Well OK, so I’m missing in action from posting but as I’ve noted, I’m deep into research and writing on some 60 years of deniable warfare and that’s pretty much a full time activity.

From time to time it does lead me into the activities of certain people we all know from the JFK era and most recently I was pretty amazed to find that with all the time I’d spent on the secret war against Cuba and the Bay of Pigs operation, I’d missed out on the fact that the Bay of Pigs operation was not the only major CIA operation going on with Allen Dulles “out of town” and “out of touch”.

It’s always seemed rather strange that Dulles would have been away from DC at the time of what was probably the largest CIA military operation up to that date – and frankly one that was never going to be deniable under any circumstances. I mean you just can’t run a paratroop drop, land a small army from landing craft – supported by a tank group coming off tank landing craft and pretend that the Cuban exiles did this all by themselves.  Regardless with any games you play with falsely marked B-26 aircraft.

Given Dulles’ career and experience, if he had been in town and in close contact with JFK, its quite possible that he could have gotten the approval for more air strikes or even pushed for carrier jet support as a last resort.  After all, he had been through the same thing in Guatemala when Eisenhower had a Naval group and seaborne marines off shore as backup for PB/SUCCESS (indeed a strong argument can be made that the naval force was what really scared Arbenz from full military engagement in defense of his government).

But how many of us knew that at the same time the deniable B-26 attacks were occurring over Cuba, the U.S. had committed to a major escalation in Laos, one involving a series of major bombing strikes against the Plain of Jars. President Kennedy had approved the bombing operation on March 9 and the bomber force was to launch on April 17, within hours of the landings in Cuba. The attacks would have involved 16 B-26’s flying in four ship cells and supported by two additional B-26 reconnaissance aircraft. They would be piloted by a mix of Air America and USAF volunteers – the planes were armed and manned on April 16.  Crews were given fake papers identifying them as pilots in the Royal Laotian Air Force. At that time the Laotians were not operating B-26’s nor would anyone have found it credible that they could launch the sort of attack that had been prepared.

The Laos air strikes were canceled only at the very last minute, reportedly upon word of the disaster going on at the Bay of Pigs. The aircraft were maintained in Thailand for another four months, but the overall military intervention that they would have supported (Operation Mill Pond) never jelled.

While not as massive as the insertion of the Brigade into Cuba, the airstrikes against the Plain of Jars would have been a major American intervention in Laos, and equally undeniable.

Two major covert operations, on opposite sides of the globe, synchronized to support each other and send a very obvious signal about American decisiveness.   And the Director of the CIA, ultimately responsible for organizing both of them, was missing in action.

– reminds me of a line from Buffalo Springfield…  “somethings happening here, what it is ain’t exactly clear…

(for those looking for references and additional detail, check Air Commando One, the biography of Heinie Anderholt; Anderholt was personally involved in staging and logistics of the B-26’s used in both Cuba and Laos. See in particular,
Chapter 5).


















About Larry Hancock

Larry Hancock is a leading historian-researcher in the JFK assassination. Co-author with Connie Kritzberg of November Patriots and author of the 2003 research analysis publication titled also Someone Would Have Talked. In addition, Hancock has published several document collections addressing the 112th Army Intelligence Group, John Martino, and Richard Case Nagell. In 2000, Hancock received the prestigious Mary Ferrell New Frontier Award for the contribution of new evidence in the Kennedy assassination case. In 2001, he was also awarded the Mary Ferrell Legacy Award for his contributions of documents released under the JFK Act.

2 responses »

  1. Alan Kent says:

    But, did Dulles want the air strikes, or did he want something more? Did Cabell want the air strikes – even though he declined to call JFK – or did he want something more? Did they simply read JFK wrongly at that very early time in his administration? Was Michael Morrissey onto something? Questions…not answers…

    • Alan, I think at this point we know that the overall plan called for something more – it called for Castro to be dead at the time of the landing. Dulles, et all at least admitted something else was planned. For that matter, on a lower tactical level, there were a series of diversionary attacks that should have happened but didn’t. One thing we normally don’t do is critique what did and did not happen to the overall plan, not just to the events on one landing site. From another perspective, we now know that Bissell was tragically misleading JFK for weeks before hand, telling him one thing and his field commanders another – for all we know he was doing the same to Dulles. From yet another angle, I can tell you that the planning and operational preparation for the Laotian air strikes was excellent and with Anderholt in command of that the entire situation in Laos could have changed literally overnight – favorably. That is exactly opposite from what was going on with the Cuba operation – virtually anybody should be able to foresee that once Bissell isolated his air unit from both the ground command and even worse from the tactical commanders on the beach….huge problem. Plus Bissell had committed to one and all that the entire Cuban air force had to be destroyed before the landing proceeded – he he knew it had not been and went right ahead, apparently not going to anyone in command with the question of aborting the entire operation.

      I have to say my personal opinion is that it looks like a massive mistake….in today’s world the President would have been sitting in the situation room receiving constant operational updates. In 1960 JFK trusted that Eisenhower’s plan was being executed by professionals – he should have asked a lot more tactical questions and had them on a much shorter leash. Contrast that in 1961 with his command and control in 1962 during the missile crisis….he learned, it was the hard way.

      As to Dulles, well I have to say the more I actually study CIA paramilitary operations and their command and control…this sort of thing just had to happen at some point. The military case officers did know what they were doing and what they needed, higher up the chain of command – not so much and constant politically oriented waffling. The bigger picture has definitely altered my view of events in 61-63.

      — Larry

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