I’ve written about the TILT action several times so a search should give background on it. And thanks to work by my friend David Boylan, even more details are surfacing, not just on the mission but in regard to the CIA officers who approved it.

What becomes more and more interesting with additional documents is the extent to which the operation was an independent action of the CIA, specifically of its Miami Station.  An action which violated a good number of standard security protocols, utilized Cuban exile personnel unknown to the station – unvetted as per standard practice – and exposed both mission craft and CIA personnel to commercial photography (a LIFE photojournalist) which was neither reviewed nor controlled in any fashion.

The mission itself had originated as a Cuban exile proposal, channeled through various Miami figures (including John Martino) and politicians to the point where it reached a prominent former ambassador and presidential security advisor (William Pawley) as well as a very anti-Kennedy Senator, Julian Sourwine of the Senate Internal Security Committee.

The operation, including Pawley, Martino, four CIA officers, Eduardo Perez (Bayo) and a number of non-operational Cuban exiles involved one of only two CIA “ghost” ships (providing radar overwatch), additonal boats and an aircraft. The mission went well into Cuban territorial waters in order to send in a boat load of heavily armed anti-Castro fighters into Cuba – purportedly to bring out Russian missile technicians with evidence missiles still hidden in Cuba. For those not familiar with TILT, full details of the mission may be found here:

It occurred at a time when all missions into Cuba were to be approved by the covert action committee – Special Group Augmented – and by the president himself. In spite of that it was apparently conducted without informing either, and arrangements were made to provide information from the mission to a Congressional committee and to LIFE magazine – in what would have been a tremendous political blow to the Kennedy administration.

The team sent ashore never communicated nor attempted to recover per the plan. Afterwards both the CIA field officer in charge (Robertson) and the JMWAVE senior operations officer (Morales) prepared memos asserting that they and the CIA itself had been duped by the Cubans.  Interestingly those memos contain detailed information that should have made it rather obvious that something was wrong from the very beginning (primarily a complete lack of interest in plans to recover the group along with the Russian officers).

Equally interesting is a follow up memo from the Miami Chief of Station (Shackley) which suggests the CIA had little to no information on the Cubans being sent on the mission with Pawley and that it had been taken in a “con game” by Bayo and Martino.

Beyond that Shackley himself touts the benefits of the mission regardless of how badly he and more senior CIA officers had been taken – to the point of how much it impressed William Pawley (QDDALE), senior managers at LIFE magazine (perhaps including Henry Luce) as to the difficulties faced by CIA in carrying out Cuban missions – hence minimizing future bad press about the CIA. Shackley was also quite pleased that Senator Sourwine would be impressed by the CIA’s wiliness to take independent action and conduct high risk missions.

While Shackley himself is sometimes touted as being conservative, the TILT mission illustrates his obvious willingness to operate outside the box, for both media and political gain.  Years later he would show the same lack of restraint in Los and Vietnam, authorizing extremely high risk actions with no regard at all for the personnel involved.

Perhaps most importantly, the mission, and Shackley’s rather causal response to all parties being conned, obscures the fact that officers within the Agency were actively violating presidential and special group directives, not to mention acting well outside standard oversight. Shackley’s lack of concern for higher level oversight as well as the fact that there were no repercussions for such independent action could hardly have escaped either Morales or Robertson.

9 responses »

  1. Anthony M says:

    I’ve tried and failed a few times now to see if there is any information on the identity of the freighter that passed close by, as a rendezvous at sea or the boats getting swamped by it are two of the many possibilities in this.
    Would you know if I’ve missed anything on that?

  2. larryjoe2 says:

    I’ve never run across anything specific that would identify the freighter but it would be interesting to try and plot the position of the yacht in regard to Cuban shipping channels. If you go back though that extensive CIA summary report you might be able to do that. It it is clear that the standard channels were relatively busy, I did not post it but David has turned up a document which shows there were still independent exile missions attempting to go in and Cuban security was so tight that even on a third attempt one exile boat was forced to engaged a Cuban patrol and suffered heavy damage. Simply getting onto the island had become a huge challenge by the summer of 1963 and its easy to understand the desperation involved with Bayo running a scam on the CIA.

    Its less easy to understand how badly Shackley and others violated all their standing rules for sending in missions; later Shackley would whine about the paperwork involved in sending in even the most basic mission to insert and individual or place a weapons cache, grousing that the Special Group or JFK wanted to micro manage everything. Yet in this case that was apparently not a concern – its hard to see it as being anything other than politically motivated. And it certainly suggests that by summer “rogue” activities were in play.

    • AnthonyM says:

      Yes, I agree. TILT was very clearly a rogue operation with a blatantly political agenda sanctioned at DDCI level.
      In terms of sea lanes, it would need a specialist to assess if any conclusions could be drawn, but in outline terms the team were dropped off quite some way out from the north coast of Cuba, towards its SE end. This is point H in the mission plan you reference in your first link. It was however more or less level ( in terms of latitude) with the northern end of a large headland to their west and it looks at first sight that they would already have been to the south of the main sea lane down Cuba’s north coast.
      There are, however, some smaller harbours along that section of coast line today (not at all sure how developed they were in 1963, but still fairly small today). It is possible that something could therefore have been further south and heading in or out of one of those.
      At the moment I can’t draw any firm conclusions from that but a specialist may be able to assess that more fully.

  3. Anonymous says:

    William Kelly writes that as of June ’63 there remained about 50 dedicated anti-Castro operatives… working for the CIA in what became AMWORLD. In this, there were 3 teams, one of which was PATHFINDER. This team was the most dedicated, and received the highest level training. If the Wheaton names are meant to point to this team… and they are Felix Rodriguez, Tony Izquierdo, Carlos Sanches, Antonio Soto, Jorge Navarro, Gonzolo Herrera, John Koch Gene, Victor Hernandez, and Frank Barnedino… who were the rest? Are the shooters Carlos Sanchez and Jorge Navarro? Who ran this team… Carl Jenkins, Rip Robertson, Henry Hecksher, Jakes Esterline, Johnny Rosselli?

    Was there another team in Dealey Plaza dealing with control of the crime scene and misdirection? If so, who? Did Felipe Vidal Santiago have a separate cell working Dealey Plaza?

    Did Augistin Navarro play into any of this? He was Brigade 2506, and knew Rip Robertson well… even followed him to the Congo in ’64.

  4. larryjoe2 says:

    I think there may be a little confusion in what you described. AMWORLD did not really get approved until around April/May of 1963 and really did not start actively recruiting personnel until summer. We could give you names related to the final groups of recruits, which were not organized into three teams but into a variety of base personnel, logistics support and maritime strike groups operating out of different bases beginning in late spring, 1964. Pathfinder has nothing to do as far with AMWORLD as far as we know, it dates back to 1961 and infiltration missions into Cuba. The operational structure of AMWORLD including purchasing and logistics was just beginning to jell in early 1964.

    Its important to point out that many of the AMWORLD recruits were not operational with the CIA when they were recruited, some were in military training at Fort Benning, some were or had been part of the DRE military reserve funded by the CIA, others had been in CIA operations out of JMWAVE during 61/62 but had separated as the number of missions dramatically decreased. Recruiting for AMWORLD was done by Artime and Segundo Borges, not by JMWAVE. Ultimately AMWORLD picked its own recruits, which did cause some concern at Hecksher’s level and efforts were made to determine its operational security – which was found to be quite poor, but by that time inertia had set in. I cover some of those issues in my new book, In Denial.

    Based largely on work in the Wheaton names research (we are up to version 9 but only version 3 has been released) and done primarily by David Boylan, we can now provide some details of the AMWORLD personnel…for example Segundo Borges lead one infiltration team while Felix Rodriquez trained and worked radio communications. That will before available at some point this year when we are comfortable with a final release version on the paper – its still a work in progress.

    It is true I’m working on a thesis monograph which will address the questions you ask but I have lots of homework, research and peer review to do before I’m ready to put that forth, so I’m afraid those answers are in the future…and even then a good bit of the final tactical detail about Dallas will still be hypothetical and restricted to the limited information we do have from a handful of people I consider have provided us with credible insight on that.

  5. Brandon Wright says:

    do all Brigade 2506 participants have the AMHAZE code name? If Nestor Izquierdo is listed on the Brigade 2506 participant list as #2586, then is he AMHAZE-2586?

    Some appear to switch at some point, Victor Espinoza is (AMHAZE)2766 but also AMHINT-24? Do they switch code names as their operational assignments change or is there some other explanation for this?

    Was the AMHAZE code name applied post BOP to Brigade numbers?

    Also, on a separate note: Jose Agustin Navarro Pena (AMHAZE)3488 was Brig Co Jef on the invasion and followed Rip to the Congo… would he have worked with some of the pathfinders?

  6. larryjoe2 says:

    Brigade members were all identified by numbers, however if an individual was selected as part of an operation or special project and would need to be discussed in operational communications, memoranda or reports they were assigned a crypt as well. Projects and missions needed to have their own protection so they were also assigned crypts. AMHAZE refers to a broad set of infiltration missions, some of which had their won separate crypts.

    You might find an individual with their own crypt mentioned in communications about it; if they did not already have a crypt they might then be assigned one as part of the mission or as part of a larger group eg. AMMOT-12.

    The AMHAZE crypt appears to have been used for infiltration missions both before the landings at the Bay of Pigs and afterwards in 1961 as well. Its certainly possible that anyone going in on the pre-landings missions could have been associated with Pathfinder, we lack details to be absolutely sure.

    If you haven’t taken a look at it you might find the following overview of crypts and pseudonyms useful background


    And of course there is the master crypt list which we are constantly expanding:


    If this is confusing, it was intended to be – hopefully it frustrated the KGB as much as it does us now.

    • Brandon Wright says:

      I was assuming Jose Agustin Navarro Pena #3488 was AMHAZE. Now, I guess not.
      As best I can tell he was not on infiltration, but rather Brig Co Jef on the invasion. I do know that he went to Africa in ’64, and that he and his spouse knew Rip well.

  7. larryjoe2 says:

    Rip appears to have constantly violated just about every basic CIA security protocol, sharing his true name and history and disclosing his personal contact information including his address. He clearly became friends with a number of the Cuban exiles, especially with men who served on his teams and with select individuals such as John Martino. He visited them, he knew their families, they knew his. CIA security would and should have been blown away by the degree to which Rip was entangled with the broader community. Not to mention how many people knew personal details such as his address – this example is an entry in one individual’s diary, with Rip’s address:

    Click to access 104-10161-10324.pdf

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