Hopefully Bill Simpich and Zach Robertson may find time to collaborate on a fully discussion of Hal Feeney but for the moment they have given me permission to use their research in an expanded discussion of the diverse efforts that occurred during the secret war on Cuba, something we often only discuss in terms of the CIA’s involvement. We need to remember that the US military was very much involved in the secret war against Cuba, not only in a support role for the CIA but in its own intelligence work and contacts with the Cuban exiles. For example Army intelligence was very interested in obtaining eastern bloc and Russian weapons and in that effort made ongoing contacts with Alpha 66, working though Antonio Veciana in 1962 and 1963.

Earlier than that, Naval intelligence was connecting to Cuban exiles via the base at Guantanamo. In particular it appears that Hal Feeney, as the head of ONI at the installation, contacted, encouraged and supported an independent group effort to attack Fidel Castro. On the surface that effort appears to be the same one that David Phillips mentions in his own book, distancing himself from it of course but given that Veciana was involved I would question just how distant Phillips (well in his Maurice Bishop incarnation) really was from that abortive effort

Feeny was detailed from ONI to work with the Cuban exile Brigade, his role in that is nebulous but he apparently was in the training camps there and might have been one of the unnamed Americans who encouraged the Brigade commanders to proceed with the plan even if it was aborted at the last minute by Washington?  What investigation has shown is that Feeney was indeed very close to some of the most militant exiles, whom he had helped exfiltrate back though Guantanamo after the Bay of Pigs disaster.

Later in 1962 Feeney worked with David Morales, supporting JMWAVE’s ongoing maritime activities against Cuba. But by 1963 he had moved into a position with the DIA, assigned to its work on the secret war against Cuba. At that point in time the Kennedy Administration had become less than confident in the CIA and the military was being given a preeminent position in new covert operations against both Cuba and North Vietnam.In his new role, Feeney continued to prepare plans for regime change in Cuba, the programs were serious enough that they were being prepared for circulation though the Joint Chiefs to the Special Group of the NSC by late 1963. In his obituary Feeny was described as having been a consultant to the NSC.

This is all important information in regard to establishing the context of events in 1963 and Bill and Zach are doing some great work on it.  In addition it helps all of us understand how complex shadow warfare can be and how many parties are involved in it, often with very different ideas of how it should be pursued.


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.

18 responses »

  1. grassyknollgirl63 says:

    Fascinating post Larry, thanks. I find it to be very true from my own studies that the role of ONI and the military do not seem to be mentioned as much when talking about Cuba in the 60’s. I have not read a lot on Feeney but what you say is interesting – did not know he was connected to Morales or that the ONI would have sent him to work with the Brigade. I look forward to hearing more about this. It fits a lot with what I remember Nagell and I think Fletcher Prouty saying – that people from different agencies often were loaned out to others (in Nagell’s case, he claimed, without his knowledge) and the cooperation between different bodies was more fluid that people think. If that makes any sense. Hence someone like Oswald could have been working for several agencies….

    • I’m not sure why Feeney would have been sent to work with the Brigade per se but one thing that occurs to me is that apparently Guantanamo was used as an exit point for some of the exiles put onto the island and even some of the Brigade who did manage to escape worked out through there. There were also other assets on island to support the mission that were not directly involved in the landing. Perhaps Feeney was giving briefings for security protocols that would be in place and special “rat lines” that could be used for exfilitaration. Just a wild guess. Since the Navy was also doing a lot of intel collection on Cuba (you can find that in JFK related documents), he may also have been doing some intelligence briefings, again, just a guess.

      Your second point triggered some thoughts about sharing and cooperation and I will blog about that as soon as possible. Generally speaking the military shared with the CIA and the CIA shared with nobody. Sort of like the general police attitude towards the FBI, they want everything and share virtually nothing. The CIA was infamous for essentially stealing assets from other agencies. I’ll elaborate when I get a chance..

    • ingemar says:

      About ONI, the Chiefs of Staff and Cuba.

      It seems plausible to me that the Director of Naval Intelligence ( Director of ONI ) also reported to the USMC Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence ( G-2 ).

      Between July 1962 and January 1964 the USMC Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence was Robert E. Cushman, Jr.

      Cushman was very much involved in the preparations of the Bay of Pigs operation in 1960, pressured by Richard Nixon. I believe that Cushman was the one who came up with the idea of an amphibious assault and asked David M. Shoup to assign an amphibious warfare expert to the C/WH/4 staff. Cushman also suggested that the US Marines could jump in when necessary. From then on the operation shifted from a guerilla operation into an amphibious assault. Fletcher Prouty believed and has stated that the CIA was responsible for the shift of the operation, but I believe it was Richard Nixon.

      Cushman went on to become the D/DCI of course, but one of the Directors of Naval Intelligence who likely reported to Cushman for a while also became a D/DCI : Rufus L. Taylor.

      • Ingemar, I offer considerable detail in the shift of the initial Eisenhower approved guerrilla operation to a full fledged Bissell organized landing force in NEXUS, much of that is based in Don Bohnings interviews with the field commanders themselves but the rest is from the follow on investigations. Clearly it was something that Bissell did himself and the time frame is pretty definitive. Now who might have been influencing him if anyone, I’m certainly not in a postilion to say but I don’t think the transition itself is mysterious any longer. One thing that is interesting though is that in his transition conversations with JFK, Eisenhower seems to have focused much of his time and warnings on Laos rather than Cuba – something that surprised Kennedy. Eisenhower was an honorable man and my speculation is that he himself did not realize how the plan had morphed late in his Administration. The military commanders did though, warning Bissell about things he had to tell Kennedy and dates he had to meet – none of that happened.

  2. Ingemar says:

    “…and [ Finney / Feeney ] might have been one of the unnamed Americans who encouraged the Brigade commanders to proceed with the plan even if it was aborted at the last minute by Washington?”

    You obviously refer to the Frank Egan story ( Don Bohning, The Castro Obsession, pp. 41 – 46 and Haynes Johnson, The Bay of Pigs, pp. 75 – 76 ).

    I do not believe that Finney / Feeney was one of the unnamed Americans and what is more I do not believe that Frank Egan had mutiple bosses at the time.

    Bohning writes that Egan was “the on-site paramilitary operations chief who reported to Hawkins. Egan was already with the Cuba Project in Washington when the transformation began in November 1960 from a guerilla operation to an invasion. He then was assigned to Base Trax in Guatemala to direct the brigade training.”

    First of all Bohning fails to mention that there were mutiple bases in and outside Guatemala that were used for the training and he fails to mention that Egan was assigned as Acting Chief of Base of Camp Trax ( JM / TRAV ) while there were other Chiefs of Base and Chiefs of Training, for instance at the Retalhuleu air base ( JM / ADD ).

    More importantly, he also fails to mention that Hawkins was not Egan’s boss when Egan became the Acting Chief of Base at Camp Trax. Could Bohning have suspected who Egan’s boss really was at the time ?
    Yes, definitely. Egan’s boss is mentioned on page 58 of Peter Wyden’s Bay of Pigs and on page 61 of Haynes Johnson’s Bay of Pigs. He was called “Bernie” and to the Cubans known as “Sitting Bull”.
    Could Bohning have suspected who this man was ?
    Yes, definitely. His real name was mentioned by Bradley Ayers in his book “The War That Never Was” on page 209. Could Bohning have checked whether Ayers was right or wrong?
    Yes, definitely. 1 : Ayers’s Office of Securrity file contains a memorandum from Richard V. Long, Chief, Security Support Division to General Counsel about “The War That Never Was” in which Long states : “All staff employees, with one exception, have their names disguised. The one true name used is that of Ernest “Ernie” SPARKS, a retired operations officer, identified as the JMWAVE Chief of Training in the 1964 time frame.”
    2 : Peter Kornbluh, Bay of Pigs Declassified, p. 211.
    3 : Howard Hunt, Give Us This Day, p. 9, p.26 and p. 68 ( Hunt calls him “Ned”, “Ned” was replaced by Col “Haskins”, real name Hawkins ).

    Additional sources published after Bohning’s “The Castro Obsession” :
    1 : Bradley Ayers, The Zenith Secret, p. 105.
    2 : E. Howard Hunt, American Spy, pp. 115 – 116. Confusing, because the ghostwriter writes about Sparks behavior ( heavy drinker, wearing cowboy boots ) but mentions his name as Hawkins instead of Sparks.
    3 : Official History of the Bay Of Pigs operation, Volume I, p 130. Volume II, p 31 and p. 37. Volume III, p. 141.

    To summarize : Ernest W. Sparks was the first C/WH/4/PM and was succeeded by Col. Jack Hawkins in September 1960. Sparks then became the Chief of the Chiefs and Acting Chiefs of Base in Guatemala ( hence Egan’s boss ) and reported to Robert K. “Bob” Davis, the Chief of Station as his liaison officer in charge of all the JM / ATE ( Bay of Pigs operation ) activities in Guatemala.

    • Very interesting detail Ingemar, certainly I have no way of determining exactly who the individual was one way or the other. It is clear that there were other CIA personnel going in and out of the basis in transit and TDY roles who were not in the chain of command or would have even been considered permanent detail. The remark on Feeney was simply a casual one on my part with nothing specific to support him over anyone else. In any event, thanks for the information, Larry

  3. Anonymous says:

    I have read Nexus and I do not agree with you about the time frame of the shift and the idea originating with Bissell.

    Hawkins started on 01 September, 1960 which means that the decision for the shift had been taken before that date. I consider the time frame summer 1960.

    Bissell did not have a military background, but Cushman did. Cushman was pressured by Nixon and was his “coordinator among the various government agencies. ” ( Wyden, p. 29 and Trumbull Higgins, The Perfect Failure, p. 51 and p. 63 ). Nixon wanted something to happen very fast and he had Cushman to manage that.

    I do agree with you that Eisenhower did not know what Nixon was up to and as a military man Eisenhower would never have approved an amphibious assault.

    • Anonymous, that could very well be true, I can certainly see Nixon pushing and heaven knows he would not have had the experience or intel to push the right direction….never did in any of his covert ops; he continuously ordered people to do difficult and risky things. My point would that as project Chief Bissell was the man responsible and when his military people started objecting to the plans…which they clearly did including the whole idea of a Tank unit…and eventually openly telling him it would not work, he was the fellow who kept pushing it forward. There is even some reason to think that if the landing had occurred a year earlier it might have succeeded.

      I’ve gotten to the point where I can accept we simply won’t ever know some of the levels of these things and I’m certainly willing to cede that you and Ingemar could well be on target with a Nixon push.

      • Ingemar says:

        I have to apologize to you Larry. I forgot to register my name and email adress. Anonymous and I are the same person.

        And by the way. Like I stated Bissell did not have a military background but Cushman did have that background. But to be more specific, he had an amphibious warfare background !

        “Upon his return to the United States in May 1945, LtCol Cushman was stationed at Marine Corps Schools, Quantico, for three years. During that period he completed the Senior School, served as an instructor in the Command and Staff School, and during the latter two years was Supervisory Instructor, Amphibious Warfare School. In June 1948, he was named Head of the Amphibious Warfare Branch, Office of Naval Research, Navy Department, Washington, D.C.” ( Wikipedia ).

        I believe that after talking to Nixon, Dulles told Bissell to deal with Cushman, Nixon’s
        “coordinator among the various government agencies. ” ( Wyden, p. 29 and Trumbull Higgins, The Perfect Failure, p. 51 and p. 63 ). I also believe that Dulles told Kennedy that he followed orders from the White House, but he did not tell Kennedy that those orders came from Nixon instead of Eisenhower. So, Kennedy checked with Eisenhower to find out that Eisenhower had not approved an amphibious assault. Then Kennedy knew that Dulles either had not checked whether Eisenhower had approved an amphibious assault or that Dulles did check but ignored Eisenhower.

        Joachim Joesten has written ( back in 1962 ) that Eisenhower had two options : An amphibious assault by the Marines or a covert CIA guerilla-infiltration operation. Eisenhower chose the covert option which also is an indication that he never would have approved an amphibious assault as a second track.

        In the end it was Nixon who was responsible for this shift, not Bissell.
        Additional source : Anthony Summers, The Arrogance of Power, pp. 185 – 186.

      • Hi Ingemar, that simplifies matters since I can agree with both of you at once…grin. As I said, I certainly can accept that and for that matter I have no problem accepting that Eisenhower might well have let Nixon take personal charge in the formative phase somewhat as JFK handed off Cuba to RFK. Probably a bad mistake on the part of both. Eisenhower may literally have assumed the project was proceeding on the relatively low profile track initially approved, that would explain his not making it the top priority in his talk with JFK and focusing on Laos instead. We’ll probably never know for sure but certainly that overall scenario makes sense.

        And of course we will be left in the dark about exactly what did occur in the Bissiell/JFK dialogs although at least we know from the interviews with Bissell’s military chiefs what he promised them and most definitely did not deliver. Actually another individual infrequently discussed in all of this is J.C. King. King seems to have stayed on top of things without ever really inserting himself into operations…but he was involved enough to have briefed select, very wealthy business types before both the Guatemala and Cuban invasions actually launched and he approved the TILT mission – all in all he seemed to have crossed the line on security numerous times. I’d like to know more about his own personal “deep politics”.

  4. Ingemar says:

    “Eisenhower may literally have assumed the project was proceeding on the relatively low profile track initially approved, that would explain his not making it the top priority in his talk with JFK and focusing on Laos instead.“

    Yes, but I believe you refer to the January 1961 talk. In my post I referred to the April 22, 1961 talk at Camp David after the Bay of Pigs fiasco.

    Nixon’s Push :

    “As another chapter of the Cold War, in March 1960, President Eisenhower had approved the beginnings of a clandestine campaign against Fidel Castro in Cuba. Later, during the summer of 1960, while Vice President Richard Nixon was stepping up his campaign to succeed Eisenhower, the VP secretly met with the NSC, urging more action against Castro.” ( Fletcher Prouty, JFK, p. 100 ).
    The result of this was track two : the amphibious assault as a second track parallel to the guerilla-infiltration track. To me it seems that the CIA just followed the NSC’s and the VP’s orders. But I also believe that Dulles should have checked with Eisenhower about the results of this secret meeting. It is speculation but it seems possible that Nixon wanted the US Armed Forces to participate in that amphibious assault ( in fact Cushman suggested that the Marines could jump in when necessary ) and that Nixon and Dulles did not want Eisenhower to know that. I mentioned in a previous post that Joachim Joesten has written in 1962 that Eisenhower had two options, the overt one ( US Marines ) and the covert one ( CIA operation ). Eisenhower chose the covert one and it would have been very unlogical that he would have approved the second track, which was in fact the other option that he did not choose a few months before. I believe that Nixon, Dulles, Cushman and the Joint Chiefs knew about Eisenhower’s decision not to choose the overt option and the reasons why he did not choose that option.

    Nixon and Cushman attented dozens of meetings about the Cuban project ( Anthony Summers, Arrogance of Power, p.185 and Lamar Waldron, Watergate, p. 99 ). The minutes and notes from almost all of these meetings with the CIA have still not been declassified. ( Lamar Waldron, Watergate, p. 99 ).

    On page 184 of Arrogance of Power Anthony Summers wrote : “He [ Nixon ] attended two hundred NSC meetings and presided over twenty-six of them. His assistant for NSC affairs, Brigadier General Robert Cushman, brought him a full intelligence briefing every morning.”
    “The agency had come to treat the vice president as its “friend at court” and made certain he received a regular flow of intelligence.”

    This last sentence reminded me of the VP Johnson – Burris – CIA connection described by John Newman ( JFK and Vietnam ) and I believe that this VP – militairy aide – CIA connection could very well have been ( and maybe still is ) one of those “methods and techniques” of the agency.

    If Nixon really wanted the US Armed Forces to participate in the amphibious assault with the necessary air cover and if that was communicated to the Anti-Castro Cubans, then it would explain why many of them believed and still believe that the US Armed Forces would help them. Of course, things changed and I believe that those changes were not communicated to many of them. Maybe because the CIA feared bad morale if they had communicated those changes to them.

    So, yes I agree with you that it was a very big mistake by Eisenhower to appoint Nixon as the White House action officer for the Cuba project.

    • Ingemar, I not only agree with your assessment in regard to Nixon but your remark on CIA use of Burris raises a fascinating point. One of the things we have learned is that several of the agencies, primarily the FBI and CIA were constantly driven to collect information on not just each other but on people who could influence their budgets or make life either difficult or easy for them. The FBI’s list of special political informants is amazing, Hoover wanted secretaries and aides as sources inside Congressman’s officers, on Congressional committees and certainly in the offices of major elected officials. The FBI even went so far as to designate James Angleton, who the CIA considered a liaison to the FBI as an informant.

      We also know that the CIA went to some pains to build psychological and personality profiles on major figures, both internally and domestically. Being socially networked to military aides to senior figures such as the Vice President would be an excellent way to do that. Senior CIA officers used that approach with key media figures such as Alsop, certainly they would do the same with key military contacts…and as you noted, Burris was personally connected to just such a senior CIA officer.

      It’s come up before that Johnson seriously undercut Kennedy during the trip that JFK had him take to Vietnam. JFK instructed him to listen and make no commitments, yet in a press conference Johnson brought up exactly the outline and numbers of a proposal that CIA had on the table and JFK was not at all happy. Certainly Johnson could have been fed exactly that information in one of the routine reports Burris prepared for him. And all of this is reinforced by a vary interesting incident. Once he assumed office Johnson loudly and profanely made it clear that he didn’t want a lot of military aides around him – warning the Joint Chiefs that if they thought they could influence him in that fashion they underestimated him (boy did I clean that up, Johnson was one gross individual). The real point being, he may have had first hand experience in knowing how aides could be used.

      ….not to mention that Johnson as a Senator was famed for putting is own network of appointees into key agencies as informants, although his interests were more domestically oriented.

      • Ingemar says:

        Yes Larry and I believe that you refer to the former Chief of Air Force Intelligence Charles Pearre Cabell and the former Chief of the Air Force Intelligence Division in the Western Pacific Edward Geary Lansdale. Howard Lay Burris was also an Air Force Intelligence officer.

        Ernest W. Sparks’ boss in Guatemala, Chief of Station Robert K. Davis was not allowed to report to his boss in Washington about matters that concerned the Cuba project. He had to report to Richard Bissell. Of course, the Chief of Station’s boss was J.C. King, C/WH Division.

        J.C. King :

        In December 1959 or January 1960 he recruited his Venezuela Chief of Station Jacob D. Esterline who became the first C/WH/4 until June 1961 ( Peter Kornbluh, Bay of Pigs Declassified, p. 258, James Blight and Peter Kornbluh, Politics of Illusion, p 23, Don Bohning, The Castro Obsession, p. 16 ).
        This happened before March 17, 1960. When the Cuba project finally got underway J.C. King and his Western Hemisphere Division were excluded from the Cuban project. ( Peter Wyden, Bay of Pigs, p. 24, Trumbull Higgins, The Perfect Failure, p. 46 and p.51, Evan Thomas, The Very Best Men, p. 204, Don Bohning, The Castro Obsession, p. 25 ).

        Of course, that had to do with track 1 ( the Eisenhower approved infiltration-guerilla operation ) and track 2 ( the amphibious assault ).

        However, in 1959 another track had already started. A track that also exposed the real reasons of the the entire operation that was still to come. Men with business interests began to pressure Nixon to do something about Castro. Among them Meyer Lansky and William D. Pawley. Pawley was friends with Nixon, Dulles and J.C. King and Pawley asked them to kill Castro. Nixon is believed to have authorized the plots and J.C. King suggested the assassination officially in December 1959. ( Anthony Summers, Arrogance of Power, chapters 16 and 17 and Lamar Waldron, Watergate, chapters 5, 6 and 7 ).

        Apart from the official assassination track Pawley also initiated his own projects to have Castro killed. One of his associates was Alexander I. Rorke, who engineered a Castro assassination plot. Another private initiative by Pawley was the TILT-mission you mentioned. So, no wonder that J.C. King as a Pawley friend approved it. I have long wondered whether Pawley is the unnamed officer mentioned on pages 212 and 213 of Peter Kornbluh’s Bay of Pigs Declassified. An interesting biography on Pawley could be the one written by Anthony Carrozza, reviewed by Peter Dale Scott : http://www.globalresearch.ca/william-pawley-the-kennedy-assassination-and-watergate-tilt-and-the-phase-three-story-of-clare-boothe-luce/5313486

        Of course, J.C. King was a businessman himself. He sold his company to Johnson & Johnson and he seemed to have had business connections in Latin America. As C/WH Division he was succeeded in 1964 by Desmond FitzGerald.

        In December 1960 Dulles had met with businessmen who had Cuban business interests and he decided it was time to do something ( Joan Mellen, The Great Game in Cuba, p. 132, companies with Cuban business interests are mentioned on page 87 ).

        Joachim Joesten has written several times that the CIA had ( and probably still has ) strong connections with the US Corporate World. In fact, according to Joesten, the CIA was the only US Government institution that was run like a company, hence the nickname.

        “One of the least-known divisions of the CIA is that headed by the deputy director of economics. This division [ sic, he probably means directorate ] moves into a country to work with a new regime and to begin the task of selecting and setting up new franchise holders for as many goods as possible to assure that they are imported from American companies and that those from other sources, formerly the Soviet sphere in particular, are excluded.” ( Fletcher Prouty, JFK, p. 236 ).

        I like to add the securing of natural resources. Iran / Persia ( 1953 ) US oil interests, Guatemala ( 1954 ), United Fruit, Indonesia ( 1958 ), natural resources, Cuba ( 1959 / 1960 ), US business interests and natural resources like nickel, Congo ( 1960 ) natural resources ( according to Joachim Joesten, the first man to appear on the scene after the hostilities were over in 1965 was David Rockefeller ), Boliva ( 1964 ), natural resources like lithium, Indonesia ( 1965 ), natural resources, Chile ( 1970 ), natural resources like copper and the interests of PepsiCo.

        Deep Politics : I picture a triangle and the vertices are labeled : Corporate World, Government / Politicians, ( Organized ) Crime. The edge between the Corporate World and the Goverment / Politicians represents the lobby. They need each other, so they work together.

      • Just a couple of comments triggered by Ingemar’s remarks..

        1) In regard to Bissell and reporting, one of the major criticisms of the Bay of Pigs operation was that Bissell seems to have consolidated a great deal of communications and compartmentalized it from the actual military personnel involved. One of the biggest complaints that the officers had was that they had no direct access to the air operations group. That lengthened the communications cycle and most likely kept certain of the intelligence related from the actual pre invasion air strikes from them. A terrible way to run a military operation.

        2) In my response about CIA influence on military officers I’d like to touch on a fine point. A great many military personnel at all levels were routinely “detailed” to CIA assignments throughout their careers. And in most cases it didn’t necessarily help them from a career standpoint for a variety of reasons. In other cases some of them became permanent with the CIA and that did help them if they were in on the right operations. However from a “back channel” perspective, the most valuable military people would be those military officers assigned as aides or in staff positions that would allow CIA senior officer opinions to “embed” information in their routine work. The example of Helms and Burris is a perfect illustration of that because Helms could influence Burris and then that would simply show up in his routine briefing papers for Johnson. That would be very much in the same fashion as the most successful CIA media efforts where they simply bonded with a media figure and let their views or selectively leaked information show up in stories or columns. Joe Alsop is probably a model for that.

        3) Ingemar’s comments on the CIA’s economics efforts are very interesting, we tend to become so focused on Plans/Operations or Security that the broader scope of the Agency including its political and economic missions gets lost. The bottom line was that they were chartered with opposing communist influence across a broad spectrum. Well that and it probably makes for duller books too…grin.

  5. Ingemar says:

    RE: 1
    If one reads the comments made by Jack Hawkins and Jacob Esterline ( Don Bohning, The Castro Obsession ) and the comments of Lyman Kirkpatrick ( Peter Kornbluh, Bay of Pigs Declassified ) you do get that impression.

    However, Peter Kornbluh included Bissell’s “Analysis of the Cuban Operation” which included Bissell’s reply ( 12 October 1960, pp. 196 – 199 ) to a memorandum by Jack Hawkins ( dated 05 October 1960 ), forwarded to Bissell by Esterline, in which Bissell clearly states that :
    “A : Operational control of all air forces and facilities required and employed in the Cuban Project will be assigned to Chief, CTF.
    B: Chief, CTF will exercise this control through a newly created staff section for air operations in the CTF.”

    Bissell and Col. Stanley W. Beerli assigned Lt. Col. George Gaines, Jr, who was already full time chief of air operations for JM / ATE ( reporting to Beerli ), as the chief of the air staff in the CTF reporting to Esterline ( Chief, CTF = Cuban Task Force ). From then on Gaines had two bosses to report to. See also Volume I of the Official History of the Bay of Pigs Operation by Jack Pfeiffer. Of course, Bissell should have asked Esterline regularly whether Esterline was briefed regularly by Gaines and if not Bissell should have asked Beerli to take appropriate action. Whether Bissell regularly checked or did not check with Esterline about Esterline being briefed regularly by Gaines, I do not know. Of course, Don Bohning did not interview George Gaines who died in 2011.

    So, to me it seems that Bohning’s chapters on the Bay of Pigs are somewhat one-sided. But what is more I found two statements made by Hawkins in the book that contradict each other partly. About the Bay of Pigs landing site : “We could seize a beachhead and hold it for several days and possibly longer, but operations beyond the beachhead would not be possible” ( p. 32 ). The new site ( Bay of Pigs ) “could neither hold a beachhead nor advance beyond it” ( p. 59 ).

    I also found out while reading “The Castro Obsession” that Esterline and Hawkins already knew that not all of the B-26’s would fly sorties during the first strike on Saturday, April 15 when they visited Bissell on Sunday, April 09 ( p. 34, p. 40, p. 48, p. 60 and p. 63 ). According to a lot of authors JFK is alleged to have made that decision on Friday, April 14. Those authors usually refer to Peter Wyden, Bay of Pigs, p. 170 and Richard Bissell, Reflections of a Cold Warrior, p. 183, which is something that Bohning also does on page 35, but he does not draw the obvious conclusion from his interviews with Hawkins and Esterline that Bissell, Hawkins and Esterline already had that knowledge before JFK is alleged to have made the decision.

    I wanted to find out when JFK had ordered Bissell to “make it minimal” and when Esterline and Hawkins were informed about it. So, I assumed that Bissell relied on Wyden’s Bay of Pigs instead of his own memory and / or notes and that meant that only one source remained : Wyden’s Bay of Pigs. I found out that pages 170 and 173 contradict each other. Wyden does not mention references for both pages, but I believe that the source for page 173 is Operation Puma by Edward B. Ferrer, the C-46 squadron commander for the Bay of Pigs air force. According to page 173 the pilots were informed by either George Gaines, Jr or by Garfield M. Thorsrud on either Wednesday morning, April 12 or Thursday morning, April 13, that only six ( it turned out to be eight ) B-26’s were to fly sorties during the first strike on Saturday, April 15. Either way, it meant that JFK had made the decision before Friday, April 14. So, page 170 is wrong and Bissell indeed relied on that page.

    Now that I had proven that Hawkins, Bissell and Esterline indeed had that knowledge prior to Friday, April 14, I assumed that Hawkins and Esterline had gotten that information on Saturday, April 08 when they went mad and called Bissell at his home. To prove my assumption I started digging and I found a FRUS document ( doc nr 180, a memorandum by Stanley W. Beerli http://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1961-63v10/d180 ) that is not mentioned by Bohning. In fact, the only author that I could find mentioning that document was Joe F. Leeker ( Air America at the Bay of Pigs, http://www.utdallas.edu/library/specialcollections/hac/cataam/Leeker/history/BayOfPigs.pdf pp. 25 – 26, footnote 170, Stanley W. Beerli ,“Narrative of air activity”, Memorandum no. TS-155685, Attachment A, dated 26 April 1961, that is doc. no. 141165 published on the CIA’s website).
    It clearly states that Acting Chief, WH/4 was present. I believe him to be either Esterline himself, Edward A. Stanulis, his deputy, Hawkins, his chief PM, Richard D. Drain, his operations chief or George Gaines, Jr, his air operations chief.

    Then I wanted to find out when JFK had taken the decision to “make it minimal” and proof for the number of B-26’s ( six to eight, see the aforementioned documents ) that were planned to fly.
    Again I started digging and I found another document that is mentioned by Trumbull Higgins ( The Perfect Failure ) on page 97 and by Peter Kornbluh ( Politics of Illusion ) on pages 220 and 221.
    This memorandum by McGeorge Bundy, dated March 15, 1961 states that “Bissell’s militairy brain thinks that Castro’s Air Force can be removed by six to eight B-26’s”. Bundy did not know that Hawkins was not Bissell’s militairy brain as far as the air operations were concerned. So, it is fairly obvious that JFK’s decision “to make it minimal” happened prior to March 15, 1961. I believe it to be March 11, 1961, the date that Bissell presented the first version of the plan to the president.

    RE: 2
    There is an example of a US Army Special Forces officer ( Lt. Col. Frank Egan ) who was on the right operation ( Bay of Pigs ), but did not benefit at all as far as his career is concerned. In fact he was discredited by Allen Dulles in his 1965 edition of “Craft of Intelligence” ( Don Bohning, The Castro Obsession, p. 46 ). Of course, the Frank Egan story was not mentioned in the first 1963 edition of “Craft of Intelligence”. I wonder whether Allen Dulles invited Ernest W. Sparks ( Frank Egan’s boss ) to testify before the Taylor Commission.

    RE: 3
    Communist influence in regard to Cuba. It was Nixon who drove Castro into the Soviets’s arms. Castro believed that small countries had to choose either the side of the west ( America ) or the side of the east ( Soviet Union ). He would have chosen the American side if Nixon would have helped him because Batista had looted the country. Nixon refused to help Castro and Castro felt that he had no other option than to choose the Soviet side ( William Weyand Turner, The Cuban Connection ).

    • Ingemar, thanks for the research, I do find it interesting and educational but in my rather simple minded view of the matter two things stand out, regardless of inconsistencies or timing issues.

      The military commanders for the Brigade, the ones responsible for the landing itself did not have real time control over the air assets nor possibly even real time communications with the air boss who did. And the Air Boss certainly did not have real time communications with the beach or with the Navy support forces or the mistake in the final jet flyover should not have occurred. I’d certainly like to see more on the air command situation if you pursue it but what I do see indicates a lack of command and control that speaks poorly to Bissell as the head of the operation. Certainly that was the opinion of his commanders and of the overall IG report.

      In addition, the bottom line to me is that unless Bohning is misquoting the military commanders they had told Bissell outright that unless there was total air superiority of the beach, and that meant no operational Cuban military aircraft giving the extremely limited loiter time of the Brigade’s own aircraft over the beach then they felt the landing should be aborted. That would of course have meant taking out the Cuban jet trainers. And the air recon of the strikes on the Cuban planes clearly showed that had not happened, that was known before the landing launched but the military commanders were not informed. I don’t know if the air boss was but certainly if he was he should have taken some action.

      Bottom line, based on the military commanders personal talk with Bissell, they registered their issue, they were given a promise and they and the Brigade were hung out to dry by Bissell. You can qualify the issues, certainly, but I don’t see how you can avoid the fundamental failure of Bissell as head of the operation….certainly that was the IG’s opinion as well, which is what got him into such great political difficulties with his report. If JFJ had been given the picture that the military commanders had given Bissell and JFK refused it then Bissell should have handed in his resignation on the spot as should his boss. At least the military commanders had the backbone to make that offer to Bissell.

      If the Brigade survivors were to blame someone it would have been Bissell but he dodged that entirely.

      I realize that may sound a bit emotional and not exactly scholarly but that’s my view, emotional as it might be. Larry

      P.S. Ingemar tells me by email I’m missing a couple of his points about Bohnings work among other things and he is right. We certainly don’t have the full command and control history of what the brigade commanders were hearing from or telling the air boss nor do we know how much air recon intelligence on the strikes was being shared with whom. That would have been very good to know to fully understand exactly how bad the command and control might have been. Anyway, I admit to being fixated on the issue of Bissell allowing the blame to float over to JFK as it was perceived in Miami and among the Brigade, and clearly by the military commanders themselves given their remarks to Bohning.

  6. Do you mind if I quote a couple of your articles as long as I provide credit and sources back to your website?
    My blog is in the exact same niche as yours and my visitors would genuinely benefit
    from some of the information you present here. Please let me know if this ok with you.
    Thanks a lot!

    • I’m happy to have you use the articles with citation. Actually I offer some of the more contemporary ones for op ed but have only had a couple of hits on that. I hope they work well in your niche, these days I’m generally posting on Shadow Warfare, only occasionally dropping back to JFK it there is some real news or based on a request.

      — Larry

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