of Defense, Roswell Gilpatrick, was traveling around the country speaking at bankers’ conventions and other important meetings, saying that from now on the Kennedy administration was going to see that procurement money was more wisely used and that the old power groups of the Eisenhower days were ended. Although that was a rather quiet series of events with respect to news, it was a most important area of opposition to the Kennedy administration. It was a very important area. So this is a second pressure point that eventually added up to the decision to do away with JFK.
In Vietnam, warfare was growing, but in 1962 and 1963 the Vietnam War was not a big issue. It was a small operation. The trouble in Laos was more important, the trouble in the Congo was more important. Vietnam wasn’t the whole thing. We did more in anti-Castro work, you might say, than we did in Vietnam. So that, by hind-sight we think the Vietnam War in ’63 was a major issue but it wasn’t. By the summer of ’63, Kennedy had properly analyzed that if the people of South Vietnam wanted to set up their own country and run their own country, they were going to have to fight for their own country the same as our people did in the Revolutionary War against the British. It was the Americans that fought the British and did it themselves. And he thought that Vietnamization was the way to do it. We would provide the support and we would help them.
With that in mind, he set up the procedures to produce what became NSAM 263, of Oct 1963, in which he announced his Vietnam policy — we do not say “his Vietnam War policy,” because with NSAM 263 JFK was emphasizing that he was not going to support the idea of a Vietnam War.
He did announce publicly that, before the end of the year, he would bring 1000 troops home for Christmas, and by the end of 1965 he would have all U.S. personnel out of Vietnam. The use of the word “personnel” rather than “military” was intended. All personnel included — quite pointedly — the CIA people.
I worked on that NSAM #263 with my boss Gen. V. H. Krulak and others of his staff, and we have no question about the source and emphatic significance of the words of that paper because we had been instructed by the White House to see that this was clear: that 1000 men would be home by Christmas and all American personnel by the end of 1965. Krulak got those words directly, and in person, from the White House.
With this document on the record we all knew that Kennedy was not going to put American military in Vietnam at any time. That hit the news like a bolt of lightning. Many of us believe that inevitably, this was the major pressure point on the way to the “High Cabal’s” (to use Winston Churchill’s term) decision to assassinate JFK and to take over the reins of Government of the USA.
So there were those pressures. There were pressures in the education system. And there was sufficient pressure to see that certain groups would like to remove Kennedy, because by the end of ’63, it was becoming clear that he would win the next election in 1964 and have another four years in office, that Bobby was right behind him, that Teddy was right behind Bobby, and on and on — a Kennedy Dynasty. There was a Kennedy regime being set up. I think that is the essence of the pressure that caused his death. Because it is that kind of pressure that could very easily weld itself together into an assassination program, where the assassination was being laid on in a professional manner as they are done in coup d’états around the world, where the hit men are professionals, they are covered by the local police and removed from the scene, and they’re gone, and then nobody knows who did it and they never find out about it. That’s the way Kennedy was killed and those are the reasons for which he was killed.
Ratcliffe: In looking back at the actual execution of the murder — the planning and execution — what role, if any, do you feel the following government agencies (or individuals within those agencies) played. I want to just run down a list here. Start with the FBI.
Prouty: I’ll just say first that no agency played a role as an agency. What happens in such things as this — in fact, we had a term for it, we called it the “Gold Key Club.” A certain small group coalesces and they are given an order to do something and it’s not by agency. As a comparison: there was a program that had been constituted, I think in ’62, called Mongoose. The objective of Mongoose was to remove Castro from office in Cuba. The people that were assigned to Mongoose (under the direction of General Lansdale), were from various agencies and various countries working together. Some others who were not from any agencies — they were hired employees from other specialties and other businesses that are competent in this business of establishing coup d’états and things like that.
So it’s not correct to say that the FBI, the CIA, the Department of Defense, the State Department, had a role in this. To over-simplify, their people are bureaucrats. It could very well be (and I’m quite sure it was) that people from those agencies might have been called upon for certain special functions, but that isn’t how these jobs are done.
Ratcliffe: So there wouldn’t be much point in looking at it by agency as far as being able to identify anyone that you felt, “Oh, yes, that person must have had this to do with it or that to do with it — “
Prouty: Not that way specifically. Those things are done. I have worked on assassinations in other countries, or the removal from office of people from other countries, and it was not done agency by agency. It was done on the basis of a very clever group arrangement which would get the job done by people who are very proficient in that type of business — and totally unknown, or “faceless.”
Cancelling Secret Service, Military, and Police Units
in Dallas and Inserting False Actors in Their PlaceRatcliffe:I would like to look at a few instances, though, of examining just what evidence did go down — particularly in terms of something like the Secret Service. Now, you served in some function during Eisenhower’s term related to helping with Secret Service security for the President?
Prouty: The Secret Service is well-trained, and it has manuals that direct how they operate, for what is called Protection of the President. It’s a small organization. In general practice the Secret Service is augmented, when necessary, with specially trained units from the U.S. military. Something we have noticed in connection with the assassination of President Kennedy was that certain of these Secret Service units and military units that should have been deployed along the streets in Dallas, that should have closed windows in Dallas, that should have welded manhole covers in the streets, that should have designed a route through the city that was safe, that these units were not there. They had not been assigned to Dallas.
For instance: they have a rule that says, if the automobile carrying the President cannot travel 44 miles an hour you have to go on another route. I argued with them one day just kind of jokingly, why 44?, why not 45?, why not? And they said: We have learned that, at 44 miles an hour, a gunman has great difficulty following the target and hitting the target, so that’s simply a “best case” mathematical minimum level. What it meant was, if you had to go through the city at 30 miles an hour or at 15 miles an hour, you must take additional precautions. Well, they didn’t even take those essential precautions that are required when the President was moving at about 6 miles an hour.
In the days before they went to Dallas (the Presidential Party had been touring in Texas), calls were made to certain military units and to certain Secret Service units, saying, “You won’t be needed in Dallas.” Maybe they were used in San Antonio, maybe they were used in Houston or Ft. Worth. To the military unit they said “We don’t need you in Dallas.” The assumption of that commander was that somebody else’s military unit — there are a lot of these units — would be used. They never dreamed that it meant the city would be left open — as it was. As you know from the record, there were no Secret Service and no military men with this special training in the Dealey Plaza area. The evidence of it is in the photographs.
One of the first steps the Secret Service would take in a place like the Dealey Plaza area where high buildings look down over the road is they would order all the windows to be closed and sealed. Put a seal on it that says to anyone working in the building: “Do Not open this window.” Then you say, yes, but how are you going to control maybe hundreds of people? It’s not hard. You put a man on the roof with a radio. You put others in strategic positions with sniper’s rifles. You put another man down in the middle of the plaza on the grass, looking up, and he’s got a radio. If he sees a window open, he broadcasts immediately: “third floor, fourth window over.” The snipers cover the window and one of the team on the roof runs down there, sees why the window’s up — some secretary opened the window to see the President go by — and he says: “Close that window!” And it’s closed. You have radios. It can be done. It’s not a big job. In fact, it’s done every day. I went to Mexico City with a team sent to protect the President (President Eisenhower, in Mexico City), and you’d think, “my word, we can’t get the President through here safely”, but we did. There’s no problem, if you do the job.
What happened to the Secret Service was not that the Secret Service didn’t do their job. They weren’t asked to be there to do the job. They were told: “Your unit isn’t needed, you can go home”, and then they didn’t tell anybody else to do it. Very, very clever planning because it would make it seem as though the Secret Service didn’t do their job but it wasn’t their fault. Or that the Army — I have talked to the Army people involved, and they didn’t know that there wasn’t going to be the other Army unit there. They thought that if their unit isn’t needed, the other one will be there. It’s very hard for those trained people not to do their jobs. It’s like, if you go out in the woods with a hunting dog, and all of a sudden the dog sees a pheasant and he starts running and you say “No.” But the dog’s trained to go for it, he wants to go for the pheasant — you have a hard job stopping him, this is his job. Well, this type of thing happened in Dallas in all of these things.
Then, added to this, there were false Secret Service there. Many, many witnesses who were on the ground in Dallas said something like, “I was taking pictures and a man who showed me the credentials of Secret Service took my camera and removed the film. He identified himself as Secret Service.”
Or, others said that they met people there who identified themselves as police. In fact, there were pictures of policemen in the Dealey Plaza area, ostensibly Dallas policemen, but they’re in stage uniforms — they’re not in police uniforms. Their insignia don’t match Dallas police, their shoes are different from Dallas police, they’re carrying shotguns — something Dallas police don’t carry, and so on.
Who put those teams together? And who put them in Dallas at Dealey Plaza at this time? What arrangements were made ahead of the President’s murder that had all those actors there before the President was even shot? That’s how you answer the problem of who killed the President, how he was killed, and why he was killed. What pressure groups were built up that could put a team of hundreds of people to work on this, and then cover their activity for 30 years?
I haven’t even mentioned how other trained people, for instance, operated at the autopsy room — so that when the doctors, trying to save the life of the President, wrote down that they saw the whole back of the President’s head gone from the gunshot wound, that they operated on a cut in his throat that was an entry wound, then, by the time they had the autopsy in the Bethesda Naval Hospital (eight or ten hours later), they reported wounds of entry in different places. They had completely shifted the autopsy around. Who arranged all that? Who arranged that entire cover story?
Mr. Zapruder, who took the film of the act of the assassination — just happened to be there with a movie camera — he happened to taking pictures of the President’s car as it went by; somebody located him that night, and the Life Magazine people paid him — I don’t know, $50,000? — some big amount of money — for his film. Then, when the Life Magazine published extracts from his film, they reversed certain of the film slides to make it appear that the President’s head went forward, when it really went backward. And so, who set up that cover story?
You see, the whole thing is shot through with cover stories. That shows an enormous power center behind the killing of the President — certainly not Lee Harvey Oswald, or Castro, or the Mafia, or some other nebulous group. This was an inside, powerful group that scheduled all these events so that they would come together with, not only the murder of the President, but the takeover of the U.S. government.
Ratcliffe: In some of your articles (which are compiled in the book, JFK, The CIA, Vietnam, and the Plot to Assassinate John F. Kennedy) you write about this situation of the security being so lax in Dealey Plaza, and no one being on the buildings, and none of the windows being closed, and all of the airtight procedures that the Secret Service had developed as an agency since they had been formed after McKinley’s assassination — none of those procedures were followed that day.
Also Jim Garrison’s new book, On the Trail of the Assassins, lays out evidence of the parade-route map on the front page of the Dallas Morning News — that morning, November 22nd — showing the parade going straight down Main Street, never indicating any turn onto Houston or then another turn onto Elm. In this context, the top-level Secret Service people would not even be aware of this last-minute change — because, as of that morning, newspapers were still indicating the parade route would go straight down Main Street. What is your sense of how the Secret Service was fooled. Or, who was somehow involved in this monumental setting up of the ambush site by rerouting the last-minute change in the parade route to accommodate this absolutely essential place to get the car to go slow enough to get a shot in?
Prouty: That’s a very important detail that Jim Garrison has pointed out. Because, the Secret Service, along with its military assistants, studies the route that the President will travel over in any city — not just Dallas, any city — for at least 90 days ahead of time. They study all the idiosyncrasies of that bit of the city: where people could be hidden on a roof, what angle of fire they’d have from certain windows, what speed the car would be traveling at certain corners. And of course they try to reduce corners. They try to go perfectly straight and that’s what the map in the paper showed, a straight route right through the city.
It is not Secret Service policy to change a route at the last minute. They’ve done too much work. If something comes up that causes them to want to change a route at the last minute, they’re more apt to change the President’s trip entirely — not even have him stop there. They did that just before the trip to Dallas. It was either a trip to Chicago or a trip to Miami where they had some problem, and the public was told that President Kennedy was suffering from a severe cold and could not make the trip. Well, the Secret Service isn’t going to put him in a position where he’s doing something counter to their own best regulations. And they have very thorough regulations; they can keep the President alive.
So the fact that the parade route was changed and apparently changed even after the Dallas News had been told what the route was and after they printed a major map — what was it, about five-six columns of the front page? It was an enormous map on the front page of the paper. And then the route was changed in spite of that. This simply underscores the evidence that elements within the structure of the government, at a very high level, were able to get such things as that route changed. Despite the fact that they had told, for instance, the Dallas News, very shortly before the parade, that he was going to be on another route.
The important point is that, if the Dallas News knew that, the Dallas police knew that, the Dallas sheriff’s office knew that, the Secret Service knew that, the military people working on the visit knew that — everybody else knew that the route went one way — and then all of a sudden when he made this drastic change around the triangle there and the car slowed to four or five miles an hour, it was a shock to all of these people there. But what is really amazing is you don’t hear any of these people talking about that. And maybe hundreds of them were on duty that day and found that their jobs were totally ignored as the car went off on its own somewhere else, and yet there’s been no word from them. They’ve been covered up totally. You see, it works both ways. The place was left vacant of its normal guard, of its normal observation and all that sort of thing; and then the men who were there and saw this happen have been kept from speaking about that ever since it happened. I don’t know the witness of any man, from the Secret Service or any other place, who has tried to explain why that change was made. They just leave it hanging in the air like that as though, “Well, it’s something we can’t account for.” It’s part of the crime, just like everything else. And Garrison was right to point that out.
Ratcliffe: There are other discrepancies as well. There must have been a lot of people who did perceive a different parade route being defined on the spot that morning, because of course there was a great throng of people right at the corner of Houston and Elm, Zapruder was up on the pergola —
Prouty: But the streets were very close. It was a small triangle and the fact — as you notice in some of the pictures taken that people who had been on Main street were walking across the grass over to the other street. Really it was not that kind of a problem, from the viewer’s point of view. What it was is, it put the President at a very slow speed, making corners that he should not have been making, and right under the guns (and I say guns on purpose) that had been placed there to kill him. It was an absolute ambush if ever I saw one, a real Wild-West ambush.
The Volume and Significance of the Photographic Evidence
Ratcliffe:You showed me the AP photograph you had the other day of some of the tramps that were picked up. And there were no recorded arrests besides that of Lee Harvey Oswald that day, when in fact, at least in this case, there were four or five photographs of three different people being led from the railroad yards, through Dealey Plaza, over to the Sheriff’s Office. And yet there is no record of anyone else being arrested. But these people appeared to be being taken in. Although, as you said, some of the officers in those photographs are wearing stage uniforms, the emblems don’t match, etc. In one photograph particularly, there’s a person who is walking away from the camera — it’s the only person in the photograph you can’t see the face of — and one of the tramps in the front that he’s just passed has a sort of smirk on his face. Could you comment about your interpretation of who that is in that photograph?
Prouty: The photographic evidence of that day, taken as a whole, is absolutely amazing. I believe it has been said that there’s something between five or six thousand pictures taken including single slides from movie cameras and the rest. What various researchers have done is to take all these photographs and place them in a time frame, so you can see people standing in one place — and later here’s the same person over there — and begin to identify some of these people and their movements.
So we have worked very hard on looking carefully at who is in these pictures. Well, there are several of them that are really outstanding. And one of the most amazing is this group of these three men who the news stories said had been removed from a boxcar in a rail yard right in back of Dealey Plaza and were being led from that boxcar by police directly in front of the School Book Depository building to the Sheriff’s Office, and that’s the end of it. The trail ends. They weren’t booked. There’s no record of them at all.
Let’s look at the pictures. The pictures do show three men that researchers have called “tramps.” They’re dressed in brand-new clothes; they’ve got new shoes on; they have new clothes on, they are not tramps. The police that are leading them (one in front and one in back) are in what we call “stage costume police uniform” because they are not Dallas police costume — police uniforms. These “police” did not even put hand-cuffs on these “murderers.” Their insignia do not match. One of them has — very clearly — a hearing device in his ear. Their shotguns are not police shotguns, police don’t carry shotguns. Furthermore, the Dallas police don’t lead prisoners into the Sheriff’s Office. The police and the Sheriff’s Office work together, but their jobs are entirely different and taking prisoners to the Sheriff’s Office is the last place the police would take any prisoners. So, all that part of it is very questionable, and theatrical.
When researchers had arrived at that point, one of them came to me one day and said: “Look. Of all the pictures we’ve studied, this little episode of these men being marched across in front of the school depository building where Oswald was supposed to have been, and across the street in Dealey Plaza where the President’s car had just gone, into the Sheriff’s Office: there’s something wrong about these pictures.”
So we looked at them very carefully. And in the very first picture, in addition to the two policemen and the three “tramps” as they’re called, is another man. And he’s walking in the other direction so that his side and his back is more or less to the photographer rather than face forward. There’s something incongruous about it. How is it possible that anyone in Dealey Plaza at that moment would appear so relaxed? And here these men are probably being marched across there five minutes after the President was killed — everybody was running around, people were excited, sirens were blowing — and here’s this man in a business suit just casually walking along. He doesn’t even turn, he’s not looking at anybody. Just walking and he happens to pass by these men as they’re being marched along. At the very least he would be looking at these prisoners or looking at the policemen. Anybody would, especially at that time. This man is looking at nobody.
So we studied him a little while. As I looked at it — this occurred in ’66 or ’67 — I recognized immediately that the studiously unconcerned man is General Lansdale. Now, Lansdale is a very interesting figure in the Kennedy era. And I have known Lansdale. I worked with him off and on from about 1952 to 1963, sometimes in the same office in the Pentagon. He retired from the Air Force on October 31, 1963. That was less than one month before JFK’s death. Well of course the picture could have been a hundred other people and I could be wrong. But I knew him very well.
Then I looked at the tramps themselves. And there’s this strange little eye-catch between this man and the first tramp coming by. In other words, the first tramp, instead of being seriously concerned about the fact that he may be charged with the murder of the President, he’s smiling. And the second tramp has a sort of a quizzical little look, and you can tell that he has looked at this man walking by, and he has the same kind of approach, as though he’s just been reassured, everything’s all right. The third man happens to be in back from the camera’s point of view and you don’t see him at all. But that little bit of expression is saying an awful lot at that moment. The police themselves have expressions that indicate more that, as if they were saying to somebody, “Say, Boss, am I doin’ all right?”, that kind of thing. In other words, was Lansdale walking down right in front of the school book depository building to reassure those people? Maybe his employees? Or somebody that’s working for him? What’s the significance of that? It’s all in the pictures.
That happens to be my own interpretation. The men who had brought the pictures to me hadn’t the slightest idea who it was. I decided at that moment that what was needed next was a lot of research. So I got some very clear copies of those professional pictures (these pictures were taken by a professional news cameraman). I got a clear picture. I started mailing the picture to acquaintances of mine and acquaintances of Lansdale, who knew him, without stating any of my thoughts. I simply would send the picture and say, “Can you tell me what this looks like to you? This was taken shortly after the death of the President, and I wonder if this picture calls anything to mind to you.” You’d be amazed to find that from senior people, in the government (such as Lansdale was or such as I was at the time), I got immediate confirmation: “that’s Ed Lansdale.”
Well now, I don’t know why he was in Dallas. I can’t go into that. His own records, on file, show that he was in Ft. Worth just before the Kennedy visit. But it’s astounding that this man, who was Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations, after General Graves Erskine retired; who was the man who had more or less single-handedly set up Diem as President of South Vietnam; who, again almost single-handedly had set up President Magsaysay as President of The Philippines; who was considered probably the most significant person in the U.S. military/U.S. government on the subject of counterinsurgency, civic action, Special Forces, Green Beret troops — he had written the books that the Green Berets used in their courses down at Fort Bragg; what could have been his role at that time?
I had a very personal interest in that because, only a month or two before JFK’s death, Lansdale had met me in the halls of the Pentagon and said that he had arranged for me to go as a military escort officer with a VIP party to the South Pole. Of course I didn’t mind going, it was a paid vacation to the South Pole. But it had nothing in particular to do with my work, work I’d been doing for nine years in the Pentagon. There was no special reason why I should go, the work at the South Pole had nothing to do with special operations or covert activities. It was a perfectly above-board job. As a result of that meeting, I left for the South Pole on November 10th, 1963. I was in New Zealand on the way back from the South Pole when I heard about President Kennedy’s death.
Why Lansdale asked me to go to the South Pole I have no idea. Or, was there some connection between this role that he may have been playing in Dallas and the fact that he would just as soon I be out of town? I reflected on that, especially when I began to realize that almost all of Kennedy’s Cabinet had been out of town, that some 45 officials with the Cabinet were also out of town, in Honolulu and on their way to Tokyo. They were actually on their way to Tokyo when the President was killed. And over the years I have made a study of how many people, central to the inner workings of the secret government of this country, had been moved out of Washington at that time. It’s a very, very interesting subject. I wish I could answer it. I don’t know how to answer it. I’m sure the picture is Lansdale; others are sure it’s Lansdale, and I have to leave it there.
The Christchurch Star‘s Impact Upon the Facts of the Assassination
Ratcliffe:This experience you had in New Zealand is very interesting to me in terms of the influence and scope of the kinds of stories that were flooding out of (I think it was) British AP as well others in the hours immediately after the assassination. Why don’t you talk more about how you got the newspaper at the time and looking back on it now, how the paper’s content doesn’t make sense.
Prouty: This is an interesting aspect of the President’s murder, and I’d like to know more about what was printed in overseas papers. But I was in New Zealand (specifically Christchurch) at the time the President was killed. I was with a U.S. Congressman and we were having breakfast at 7:30 A.M. Of course it was shocking news; but limited over the radio. They only announced that he had been killed and he’d been killed in Dallas. And that’s all we knew for several hours.
Then the Christchurch newspaper came out. This was Saturday morning November 23, 1963 in Christchurch, New Zealand. It was an Extra. They were hawking it down the streets, and of course I ran out and grabbed the first copy I could get — which I still have.
It’s very interesting because news that’s printed immediately like that is more apt to come right from the true, eye-witness record than to have been massaged a little bit the way the weekly magazines had it, or even some of our own newspapers where they had access to things — their own telephones and all. And of course I understand completely that world news today is in real time, there’s no shortage of information. But the problem of researching and digging things out of files takes a certain amount of time. So this first paper on the street is really a most important statement of the way things were handled with respect to news immediately after — or even before — the President was killed.
So we read the paper, the Congressman and I — there’s a big picture of Kennedy in the paper, obviously — and a story about Kennedy and his 1000 Days in Washington and the significance of those events. The other half of the paper is devoted to what reporters right on the scene had sent out from Dallas. One report, either attributed to a reporter from Reuters or British AP, said that he heard ” three bursts of automatic weapons fire.”
Now, these experienced reporters, who have credentials to travel in Presidential processions like that, are highly qualified men. Many have been war correspondents and many have been in situations where they certainly know the difference between a single-shot rifle going bing-bing-bing over six seconds, or automatic-weapons fire where they’re going brrrrrrrrrr like that, and they know something happened. So those few lines, where the paper printed that the President was killed by bursts of automatic weapons fire, say quite a bit. Later the Warren Commission tried to tell us that a lone gunman fired three separate shots over 6.8 seconds. That’s the first point we noticed that had been corrupted by their “investigation.”
Then we read a little further down the column, and they began to talk about Lee Harvey Oswald. Now remember, on that date Lee Harvey Oswald was a nondescript American, ex-Marine, 23-24 years old. Of course, police have files on people and the newspapers have files, and with a little bit of research they can put these things together, and you can expect you’d get some information. But, what they printed about Oswald was very elaborate: that he had gone to Russia, he’d worked in Russia, he had defected to Russia, married a Russian wife, had come back and gone to work in Dallas, had worked with a Fair Play for Cuba Committee in New Orleans. It’s almost like a book written five years later. There’s enough information about Oswald to fill pages. Furthermore, there’s a picture of Oswald, well-dressed in a business suit, whereas, when he was picked up on the streets of Dallas after the Presidents death, he had on some T-shirt or something. Just dressed average with a polo shirt or something like that on, but not a business suit with a necktie and all.
Of course I had no reason not to believe what I read in that first paper. These things I’ve studied since then. But even so you wonder, now where did the paper get that information so immediately, and such complete information? But the headline was even more important. It said: “This is the man alleged to have shot the President.” Well now, the police in Dallas had picked up Oswald in a theater on the grounds that he may have been the killer of a Dallas policeman named Tippett. It was nearly one o’clock the next morning before the Dallas police had finally issued the charges against Oswald long after the paper had been printed.
Who had written that scenario? Who wrote that script? Who had packaged all that information and distributed it, all over the world (if it got to Christchurch, New Zealand, it must have been everywhere else)? Who had handled all that type of information prior to the President’s death?
Even this business of the “pre-arranged” news releases begins to tell you that a big organization — big enough to have planted this information ahead of the President’s death — was involved in the murder of the President. We’ve talked about the Honolulu conference and that the Cabinet members were there. The speeches some of those Cabinet members were supposed to have made in Japan were actually printed in American newspapers on the day they were supposed to have made the speeches, even though they never went to Japan. Now that’s not always too surprising because speeches are mailed out ahead of time. But it is surprising to think that, with the intervening death of the President, that something wasn’t done immediately to recall that kind of thing.
So much news was already written ahead of the time of the murder to say that Oswald killed the President and that he did it with three shots. Still, events like the statement of automatic-weapon fire nullify some of that; this is the clash between the reporter on the spot or the man who just got this big pre-arranged release coming over the wires that said Oswald was the killer of the President. I suppose if somebody got newspapers from 100 different cities around the world, you’d be able to corroborate this even better, because the information fed to them was all work done prior to the shooting. Somebody had decided Oswald was going to be the patsy. And that’s what the newspaper’s were saying. Here’s his picture, right in the Christchurch, New Zealand, paper — right along in the same issue with the picture of President Kennedy. Where did they get it, before the police had charged him with the crime? Not so much “where”, as “why Oswald?”
Ratcliffe: What is significant to me is that you said you got that paper by midday on Saturday, your time — put it at about 4:30 in the afternoon on Friday, November 22nd, Central Daylight Time — which was at least eight hours before Oswald was charged officially with the murder of the President.
Prouty: To put the times in perspective: JFK was killed in Dallas at about 12:30 in the afternoon. That corresponded to 7:30 in the morning in Christchurch, New Zealand. I got the paper before noon, which was, we’ll say 7:30 to noon — that would mean, in Dallas, about 4:30 in the afternoon. Oswald hadn’t even been charged by the police with the murder — with the shooting of the President — by 4:30 in the afternoon. How did the papers get the information to say that, before that time? Then the rest of the things that are in the paper also are equally unfounded. the paper was saying what the police were going to say some eight hours later. It had to have been a set-up job to put that information in the papers — and such a lot of information — I’m only quoting a few things. The articles that I’m talking about were on the front page. They also had follow-on in the back pages of the paper. It was filled with facts about Oswald that most people didn’t know for days and days in the rest of the country.
Prouty: Directly from Dallas. Yes. Yes. And did you realize that the same “three bursts of automatic weapons fire” is what CBS used when they broke into all of the network programs with the first news of the assassination? The very same words. Why haven’t we heard an explanation of that message and its source?
So there are intervening procedures there. But again, we understand that news can originate anywhere in the world in real-time. That’s not the problem. The issue is the content, how the content could have been collated and put together immediately. If anybody wants to study this in a rather interesting parallel, read the newspapers immediately after the allegation that President Reagan was shot by Hinckley right on the streets of Washington, and you’ll see that it took hours and hours for information to fall out of the papers with regard to Hinckley and his background. Whereas the information that came out about Oswald was out right away, in minutes. It doesn’t make sense.
Ratcliffe: To be able to lay things like this down and have the planted stories ready to go before the actual events themselves transpired, certainly indicates some level of tremendously powerful influences or interests operating behind the scenes — powerful, in fact, mostly because of their invisibility. Because it’s so hard to pin them down, to point at any group or interest that could be a likely candidate for a lot of this type of organization, planning, and real-time dissemination of false stories and whatever else — to produce the stories that then became “the truth.”
- See “Kennedy Asks Joint Moon Flight By U.S. and Soviet as Peace Step; Urges New Accords in U.N. Speech,” and “Washington is Surprised By President’s Proposal”, New York Times, Sept. 21, 1963, p.1
- See “Appendix D” on page 333 for a copy of the March 15, 1985 response to Fletcher Prouty from Victor Krulak (Commandante of the Marine Corps and Prouty’s superior in the Office of SACSA) with Krulak’s assertion, “That is indeed a picture of Ed Lansdale.”
- For an extensive analysis of the on-going cover-story and some of the techniques employed to discredit sources like Fletcher Prouty, see Appendix F, on page 341.