JCS Memo for the Record, Walter Higgins, Brifing by Mr. Desmond FitzGerald on CIA Cuban Operations and Planning, JFK Collection, JCS Papers,J-3,#29,
This memo is important in regards to the assassination of President Kennedy for a number of reasons. For starters, it gives us the office responsible for coordinating the covert anti-Cuban maritime operations – the Office of the Special Assistant for Counterinsurgency and Special Activities (SACASP), and its director Gen. Krulak.
In addition, this memo shows that the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff – Gen. Taylor, was preoccupied with Vietnam and not even at this important meeting on Cuban operations, and that in his place, Air Force General Curts LeMay assumed the chair.
In this role, it is quite apparent that Gen. LeMay also played a significant role in the military’s assistance to the CIA and the anti-Castro Cuban maritime operations, even more so than the Army and Navy.
In reading the entire series of documents, which aren’t in tight chronological order, but should be read in sequence in order to get the full jist of the issues, it seems that LeMay and the Air Force balked at any support to the CIA maritime operations, other than training and basic support, and then offered to run them entirely under the control of the JCS. When it was explained to LeMay that the JCS form strategy and assist in shaping policy, and that operational matters are handled by others – in this case Task Force Alpha, LeMay seems to go along with them.
The biggest threat, according to FitzGerald, is the possiblity of the Cubans capturing a mother ship, like the Rex, and interrogating the crew and confescating the senstive electronic equimpment and any possible records that might be aboard. It would be another Pueblo incident.
LeMay doesn’t seem to understand the capabilities of small motorboats, and dismisses the possiblity of them becoming a threat, which shows you how he would fail to recognize the threat of such boats in the pirate waters off Africa today.
LeMay does put a lot of credence in the radio programs and operations, and suggests that a project Air Force officer McElroy is working on might be worthwhile. (See McElroy bio).
Besides mentioning that they were studying the Hitler assassination plot to use against Castro, FitzGerald also mentions that the number and types of targets are limited, and even if they attack two to four a month, within a few months they will have exausted such targets, but only refer to oil, electricty, sugar and military targets, with no real mention of Cuban leaders.
General Krulak is to be given responsiblity for ensuring that the military supplies the CIA with all it needs in regards to support for the Cuban maritime raiders.
Then after the meeting, Adml. Riley reads a letter from Bundy/Gilpatrick that is to be returned to Gilpatrick, that apparently concerns security of Cuban operations, and Higgins, the author of the memo, says that he will check Pendulum, which is “in being,” to see if it is adaquate.
OFFICE OF THE SPECIAL ASSISTANT FOR
COUNTERINSURGENCY AND SPECIAL ACTIVITY (SACASP)
25 September 1963
MEMORANDUM FOR THE RECORD
Subject: Briefing by Mr. Desmond FitzGerald on
CIA Cuban Operations and Planning
1. At the JCS meeting at 1400 on 25 September, Mr. Desmond FitzGerald briefed the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
2. Except for General Taylor and Admiral McDonald, the Joint Chiefs were present, as were the Directors and Secretariat. Colonel Higgins from SACSA was the only other officer in attendance.
3. General LeMay opened the meeting by referring to papers recently discussed by the Joint Chiefs on policy and actions concerning military support of the CIA for operations against Cuba. General LeMay expressed the JCS position as had been reflected in the memoranda to Mr. Vance which in effect is that the Joint Chiefs do not believe that the operations to date are of a size and importance enough to justify the use of military support for protection.
4. Mr. FitzGerald then discussed his personal feelings as to changed conditions in Cuba. Essentially, he believes that Castro’s hold in Cuba has been seriously weakened since last July. He believes that the minor raids conducted by the CIA have contributed to this deterioration in Castro’s influence and stability. He is firmly convinced that Castro will fall at some future, not too distant, date, and that such actions as the CIA are conducting, as well as those of exiles, are contributing to unrest and unsettlement.
5. Mr. FitzGerald, in commenting upon criteria as to when the military support should be provided, offered the following. The greatest danger from his point of view is that the mother ships may be captured rather than be sunk. This will result in the capture of crewmen who have too much information and which could result in dangerous publicity for the United States. The location of these raids contributes to the possibility of capture. Hence, only when the raids are conducted in the more vulnerable areas from that point of view, is it likely that the CIA will request military support. He further stated that CIA has no intention of requesting aid for the coming raid.
6. General LeMay questioned the danger of capture in view of the capabilities of Cubans and ridiculed the idea that small motor boats should have the capability of such a ship.
7. General LeMay and others gave opinions concerning such technicalities as the capability of radar both on land and in the air, capability of ship radar of the U.S. and Cuba, the speed of the mother ship, which was cited as 10 to 12 knots, and other related items.
8. Mr. FitzGerald made much of the Cuban volatile nature. He cited that many Cubans are now walking with their heads up and alert because of the realization that there are possibilities of raids and other outside supports, such as the light aircraft raids. He voiced the opinion that Castro would probably take desperate measures as his situation further deteriorates and would turn to creating revolutions in Latin America. He stated that even though his operations may be considered only minor, he thought they were doing about as much as could be done under the present policies. One of his problems was that he felt there was only a total of 50 logical targets and if he conducted as many as 10 raids a month, he would be unable to sustain the build-up of Cuban hopes. He further stated that there were times when certain types of raids were more favorable than others; for instance, on sugar centrals.
9. In responding to the question concerning the non-attributality of U.S. equipment, he stated that all equipment they use could be bought on the open market in many countries, even though it was of American origin. He stated that intelligence was not as good yet as they would like to have; however, they are having greater success in having agents enter and depart Cuba.
10. General Wheeler injected that he sympathizes with such planners as Mr. FitzGerald because he realizes that many good ideas are never accepted by the cautious policy makers. However, Mr. FitzGerald reported that he believes he had a clearer go-ahead on these operations than he has ever had in his past experience.
11. Mr. FitzGerald said that over the next two or three months his plans include critical targets of three classes: electrical systems, sugar centrals, and oil. He cited that electrical systems, although a top priority and a key to the economy, were very difficult targets. The sugar centrals were only of a seasonal nature because unless hit at the peak season, they could be repaired without difficulty or loss of time. In regard to oil, the refineries are most important but were also toughest to hit.
12. In response to a comment by General Shoup regarding the sabotage of mines Mr. FitzGerald said there had been a recent case of internal sabotage in a mine. He then explained how the success of his operations can only be measured when internal sabotage is increased. In response to a question, he admitted that there was not any coordination as yet with the internal sabotage program.
13. He commented that there was nothing new in the propaganda field. However, he felt that there had been great success in getting closer to the military personnel who might break with Castro, and stated that there were at least ten high-level military personnel who are talking with CIA but as yet are not talking to each other, since that degree of confidence has not yet developed. He considers it as a parallel in history; i.e., the plot to kill Hitler; and this plot is being studied in detail to develop an approach.
14. General LeMay then questioned the advisability of utilizing a communication technique to install a radio capability which would permit break-in on Castro broadcasts. He stated that an Air Force officer named McElroy was available to talk to Mr. FitzGerald on the matter, and Mr. FitzGerald accepted this offer.
15. The conference closed with General LeMay directing that Mr. FitzGerald’s planners meet with General Krulak’s people and work out the details as to how the military can assist in supporting these operations. After Mr. FitzGerald departed, General LeMay gave added directions to Colonel Higgins to initiate necessary steps for planning.
16. After the JCS meeting Admiral Riley called Colonel Higgins into his office and read a letter from Mr. McGeorge Bundy which discussed secrecy measures necessary related to Cuba CIA operations. Admiral Riley directed Colonel Higgins to have the nature of this letter put out through SACSA control to SACSA contact points to insure an adequate system for secrecy within the military services. Admiral Riley stated he was returning the letter to Mr. Gilpatric as he did not want written communication by SACSA, but to put this out orally. This was transmitted to Colonel Wyman who will take the action to prepare an appropriate memorandum for the record to be filed with General Ingelido in accordance with further direction by Admiral Riley.
17. General Wheeler, Chief of Staff of the Army, called and questioned us concerning SACSA’s access for the knowledge of such operations as mentioned in the McGeorge Bundy letter. I advised him that our Pendulum system was in being but that I would look into it in greater detail to determine that it met the letter as well as the spirit of the memorandum. I stated I believed this was so but had not had reason to do it until this date and therefore did not give him a positive answer at that time.
WALTER M. HIGGINS, JR.