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At Fort Smith, in Fayetteville, Arkansas, a series of "strategy-for-
survival" conferences took place. Those attending were told that "your
Representative in this area has voted 89 per cent of the time to aid and
abet the Communist Party." Major General William C. Bullock, the area
commander, persuaded the Little Rock Chamber of Commerce to sponsor
a similar meeting in the state capital. At the Naval Air Station in
Pensacola, Florida, Project Alert showed the film Operation Abolition,
which depicted student protests against the rabid anticommunist House
Un-American Activities Committee as entirely Communist-inspired and
Communist-led.
Within weeks of the inauguration, retired vice admiral Ralph Wilson,
chairman of the U.S. Maritime Board, would find himself in trouble for a
proposed speech to the American Legion advocating an American
invasion of Cuba. "It seems in this Administration," he complained, "that
you can't talk about limited war or Cold War or the realities of the
Russian menace."
The atmosphere led some to thoughts of a possible military coup.
Inspired by the tension between the far-right generals and the new
administration, writers Fletcher Knebel and Charles Waldo Bailey II
began drafting an outline for a novel. Eventually entitled Seven Days in
May, it would focus on a military takeover led by a right-wing chairman
of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (played in the filmed version by Burt
Lancaster) who was convinced that a liberal president (Fredric March)
was turning soft on America's enemies.


At 10:25 Lemnitzer entered his official limousine, a black elongated
Cadillac with fins the shape of sabers, for the brief ride to the Capitol
Building. Often described as bearlike”more for his powerful shoulders
and booming voice than for his five-foot-eleven-inch frame”the four-star
general had a solid, scholarly look about him. "Studious, handsome,
thoughtful-looking," said one newspaper. Nevertheless, he had completed
only two years of college at West Point, because of the need for officers
during World War I. But by the time he was rushed out of the military



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academy, the war had ended. Over the years Lemnitzer gained a
reputation as a planner; during World War II he served as an aide to
General Eisenhower in London and later joined General George Patton
during the Sicilian campaign. Eisenhower looked on Lemnitzer as his
prot©g©, appointing him first Vice Chief of Staff and later, in 1957, Chief
of Staff, the top job in the Army.
Finally, with only a few months to go in office, Eisenhower named
Lemnitzer to the highest-ranking position in the Armed Forces. "The
most important military job in the world was taken over last week by
Gen. Lyman L. Lemnitzer, the new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,"
said an editorial in the Los Angeles Times. Two days before the
inauguration, the chairman held a luncheon for Eisenhower in Quarters
1. "He thoroughly enjoyed himself," Lemnitzer wrote to his daughter. By
then, according to one observer, Lemnitzer's regard for Eisenhower
"bordered on reverence." In Lemnitzer, Eisenhower would have a window
into the next administration.
Following a meeting with Robert S. McNamara, newly named by
Kennedy to be the next secretary of defense, Lemnitzer passed on to
Eisenhower a hot piece of inside information. Kennedy, he said, might
have decided to name retired general James M. Gavin secretary of the
Army. The idea outraged Eisenhower. Gavin had retired in a huff, upset
over Eisenhower's space policies, and had then written a book critical of
the administration. Three other generals also left and then wrote about
various policy disagreements. Eisenhower was so furious at the criticism
that he ordered his Joint Chiefs Chairman to look into whether he could
recall the four men to active duty and court-martial them. Such an
action would have been unheard of, if not illegal.
Now a man he considered disloyal was to be named to the top post of
the Army, Eisenhower's Army. He asked Lemnitzer to find a way to
secretly torpedo Gavin's appointment. It was a bizarre and outrageous
request: an outgoing president was directing his top military official to
sabotage a civilian appointment by a newly elected president. Before
Lemnitzer could take any action, however, Kennedy changed his mind,
appointing Gavin ambassador to France and naming Elvis J. Stahr, Jr.,
to the Army post. Nevertheless, Lemnitzer would become a landmine in
the Kennedy administration.
Twenty-five minutes after leaving Quarters 1, Lemnitzer's chauffeur
deposited the general at the E Door of the Senate Wing. It was a journey
the general had made many times in order to testify before various
Senate and House committees on military policy. The chairman never
quite trusted Congress and as a result the truth became somewhat
malleable. He once wrote to his brother, "I have been involved in some
very rugged hearings before seven congressional committees. . . . We
have to walk a very narrow path in telling the truth to the various


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committees and at the same time keep out of trouble with the
administration."
Lemnitzer walked through the arc under the Senate stairway and took
an elevator up one floor to the Senate Reception Room. There he joined
the other service chiefs, as well as diplomats and foreign ambassadors,
as they awaited escort to their assigned seats on the President's Platform.
In charge of the Navy was Admiral Arleigh A. Burke, a salt-and-pepper-
haired veteran of World War II. He had served as Eisenhower's Chief of
Naval Operations for the past five years. Upon Lemnitzer's elevation to
Army Chief of Staff, Burke presented him with a four-foot-long
ceremonial bugle. Attached near the flowing gold tassels was a sign that
read, "The Certain Trumpet." It was an inside joke. Lemnitzer's
predecessor, General Maxwell Taylor, was one of those who had quit and
written a book harshly critical of Eisenhower's military policies. Taylor's
title was The Uncertain Trumpet.
Lemnitzer was escorted to Section 2, Row G, Seat 1 on the President's
Platform, a pillared structure erected on the steps of the east front of the
Capitol Building. His hands were covered in regulation black gloves and
his heavy jowls turned pink from the bitter cold. Below, thousands of
onlookers filled the snow-mantled plaza.
As he rose to watch Chief Justice Earl Warren administer the oath of
office to John F. Kennedy, dressed in formal black coat and striped
trousers, the Chairman's frame of reference likely began shifting. He was
like a sailor whose compass no longer pointed north. For eight years the
country had been run by a five-star general, a West Point ring-knocker
like himself who knew discipline, order, tradition. Flags were saluted,
shoes spit-shined, and dissent punished. Now the man who had been
Lemnitzer's mentor and boss for much of his long career was quietly
retiring to a farm in Gettysburg. Taking Eisenhower's place was a man
from a different time and a different culture, someone Lemnitzer knew
little and understood less. "Here was a president with no military
experience at all," he would later say, derisively, of a man who nearly
died saving his men while fighting on the front line of battle. "Sort of a
patrol boat skipper in World War II."
Lemnitzer was not isolated in his point of view. Standing nearby was
the man Lemnitzer had picked to take his place as Chief of Staff of the
Army, General George H. Decker. "I think the senior military leaders
probably were more comfortable with President Eisenhower," he later
recalled, "since he had been a military man himself." Chief of Naval
Operations Burke also distrusted the new White House. "Nearly all of
these people were ardent, enthusiastic people without any experience
whatever in administering anything, including the president. He'd always
been in Congress. He'd never had any sort of job that required any
administration. . . . They didn't understand ordinary administrative


60
procedures, the necessity for having lines of communication and
channels of command."
About 2:15, following the swearing-in and a luncheon in the Capitol,
Lemnitzer climbed into a 1961 Oldsmobile convertible for the chilly ride
in the inaugural parade to the presidential reviewing stand opposite the
White House. Kennedy had personally invited him to stand in the
Presidential Box and review the smiling high school bands and the
endless military troops as they marched at precisely 120 steps per
minute, each step thirty inches long.
Soon, Lemnitzer hoped, some of those troops would be marching
down the palm-shaded streets of Havana with Castro either dead or in
custody. Like many in the right-wing military movement, he saw
communism as subverting the very fabric of American society, an
insatiable evil force that was eating away at America's core values and
had to be stopped. "I would offer the suggestion that you read carefully
the recently issued Draft Program of the Communist Party," he warned in
a letter to a high school teacher who had written to him about Cuba. "If
you study this document I think you cannot escape agreeing with its
authors that the Communist world is pledged to the destruction of our
civilization and everything we value. Our heritage of freedom and the
deep aspirations and values which humanity has evolved over thousands
of years are thus squarely put in peril. An adequate response to such a
deadly threat must be found, not by governments alone, but in the
hearts and actions of every one of our citizens."
Lemnitzer believed that nothing less than a massive military force
could defeat communism in Cuba. He therefore had little confidence in a
covert plan developed by the CIA that called for infiltrating fewer than a
thousand anti-Castro rebels onto the island. Developed during the last
year of the Eisenhower administration, the operation involved the rebels
sparking an internal revolution that would supposedly bring down
Castro's regime.
Only two days before the inauguration, Brigadier General David W.
Gray, Lemnitzer's representative on the Cuba Task Force, argued the
point forcefully to the CIA: "200,000 [Cuban] militia," he said, "each with
a sub-machine gun, is in itself a pretty strong force if they do nothing
more than stand and pull the triggers." Instead, Lemnitzer and the Joint
Chiefs were pressing for all-out war”a Pentagon-led overt military
invasion of Cuba from the air, sea, and ground.
But Lemnitzer and the Chiefs knew that armed invasion of a
neighboring country would be condemned both domestically and
internationally as the American equivalent of the Soviet invasion of
Hungary. Thus the Joint Chiefs developed an enormously secret plan to
trick the American public”and the rest of the world”into believing that



61
Cuba had instead launched an attack against the U.S. It would be the
ultimate Wag the Dog war.
According to documents obtained for Body of Secrets, Lemnitzer and
the Joint Chiefs proposed secretly to stage an attack on the American
naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba”and then blame the violent
action on Castro. Convinced that Cuba had launched an unprovoked
attack on the United States, the unwitting American public would then
support the Joint Chiefs' bloody Caribbean war. After all, who would
believe Castro's denials over the word of the Pentagon's top military
commanders? The nation's most senior military leadership was
proposing to launch a war, which would no doubt kill many American
servicemen, based solely on a fabric of lies. On January 19, just hours
before Eisenhower left office, Lemnitzer gave his approval to the proposal.
As events progressed, the plan would become only the tip of a very large
and secret iceberg.


Lemnitzer smiled broadly and saluted when the Hegerman String
Band and the Mounted State Police from his native Pennsylvania passed
by the Presidential Box in the reviewing stand.
At 5:43, ex-President Eisenhower and his wife, seated in the back of a
five-year-old Chrysler limousine, passed the Secret Service booth at the
entrance to the private road leading to their farm in Gettysburg,
Pennsylvania. For the first time in eight years, the booth was dark and
empty.
Forty-five minutes later, Private First Class Bomer escorted Lemnitzer
to his limousine and drove him through the darkness back to Quarters 1;
meanwhile, the general's invading army retreated back across the
Potomac.


On January 25, President Kennedy had his first meeting with
Lemnitzer and the Joint Chiefs. Kennedy said he was extremely anxious
to keep in close contact with the chiefs and that he would be seeing
Lemnitzer frequently during National Security Council meetings. Then
the president asked what should be done with regard to Cuba.
Lemnitzer quickly dismissed the proposed CIA operation as too weak
to combat Castro's forces. He then told Kennedy about recent and
troubling NSA reports. Eight days earlier, in a windowless blockhouse in
West Germany, an NSA intercept operator assigned to monitor
Czechoslovakian military air communications turned his large black
frequency dial to 114.25 megahertz and heard an unusual sound.
Instead of picking up the normal pilot chatter in Czech or Slovak at
Trencin airfield, he listened as a pilot undergoing flight training suddenly


62
began to speak Spanish. "This is the first known VHF activity at Trencin
by a Spanish-speaking pilot," he wrote in his intercept report, which was
quickly transmitted to NSA headquarters. He added, "This pilot was
possibly in a bomber or bomber trainer." Other reports indicated that
Cuba had recently received at least 30,000 tons of new military
equipment from Czechoslovakia.
Lemnitzer then pushed on the new president his own agenda: "What
is required is a basic expansion of plans," he said. "The hope is to get a
government in exile, then put some troops ashore, and have guerrilla
groups start their activities. At that point we would come in and support
them. Plans are ready for such action." "Time is working against us,"
Lemnitzer urged Kennedy.
Three days later, in the Cabinet Room of the White House, Kennedy
brought together his key national security officials, including Lemnitzer
and Allen Dulles. During the meeting, the Pentagon representatives
stated that none of the courses of action then on the table would remove
the Castro regime. Kennedy then called on the Pentagon and CIA to
review the various proposals for sending the anti-Castro forces into
Cuba. He also demanded that the entire operation be carried out with
white gloves”there could be no U.S. fingerprints anywhere. "I'm not
going to risk an American Hungary," Kennedy warned.
Eisenhower had spent eight years working closely with the CIA. He
knew the strengths and weaknesses of Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the
Cuban operation, which he had helped plan for nearly a year. Now
Kennedy, in office barely a week and attempting to put his
administration together, was being pressured to quickly okay a
dangerous plan produced by a man he didn't know and an agency that
was a cipher to him. Dulles told him that once the landing took place, it
would trigger a great uprising and Castro would quickly tumble.
But Dulles certainly knew that to be a lie. Castro was a hero to much
of the Cuban population for having rid them of the bloody excesses of
Batista only two years before. As a long-hidden CIA report notes, "We can
confidently assert that the Agency had no intelligence evidence that the
Cubans in significant numbers could or would join the invaders or that
there was any kind of an effective and cohesive resistance movement
under anybody's control, let alone the Agency's, that could have
furnished internal leadership for an uprising in support of the invasion."
The same report concluded that at the time of that White House meeting
"the Agency was driving forward without knowing precisely where it was
going."
Lemnitzer was a man of details. After becoming Chairman of the Joint
Chiefs of Staff he sent out elaborate instructions outlining exactly how
his fellow Chiefs were to autograph group pictures”they were to sign

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