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63
their names directly under his, and they must follow his slant. Neither
his limousine nor his plane was ever to be moved without his being
consulted. Lemnitzer also enjoyed his reputation as a consummate
planner. In an eight-page biography he submitted to Congress prior to
his testimony, he made frequent reference to himself as an "imaginative
planner" and to his "skill as a planner." On his Pentagon desk was a
crystal ball and in a drawer was a favorite verse:

Planners are a funny lot
They carry neither sword nor pistol
They walk stooped over quite a lot
Because their balls are crystal


Lemnitzer, the planner, certainly saw the pitfalls of the CIA's amateur
and ill-conceived plan, as did his fellow Chiefs. Years later Lemnitzer
hand-wrote a detailed fifty-two-page summary of the JCS involvement in
the Bay of Pigs operation. He called it "The Cuban Debacle" and locked it
away in his house; he died without ever publicly revealing its existence.
Obtained for Body of Secrets, the account clearly shows that Lemnitzer's
Joint Staff viewed the CIA plan as a disaster waiting to happen. He
quotes from a secret internal JCS analysis of the operation: "In view of
the rapid buildup of the Castro Government's military and militia
capability, and the lack of predictable future mass discontent, the possible
success of the Para-Military Plan appears very doubtful" [emphasis in
original].
Yet inexplicably, only days later, Lemnitzer submitted a positive
recommendation to Secretary of Defense McNamara. "Evaluation of the
current plan results in a favorable assessment ... of the likelihood of
achieving initial military success," he wrote. "The JCS considers that
timely execution of the plan has a fair chance of ultimate success and,
even if it does not achieve immediately the full results desired, [it] could
contribute to the eventual overthrow of the Castro regime." Later that
day, McNamara verbally endorsed those conclusions.
It may well have been that the Joint Chiefs, angry with the arrogant
CIA brass for moving into their territory, were hoping that the spooks
would fail. Once the CIA was out of the way, the uniformed professionals
in the Pentagon would be called on to save the day”to take over,
conduct the real invasion, and oust Castro. From then on, military
invasions would again be the monopoly of the generals. But soon it
became clear that Kennedy had meant what he said about keeping the
operation covert.
As originally planned, the exile force was to land at the coastal town of
Trinidad. But the White House objected. According to Lemnitzer's private


64
summary, Kennedy wanted a quiet night landing, which the world would
believe was planned by Cubans. Above all, Lemnitzer noted, there was to
be no intervention by U.S. forces.
Following Kennedy's order, CIA planners presented the Joint Chiefs of
Staff Working Group with a list of five alternative landing sites. Later the
list was reduced to three. The group picked Alternative III, a spot in the
swampy Zapata Peninsula called the Bay of Pigs. After a brief twenty-
minute discussion, barely enough time for a coffee break, Lemnitzer and
his Chiefs agreed with their Working Group's choice. "Of the alternative
concepts," said the JCS recommendation, "Alternative III is considered
the most feasible and the most likely to accomplish the objective. None of
the alternative concepts are considered as feasible and as likely to
accomplish the objective as the original [Trinidad] plan."
Lemnitzer had grave doubts about the whole CIA operation from the
beginning but remained largely silent and quickly approved the plan. The
Bay of Pigs was considerably closer to Havana than Trinidad was; this
meant a quicker response from Cuban troops, and with only one road in
and out of the landing zone, it was a perfect place for a slaughter. Cuban
troops could easily isolate the invaders, who would be forced to die on
the beaches or drown in the sea.
Lemnitzer had one last chance to reach up and pull the emergency
brake before the train plunged off the embankment. On April 4, 1961,
Kennedy held a conference at the State Department with his key advisers
to get their final thoughts on the invasion. Lemnitzer, seeing certain
disaster ahead, buttonholed Assistant Secretary of State Thomas C.
Mann before the meeting started and insisted that the choice of Zapata
for a landing site was a bad decision, that the Joint Chiefs did not want
the invasion to take place closer to Havana. Mann, taken aback by
Lemnitzer's sudden change of position, dismissed his protest and
insisted that Kennedy had already made his decision.
As Kennedy convened the meeting, Lemnitzer sat mute. The man in
charge of the most powerful military force on earth, with enough nuclear
weapons to destroy civilization, was afraid to speak up to his boss. It was
his moment of truth. Instead he chose to close his eyes, cover his mouth,
and wait for the sound of grinding metal. He knew, as he had known
from the beginning, that the operation would turn out to be a disaster,
that many men would die painfully and needlessly, but still he preferred
silence. He must also have finally realized that the Pentagon would never
receive presidential authorization to charge in and save the day. At the
end of the meeting, Kennedy asked who was still in favor of going ahead
with the invasion. Lemnitzer's hand slowly reached toward the ceiling.
Much later, in his summary, he confessed his failure to speak up but
offered no apology.



65
At the time of Kennedy's inauguration, NSA's role in supplying
intelligence on what was going on inside Cuba grew substantially. Until
then, the CIA's Havana Station and its Santiago Base had been a beehive
of espionage. But just before he left office, in preparation for the
invasion, Eisenhower cut diplomatic relations with Cuba. With the
closure of the embassy in Havana and the consulate in Santiago, the CIA
was homeless and had to return to the United States. Anticipating this
contingency, CIA case officers in Cuba had developed a number of "stay-
be-hinds," agents who would remain under deep cover. This net
consisted of some twenty-seven persons, fifteen of whom were reporting
agents and the rest radio operators and couriers. But the principal
agents and one of the radio operators were U.S. citizens and thus had
limited access to key information”especially military intelligence, which
was most needed. Without a CIA station in Cuba producing intelligence,
the CIA, the White House, and others in the intelligence community
became more dependent on NSA's intercepts.
Miami Base received copies of NSA's signals intelligence reports on
Cuba but there was no NSA liaison official there to help interpret the
messages. This was a serious mistake. Without NSA's cold, independent
analysis of the intelligence, the gung-ho CIA officers were forced to rely
upon their own judgment”which was often colored by their desire for the
operation to go ahead. This was one of the key reasons for their
overestimate of Cuban internal opposition to Castro. As a CIA
postmortem said, "This conclusion, in turn, became an essential element
in the decision to proceed with the operation."
Another problem was that without an NSA presence, Miami Base
could neither receive nor send superfast emergency CRITIC messages
should the invasion run into serious problems. "The [NSA] effort was very
small," said one NSA official assigned to the Cuban desk at Fort Meade at
the time. A key source of NSA's signals intelligence on Cuba was a Navy
ship that had secretly been converted into a seagoing espionage platform.
Since February, the USS Perry (DD-844), a destroyer rigged with special
antennas and receivers, had patrolled off the Cuban coast eavesdropping
on whatever it could pick up. The Perry occasionally pulled into the Key
West Naval Base, where Navy Sigint specialists would work on the
equipment.
As the preparation for the invasion proceeded at full steam, NSA
continued to focus much of its attention on Soviet shipping. In March, an
intercept operator at the NSA listening post in Karamürsel, Turkey,
discovered that the Nikolai Burdenko was back in the port of Nikolayev
loading a new shipment of "Yastrebov's cargo"”the Soviet euphemism for
weapons. The 5,840-ton cargo ship, a hulking gray workhorse, departed
Nikolayev on March 21. Intercept operators kept track of the ship's


66
progress by monitoring its daily transmissions, noting its position and
triangulating it with "elephant cages," giant circular antennas.
"On 7 April limited D/F [direction finding] placed the BURDENKO
near the Windward Passage," said one intercept report. Another revealed
that the ship "possibly arrived at a Cuban port late evening 7 April or
early morning 8 April with an unspecified amount of YASTREBOV's cargo
. . . This is the fourth noted instance of a Soviet ship loading cargo
specifically described as 'YASTREBOV's' for Cuba." Within the White
House, pressure was building to take action.
As the Burdenko, heavy in the water, pulled into Havana harbor, U-2s
were crisscrossing the island fourteen miles above. Beginning on April 6,
U-2s flying out of Texas conducted fifteen missions over the island in
final preparation for the CIA's invasion.
The operation began at dawn on Monday, April 17, 1961, and quickly
turned into a debacle. As Cuban air force and other military units
converged on the area, NSA voice-intercept operators eavesdropped on
the desperate pleas of the exiles. "Must have air support in next few
hours or will be wiped out," Brigade Commander Pepe San Roman
implored. "Under heavy attacks by MiG jets and heavy tanks." The Navy
offered to evacuate the brigade commander and his troops, but was
refused. They would fight to the end.
Because no provision had been made to provide NSA's Sigint to the
brigade, the agency's intercepts were largely useless. All analysts could
do was sit and listen to the hopeless messages from the rebel soldiers
fighting on the beach and their supporters throughout Cuba. "Arms
urgent," said one. "We made a commitment. We have complied. You have
not. If you have decided to abandon us, answer." Another radioed, "We
are risking hundreds of peasant families. If you cannot supply us we will
have to. . . . demobilize. Your responsibility. We thought you were
sincere." Still another pleaded, "All groups demoralized. . . . They
consider themselves deceived because of failure of shipment of arms and
money according to promise." Finally, there was one last message.
"Impossible to fight. . . . Either the drops increase or we die. . . . Men
without arms or equipment. God help us."
"It wasn't much that was done here, as I understand," said one NSA
official, "except they were copying the communications . . . and their calls
for help and assistance and what-have-you were all monitored."
"I will not be evacuated," said San Roman, defiantly. "Will fight to the
end if we have to." On the beach, nearly out of bullets and mortars, the
brigade launched a futile counterattack against Cuban army soldiers
pushing relentlessly in from the west. "We are out of ammo and fighting
on the beach," the brigade commander radioed to the task force
command ship. "Please send help, we cannot hold."


67
"In water. Out of ammo. Enemy closing in. Help must arrive in next
hour." San Roman's voice was now terse and desperate. There was no
place to go. Between them and the approaching helmets were scores of
their comrades, their blood joining the seawater with each crashing
wave. "When your help will be here and with what?" The commander's
voice was weaker now, unbelieving but still wanting to believe. "Why your
help has not come?"
There were faces under the green helmets now, and arms with rifles,
and legs running. They were coming from all sides, bullets hitting the
water, the sand, and the men. NSA intercept operators eavesdropped on
the final messages. "Am destroying all equipment and communications.
Tanks are in sight. I have nothing to fight with. Am taking to woods. I
cannot, repeat, cannot wait for you."
At 3:20 P.M., out at sea beyond the horizon, the evacuation convoy
heading for the beach received a final message. "[Ships] ordered
withdrawn [at] full speed."


The pall cast over the CIA as a result of the botched invasion did
nothing to dampen the Kennedy administration's obsession with Castro.
On a gray autumn Saturday in early November 1961, just after two
o'clock, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy called a meeting to order in
the Cabinet Room of the White House. The day before, the president had
given the group their marching orders. He wanted a solution to the Cuba
problem and his brother was going to see that it was done. Robert
Kennedy turned to the group and introduced Edward G. Lansdale, an Air
Force one-star general and a specialist in counterinsurgency who sat
stiffly in a padded black leather chair.
Tall, with Errol Flynn good looks, Lansdale was the deputy director of
the Pentagon's Office of Special Operations. Hidden away behind the door
to Room 3E114 in the Pentagon, the OSO was the unit responsible for
NSA. Responsibility for dealing with Cuba, Kennedy said, was to shift
from the CIA to the Pentagon, where the project would be known as
Operation Mongoose. Kennedy asked the group if they had any problems
with the change. Richard Bissell, who had just seen the CIA's crown
jewel pass from his hands, could not resist at least one jab. No, he said,
as long as "those employees on it were competent in clandestine
operations."
Both Lansdale and Lemnitzer viewed Operation Mongoose as a golden
opportunity, a chance for the military to flex its muscles at last and show
off its ability to succeed where the CIA had so miserably failed. As
prospects of an internal revolt in Cuba dimmed, Lansdale and Lemnitzer
began to quietly explore the possibility of doing what they had wanted to
do all along: conduct a full-scale invasion.


68
Since the Kennedy administration had come into office the extreme,
distrustful right wing within the military had grown significantly, not
only in numbers but also in decibels. In April 1961 Defense Secretary
Robert McNamara finally lowered the boom on Major General Edwin A.
Walker. Walker was charged with indoctrinating his troops with John
Birch Society propaganda, officially admonished, and relieved of his
command. As a result many conservatives accused the Kennedy
administration of trying to muzzle anti-Communists.
Walker resigned from the Army in protest, but even as a civilian he
continued to warn of the dangers of Communist infiltration. Among the
themes he constantly pounded home was a distrust of civilian control of
the military. "The traditional civilian control of the military has been
perverted and extended into a commissar-like system of control at all
major echelons of command," he said. In September 1961 he traveled to
Oxford, Mississippi, to protest the enrollment of James Meredith, a black
student, at the state university there. Robert Kennedy later issued an
arrest warrant for Walker, charging him with seditious conspiracy,
insurrection, and rebellion. He was jailed for five days, during which time
he claimed he was a political prisoner.
Even at the stately National War College in Washington, seminars
would occasionally be reduced to "extreme right-wing, witch-hunting,
mudslinging revivals" and "bigoted, one-sided presentations advocating
that the danger to our security is internal only," according to a report
prepared by a member of Secretary of Defense McNamara's staff.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in a report on the problem
of right-wing extremism in the military, warned that there was
"considerable danger" in the "education and propaganda activities of
military personnel" that had been uncovered. "Running through all of
them is a central theme that the primary, if not exclusive, danger to this
country is internal Communist infiltration," said the report.
Among the key targets of the extremists, the committee said, was the
Kennedy administration's domestic social program, which many
ultraconservatives accused of being communistic. The "thesis of the
nature of the Communist threat," the report warned, "often is developed

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