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Operation Mongoose

The policy assessment initiated in May 1961 led in November of that year to a decision to implement a new covert program to undermine and overthrow the Castro government in Cuba. This program was codenamed Operation Mongoose. Oversight for Operation Mongoose was provided by the 5412/Special Group expanded to include General Taylor and Attorney General Kennedy. Planning for Operation Mongoose was given additional impetus in the spring of 1962 by reports of expanded arms shipments from the Soviet Union to Cuba.

In November 1961 Kennedy approved Operation Mongoose, a secret plan aimed at stimulating a rebellion in Cuba that the United States could support. From November 1961 to October 1962 a Special Group (Augmented), whose membership was the same as the Special Group plus Attorney General Robert Kennedy and General Taylor (as Chairman), exercised responsibility for Operation Mongoose, a major covert action program aimed at overthrowing the Castro regime in Cuba. When President Kennedy authorized the program in November, he designated Brigadier General Edward G. Lansdale, Assistant for Special Operations to the Secretary of Defense, to act as chief of operations, and Lansdale coordinated the Mongoose activities among the CIA and the Departments of State and Defense. CIA units in Washington and Miami had primary responsibility for implementing Mongoose operations, which included military, sabotage, and political propaganda programs.

Bill Harvey was a legend in the Clandestine Service by this time. He had been in Berlin when the Berlin Tunnel was built to tap into Soviet communication lines in East Berlin, and he was picked to head Operation Mongoose, the attempt to undermine Fidel Castro's regime.

Throughout 1961 and 1962, US policy was to subject Cuba to economic isolation and to support stepped-up raids by anti-Castro guerrillas, many of which were planned with the assassination of Castro and other Cuban officials as a probable consequence, if not a specific objective. The Cuban Government, in turn, assumed often correctly-- that the raids were instigated and directed by the US Government. In preparation for another large-scale attack, the Castro regime sought and received increased military support from the Soviet Union.

While the Kennedy administration implemented Operation Mongoose, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev secretly introduced medium-range nuclear missiles into Cuba. U.S intelligence picked up evidence of a general Soviet arms build-up during routine surveillance flights, and on September 4, 1962, Kennedy issued a public warning against the introduction of offensive weapons into Cuba. A U-2 flight on October 14 provided the first proof of Soviet medium-range ballistic missiles in Cuba. Kennedy called together 18 of his closest advisers to try to resolve the most dangerous US-Soviet confrontation of the Cold War. Some advisers argued for an air strike to take out the missiles and destroy the Cuban Air Force followed by a US invasion of Cuba; others favored warnings to Cuba and the Soviet Union. The President decided upon a middle course.

On October 22 Kennedy ordered a naval quarantine of Cuba. Kennedy responded on October 27 to the first of two letters sent by Khrushchev on October 26 and 27 proposing various settlements of the crisis. Kennedy accepted the Soviet offer to withdraw the missiles from Cuba in return for an end to the quarantine and a US pledge not to invade Cuba. The same day Attorney General Robert Kennedy told Soviet Ambassador Dobrynin that if the Soviet Union did not remove the missiles the United States would do so. Robert Kennedy also offered an assurance that Khrushchev needed: several months after the missiles were removed from Cuba, the United States would similarly remove its missiles from Turkey. On the basis of those understandings, the Soviet Union agreed on October 28 to remove its missiles from Cuba. The quarantine and the crisis lingered until the removal of the Soviet missiles was verified at sea on November 20, and the Soviet Union agreed to remove the medium-range Il-28 bombers it had also introduced into Cuba.

Following the Bay of Pigs invasion of 1961, Cuban exiles were directed and paid by CIA agents to compile secret files on and watch over other Cubans and Americans "who associated with individuals under surveillance." Anti-Castro forces in the United States were all the more embittered in the spring of 1963 when the Federal Government closed down many of their training camps and guerrilla bases. (34) In cases where government raids intercepted the illegal arms transfers, weapons were confiscated and arrests were made.

A force of Cuban exiles that had been trained and equipped by the CIA made an unsuccessful invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs in mid-April 1961 in an attempt to overthrow the regime of Fidel Castro. The person responsible for overall supervision of the operation was Richard M. Bissell, Jr., the CIA's Deputy Director for Plans. Four Americans flying CIA planes, and nearly 300 Cubans died during the invasion. Over 1,200 survivors were captured by Castro's forces.



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