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| Post subject: Fletcher Prouty - Essay on NSAM's #263 and #273
|Essay on NSAM's #263 and #273
THE HIGHLY SIGNIFICANT ROLE PLAYED BY TWO MAJOR PRESIDENTIAL POLICY DIRECTIVES: NSAM's #263 and #273------AT THE TIME OF PRESIDENT KENNEDY'S ASSASSINATION:
FOLLOWED BY A BRIEF PRESENTATION OF THE EQUALLY SIGNIFICANT DIRECTIVES: NSAM's #55, #56 AND #57 FOLLOWING THE "BAY OF PIGS" CUBAN INVASION DISASTER, APRIL 17--APRIL 19,1961.
1) NATIONAL SECURITY ACTION MEMORANDUM #263, subject "SOUTH VIETNAM", (copies below), based upon the "Saigon Trip Report" of Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara and of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Maxwell Taylor, Oct 11, 1963.
Actually this so-called McNamara-Taylor Report, (for accurate reference see Volume IV, August-December 1963 of the Foreign Relations of the United States series 1961-1963 by the Department of States and published by the U.S. Government Printing Office), was compiled and written in the Joint Staff offices of General Victor H. Krulak from almost daily notes and instructions from President Kennedy himself. It was printed, bound and flown to Hawaii by an Air Force jet to give both distinguished travelers, then returning from Saigon, the opportunity to become familiar with its content during their 9 hour flight, Oct 2, 1963, back to Washington from Honolulu. This is a pivotal period of the Kennedy "1,000 days" as President of the United States, during which strong opposition against him solidified.
Gen Krulak was the Special Assistant for Counterinsurgency and Special Activities for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, 1962-1964 and my immediate boss. I was the Chief of Special Operations on the Joint Staff and I wrote sections of this NSAM, along with a few other members of his staff. I had been in and out of Vietnam during the years 1952-1953-1954 as Commander of the 99th Air Transport Squadron, Military Air Transport Service with primary duty station at the Tokyo International Airport.
After more than a week of discussions in the White House, the "Saigon Trip Report" became NSAM #263 when signed by President John F. Kennedy, Oct 11, 1963. Despite the fact that its existence had been made known to the public, its exact content and format have been concealed from the public since that time by separating its sections, without proper identification, in different parts of reference books...even government books.
A photo of the front page of the "Pacific Stars and Stripes", (reference a, enclosed) the official U.S. Armed Forces Newspaper, datelined Oct 4, 1963, with the lead headline serves to verify and date its existence in public:
"WHITE HOUSE REPORT: U.S. TROOPS SEEN OUT OF VIET BY '65,"
This photo shows President Kennedy, Sec McNamara and Gen Taylor in the Oval Office with the "Saigon Trip Report" on the coffee table, Oct 2, 1963. As noted above, this most important policy statement was approved by the President on Oct 11, 1963, and the news of its existence has been available to the press since Oct 3, 1963. The New York TIMES carried the story on Nov 21, 1963. (Copy enclosed.NYT)
Why then, of all White House policy statements, have so many newsmen and historians written vehemently that JFK's NSAM 263 does not exist? Let's look at a part of the record of this "Cover Story", much of which has been created and sustained by elements of the U.S. Government in opposition to the Kennedy record.
a) On June 17, 1967, Sec Robert McNamara directed one of his senior associates, Leslie H. Gelb, to form a Pentagon task force to study the "History of United States involvement in Vietnam from World War II, Sept 2, 1945, to the present." Note that important date. Most people do not realize that the U.S. military involvement in Vietnam began on the same day as the end of World War II against Japan. This study was presented to Sec Clark Clifford, McNamara's successor, on Jan 15, 1969. Because of the Daniel Ellsberg incident (Ellsberg used to work in the same Pentagon offices where Gelb worked during the sixties), this Vietnam Task Force Study became known as the "Pentagon Papers".
On pages 769-770, Vol II, of these "Pentagon Papers" there appears a Document 146 (c) entitled,
"NATIONAL SECURITY ACTION MEMORANDUM NO. 263
TO: Secretary of State
Secretary of Defense Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
SUBJECT: South Vietnam"
However only 10 lines of this long "Trip report" are published under the "NSAM 263" heading and they simply list the fact that:
"the President approved the military recommendations contained in Section 1, B (1-3)* of the Report" and that, "no formal announcement be made of the implementation of plans to withdraw 1,000 U.S. military personnel by the end of 1963. "
*NOTE the reference to "Section 1, B (1-3)" is to the real content of NSAM #263 that appears as Document 142, (b) Vol II and is not labelled as NSAM #263. Thus, the important Kennedy Vietnam policy of Oct 11, 1963 is concealed by such ommissions.
Yet, this is the only place in the entire Report that lists the title of Document #146 of this massive study as "NATIONAL SECURITY ACTION MEMORANDUM NO. 263, OCT 11, 1963"
Year's after Kennedy's death, someone had decided that historical researchers should not have any help in finding this most important Presidential document...a most significant factor itself in the decision to assassinate the President on Nov 22nd. This scheme to mis-label and to divide NSAM #263 into two parts confused the issue of Kennedy's Vietnam policy unnecessarily.
b) On pages 751-766, VOL II, there is a Document #142:
"MEMORANDUM FOR THE PRESIDENT, 2 October 1963,
Subject: Report of McNamara-Taylor Mission to South Vietnam.
Here, quite inconspicuously and without any reference to NSAM #263, we find those important lines about:
"2. A program be established to train Vietnamese so that essential functions now performed by U.S. military personnel can be carried out by Vietnamese by the end of 1965. It should be possible to withdraw the bulk of U.S. personnel by that time" i.e. 1965.
(Note with care the choice of words here. Kennedy planned to withdraw "U.S. personnel". He did not limit his policy to "military personnel". This is most significant. U.S. Military units did not land in Vietnam until April 1965. From 1945 to 1965 the bulk of "U.S. personnel" in Vietnam were under the operational control of the CIA. These units were such as the CIA's "SAIGON MILITARY MISSION" under the direction of CIA's Edward G. Lansdale in those years under the "cover" of a U.S. Air Force colonel assignment. The large "U.S.M.C."-type helicopter units that had been introduced into Vietnam during the latter part of 1960 were also under the operational control of the CIA, and were maintained by civilians. As a result this policy to withdraw "U.S. personnel" was a major threat to the CIA and its suppliers along with its own massive plans for South East Asia warfare.)
This NSAM #263 was President Kennedy's plan for getting all Americans out of Vietnam and one of the main planks for his platform for re-election in 1964. As things turned out, this was another bullet for the Guns of Dallas. Yet since that time this powerful policy statement, NSAM #263, has been carefully unidentified, denied and even today there are many writers of repute and historians who swear that it does not, and never did, exist.
I happened to work on that "Trip Report" material as a function of my Pentagon assignment. I do not have their problem. It exists. I have copies, some of which are enclosed.
For example: On Dec 15, 1991 just after Oliver Stone's film "JFK" had been released, one of the most important writers for the New York TIMES, Tom Wicker, wrote:
"Does JFK Conspire Against Reason?" and added,
"I know of no reputable historian who has documented Kennedy's intentions..."
This with respect to the business of the Honolulu Conference of Nov 20, 1963, and President Kennedy's earlier policy that all American personnel would be out of Vietnam by the end of 1965.
((LEN: Enclosed is a copy, a poor copy, of the New York TIMES of Nov 21, 1963, in which this Honolulu Conference is discussed along with the "1,000 men home for Christmas" data. In other words there is no excuse whatsoever for Tom Wicker and others not to have known about this. See if you can locate this issue of the TIMES in a Library with copier capability and get a good copy. This is important as an enclosure.)) New York Times Nov 21/63
I do not know who Wicker labels "reputable historians" and many wonder if Wicker and other writers in his business had realized that this crucial NSAM #263 appears in the "Pentagon Papers" with that statement about all U.S. personnel being out of Vietnam by the end of 1965. The editors of the "Pentagon Papers" had taken the trouble to segment this official NSAM publication to conceal it; but experienced researchers can find it, with a little assistance.
It should be noted, as above, that the Chief of the Special Group of historians who compiled the "Pentagon Papers" for McNamara was, at a later date, none other than the Editor of the New York TIMES, Leslie Gelb. He ought to have let his fine reporter, Tom Wicker, in on the story. But that is how these things are done.
REFERENCE DATA #1: NATIONAL SECURITY ACTION MEMORANDUM #263
a) Front page photo, "PACIFIC STARS AND STRIPES" Authorized publication of the Armed Forces in the Far East, Friday, Oct 4, 1963. (a)
b) Source document from Congressional Record, "The PENTAGON PAPERS" with pages #751-#766, Document 142, (b) "Report of McNamara-Taylor Mission to South Vietnam."
c) Source document from Congressional Record, "The PENTAGON PAPERS" with pages #769-#770, Document 146,(c) "National Security Action Memorandum No. 263". This most important item is presented in only 10 lines, and says almost nothing about the content of NSAM #263. It is dated Oct 11, 1963, meaning that the President had approved it, and it is signed by McGeorge Bundy to confirm its authenticity.
It will be noted that it does include the lines:
"The President approved the military recommendations contained in Section 1B (1-3) of the report, but directed that no formal announcement be made of the implementation of plans to withdraw 1,000 U.S. military personnel by the end of 1963."
This brief extract from NSAM #263 says nothing about the fact that the President's policy was to have all U.S. personnel out of Vietnam by the end of 1965. This most important statement is buried in item b) above.
d) Items b) and c) above are taken from Volume II of "The Defense Department History of United States Decisionmaking on Vietnam", a.k.a. the "Pentagon Papers". This next item is an exact copy of the "NATIONAL SECURITY ACTION MEMORANDUM NO. 263" as it appeared on Oct 11, 1963, with McGeorge Bundy's signature for authorization. It will be noted that anyone who obtained a copy of this highly classified Document, NSAM 263, Oct 11, 1963, on White House stationary, (d) has almost nothing to tell him what the President had approved.
REFERENCE DATA #2:
NATIONAL SECURITY ACTION MEMORANDUM #273, NOV 26, 1963.
Two copies of this NSAM #273 are enclosed. The first, (f) is on White House stationary and was signed by McGeorge Bundy, Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs. This signature authenticates Presidential approval. Also, it lists the primary distribution of official copies within NSC. The second copy, also dated Nov 26, 1963, is not on White House stationary, does not have the Bundy signature and does not have the NSC file copy names. It is either a "working draft" or a forgery.
In many ways this White House directive is the antithesis of NSAM #263. It may be vital evidence of the advance planning for the assassination. It was drafted on Nov 21, 1963, and therefore may be considered, technically, to have been a statement of Presidential policy...but which President? It was drafted while JFK was alive, by his National Security Advisor, McGeorge Bundy; yet it was not authenticated until signed by Bundy after LBJ was in office, Nov 26, 1963, after some significant changes on a Nov 24, 1963, draft. Just this sequence tells quite a story about the Presidency and about Vietnam policy between Oct 2, 1963, and Nov 26, 1963. (A copy of this Nov 24, 1963, draft (h) is enclosed. This was the working draft for the first discussion of this subject with President Johnson two days following Kennedy's death.
You will note after you have compared this draft with the most unusual first Bundy draft of Nov 21st, that the deletion of a portion of that first draft places a great burden upon the interpretation of these two drafts.
The original Nov 21st draft, written by McGeorge Bundy (see copy (i)) and distributed to many of the top offices of the Government on that date created much discussion about its timing, because Bundy had attended the Honolulu Conference, Nov 20, 1963, with Sec McNamara. The Conference ended on the 20th and according to Pierre Salinger, President Kennedy's Press Secretary, McGeorge Bundy left Honolulu on the "night of the 21st". When and where could Bundy have been to have written this Draft of Nov 21st...in Honolulu, on the airplane en route to Washington,i.e. nine hours? Other records show that he chaired a meeting in the White House at 8:00 am on the 22nd. No matter how we look at it, this draft and its following copies, up to its Presidential approval, represent a rare government action...when it is known that President Kennedy was assassinated at 12:30 pm in Dallas on the 22nd.
As an aside: it is little wonder that the hard worked group of PhD's, who worked on the "Pentagon Papers" for Les Gelb, wrote in the chronological summary of 1963, the following, and only the following for that date:
"22 Nov 1963 LODGE CONFERS WITH THE PRESIDENT (i)
Having flown to Washington the day after the conference, Lodge meets with the President and presumably continues the kind of report given in Honolulu." (NOTE: In that lengthy chronological record that is the only item for the date 22 Nov 1963, see VOL II, page 223, enclosure.
NOTE: In paragraph four of Bundy's first draft of NSAM #273 (j) it appears that he may have had something else, other than Vietnam policy, on his mind on Nov 21, 1963. Rather strangely, in this original draft that he circulated among many of the top echelons of the Government, with personal "Cover Letters" to the Director of Central Intelligence, John McCone and to his brother William in McNamara's office, he wrote some most important lines that appear to have more to do with a potential emergency situation in the United States than any connection with Vietnam policy as described by NSAM 263, October 11, 1963. One of these powerful statements follows:
"4. It is of the highest importance that the United States Government avoid either the appearance or the reality of public recrimination from one part of it against another, and the President expects that all senior officers of the Government will take energetic steps to insure that they and their subordinates go out of their way to maintain and to defend the unity of the United States Government both here and abroad."(j)
Read that carefully! This draft places the "highest importance" on the fact that the "U.S. Government avoid either the appearance or the reality of public recrimination (FOR WHAT?) from one part of it ("it" is a singular pronoun and limits this subject to the U.S. Government, alone, and does not include Vietnam!) against another."
What type of "recrimination" was Bundy expecting on the day before Kennedy died; and what was this "recrimination" by one part of the U.S. Government against another? For some obscure reason did these men believe that there would be some enormous uprising in the United States as a result of "WHAT?" After all, these first draft memos were dated Nov 21, 1963. (Copies of memo to McCone of CIA, and to William Bundy, enclosed (k) and (l).
What did Bundy and these other top officials know on Nov 21,1963, that caused them to circulate such a document? Could they have been aware of the elaborate decision that had been made for the assassination planned for the very next day?
On the other hand, this hardly seems like the type of highest level policy statement that Kennedy would have dictated on, or just before, Nov 21, 1963. He had left on a speaking tour of Texas. Certainly if he had thought some major event that would create a massive up-rising was about to take place, he would not have gone off to Texas with Lyndon, Connally and Yarborough, nor would he have authorized the majority of his Cabinet officers to fly together to Japan on Nov 19th.
This "Mac" Bundy draft was written and circulated widely throughout the upper echelons of the government from the White House on Nov 21, 1963 the day before Kennedy was assassinated.
I possess copies, dated Nov 21, 1963, with brief covering memos, on White House stationary, addressed to such top level officials as the Director of Central Intelligence, John McCone (k); to Don Wilson (k) with USIA and a special note to his brother William Bundy (l), who was working with McNamara at that time. Several of these copies are marked for changes. One of these sets does mark out this strange Par. #4, see above.
The William Bundy copy is interesting because it too is dated Nov 21, 1963. Mac asks his brother to "compare it with your own notes and check with Bob McNamara..." This raises at least two ideas: a) both McGeorge and Bill Bundy had been at the Honolulu Conference on Nov 20, 1963, therefore "Mac" Bundy may have been asking Bill to refer to notes made there during those sheltered meetings, or during the long flight from Honolulu to Washington.
b) Then by suggesting he "check with Bob McNamara" he may have believed that McNamara, who was in Honolulu with them, and with whom "Mac" Bundy may have traveled late on the night of Nov 20, may have come up with some later ideas during inflight discussions.
I have other copies of this draft document that were done on various typewriters and they certainly indicate that this draft document had to have been quickly circulated through all of the highest governmental levels...on the 21st. On these draft copies there are some notes, and line outs. One of these (m) suggests the deletion of this troublesome, perhaps prophetic "Par 4" above.
Keep in mind the opening lines of Bundy's draft are:
"The President has reviewed the discussions of South Vietnam which occurred in Honolulu, and has discussed the matter further with Ambassador Lodge. He directs that the following guidance be issued to all concerned:..."
Then in paragraph 4, of the Nov 21, 1963, first draft of this NSAM we find this Presidential policy statement....considering that the assassination took place during the next twenty-four hours, saying:
"4. It is of the highest importance that the United States Government avoid either the appearance or the reality of public recrimination from one part of it against another, and the President expects that all senior officers of the Government will take energetic steps to insure that they and their subordinates go out of their way to maintain and to defend the unity of the United States Government both here and in the field."
If this policy of NSAM 273 was actually dictated by Kennedy, then what was Bundy's real intention with that cryptic bit of writing on the day before President Kennedy's death? Was that Bundy's secret warning of the impending assassination? Did he know about the assassination plot? Where was Bundy himself when he wrote it? In the normal course of events that draft of an NSAM would have been circulated to other top officials and then signed by Kennedy as his "Vietnam Policy". Consider these choices with care:
a) was Bundy telling us what Kennedy wanted done, i.e. "all senior officers of the Government will take energetic steps to insure that they and their subordinates go out of their way to defend the unity of the United States Government both here and abroad."
b) or, was this a concealed warning highlighted in the draft of NSAM 273, from McGeorge Bundy, President Kennedy's "Special Assistant for National Security Affairs" to other top officials of the U.S. Government informing them that he believed the President was going to be assassinated? Does this mean that Bundy, among others, knew of the assassination plot on Nov 21? If not, why would he have written such an ominous statement without a reference to the main subject of these NSAMs: VIETNAM?
Then, in the routine processing and coordination of draft documents, and with the passing of time and other events...in this case an Assassination, this strange Par. #4 of the Nov 21, 1963, first draft was deleted right after the President's death. It does not appear, in its initial awesome language of Nov 21st, in the draft documents of Nov 24, 1963, and it is no where to be seen in the final and Presidentially approved draft of Nov 26, 1963. This important progression warrants careful study and consideration of its relevancy to the possibility of top level knowledge of the assassination planning beforehand.
No where in the final, Presidentially approved, version of the Nov 26th draft of NSAM #273 does that quotation from paragraph 4 of the Bundy draft of Nov 21, 1963, appear as written. As written above, Bundy's par 4. statement makes reference only to the "United States Government" and to its "Senior Officers" while the Johnson approved content of NASM #273 on Nov 24th and on Nov 26th directly introduces the "U.S. policy in South Vietnam".
It should be noted that the words "South Vietnam" and "Vietnam" both appear in that final document that was signed by "McGeorge Bundy, Special Assistant to President Lyndon B. Johnson for National Security Affairs" on Nov 26, 1963. As printed then NSAM #273 was all but a meaningless document. It did indicate the possibility of changes in the NSAM #263 Vietnam policy document; but the real and significant changes did not appear until the publication of NSAM #288, 17 Mar 1964.
My U.S. Gov't Printing Office source book, "Foreign Relations of the United States, 1961-1963, Vol IV" states that both Bundys, William who worked for McNamara in the Pentagon and McGeorge who worked for Kennedy in the White House, were at the Honolulu Conference of Nov 20, 1963, with a long list of dignitaries to discuss the problems in Saigon since the assassinations of President Ngo Dinh Diem and his brother Nhu on Nov 1, 1963.
I'll quote the FRUS book:
"When someone asked Bundy why he was going, (to this Conference in Honolulu) he replied that he had been instructed."
I possess a letter dated May 1, 1991, on Bundy's office stationary of that period, and signed by McGeorge Bundy that addressed the identical question put to him in 1991. He answered then rather interestingly,
"I do not think I went to Honolulu that week." (Meaning the week that included Nov 20, 1963.)
Furthermore, from the official,
Memorandum for the Record of Discussion at the Daily White House Staff Meeting, Washington, November 22, 1963, 8 a.m. McGeorge Bundy opened the meeting with the comment "that he was very impressed with the idea of traveling by jet to distant places and holding a conference. The fact that he was able to get a good night's sleep before arriving in Honolulu and that the whole trip was effortless and comfortable made a deep impression on him".
These are his official words about his trip to and from Honolulu; yet in his May 1, 1991, letter he writes, "I did not think I went to Honolulu that week."
I've had that problem myself. On those memorable Nov 1963 days I ought to have been in my office in the Joint Staff section of the Pentagon. Rather, I had just left Antarctica and was homeward bound via Christchurch, New Zealand, on Nov 22, 1963, eastern standard time. (The JFK assassination occurred on Nov 23rd, local NZ time) I too was on orders. I had been instructed to make that trip by orders from the Joint Staff.
I was traveling officially as the Military Escort Officer for a contingent of nuclear power experts who were going to the McMurdo Naval Air Station in Antarctica to initiate the operation of a nuclear power plant for the production of energy that would heat that large Navy base, provide it with pure and desalinated water from the adjacent McMurdo Sound, and produce electricity. I had left Washington, Nov 10th, 1963.
Even the fact that I have my original military orders, and an abundance of photos of penguins, people from our official group, and other Antarctic scenery, to include one photo of the "Official South Pole" I still, from time to time, am asked "Why were you on that trip at that memorable time? Why weren't you at your desk in the Pentagon?" Good question. The answer is quite simple. I had worked for the U.S. Antarctic Projects Officer for many years. In fact I had received his congratulations in a valued letter of 2 July 1959 for work done then, more than four years earlier. The fact that I was working on another Antarctic project on Nov 22, 1963, was simply a part of my official military duties over the years. (Copy enclosed, e)
In fairness to McGeorge Bundy I must add that I also possess a second letter on the subject of his presence the Honolulu Conference, dated Sep 11,1991, on his office stationary. It includes the following statement about his attendance in Honolulu saying, "I have talked with other people who are at work on this history and now I have it clear in my head that I did indeed go to the meeting in Honolulu." So now, in his own words, he was in Honolulu on Nov 20, 1963, and most likely for parts of Nov 19th and Nov 21st. Because of this timing, I have wondered, when did he have time to speak with Kennedy about the content of the NSAM draft and to write that "Draft of the Nov 21, 1963 version of NSAM #273," and who directed him to write it? This is a most important question.
I have a copy of the official "CONFERENCE SCHEDULE for a SPECIAL MEETING ON RVN, i.e Vietnam on 20/Nov/63." Many of Kennedy's top people were there:
a) Adm. Felt, Sec Rusk, Sec McNamara, Amb Lodge, Gen Taylor, McGeorge Bundy, John McCone, David Bell, Joseph Brent and William Bundy.
b) Plus the fact that almost all of the Kennedy Cabinet Officers other than those listed above, were in-bound from Washington for Honolulu en-route to Tokyo for a series of meetings in Japan. This too was an exceedingly rare operation. I can find no other time in our history when all, at least most all, of the President's Cabinet members were out of the country while the President himself was on an extended trip through Texas.
NOTE: Such a gathering of top level officials outside of the continental limits of the USA was unheard of.
As listed above, I have enclosed various copies of NSAM 273 in draft on Nov 21 and Nov 24 and signed by Bundy, for President Johnson on Nov 26, 1963. The evolution of their content is most significant with reference to that "Honolulu" Conference on Nov 20th, their drafting on Nov 21 and 24, and approval by President Johnson on Nov 26th and President Kennedy's assassination on Nov 22, 1963.
According to McGeorge Bundy, NSAM #273 was supposed to be a Kennedy policy statement but its creation was overcome by his Assassination in Dallas on Nov 22, 1963. Historically it marks the end of the Kennedy era of the Vietnam Policy of the Government of the United States and of its promise to keep Americans out of Vietnam, and have all of them out by the end of 1965. It had a most important list of antecedent meetings.
A highly significant series of White House meetings, on the subject of "VIETNAM" and their supporting activities had begun with a Conference with President Kennedy at the White House, August 28, 1963. This intense work demonstrated the management style of President Kennedy. For such various and important subjects he created special teams of experts for his own purposes, and in working with them he gave them much personal guidance. He did not necessarily follow the National Security Council format, as had been the practice of President Truman, and especially, President Eisenhower.
A listing, as given, of those present for that important initial meeting on Aug 28, 1963, is worth reviewing in light of what happened only two months later: Quoted from the FRUS, 1961-1963, VOLUME IV, AUGUST, 1963, VIETNAM:
"Vice President Johnson (arrived late), Sec. McNamara, Under Sec. Ball, Secretary Dillon, Attorney General, General Carter, General Taylor, Deputy Secretary Gilpatric, Under Secretary Harriman, Ambassador Nolting, General Krulak, Director Murrow, Mr. Helms, Assistant Secretary Hilsman, Mr. Colby (CIA), Mr. Bundy, General Clifton, Mr. Forrestal, Mr. Bromley Smith."
This was a typical Kennedy "Team". He wanted to meet among friends, associates, experts and anyone he thought ought to be there; and not simply because they were Cabinet Officers or other Senior Assistants. As we can see, this is his own selection on that date, August 28, 1963, for the subject of "Vietnam". This was not an entirely new subject for Kennedy. He had met Ngo Dinh Diem, the man who later became the first President of South Vietnam, as far back as 1953; and was well experienced with Vietnamese affairs by his long membership on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
In view of the great historical significance of this special conference in the White House with the President, it is quite surprising to note that on the last page of this FRUS History, page 758, the final character in that long and important drama is none other than Ed Lansdale.
I first met Lansdale in Manila in 1952 and in 1953-1954 during various flights from my base in Tokyo. Later we served together in the Headquarters, U.S. Air Force and in the Office of the Secretary of Defense during the late 1950's and early sixties. It could be that there is considerable significance to this inclusion of Ed Lansdale's name in this important publication just as it concludes its narrative.
It would be impossible to discuss those critical months without including Lansdale and his long record of achievements in the Asian Pacific region during and since World War II.
Listed in this governmental record of Vietnam during the August-November 1963 period of Kennedy's administration of the Vietnam situation there are 383 meetings, messages and other items of White House activity on this subject. When we keep in mind that U.S. military and counterinsurgency activity in Vietnam that began on Sep 2, 1945, and ended in April 1975, with countless meetings, we can realize that Vietnam was a most important personal as well as Presidential responsibility for John F. Kennedy.
The subject of this "VIETNAM" series was drastically changed following his assassination in Dallas, Nov 22, 1963. The majority of these meetings have been documented in Volume IV, "Vietnam August-December 1963, of the Foreign Relations of the United States publications for 1961-1963."
At the time of President Kennedy's death a massive "Cover Story" had been created and orchestrated by the decision makers of a highest level "Power Elite" to provide a format of "Governmental Published Evidence" to support its theme that Kennedy was killed by a "Lone Gunman" who fired three shots from the Texas School Book Depository. It is their contention that there was then, and is now, no conspiracy, a single gunman did it...alone. That's all! That's not true.
Two, little known, frequently misquoted but most important U.S. Government documents can be used to prove otherwise. They may be used as proof of the fact that President Kennedy was the victim of a well planned and classically executed assassination as the result of a decision made--perhaps not long after his election in 1960--by members of a "Power Elite" element of the "Military Industrial Complex" and their powerful bankers, who...on many counts, they believed...had already been seriously damaged, by mid-1963, by Kennedy's plans and policies. Perhaps chief among these was:
"A program be established to train Vietnamese so that essential functions now performed by U.S. military personnel can be carried out by Vietnamese by the end of 1965. It should be possible to withdraw the bulk of U.S. personnel by that time."
For those who had invested deeply since the decisions of the Teheran Conference of late 1943 in official plans for that costly warfare, this National Security Action Memorandum #263 was an enormous threat. They had been busy since September 2, 1945, investing in the massive base for that warfare, and they believed that it would be entirely possible to prolong that warfare into 1975, despite the growing stockpiles of nuclear weapons. By Pentagon planning experience such a "war" could easily create expenditures, at home and abroad, well into the $500 billion range. This was the goal of the "Power Elite". But, as they realized by late 1963, with President Kennedy most certain to be re-elected to a second term in 1964, and with the Kennedy Vietnam policy stated in NSAM #263 his re-election and his promise to have all American personnel out of Vietnam by the end of 1965 were assured. He had to be stopped before the 1964 election campaign, and before he left the city of Dallas.
This is a summary of the great significance of these Aug-Nov 1963 White House meetings on Vietnam. Their significance will be greatly enhanced by a review of the set of the most important, early Kennedy documents (see the above cited FRUS VOL IV for daily details.) Review NSAM 263 and NSAM 273 for their great significance at that time, i.e. August-November, 1963. Then, to emphasize Kennedy's method of discussing broad subjects and coming up with significant conclusions and Presidential policy, I would add one more set of NSAMs, simply to demonstrate that this bureaucratic methodology was used effectively by Kennedy from the beginning of his "1,000 days" to the very end. This earlier set of NSAMs begins with number 55, that originated from the work of the "Post Bay of Pigs" Cuban Study Group that he had created on April 22, 1961, to:
"Study our Governmental practices and programs in the areas of military and paramilitary, guerrilla and anti-guerrilla activity which fell short of outright war with a view to strengthening our work in this area."
Kennedy had selected the four members of that important group craftily, with care and skill. Following the failure of the CIA's Anti-Castro "Bay of Pigs" operation he resorted to the battle cry of the Kennedy Clan, "Don't Get Mad: Get Even!"
The group he appointed and assembled was a masterpiece of political craftsmanship:
a.) Allen W. Dulles, Director of Central Intelligence, whose "Bay of Pigs" operation had just collapsed.
b.) Maxwell D. Taylor, General, formerly Chief of Staff, U.S. Army.
c.) Arleigh Burke, Admiral, Chief of Naval Operations.
d.) Robert F. Kennedy, Attorney General, the power behind the throne and the committee "watchdog".
From the end of April 1961 to early June 1961 this "select" Group met in room 2E980 of the Joint Chiefs of Staff area of the Pentagon. At that time my office was room 2D958, only a few doors away. Many of the men there to be questioned by this group were long-time associates of mine. They would wait in my office until they were called by the committee. After their sessions, many would return and discuss the subject.
I have, today, a copy of the "Letter to the President" written by Gen Taylor, 13 Jun 1961, as a summary of the Cuban Study Group's work. He added this surprising note for the President's consideration:
"As we have found no difficulty in reaching a unanimous view on all essential points under consideration, we are submitting this view as a jointly agreed study."
Had Kennedy lived to be re-elected this document would have led to the abolishment of the CIA, and to the replacement of the National Security Act of 1947...the Act that had created the Central Intelligence Agency. As it was, before the end of the year, three key figures in the CIA were gone: Allen W. Dulles; his long-time Deputy Director, General C. P. Cabell; and the Deputy Director, Plans, Richard Bissell.
The men who came and went from these sessions to testify before this distinguished Study Group had a name for it, "The Four Scorpions in a Bottle". They were not sure that any one of them would come out of that room alive, and made it quite clear that the toughest "Scorpion" was that young fellow who sat on a straight-backed chair and said few words. They knew that as soon as every session was closed he would jump into his car, drive directly to the White House and meet, well into the night, with his brother and their long-time "touch-football" associates. Maxwell Taylor was the master scriptwriter, Bobby Kennedy was the #1 "Scorpion" and Allen Dulles and his CIA were the targets. None of these would survive 1964, including the President.
The letter that Gen Taylor wrote to President Kennedy on 13 June 1961 was one of the most dynamic and meaningful of that famous "1,000 day" period. We'll get the tone of the Group's activity by this excerpt from the Thirteenth Meeting, 10 May 1961. The participant was Gen. Walter Bedell Smith, Dulles' immediate predecessor as Director, Central Intelligence; formerly the Ambassador to Moscow; and during World War II, Chief of Staff to General Dwight D. Eisenhower. Few government officials, if any, had more experience in such matters as those under investigation that day, than General Smith. His responses are blunt and to the point:
"Question: How can we, in a democracy, use all our assets effectively without having to completely reorganize the government?
"General Smith: A democracy can not wage war. When you go to war, you pass a law giving extraordinary powers to the President. The people of our country assume when the emergency is over, the rights and powers that were temporarily delegated to the chief executive will be returned to the state, counties, and to the people.
"Statement: We often say that we are in a state of war at the present time.
"General Smith: Yes, sir, that is correct.
"Question: Are you suggesting that we should approximate the President's wartime powers?
"General Smith: No. However, the American people do not feel that they are at war at the present time, and consequently they are not willing to make the sacrifices necessary to wage war. When you are at war, Cold War if you like, you must have an amoral agency which can operate secretly and which does not have to give press conferences.
"Statement: We have attempted to do things covertly, which really can't be done covertly, and yet the attempt to do so leads to operational restrictions which in the case of Cuba were very serious.
"General Smith: I would take issue with the statement that they can not be done covertly. They can be done covertly when the situation begins to be threatening enough so that you have to be immoral.
"Question: I think we are now thinking of the Cuban operation which was the landing on a hostile shore of about 1,400 Cubans. I wonder if the attempt to keep the operation covert was a mistake?
"General Smith: I only know what the papers say, but covert operations can be done up to a certain size and we have handled some pretty large operations.
"Question: Should we have intelligence gathering in the same place that you have operations?
"General Smith: I think so much publicity has been given to CIA that the covert work might have to be put under another roof.
"Question: Do you think you should take the covert operations from CIA?
"General Smith: It's time we take the bucket of slop and put another cover over it. If you're going to deal with people expert in these affairs, who have no regard for the individual or human life, you can't be quite as tough as they are, but you have to approach it in some manner. The Communists will continue nibbling around the world as long as they find it profitable or until we can find a way to stop it. We must face up to the Communist problem and take effective action.
This is an outstanding example of the "Give and Take" among the members of the Cuban Study Group and their "guests". This meeting with General Smith emphasized the direction that President Kennedy and his closest advisors were taking on the two related subjects: the future of the CIA and of the warfare in Vietnam. Both were going to be put under control, and ended...at least as they had been administered up to that time.
As soon as the NSAM #55, "Relations of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the President in Cold War Operations" had been signed by President Kennedy, it was delivered to the Secretary of the Joint Staff who immediately sent it to my superior, the Chief of the newly created staff section, "Special Assistant for Counterinsurgency and Special Activities" (SACSA). The head of SACSA at that time was an Army General William Craig. He called me to his office, gave me the copies of the NSAM's #55, 56, and 57 and asked me to study them carefully because they would be on the "Chiefs Agenda" for an early meeting.
The Chiefs of Staff meet regularly in the "Gold Room" in the heart of the windowless Joint Chiefs of Staff area in the very depths of the Pentagon. The agenda for each meeting is selected with care and the many items run from routine unclassified material to that of the very highest security classification. The military service, and the Joint Staff briefing officers are notified well in advance that they are on the Agenda for that date; but do not know at what time after the start of the meeting they will be called upon to present their elaborate presentations. Therefore they wait in a large room across the hall until one after the other is called. In most cases, the order of briefing is in the reverse order of the security classsification with the unclassified presentations first and the most highly classified last.
In the "Gold Room", the Chairman and the Service Chiefs sit at a large table, along with ranking staff associates from each service. Rows of special staff members are seated behind them. As a result of the security classification "pecking order" these extra staff officials leave after the briefing on their special subject had been given and before the next higher level of classification begins. So: as the morning proceeds both rooms thin out with the departure of these officials.
On that day in July 1961 when I briefed NSAM #55, I was the last briefing officer in the waiting room and the Chairman and the Service Chiefs themselves were the only officers in the "Gold Room". Although I had been with the JCS for less than two months at the time, I knew all of them and had worked with some of them quite frequently during the previous seven years that I had been in the Pentagon with the Headquarters, U.S. Air Force and with the Office of the Secretary of Defense.
The briefing began with the definition of "Cold War Operations". The simplest way to describe this is to say that they are secret, clandestine operations sponsored by the highest authority of the U.S. Government "in support of an existing government friendly to the United States, or "in support of a rebel group seeking to overthrow a government hostile to us". To make a fine point, "Cold War Operations" are distinct from "Secret Intelligence Operations". As a result, such operations are a violation of the sovereignty of some State, sometimes even of a friendly State that may unwittingly become involved in the action. Although such operations had been carried out by the U. S. Government, in one way or another, since 1948-1949 (and of course during World War II), it was surprising to see how little the Chiefs of Staff actually knew about them and how little close-in experience they had in that area of combat. As one of the prominent members of the U.S. Senate, a member of that select group who are always informed of such CIA activities before they take place, told me one day when I had been sent to tell him about one of these operations, before it began, "Keep it short. What I don't know about it won't hurt me." I had learned that by "short" he meant "Don't tell me anything." That was Senate "oversight" in the 1950's. The JCS felt much the same way and had limited their participation in both the planning and operations of such activities as much as possible.
As the discussion of NSAM #55 broadened, General Lemnitzer and General Shoup, both of whom had commanded military units on Okinawa that had provided extensive support for the huge CIA operation that took place against the government of President Sukarno of Indonesia in 1958, admitted that they had not realized that was what had been done with the plane-loads of weapons and other war material that had furnished in response to a "classified" request made by the CIA agent in U. S. Military uniform. It did not take long to see that these military men, all Chiefs of their services, were not Cold Warriors, and did not intend to be.
When I read to them President Kennedy's statement from NSAM #55:
"I regard the Joint Chiefs of Staff as my principal military advisors responsible both for initiating advice to me and for responding to requests for advice. I expect their advice to come to me direct and unfiltered."
you could have heard a pin drop in the "Gold Room". They had never been included in the special policy channel which Allen Dulles had perfected over the past decade, that ran from the National Security Council (NSC) to the CIA for all clandestine operations. They did not want to be involved; but their services did get involved inevitably whenever the CIA operators approached them for support: such as weapons from the Army, airlift from the Air Force or sealift from the Navy. Despite this logistical support they rarely, if ever, participated in the over-all operational planning with the CIA--even for such enormous "secret" activities as the "Bay of Pigs" invasion of Cuba...unless specifically so ordered.
After I had briefed the Chiefs on the key elements of that paramount Presidential directive, NSAM #55, there was little discussion. NSAM #56, "Evaluation of Paramilitary Requirements" had been delivered to the Secretary of Defense by the White House. Its required assignment was the compilation of an "inventory (of) the paramilitary assets we have in the United States Armed Forces." This specialized task had been assigned by Sec. McNamara to General Edward G. Lansdale.
The third Presidential directive, NSAM #57, "Responsibility for Paramilitary Operations" was another strange document. As written, the primary thrust was contained in an enclosure that proposed the establishment of a "Strategic Resources Group" for initial considerations of all paramilitary operations and for approval, as deemed necessary, by the President.
Despite this quite specific language defining the role of this new group, the covering letter contained a recommendation that:
"The Special Group (NSC 5412 Committee) will perform the functions assigned in the recommendation to the Strategic Resources Group."
For an important paper from the White House, its language alone was quite a surprise. The message of the directive is carried in the enclosure; yet it is negated by that sentence cited above that assigns the responsibility for "paramilitary operations" back to the system used by the NSC and the CIA since 1954. The confused language that does this is a "recommendation" about a "recommendation". We know that the basic paper, NSAM #57 (enclosure) was written by General Maxwell Taylor, as was NSAM #55. The basic letter that reverses the Taylor procedure was written and signed by McGeorge Bundy. In this connection, it is interesting to recall that it was McGeorge Bundy who had made the telephone call to General Charles P. Cabell, the Deputy Director, CIA on the evening before the "Bay of Pigs" invasion cancelling the essential air strikes against the last of Castro's combat aircraft, even though President Kennedy had directed those same air strikes that same afternoon. Later, Bundy, with this brief message, again reversed a decision of the President as affirmed in NSAM #55 and #57.
"I regard the JCS as my principal military advisors both for initiating advice to me and for responding for advice."
By concluding that the "Special Group (5412 Committee)" would "perform the function" of the new Strategic Resources Group, NSAM #57 left the former Cold War Operations system in place, with a stroke of the McGeorge Bundy pen. This circumscribed the role of the Strategic Resources Group. The super-secret "5412 Committee" that consisted of the Vice President, a high level official each from State and Defense plus the Director, Central Intelligence had been created early in the Eisenhower years and had become the compliant tool of the Dulles brothers.
The JCS recognized this loop-hole immediately and slipped through it. They did not want the job of clandestine Cold War Operations. With its toe firmly in the door as a result of the "loop-hole" in NSAM #57, the CIA began an argument that effectively neutralized NSAM #57 and the other directives. NSAM #57 said:
"Where such an operation (clandestine) is to be wholly covert or disavowable, it may be assigned to CIA, provided that it is within the normal capability of the agency."
This seemed to make it clear that a small and covert operation would still be assigned to the CIA, despite Kennedy's NSAM #55.
Then NSAM #57 added:
"Any large paramilitary operation wholly or partly covert which requires significant numbers of militarily trained personnel, amounts of military equipment which exceed normal CIA-controlled stocks and/or military experience of a kind and level peculiar to the Armed Services is properly the primary responsibility of the Department of Defense with the CIA in a supporting role."
It would seem that this language might have made it indisputably clear what President Kennedy wanted. On the contrary, the CIA with the support of certain willing military leaders (such as those with the U.S. Army Special Warfare elements), began a long series of meetings to discuss and filibuster, "What is a small covert operation; and what is a large one?" They, of course, battled to stake out as large a claim as possible. These aurguments progresed to the subject of the eventual transfer of such operations from an embattled CIA to the larger and more experienced military.
The question was raised, "Suppose the CIA begins a certain Cold War Operation with a small, covert activity that leads through a normal sequence of events to a large operation that becomes a major military conflagration far beyond that agency's capability? When and how will the transfer of the responsibility for that larger operation from the CIA to the military take place, and at such a time is there any chance, at all, that the operation can then be kept secret and plausibly deniable as required by NSC Directive #5412?
These arguments, plus the natural desire of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to remain uninvolved doomed this series of Presidential directives to the files, although they did accomplish certain important results especially with reference to the future of the warfare in Vietnam, and because of their application to other parts of the world where an almost identical progression may be taking place, or can be instigated, at any time.
General Maxwell D. Taylor became Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff October 1962 and Ambassador to the Government of South Vietnam in July 1964. Since he had written these papers and originated the concept of the Special Resources Group, he knew the concept, at least, and had the support of the President. What eventually came about in Vietnam, when the first military troops under direct military command landed at DaNang in March 1965, was a direct result of the policy of NSAM #57. The warfare in Indochina that had begun in 1945 under the United States Office of Strategic Services (OSS) had become too big for the CIA alone. With the landing of the U.S. Marine battalions, under the command of a Marine General, the entire nature of that warfare that had been carried out under the aegis of the CIA, changed; but it took twenty years for the clandestine work of the CIA to achieve that level...and this was not done during JFK's lifetime.
Returning to the time of the original briefing of these three documents, especially to that of NSAM #57, in July 1961, the Chiefs wondered how these new policy ideas had reached the President. Some thought that Ted Sorenson, the President's Counsel, and, perhaps Bobby Kennedy were responsible for it. Some suspected that Walt Rostow and Bill Bundy may have come up with the concept. If they could have discovered the source of these documents they would have been better able to evaluate their true significance. This was an interesting question. (During my study of them prior to presenting the briefing to the Chiefs, I had come to the conclusion that Sorenson and Bobby Kennedy may have put this together because Bobby had attended all of the meetings of the Cuban Study Group and I knew almost all of the officials--military and CIA--who had been brought before that group during May-June 1961. My guess was wrong.)
Many years later, this author invited Admiral Burke to lunch, along with a good friend who is a lawyer. During this most cordial luncheon, I asked the Admiral directly if the Cuban Study Group had ever issued a "REPORT" to the President after the conclusion of its lengthy deliberations. He answered, "No. The only report our Group made to the President was oral." Furthermore, he noted that Bobby Kennedy had attended all of the meetings. His inference was that with Bobby in the room, there was no need to report the findings to his brother whom he saw every day.
The Admiral's response was technically true. There was no "Report"; but he had shaded the fact. His response leaves open another possibility. General Maxwell Taylor may, with the consent of the other members of the Cuban Study Group, have written his lengthy letter to the President on his own in order to present his own views about the way this nation should carry out Cold War Operations. After all, he was the paramilitary expert and the others were not. In view of the situation at that time, this may be the correct interpretation of these important events. The Admiral and the others on the Group hid under the fine print that General Taylor had delivered a "letter" to the President, and not a "report". This famous "Report" was discovered nearly a generation later at the Kennedy library filed under "Letters" and not "Report". ( I possess a copy of that full report.)
The President had recalled General Taylor to active duty on June 26, 1961, just two days before he signed NSAM #55, "Relations of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the President in Cold War Operations", and said that he would be his "Military Representative for Foreign and Military Policy and Intelligence Operations".
Continuing his behind the scenes plan to downgrade the CIA, the President signalled his acceptance of the "Report on the Defense Intelligence Organizations" that had been written by a group headed by General Graves B. Erskine, USMC (Ret'd) and long-time head of the Office of Special Operations within the Office of the Secretary of Defense. Kennedy then announced his intention, on July 11, 1961, to establish the Defense Intelligence Agency. Following this announcement, Secretary McNamara created the DIA on August 1, 1961, and its first leader was Air Force Gen. Joseph F. Carroll, formerly an agent with the FBI. This was followed, August 16 through August 25, 1961, by a large recall of Army Reserve and National Guard troops, ostensibly in support of pressures in Europe. On Sep. 6, 1961, 148,000 more men were recalled to active duty and 40,000 of them were sent to Europe. By the end of Sepember, the President had announced that John McCone would be the new Director of Central Intelligence after Allen Dulles left the CIA. Dulles, who had been the DCI since February 1953 left the CIA on Nov 29, 1961. This marked the end of the Dulles decade. There would never be another like it.
When the going gets tough the agency professionals circle the wagons and get tougher. Their next moves began as soon as Kennedy announced his selection of John McCone to replace Allen Dulles. McCone had come from the world of big business. He had no military or OSS experience, although he had been Deputy to the Secretary of Defense for several months in 1948 and Under-Secretary of the Air Force during 1950-1951. The CIA played upon this lack of experience to its own advantage. McCone could be made into their executive figure-head, while the straight-arrow Army General Taylor could be maneuvered into a most useful paramilitary role.
To get these plans started, a long orientation trip around the world was scheduled for McCone. The great significance of such a trip is that the "New DCI" would be isolated from all other contacts and distractions and kept in the company of none but the Agency's best persuaders and indoctrinaires. The CIA's number one spokesman and craftsman at that time was Desmond FitzGerald, an old friend of Bobby Kennedy's and head of the Far East Division. He was selected by the "Gold Key" club, the inner circle of the CIA hard-line professionals, to accompany McCone on this trip. It will be recalled that President Kennedy had let it be known that he was cleaning house at the CIA with the removal of Allen Dulles, General Cabell and Dick Bissell from the top three jobs. This meant that such a crucial choice as the selection of Fitzgerald was made by this rising inner circle, and not by the old guard.
Before leaving, Fitzgerald came over to the Pentagon for a meeting with key friends. He revealed plans for this trip that would include stops at major CIA stations, and a special tour of South Vietnam. Certain villages were to be prepared, like movie sets, so that McCone would believe he was seeing Vietnamese combat action in "real time" and up close...as had been done, some time earlier, for McNamara's "Vietnamese Warfare" indoctrination. The object of McCone's visit to Vietnam was to have him exposed to as much CIA "covert operational" action as possible, and to have him meet Ngo Dinh Diem and other select leaders who had been working with the CIA for decades.
As the Pentagon meeting broke up "Des" said that the entire trip had been timed to provide for lengthy briefing sessions, in the air where there would be no interruptions--and no other expressed viewpoints--where he would have weeks to totally indoctrinate, or as some said, "brainwash", the new Director. McCone would not only hear about world-wide activities, he would get a good run-down on the key people in the new CIA headquarters at Langley, Virginia. Not long after McCone's return he was sworn in as the new Director of Central Intelligence and shortly thereafter he appointed Richard Helms, a long-time careerist, to the position of Deputy Director, Plans, a.k.a. Clandestine Operations, and Ray Cline as Deputy Director Intelligence. Both were old associates of Des FitzGerald.
A new era in the CIA had begun, and a new "Secret Team" was in control. By the end of 1961 there were 2,067 combat qualified American servicemen in Vietnam. By the end of the decade there would be more than one-half million U.S. servicemen. As we look back on that decade we see the record of revolutionary changes. As David Halberstam has written, "Those who had failed, who had misled the Presidents of the United States the most, would be rewarded, promoted, given ever more important and powerful jobs."
Actions of the Reagan administration reflected policy that had begun to take shape during the latter years of the Eisenhower era and then were quite clearly documented in these Kennedy National Security Action Memoranda. As Presidential administrations come and go, the bureaucracy lingers on to perfect its ways and this is nowhere more sinsiter than in the domain of the CIA and its allies throughout the government. It has learned to hide behind its best cover story, i.e. that it is an Intelligence Agency when actually it devotes more time, much more money, more manpower and more effort to that part of its organization which is responsible for its covert, "Fun and Games" activities all over the world--not to exclude certain activity within this country.
When one analyzes such activity carefully he must realize that the essence of covert operations that are directed and carried out by the government of the United States, from the top down, is the denial of the international concept of Nation-State sovereignty, no matter how large or small, how powerful or how weak, and whether friend or foe. From one absolutely essential point of view all States must be equal, and that is equal with respect to absolute sovereignty. It can have no other meaning. This is the tradition.
There are many among us who believe that the family of nations is undergoing an enormous change. It is barely perceptable, but change it is. There are many, such as that pre-eminent banker, Walter Wriston, who--in his book, "Risk and Other Four Letter Words"--recognize and quite frankly admit that there is no longer such a thing as absolute national sovereignty. This may be very true, and the situation has been brought about by the existence of the Earth-destroying Hydrogen Bomb, by the uncontrolled and uncontrollable growth of world-around communications, by the run-away power of trans-national corporations and a new economics system that has yet to be defined. All of these are true. All of these threaten and destroy sovereignty. Then is the sovereignty of Nation-States worth saving? Consider the alternatives.
Lest the tremendous significance of such revolutionary change be insufficiently regarded, let's consider the words of Arnold Toynbee, the eminent British historian and friend of the United States, as quoted in the New York TIMES of May 7, 1971:
"To most Europeans, I guess, America now looks like the most dangerous country in the world. Since America is unquestionably the most powerful country, the transformation of America's image within the last thirty years is very frightening for Europeans. It is probably still more frightening for the great majority of the human race who are neither Europeans nor North Americans, but are Latin Americans, Asians, and Africans. They, I imagine, feel even more insecure than we feel. They feel that, at any moment, America may intervene in their internal affairs with the same appalling consequences as
Sun Nov 09, 2008 10:06 pm
Joined: 13 Jul 2005
| Post subject: Essay on NSAM's #263 and #273 Part 2
|"To most Europeans, I guess, America now looks like the most dangerous country in the world. Since America is unquestionably the most powerful country, the transformation of America's image within the last thirty years is very frightening for Europeans. It is probably still more frightening for the great majority of the human race who are neither Europeans nor North Americans, but are Latin Americans, Asians, and Africans. They, I imagine, feel even more insecure than we feel. They feel that, at any moment, America may intervene in their internal affairs with the same appalling consequences as have followed from the American intervention in Southeast Asia.
"For the world as a whole, the CIA has now become the bogey that Communism has been for America. Wherever there is trouble, violence, suffering, tragedy, the rest of us are now quick to suspect the CIA had a hand in it. Our phobia about the CIA is, no doubt, as fantastically excessive as America's phobia about world Communism; but in this case, too, there is just enough convincing guidance to make the phobia genuine. In fact, the roles of America and Russia have been reversed in the world's eyes. Today America has become the nightmare."
This is what the destruction of sovereignty and of the rule of law means; and it will not stop there. With it will go property rights, free enterprise and the rights of man. These are the alternatives, and these massive universal problems have been increased since the sudden end of the John F. Kennedy era.
It must be made clear that these NSAM policies, among the others on other equally important subjects, were not the only major activities that Kennedy was planning to change. For example; 1) McNamara awarded the biggest aircraft procurement contract ever processed, Nov 22, 1962, for the "TFX" fighter, to General Dynamics, not to Boeing, after the deal had been all but closed with the Boeing Company just before the 1960 election. It was actions such as that which aroused the "Power Elite" of the Military Industrial Complex against Kennedy, enough perhaps, to return the fire on Nov 22, 1963.
Few matters of grave importance were more inflamatory than these National Security Action Memoranda: #55, #263 and #273 as we have seen in the pages above. We'll take a few minutes more to get a bit closer to the great significance of that "Bay of Pigs" period and to the masterful re-action of President Kennedy.
Two days after the surrender of the Anti-Castro "Bay of Pigs" brigade, April 19, 1961, and the failure of their invasion of Cuba, Kennedy wrote a letter, April 22nd, to retired General Maxwell D. Taylor, formerly Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army. To summarize the reason for this letter, I shall quote directly from General Taylor in his response to the President on June 13, 1961:
"By your letter of April 22, 1961, you charged me in association with Attorney General Robert Kennedy, Admiral Arleigh Burke and Director of Central Intelligence Allen Dulles to study our govermental practices and programs in the areas of military and paramilitary guerilla and anti-guerrilla activity which fell short of outright war with a strenghtening of our work in this area. You directed special attention to the lessons which can be learned from the recent events in Cuba."
Few people appear to have read or heard of that important item of our Twentieth Century history. Note, what I shall call the "Kennedy Method" of administration, and the conclusions that he and this eminent Study Group reached. But first, let's take a look at the environment of that period.
First of all, Kennedy had not initiated the "Bay of Pigs" covert operation. It dated back to Eisenhower and, in particular, to his Vice President Richard Nixon. Allen Dulles, the Director of Central Intelligence was out of the country at the time of the landings, and Richard Bissell was the man directly in charge of that operation...at least for the record. There were many, from the military services, from the Covert Operations offices of the CIA and from among the thousands of Anti-Castro Cuban refugees, all of whom shall remain un-named who were much more involved in that major program.
My sympathy has always gone to the CIA operator and his Cuban crewmen who was in charge of the Brigade's B-26's on the base at Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua. They were ready to make that crucial, Kennedy directed air attack on Castro's jets at dawn on D-Day. Those B-26's had been modified for that task and could have turned the tide of battle in favor of the Brigade. The cancelation of that strike doomed the program. When he called me from Nicaragua late that night, asking for help with that decision-to-cancel by McGeorge Bundy, I learned that nothing could be done in time to assure the effectiveness of that strike...before or no later than dawn...as the President had directed.
Gen Maxwell Taylor was Kennedy's National Security Advisor and had been one of the outstanding U.S. Army leaders of World War II. Adm Arleigh Burke was an equally qualified leader from World War II and the current Chief of Naval Operations. He was particularly valuable to this Cuban Study Group because a number of Navy and Marine personnel were heavily involved in the training and support of this CIA operation. I had an experienced Air Force Commander at Retalhuleu, Guatemala, in charge of the B-26 and Air Transport units. He was shattered by the B-26 strike cancellation. Everything depended upon that strike at dawn on the day of the landings.
And, last and certainly not the least, the fourth man of the Cuban Study Group, Bobby Kennedy, was Jack Kennedy's "Eyes and Ears" during these hearings. There would be no surprises in the White House.
From the beginning, the military services had been required to provide military support of that vast operation, in the manner required by the terms of the National Security Council Directive #5412 of March 15, 1954, (n). This was the U.S. Government's basic directive on covert activities. It ruled that "the overt foreign activities of the U.S. Government should be supplemented by covert operations".
NSC #5412 defined "covert operations" as "all activities conducted pursuant to this directive which are so planned and executed that any U.S. Government responsibility for them is not evident to unauthorized persons and that if uncovered the U.S. Government can plausibly disclaim any responsibility for them." And it further directs that "Such operations shall not include: armed conflict by recognized military forces, espionage and counter-espionage, nor cover and deception for military operations."
It was this closing statement that directed that "active duty military and military equipment", such as Navy Carriers and Navy or Air Force active duty aircraft, could not be used to support the "Bay of Pigs" Brigade on the beach. All involved military commanders had been briefed on that highest level policy directive, and knew that this was the reason why President Kennedy could not direct the services to provide their own combat aircraft and crews to support that CIA anti-Castro operation. The various sources that state that the failure of the "Bay of Pigs" operation was because Kennedy would not authorize "Air Cover" are unaware of this Eisenhower era, i.e. 1954, policy. It was the final and governing word at that time.
As a result this "cover-up" of the true reason for the failure of the "Bay of Pigs" operation has concealed the fact that the Cuban Study Group itself after interviewing countless participants, high and low, came to the correct answer for this failure, as we shall see.
Early in 1960 when the plan to support the Cuban refugees had been approved, the CIA was directed by the National Security Council to overthrow Fidel Castro. I was the first one visited by CIA operatives with a request for military support. At first they requested a remote military base. We traveled to Panama, where we learned that Ft Gulick was available. Then they requested aircraft for Cuban pilots. I was able to get about thirty, combat-modified B-26 aircraft that had been made available for the 1958 action in Indonesia and were then in storage in Arizona. Then we readied an airbase at Retalhuleu, Guatemala, and began to train the pilots and other crewmen for use of the B-26's and C-46's we assembled there. Meanwhile the Army, Navy and Marines provided their services to the Cubans via CIA.
Once all of this initial work was underway the operational plan of attack was put together by some most capable and experienced U.S. Marines. Through all of this planning one most important decision was reached: "Castro's "combat capable" aircraft, about ten or twelve in all, must be destroyed on the ground, before the Brigade landed on the beach."
The Cubans of the rebel Brigade knew this, our military support people knew this up to and including the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and President Kennedy knew it.
Finally, when all was ready Kennedy directed that pivotal air strike for dawn of April 17, 1961...with two essential prior stipulations:
a) An attack by B-26 light bombers and flown by Cuban pilots would attack Cuba's main military base on Saturday morning, April 15th, in an attempt to destroy as many as possible of Castro's aircraft on the ground. We all knew that his T-33 jets were too fast and well armed for the Brigade's "prop-driven" B-26's to survive an "air combat" attack. This first attack took place and all but three of the Cuban combat aircraft were destroyed or damaged.
b) U-2 aerial surveyance located these three T-33 jets on Saturday afternoon...on the ground and wing tip to wing tip at Santiago. An easy target. With them gone, Castro would have no combat aircraft.
On Sunday afternoon, Apr 16, 1961, during a final meeting at the White House, Kennedy directed a B-26 strike at dawn against those T-33's, on the ground, at Santiago. With them destroyed the Brigade's landing, and shipping would be unmolested from the air. This was the Kennedy plan. This was an essential air operation.
c) Back in February 1961, during a briefing on the landing plan, the Joint Chiefs of Staff had "pointed out that if surprise were not achieved, the attack against Cuba would fail, adding that one Castro T-33 aircraft armed with 50 caliber machine guns could sink all or most of the invasion force". President Kennedy knew this, the Cubans knew this, and the U.S. military support force knew it. From my position in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, at that time, I knew it.
d) As Kennedy's Cuban Study Group agreed in its final report "main reliance for the destruction of the Castro Air Force must be placed on the D-Day strikes." Then, as the Cuban Study Group stated further, "At about mid-day on D-1, 16 April 1961, the President formally approved the landing plan and the word was passed to all commanders and officials involved."
Then for reasons that have never been properly explained, the Group's Report states:
"43. At about 9:30 P.M. on 16 April, Mr. McGeorge Bundy, Special Assistant to the President, telephoned General C. P. Cabell of CIA to inform him that the dawn air strikes the following morning should not be launched until they could be conducted from a strip within the beachhead. Mr. Bundy indicated that any further consultation with regard to this matter should be with the Secretary of State."
One of the most ridiculous statements of these long hearings follows:
"44. The Secretary indicated that there were policy considerations against air strikes before the beachhead airfield was in the hands of the landing force and completely operational, capable of suppporting the raids."
The Cuban rebel flown B-26's were scheduled to depart the air base at Puerto Cabezes, Nicaragua for the four hour flight to Santiago not later than 1:30 A.M. for the dawn strike against the T-33's. I received a telephone call at my home from Nicaragua at about 1:00 A.M. that night from the CIA's Air Commander there. He and his crewmen were shattered. If they left any time after 1:30 A.M. the T-33's would have been alerted by the invasion and would be in the air to attack the Zapata beach, and the B-26's...as they did. I could hear the engines of his B-26's running, during that telephone call. The situation was desperate. We have never been able to determine why Bundy made that disastrous call to Gen Cabell.
As this report of the Cuban Study Group confirms:
"The cancellation of the strikes planned at dawn on D-day was probably the most serious cause of the failure of the Bay of Pigs operation as it eliminated the last favorable opportunity to destroy the Castro Air Force on the ground."
As we all know, that call to Gen. Cabell was from "Mac" Bundy. President Kennedy had ordered the air strike as late as 12:30 P.M. and had not withdrawn it. The success of the entire operation depended upon that strike as the Joint Chiefs of Staff had said. Furthermore, all of the experienced military men we had supporting the CIA and Cubans were devastated by that call, as was my close friend who had called me from Nacaragua.
I'll leave you with that question, but not until I connect it to another. How does one explain the relationship between this April 1961 "anti-Kennedy" action by McGeorge Bundy and then the strange developments more than two years later with reference to that unusual and unfounded "draft" of NSAM 273 on Nov 21, 1963?"
This is a presentation of some of the major activities that took place during the "1,000 days of President Kennedy". To this writer they make much more sense than the fable of the "Lone Gunman in the sixth floor of the Texas School Book Depository building with his old Italian rifle and three bullets."
************ WHAT DO YOU THINK? ************
Sun Sep 18, 2011 10:15 pm
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