The Largest Security-Cleared Career Network for Defense and Intelligence Jobs - JOIN NOW


Department Seal

Volume X
Cuba, 1961-1962



Cuba, 1961-1962

196. Memorandum From the President's Special Assistant (Schlesinger) to President Kennedy

Washington, May 3, 1961.

//Source: Kennedy Library, President's Office Files, Countries Series, Cuba, Security, 1961. Confidential.


Reactions to Cuba in Western Europe

1. I spent the period April 22-May 3 in Western Europe, first attending a conference of West European political and intellectual figures at Bologna, Italy, and then spending a few days in Paris and in London. I made a special point of trying to check reactions to the Cuban debacle--and also of setting forth (especially to key politicians and journalists) the key facts of the Cuban situation.

In Paris, I had conversations with Pierre Mendes-France; Jean Monnet; Jean-Jacques Servan-Schreiber (L'Express); Raymond Aron; M. Jeanneny, the Minister of Production; M. Baraduc, the chief information officer of the Quai d'Orsay; as well as with Ambassador Gavin, Ambassador Finletter, Cecil Lyon, and the American correspondents Cy Sulzberger, Joe Alsop, Don Cook and Art Buchwald.

In London, I talked with publishers or editors of the Spectator (Ian Gilmour and Bernard Levin); New Statesman (Paul Johnson and Norman Mackenzie); Economist (Donald Tyerman); Observer (David Astor, John Pringle, Edward Crankshaw and leading staff people); Sunday Times (Frank Giles and Nicholas Carroll); Daily Herald (John Beavan); Daily Telegraph (Michael Berry and Maurice Green); Evening Standard (Charles Wintour): Sunday Telegraph (Peregrine Worsthorne); plus a luncheon with the diplomatic correspondents of the London papers and the Manchester Guardian. Among Labour MPs, I saw Hugh Gaitskell, Denis Healey, Richard Crossman, Roy Jenkins, George Brown, Woodrow Wyatt. Among members of the government, I saw David Ormsby Gore, Ian Macleod, Reginald Maudling, Lord Hailsham, Sir Edward Boyle. I also saw Sir Frank Lee of the Treasury; Bob Boothby, Hartley Shawcross and Gladwyn Jebb, all of whom are now independent members of the House of Lords; Lord Lambton, a right-wing Tory MP; Sir Isaiah Berlin and William Deakin of Oxford; and the American correspondents Drew Middleton (New York Times) and Herman Nickels (Time). I also consulted closely, of course, with Ambassador Bruce and members of his staff.

I list these names to make clear the kind of opinions on which this report is based. I believe that in both Paris and London I saw a fairly representative cross-section of the political community. My impression of sentiment in these countries has been supplemented by my talks in Bologna with people from all over Western Europe and by the reports of American correspondents and diplomats.

I should add that I encountered everywhere what can only be described as a hunger for a rational explanation of the Cuban operation. I found this among left and right alike; among Americans as well as Europeans; among American Embassy officials (and even CIA representatives) as well as among American newspaper correspondents. The available stories had left most people baffled and incredulous. They could not believe that the U.S. Government had been quite so incompetent, irresponsible and stupid as the bare facts of the operation suggested, and they listened sympathetically and gratefully to a more balanced and complete account.

The apparent decision to keep our own diplomatic personnel in ignorance about the background of the Cuban operation seems to me especially unfortunate and unnecessary (though there may be considerations here of which I have no knowledge). The State Department appears to have sent out no instructions to American Embassies how to explain what happened in Cuba. As a consequence, our Ambassadors remain in the dark. If the Foreign Secretary of the state to which they are assigned asks them what really went on, they are forced to mouth official generalities or to confess ignorance or to rely on Scotty Reston or Time. This matter could easily have been remedied, in my judgment, if the State Department had sent out a simple instruction to our Embassies. I attach as Appendix A to this report the copy of a cable I sent to Mr. Rusk on this point from Rome./1/

/1/Appendix A, not printed, was not found attached. A copy is attached to a copy of Schlesinger's memorandum ibid., National Security Files, Countries Series, Cuba, General, 5/61.

2. Reactions to the debacle: short-term. The first reactions to Cuba were, of course, acute shock and disillusion. For some months nearly everybody in Western Europe, and especially perhaps the democratic left, had been making heavy emotional and political investments in the new American administration. Everything about this administration--the intelligence and vision of the President, the dynamism of his leadership, the scope and generosity of his policies, the freshness of his approach to the cold war--had excited tremendous anticipation and elation. The new American President in three months had reestablished confidence in the maturity of American judgment and the clarity of American purposes. Kennedy was considered the last best hope of the West against communism and for peace.

Now, in a single stroke, all this seemed wiped away. After Cuba, the American Government seemed as self-righteous, trigger-happy and incompetent as it had ever been in the heyday of John Foster Dulles. "Kennedy has lost his magic," one person said to me. "It will take years before we can accept the leadership of the Kennedy Administration again," said another. Friends of America warned me not to underestimate the gravity of the damage: "Make sure that our people in Washington understand how much ground we have lost" (Drew Middleton); "It was a terrible blow, and it will take a long, long time for us to recover from it" (Lord Boothby).

I should add that nearly all the reactions I encountered expressed sorrow over the decision to invade rather than over the failure of the invasion. "Why was Cuba such a threat to you? Why couldn't you live with Cuba, as the USSR lives with Turkey and Finland?" I had expected to find more people on the right who would complain over our failure to send in the Marines; but I found only one--Lord Lambton, a Tory MP who is a bitter critic of Macmillan's, a great friend of Joe Alsop's and an advocate of fighting everywhere--in Laos, Kenya, Cuba, etc. Other Tory MPs--Lord Hailsham, for example--said that in their view US intervention would have been a great error and would only have converted Cuba into another Ireland, Cyprus or Algeria. David Ormsby Gore, in making this point, added that British [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] estimates, [less than 1 line of source text not declassified] were that the Cuban people were still predominantly behind Castro and that there was no likelihood at this point of mass defections or insurrections.

3. Reactions to the debacle: long-term. The severity of the original shock should not, however, be allowed to overshadow certain factors on the other side. The fact is that the new administration made an enormously good impression up to Cuba and in so doing built up a fund of good will which, though now somewhat dissipated, is by no means entirely destroyed. One evidence of this is the eagerness of people on the left--Mendes-France, Servan-Schreiber, even Dick Crossman and the New Statesman people--to hear the American side of the case.

Reactions within the British Labour Party are perhaps symptomatic. Hugh Gaitskell was rueful but philosophical. "It was a great blow," he said. "The right wing of the Labour Party has been basing a good deal of its argument on the claim that things had changed in America. Cuba has made great trouble for us. We shall now have to move toward the left for a bit in order to maintain our position within the Party." But he asked what he could do to help, suggested people to whom I should talk and even made an appointment himself for me to see the editor of the Daily Herald. Denis Healey, the "shadow" Foreign Secretary, was somewhat more bitter. "I've staked my whole political career on the ability of the Americans to act sensibly," he said. He felt badly let down by the Administration but again was perfectly ready to listen to an account of how things had actually happened. Farther to the left, Dick Crossman said, "You really have got off very lightly. If this had taken place under Eisenhower, there would have been mass meetings in Trafalgar Square, Dulles would have been burned in effigy, and the Labour Party would have damned you in the most unequivocal terms. But because enough faith still remains in Kennedy, there has been very little popular outcry, and the Labour Party resolutions have been the bare minimum. You've got away with it this time. But one more mistake like this, and you will really be through."

Conservatives were, on the whole, even more willing to find excuses for the Cuban policy. A number of people, both on the right and the left, remarked consolingly on the shortness of popular memories. Algeria, of course, was immensely helpful in driving Cuba from the front pages.

Over the longer term, in short, I think we have suffered a serious but by no means fatal loss of confidence in our intelligence and responsibility. This can be easily recouped if we seem to return to more intelligent and responsible ways in the future. However, it will all go rather quickly if we embark once more on a course which Europeans regard as ill-considered, impetuous and reckless.

4. Dangers for the future. To sum up, Cuba is forgivable as an aberration but is greatly feared as forecasting future directions of US policy. It has created, for example, a vague fear in people's minds that the Kennedy Administration is bent on a course of subversive and paramilitary warfare. This fear has been heightened by what some Europeans regard as an unfolding pattern of events since Cuba, all seeming to foreshadow policies of military or paramilitary intervention: the "our patience is not limitless" speech; the emphasis on training for guerrilla warfare; the appeal to the press not to print stories about US unconventional warfare projects; the rumors of CIA support for the Algiers generals; the Presidential offer to intervene in France; the intimations of possible US intervention in Laos; the huddles with Nixon, Hoover, MacArthur, etc., interpreted in Europe as an effort to gather national support for, at the very least, a US invasion of Cuba. A number of people seriously believe, on the basis of newspaper stories from Washington, that an American invasion of Cuba is a distinct and imminent possibility. An Observer editor said to me, "If Cuba were just an accident, all right. But everything since Cuba suggests that the Kennedy who launched that invasion was the real Kennedy--that all his talk about `new methods' of warfare and countering guerrillas represents his real approach to the problems of the cold war--that he thinks the West will beat communism by adopting communist methods and transforming itself into a regimented paramilitary society on the model of the Soviet Union." Several people said, "It's not Cuba that worries me; it's the aftermath."

The reported Washington obsession with guerrilla warfare has roused particular concern. Press stories have given high quarters in England and France the impression that the U.S. Government suddenly regards counter-guerrilla activity as the key to victory in the cold war. The attached piece from the Times expresses British feeling on this matter./2/ Several people elaborately pointed out to me that guerrilla warfare can not be isolated from the political battle; that no force, however trained in counter-guerrilla technique, can clean up a guerrilla situation if the countryside sticks with the guerrillas; that the decisive question therefore is how the peasants feel. I was reminded that the guerrillas have been defeated in only two places since the war--in the Philippines, because Magsaysay's reform program won back the countryside; and in Malaya, because the British were able both to mobilize the Malayans against the Chinese and to offer independence--and that these examples show that politics, not combat methods, is the secret of success against guerrilla movements. The new tone of urgency in Washington has a somewhat shrill ring in many European ears. The Europeans to whom I talked believe that the fight against communism is still a matter for the long haul; they are much more impressed by the Alianza para el Progreso than by the training camps for anti-guerrilla warfare; and they hope for a return to the main lines of US foreign policy as set forth in the months before Cuba. I should add that nothing would do more to reestablish confidence in the U.S. Government than a visible shake-up and subordination of CIA. As the Algerian affair showed, CIA is going to be blamed for everything, especially so long as it continues to operate under its present management. People are eager to believe that the President was misled by bad advice in the matter of Cuba, but they are also eager to be reassured that he will not continue to get the same bad advice in the future.

/2/Not found attached. It is not clear which article or editorial in the Times of London is under reference here.

Arthur Schlesinger, jr.

197. Memorandum From the Assistant to the Deputy Director (Plans) for Covert Action (Barnes) to Director of Central Intelligence Dulles

Washington, May 3, 1961.

//Source: Department of State, INR/IL Historical Files, Cuba Program, Jan 21, 1961-. Secret; Eyes Only.


Cuban Paper

1. Attached is a copy of the paper which Dick Bissell sent over to Dick Goodwin of the White House Staff, who was acting as the central drafting point on the Cuban NSC paper being prepared by Paul Nitze's working committee. The attached paper is not to be made a part of the NSC paper nor is a military planning paper/1/ for Cuba. Presumably, both the attached and the military planning paper will be available for perusal by selected individuals.

/1/Not found.

2. You may quite properly feel that the attached is a rather brief statement but the reason for it is that Messrs. Nitze and Goodwin have had sessions both with Cuban leaders (i.e. Miro, Varona and Ray) as well as with Dick Bissell and myself so that they are pretty well informed on the possibilities. Consequently, a detailed paper did not seem necessary.

C. Tracy Barnes/2/

/2/Printed from a copy that indicates Barnes signed the original.


Washington, May 2, 1961.

As indicated by the combined INR/ONE estimate,/3/ anti-Castro activity within Cuba will probably be muted at least for the next several months. Most individuals whose loyalty is in any way suspect have been arrested. A recent report from the Swiss Ambassador indicated that political prisoners now number 100,000. All internal services will continue to work on a theory of repression plus undoubtedly swift and brutal penalties. Consequently, it will be very difficult to carry on any clandestine operations and it is doubtful that such operations can have any significant impact in weakening the Castro regime.

/3/Not found.

In spite of this, evidence is still available that there is opposition to the regime among individuals still at large and that such opposition is prepared to undertake action despite the risks involved. Moreover, there are still agents distributed through most of the six provinces and communications can still be had either directly or indirectly with these individuals. At the very least these agents can and will continue to collect information and to transmit it to the Agency. In addition, certain of these individuals, plus some additional ones who might be infiltrated, could attempt to carry out some sabotage. Individual acts of sabotage are possible with relatively few men and small amounts of material. Successive acts of sabotage or extensive sabotage operations are more difficult and inevitably more costly in terms of loss of men. Nevertheless, it would be possible, starting in the near future, to attempt limited sabotage with a view to determining its feasibility and with the hope that gradually an increased program might be developed.

A capability also exists for types of maritime operations including infiltration and exfiltration of individuals, landing and caching of arms, under-water sabotage of shipping and small raider operations. Under present circumstances it would seem wrong to attempt these except on a very limited scale and in all likelihood, raider operations should not be attempted until more information regarding feasibility has been obtained.

The Agency also has a small air arm including some transport aircraft (C-54 and C-46 types) plus attack bomber aircraft (B-26). Although it is not absolutely certain, there is reason to suppose that Cuban crews also are available for operational flights. At the moment, air operations should be substantially eliminated with the possible exception of supply flights to support opposition elements unable to survive without such support. Even with respect to such operations, however, it should be remembered that the percentage of successful night drops is extremely limited so that the urgency should be great to justify the risk. B-26 strikes could, of course, be flown against chosen targets (e.g. refineries, power plants, tire plants) and, if successful, might have the effect of extensive sabotage. In view of the risks involved, however, and the poor deniability of U.S. support where aircraft are involved, it is recommended that such operations be avoided at least for the present.

Manolo Ray of the MRP has asserted an independent MRP capability to conduct infiltration, intelligence collection, sabotage and defection operations into Cuba. He recognizes a need for U.S. support but is very firm in his desire to operate as independently as possible of any official U.S. connection. His initial request is for five boats, some materiel and some money. He admits, however, that, looking ahead, additional support such as real estate, some help with training and communications will be required. He offers to share his information with the U.S. Government, seek U.S. advice and, at least for a period of time, be willing to operate with the Revolutionary Council. The Council's views are being canvassed and Ray has been asked to prepare a prospectus giving in some detail his needs for U.S. support for the immediate future and the step-up required over a period of time should his efforts prove successful.

The Ray proposal should certainly be examined and given support within reasonable limits if the relationships proposed both with the Council and with the U.S. are satisfactory.

In addition to the activities described above, propaganda activities such as radio broadcasts and publication of magazines and newspapers can be continued independently by the Agency or in support of Ray or the Revolutionary Council. Moreover, limited political action operations are possible. As to both propaganda and political action, however, the amount of effort and the type of activity undertaken will depend to a large extent on the decisions with respect to the operations described above. Consequently, these will be noted here as mere possibilities.

198. Memorandum Prepared in the Central Intelligence Agency for the Cuba Study Group

Washington, May 3, 1961.

//Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, Cuba, Subjects, Taylor Report. Secret. Three maps entitled "Planned Disposition of Forces," "General Disposition of Forces--End of D-Day," and "General Disposition of Forces--End of D+1" are not printed.


Sequence of Events (D-2 to D+2), and Organization and Operation of Command Post


Paragraph 4, Memorandum dated 1 May 1961, Subject: Additional Information Desired of CIA/1/

/1/Not found.


(D-2 to D+2)

General. The description of events set forth herein is based upon messages and other information received at Headquarters during the operation. Comments are inserted where amplifying information is considered necessary. Later debriefing of personnel who actually participated in the operation has provided more extensive information concerning the action, but the purpose of this paper is to record what was known at Headquarters at the time.

D-2 (15 April 1961).

Air Strikes.

The purpose of these air strikes was to destroy the Castro air capability, located at Campo Libertad, San Antonio de los Banos, and Santiago de Cuba. In conjunction with the air strike, one B-26 with Castro Air Force markings and piloted by a Cuban was to land at Miami with the story that he was a defector from the Castro Air Force. The purpose of the defection flight was to conceal that the air strike was launched from outside Cuba, and to attempt to obtain mass defections in Castro's Air Force.

The air strike was carried out as scheduled at dawn D-2 by 8 B-26's, allocated as follows:

3--Campo Libertad

3--San Antonio de los Banos

2--Santiago de Cuba

Initial pilot reports indicated that 50% of Castro's offensive air was destroyed at Campo Libertad, 75% to 80% aircraft destruction at San Antonio at los Banos, and that the destruction at Santiago included 2 B-26's, 1 DC-8, 1 Lodestar, and 1 T-33 or Sea Fury. Subsequent photographic studies and interpretations indicated considerably less damage.

Comment: The State Department had consistently objected to any air attacks on Cuban airfields or other targets in Cuba. Conversely, the military planners on this project had realized from the outset that complete domination of the air was vital to the success of any landing attack. Therefore, methods were sought whereby destruction of enemy aircraft could be achieved in a manner acceptable to the State Department. It was within this framework that the defection operation in conjunction with B-26 attacks on Campo Libertad, San Antonio de los Banos, and Santiago was presented to the President of the United States, who approved the proposal. It was also the understanding of the military planners, at the time that the President gave his approval, that the D-2 strikes were to be followed by strikes at dawn D-day on airfields and other military targets. The fact air attacks on D-day were planned was specifically mentioned by the Deputy Director (Plans) when he briefed the President on the contemplated operation.

Diversionary Landing in Oriente.

A landing 30 miles east of Guantanamo by a group of 160 men, led by Nino Diaz, was planned for the night of 14/15 April. The landing had a twofold purpose: (1) to divert attention from the main landing, and (2) to organize guerrilla operations in Oriente Province.

The ship on which the force was embarked (Santa Ana) approached the landing point on schedule without interference. However, the landing was aborted. Reasons given for aborting were as follows:

(1) Friendly beach reception party did not appear on beach. (Comment: The leader was never informed that there would be a reception party.)

(2) Reconnaissance boat was lost.

(3) Two rubber boats were lost.

When it was learned that the operation had not been conducted, instructions were issued to land the following night. The ship remained in the area, retraced its route of the day before, and made its approach without incident. However, the landing again was not conducted. Reasons given this time were as follows:

(1) Reconnaissance boat broke down.

(2) Too much time lost in retrieving the reconnaissance boat.

(3) Friendly beach reception party did not appear on the beach.

(4) Enemy activity in area was too great.

Comment: The validity of the reasons given by Diaz for not conducting the landing are questionable. Intelligence sources did not indicate that the force had been discovered by the opposition. It was finally decided at Headquarters that weak leadership on the part of Diaz was responsible for the refusal to land, and on 16 April (D-1) orders were given to this force to proceed to the Zapata area and join the main force. The Diaz group did not arrive at Zapata in time to participate in the main operation.

Brigade En Route to Objective Area.

The ships on which the Brigade was embarked were following widely separated courses to the objective area. According to reports received (later confirmed by debriefings of Grayston Lynch, William Robertson, George Shane, and Sven Rydberg): all ships were proceeding ahead of schedule.

Comment: This was not considered detrimental to the security of the operation at this time because of the distance which separated the ships from the objective area.

About 1000, 15 April the Atlantico reported an automatic weapon accident in which 1 man was killed and 2 men wounded. A U.S. Navy destroyer made pick up after dark that night. Wounded were eventually evacuated to Guantanamo Bay Naval Station.

D-1 (16 April 1961).

Seaborne Movement of Brigade.

The assault shipping continued to move on separate courses toward the objective area. From position reports rendered by the various ships and the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier Essex, it was determined that all the ships, except the Rio Escondido, were ahead of schedule. At about 0600, 16 April the ships were ordered to reduce speed in order to arrive at the remainder of reference points in accordance with Ship Movement Schedule (contained in Tab A to Appendix 1 to Annex H to the Operation Plan)./2/ Subsequent position reports indicated the ships complied with instructions.

/2/The CIA's detailed Operation Plan has not been found.

The ships made their rendezvous with each other on time at about 1730, 16 April. They proceeded in column and made rendezvous with U.S. Navy LSD (San Marcos) about 5000 yards from Blue Beach. LCU and LCVP aboard the LSD were transferred to Cuban crews without incident between 2300 and 2400, 16 April.

Movement of Airborne Battalion from Base Camp in Guatemala to Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua.

This movement was accomplished during the night of 15/16 April without incident. The troops were moved expeditiously from aircraft to an isolated area near the airfield, where briefings of troops and aircraft crews were conducted until time for takeoff for objective area.

Cancellation of D-day Air Strikes.

The information on the decision to cancel planned D-day air strikes against Cuban airfields and other military targets was received at the Command Post at about 2200, 17 April.

Comment: The late hour at which this information was received made it impossible to cancel the landing, though the PM staff planners recognized the implications of such a decision. The Brigade and assault shipping were advised at this time that all Castro aircraft had not been destroyed. The Blagar (Flagship) was ordered to expedite unloading of troops and essential cargo from the Houston, Caribe, and Atlantico and send them 50 miles to sea at the earliest possible time. The Blagar and Barbara J were ordered to protect the Rio Escondido while it was being unloaded during the day. Friendly B-26's were to fly cover over the beachhead all day. It was realized at the time by the paramilitary staff that loss of ships and military supplies on board was inevitable since it was known that Castro possessed an offensive air capability which had not been destroyed.

D-day (17 April 1961).

Blue Beach.

When it was discovered that resistance was to be met in the landing over this beach, the Blagar moved in close to shore and delivered gunfire support. Brigade troops commenced landing at 0100.

0115--Brigade Commander ashore.

0300--Unloading of troops on Caribe completed. Commenced unloading troops from Atlantico. UDT reported searching for LCU landing point.

0330--Troops from Atlantico landing under fire.

0420--Brigade Commander issued orders to land troops, originally scheduled for Green Beach, over Blue Beach.

0600--First LCU ashore.

0630--Enemy air attacks commence on shipping and Blue Beach.

0640--Friendly air support arrived. (There is no mention henceforth as to what this support accomplished.)

0730--Completed discharging all vehicles and tanks from LCU's.

0825--Enemy T-33 shot down by Blagar.

0825--All troops ashore at Blue Beach.

0930--Rio Escondido hit and sunk. Crew members rescued and evacuated to Blagar.

0930--Brigade reported Playa Giron Airstrip ready for use.

1000--Continuous enemy air attacks forces shipping to go to sea. At 1200 Headquarters issued instructions which required sailing south at best possible speed.

1000--As ships withdrew they continued to come under air attack.

1130--Brigade reported had only 4 hours ammunition left. (The Brigade Commander was probably referring only to Blue Beach, because there is nothing to indicate that he was in contact with units at Red Beach or with the airborne units.)

The Blagar went to sea in company with the LCU with the plan to load the LCU's and then return after dark to make delivery of supplies and ammunition. However, after loading the LCU's, there wasn't sufficient time (darkness) remaining to make the run to the Beach, unload the craft, and retire to the seaward.

In response to the Brigade Commander's request for ammunition, at 1300 Headquarters issued instructions to base in Nicaragua to make airdrops at head of Bahia de Cochinos and at Playa Giron. During the night of 17/18 April 1 C-54 drop was made at Red Beach and 3 C-54 drops at Blue Beach. Results of drops are not positively known due to the fact that DZ's were not lighted.

Red Beach.

Nothing was reported to Headquarters on D-day concerning the landing at Red Beach. On D+1, the following was reported by the Barbara J concerning the D-day landing.

270 men with 6-81mm mortars, 1-75 RR, 2-57mm RR, 1-.50 caliber MG, and 2-60mm mortars were landed. A report from the Barbara J (message dated 221004Z) indicates that these troops were engaged immediately.

The Houston came under air attack at about 170630, and was hit. The ship went aground sometime later (time undetermined) with about 180 men on the west side of Bahia de Cochinos--about 5 miles from the landing beach.

Airborne Landing.

No action reported to Headquarters from the field on D-day. Certain reliable sources outside the objective area indicate the landing took place about 170730R in predesignated drop zones. Debriefing of pilots later confirmed that all landings were made except for one outpost scheduled for DZ-2.

Night Air Attacks.

Orders were issued at 1615 to bomb as many airfields as possible at night with fragmentation bombs. Three B-26's were launched for San Antonio de los Banos for these attacks but failed to find target due to haze and the fact that target was blacked out.

D+1 (18 April 1961).

At about 0730 the 2d Battalion at Red Beach reported for first time in message traffic, saying that its position could not be maintained without air support for more than 30 minutes.

0824--Brigade Commander reported Blue Beach under attack by 12 tanks and 4 jet aircraft. Ammunition and supplies requested. (Soon after the above report, authority to use napalm was granted for use in the beachhead area.)

1010--Red Beach reported wiped out. It was learned later during debriefing of Lynch and Robertson that Deputy Brigade Commander had ordered a withdrawal to Blue Beach, which was executed in an orderly manner.

1200--Blue Beach reported under attack by MIG-15's and T-33's, and out of tank ammunition, and almost all out of small arms ammunition also.

1600--Essex reported long line of tanks and trucks approaching Blue Beach from east.

Enemy air attacks and shortage of ammunition continued to be reported the rest of the day. Three C-54 ammunition and food drops on Playa Giron were reported dropped during the night 18/19 April. One of the drops was completely successful; and the other two doubtful--one landed off the end of the runway at the airfield, and one landed in the water. No report was received as to the amount of the latter that was recovered.

Friendly air attacks using napalm were conducted late in the day, causing undetermined damage. Pilot reports indicate many fires to the west of Blue Beach.

1800--1st Battalion reported under heavy artillery attack. Position indicated at this time was considerably south of the 1st Battalion planned position north and northeast of San Blas.

1800--Brigade Commander continued to request jet air cover, including close support and ammunition.

Comment: By means of a message sent from Headquarters at 2024, the Brigade Commander was informed that a C-46 with ammunition would land at the Playa Giron airfield, and would evacuate wounded. It was also recommended to the Brigade Commander that patrols armed with bazookas search out tanks and knock them out during the night. Brigade Commander was also informed in this message that ships would be sent in on night 19 April for evacuation if he so recommended.

2200--Brigade Commander sent message "I will not be evacuated. We will fight to the end here if we have to."

During the night many discussions were held concerning the participation of U.S. Navy aircraft over the beachhead area. The final instruction provided for Navy CAP between 0630 and 0730 to defend "CEF against air attack from Castro forces." The aircraft were issued instructions not to seek air combat but defend CEF forces from air attack, and not to attack ground targets. As a result of these provisions, plans were made to use all available B-26's to support Brigade, while Navy was providing air protection. Later, it was reported that Cuban pilots flying these missions aborted prior to arrival over the beachhead, and two American crews were shot down.

D+2 (19 April 1961).

0600--Enemy air strikes commenced.

0710-1430--Enemy commenced closing in on Brigade elements in Blue Beach sector with tanks and infantry in coordination with air attacks. From the beginning of this period, the Brigade Commander sent many frantic appeals for air cover and support to destroy enemy tanks.

0170-1430--Last message--"Am destroying all equipment and communications. Tanks are in sight. I have nothing left to fight with. Am taking to woods. I cannot wait for you."

Comment: Commencing early morning of 19 April, serious consideration was given to evacuating Brigade during the night 19/20 April despite the Brigade Commander's assertion that he would not evacuate. Necessary instructions were issued to move shipping closer to the Blue Beach area so that the run to the beach, reembarkation of troops, and withdrawal to sea could be done during hours of darkness. Identification of messages sent are as follows:

Hqs. Msg. No.

4835 (OUT 7239)--190820Z

4839 (OUT 7269)--191346Z

4840 (OUT 7271)--191358Z

4844 (OUT 7280)--191434Z

4850 (OUT 7293)--191627Z/3/

/3/These messages, all dated April 19, are in the Naval Historical Center, Area Files, Bumpy Road Materials.


1. The Command Post functioned in a manner similar to that of a military command post (divisional level). Representatives from the sections comprising the Paramilitary Staff operated on a 24 hour basis. Sections represented were Ground Operations, Air Operations, Maritime Operations, Intelligence, Personnel and Logistics.

2. Contact liaison was maintained with the Joint Chiefs of Staff through Lt. Col. Benjamin Tarwater (JCS Staff representative) who visited the Operations Center twice daily to obtain timely briefing notes in order to prepare and present daily JCS briefings.

3. Telephone and cable contact was maintained with Headquarters CINCLANT. Communications with the Brigade and CEF ships was via CIA communication center at the operation center building (Quarters Eye).

4. Colonel Hawkins, Chief, Paramilitary Staff and Mr. Esterline, the Project Chief, were physically present at the Command Post in Quarters Eye throughout the period of operations.

5. Mr. Bissell and Colonel King were also immediately available for consultation throughout the operation and frequent conferences between these officials, Mr. Esterline and Colonel Hawkins were held.

6. Decisions within the competence of CIA were immediately reached in all cases. Decisions requiring Department of Defense participation were critically delayed due to the necessity for consideration at higher levels of government and political implications.

7. During the final day of the operation, Colonel Hawkins and other key military staff officers posted themselves in the communications center of Quarters Eye and responded to messages coming from the field instantly upon receipt.

199. Memorandum for the Record

Washington, May 3, 1961.

//Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, Cuba, Subjects, Taylor Report. Secret; Eyes Only; Ultrasensitive. No drafter is indicated but it was probably Colonel Tarwater. The meeting was the ninth in the series conducted by the Cuba Study Group and took place at the Pentagon. The participants in the meeting, in addition to Taylor, Kennedy, Dulles, and Burke, included McNamara, Wheeler, Bonesteel, Kinnard, King, Mitchell, and Tarwater. A note on the source text reads: "The following notes are not a verbatim record, but represent the general substance of the statements made."

[Here follows discussion of intelligence aspects of the Zapata operation.]

Secretary McNamara

At this point the Group proceeded to Secretary McNamara's office where he was asked a number of questions in an attempt to determine what the picture was as he saw it at his level of decision.

Question: What was the estimate of the probability of success of Zapata?

Secretary McNamara: This should be answered in the time context of the point of no return. Actually the chances of success changed as the days went by as the plan was modified. Initially there was a smaller force, about 800 personnel. Finally there were somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,200. This increase in the strength of the invasion force, of course, increased the chances of success. The increased logistic support also tended to increase the chances of success. On the other hand, the reduced air support, the new landing area, and the reduced sea cover all tended to reduce the chances of success. However, the over-all balance indicated a marginal probability of success. It seemed desirable to go ahead for three reasons: (1) If we didn't proceed we would have to bring the invasion force back to the United States. It seemed that the general conclusion that would result from this would be the idea that the United States was unwilling to help others fight against Communism. (2) A feeling that never again would we have a chance to overthrow Castro without utilizing Americans. (3) The failure of the CEF to succeed in their operation as a unified force would not preclude the force from breaking up and continuing guerrilla operations, in which case the operation would not be viewed by the rest of the world as a total defeat.

Statement: One side we are interested in exploring is the side pre-sented by Mr. Mann.

Secretary McNamara: Tom Mann endorsed the plan before the point of no return.

Statement: Our papers indicate that on the 18th of February Mr. Bundy reported to the President that there were two points of view, Mr. Bissell's and Mr. Mann's./1/ Was Mr. Mann the one who insisted on nonattribution?

/1/See Document 48.

Secretary McNamara: The desirability of nonattribution was a general view, almost to be met prior to approval. However, this can't be charged to Tom Mann.

Question: Was the question of guerrilla operations in the Zapata area considered?

Secretary McNamara: Yes. However, this was considered to be unlikely because the CEF was believed to be able to control the access routes into the beachhead. If control of the access routes was lost, however, it was believed it would be easier for the invaders to get through the swamps as individuals than it would be for Castro's units. Finally, it was believed that if Castro broke through the force could be evacuated by sea.

Question: Was it a major factor that this force could get to the mountains?

Secretary McNamara: Yes, it was certainly in the President's mind. It was always considered that the force could be evacuated or go through the swamp into the mountains, in which case the Press wouldn't be able to look upon the operation as a total failure.

Question: What was the feeling with regard to the possibility of popular uprisings?

Secretary McNamara: It was understood that there was a substantial possibility of uprisings, possibly on the order of four or five out of ten. This led to the belief that the whole operation was marginal. Uprisings in a police state weren't expected to occur fast enough to support the landings.

Question: What was expected to happen if the landing force effected a successful lodgment but there was no uprising?

Secretary McNamara: They would be split up into a guerrilla force and moved into the Escambrays.

Question: What was the understanding of the position of the JCS as to Zapata? Was it appreciated that they favored Trinidad over Zapata?

Secretary McNamara: The JCS had reviewed the plan in early January and while they considered it marginal they still believed it had sufficient chance of success to warrant its implementation. After all the modifications to the original plan were made they still believed the chances of success were marginal, but they still wanted to give it a try. There was one important modification that the Chiefs never knew about and one about which they all felt strongly. This was the decision to cancel some of the D-Day air strikes. This decision was made at the only meeting at which neither I nor the Chiefs participated. It was my understanding that both the CIA and the Chiefs preferred Zapata to Trinidad. For while Trinidad offered the advantage of close proximity to the Escambray or guerrilla territory, Zapata offered an air strip and was likely to be less well protected by Castro, thereby raising the chances of success for the initial landing.

Question: Was it understood that control of the air was essential to the success of the landing?

Secretary McNamara: It was understood that without control of the air the chances of success would be considerably decreased. The understanding of Castro's air force was not adequate, particularly in terms of the members and types of aircraft. Furthermore, it was assumed that a large number of his aircraft would be incapacitated. This appears to have been a major error. However, to get back to the question of control of the air, it was certainly understood that it was very important.

Secretary McNamara: It doesn't appear that we would have achieved complete control of the air even if we had made the dawn air attack.

Statement: There were some reports that we knocked out approximately two-thirds of Castro's combat aircraft.

Secretary McNamara: If we knocked out two-thirds of Castro's aircraft they had a greater capability than they were expected to have.

Question: What was the understanding as to the ability of the landing force to pass to a guerrilla status in an emergency?

Secretary McNamara: Quite clear that they could function in a guerrilla status.

Mr. Dulles: Actually this never had a chance to be tested.

Question: What degree of nonattribution was sought and why?

Secretary McNamara: The highest possible degree because the Latin-American countries had indicated they would not support this operation.

Question: Was there any doubt that, globally speaking, this operation would be attributed to the United States?

Secretary McNamara: We felt it would to a degree, but wanted to reduce this to a minimum.

Question: Were the implications of the conflict between operational requirements for success and the need for nonattribution clearly understood?

Secretary McNamara: Not really. As the plan progressed there was a definite trend to reduce the possibilities of attribution. This trend took the shape of a curve and finally the plan was compromised in order to reduce the chances of attribution.

Question: Do you believe that the CIA became advocates of the plan?

Secretary McNamara: It was not a CIA debacle. It was a Government debacle. There wasn't any person in the room that didn't approve the plan. Bissell in no sense was selling the operation. Colonel Hawkins was eloquent in advocating the plan. However, his presentations were so onesided that he made little influence on my judgment.

Secretary McNamara: This was a marginal operation. It was recognized that if one ship was lost we were in trouble. The feeling never developed, however, that CIA was selling this operation.

Admiral Burke: I had misgivings about the plan, but none that were crucial.

Secretary McNamara: That's right, it was a gradual erosion of the plan, but not to the extent that it seemed desirable to call off the operation.

Question: You mentioned the requirement for the clarification of responsibilities here in Washington.

Secretary McNamara: CIA should not run such large operations. They simply don't have the facilities. We could have used our facilities on a nonattributable basis. It would have been better if we could have handled the operation because we could have planned it on a much larger scale. We could have assured command control. A military operation should never be conducted except under a military man.

Secretary McNamara: We should systematize the decision making process.

Question: How would you do this on a systematic basis?

Secretary McNamara: I wasn't thinking so much in terms of this as the fact that I wouldn't allow any decisions to be made or actions taken except on the basis of written documents.

Question: Do you believe the absence of written documents was a consequence of security considerations?

Secretary McNamara: Yes.

Question: Going back to the Cuban operation, accepting for the moment that the military should have run the operation, when should they have taken control?

Secretary McNamara: I am not qualified to answer that as I don't know enough about the CIA structure.

Secretary McNamara: Another alternative that might be desirable in the case of future Cubas is that the CIA, for example, would conceive the need for certain actions. CIA should then lay out their basic plan and when they reach the point where they feel that they should train and equip troops, the JCS should be brought in to make an evaluation. This should be done even before the President makes his decision. Then at the point when the operation is approved the military commander should take over so he can shape the whole operation. In the case of Cuba, for example, at the point where the Special Force instructors were requested the DOD should have come in.

Secretary McNamara: There is one point that should be emphasized, that is, that all decisions and actions should be written. This would engender responsibility.

Question: How big should a force be before becoming a DOD responsibility?

Secretary McNamara: To answer that question you need a detailed organization study. I believe that someone should make a study and come up with a recommendation.

General Wheeler

At this point the Group returned to General Taylor's office and General Wheeler appeared before the Group.

Question: As the Director of the Joint Staff, how did this operation look to you?

Answer: When we got into this in January I put General Gray to work as our representative. Now an interesting aspect was that we attempted to make an evaluation of the plan as it existed at the time we became aware of it and I had J-2 and J-3 make an independent survey to find the optimum landing beach in Cuba, and they came up with Trinidad. Then General Gray, working with a group of officers from all the J Staffs, evaluated the plan, and this evaluation was concluded with the statement that the plan had a fair chance. It was pointed out, however, that our conclusions were based only on hearsay and so we recommended that a team of officers go down to the training area and make an evaluation there. When they returned they wrote their evaluation which indicated several weaknesses, particularly in logistics. As a consequence, we sent Lieutenant Colonel Wall down to help them with their amphibious logistic problems. Thereafter, progressively as the time approached for the implementation of the plan, the plan as originally envisioned was walked away from, particularly the air support aspects. For example, the air strikes were desired on D-Day for maximum effect. The next thing that was bothersome was that we couldn't land at Trinidad as we had to find an airstrip from which the B-26s could claim to be operating. Then came the evaluation of the Zapata Plan. If I remember correctly, there were three alternatives to Trinidad that were looked at, and Zapata was the least objectionable. I can recall that when he looked at the Zapata Plan General Lemnitzer asked how the force would get out of that area in the event that the operation didn't go well. It was explained that the troops would fade into the swamps and move into the mountains. I felt that this had less than a fair chance of success.

Question: How long did you consider the Zapata Plan?

Answer: It couldn't have been for more than 48 hours.

Question: Do you think this was time enough to go into the plan adequately?

Answer: I believe that you could make a fairly good evaluation in that length of time, or even less. Zapata was only a change of the area of landing, not a change of the pattern of the landing.

Question: What about the air plan? Was it really discussed by the Chiefs?

Answer: At every meeting there were pros and cons on how important the first air strikes would be and how important it would be to the success of the operation. I feel that the sense of the Chiefs throughout the meetings was that air support was critical to the success of the operation.

Question: When the Chiefs approved the Zapata Plan, however, was it with the understanding that there would be pre-D-Day strikes or D-Day strikes?

Answer: The matter of the pre-D-Day strike came up after the Zapata Plan was more or less set as the plan to be implemented, if I remember correctly. The plan for the Zapata landing, as I recall it, still called for the D-Day strike, I think at dawn on D-Day. As I say, I could be wrong on that particular point.

Question: Do you have documents that you can refer to that will establish this time?

Answer: Yes, General Gray, I am sure, has these documents.

Statement: The Chiefs were still talking largely in terms of the original plan with the locale moved from Trinidad to Zapata.

Response: That would be more understandable except for the fact that you rejected some of the other alternatives you considered on the basis that they didn't have air strikes.

Question: Did anybody study whether or not the guerrillas could operate in the swamp area?

Answer: I understand that they can, that they have been operating in there for a hundred years.

Statement: This has been referred to, as General Wheeler says. However, I have seen no evidence it has been utilized in recent years.

Question: Did anybody study that?

Answer: In that particular area we didn't make any particular study of it, no. We were told this was a guerrilla area and I was under the impression that there were even some guerrillas operating in there at this time.

Question: But nobody in the Joint Staff looked into this matter at the time?

Answer: Our people said that this was a guerrilla area and that people could sustain themselves in there.

Question: What I am trying to determine is if a study was made.

Answer: No, no study was made, certainly no detailed study.

Statement: We inquired into this on one occasion and the people at CIA told us that a group of a hundred guerrillas was operating in this area, and there was lots of smaller game.

Statement: Of course, a second point was that while it might have been usable as a guerrilla area at one time, this was before the time of helicopters. It would seem that some of these military experts should have been able to figure this out.

Question: In talking with Colonel Egan, did he point out that the primary evacuation would be by sea, but if this failed they would move into the swamps for their guerrilla operation?

Answer: Yes, that was discussed, sir, and it was recognized that this would be a very sticky and difficult thing to do. In the first place, it was recognized that evacuation by sea is one of the most difficult operations there is. You almost have to have support from the sea in the form of gunfire support or air cover. I thought that if these people were really pressed hard the possibility of evacuation would be much less than their going into a guerrilla operation.

Statement: It would seem that the concept of falling back to the beaches should have been ruled out because it almost ruled out the possibility of guerrilla action as a practical thing.

Question: With regard to the logistics of this thing, would you say that the Joint Staff checked the logistics carefully?

Answer: I believe that the logistic aspects were checked very carefully indeed.

Question: As D-Day approached what plans were there for liaison with the CIA.

Answer: We set up a little war room here which ran on a 24-hour basis. We had constant liaison with CIA, we had liaison officers from the services, and I had taken people from various sections of the Joint Staff. We had a special communications system where all items from CINC-LANT came directly in to General Gray. He was really the disseminator of all messages from the Department of Defense and the other agencies to CINCLANT.

Question: How did you get the messages that came in over at CIA?

Answer: They were transmitted over here.

Question: How were they transmitted?

Answer: We have a teletype here in J-2.

Question: So you had the same messages here as they had in CIA?

Answer: To the best of my belief.

Question: When were you and the Joint Staff aware of the ammunition shortage?

Answer: When we got word that the ship that was at Blue Beach was sunk we learned that a large portion of their reserve ammo was aboard, and then we saw messages from the beach area in which they particularly mentioned that they were running low on tank ammunition.

Question: Once you found out there was an ammunition shortage did you try and get the ships back in there?

Answer: Yes, we did.

Statement: I get the impression that a very careful evaluation was made of the Trinidad Plan and that about all that was done in regard to the Zapata Plan was that it was looked at with the idea that everything set forth in the Trinidad Plan would go with the exception of the adjustments that had to be made at the new beach.

Response: Yes, sir.

Question: Did you have liaison officers over at CIA?

Answer: Yes, sir.

Question: On D+1 they were going to try and make a run into the beach with ammunition. They made an emergency request for air cover. Do you recall whether it was appreciated that this was the only way that they could get that ammunition ashore was with air cover?

Answer: Sir, I wouldn't even put it on the basis of ammunition alone. The reports from the beach indicated that the men desperately needed air cover. I definitely knew the situation was desperate at that time, there was no question about it.

Statement: Well, let's move out now and have you tell us how you think you could do this a little bit better in the future.

Answer: This is not an original thought. It results from discussions with General Gray and others, and we feel that to properly organize you need to start with a broad national plan prepared by all the agencies of the Government. It should start off in the broad terms of a concept and after the concept is agreed upon and approved by the President each agency should prepare its own part of the plan. We think that in this case CINCLANT should have set up a special operational task force and prepared the detailed plan for the operation. If this plan was prepared, of course, it would be passed up through channels to the President.

Question: How about your other aspects of the plan--the political, the psychological and so on?

Answer: Well, actually these are the special plans that were mentioned earlier with regard to the national plan.

Question: Who would be responsible for success or failure?

Answer: The man in charge of the special task force.

Statement: What we really feel is that we lack this national U.S. plan of action. We feel that there should have been a unified task force commander to really conduct the operation. We feel that you cannot efficiently attempt to conduct operations of this sort from Washington. It is too far removed. People are too immersed in other types of activities. What it results in is that responsible officials are called upon to make rather heavy decisions with very little forewarning and in some cases without perhaps as much information as they should have.

200. Memorandum for the Record

Washington, May 4, 1961.

T//Source: Kennedy Library, National Security Files, Countries Series, Cuba, Subjects, Taylor Report. Secret; Eyes Only; Ultrasensitive. No drafter is indicated, but it was probably Colonel Tarwater. The meeting was the tenth in the series conducted by the Cuba Study Group. The initial stages of the discussion took place at the Pentagon; the discussion with Rusk took place at the Department of State. The participants in the meeting, in addition to Taylor, Kennedy, Dulles, and Burke, included Rusk, Gray, Bonesteel, Mitchell, and Tarwater. A note on the source text reads: "The following notes are not a verbatim record, but represent the general substance of the statements made."

he first portion of the meeting was devoted to a consideration of some of the tentative conclusions reached at this point. After a short while it was deemed desirable to recall General Gray for further questioning.

General Gray

Question: We are impressed by the incompleteness of the JCS appraisal of the Zapata Plan. We understand that the incompleteness of the evaluation was due, in part, to the fact that it was based on a concept rather than a completed plan. Is that a fair statement?

Answer: Yes. To a degree the incompleteness was due to that.

Question: Having at least concurred in this concept as being an adequate basis for further planning, why didn't the Joint Chiefs, at some point down the road, look at the completed plan or a plan sufficiently detailed so that they could consider some of the points that they had missed?

Answer: One reason the Zapata Plan was brief in comparison with the other one is because most of the factors were exactly the same. The second factor was the limitation of time. We were briefed in the morning and had to get out a paper on which we could brief the Chiefs the following morning. Furthermore, at this time this was not just a consideration of three possible alternatives. The original Trinidad Plan was still in the running. We determined that Zapata was the best of the three alternatives, but we still preferred the original Trinidad Plan.

Question: But you did accept Zapata as the basis for further planning?

Answer: Yes.

Question: At what point did the plan take enough shape that the JCS could have made a detailed evaluation?

Answer: The detailed plan was probably completed on 8 April because that's when Hawkins and Egan went down south. However, we didn't get that plan until the operation started.

Question: General Gray, how close were you to this plan?

Answer: I was in on all the meetings that were held at the White House with one exception.

Question: Were you talking with CIA people on this plan?

Answer: Yes. The first change we noticed was when the concept changed from being just at the head of the Bay, and moved south down the eastern side to the Blue Beach area.

Question: How did you get that information?

Answer: By liaison back and forth between officers. I briefed the JCS on that change in concept at one of their meetings. The reason for this change was because a usable airfield was down on the shoulder and that was one of the requirements that had been placed on the plan.

Question: Was the possibility of this force becoming a guerrilla unit considered?

Answer: Not formally by the Joint Chiefs, but we looked at it. It was felt that they could hold this area. However, if they didn't get popular support there was no advantage for them to sit there. For even if Castro couldn't eliminate them, other people couldn't get in to them, so they had to get out of there. It was concluded if they were going to withdraw there were three ways they could do it. One was evacuation by ship. If the decision had been made and planned for we could have withdrawn those people off the bench. The second one was that with air support they could have fought their way out. The third possibility was that part of the force would be evacuated and then later infiltrated back in as guerrillas and the other part of the force would actually remain in that whole Zapata Peninsula area and operate as guerrillas in the expanse to the west. It was always believed they could get out by sea because the CIA's sea operations had always been very successful.

Question: Were you aware that the troops were trained and instructed that in the event they couldn't hold their lodgment they were to fall back onto the beaches for evacuation, and only if that failed would they operate as guerrilla forces?

Answer: No, we weren't. That wasn't in the plan and we were not present at the final briefing.

Question: Did you brief the Joint Chiefs on all the parts of the plan?

Answer: Yes, all except the question of the air strikes.

Question: What was your understanding of the air strikes?

Answer: There would be air strikes on D-Day. This D-2 air strike didn't come in until the last few days. The air plan consisted of nothing but D-Day strikes. Our understanding of the plan was always that the air strikes would be conducted at dawn from Puerto Cabezas.

Question: Would you look back in your notes and see when you briefed the Chiefs and essentially what was in your briefing so we'll know what they heard about the plan?

Answer: Yes, sir.

Statement: There were four official papers that the Joint Chiefs considered. The first was the original Trinidad Plan. The second was the Zapata Evaluation. Third was the evaluation of whether or not we could put a small force in the Oriente Province and they could hang on, and fourth was the evaluation of the team's trip to Guatemala./1/ They were briefed on these official papers and at their regular meetings I brought them up to date on what was going on. At several of these meetings they were briefed on changes to the plan and they approved them.

/1/Documents 9, 62, 57, and 56, respectively.

Question: Were these briefings for information or to get their decision?

Answer: Generally speaking, when I briefed them it was on some paper or something that they were being asked to approve.

Question: Would you say then that the Chiefs did have all the essential elements of this plan and did consider the plan adequate?

Answer: Yes, sir.

Question: Did you feel you had the option to the guerrilla alternative?

Answer: Yes, I've always thought we had the option to make that decision before the force got pressed right down to the beach.

General Gray: As D-Day approached it seemed to me that popular support was developing and building. We did measure all the military factors we thought were necessary. However, it was very difficult to get an accurate fix on where the militia was.

Question: You and the DOD did consider the logistic problem and took action to strengthen the logistic plan. Is that a fair statement?

Answer: Yes, sir.

Statement: In other words, logistically speaking, you had planned a very heavy back up to insure a successful operation.

Answer: Yes, sir.

Question: Would you say that you saw this plan develop, that you had adequate contact with the CIA so that your group, at least, had full knowledge of the developments and anything that looked doubtful was taken before the Joint Chiefs?

Answer: That's right.

Question: Is it true that while the Joint Chiefs never had a presentation on the over-all Zapata Plan at one time, they were briefed on all the pieces of the plan, so they could be said to have knowledge of the entire plan?

Answer: Yes, sir.

Question: What concern was expressed over the fact that there were only small boats to unload the Houston off Red Beach?

Answer: I actually didn't know that detail.

Question: Did you know that the Atlantico and the Caribe had gone south a hundred or two hundred miles and actually escaped from control for a number of hours?

Answer: Yes, sir.

Question: Do you recall when you discovered that?

Answer: It's in our log. As soon as we become aware of it we told CINCLANT to round them up.

Statement: Our position on all of this was that we would do anything as long as it was approved, and then CIA carried the ball on getting the approval.

General Taylor: After listening to General Gray's testimony I now feel that the Joint Chiefs had a more complete appraisal of the plan and consequently gave a more complete approval.

General Gray: I believe there should have been a final briefing on the over-all plan about April 12th. I wrote that into the tasks that were to be followed by the different agencies. I believe this would have permitted a more detailed evaluation of the plan and all the changes that had been made up to that point.

General Gray: Speaking for myself, there could have been a more detailed evaluation, but I don't think it would have changed my evaluation that the plans should have gone ahead.

[Here follows discussion with General Bonesteel of organizational changes required to deal with cold war problems.]

At this point the Study Group reconvened in Secretary Rusk's office in the State Department. Present were:

General Taylor

Secretary Rusk

Mr. Kennedy

Commander Mitchell

Mr. Dulles

Lt Colonel Tarwater

After a few introductory remarks Secretary Rusk was asked his estimate of the probability of success of the Zapata Plan.

Secretary Rusk: It was in the neighborhood of fifty per cent. It appeared the landing might be followed by further uprisings. If this failed the force could become guerrillas.

Mr. Dulles: I think we all looked upon this as a pretty risky operation.

Secretary Rusk: The risks of the operation were accepted, however, because the importance of success was fully appreciated. Time was running out. It was the last chance in some time to have this job done by Cubans. Otherwise we might have to do this with American personnel and this would be less desirable. Castro's police power was increasing and he was also receiving a large inflow of Soviet arms. Further, it should be pointed out that when we talked about the possibility of failure we talked about far more disastrous results than actually occurred. For example, we had discussed the possibility of such things as being ousted from the OAS or censure by the UN, and lively and adverse reaction by our allies in Europe. The results that developed were not as serious as those that we had considered.

Question: What was the feeling of the likelihood of a popular uprising following the landing?

Secretary Rusk: There was a very considerable likelihood of popular uprisings.

Question: How essential was such an uprising regarded for the success of the operation?

Secretary Rusk: It was believed that the uprising was utterly essential to success in terms of ousting Castro. At one point we discussed the possibility of putting these men in as guerrillas. However, this concept was rejected on the basis of the fact that it would not spark an uprising.

Question: What was your understanding of the requirements for sufficient shock to spark uprisings?

Secretary Rusk: The impression existed that 1,200 highly trained men expected to get ashore and run into some militia units and beat the hell out of them. This would be the kind of a bloody nose that would get things moving. The feeling was that there would be no fighting on the beach. It seemed that this area was virtually empty. There was a good chance the invasion force could get well ashore without being discovered.

Question: What was expected to happen if the landing force effected a successful lodgment but there was no uprising?

Secretary Rusk: In that case they would commence guerrilla operations, move into the swamps and then into the hills. This swamp area was stated to be the home of guerrillas.

Question: Was the point made that this area had not been used for guerrilla operations in this century?

Secretary Rusk: I don't recall.

Question: Was the possibility of a sea evacuation of the force considered?

Secretary Rusk: I don't recall. At least, it didn't make an impression on me. Let me point out that there was a minimum of papers.

Question: What was the understanding of the position of the JCS as to Zapata? Was it appreciated that they favored Trinidad over Zapata?

Secretary Rusk: They approved the Trinidad Plan. Trinidad involved a larger scale, more spectacular operation. It didn't offer the immediate possibility of an airstrip. It was felt that Zapata had considerably more political advantages and that the JCS approved Zapata.

Statement: The JCS commented that Zapata was the best of the three alternatives they considered, but that they still favored the original Trinidad Plan.

Secretary Rusk: They didn't put their view in writing and that didn't come through. There was a strong impression that they favored the plan. At one meeting the President went around the room and asked everyone personally their opinion and I believe that I was the only one that didn't approve.

Question: Was it understood that control of the air was considered essential to the success of the landing?

Secretary Rusk: Yes, it was understood that it was essential to the success of the landing, but there was an inadequate appreciation of the enemy's capability in the air. Furthermore, neither the President nor I was clear that there was a D-2 air strike. We did have it in our minds that there would be a D-Day air strike. Following the D-2 air strike there was considerable confusion. It wasn't realized that there was to be more than one air strike in the Havana area. The President was called on this matter and he didn't think there should be second strikes in the area unless there were overriding considerations. We talked about the relative importance of the air strikes with Mr. Bissell and General Cabell at the time. However, they indicated that the air strikes would be important, but not critical. I offered to let them call the President, but they indicated they didn't think the matter was that important. They said that they preferred not to call the President.

Question: Did you attempt to advise the President as to the importance of the air strikes?

Secretary Rusk: I had talked to him and he had stated that if there weren't overriding considerations the second strikes shouldn't be made. Since Mr. Bissell and General Cabell didn't want to talk to the President on the matter, I felt there were no overriding considerations to advise him of. I didn't think they believed the dawn air strikes were too important. I believe that Castro turned out to have more operational air strength than we figured.

Mr. Dulles: I don't believe they had any more. However, they turned out to be more efficient.

Question: Do you recall why the question of air strikes was withheld until Sunday evening?

Secretary Rusk: As far as I was concerned, I was caught by surprise with the first air strikes. I was trying to advise Adlai Stevenson at the UN on what was happening and suddenly found out there were additional air strikes coming up. We didn't want him to have to lie to the UN.

Question: What was the understanding of the ability of the landing force to pass to a guerrilla status in an emergency?

Secretary Rusk: The impression was that the ability of this force to pass to guerrilla activities presented no difficulty. At the beginning of the second day the President and I discussed the question of whether it was time to move the force out as guerrillas. However, it appears there was a delay in turning to this because they didn't have this action in mind.

General Taylor: They were told to fall back to the beaches so that they could be evacuated from the sea.

Secretary Rusk: Guerrilla actions were regarded as far more feasible than they turned out to be. I do regret, however, that consideration was not given to another alternative. I suggested earlier that they land in the eastern portion of Cuba and then get a position with Guantanamo behind them. However, our military friends didn't want to spoil the virginity of Guantanamo.

Question: What was the understanding of the ammunition situation at the end of April 18? Was the importance of air cover for the returning ammunition ships understood?

Secretary Rusk: It was apparent that it was critical. The requirement for air cover wasn't as apparent as for air drops and getting the ships back in there, particularly in regard to getting them some tank ammunition.

Question: Was it known at your level that two of the ammunition ships had taken off from the beach area and kept going south?

Secretary Rusk: No.

Question: What degree of nonattribution was sought and why? Were the operational disadvantages arising from some of the restrictions imposed by the efforts to achieve nonattribution clearly presented and understood?

Secretary Rusk: We were hoping for the maximum. In retrospect, however, this looks a little naive. The considerations involved in this were that if you have success all the problems solve themselves. However, if you have failure it's very nice if the United States is not involved.

Statement: Of course, there are degrees of nonattribution. The most costly restriction was the requirement not to have the air strikes even by Cubans./2/

/2/Taylor wrote an addition to the end of this sentence which reads as follows: "which were out of Cuba."

Question: To what extent did the CIA operations representatives have to "sell" the operation to the other agencies of government?

Secretary Rusk: You have to draw a distinction between the policy side and the operational side. The policy side we were willing to look at, if it was policy. On the operational side, we were oversold on the operational aspects.

Question: What do you mean by oversold on the operational aspects?

Secretary Rusk: It was presented in too optimistic terms.

Question: Do you have any remarks on the integrated planning and coordination?

Secretary Rusk: This is very important. These covert matters are handled on such a restricted basis that the resources of the departments are not brought to bear.

Secretary Rusk: When you go beyond a few people in an operation of this sort it shouldn't be handled by the CIA.

Question: What didn't we do that we should have?

Secretary Rusk: Before the President made his decision, CIA and Defense should have spelled out the entire CIA plan in one presentation. While the President had all the factors in his mind, I think this would have helped.

Secretary Rusk: Furthermore, we overemphasized some of the factors. For example, the question of what to do with this 1,200-man force. This question played too large a role because we certainly should have been able to handle these 1,200 men.

Secretary Rusk: If you are not prepared to go all the way you shouldn't put 1,200 men ashore.

Secretary Rusk: When you get to the final decision stage the room should be cleared of all those that have formal constitutional responsibility. People looking down the cannon's mouth should be in a solemn position and make a solemn decision without having large numbers of people in the room.

Statement: Mr. McNamara stressed the desirability of having written papers and decisions.

Secretary Rusk: That would have been helpful. However, it would have meant 50 or 60 pieces of paper around this town.

Secretary Rusk: One concluding remark. There was no one involved that didn't recognize this was a risky business and that failure would be costly. However, we overestimated the international effects of failure, and underestimated the effects of failure on this town.

[end of document]


Department Seal Return to Foreign Relations of the U.S., Vol. X, Cuba.

Join the mailing list