By Timothy Chilman
Military action by the US against Fidel Castro’s Cuba was first suggested by President Eisenhower. The Cold War was at its peak, and the downing of Gary Powers’ U2 had occurred not long before. Eisenhower wanted to invade Cuba immediately before President Kennedy’s inauguration. On January 3 1961, at a meeting with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and others, he said he would take action against Castro before the inauguration if only an excuse presented itself. If no excuse were forthcoming, he “could think of manufacturing something that would be generally acceptable”: an attack by the US against the US, which would appear to be an attack by Cuba..
Operations Northwoods was a plan by the highest echelons of the US military to initiate war with Cuba by false flag operations. It had the written approval of all the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Operation Mongoose was initiated in May of 1961, aiming to overthrow Fidel Castro’s government. The project involved 400 CIA officers working full-time. One plan was to spray a television studio where Castro was scheduled to appear with a hallucinogen, another to contaminate his shoes with thallium which would cause his beard to detach. And there was the one about getting the Mafia to assassinate Castro for $150,000, very plausible after Castro moved against their casinos and brothels. Two Mafia bosses, Sam Giancana and Johnny Roselli, were approached, and others became involved. Castro apparently complained of twenty CIA-sponsored attempts on his life.
In a meeting at the White House on February 26, 1962, Robert Kennedy, concerned by the various plans of Operation Mongoose, told its Chief of Operations, Edward Lansdale, to cease all physical endeavors against Castro and instead concentrate on Cuban intelligence gathering. This humiliated Lansdale, who had been personally selected by JFK to oversee the operation.
Operation Northwoods was then conceived. A memorandum to the Secretary of Defense dated 13 March 1962 and entitled “Justification for U.S. Military Intervention in Cuba” said that world opinion should be manipulated to portray the government of Cuba as “an alarming and unpredictable threat to the peace of the Western Hemisphere”.
One idea that was seriously contemplated was Operation Dirty Trick. If John Glenn’s Mercury rocket had exploded upon launching on February 20 1962, the US objective would be to provide unarguable proof that it was caused by the Cuban government. Such a thing could be achieved by manufacturing evidence to prove the Cubans had interfered with the rocket electronically.
Operation Bingo saw the choreography of a number of events in and near the Guantanamo Bay US naval base in Cuba. Friendly Cubans dressed in Cuban uniforms would initiate riots close to the base’s main gate and others would act as saboteurs within the base. Aircraft would be sabotaged, ammunition blown up, mortars launched and fires started.
Another plan suggested re-enactment of the February 1898 explosion on board the USS Maine in Havana Harbor, which killed 266 sailors at a time of heightened tension with Spain. Spanish officials were very helpful in the immediate aftermath, leading Captain Sigsbee to say “Public opinion should be suspended until further report” in his first telegram. But a naval inquiry concluded that a mine had detonated beneath the ship.
The Yellow (i.e. sensationalist) Press of the US had long agitated the US public with tales of Spanish concentration camps and the like (The first ever use of such camps. Josef Goebbels later said it was Britain). It seized on the episode, and soon war with Spain was afoot and over a million men signed-up for military service.
The naval findings were always controversial, and in 1976, Admiral Hyman G. Ricker published the book How the Battleship Maine Was Destroyed. Hyman used two experts on explosions and their effects on ships’ hulls and also the original documentation to determine the cause. It was found that the damage was inconsistent with a mine explosion. More likely, the explosion occurred in a coal bunker beside a magazine.
The US military wanted to re-enact this exactly: “We could blow up a U.S. ship in Guantanamo Bay and blame Cuba”. Lists of casualties in US newspapers would provoke “a helpful wave of national indignation”. While the plan never came into effect in relation to Cuba, many believe it did in the Gulf of Tonkin.
It got better. “We could develop a Communist Cuban terror campaign” targeting Cuban refugees living in the US.
More suggestions included the genuine or simulated sinking of a ship carrying Cuban refugees to Florida, arrest of supposed Cuban agents, bomb explosions, and release of falsified documents.
Another plan was to take advantage of Dominican Republic sensitivity to intrusions of its national air space. C-46 or B-26 aircraft marked as Cuban could conduct night-time cane burning raids. Purportedly Cuban messages would be sent to Communists in the country and arms shipments found. MIG aircraft could be flown by US pilots for “additional provocation”. Aircraft and ships could be hijacked.
One of the more elaborate plans was to contrive an incident showing, beyond doubt, that Cuban aircraft had show down a civil airliner. Passengers, all US intelligence operatives using well-prepared aliases, would board a genuine civil aircraft but later leave it, whereupon the airplane would be flown by remote control over Cuba. Its transmission of a “Mayday” message on the international frequency saying it was being attacked by Cuban fighters would be rudely interrupted by the airplane’s destruction. The International Civil Aviation Organization, not the US government, would announce the event.
At 2:30pm on Tuesday, March 13, 1962, JCS chairman General Lyman Lemitzer signed the document before attending a “special meeting” at the office of Defense Secretary Robert McNamara. What transpired at the meeting is not known, however three days after, President Kennedy informed Lemnitzer there was almost no chance the US would follow the plan. Apart from anything else, four divisions couldn’t be spared.
The military leadership was unimpressed by Kennedy, viewing his government as excessively liberal, inexperienced and soft on communism. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee, unaware of Northwoods, reported on right-ring extremism in the military and called for examination of ties between Lemnitzer and right-ring organizations. Two popular books spoke of a right-wing leadership rebelling against government policy of the time.
Approximately one month after proposing Northwoods, the JCS heads sent McNamara a harshly-worded memorandum: “The Joint Chiefs of Staff believe that the Cuban problem must be solved in the near future”. Military intervention was again proposed.
Lemnitzer believed actions would be sufficiently rapid for the United Nations to not be a problem. It would be best to act before National Guard and Reserve forces returned to civilian life. There was no security agreement between the USSR and Cuba, which was not a member of the Warsaw Pact, and the Soviets had yet to establish major bases in Cuba.
Castro would be removed and the US military would govern Cuba: “Forces would assure rapid essential military control of Cuba… Continued police action would be required”. All the Cubans were in line for was a change of dictator.
McNamara had by now lost all confidence in the military supremo and rejected almost every proposal he made. One of Lemnitzer’s staffers thought rejections were so routine that it put the military into an “embarrassing rut”. Unaware of Northwoods, he was dismayed by McNamara’s treatment of Lemnitzer: “He gave General Lemnitzer very short shrift and treated him like a schoolboy. The general almost stood at attention when he came into the room. Everything was ‘Yes, sir’ and ‘No, sir.’”.
Months later, Lemnitzer was refused a second term as JCS chairman and banished to Europe to become head of NATO. He later told a Congressional committee that the Pentagon never planned an invasion of Cuba.
Planning for “pretext” operations against Cuba continued at least until 1963. One was to spark-off a war between Cuba and a neighbor, giving the US the excuse to take the side of Cuba’s adversary. Among the countries suggested were Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica, creating the prospect of British intervention.
Another plan was to pay somebody within Castro’s government to attack the US. In May 1963, Assistant Secretary of Defense Paul H. Nitze wrote to the White House suggesting inviting attack on surveillance aircraft by mounting provocative missions. When a low level flight was later made across Cuba, the only Cuban reaction was protest.
On November 18, 1997, these documents were among 1521 pages released by the body dealing with records of John F. Kennedy’s assassination, the result of Congressional efforts to give the public better access to governmental records related to the assassination of JFK – who was, incidentally, allegedly killed by a Cuban sympathizer.
Online, it has been reported by ABC and the BBC and offline in a New York Times article of November 19 1997 (“”Declassified Papers Show Anti-Castro Ideas Proposed to Kennedy,” late edition – final, section A, pg. 25, column 1).
There’s just one teeny oddity. The section about staging the shooting-down of a US aircraft by Cuban fighters said the agents posing as passengers would resemble “a group of college students off on a holiday”. On holiday? That’s British English. The Yanquis way to say it is “on vacation”. Pentagon documents undergo repeated review which ponders the significance of every last comma. Half a dozen pairs of eyeballs, including the JCS chairman and every JCS member, would have reviewed the document. Funny, that.
“Operation Northwoods: American Terrorism”. 12 August 2010. 04 November 2010. Truth is Treason. <http://www.truthistreason.net/operation-northwoods-american-terrorism.>
“Timeline: 9/11″. BBC. 14 Feburary 2007. 04 November 2010. <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/conspiracy_files/6338551.stm.>
“Edward Lansdale”. Spartacus Educational. 04 November 2010. 04 November 2010. <http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/COLDlansdale.htm.>
“Operation Mongoose”. Globalsecurity.org. 04 November 2010. 04 November 2010. <http://www.globalsecurity.org/intell/ops/mongoose.htm.>
“Operation Northwoods Conspiracy Theories”. Conspiracy Theories and Hoaxes. 04 November 2010. 04 November 2010. <http://www.conspiracy-theories-hoax.com/operation-northwoods-conspiracy-theories.html.>
“Operations Northwoods Documents On the Website of the US National Archives and Records Administration”. Wanttoknow. 04 November 2010. 04 November 2010. <http://www.wanttoknow.info/operationnorthwoods.>
“Pentagon Proposed Pretexts for Cuba Invasion in 1962”, The National Security Archive, 30 April 2001. 04 November 2010. <http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/news/20010430/.>
Baggins, Brian. “Possible Actions to Provoke, Harrass, or Disrupt Cuba”. Parascope. 04 November 2010. 04 November 2010. <http://www.marxists.org/history/cuba/subject/cia/mongoose/terror.htm.>
Crubaugh, Joe. “U.S. Sponsored Terrorism – Operation Northwoods”. ezinearticles.com. 04 November 2010. 04 November 2010. <http://ezinearticles.com/?U.S.-Sponsored-Terrorism—Operation-Northwoods&id=495923.>
Ruppe, David. “U.S. Military Wanted to Provoke War With Cuba”. ABC News. <http://abcnews.go.com/US/story?id=92662.>
Schneier, Bruce. “’Body of Secrets’ by James Bamford”. Salon.com. 25 April 2001. 04 November 2011. <http://www.salon.com/books/review/2001/04/25/nsa.>
Spannaus, Edward, “When U.S. Joint Chiefs Planned Terror Attacks on America”. Executive Intelligence Review. 12 October 2001. <http://larouchepub.com/other/2001/2839operation_northwds.html.>
TO CREATE SUPPORT FOR CUBAN WAR”. Whatreallyhappened.com. 04 November 2010. 04 November 2010. <http://whatreallyhappened.com/WRHARTICLES/northwoods.html?q=northwoods.html.>