<<

. 13
( 118 .)



>>

by equating social legislation with socialism, and the latter with
Communism. . . . Much of the administration's domestic legislative
program, including continuation of the graduated income tax, expansion
of social security (particularly medical care under social security),
Federal aid to education, etc. under this philosophy would be
characterized as steps toward Communism." Thus, "This view of the
Communist menace renders foreign aid, cultural exchanges,
disarmament negotiations and other international programs as extremely
wasteful if not actually subversive."



69
The chilling Senate study concluded by warning of a revolt by senior
military officers such as the one portrayed in Seven Days in May. To
show the idea was not farfetched, the report cited "as an example of the
ultimate danger" the recent revolt by army generals in France, largely
over policies in Algeria. "Military officers, French or American, have some
common characteristics arising from their profession," said the report,
"and there are numerous military 'fingers on the trigger' throughout the
world."
Finally, the committee specifically pointed to General Lemnitzer and
called for an examination of the relationship between him, his Chiefs,
and the extreme right-wing groups. Among the members of the
committee most outspoken in calling for an investigation of Lemnitzer
and the Joint Chiefs was Senator Albert Gore, Sr., of Tennessee (the
father of former vice president Al Gore).
It was not an idle worry. In their 1963 book, The Far Right, Donald
Janson of the New York Times and CBS reporter Bernard Eismann wrote,
"Concern had grown that a belligerent and free-wheeling military could
conceivably become as dangerous to the stability of the United States as
the mixture of rebelliousness and politics had in nations forced to
succumb to juntas or fascism. The agony that gripped France as a result
of military defectors' efforts to reverse government policy on Algeria was
another forceful reminder of the inherent dangers in allowing political
power to build up in the military establishment."
Outwardly, Lemnitzer remained stiff and correct. But deep inside he
was raging at the new and youthful Kennedy White House. He felt out of
place and out of time in a culture that seemed suddenly to have turned
its back on military tradition. Almost immediately he became, in the
clinical sense, paranoid; he began secretly expressing his worries to other
senior officers. A little more than a month after Kennedy took office, he
sent a letter to General Lauris Norstad, the commander-in-chief of the
U.S. European Command, and several other top generals. Fearful that
the administration would learn of his comments, he noted, "I had
considered sending this information to you by electrical means but in
view of its nature, I am sending it by letter for your, Jim Moore's and
[Deputy Commander-in-Chief] Charlie Palmer's EYES ONLY." It was then
delivered "in a sealed envelope for delivery to Gen. Norstad ONLY."
"You and Charlie are probably wondering what, if anything, the JCS
are [d]oing about some of the disturbing things that have been
happening recently with respect to your area," Lemnitzer wrote. But what
so upset the JCS Chairman was not a major change in nuclear policy in
Europe or a shift in Cold War strategy, but the fact that White House
officials had canceled money earmarked for the remodeling of an officers'
club. "I am sure that this seems as incredible to you as it does to us," he
wrote, "but this is how things are happening here now." Finally,


70
Lemnitzer complained about what he felt were deliberate leaks intended
to embarrass senior military officials. "Here again I believe that the
fundamental cause is the 'eager beaver' attitude by many of the new and
very young people who have been brought into government to publicize
promptly any item they believe will give the new administration good
press. I don't know how long this situation is going to continue but we
seem to have a new incident every day."
Lemnitzer had no respect for the civilians he reported to. He believed
they interfered with the proper role of the military. The "civilian hierarchy
was crippled not only by inexperience," he would later say, "but also by
arrogance arising from failure to recognize its own limitations. . . . The
problem was simply that the civilians would not accept military
judgments." In Lemnitzer's view, the country would be far better off if the
generals could take over.
For those military officers who were sitting on the fence, the Kennedy
administration's botched Bay of Pigs invasion was the last straw. "The
Bay of Pigs fiasco broke the dike," said one report at the time. "President
Kennedy was pilloried by the superpatriots as a 'no-win' chief. . . . The
Far Right became a fount of proposals born of frustration and put
forward in the name of anti-Communism. . . . Active-duty commanders
played host to anti-Communist seminars on their bases and attended or
addressed Right-wing meetings elsewhere."
Although no one in Congress could have known it at the time,
Lemnitzer and the Joint Chiefs had quietly slipped over the edge.
According to secret and long-hidden documents obtained for Body of
Secrets, the Joint Chiefs of Staff drew up and approved plans for what
may be the most corrupt plan ever created by the U.S. government. In
the name of anticommunism, they proposed launching a secret and
bloody war of terrorism against their own country in order to trick the
American public into supporting an ill-conceived war they intended to
launch against Cuba.
Codenamed Operation Northwoods, the plan, which had the written
approval of the Chairman and every member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,
called for innocent people to be shot on American streets; for boats
carrying refugees fleeing Cuba to be sunk on the high seas; for a wave of
violent terrorism to be launched in Washington, D.C., Miami, and
elsewhere. People would be framed for bombings they did not commit;
planes would be hijacked. Using phony evidence, all of it would be
blamed on Castro, thus giving Lemnitzer and his cabal the excuse, as
well as the public and international backing, they needed to launch their
war.
The idea may actually have originated with President Eisenhower in
the last days of his administration. With the Cold War hotter than ever


71
and the recent U-2 scandal fresh in the public's memory, the old general
wanted to go out with a win. He wanted desperately to invade Cuba in
the weeks leading up to Kennedy's inauguration; indeed, on January 3
he told Lemnitzer and other aides in his Cabinet Room that he would
move against Castro before the inauguration if only the Cubans gave him
a really good excuse. Then, with time growing short, Eisenhower floated
an idea. If Castro failed to provide that excuse, perhaps, he said, the
United States "could think of manufacturing something that would be
generally acceptable." What he was suggesting was a pretext”a bombing,
an attack, an act of sabotage”carried out secretly against the United
States by the United States. Its purpose would be to justify the launching
of a war. It was a dangerous suggestion by a desperate president.
Although no such war took place, the idea was not lost on General
Lemnitzer. But he and his colleagues were frustrated by Kennedy's
failure to authorize their plan, and angry that Castro had not provided
an excuse to invade.
The final straw may have come during a White House meeting on
February 26, 1962. Concerned that General Lansdale's various covert
action plans under Operation Mongoose were simply becoming more
outrageous and going nowhere, Robert Kennedy told him to drop all anti-
Castro efforts. Instead, Lansdale was ordered to concentrate for the next
three months strictly on gathering intelligence about Cuba. It was a
humiliating defeat for Lansdale, a man more accustomed to praise than
to scorn.
As the Kennedy brothers appeared to suddenly "go soft" on Castro,
Lemnitzer could see his opportunity to invade Cuba quickly slipping
away. The attempts to provoke the Cuban public to revolt seemed dead
and Castro, unfortunately, appeared to have no inclination to launch any
attacks against Americans or their property. Lemnitzer and the other
Chiefs knew there was only one option left that would ensure their war.
They would have to trick the American public and world opinion into
hating Cuba so much that they would not only go along, but would insist
that he and his generals launch their war against Castro. "World opinion,
and the United Nations forum," said a secret JCS document, "should be
favorably affected by developing the international image of the Cuban
government as rash and irresponsible, and as an alarming and
unpredictable threat to the peace of the Western Hemisphere."
Operation Northwoods called for a war in which many patriotic
Americans and innocent Cubans would die senseless deaths”all to
satisfy the egos of twisted generals back in Washington, safe in their
taxpayer-financed homes and limousines.
One idea seriously considered involved the launch of John Glenn, the
first American to orbit the earth. On February 20, 1962, Glenn was to lift



72
off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on his historic journey. The flight was
to carry the banner of America's virtues of truth, freedom, and
democracy into orbit high over the planet. But Lemnitzer and his Chiefs
had a different idea. They proposed to Lansdale that, should the rocket
explode and kill Glenn, "the objective is to provide irrevocable proof that
... the fault lies with the Communists et al Cuba [sic]." This would be
accomplished, Lemnitzer continued, "by manufacturing various pieces of
evidence which would prove electronic interference on the part of the
Cubans." Thus, as NASA prepared to send the first American into space,
the Joint Chiefs of Staff were preparing to use John Glenn's possible
death as a pretext to launch a war.
Glenn lifted into history without mishap, leaving Lemnitzer and the
Chiefs to begin devising new plots which they suggested be carried out
"within the time frame of the next few months."
Among the actions recommended was "a series of well coordinated
incidents to take place in and around" the U.S. Navy base at
Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. This included dressing "friendly" Cubans in
Cuban military uniforms and then have them "start riots near the main
gate of the base. Others would pretend to be saboteurs inside the base.
Ammunition would be blown up, fires started, aircraft sabotaged,
mortars fired at the base with damage to installations."
The suggested operations grew progressively more outrageous.
Another called for an action similar to the infamous incident in February
1898 when an explosion aboard the battleship Maine in Havana harbor
killed 266 U.S. sailors. Although the exact cause of the explosion
remained undetermined, it sparked the Spanish-American War with
Cuba. Incited by the deadly blast, more than one million men
volunteered for duty. Lemnitzer and his generals came up with a similar
plan. "We could blow up a U.S. ship in Guantanamo Bay and blame
Cuba," they proposed; "casualty lists in U.S. newspapers would cause a
helpful wave of national indignation."
There seemed no limit to their fanaticism: "We could develop a
Communist Cuban terror campaign in the Miami area, in other Florida
cities and even in Washington," they wrote. "The terror campaign could
be pointed at Cuban refugees seeking haven in the United States. . . .We
could sink a boatload of Cubans en route to Florida (real or simulated). .
. . We could foster attempts on lives of Cuban refugees in the United
States even to the extent of wounding in instances to be widely
publicized."
Bombings were proposed, false arrests, hijackings:


• "Exploding a few plastic bombs in carefully chosen spots, the
arrest of Cuban agents and the release of prepared documents


73
substantiating Cuban involvement also would be helpful in
projecting the idea of an irresponsible government."
• "Advantage can be taken of the sensitivity of the Dominican
[Republic] Air Force to intrusions within their national air space.
'Cuban' B-26 or C-46 type aircraft could make cane-burning raids
at night. Soviet Bloc incendiaries could be found. This could be
coupled with 'Cuban' messages to the Communist underground in
the Dominican Republic and 'Cuban' shipments of arms which
would be found, or intercepted, on the beach. Use of MiG type
aircraft by U.S. pilots could provide additional provocation."
• "Hijacking attempts against civil air and surface craft could
appear to continue as harassing measures condoned by the
Government of Cuba."


Among the most elaborate schemes was to "create an incident which
will demonstrate convincingly that a Cuban aircraft has attacked and
shot down a chartered civil airliner en route from the United States to
Jamaica, Guatemala, Panama or Venezuela. The destination would be
chosen only to cause the flight plan route to cross Cuba. The passengers
could be a group of college students off on a holiday or any grouping of
persons with a common interest to support chartering a non-scheduled
Right."
Lemnitzer and the Joint Chiefs worked out a complex deception:


An aircraft at Elgin AFB would be painted and numbered as an
exact duplicate for a civil registered aircraft belonging to a CIA
proprietary organization in the Miami area. At a designated time
the duplicate would be substituted for the actual civil aircraft and
would be loaded with the selected passengers, all boarded under
carefully prepared aliases. The actual registered aircraft would be
converted to a drone [a remotely controlled unmanned aircraft].
Take off times of the drone aircraft and the actual aircraft will be
scheduled to allow a rendezvous south of Florida.
From the rendezvous point the passenger-carrying aircraft will
descend to minimum altitude and go directly into an auxiliary field
at Elgin AFB where arrangements will have been made to evacuate
the passengers and return the aircraft to its original status. The
drone aircraft meanwhile will continue to fly the filed flight plan.
When over Cuba the drone will be transmitting on the
international distress frequency a "May Day" message stating he is
under attack by Cuban MiG aircraft. The transmission will be
interrupted by destruction of the aircraft, which will be triggered


74
by radio signal. This will allow ICAO [International Civil Aviation
Organization] radio stations in the Western Hemisphere to tell the
U.S. what has happened to the aircraft instead of the U.S. trying to
"sell" the incident.


Finally, there was a plan to "make it appear that Communist Cuban
MiGs have destroyed a USAF aircraft over international waters in an
unprovoked attack." It was a particularly believable operation given the
decade of shootdowns that had just taken place.
In the final sentence of his letter to Secretary McNamara
recommending the operations, Lemnitzer made a grab for even more
power, asking that the Joint Chiefs be placed in charge of carrying out
Operation Northwoods and the invasion. "It is recommended," he wrote,
"that this responsibility for both overt and covert military operations be
assigned to the Joint Chiefs of Staff."
At 2:30 on the afternoon of Tuesday, March 13, 1962, Lemnitzer went
over last-minute details of Operation Northwoods with his covert action
chief, Brigadier General William H. Craig, and signed the document. He
then went to a "special meeting" in McNamara's office. An hour later he
met with Kennedy's military representative, General Maxwell Taylor.
What happened during those meetings is unknown. But three days later,
President Kennedy told Lemnitzer that there was virtually no possibility

<<

. 13
( 118 .)



>>