226. Memorandum Prepared in the Central Intelligence Agency
Washington, May 31, 1961.
//Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, Cuba, Subjects, Taylor Report. Secret. Although the memorandum does not have a standard to-from heading, it was apparently prepared in the Central Intelligence Agency in response to a request from the Cuba Study Group for additional information relating to the Bay of Pigs operation.
What briefing, if any, was given the Brigade or the Brigade's staff on going guerrilla
Paragraph F. of Memorandum Dated 22 May 1961/1/
/1/Not further identified.
The following is a summation of actions involving preparation and instruction for contingency employment of the 2506 Brigade in the event elements of the Brigade or the unit in total suffered defeat and were forced to operate as guerrillas.
1. All officers and the original cadre (some 375 personnel) which formed the 2506 Brigade received extensive instruction (in excess of 13 weeks) in guerrilla warfare organization, tactics and techniques. It was with considerable difficulty and only after strenuous instruction on conventional operations that the officers of the Brigade were weaned from their marked inclination to guerrilla operations. Many of the unit leaders had in fact operated as guerrillas either with Castro forces in the fight against Batista or in the later operations against Castro after he had seized power.
2. During the evening staff and operations classes conducted during the Brigade training cycle extending from November 1960 through March 1961, several discussions were held on the subject of a conventional force defeated in the field and forced to continue resistance as a guerrilla element. Circumstances and ways of means of organizing and operating in various parts of Cuba were discussed in detail. These discussions did not cover the Zapata area specifically for security reasons, but covered the other feasible areas to include the Escambrays, Pinar del Rio and the Oriente. These discussions were not covered with any specific direction towards the Brigade operation in these locales, but were in the nature of contingency operations planning, i.e., "in the event we suffered defeat and it was physically possible, we would attempt to break contact and retire to a redoubt area where we would initiate guerrilla activities." The stated mission of the Brigade for which it was organized and trained was to land by sea and air and fight a conventional conflict as an organized military force. At no time did the Brigade once organized receive training to fight as a guerrilla force. To have attempted to conduct such training would have detracted from the purpose for which the Brigade was organized and would have been detrimental to morale. An indigenous force of the size of the Brigade cannot be organized and trained in the time allocated to concurrently accomplish both missions (conventional military role and guerrilla force role) satisfactorily.
4. [sic] During the pre-staging briefings of commanders and key staff officers at the training base in Guatemala (period 25 March to 7 April 1961) the operation plan (less locale and target date) were briefed to the Brigade Commander, Deputy Commander and S-3. Contingency provision in the event of the defeat of the Brigade involving fragmentation of the unit and attempts to initiate guerrilla operations were discussed. It was mutually agreed that these contingency plans would be discussed only down to the level of battalion commanders prior to the landing to avoid defeatist talk and apprehension concerning success of the operation. These discussions covered both the aspects of an element or elements of the Brigade becoming cut off from the main body and attempting to break contact with the enemy, and assume guerrilla posture, as well as the possibility of the Brigade as a whole being cut off from the sea as it advanced inland and the possibility of its assuming a defense in a redoubt area or fragmenting for guerrilla operations. It was mutually agreed that no specific plans for this eventuality could be pre-planned insofar as ground actions were concerned due both to the security provisions prohibiting early briefing of any Cuban personnel as to the specific locale of the landing and the circumstances surrounding the combat action which might lead to an element or the whole of the Brigade to assume such a contingency plan. However, the following general provisions governing such operation were mutually agreed to:
a. Resupply to the Brigade would be primarily by air with secondary reliance on clandestine maritime craft. Drop procedures would be provided for in the Operation Plan.
b. Communications would be directed to the base control outside the target area by the five RS-1's and seven TPL radios in operation with the Brigade. (Not in the command commo trailer.)
c. Tactical integrity would be preserved wherever possible and the operational size of guerrilla units would be dictated by the specific local conditions prevalent in the operation area.
d. Command lines would be preserved with the Brigade Commander or his designated representative, preferably a senior unit commander exercising operational control of specific operational areas.
e. Local recruits and volunteers would be accepted but the Brigade would maintain the 2506 personnel in command and key positions in all formations.
f. Local law and customs would be observed, provisions or resources commandeered would be paid for or receipts given.
g. Terrorist operations affecting personnel other than GOC governmental or military personnel would be avoided.
5. At Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua, subsequent to briefing on the target area, these contingency provisions were further discussed with the same individuals (Brigade Commander, Deputy Commander and S-3) with further specifics addressed to the terrain of the Zapata area. The following points were covered:
a. Red Beach Task Force (2nd Bn, 5th Bn and Co. A of 1st Airborne Bn) would hold Red Beach area in the event Blue Beach was forced to withdraw to the north. Blue Beach Force would withdraw to the north along the coast road. Upon junction with Red Beach Task Force at the head of the bay, the Brigade would withdraw to the south and west into the greater Zapata area, breaking contact with the enemy and assuming guerrilla operational status or preparing for evacuation in increments as feasible. Alternate courses of action (evacuation or guerrilla status) were to be implemented as dictated by the circumstances.
b. In the event Red Beach was cut off by the enemy from contact with Blue Beach, the same course of action was to be followed by the Red Beach Force. If, however, the coast road to the Blue Beach area was open and the Blue Beach Force holding, the Red Beach Force was to retire to the south to effect junction with Blue Beach.
c. Blue Beach Force, if cut off from Red Beach and capable of breaking out, was to move as appropriate to either or both the following areas bordering Blue Beach and attempt to evade pursuit and initiate guerrilla operations.
(1) The area bounded on the north by El Jiqui and the Jaguey Grande Red Beach road to the northeastern edge of the swamp and thence south to the Covadonga/San Blas road and the road southwest to Playa Giron.
(2) The area to the east and north of Blue Beach bounded by the Playa Giron, San Blas, Covadonga road on the west thence southeast along the edge of the swamp to the western edge of Cienfuegos Bay.
d. It was mutually agreed that this plan might not be feasible if either major force (Red or Blue) were closely pressed by the enemy. Evacuation by sea was deemed undesirable by the three officers concerned who stated that they must fight and win or go down in defeat without recourse to evacuation and that they would not consider or discuss evacuation.
6. The Brigade Commander prior to embarkation stated that he had discussed the details of this contingency plan with the commanders he considered appropriate. He stated that he considered this plan to be particularly suitable for the small airborne contingents dropping on DZ's 4 and 5 at Jocuma and San Miguel de Pita respectively. This contingency was further discussed with the Airborne Battalion Commander De Valle on the night of 17 April prior to takeoff.
7. In summation it must be stated that little interest or enthusiasm
was displayed by the Brigade personnel concerned for any aspect
of the plan that involved retreat and defeat, to include this
contingency for guerrilla operations plan. It was generally recognized
and openly stated by the key officers that any military force
involved in an airborne/amphibious landing and subsequent field
operations against an enemy defending his homeland would have
an extremely difficult time assuming a guerrilla role in any substantive
force subsequent to defeat in the field. The defeat itself implied
that the enemy in close combat had surrounded or ruptured and
destroyed the Brigade as a military force, thus allowing only
a fraction of its combat effectives to escape to assume a role
as escapees and evaders with a limited potential for later guerrilla
227. Memorandum From the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Lemnitzer) to Secretary of Defense McNamara
Washington, June 8, 1961.
//Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OASD (C) Files: FRC 71 A 2896, Cuba 381 (Sensitive). Top Secret. A note on the source text indicates that McNamara's office received the memorandum on June 9.
In response to your request, the Director for Intelligence, Joint Staff, in consultation with the Central Intelligence Agency, has prepared an estimate of usable guerrilla areas, the political-police control mechanism, key pro-Castro sub-leaders, and possible guerrilla centers in Cuba, enclosed herewith.
/1/Printed from a copy that indicates Lemnitzer signed the original.
1. Preamble. It is impossible to estimate the amount of really hard-core pro-Castro residual which would remain in Cuba after the overthrow of Castro. Many factors would contribute to increase or decrease the guerrilla potential facing any successor government. Some of these factors are:
a. Degree of acceptability of new government to Cuban population.
b. Policy of new government with regard to good agrarian reforms instituted by Castro.
c. Extent of vindictiveness practiced by new governmental bureaucracy against Castroites.
d. Efficiency with which campaign to overthrow Castro was executed and degree of success quickly attained. Almost all factual information on Cuba is old. New information is very fragmentary and mostly laced with gossip, rumor, and propaganda. Current sources are not considered trained intelligence observers and their information is not subject to check or confirmation, hence is of little value. Any estimate on Cuba at this time must necessarily be based on background rather than current information.
2. Pro-Castro Areas of Cuba
a. Geographically. Pro-Castro sentiment exists throughout the island. The degree to which a particular area or province should be regarded as pro-Castro or anti-Castro cannot be determined with any precision. Localities which, on the surface, appear mostly pro-Castro might react violently anti-Castro if the political-police control apparatus were removed or if US forces were in the area. We have no reliable evidence upon which to base a precise judgment that certain geographic areas are more or less pro-Castro than others but Havana province and parts of Oriente province are probably the most pro-Castro localities.
b. Sociologically. Within the Cuban society, Castro's principal support comes from the peasant or campesino group and the underprivileged. Identification of these groups with the Castro regime has given them a sense of importance in the Cuban scene far beyond that which they formerly enjoyed. Continued identification with Castro promises them a far better life than they heretofore had any reason to expect. Many of these people have become so tied to the Castro regime by their own acts that their lives would be forfeit under any successor government. Hence, it is probable that many of them would at least attempt to flee to the hills and continue to fight if Castro was able to gain sanctuary in the mountains. Important Castro strength also exists in the ranks of urban labor and among the students although in both groups considerable anti-Castro sentiment is evident. The Havana Dock Workers Union and the Electrical Trades Union have both exhibited displeasure over working conditions and pay scales under Castro. The students are angry over the loss of autonomy of their institutions of learning, long a Latin American tradition, and there have been some anti-Castro manifestations as a result. However, offsetting factors include the infusion of many rural students by Castro who would otherwise have been unable to attend.
c. Governmental. The large governmental bureaucracy which extends into every province, city, town, village, and hamlet on the island can be regarded as staunchly pro-Castro, although defections do occur from time to time. All governmental officials including the rural police owe their jobs to loyalty to and support of Castro. However, it is probable that, faced with the overthrow of Castro's government, many of these people would immediately switch sides.
3. Areas Favorable for Guerrilla Activity. (See Appendix "A")/2/ Traditionally, the mountainous areas of Cuba have been used for guerrilla activity, and these areas still provide the most favorable areas from which to conduct this type of activity. Suitable areas exist in Pinar del Rio province (Sierra de los Organos and Sierra del Rosario), Las Villas province (Sierra de Trinidad, also known as Sierra de Escambray), and Oriente province (Sierra Maestra, Sierra del Cristal, and Cuchillas de Toar). Historically, the Peninsula de Zapata has also harbored guerrilla bands, but because of the difficulties of egress, especially in the rainy season, has not seen extensive use.
/2/Appendix A, not printed, is a map of Cuba with the areas cited in the text highlighted.
4. Political-Police Control Mechanism
a. Provincial Organization. The political-police mechanism in Cuba is based on the provincial organization and all provinces follow the same pattern. Each province has a rural police regiment whose headquarters is located in the provincial capital city. Subordinate to the police regiment are a reserve company and several police squadrons each of approximately 165 officers and men, varying in numbers according to the size of the province and the number of important urban localities in the province. Squadron headquarters are located in the principal towns in the province. Squadrons, in turn, establish police posts (usually 8-10 men each) in the smaller towns and villages, and patrol outlying areas and beaches. Communication is via both police and commercial facilities, including radio communication with patrol vehicles. Under Castro, a system of "block informants" has been established which keeps the police informed of anti-Castro or counter-revolutionary activities. Local part-time militia units are based on the local police post or squadron headquarters where their arms are normally stored and where orders are received.
b. National Organization. Rural police regiments are controlled from Havana by the Ministry of Armed Forces. The total strength of the Rural Police (a part of the Army) is 9,600. Within Havana itself, police power is exercised by the National Police, a force of about 9,000 whose current subordination is unknown. The National Police have not heretofore been a part of the Cuban Armed Forces.
5. Key Pro-Castro Sub-Leaders. In view of the paucity of credible information currently coming out of Cuba, any listing of key sub-leaders would necessarily be based on past, rather than current, performance. Further, given Castro's penchant for rapidly disposing of "friends" who do not fully agree with him, it may rapidly be outdated. However, the list of personalities at Appendix "B"/3/ represents some of the key second and third line leaders as nearly as can be determined at this time. Additional names are filed by the intelligence community and are watched as information becomes available. However, it can be assumed that all governmental and military leaders including local mayors, governors, cabinet ministers and sub-ministers could be considered in the key sub-leader category.
6. Possible Guerrilla Centers. As indicated in paragraph 3 supra, certain areas of Cuba lend themselves favorably to guerrilla activity. However, the exact location of guerrilla centers could only be determined after they develop, with one notable exception. In January 1961, a report from a trained observer in Cuba indicated that arms and ammunition were being placed in an abandoned mine in the Sierra Maestra in Oriente province. Since that time, additional reports have indicated that a military camp was under construction at the same place, the remnants of the only parachute-trained unit in the Cuban Army are reported stationed there, and the same area has been used to train Latin American youths invited to Cuba for revolutionary training. Significantly, this area was Fidel Castro's base before his successful seizure of power from Batista, and knowing the difficulties he experienced in obtaining arms and ammunition during his stay on the Pico Turquino in the Sierra Maestra, it is a logical place for his stockpiling weapons against the possibility of his overthrow. This location is known as Minas del Frio. It must be noted, however, that there is no evidence of recent date to confirm this analysis.
7. If the Cuban populace failed to support the overthrow of Castro and chose to support pro-Castro guerrilla bands, the following general areas could become guerrilla centers and might possibly support guerrilla populations as noted:
Province: Pinar del Rio
Area: Sierra de los Organos
Supportable Guerrilla Population: 100
Province: Pinar del Rio
Area: Sierra del Rosario
Supportable Guerrilla Population: 100
Province: Las Villas
Area: Sierra de Trinidad
Supportable Guerrilla Population: 2,000
Area: Sierra Maestra
Supportable Guerrilla Population: 5,000
Area: Sierra del Cristal
Supportable Guerrilla Population: 300
Area: Cuchillas de Toar
Supportable Guerrilla Population: 200
Guerrillas in these areas would exist by foraging on the local
population for food, clothing, and medical supplies.
228. Memorandum From Secretary of Defense McNamara to President Kennedy
Washington, June 8, 1961.
//Source: Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OASD/ISA Files: FRC 64 A 2382, Cuba 1961 121-353. Confidential. Drafted by Mountain.
Service of Cuban Volunteers in U.S. Armed Forces
In response to your instruction at the NSC meeting of 5 May 1961,/1/ the Department of Defense has prepared the attached program/2/ to enable Cuban volunteers to serve in the U.S. armed forces.
/1/See Document 204.
There is at present no census of the Cuban exile population in the United States which accurately reflects the number of males between the military ages of 17 to 26. However, from figures supplied by the Cuban Refugee Emergency Center in Miami, out of a total of 25,000 of all ages registered at the center, 17,350 are adults of whom approximately 75% fall within the 35-50 age group. On this basis it appears likely that no more than 3,500 are of military age. If this figure represents the upper limit, the number who would be interested in volunteering for service with the U.S. armed forces will probably be considerably smaller. In the absence of a census, the plan has assumed that the number of volunteers will be not more than 2,000 and may be as few as 800.
There are some legal barriers to the enlistment of aliens in the U.S. armed forces. These barriers, however, do not prevent their voluntary induction if they are between the ages of 18-26. It is therefore planned to make use of the existing mechanisms of the U.S. Selective Service System to provide special quotas for induction into the three services of Cuban volunteers in this age group as they become identified and available. An exception in the law allows the enlistment of aliens up to age 31 in the regular Navy and up to age 28 in the regular Marine Corps. The plan makes use of this provision as well.
Special measures for security screening have been stipulated.
The Department of Health, Education and Welfare has agreed to provide and fund any needed English language training prior to actual induction of volunteers. The purpose of this arrangement is to avoid the necessity for assembling Cuban personnel in one place for training under military auspices. With their English language training completed before entry into the armed services, Cubans can be processed and trained as individuals along with U.S. personnel. In addition, this arrangement assures the military services of trainable people from the start, and will tend to cut down attrition rates after induction.
Although the Cuban volunteers will join the armed forces as individuals and will be trained as such along with U.S. personnel, the military services will be given informal instructions to make provisions for readily identifying and locating each of these volunteers should it ever become necessary.
The services will be required to give these volunteers the most advanced individual training possible. However, assignment to training or duty requiring access to classified information will be held to a minimum.
No increase in manpower ceilings is proposed. Once language training has been funded by the Department of Health, Education and Welfare, additional costs to the military services for the processing of these volunteers can be handled within present budgets./3/
/3/On July 10 McNamara sent a memorandum to the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Secretaries of the Army, Navy, and Air Force indicating that the President had concurred in the program for the induction of Cuban volunteers into the U.S. armed forces, outlined in thismemorandum. McNamara instructed that the program be implemented by each of the services as quickly as possible. (Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OASD/ISA Files: FRC 64 A 2382, Cuba 1961 121-353)
Robert S. McNamara/4/
/4/Printed from a copy that indicates McNamara signed the original.
229. Memorandum for the Record
Washington, June 13, 1961.
//Source: Naval Historical Center, Area Files, Bumpy Road Materials. Secret; Hold Closely. Prepared by Admiral Burke.
Meeting with the President and the Taylor Group at 1700, 13 June 1961
The Attorney General
Mr. Allen Dulles
1. General Taylor outlined what we had found in the Cuban matter. He went over the recommendations/1/ at great length. The President was quite interested in the recommendations on the cold war organization. That is, the Strategic Resources Board, suggested in the first recommendation. General Taylor told him all the advantages of the thing. That they needed such a board, that this would coordinate the activities of State, Defense and Intelligence and other agencies. He gave all the benefits of it. The President was quite taken with it.
/1/See Document 234.
2. After General Taylor got through I said that this thing might not work as well as it would seem on the surface. There was great danger in this because if the Man became an assistant President, it would be very difficult to operate with State and Defense. In addition to that if the staff grew, and I thought that it would grow because of the habits of staffs in Washington, then the staff would surely impinge upon the duties of State and Defense and they would quite rightfully become concerned about this new agency taking over their duties. Furthermore, that there was such a thing as passive resistance and that if for any reason people in State or Defense thought that this new agency was taking over, there would be conflict and differences of opinion and the activities would not be well done. In addition to that, if this man started to give military advice there would be difficulties between him and the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
3. This, the President listened to but I think he discounted the difficulties a great deal. In any case, he discussed the advantages at great length but did not discuss the disadvantages except to state that the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of State should both be briefed very carefully before the idea was suddenly sprung on them. This was to get them acclimated to the idea.
Comment: I still think that the idea has a slight chance of working. It was quite evident that Taylor is to be given the job because during the conversation, the President said that he wanted to speak with Taylor for about half an hour sometime tomorrow, Wednesday.
4. They went over the other recommendations, with which the President agreed.
5. It was decided that there would be two meetings, one on Thursday or Friday morning, which would brief the Cuban affair./2/ Present at this meeting would be the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Defense, Mr. Dulles, Mr. Bissell, other leading people from CIA, Mr. McGeorge Bundy and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. There would be a second meeting on Monday or Tuesday, which would go over the recommendations with approximately the same group./3/ Before this meeting, however, General Taylor and the rest of us would have to get together with Mr. McNamara and Mr. Rusk.
/2/No record of this meeting has been found.
/3/A record of this meeting, which took place on June 19, is in the Naval Historical Center, Area Files, Bumpy Road Materials.
6. I pointed out to General Taylor that I thought Mr. McNamara, and perhaps others, were going down to a tactical exercise in Camp LeJeune on Friday. This didn't seem to have much effect but Taylor said that he would look into it.
7. I also mentioned that I was to go to the hospital and they asked if that could be postponed and I said of course it could, so I may have to postpone my trip to the hospital.
8. It was decided that there would be no report and that the President would make some sort of release that he had received recommendations and was studying them and expected to put some of them into effect.
9. There was considerable discussion as to what might have happened had they had air superiority. It was pointed out that there was a difference of opinion between General Taylor and Bobby Kennedy and Mr. Dulles and myself on that. The President read that.
10. The President seemed to be in pain, but seemed to be satisfied with the report in general. This meeting lasted for about an hour so there was considerable discussion on some of the details, most of which were not too important. I did bring out that General Somoza/4/ had talked with me and that General Somoza wanted to conduct another revolution, which I thought was a good thing but the President said, "here we go again."
/4/The reference is to the President of Nicaragua.
/5/Printed from a copy that bears this typed signature.
230. Letter From the Chairman of the Cuba Study Group (Taylor) to President Kennedy
Washington, June 13, 1961.
//Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, Cuba, Subjects, Taylor Report. Secret.
Dear Mr. President: By your letter of April 22, 1961,/1/ you charged me in association with Attorney General Robert Kennedy, Admiral Arleigh Burke and Director of Central Intelligence Allen Dulles to study our governmental practices and programs in the areas of military and paramilitary, guerrilla and anti-guerrilla activity which fell short of outright war with a view to strengthening our work in this area. You directed special attention to the lessons which can be learned from the recent events in Cuba.
/1/See the source note, Document 169.
On May 16, our Cuban Study Group submitted to you an interim oral report of our conclusions as of that date./2/ We are now prepared to make our final report to you orally,/3/ supported by the following memoranda:
/2/See Documents 218 and 219.
/3/See Document 229.
Memorandum No. 1 "Narrative of the Anti-Castro Operation Zapata"
Memorandum No. 2 "Immediate Causes of Failure of the Operation Zapata"
Memorandum No. 3 "Conclusions of the Cuban Study Group"
Memorandum No. 4 "Recommendations of the Cuban Study Group"/4/
/4/These four memoranda are printed as Documents 231-234.
In your letter of April 22, you invited me to submit an individual report subject to the review and comment of my associates. As we have found no difficulty in reaching a unanimous view on all essential points under consideration, we are submitting this view as a jointly agreed study.
In closing, may I express our view of the great importance of a prompt implementation of our first recommendation to establish a Strategic Resources Group supported by a Cold War Indications Center which will allow our government readily to focus its resources on the objectives which you set in the so-called Cold War. We feel that we are losing today on many fronts and that the trend can be reversed only by a whole-hearted union of effort by all Executive departments and agencies of the Government under your guidance.
Maxwell D. Taylor
231. Memorandum No. 1 From the Cuba Study Group to President Kennedy
Washington, June 13, 1961.
//Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, Cuba, Subjects, Taylor Report. Secret; Eyes Only; Ultrasensitive.
1. Although the Cuban situation had been the subject of serious study in the Special Group,/1/ Central Intelligence Agency and other Government agencies since 1958, this study takes as its point of departure the basic policy paper, "A Program of Covert Action Against the Castro Regime," approved by the President on 17 March 1960. (See Annex 1)/2/ This document, developed by the Central Intelligence Agency and indorsed by the Special Group, provided a program divided into four parts to bring about the replacement of the Castro regime by covert means:
/1/The Special Group, sometimes called the 5412 Committee, consists of a Deputy Under Secretary of State, Deputy Secretary of Defense, Director, Central Intelligence and the Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, and meets weekly to consider covert operations conducted by the CIA under the authority of NSC 5412/2. [Footnote in the source text.]
/2/The annexes cited in this memorandum were attached but are not printed. Some of the documents included in the annexes are printed, as noted in footnotes below. The March 17, 1960, policy paper cited here is printed in Foreign Relations, 1958-1960, vol. VI, pp. 850-851.
a. The creation of a responsible and unified Cuban opposition to the Castro regime located outside of Cuba.
b. The development of means for mass communication to the Cuban people as a part of a powerful propaganda offensive.
c. The creation and development of a covert intelligence and action organization within Cuba which would be responsive to the orders and directions of the exile opposition.
d. The development of a paramilitary force outside of Cuba for future guerrilla action.
2. Since the primary purpose of this study is to examine the paramilitary actions growing out of this program and its successive modifications, the paragraph referring to the paramilitary aspects of the plan is quoted in its entirety;
"d. Preparations have already been made for the development of an adequate paramilitary force outside of Cuba, together with mechanisms for the necessary logistics support of covert military operations on the island. Initially a cadre of leaders will be recruited after careful screening and trained as paramilitary instructors. In a second phase a number of paramilitary cadres will be trained at secure locations outside of the United States so as to be available for immediate deployment into Cuba to organize, train and lead resistance forces recruited there both before and after the establishment of one or more active centers of resistance. The creation of this capability will require a minimum of six months and probably closer to eight. In the meanwhile, a limited air capability for resupply and for infiltration and exfiltration already exists under CIA control and can be rather easily expanded if and when the situation requires. Within two months it is hoped to parallel this with a small air supply capability under deep cover as a commercial operation in another country."
3. It is apparent from the above excerpt that at the time of approval of this document the concept of paramilitary action was limited to the recruitment of a cadre of leaders and the training of a number of paramilitary cadres for subsequent use as guerrillas in Cuba.
4. The CIA began at once to implement the decisions contained in the policy paper on 17 March 1960. A target of 300 men was set for the recruitment of guerrillas to be trained covertly outside the United States. Radio SWAN was installed on Swan Island and ready for broadcasting on 17 May 1960. (See Annex 2) Steps were taken to develop the FRD (Frente Revolucionario Democratico) as the Cuban front organization composed of a broad spectrum of Cuban political elements other than Communists and Batistianos. (See Annex 3) On August 18th, a progress report was given to the President and the Cabinet, at which time a budget of some $13 million was approved, as well as the use of Department of Defense personnel and equipment. However, it was specified at this time that no United States military personnel were to be used in a combat status.
5. Sometime in the summer of 1960 the paramilitary concept for the operation began to change. It appears that leaders in the CIA Task Force set up in January 1960 to direct the project were the first to entertain the thought of a Cuban strike force to land on the Cuban coast in supplementation of the guerrilla action contemplated under the March 17, 1960 paper. These CIA officers began to consider the formation of a small force of infantry (200-300 men) for contingency employment in conjunction with other paramilitary operations, and in June began to form a small Cuban tactical air force. Eventually it was decided to equip this force with B-26 aircraft which had been widely distributed to foreign countries including countries in Latin America.
6. There were ample reasons for this new trend of thought. The air drops into Cuba were not proving effective. There were increasingly heavy shipments of Communist arms to Cuba, accompanied by evidence of increasingly effective control of the civilian population by Castro. The Special Group became aware of these adverse factors which were discussed repeatedly in the Committee meetings during the fall of 1960. The minutes of the conferences indicate a declining confidence in the effectiveness of guerrilla efforts alone to overthrow Castro.
7. In this atmosphere the CIA began to implement the new concept, increasing the size of the Cuban force in training and reorienting the training toward preparation for its use as an assault force on the Cuban coast. On November 4th, CIA in Washington dispatched a cable to the project officer in Guatemala describing what was wanted. (See Annex 4) The cable directed a reduction of the guerrilla teams in training to 60 men and the introduction of conventional training for the remainder as an amphibious and airborne assault force. From that time on, the training emphasis was placed on the assault mission and there is no evidence that the members of the assault force received any further preparation for guerrilla-type operations. The men became deeply imbued with the importance of the landing operation and its superiority over any form of guerrilla action to the point that it would have been difficult later to persuade them to return to a guerrilla-type mission. The final training of the Cubans was done by 38 U.S. Army Special Forces personnel under Lt. Colonel David Crowe who arrived on January 13 in the training camp in Guatemala where 400-500 Cubans had been assembled.
8. As mentioned in paragraph 5 above, in order to prepare for this operation, the CIA had been obliged early to organize a task force for planning the operation, and then later was to adjust that organization to the execution phase. (See Annexes 5 & 6) In both phases the task force commander, Mr. J.D. Esterline, reported upward through Mr. R.M. Bissell, Deputy Director, Plans, to General C.P. Cabell, Deputy Director of Central Intelligence and the Director, Mr. Allen Dulles. The latter, while accepting full responsibility for the operation, generally did not inject himself into military operational matters.
9. During the early months of the development of the plan, the Director, CIA looked to the 5412 Committee (Special Group) for guidance and approval of his covert plans for Cuba. In the period December 10, 1960 to February 8, 1961, former Ambassador Whiting Willauer and Mr. Tracy Barnes of CIA were charged with keeping the President and the Secretary of State informed. By the end of January following the change in administration, the President assisted by a restricted group of advisors from the National Security Council took over the function of approval and the 5412 Committee tended to recede from a position of responsibility. However, the Director of Central Intelligence continued to keep the Committee informed of the covert aspects of the plan.
10. The Director of Central Intelligence briefed the President on the new paramilitary concept on 29 November 1960 and received the indication that the President wished the project expedited. The concept was formally presented to the Special Group on December 8, 1960. At this meeting, Colonel Jack Hawkins, USMC, in charge of the paramilitary section for the Cuba project, described the new concept as one consisting of an amphibious landing on the Cuban coast of 600-750 men equipped with weapons of extraordinarily heavy fire power. The landing would be preceded by preliminary air strikes launched from Nicaragua against military targets. Air strikes as well as supply flights would continue after the landing. The objective would be to seize, hold a limited area in Cuba, maintain a visible presence, and then to draw dissident elements to the landing force, which hopefully would trigger a general uprising. This amphibious landing would not entirely eliminate the previous concept for infiltrating guerrilla teams. It was expected that some 60-80 men would be infiltrated prior to the amphibious landing.
11. The Special Group was also briefed on the quality of the Cuban force in training in Guatemala. Lt. Colonel Frank Egan, the Army officer on duty with CIA in charge of training, described the superior characteristics of the individuals, particularly as to motivation, intelligence, and leadership qualities. He expressed the opinion that such a force would have no difficulty inflicting heavy casualties on a much larger militia force.
12. There is no evidence that the Special Group formally approved this plan at the time but the CIA representatives were encouraged to continue in its development. A comment was made at the meeting that the existence of the U.S.-backed force of Cubans in training was well known throughout Latin America.
13. During this period the CIA Task Force headquarters for the projects was developing a detailed operation plan to support the new concept. It is referred to in this study as Operation Trinidad, named after the Cuban town on the southeast coast which was to be the site of the amphibious landing. On January 11th, Ambassador Willauer representing State and Mr. Barnes of CIA first discussed with representatives of the Joint Staff the over-all problem of effecting the overthrow of Castro. As a result, a working committee including representation of CIA, State, Defense, and the JCS was formed to coordinate future actions in pursuit of this objective. At this meeting the Trinidad Plan as such was not discussed.
14. At about this time, the change in the national administration produced a break in the continuity of the development of the plan. On January 22nd, several members of the new administration including Mr. Rusk, Mr. McNamara, Mr. Bowles, and Mr. Robert Kennedy were introduced to the Cuba project at a briefing at the State Department. General Lemnitzer and Mr. Dulles were also present. A Joint Staff concept was presented by General Lemnitzer of the U.S. directed or supported actions in ascending order necessary to overthrow Castro.
15. Early in January, the Joint Chiefs of Staff decided that there was need for an over-all United States plan of action for the overthrow of Castro and produced a paper, JCSM-44-61/3/ (See Annex 7), in which they recommended the institution of an interdepartmental group to consider various courses of action in ascending degree of U.S. involvement, which, after approval by the President, would become an over-all plan to be supported by subordinate plans prepared by the agencies concerned. This recommendation reached the Secretary of Defense, but appears to have been lost in the activities arising out of the change in administration.
16. On November 18, 1960, President-elect Kennedy had first learned of the existence of a plan for the overthrow of Castro through a call on him at Palm Beach by Mr. Dulles and Mr. Bissell. He received his first briefing on the developing plan as President on January 28 at a meeting which included the Vice President, Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, the Director of Central Intelligence, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Assistant Secretary Mann, Assistant Secretary Nitze, Mr. Tracy Barnes, and Mr. McGeorge Bundy./4/ (See Annex 8) After considerable discussion, the President authorized the following:
/4/See Documents 30 and 31.
a. A continuation and accentuation of current activities of the CIA, including increased propaganda, increased political action, and increased sabotage. Continued overflights of Cuba were specifically authorized.
b. The Defense Department was to review CIA proposals for the active deployment of anti-Castro Cuban forces on Cuban territory and the results of this analysis were to be promptly reported to the CIA.
c. The State Department was to prepare a concrete proposal for action with other Latin American countries to isolate the Castro regime and to bring against it the judgment of the Organization of American States. It was expected that this proposal would involve a commitment of the President's personal authority behind a special mission or missions to such Latin American leaders as Lleras, Betancourt, and Quadros.
17. Following this meeting, the Joint Chiefs of Staff undertook to evaluate Plan Trinidad in the form developed by the CIA up to that point. The Chiefs approved and forwarded to the Secretary of Defense on 3 February 1961, JCSM-57-61, "Military Evaluation of the CIA Paramilitary Plan--Cuba."/5/ (See Annex 9) The evaluation was summarized in paragraphs 1 p and 1 q as follows: "In summary, evaluation of the current plan results in a favorable assessment, modified by the specific conclusions set forth above, of the likelihood of achieving initial military success. It is obvious that ultimate success will depend upon political factors, i.e., a sizable popular uprising or substantial follow-on forces. It should be noted that assessment of the combat worth of assault forces is based upon second- and third-hand reports, and certain logistic aspects of the plan are highly complex and critical to the initial success. For these reasons, an independent evaluation of the combat effectiveness of the invasion force and detailed analysis of logistics plans should be made by a team of Army, Naval and Air Force officers, if this can be done without danger of compromise of the plan. Despite the shortcomings pointed out in the assessment, the Joint Chiefs of Staff consider that timely execution of this plan has a fair chance of ultimate success and, even if it does not achieve immediately the full results desired, could contribute to the eventual overthrow of the Castro regime."
18. Because of the feeling of lack of direct knowledge expressed by the Chiefs, it was decided to send a team of three officers from the Joint Staff to examine and report on the military effectiveness of the Cuban Expeditionary Force at its Guatemala base. This visit was made in the period 24-27 February and resulted in a report to the Joint Chiefs of Staff/6/ (See Annex 10) which included the estimate that because of the visibility of activities at Retalhuleu in Guatemala and Puerto Cabezas in Nicaragua, the odds against surprise being achieved was about 85 to 15. The JCS air evaluation pointed out that if surprise were not achieved, the attack against Cuba would fail, adding that one Castro aircraft armed with 50 caliber machine guns could sink all or most of the invasion force. The Joint Chiefs in approving this report on 10 March 1961 commented to the Secretary of Defense that, "Based upon a general review of the military portion of the plan, an evaluation of the combat effectiveness of the forces and an analysis of the logistics plan from a military standpoint, since the small invasion force will retain the initiative until the location of the landing is determined, the plan could be expected to achieve initial success. Ultimate success will depend on the extent to which the initial assault serves as a catalyst for further action on the part of anti-Castro elements throughout Cuba." The Joint Chiefs of Staff in their forwarding memorandum to the Secretary of Defense recommended that, "A military instructor experienced in the operational logistics be assigned to the training unit immediately for the final phase of the training." Such an officer, Lt. Colonel Ray Wall, USMC, was dispatched from Washington and remained with the CEF (Cuban Expeditionary Force) for some time, assisting in correcting some of the logistics deficiencies previously noted by the inspection team.
/6/JCSM-146-61, Document 56.
19. While the Joint Chiefs of Staff supported the Trinidad Plan as one having "a fair chance of success" the plan encountered difficulties in other quarters. From its inception the plan had been developed under the ground rule that it must retain a covert character, that is, it should include no action which, if revealed, could not be plausibly denied by the United States and should look to the world as an operation exclusively conducted by Cubans. This ground rule meant, among other things, that no U.S. military forces or individuals could take part in combat operations. In due course it was extended to exclude pre-D-Day air strikes in support of the landing since such strikes could not have the appearance of being launched from Cuban soil before an airstrip had been seized by the landing force. This effort to treat as covert an operation which in reality could not be concealed or shielded from the presumption of U.S. involvement raised in due course many serious obstacles to the successful conduct of the operation which will be the subject of subsequent comment.
20. The President and his advisors were thoroughly aware of the difficulties of preserving the covert character of an operation as visible as a landing on a hostile shore and from the outset viewed the Trinidad Plan with caution. In particular, the State Department representatives opposed features of the plan because of the difficulty of concealing U.S. participation and also because of their fear of adverse reactions to the United States in Latin American countries and in the United Nations. They objected in particular to the conduct of any tactical air operations unless these aircraft were either actually or ostensibly based on Cuban soil.
21. On the other hand, working to overcome this reluctance to approve the Trinidad Plan was the need to decide quickly what to do with the Cuban Expeditionary Force. The President was informed that this force must leave Guatemala within a limited time and that, further, it could not be held together long in the United States if it were moved there. If the decision were taken to disband the force, that fact would soon become known and would be interpreted as a renunciation by the U.S. of the effort to free Cuba from Castro. Faced with two unattractive alternatives, the President and his advisors asked the CIA to come up with various proposals for the use of this force as alternatives to Trinidad.
22. These proposals were the subject of detailed consideration on March 11th when the President and the National Security Council met to consider the various plans then being entertained for Cuba. Mr. Bissell of CIA presented a paper entitled, "Proposed Operation Against Cuba" which summarized the action to date and presented four alternative courses of action./7/ (See Annex 11) It concluded by recommending the Trinidad Plan which he described to be an operation in the form of an assault in force preceded by a diversionary landing as the action having the best chance of achieving the desired result. The assault in force was to consist of an amphibious/airborne assault with concurrent (but no prior) tactical air support, to seize a beachhead contiguous to terrain suitable for guerrilla operations. The provisional government would land as soon as the beachhead had been secured. If initial military operations were successful and especially if there were evidence of spreading disaffection against the Castro regime, the provisional government could be recognized and a legal basis provided for U.S. logistic support.
/7/See Documents 58 and 59.
23. The military plan contemplated the holding of a perimeter around a beachhead area. It was believed that initial attacks by the Castro militia, even if conducted in considerable force, could be successfully resisted. The scale of the operation, a display of professional competence and determination on the part of the assault force would, it was hoped, demoralize the Castro militia, cause defections therefrom, impair the morale of the Castro regime and induce widespread rebellion.
24. After full discussion of this plan the President indicated that he was willing to go ahead with the over-all project, but that he could not indorse a plan so "spectacular" as Trinidad. He directed that the CIA planners come up with other alternative methods of employing the Cuban forces. An acceptable plan should provide for a "quiet" landing, preferably at night, without having the appearance of a World War II type amphibious assault. The State Department requested that any beachhead seized should include an airfield capable of supporting B-26 operations, to which any tactical air operations could be attributed.
25. During the period 13-15 March the paramilitary staff of CIA worked intensively to devise a plan or plans having the desired characteristics, and presented a briefing to the JCS Working Group late in the morning of March 14. They produced for consideration three such alternatives as general concepts. They were based on three possible landing areas: (1) The Preston area on the north coast of Oriente Province; (2) the south coast of las Villas between Trinidad and Cienfuegos; and (3) the eastern Zapata area near Cochinos Bay.
26. On March 14th these three alternatives were referred to the Joint Chiefs of Staff for their evaluation. The Joint Staff prepared this evaluation, the results of which the respective Service action officers presented to their respective Chiefs prior to the JCS meeting on 15 March. At this meeting, following a briefing by the Joint Staff Working Group, the Joint Chiefs approved the evaluation and reported to the Secretary of Defense that of the three, the Zapata concept was considered the most feasible and the most likely to accomplish the objective. They added that none of the alternative concepts were considered as feasible and likely to accomplish the objective as the Trinidad Plan./8/ (See Annex 12) This preference for the Trinidad Operation seems to have been overlooked in the subsequent consideration of the plan by some of the senior civilian officials, including the Secretary of Defense to whom the views of the Chiefs were addressed.
/8/JCSM-166-61, Document 62.
27. An important question developed in the course of this study is the extent to which the Joint Chiefs of Staff approved the Zapata Plan as it finally took form. The action on March 15th merely indicated a preference for the Zapata concept as opposed to the two other concepts considered (neither of which was the original Trinidad Plan). However, the record is clear (See Annex 13) that the Chiefs subsequently took active part in considering changes to the plan as it developed into final form, did not oppose the plan and by their acquiescing in it gave others the impression of approval. They considered the plan as a body four times after March 15th while the plan was in the formative stage, but did not review the plan in its final form because of the shortness of time between the submission of the plan to the JCS, April 15, and the actual landing. While individual Chiefs gave it considerably more personal attention than the above record suggests, they did not and probably could not give the plan the same meticulous study which a commander would give to a plan for which he was personally responsible. Also, individual Chiefs had differing views as to important aspects of the operation which in turn differed from those held by senior civilian officials.
28. On the same day as the Chiefs' action, March 15th, the President was briefed at the White House on the three alternative course of action which the Chiefs had considered./9/ After full discussion, the President again withheld approval of the plan and directed certain modifications to be considered. The CIA returned on the following day, March 16th, and presented a modification for the landing at Zapata which Mr. Bissell considered on balance more advantageous than the Trinidad Plan, wherein there would be air drops at first light instead of the previous day in the late afternoon, with the landing in the night and all the ships withdrawn from the objective area by dawn without completing the unloading at that time. The President authorized them to proceed with the plan, but still without giving it his formal approval.
/9/See Document 65.
29. As the Trinidad Plan developed, the question of air strikes became a matter of extended discussions. On January 4th, Colonel Hawkins wrote a memorandum to the Chief, WH/4 (Mr. Esterline) entitled, "Policy Decisions Required for Conduct of Strike Operations Against Government of Cuba."/10/ (See Annex 14) The paper includes the statement, "The Cuban air force and naval vessels capable of opposing our landing must be knocked out or neutralized before our amphibious shipping makes its final run into the beach. If this is not done we will be courting disaster." The memorandum further recommended that the air preparation commence not later than dawn on D-1 and that a maximum number of aircraft be employed for this purpose. The State Department consistently resisted this kind of air preparation because of its "spectacular" nature and because of the inability to attribute pre-D-Day strikes to airplanes in Cuba. They also opposed the use of jets, although former Ambassador Whiting Willauer, who with Mr. Tracy Barnes monitored the plan in the period December 10-February 8, 1961 at the request of Secretary of State Herter, had pointed out the need for jet cover to protect the landing in discussions of the Special Group in January. It was felt that the range of jets would obviously require them to operate from U.S.-controlled bases and hence could not be brought within the requirements of non-attribution.
30. In the end a compromise was reached with regard to the air plan. Early in April, it was decided to stage limited air strikes on D-2 at the time of diversionary landing of 160 men to be made in eastern Cuba. These strikes were for the purpose of giving the impression of being the action of Cuban pilots defecting from the Cuban Air Force and thus support the fiction that the D-Day landing was receiving its air support from within Cuba. The Joint Chiefs of Staff did not favor these D-2 air strikes because of their indecisive nature and the danger of alerting prematurely the Castro force. Mr. Bissell of CIA also later stated at a meeting on April 6 that CIA would prefer to conduct an all-out air strike on the morning of D-Day rather than perform the D-2 defection strikes followed by limited strikes on D-Day. Nevertheless, the political advantages led to their inclusion in the plan but with the realization that main reliance for the destruction of the Castro Air Force must be placed on the D-Day strikes.
31. At the time of the meeting with the President on 16 March,/11/ preparations in the field were proceeding on the assumption that the landing would take place. The President agreed to this procedure but reserved the right to call off the plan even up to 24 hours prior to the landing. He approved the establishment of an interdepartmental working group to carry forward the work begun in January (see paragraph 13 above) and to assure closer coordination within the Executive Branch. On 23 March this working group produced a paper containing agreed tasks prepared by the Joint Staff for assignment to the various agencies of the Federal Government./12/ (See Annex 15) This paper was the first successful action to formalize the interdepartmental coordination which up to this point had depended largely upon ad hoc committees and meetings at Presidential level. Because of the high security classification of the operations, few if any records were kept at these meetings and decisions were rarely in written form. Papers bearing on the operation were normally distributed at the start of a meeting and gathered up at the end.
/11/See Document 66.
/12/See Document 72.
32. Initially, the Zapata Plan had a D-Day of 5 April. By 29 March it was apparent that no such D-Day could be kept and the President on that day advanced it to 10 April. This date later became infeasible for political reasons so that it slipped again to 17 April, the date of the actual landing.
33. On 12 April an important conference took place with the President, the Secretary of State, the JCS, and other NSC officials, in which Mr. Bissell of the CIA presented a paper which outlined the latest changes in the Zapata Operation, including the defections, the air strikes on D-2 and D-Day/13/ (See Annex 16), and the following timetable:
/13/See Documents 92 and 93.
D-7--Commence staging main force--staging completed night of D-5.
D-6--First vessel sails from staging area--last vessel departs early morning D-4.
D-2--B-26 defection operation--limited air strikes.
D-2--Diversionary landing in Oriente (night of D-3 to D-2).
D-Day--Main landings (night of D-1 to D)--limited air strikes. Two B-26's and liaison plane land on seized air strip.
D to D+1--Vessels return night of D to D+1 to complete discharge of supplies.
D+7--Diversionary landing in Pinar del Rio.
The President did not give final approval to the plan at this meeting. However, he was informed that the decision could not be delayed much longer as the no-go time for preliminary operations would be 12 o'clock Friday, 14 April, and for the main landing, 12 o'clock Sunday, 16 April.
34. Colonel Jack Hawkins, USMC, went to Puerto Cabezas to attend the final briefing of the Brigade and battalion commanders of the CEF. (See Annex 17) While there, on 13 April he was asked for a final evaluation of the quality and readiness of the Brigade. He replied in most enthusiastic terms (See Annex 18), praising the combat readiness of the Brigade and the Cuban Air Force, and expressing confidence in the success of the project./14/ His views were circulated in Washington and reached the President.
/14/See Document 98.
35. Meanwhile, the ships of the invading force were approaching Cuba. The first operational event scheduled to occur was a diversionary landing 30 miles east of Guantanamo by a group of 160 men planned for the night of 14-15 April. The landing failed to take place, probably because of weak leadership on the part of the Cuban officer responsible for the landing. This failure may have had a considerable effect on the main landing as the diversion was intended to draw Castro's forces to the east and confuse his command.
36. At dawn on 15 April, the D-2 air strike took place against three Cuban air fields, a total of eight B-26's being employed for the purpose. Initial pilot reports indicated that 50% of Castro's offensive air was destroyed at Campo Libertad, 75%-80% aircraft destruction at San Antonio de Los Banos, and that the destruction at Santiago included two B-26's, one DC-3, one Lodestar and one T-33 or Sea Fury. Subsequent photographic studies and interpretation have assessed a greatly reduced estimate of the damage, amounting to five aircraft definitely destroyed and an indeterminable number of other planes suffering some damage. The attacking force lost one aircraft and crew to antiaircraft fire.
37. At about mid-day on D-1, 16 April, the President formally approved the landing plan and the word was passed to all commanders and officials involved in the operation. The frame of mind at that moment of the senior officials responsible for the approval of this operation seems to have been about as follows. It offered what appeared to be a last chance to overthrow Castro by Cubans before the weapons and technicians acquired from the Communists and repressive internal measures would make the task too hard without overt U.S. intervention. It was recognized as marginal and risky, but the Cuban Brigade, if not used quickly, would become a political liability, whereas used in a landing it might achieve important success before Castro became too strong. Even if unable to hold the beachhead, something would have been accomplished as the Brigade could turn guerrilla and provide a strong reinforcement to the resistance movement in the island.
38. CIA authorities had developed an elaborate propaganda program (See Annex 19) to support the military action against Castro. This was based on the use of the clandestine radio SWAN, the programs of 11 CIA controlled radio stations and extensive leaflet drops. The program was executed as planned, except for the D-day leaflet drops for which no means of delivery was available. The plan had been to drop the leaflets from B-26's and other aircraft involved in the support of the landing, but the military situation did not permit the diversion of effort. The content of the propaganda program was developed and approved within CIA.
39. There is no evidence of any effort at any higher level to guide and coordinate the over-all propaganda effort. In particular, the United States Information Agency was left in the dark with regard to the operational plans. On 5 April, Mr. Edward R. Murrow, Director of the United States Information Agency heard from a New York Times reporter that operations were underway for a landing in Cuba, backed and planned by the CIA. The reporter indicated that the Times had a very full story on the operation which, however, they did not intend to print but he did hope to persuade USIA to authorize briefings of the press in Miami following the landing. (See Annex 20)
40. Armed with this information, Mr. Murrow called on the Director of Central Intelligence who informed him that preparations were indeed underway, but did not give him details of the magnitude or the time of the landing which, indeed, had not been determined at that time. Under the terms of the interdepartmental coordination paper referred to in paragraph 31 above, the Department of State undertook to provide policy guidance beginning D-3 to the USIA in support of the plan, but this guidance was apparently not given. Hence, word of the landing received over the wire services on D-Day caught the USIA unprepared and without guidance.
41. In parallel with its propaganda program, the CIA had continued and accentuated activities directed at stimulating political unrest in Cuba and harassing the Castro government. These actions included such things as clandestine broadcasts in Havana utilizing dormant TV channels, the infiltration of small provocateur groups equipped with printing presses and radios, the development of additional agent and guerrilla assets within the island, and the penetration of pro-Castro organizations. [3 lines of source text not declassified]
42. With regard to agent, guerrilla, and dissident assets, the pre-invasion reports differed somewhat but suggested considerable strength. (See Annex 20 A, Cuban Internal Situation 18 May 1961, and Annex 20 B, Map showing agents and assets.) It had been estimated by the CIA that from 2500 to 3000 persons supported by 20,000 sympathizers were actively engaged in resistance in Cuba, and that some 25 per cent of the Cuban populace would actively support a well-organized, well-armed force which was successful in establishing a stronghold on the island. At a CIA briefing on April 3, the view was expressed that the percentage of the Cuban population opposed to Castro at that time was much higher than the foregoing estimate, but that many would probably remain neutral until there was a strong indication of which side was winning.
43. At about 9:30 P.M. on 16 April, Mr. McGeorge Bundy, Special Assistant to the President, telephoned General C.P. Cabell of CIA to inform him that the dawn air strikes the following morning should not be launched until they could be conducted from a strip within the beachhead. Mr. Bundy indicated that any further consultation with regard to this matter should be with the Secretary of State.
44. General Cabell, accompanied by Mr. Bissell, went at once to Secretary Rusk's office, arriving there about 10:15 P.M./15/ (See Annex 21) There they received a telephone call from Colonel Jack Hawkins who, having learned of the cancellation of the D-Day strikes, called to present his view of the gravity of the decision. General Cabell and Mr. Bissell then tried to persuade the Secretary of State to permit the dawn D-Day strikes. The Secretary indicated that there were policy considerations against air strikes before the beachhead airfield was in the hands of the landing force and completely operational, capable of supporting the raids. The two CIA representatives pointed out the risk of loss to the shipping if the Castro Air Force were not neutralized by the dawn strikes. They also stressed the difficulty which the B-26 airplanes would have in isolating the battlefield after the landing, as well as the heavier scale of air attack to which the disembarked forces would be exposed. The Secretary of State indicated subsequently that their presentation led him to feel that while the air strikes were indeed important, they were not vital. However, he offered them the privilege of telephoning the President in order to present their views to him. They saw no point in speaking personally to the President and so informed the Secretary of State. The order cancelling the D-Day strikes was dispatched to the departure field in Nicaragua, arriving when the pilots were in their cockpits ready for take-off. The Joint Chiefs of Staff learned of the cancellation at varying hours the following morning.
/15/See Document 108.
45. Realizing the seriousness of this cancellation, the CIA officials set about to try to offset the damage. The invasion force was informed, warned of likely air attacks and the ships told to expedite unloading and to withdraw from the beach by dawn. A continuous cover of 2 B-26's over the beach was laid on. General Cabell arranged with the JCS to alert the fleet to a possible requirement for air cover and Early Warning destroyers. At 0430, he called on the Secretary of State at his home, reiterated the need to protect the shipping and by telephone made the request to the President. The request for air cover was disapproved but the Early Warning destroyers were authorized, provided they remained at least 30 miles from Cuban territory.
(See Annex 22 entitled, "Sequence of Events D-2 to D+2 and Organization and Operation of the Command Post"; Operation Maps 1-3; and Annex 23, Colonel Beerli's Memorandum of 26 April 1961)
46. The ships in which the Cuban Expeditionary Force was embarked reached the objective area generally on time in the night of D-1 and the morning of D-Day. At Blue Beach the Brigade Commander, Jose Perez San Roman, went ashore at 0115 and immediately commenced the unloading of troops and supplies. (See Annexes 24, 25 and 26) The landing was discovered at once by local militia, some firing occurred, and the alarm was transmitted to troop and air headquarters throughout the island. In view of the situation, it was decided to give up the planned transshipment of the force earmarked to Green Beach and to put this force ashore at Blue Beach.
47. Castro's forces, though tactically surprised, reacted with speed and vigor. At dawn they began air attacks against the shipping and the beaches. In spite of these attacks, all vehicles and tanks at Blue Beach were unloaded from the LCU's by 0730, and all troops were ashore by 0825.
48. At 0930 an enemy Sea Fury hit and sank the freighter Rio Escondido, which carried in it 10 days' supply of ammunition for the Brigade and other valuable supplies. All crew members were rescued and transferred to the Blagar.
49. In the face of continuous air attacks, at 10 o'clock [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] the contract skipper in charge of the shipping, radioed CIA Headquarters that if jet air support were not immediately available, the ships would put out to sea. By this time, not only had the Rio been sunk at Blue Beach, but the Houston had been hit at Red Beach. CIA Headquarters approved the movement of the vessels to the south which began at once. The freighters Atlantico and Caribe preceded the two LCI's and three LCU's which followed the cargo ships at a slower speed imposed by the presence of the LCU's
50. After landing, the troops ashore pushed out from the beach as planned. Parachutists of the First Battalion dropped at 0730, seized the important road center of San Blas 10 miles northeast of Blue Beach, and established outposts to the north and east to cover the routes of ingress into the beachhead. They were quickly reinforced by the Third Battalion and a heavy weapons (4.2 mortars) detachment. They made contact with Castro forces in the afternoon which pushed back their outpost situated to the east. Starting at about 1700 and intermittently thereafter, San Blas was under attack from forces coming down the road from the north.
51. Radio communications within Blue Beach were non-existent during the entire operation. In going ashore, the troops had been obliged to wade through fairly deep water with the result that most of the portable radios got wet and never functioned thereafter.
52. The Second Battalion at Red Beach ran into militia units almost immediately upon landing, but cleared them from the beach area. The landing of the Battalion was slowed down by motor trouble with the aluminum ships' boats which were the only landing craft available. Out of nine, only two boats were usable for the 20-minute run from the Houston to the beach. The Fifth Battalion which was to follow the Second never did get ashore, partly because of the boat troubles, partly because of lack of initiative on the part of the Battalion Commander. Very few supplies were got ashore, other than those carried by the Second Battalion while debarking.
53. At daybreak, Red Beach was attacked by enemy aircraft, and at about 0630 the Houston was hit. Somewhat later, the ship went aground on the west shore of the Bahia de Cochinos about five miles from the landing beach. At that time it still had on board about 180 men of the Fifth Battalion who landed but never got into the fight at Red Beach. Later, many worked their way south to be picked up on the swampy keys by the U.S. Navy after the operation. In this air attack, the LCI Barbara J was also damaged by machine gun fire which disabled two of its engines, and a near miss, which caused it to take water. The damage to the Barbara J was not reported to CIA Headquarters until the next day at about 1700.
54. After cleaning up the beach area, the troops of the Second Battalion pushed north about four miles but soon encountered militia forces which prevented them from reaching the southern exit of the road across the swamp which they were to block. Fighting went on astride the road throughout the day, enemy tanks appearing in mid-afternoon and enemy artillery becoming active at about 1800.
55. The parachute drops made by 5 C-46's and one C-54 took place at 0730 on D-Day. Indications are that the drops were reasonably accurate but considerable ammunition was lost near San Blas. The parachutists north of Red Beach apparently landed in the presence of the enemy and were not heard from thereafter. A total of 172 parachutists took part in the drops.
56. B-26 aircraft rotated over the beachhead through D-Day, sank one gunboat, and made effective strikes against enemy ground troops at Red Beach, inflicting several hundred casualties, according to report. In all, a total of 13 combat sorties were flown on D-Day, in the course of which 4 B-26's were lost to enemy T-33 action. In the same period, the Castro air force lost 2 Sea Furies and 2 B-26's to antiaircraft fire.
57. Impressed by the ease with which the T-33 aircraft could destroy the obsolete B-26 type aircraft, the CIA leaders decided to attempt, by a bombing attack, to destroy the remaining Castro aircraft at night on the ground. Six aircraft were scheduled to strike San Antonio de los Banos, believed to be the main base of operations, in two waves of three each during the night of 17-18 April. The mission was flown but was unsuccessful because of heavy haze and low clouds over the target.
58. Because of the developing shortage of ammunition in the beachhead at the end of D-Day, an air supply drop was arranged consisting of four C-54's and two C-46's. Of these drops, five were successful, but in one case most of the supplies drifted into the water from which only a part could be salvaged.
59. During the night of D-Day-D+1, the invasion shipping departing from the landing area for the south proceeded to a point about 50 miles off the Cuban coast. Here the two LCI's and three LCU's rendezvoused as directed, but the two freighters, the Atlantico and the Caribe continued south without pausing. They did not turn back until intercepted and encouraged to return by the United States Navy, the Atlantico some 110 miles to the south, and the Caribe 218 miles south of the Cuban coast. Thus, the Caribe was never available for resupply operations while the fight on the beach lasted and the Atlantico did not get back to the rendezvous point until 1645 on D+1, 18 April.
60. The troops north of Red Beach came under heavy attack during the early hours of D+1. At 0300 enemy tanks were reported approaching from the north and by 0730 the situation was so difficult that the decision was made to move the force to Blue Beach. This movement began at 0900 and was completed about 1030. By that time, ammunition was low in the Red Beach force, but casualties, about 20, were comparatively light.
61. After reaching Blue Beach, the retreating force was allowed about two hours of rest, after which they were given additional ammunition and ordered back toward Red Beach in order to block the coast road to the movement of the force with which they had been engaged in the Red Beach area. They encountered this force somewhere west of Blue Beach and heavy fighting ensued. Exactly what occurred is not known, but it is assumed that the invaders eventually succumbed to the superior numbers of Castro forces moving down from the north.
62. Enemy artillery fire began falling on the troops in the San Blas area at 0400 and continued most of the day. In the absence of radio communication, it was necessary to send officer couriers from the San Blas area to Blue Beach in order to communicate with the Brigade Commander who had set up his command post on the beach. At 0730 Roberto San Roman, brother of the Brigade Commander, went back to the beach for this purpose, reporting the situation around San Blas and seeking information. The Brigade Commander at that time indicated that the situation at Red Beach was critical. In order to cover Blue Beach, he had stationed some of his reserve forces to the east blocking the coast road coming from that direction and others to the northwest to cover the approaches from that quarter.
63. During the day artillery fire and enemy pressure on the San Blas forces compelled a gradual contraction of their position around the town. They attempted a counterattack to the north in the afternoon, but it soon bogged down in the face of superior forces.
64. By the end of the day, ammunition was very low throughout the beachhead. Only M-1 ammunition seems to have been reasonably plentiful, although the commander of the Heavy Weapons Company indicates that he was never out of 4.2 mortar ammunition. He indicates, however, that it was necessary to ration it carefully. In spite of the heavy fighting, there appeared to have been surprisingly few casualties among the invaders.
65. In the evening, the Brigade Commander was asked by CIA Headquarters via the Blagar whether he wished evacuation. He replied, "I will not be evacuated. We will fight to the end here if we have to."
66. On D+1 it became necessary to utilize some American civilian contract pilots to protect the beachhead area because some of the Cuban pilots either were too tired to fly or refused to do so. Six sorties were flown during the afternoon of D+1, attacking a long column of tanks and vehicles approaching Blue Beach along the coast road from the north. The attack was reported to have been very successful with an estimated 1800 casualties inflicted on the enemy and the destruction of 7 tanks. Napalm was used in these attacks, as well as bombs and rockets.
67. As events turned out, the night of D+1/D+2 offered the last opportunity to get ammunition to the beach. The Atlantico had returned from its trek to the south, rendezvousing with the other ships about 50 miles off the coast at 1645 on D+1. It began discharging cargo at once into the LCU's, completing the transfer at 2200, at which time [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] reported to CIA Headquarters that the LCI Blagar would escort the LCU's to Blue Beach unless otherwise advised. He indicated that his estimated time of arrival on the beach would be 0630, that is to say, dawn on D+2.
68. The Blagar began to move northward with the three LCU's, reporting to CIA Headquarters, however, that if low jet cover were not furnished by first light, the Captain believed that he would lose all the ships. Prior to this time he had requested the escort of a U.S. Navy destroyer. At 2145 CIA Headquarters wired the Blagar that a destroyer escort was not possible, to which message the Captain replied that if he could not get destroyer escort in and out of Blue Beach, his Cuban crew would mutiny. At CIA Headquarters in Washington these messages were discussed and the critical decision was taken to stop the northern movement of the ammunition ships and direct them to rendezvous some 60 miles south of the Cuban coast.
69. The reasons for this decision appear to have been as follows. The CIA leaders in Washington were aware of the liberal amount of ammunition (3 days' supply) which had been taken ashore on D-Day and also of the air drops on the night of D+1. (See Annex 27) Further, they had ordered additional drops on the night of D+1/D+2. Considering the climate in which this operation had been planned in Washington, the CIA leaders apparently felt that it was hopeless to ask for either destroyer escort or jet cover for the ammunition convoy. Without this overt U.S. support, it was felt that the loss of the ships would be inevitable if they tried to run in in daylight--if, indeed, they could get the Cuban crews to make the attempt. Under these circumstances, they felt justified in calling off the sea resupply effort and made no further attempt beyond an arrangement for another air drop to get in ammunition before the final surrender. Except for one C-46 which landed on the Blue Beach airstrip, the attempt to resupply by air was unsuccessful because of enemy control of the air over the beachhead.
70. Although permission was not sought for jet escort for the ammunition ships, Mr. Bissell of CIA sought and received Presidential authority to have the Navy to fly CAP over the beachhead from 0630 to 0730 on the morning of D+2. The purpose of this mission was to allow the B-26's to provide close support to the troops in the beachhead and cover for air resupply. This CAP was flown but, as indicated below, was of no avail.
71. Within the beachhead, the troops in the San Blas area began a general retreat in the morning of D+2. The last message received from the Brigade Commander by the Blagar at 1432 read: "Am destroying all equipment and communications. I have nothing left to fight with. Am taking to the woods. I can't wait for you." Units and individuals arriving at Blue Beach shortly thereafter found the Brigade Command Post gone and heavy artillery fire falling in the vicinity. Pressure on the beachhead was coming from the north and the northwest. The last known report on the situation indicates that at 1700 Blue Beach was still clear of the enemy. It appears that fighting ceased shortly thereafter and by nightfall resist-ance in the beachhead had ended.
72. On the morning of D+2 American pilots were again used for the protection of the beachhead. The morning sorties were directed to arrive over the beachhead in the period 6:30 to 7:30 A.M. to take advantage of the one-hour period of Navy cover. For an undetermined reason, they came in almost an hour early with the result that two B-26's were destroyed by the T-33's. A total of 7 sorties were flown on this occasion with undetermined results.
73. As indicated above, three cargo aircraft tried to fly in ammunition on the morning of D+2 but were turned back by the presence of enemy air. A fourth C-46, succeeding in landing on the Blue Beach airstrip in the hours of darkness, unloaded ammunition and picked up a B-26 pilot who had been shot down, departing at daylight. (See Annex 28)
74. These sorties ended the action of the invasion force which began stand-down activities thereafter with a total of 21 aircraft still in commission. It is difficult to be sure of the losses suffered by the Castro Air Force. The D-2 air strikes positively destroyed 5 Castro aircraft, with undetermined damage to others, and 4 other combat aircraft were destroyed in the beachhead area.
/16/75. It may be asked how near the landing ever came to success. Had the ammunition shortage been surmounted, which is to say, had the Castro air been neutralized, would the landing force have accomplished its mission? Considering their lack of experience, the Cubans ashore fought well and inflicted considerable losses on the Castro militia while they had ammunition. Contrary to the view held prior to the landing that with control of the air the CEF could have maintained themselves for some time, with the rapid appearance of the vastly superior Castro forces on the scene, the ultimate success of such a small landing force became very unlikely. The limited number of B-26 crews, if forced to continue to operate from Nicaragua, would have been strained to provide continuous daylight air support to the beachhead. An attempt by the landing force to exercise the guerrilla option and take to the hills would have been virtually impossible because of the presence of the encircling Castro forces and of the instructions which the Cuban invasion units had received to fall back on the beaches in case of a penetration of the beachhead. Under the conditions which developed we are inclined to believe that the beachhead could not have survived long without substantial help from the Cuban population or without overt U.S. assistance. Although under these conditions the guerrilla alternative did not exist, with control of the air the CEF might have been able to withdraw wholly or in part by sea.
/16/Admiral Burke and Mr. Dulles consider that there is insufficient evidence to support the conjectures in this paragraph. The well motivated, aggressive CEF fought extremely well without air cover and with a shortage of ammunition. They inflicted very severe losses on the less well trained Cuban Militia. Consequently, it is reasonable to believe that if the CEF had had ammunition and air cover, they could have held the beachhead for a much longer time, destroyed much of the enemy artillery and tanks on the roads before they reached the beachhead, prevented observation of the fire of the artillery that might have been placed in position and destroyed many more of the local Militia en route to the area. A local success by the landing party, coupled with CEF aircraft overflying Cuba with visible control of the air, could well have caused a chain reaction of success throughout Cuba with resultant defection of some of the Militia, increasing support from the populace and eventual success of the operation. [Footnote in the source text.]
(See Annex 29, Subj: Rules of Engagement Operations "Bumpy Road")/17/
/17/A 4-page narrative account of the Rules of Engagement, covering the period March 24-April 20, prepared in CNO by Commander Mitchell.
76. As originally planned, the only involvement of the U.S. Navy in Operation Zapata was the requirement for one destroyer to escort the CEF ships on D-2 and D-1 to the transport area about 3 miles off-shore, and for one LSD to deliver landing craft (3 LCU's and 4 LCVP's) to the transport area. Also, there was the requirement for U.S. Naval air cover over the CEF ships during the hours of day-light on D-1.
77. As the date for the invasion approached, there were numerous discussions of the rules of engagement which would govern the use of Naval units. In final form, the approved rules of engagement allowed the U.S. Naval forces to open fire only if they or the CEF were attacked while under escort, and the escorting destroyers were not to approach within 20 miles of Cuban territory. If it became necessary for U.S. forces to intervene to protect the CEF ships, the operation would then be automatically cancelled, and the CEF ships would withdraw to a port to be designated by the CIA. Because of concern over the possible abandonment of the operation as the result of U.S. intervention, the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the request of CIA dispatched the following message on April 13 to CINC-LANT, Admiral Dennison: "In summary, hope is that overall operations will not need to be aborted because of U.S. military intervention and to this end CEF prepared to take substantive risks."/18/
/18/See Document 96.
78. With the cancellation of the D-Day air strikes and the subsequent landing and combat on the beach, the requirements placed upon the U.S. Navy progressively increased. The rules of engagement indicated above remained in effect until 0422R, 17 April, when CINCLANT was directed by JCS 994221/19/ to be prepared to provide CAP for CEF shipping outside territorial waters and Early Warning for CEF ships. This was an anticipatory action by the Joint Chiefs of Staff while the request was being made to the White House for CAP following the cancellation of the D-Day air strikes. Only the employment of an EW vessel was authorized and these instructions were dispatched to CINCLANT at 0550./20/ The rules of engagement for U.S. Naval forces remained the same, except that the EW destroyers were not to close within 30 miles of Cuban territory (i.e., 10 miles farther away than previously authorized).
/20/See footnote 3, Document 111.
79. At 1530, 17 April, based upon a CIA request which had Presidential approval, the JCS directed CINCLANT/21/ to establish a safe haven for CEF ships with U.S. Naval air cover over the CEF ships in accordance with the following restrictions:
/21/See Document 115.
"a. Carrier ship operation no closer than 50 miles from Cuban territory.
"b Aircraft shall operate no closer than 15 miles to Cuban territory.
"c. No more than 4 aircraft on station at one time."
Further, CINCLANT was instructed that the rules of engagement were modified as follows:
"a. U.S. aircraft shall attack if unfriendly aircraft makes aggressive move by opening bomb bay doors when headed towards ship to be protected or start a strafing run on it. Attacks will not be made by U.S. aircraft under any other condition.
"b. No hot pursuit inside the 15 mile line from Cuban territory.
"c. U.S. aircraft ship shall not come up close to unfriendly aircraft except when attacking it.
"d. If unfriendly aircraft is shot down every effort shall be made to hide the fact that such action has occurred."
Note that the above rules of engagement still give a tactical advantage to the attacking Cuban aircraft before they can be taken under fire by the U.S. forces.
80. At 1337R, 18 April, based upon a call from Admiral Burke from the White House, the JCS directed CINCLANT to conduct a photo and visual reconnaissance using unmarked naval aircraft as soon as possible to determine the situation on the beach./22/ The aircraft were authorized to protect themselves from attack and were to take all precautions to avoid being identified as U.S.
/22/See Document 122.
81. Based upon a call from Admiral Burke at the White House, the JCS at 1449R, 18 April, directed CINCLANT to prepare unmarked naval planes for possible combat use./23/ The number to be left to CINCLANT's discretion. CINCLANT was advised in this same message that there was no intention of U.S. intervention. These aircraft were made ready but permission was not given to use them.
/23/See Document 123.
82. At 1957R, 18 April, the JCS informed CINCLANT of the possibility that C-130 aircraft with U.S. Air Force markings removed might be used for night drops on Blue Beach the night of 18/19 April./24/ These air drops by C-130 were never conducted because the aircraft would have been unable to reach the beachhead prior to dawn.
/24/See Document 124.
83. Upon the request of CIA and with the approval of the President after a conference at the White House, the JCS at 0334R, 19 April directed CINCLANT to furnish air cover of 6 unmarked aircraft over CEF forces during the period 0630 to 0730 local time 19 April to defend the CEF against air attack from Castro planes./25/ He was directed to not seek air combat but to defend CEF forces from air attack. Further to not attack ground targets. (Note: The purpose of this CAP was to provide cover to CEF transport and B-26 type aircraft which were due at the beachhead during this period.) In this same message CINCLANT was directed to be prepared to conduct evacuation from Blue Beach using unmarked amphibious craft with crews in dungarees, and that if the evacuation by U.S. ships were ordered he was to furnish air cover to protect landing craft.
/25/See Document 140.
84. At 1157R the JCS confirmed a telephone call to CINCLANT made by Admiral Burke at 1020R upon orders from the White House directing CINCLANT to send two destroyers to a position off Blue Beach to determine possibilities for evacuation./26/ CINCLANT was also directed to fly reconnaissance over the beach to determine the situation. No ground attacks were authorized but active air to air combat was authorized.
/26/See Document 147.
85. On 19 April at 1312R, based upon a call from Admiral Burke from the White House, the JCS directed CINCLANT to have destroyers take CEF personnel off the beach and from the water to the limit of their capability; use CEF boats and craft as practicable; provide air cover; if destroyers fired on they are authorized to return the fire to protect themselves while on this humanitarian mission./27/ (Note the reason that amphibious force craft were not used was that Phibron 2 had not yet arrived off the objective area.)
/27/See Document 151.
86. At 2052R, 19 April, the JCS informed CINCLANT that existing instructions in respect to air and surface protection for CEF ships remain in effect./28/ This was the safe haven for CEF ships 15 miles or more off-shore. No further requirement for an air CAP in the beachhead area.
/28/See footnote 2, Document 156.
87. On 20 April, upon direction of the President to Admiral Burke the JCS at 1946R directed CINCLANT:
"a. Take charge of CEF ships and personnel and get them safely to Vieques. Navy on scene Commander can relay message to CEF ships via me.
"b. Conduct destroyer patrols off Blue Beach tonight for possible evacuation of survivors and instruct CO he is authorized to ground his ship if it will facilitate mission. Use of amphibious ship and craft author-ized in addition to DD if desired. Repeat patrol tomorrow night approaching area in sight of land but outside gun range prior to darkness. Provide air cover. Rules of Engagement during patrols same as before."/29/ These rules are to open fire only in self-defense.
/29/See Document 161.
88. The CIA Command Post for Operation Zapata as well as the communications center was in Quarters Eye on Ohio Drive. (See Annex 30--Communications Net) During the operation, the senior CIA Task Force officials, Mr. Esterline, Colonel Hawkins, USMC, Lt. Colonel Gains (USAF) and Captain Jacob Scapa (U.S. Naval officer on loan to the CIA for use as a staff adviser on naval matters) manned the Command Post around the clock, making those operational decisions which they felt within their authority and seeking higher approval from the Secretary of State or the President for those matters beyond their authority. Mr. Bissell and General Cabell, who were immediately available for consultation, were usually the emissaries sent to obtain this latter kind of approval.
89. There was formal and continuous liaison between the CIA Command Post and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. This was effected by an exchange of liaison officers between the Command Post and the Joint Staff (General Gray). In addition, the Command Post transmitted messages and selected operational cable traffic to the Joint Staff by telephone and TWX. There was telephone and cable contact with CINCLANT.
90. Within the Pentagon, General Gray had a situation briefing in the Joint Staff at 0730 and 1600 daily which the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman, JCS attended. The other Chiefs maintained liaison officers in General Gray's section who kept their seniors informed.
91. The technical performance of the CIA communications net was reported to have been excellent. There was an impressive volume of traffic transmitted over it. Nevertheless, the President, the Secretary of State and others had insufficient knowledge of the situation to react in time and to make the needed decisions. This inadequacy resulted from many factors: the loss of important signal equipment in the sinking of the Rio Escondido, the wetting of the portable radios carried ashore and the resulting failure of radio communications within the Brigade net ashore, the lack of information on the part of the Brigade Commander himself, and, most importantly, the absence of an experienced American officer or headquarters in the combat area with the responsibility to summarize and present the changing situation to the authorities in Washington.
92. As a result of these factors, the President and his advisors were generally in the dark about important matters as to the situation ashore and were uninformed of the flight of the cargo ships. To clarify the situation, the U.S. Navy was directed to fly a reconnaissance mission over the beach on the afternoon of D+1, reporting about 1900 that there was no evidence of fighting at Blue Beach where the beachhead apparently had a depth of about 10 miles. This was the last indication of the situation ashore which the President received until the following morning when he received the message that the beachhead had collapsed and that men were fighting in the water.
93. In the urgency to obtain reliable information, it was proposed
on the morning of D+2 to send an American observer ashore with
a radio and Mr. Robertson on the LCI Barbara J was chosen to go.
However, the fall of the beachhead voided the mission.
232. Memorandum No. 2 From the Cuba Study Group to President Kennedy
Washington, June 13, 1961.
//Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, Cuba, Subjects, Taylor Report. Secret; Eyes Only; Ultrasensitive.
1. The proximate cause of the failure of the Zapata Operation was shortage of ammunition which developed from the first day of the landing, April 17th, and became increasingly critical until it resulted in the surrender of the landing force about 1400 on April 19th.
2. There were three primary reasons for this shortage of ammunition. The logistical plan for the landing made ample provision for ammunition with the men and in floating reserve. However, upon landing there is evidence that the Cubans wasted their ammunition in excessive firing, displaying the poor ammunition discipline which is common to troops in their first combat.
3. Far more serious was the loss of the freighters Rio Escondido and Houston through air attack at about 0930 on the morning of April 17th. The Rio was a particular loss as it had ten days of reserve ammunition on board, as well as other important supplies. The Houston should have been able to land most of its supplies before being hit, but the unloading was delayed by trouble with the outboard motors of the ships' boats as well as by the apparent lethargy of the Fifth Battalion charged with the unloading.
4. The air attack which sank these ships caused all others in the landing area to put out to sea, as the only available protection in the absence of control of the air, with the order to rendezvous 50 miles off the coast. The freighters Atlantico and Caribe headed south and never stopped until intercepted by the U.S. Navy at points 110 miles and 218 miles, respectively, south of Cuba.
5. The Caribe was so far away that its cargo, principally aviation supplies, was never available for movement to Blue Beach while the fight lasted. The Atlantico, which had considerable ammunition on board, did rejoin the other ships of the expedition at 1816, April 18th, at a point about 50 miles south of the beach and transferred her supplies to the waiting two LCI's and three LCU's for a night run to the beach.
6. By the time the supplies were transferred and the convoy had started north it was too late to hope to resupply the beach under cover of darkness. The convoy commander asked CIA Operational Headquarters, Washington, for destroyer escort and U.S. Navy jet cover without which he believed that he would lose his ships to air attack the next morning. He added that without U.S. Navy support the Cuban crew would mutiny if sent back to the beach.
7. As a result of these messages, CIA Headquarters, feeling that it would be futile to order these ammunition craft to attempt a daylight unloading, called off the mission and the attempt to get ammunition to the beach by sea ended. The President was not requested for specific authority to extend the air cover to protect the ammunition convoy.
8. These causes for the ammunition shortage rested in turn on others which lay deeper in the plans and organization of this operation and the attitude toward it on the part of Government officials. The effectiveness of the Castro Air Force over the beach resulted from a failure to destroy the airplanes on the ground (particularly the T-33's whose importance was not fully appreciated in advance) before or concurrently with the landing. This failure was a consequence of the restraints put on the anti-Castro Air Force in planning and executing its strikes, primarily for the purpose of protecting the covert character of the operation. These restraints included: the decision to use only the B-26 as a combat aircraft because it had been distributed widely to foreign countries; the limitation of pre-landing strikes to those which could be flown from non-U.S. controlled airfields under the guise of coming from Cuban strips, thus eliminating the possibility of using jet fighters or even T-33 trainers; the inability to use any non-Cuban base within short turn-around distance from the target area (about nine hours were required to turn around a B-26 for a second mission over the target from Nicaragua); prohibition of use of American contract pilots for tactical air operations; restriction on munitions, notably napalm; and the cancellation of the strikes planned at dawn on D-Day. The last mentioned was probably the most serious as it eliminated the last favorable opportunity to destroy the Castro Air Force on the ground. The cancellation seems to have resulted partly from the failure to make the air strike plan entirely clear in advance to the President and the Secretary of State, but, more importantly, by misgivings as to the effect of the air strikes on the position of the United States in the current UN debate on Cuba. Finally, there was the failure to carry the issue to the President when the opportunity was presented and explain to him with proper force the probable military consequences of a last-minute cancellation.
9. The flight of the Caribe and Atlantico might have been prevented had more attention been paid in advance to the control of the ships to include the placing of some Americans aboard. The CIA officer responsible for all the ships involved was a [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] who was aboard the LCI Blagar with no means to control the freighters, or, indeed, to locate them after they disappeared. Only the initiative of the U.S. Navy in the vicinity brought them back to the scene of action. The absence of Americans on board these vessels was an application of the general order to keep Americans out of the combat area. This order had been violated in a few cases, but it was apparently not considered important to do so in the case of the freighters.
10. The lack of full appreciation of the ammunition situation at the end of D+1 in the CIA Operational Headquarters was largely the result of the difficulty of keeping abreast of the situation on the beach, and the location and movement of the ships at sea from the distance of Washington. Also, there was a confidence in the supply of the beach by air which turned out to be unjustified. Had there been a command ship in the sea area with an advance CIA command post on board, a more effective control would have been possible.
11. The Executive branch of the Government was not organizationally
prepared to cope with this kind of paramilitary operation. There
was no single authority short of the President capable of coordinating
the actions of CIA, State, Defense, and USIA. Top level direction
was given through ad hoc meetings of senior officials without
consideration of operational plans in writing and with no arrangement
for recording conclusions and decisions reached.
233. Memorandum No. 3 From the Cuba Study Group to President Kennedy
Washington, June 13, 1961.
//Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, Cuba, Subjects, Taylor Report. Secret; Eyes Only; Ultrasensitive.
1. It is concluded that:
a. A paramilitary operation of the magnitude of Zapata could not be prepared and conducted in such a way that all U.S. support of it and connection with it could be plausibly disclaimed. Accordingly, this operation did not fit within the limited scope of NSC 5412/2. By about November 1960, the impossibility of running Zapata as a covert operation under CIA should have been recognized and the situation reviewed. The subsequent decision might then have been made to limit the efforts to attain covertness to the degree and nature of U.S. participation, and to assign responsibility for the amphibious operation to the Department of Defense. In this case, the CIA would have assisted in concealing the participation of Defense. Failing such a reorientation, the project should have been abandoned.
b. Once the need for the operation was established, its success should have had the primary consideration of all agencies in the Government. Operational restrictions designed to protect its covert character should have been accepted only if they did not impair the chance of success. As it was, the leaders of the operation were obliged to fit their plan inside changing ground rules laid down for non-military considerations, which often had serious operational disadvantages.
c. The leaders of the operation did not always present their case with sufficient force and clarity to the senior officials of the Government to allow the latter to appreciate the consequences of some of their decisions. This remark applies in particular to the circumstances surrounding the cancellation of the D-Day strikes.
d. There was a marginal character to the operation which increased with each additional limitation and cast a serious doubt over its ultimate success. The landing force was small in relation to its 36-mile beachhead and to the probable enemy reaction. The air support was short of pilots if the beach was to require cover for a long period. There were no fighters to keep off such Castro airplanes as might escape the initial air strikes. There were few Cuban replacements for the battle losses which were certain to occur on the ground and in the air. It is felt that the approval of so marginal an operation by many officials was influenced by the feeling that the Cuban Brigade was a waning asset which had to be used quickly as time was against us, and that this operation was the best way to realize the most from it. Also, the consequences of demobilizing the Brigade and the return of the trainees to the U.S.A., with its implication that the United States had lost interest in the fight against Castro, played a part in the final decision.
e. The Cuban Expeditionary Force achieved tactical surprise in its landing and, as we have said, fought well and inflicted heavy casualties on the enemy. Although there had been considerable evidence of strong pockets of resistance against Castro throughout Cuba, the short life of the beachhead was not sufficient to trigger an immediate popular reaction, and Castro's repressive measures following the landing made coordinated uprisings of the populace impossible. The effectiveness of the Castro military forces, as well as that of his police measures, was not entirely anticipated or foreseen.
f. In approving the operation, the President and senior officials had been greatly influenced by the understanding that the landing force could pass to guerrilla status, if unable to hold the beachhead. These officials were informed on many occasions that the Zapata area was guerrilla territory, and that the entire force, in an emergency, could operate as guerrillas. With this alternative to fall back on, the view was held that a sudden or disastrous defeat was most improbable. As we have indicated before, the guerrilla alternative as it had been described was not in fact available to this force in the situation which developed.
g. The operation suffered from being run from the distance of Washington. At that range and with the limited reporting which was inevitable on the part of field commanders absorbed in combat, it was not possible to have a clear understanding in Washington of events taking place in the field. This was particularly the case on the night of D+1 when an appreciation of the ammunition situation would have resulted in an appeal for U.S. air cover and an all-out effort to supply the beach by all available means.
h. The Joint Chiefs of Staff had the important responsibility of examining into the military feasibility of this operation. By acquiescing in the Zapata Plan, they gave the impression to others of approving it although they had expressed their preference for Trinidad at the outset, a point which apparently never reached the senior civilian officials. As a body they reviewed the successive changes of the plan piecemeal and only within a limited context, a procedure which was inadequate for a proper examination of all the military ramifications. Individually, they had differing understandings of important features of the operation apparently arising from oral briefings in the absence of written documents.
i. Although the intelligence was not perfect, particularly as to the evaluation of the effectiveness of the T-33's, we do not feel that any failure of intelligence contributed significantly to the defeat.
j. The planning and conduct of the operation would have been improved if there had been an initial statement of governmental policy, assigning the mission and setting the guidelines within which it was to develop. Thereafter, there was a need for a formalized procedure for interdepartmental coordination and follow-up with adequate record-keeping of decisions.
2. In the light of the foregoing considerations, we are of the
opinion that the preparations and execution of paramilitary operations
such as Zapata are a form of Cold War action in which the country
must be prepared to engage. If it does so, it must engage in it
with a maximum chance of success. Such operations should be planned
and executed by a governmental mechanism capable of bringing into
play, in addition to military and covert techniques, all other
forces, political, economic, ideological, and intelligence, which
can contribute to its success. No such mechanism presently exists
but should be created to plan, coordinate and further a national
Cold War strategy capable of including paramilitary operations.
234. Memorandum No. 4 From the Cuba Study Group to President Kennedy
Washington, June 13, 1961.
[Here follow the first five recommendations, which deal with the planning and coordination of cold war strategy and with the restructuring of procedures for carrying out paramilitary operations.]
Recommendation No. 6
In the course of its work, this Group has been exposed to the views on Cuba of many U.S. officials and of individuals, Cuban and U.S., who have been close to the Cuban problem. We have been struck with the general feeling that there can be no long-term living with Castro as a neighbor. His continued presence within the hemispheric community as a dangerously effective exponent of Communism and Anti-Americanism constitutes a real menace capable of eventually overthrowing the elected governments in any one or more of weak Latin American republics. There are only two ways to view this threat; either to hope that time and internal discontent will eventually end it, or to take active measures to force its removal. Unless by "time" we are thinking in terms of years, there is little reason to place reliance on the first course of action as being effective in Castro's police state. The second has been made more difficult by the April failure and is now possible only through overt U.S. participation with as much Latin American support as can be raised. Neither alternative is attractive, but no decision is, in effect, a choice of the first.
While inclining personally to a positive course of action against Castro without delay, we recognize the danger of dealing with the Cuban problem outside the context of the world Cold War situation. Action against Castro must be related to the probable course of events in such other places as Southeast Asia and Berlin which may put simultaneous claims on our resources.
It is recommended that the Cuban situation be reappraised in the
light of all presently known factors and new guidance be provided
for political, military, economic and propaganda action against
235. Memorandum From the Joint Chiefs of Staff to Secretary of Defense McNamara
Washington, June 16, 1961.
//Washington National Records Center, RG 330, OASD (C) A Files: FRC 71 A 2896, Cuba 381 (Sensitive). Top Secret. The source text bears a stamped indication that it was seen by the Secretary of Defense.
Contingency Outline Plan (Cuba) (S)
1. On 1 May 1961, in a memorandum for the Joint Chiefs of Staff,/1/ you requested that the Joint Staff and CINCLANT be assigned the responsibility for preparing instructions necessary to implement a Cuban Contingency Plan which would minimize the lead time required and maximize security during the period between the decision and invasion.
2. CINCLANT has developed an outline plan/2/ with a 5 day lead time. This plan has been reviewed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The following major considerations are involved:
a. Cost--Requirement for shipping and repositioning of units results in an estimated initial cost of $52.4 million and a cost of maintenance on a 30 day basis of $8.2 million.
b. Redeployment--The redeployment of the Marine Expeditionary Brigade from PACOM will reduce the capability of CINCPAC to react to contingencies in his area as long as those forces and related shipping are deployed in Atlantic or Gulf Coast waters.
c. Training and Morale--A short reaction time requires that units be on a continuing alert status over a long period of time. This adversely affects a unit's ability to maintain training efficiency and may affect morale. This could offset the advantages gained by a short reaction time.
d. Repositioning--The plan requires the repositioning of two major Army combat units to a presently inactive Army post (Fort Polk, Louisiana) and the possible closing of another (Fort Devens, Massachusetts). This may have serious domestic political implications.
e. Security--The required movement to pre-position forces as envisioned in the plan would be impossible to conceal. Accordingly, it is unlikely that any cover plan would hide the intent and purpose of proposed actions. However, deception plans could be designed for the purpose of misleading the Cuban forces as to the specific areas and timing of the assault.
3. CINCLANT has stated that a more economical use of forces can be achieved if more time is allowed between the order to execute and the initial assault. He estimates that he could implement a modification of his current operations plan for Cuba in 18 days from "Execute" to "Assault" and this plan would bring Cuba under control in a relatively short period of time.
4. The Joint Chiefs of Staff conclude, therefore, that more leeway must be provided in the reaction time; and that with activation of some additional amphibious shipping CINCLANT will be able to achieve a reaction time within 18 days from "Execute" to "Assault". This is the course of action recommended.
5. In the event emergency conditions, such as an immediate requirement to succor US citizens whose welfare has been placed in serious and immediate jeopardy, an airborne assault of approximately two divisions could be initiated against the Havana area with a lead time of five to six days. The combat elements of the force could close in 81-1/2 hours. All combat elements and scheduled support units could close in 114 hours. Marine augmentation forces could be air landed at Guantanamo for defense and expansion of control in that area, a Marine BLT could seize a beachhead in the Havana area as a diversionary support of the airborne assault, and follow-on forces would be phased in as rapidly as possible. It is recognized that this course of action is less desirable and is intended to be used if the situation so warrants.
6. As a result of our review, a memorandum has been prepared for dispatch to CINCLANT/3/ giving him additional guidance.
For the Joint Chiefs of Staff:
Chief of Naval Operations
[end of document]
to Foreign Relations of the U.S., Vol. X, Cuba.