Was JFK going to make peace with Fidel Castro?

At the time of his death President Kennedy was thinking about it — and thinking hard. You can even hear JFK talking about it: just click here.

In 2003, Peter Kornbluh, an analyst at the non-profit National Security Archive in Washington, obtained a White House tape recording about JFK’s Cuba policy, made on November 5, 1963.

Kornbluh’s research runs counter to a recent claim that JFK was  was a conservative. In fact, Kennedy came closer to normalizing relations with Castro’s communist government in Cuba than any American president since Jimmy Carter in the late 1970s.

On the tape JFK discusses the possibility of sending a senior U.S. diplomat, William Attwood, to Havana for a secret meeting with Castro. The agenda for the meeting: to talk “about terms and conditions for a change in relations with the United States.”

The tape captures JFK’s approval of the Attwood initiative — if official U.S. involvement could be plausibly denied.

(The substantive conversation starts at :25 in the recording.)

That was Nov. 5, 1963. Seventeen days later, JFK was shot dead.

Peter Kornbluh, analyst at the non-profit National Security Archive

In Kornbluh’s words, JFK’s assassination killed “the escalating efforts toward negotiations in 1963 that, if successful, might have changed the ensuing decades of perpetual hostility between Washington and Havana.”

JFK, he notes,would seem the most unlikely of presidents to seek an accommodation with Fidel Castro. His tragically abbreviated administration bore responsibility for some of the most infamous U.S. efforts to roll back the Cuban revolution: the Bay of Pigs invasion, the trade embargo, Operation Mongoose (a U.S. plan to destabilize the Castro government) and a series of CIA-Mafia assassination attempts against the Cuban leader.

Kornbluh quotes Attorney General Robert Kennedy, who told a high-level group of CIA and Pentagon officials in early 1962 that, ”The top priority in the United States government — all else is secondary — no time, money, effort, or manpower is to be spared” is to find a “solution” to the Cuba problem. The president’s opinion, according to CIA minutes of the meeting, was that “the final chapter [on Cuba] has not been written.”

Yet JFK policy on Cuba turned dovish by the end of 1962  During the missile crisis of October 1962, he rejected the recommendation of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to invade.

Top Secret White House memos obtained by Kornbluh document Kennedy’s evolving position in March 1963 that “we should start thinking along more flexible lines” and an adviser’s observation that “the president, himself, is very interested in [the prospect for negotiations].”

Castro also appeared interested. In a May 1963 ABC News special on Cuba, Castro told correspondent Lisa Howard that he considered a rapprochement with Washington “possible if the United States government wishes it. In that case,” he said, “we would be agreed to seek and find a basis” for improved relations.

As the Nov. 5, 1963, recording shows, JFK was exploring the idea of normalizing U.S.-Cuba relations.

Kornbluh writes:

“The possibility of a meeting in Havana evolved from a shift in the President’s thinking on the possibility of what declassified White House records called “an accommodation with Castro” in the aftermath of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Proposals from [National Security Council adviser McGeorge] Bundy’s office in the spring of 1963 called for pursuing “the sweet approach … enticing Castro over to us,” as a potentially more successful policy than CIA covert efforts to overthrow his regime.”

Then came Dallas. When Fidel Castro heard the news in Havana, he was meeting with French journalist Jean Daniel. “Es mala noticias,” he said. This is bad news.

JFK was dead and so was the Attwood initiative. It would be more than a decade before an American president returned to the idea of normalizing relations with Cuba.

 

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87 comments

  1. Alex S says:

    “His tragically abbreviated administration bore responsibility for some of the most infamous U.S. efforts to roll back the Cuban revolution: the Bay of Pigs invasion, the trade embargo, Operation Mongoose (a U.S. plan to destabilize the Castro government) and a series of CIA-Mafia assassination attempts against the Cuban leader.”

    Did Kornbluh really place responsibility on the Kennedy administration for the latter? That would be unfortunate.

    Despite the best efforts of Howard Jones in his awful “What rogue CIA?!?” account of the Bay of Pigs, I have never seen anything to suggest that Bobby Kennedy was anything less than sincere in his outrage about learning about the mob plots. As David Talbot renders his response: “I hope in the future you’ll have the decency to tell the Attorney General of the United States if you are collaborating with gangsters.”

    • mball says:

      RFK’s statement about collaboration with gangsters seems more like anger that he wasn’t informed about it earlier. I don’t think RFK had any problem using the mob, but he did have a problem being left out of the loop. In any event, his comment is most certainly not a ringing stop order on use of the mob. He was capable of much clearer language, if he wanted it stopped completely.

  2. Jean Davison says:

    The Nov. 5 JFK tape mentions a meeting of the “Special Group” on Cuba later that day. Here are two quotes from the minutes of that meeting, classified “Secret, eyes only” at the time:

    “Mr. Bundy stated that it has come to the attention of the White House that Castro would like to have a talk designed to bring about some kind of ‘arrangement’ with the U.S. To hear what Castro has to say and to know on what basis he might wish to negotiate would be of some use to the U.S.”

    And:

    “The Attorney General emphasized that as a prelude to all this the U.S. must require some fundamental steps such as the end of subversion in Latin America and removing the Soviet troops in Cuba before any serious discussion can take place about a detente.”

    http://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1961-63v11/d373

    Next page, a chronology written by William Attwood:

    http://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1961-63v11/d374

    Finally, on Nov. 12, McGeorge Bundy wrote:

    “I talked this afternoon with William Attwood and told him that at the President’s instruction I was conveying this message orally and not by cable. I told him that the President hoped he would get in touch with Vallejo to report that it did not seem practicable to us at this stage to send an American official to Cuba and that we would prefer to begin with a visit by Vallejo to the U.S. where Attwood would be glad to see him and to listen to any messages he might bring from Castro. In particular, we would be interested in knowing whether there was any prospect of important modification in those parts of Castro’s policy which are flatly unacceptable to us: namely, the three points in Ambassador Stevenson’s recent speech of which the central elements are (1) submission to external Communist influence, and (2) a determined campaign of subversion directed at the rest of the Hemisphere. Reversals of these policies may or may not be sufficient to produce a change in the policy of the United States, but they are certainly necessary, and without an indication of readiness to move in these directions, it is hard for us to see what could be accomplished by a visit to Cuba.

    http://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1961-63v11/d377

    The next message was written after the assassination:
    http://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1961-63v11/d378

    This State Department archive has many similar documents on Vietnam and other issues — a great resource, imo.

    • H.P. Albarelli Jr. says:

      Excellent material, Jean. As always. Much appreciated. I suspect that if RFK had any influence over any decision toward peace with Castro, and I’m sure that he did, things would have become all the more complicated.

  3. Jonathan says:

    I wonder how the insiders who hated JFK for his decisions on Cuba felt about those decisions as it became clear in Nixon’s second term that the U.S. was getting out, clean out, of Viet Nam; clear that the whole premise of the Viet Nam war, the perceived need to stop monolithic communism, was false; and clear that what had happened in Cuba was what was happening in Viet Nam, the overthrow of a defective regime by forces whose central goal was nationalism.

    I imagine the insiders who had hated Kennedy shared among themselves the many excuses why Viet Nam was about to fall. I imagine none of them conceded Kennedy had been right about the forces of anti-colonialism, the forces of nationalism. They probably still clung in the spring and early summer of 1974, as Nixon’s presidency was crumbling, to the good old days of the Dulles brothers in the 1950s, when black was black and white was white.

    History was about to poke the Kennedy haters in the eye. Sam Ervin’s Watergate hearings that summer of 1ª74, which occurred a couple of years after J. Edgar Hoover was dead and buried and unable to protect Nixon, were not only going to lead to Nixon’s downfall but also give rise to the Church Committee, which IMO conducted the most honest look into the anti-Castro shenanigans of the early 1960s and the flawed nature of the Warren Report.

    • Bill Clarke says:

      Jonathan, I hear you speak grandly about the forces of anti-colonialism and the forces of nationalism in all of this but you belittle the forces of communism. Why is that? Please don’t tell me you are one of those that chant, “Ho wasn’t really a communist, he was just a kindly old man trying to put his country back together”?

      Are you aware that Ho systematically murdered non-communist nationalist since 1945 if not before? It was, and is, a big mistake for the right to ignore the nationalist bent of Ho, and he was a great one. It is equally a mistake for the left to ignore the communist dedication of Ho, and he was a great communist if there ever was such a thing.

      So no, nationalism wasn’t always the central goal of these fellows. I’d probably give Castro more credit for being more nationalist than communist but that is simply my opinion.

  4. TimGratz says:

    MORE ON THE ABOVE:
    From w writing by Bill Kelly

    A week after Attwood reported the progress of his (backchannel) negotiations with the Cubans to Bundy and Chase at the White House (on November 5), a meeting was held in Washington, with CIA Director John McCone presenting an update on the situation in Cuba and an evaluation of the sabotage program.

    Besides the President, Secretaries McNamara, Rusk, Vance and RFK, General Taylor was there, along with Sec. Gilpatrick, and from the CIA, Helms, FitzGerald and Shackley puts in an appearance.

    McCone’s memo reports that he opened the meeting with a brief resume of conditions in Cuba along these lines, “1) Cuba still belongs to Castro though his grip is weakening, 2) The military remains essentially loyal to Castro, 3) the internal security forces and apparatus are effective, 4) The economy is bad and deteriorating, 5) The Soviets are continuing a gradual withdraw, 6) Training of Cubans continues, 7) The only equipment which has been withdrawn has been the advanced C-band radar for SAM and certain communication equipment…”

    “McCone then stated that the program which had been followed for the last several months, having been approved about the first of June [June 19], was integrated and interdependent one part on the other and therefore should be considered as a comprehensive program and not a number of independent actions.”

    FitzGerald also made a presentation, a progress report on the six-point covert program proposed by the CIA [on June 8] and endorsed by JFK.

    According to the meeting minutes, “Rusk had no problem with infiltration of black teams…However he opposed the hit-and-run sabotage tactics as being unproductive, complicating our relationship with the Soviets and also with our friends and indicated a connection between our sabotage activities and the autobahn problem.” [Berlin]

    McCone concludes, “The President asked questions concerning the immediate operations, and the next one on the schedule was approved.”

    This meeting on November 12th was the meeting at which JFK approved continued sabotage actions against Cuba that Brian Lattel characterizes as “international terrorism”.
    As the old aphorism goes, actions speak louder than words, As Attwood spoke of peace, Kennedy authorized acts of war against Cuba.

  5. mball says:

    I believe it was Scretary Rusk who, when asked about the opposing nature of the tentative attempt to explore peace feelers with Castro and the concurrent planning to unhorse Castro by decapitating his regime, indicated that it was seldom an either/or situation with JFK – that it wasn’t unusual for him to pursue opposing approaches.

  6. I always ask: what is the most recently declassified record on a subject? Not what is in the State Department records of plans. Because plans are not always executed. And mere plans can be distorted e.g. Lamar Waldron as a shining example.

    Malcolm Blunt is one of the best researchers out there. RIght up there with the great Peter Vea. He sent me a declassified letter from FItzgerald and Helms to McGeorge Bundy and LBJ. This was a summary of Kennedy’s Cuba policy in the second half of 1963. The letter was sent to the WH in March of 1964. It turns out that the so called “war against Cuba” was resembled a series of break ins at Wal Mart by the end of 1963.

    Kennedy had given final authorization to all of five raids in six months. Less than one per month. But one thing that is even more surprising is this: there were three groups of commandoes the CIA had in tow. They amounted to, get this, FIFTY MEN! (Destiny Betrayed, by James DiEugenio, p. 70)

    This is what, in Waldron’s scheme, was going to overturn Castro’s regime? This is what Chomsky calls a brutal war bringing “hell on earth” to Cuba? To me its more like Peter Sellers in The Mouse that Roared trying to invade America with a row boat.

    Its clear from this new evidence, that it corresponds to what Bundy describes in Corn’s book on Shackley. By the end of 1963,he said, the effort against Castro was nothing but tokenism, a bunch of exiles in speed boats. Clearly, Kennedy was much more interested in the carrot part of the two track system than he was the stick. And Castro, who was so disillusioned with what the Russians had done to him over the Missile Crisis, was willing to listen to Kennedy’s proposals.

    In my view, and the view of others, it was the CIA monitoring of this back channel, plus the dropping of any serious war effort in Cuba, plus the issuance of NSAM 263 in October, which caused the activation of the Cuban exile apparatus for the first (failed) attempt to kill JFK in Chicago, and then the successful attempt in Dallas.

    • Ronnie Wayne says:

      Thank you for the concise analysis. Was there not a planned attempt in Florida, was it a distraction? Who activated the apparatus?

    • Bill Clarke says:

      Kennedy didn’t prefer the carrot after Castro had put egg on the Kennedy boys face at the BOP. At that time he preferred the stick and it was so important Bobby oversaw the Mongoose program. I agree with you, despite much money and man hours, these efforts were rather weak and unsuccessful. So when this didn’t work we tried the carrot.

      To be clear here, are you saying the Cubans killed JFK? And if so, why would NSAM 263 matter to them?

    • Dan Alcorn says:

      Jim, another factor to be considered is an effort to overthrow Castro ongoing in the fall of 1963. Desmond Fitzgerald briefed the Joint Chiefs on September 25, 1963 as follows (thanks to Bill Kelly for finding this JCS document):

      “However he (Fitzgerald) felt that there had been
      great success in getting closer to military personnel
      who might break with Castro and stated that there were
      at least ten high-level military personnel who are talk-
      ing with CIA but as yet are not talking to each other
      since that degree of confidence has not yet developed
      He considers it as a parallel in history, i.e. the plot
      to kill Hitler and this plot is being studied in detail
      to develop an approach.”

      It is possible that Fitzgerald is speaking in part about the AMLASH/Cubela plot. Fitzgerald travelled to Paris in late October 1963 to meet with Cubela personally and encouraged him in his stated plan to assassinate Castro.

      • Joan Mellen says:

        What seems to be missing from this dialogue is what JFK wanted in return from Castro in exchange. Castro was to cease and desist in assisting, supporting and helping revolutionary movements in Latin America, Venezuela first and then others. Castro was to abandon these alliances which had been the policy of Cuba for some time.

        • leslie sharp says:

          Joan Mellen, I’m an admirer.

          I’ve argued that the obsession with Cuba has become the distraction, not the solution. Cuba was ‘business as usual’ for a number of American presidents … history indicates that Castro was in some ways simply a new player in a recurring drama on the island. What was truly at stake is as you state, Castro’s influence on: “revolutionary movements in Latin America, Venezuela first and then others…”

          For example, Birch Dilworth O’Neal was not in Venezuela in 1947 accidentally and precisely when the Latin American country became a founding member of the newly formed OPEC; Texas Oil Co./Texaco and Gulf Oil were not in Venezuela at the same time for their health; control of the sitting government – left/right/moderate – was crucial to imposition of labor and production practices that benefited the bottom line of the oil producers, let alone global distribution.

          Aside: Birch O’Neal’s Oklahoma-born wife gave birth to their son in Caracas in ‘47. Mrs. O’Neal was from Glenpool, home of the Glenn Pool oil field, the second most significant oil discovery to date in the US where both Texaco and Gulf had established major pipelines to extend to the Texas Gulf Coast.

          The CIA did not orchestrate the 1954 Guatemalan coup as entertainment but instead to protect the interests – not the least of which related to labor practices in Third World countries – of among others, United Fruit whose investors were guided by Brown Bros. Harriman and whose attorneys were Sullivan & Cromwell, home of the Dulles brothers and whose board included Texas born Robert Lovett and John McCloy as well as a number of Boston Brahmin.

          And Che Guevarra did not ‘stumble into Bolivia’ where tin miners shared common goals with their Belgian and Congolese brothers when it came to labor and production practices, posing significant threats on an international scale, to name but a very few instances. Colby & Dennet lay out the history of US Imperialism in Central and South America in their seminal book “Thy Will Be Done.”

          When we view the internal players involved in Cuban machinations specifically in the ’50′s and early ’60′s in the context of their collective history and agendae and compare their careers after Dallas, we might then move off dead center. The stage was indeed much grander than Cuba.

          Consider as but one small example John Tilton, CIA LaPaz when Che was murdered, and John’s son Glenn joining Texaco in the early ’70′s (while Ret. Admiral Arleigh Burke sat on the board of directors) as a gas station attendant only to become chairman of the global oil company whose successes originated in such disparate locations as the Glenn Pool fields of Oklahoma (one has to wonder if John Tilton and Birch O’Neal ever stumbled on to the irony) south to Venezuela – a true rags to riches story if ever there was one.

    • Gerry Simone says:

      Thanks for your analysis and view.

      Waldron and Hartmann’s website shows declassified documents (I believe CIA if not FBI interoffice memos)that a CIA liaison with underworld figures had been compromised with a $200,000 bribe in exchange for the AMWORLD coup plans. Their theory is that the Mob blackmailed the U.S. government with this information to cover-up and not pursue organized crime as a culpable party to the assassination.

      Therefore, would the Mob pay for a contingency plan or were they played, assuming that memo is not bunk? (Not even a CIA agent is absolutely immune from the Mob’s wrath if they are double-crossed).

  7. Photon says:

    “They amounted to , get this, FIFTY MEN”- Jim/Fearfaxer , how many men go on commando operations, particularly covert operations that depend on local support. How many men were on the “Granma”?
    How many were alive a month later?
    I cannot understand your ( and many revisionists) obsession with NSAM 263. The Diem coup made ever assumption in that report completely inoperative. It is like claiming War Plan Orange had to be the American Pacific strategy in the first six months of World War II . Plans get overtaken by events. If JFK wanted to get out of Vietnam all he had to do was leave Diem alone. But he didn’t.
    Instead of slandering the CIA and the Cuban exile community why don’t you put out firm physical evidence that anybody from those two communities shot JFK on Nov. 22, 1963? No more circular reasoning with bogus claims and associations. Just a simple piece of evidence that anybody but Oswald took a shot that hit JFK. Just one- not an eyewitness, not an ear witness – clear, concise simple physical evidence.

    • Fearfaxer says:

      Where is the physical evidence that proves Charles Manson guilty? Where is the physical evidence that proves Al Capone was responsible for the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre? Where is the physical evidence that proves Joseph Stalin had Leon Trotsky assassinated?

      Also, please provide a detailed analysis of just how the coup against Diem made it impossible for JFK to have withdrawn from Vietnam. Actually, the opinion of quite a few in those days was that the coup had removed the main obstacles to an effective South Vietnamese government that could have successfully resisted the Communists. Please explain why in your opinion this is not so (and please proofread before posting).

      • Photon says:

        Thanks Jim for posting promptly.
        #1. Manson had no physical ties to the murders. But as nothing happened in his family without his direction, Bugliosi was able to establish his culpability . The evidence establishing the physical killers guilt was overwhelming- less than that for Oswald, however.
        #2. There isn’t any physical tie to Capone.
        #3. The killer of Trotsky was a Soviet agent. You can’t prove Stalin ordered the hit, because he probably never did. What that has to do with Oswald is unclear to me, unless you are admitting Oswald shot JFK. Did somebody else help stick the ice axe in his skull?
        JFK got rid of Diem because he felt that he could not prosecute the war successfully and also because he was threatening to begin negotiations with the Communists. As he was the only power in South Vietnam with any track record of running the country it was obvious that replacing him would lead to greater U.S. involvement, ergo the significant opposition to the coup from senior officials outside the State Dept.

        • Ronnie Wayne says:

          Dear Paul/photo guy, what relevance do your post(s) have to DiEugenio’s post other than to distract, confuse, and end logical conversation about it?

          • Fearfaxer says:

            None. He’s playing a silly game claiming that I am in fact Jim D posting under an alias. I guess that’s what you do when you’ve been outed by multiple posters as having once posted under another handle.

        • Fearfaxer says:

          “You can’t prove Stalin ordered the hit, because he probably never did.”

          If you really think someone would have done that without Uncle Joe’s permission . . . well, the person trying to sell you that bridge in Brooklyn doesn’t really own it.

          Your statements re Diem show you haven’t the least idea what was going on in South Vietnam in 1963. The country was in a state of near anarchy, and the one thing most everyone agreed on was that Diem had to go. Unfortunately, hatred of Diem, his brother and sister-in-law was just about the only thing that united the various SV factions, who took to struggling against each other as soon as the coup was successful.

          Thanks for acknowledging my main point, that frequently it takes no “physical evidence” to establish guilt, or at least to know who was responsible.

          On the subject of physical evidence, please provide the physical evidence that Lee Harvey Oswald picked up the rifle and handgun allegedly used to kill JFK and Tippet from the Post Office.

          Please provide the physical evidence that proves Oswald purchased the ammunition that killed those same men.

          Please provide the physical evidence that proves Oswald fired those two weapons in the early afternoon hours of November 22, 1963.

          Please provide the physical evidence that Oswald entered the Soviet and Cuban consulates in Mexico City in late September 1963.

          Please provide the physical evidence that Jack Ruby entered the Dallas police headquarters parking garage via the Main Street ramp on November 24, 1963.

    • Pat Speer says:

      I’ll play: Connally’s wrist wound. It was made by a bullet traveling as a slow velocity,. The tests performed.for the WC indicated that if this bullet had been CE 399 it would have been traveling at a much higher velocity.. This suggests,, then, that this bullet was fired from a different rifle.

      • Photon says:

        This statement is not true.

        • JSA says:

          One thing we do know: CE399 didn’t strike anybody. It was a missed shot which entered the turf on the opposite side from the TSBD. For a detailed explanation, please refer to Donald Thomas, “Hear No Evil.”

          Governor Connally stated until he died that he had more bullet fragments in his arm than could have been explained by the pristine bullet, i.e. CE399, which the Warren Commission tried to argue was the cause of his wounds.

        • Jonathan says:

          Which statement?

        • Gerry Simone says:

          Based on what?

          Dr. Joseph Dolce, Chief Consultant on wound ballistics at Edgewood Arsenal, said that even at LOW velocity, it was impossible for CE399 to have allegedly caused all the non-fatal wounds in Kennedy and Connally.

          He also felt that the wrist stike was by a different bullet.

          The WC didn’t ask him to testify because it didn’t agree with their foregone conclusions.

        • Pat Speer says:

          Of course, it’s true, Photon. If you’d ever read the Olivier/Dziemian report on 6.5 mm Mannlicher-Carcano wounds you’d know that they fired on cadaver wrists and discovered that the bullets blew large holes upon exit. The exit on Connally’s wrist was a slit. The wound on Connally’s thigh was a dent. From this they concluded that the bullet exiting Connally’s wrist and striking his thigh had been slowed greatly BEFORE hitting Connally’s wrist. But their experiments indicated that the bullet would lose but 525 fps in passing through Kennedy’s neck and grazing Connally’s rib. So Specter asked Olivier to ASSUME the bullet hit Kennedy first and traveled sideways upon entrance on Connally, to which Olivier offered that such a bullet would lose “MORE” velocity than indicated by their tests. “MORE,”not “enough”. This big ole gaping hole in his testimony, then, led Specter and/or Redlich to claim it would be “substantially more” in the Warren Report. And that’s where it sat. Until Sturdivan testified before the HSCA without a Specter to guide him into saying “more.” He suggested the bullet would lose but 500 fps before hitting Connally. Oops. This literal reading of the Olivier/Dziemian tests apparently haunted him, because when he re-emerged as a single-assassin theorist a decade or so ago, he changed his numbers drastically, and was now indicating that the bullet could have lost as much as 1500 fps from its velocity before striking Connally’s wrist. He’d conducted no more tests, mind you. He’d just changed his supposedly scientific numbers to make them “work.” But this created a new problem. The bullet was still traveling far too fast upon impact with Connally’s rib to emerge as undamaged as it supposedly did. Well, never fear. Sturdivan had an answer for that as well. The bullet entering Connally’s back overlying his rib was now assumed to have tumbled 4 inches through Connally’s back before striking his rib.

          So yeah, the magic bullet is truly magical. Not.

    • Bill Clarke says:

      Perhaps I can be of some assistance about your puzzlement with the obsession of many about NSAM 263. In a nutshell, they don’t like what it says. What it says puts the lie to this often heard chant that, “Jack had ordered a complete withdrawal from Vietnam and all troops were to be out by 1965”. This isn’t true according to NSAM 263 and this is the last official policy statement of JFK in Vietnam. This doesn’t work for the Camelot crowd and other revisionist so they continue with the chant and quoting NSAM 263 hoping you won’t know the facts of the NSAM.

      No doubt many have never read NSAM 263 and mindlessly repeat what they have heard. Others have read the NSAM but keep on being dishonest about what it says in hopes the reader hasn’t read the NSAM.

      I hope this helps.~~

      http://www.jfklancer.com/NSAM263.html‎. This link also contains the approved section of the Taylor/McNamara Report.

      1. http://tapes.millercenter.virginia.edu/clips/1963_1002_vietnam_am/
      2. http://tapes.millercenter.virginia.edu/clips/1963_1002_vietnam_pm/ind
      3. http://tapes.millercenter.virginia.edu/clips/1963_1005_vietnam/index.htm

      The Miller Center tapes concern the meeting with JFK, McNamara, Taylor, Bundy and others as they begin to draft NSAM 263. These tapes should be required reading for anyone wishing to discuss NSAM 263 with any insight.

      • Ronnie Wayne says:

        I can’t get the links to take me directly to what you are posting about.

        • Bill Clarke says:

          Ronnie.

          I tried all three links and they worked for me although # 2 gave me a bit of trouble.

          Perhaps if you copy and paste them into your browser? If you are interested in NSAM 263 these three tapes are very important.

          When you get there be sure to check on the sound and the play button. It doesn’t allow you to scroll through it.

          Good luck.

      • Gerry Simone says:

        You’re confused by the tone of the document which was to appease JFK’s hardline detractors before the next election.

        Yet NSAM 263 does not rule out complete withdrawal and hints at its genesis.

        • Bill Clarke says:

          Gerry

          It does no such thing. But if you could show me where NSAM 263 does this I’ll be glad to say I was wrong. Right now you are wrong.

    • bogman says:

      The best evidence I’ve seen recently (and it’s more the absence of evidence) is found in an essay in the appendix of Stephen Hunter’s “The Third Bullet” called “The Shim’s Tale.”

      In the essay, Hunter, a gun and ballistics expert, purchased the identical rifle and scope found in the TSBD and found that, much like the FBI did, the gun could not be fired with any accuracy without shims being added to the scope mount.

      No shim was ever found at the scene. According to Hunter, without the shim, the third shot to Kennedy’s head would’ve been impossible. He concludes, “No shim, no shot.”

      I’d urge you to purchase the book and read the essay and decide for yourself.

      That lack of key evidence to make Oswald’s guilt possible and Oswald’s own amazing prediction that he’d pass the paraffin test to determine whether he fired a rifle that day cinches it for me regarding his lack of involvement in the assassination.

      Then you only need to look at what the last three federal investigators (Sprague, Tannenbaum and Blakey) of the case say regarding why the JFK mystery has not been solved: CIA obstruction, pure and simple.

      The CIA was never investigated by the WC and kept crucial evidence from the commissioners, and they did the same with the HSCA. All three HSCA investigators felt the agency committed felonies in doing so.

      If it truly was a lone nut, there’d be nothing for the CIA to hide.

      • Photon says:

        What a croc. So you never saw the CBS re-creation where multiple shooters were able to duplicate Oswald’s feat with no trouble?
        Who are you going to believe-some phony expert or your lyin’ eyes?

        • Gerry Simone says:

          Oh we’ve seen it, and Michael T. Griffith writes about in detail.

          There was only shooter who actually duplicated what Oswald did, but only on his third attempt.

          There were no trees.

          They didn’t shoot out of a half-open window.

          They practiced a little with the rifle beforehand.

          It was properly sighted.

          Howard Donahue was a ‘weapons engineer’.

          The other CBS shooters were also sharpshooters or gun experts.

          Oswald was not.

          It’s unbelievable to say that Oswald’s alleged feat was duplicated.

          Read this article please and stop regurgitating nonsense. It will quote even Frazier and Lutz that nobody actually duplicated Oswald’s feat.

          I’ll even quote one key part:

          Some lone-gunman theorists will assert that Oswald’s alleged shooting performance was duplicated by several expert marksmen in the CBS rifle test. However, the CBS test did not simulate all of the factors under which Oswald allegedly fired. Furthermore, the four riflemen who managed to score at least two hits out of three shots in less than six seconds failed to do so on their first attempts, yet Oswald would have had ONLY one attempt. And, needless to say, all of these men were experienced, expert riflemen. Seven of the eleven CBS shooters failed to score at least two hits on ANY of their attempts. The best shot in the group, Howard Donahue, took THREE attempts to score at least two hits out of three shots in under six seconds. In addition, the CBS shooters did not use the alleged murder weapon, with its difficult bolt and odd trigger–they used a different Carcano.

          • John Kirsch says:

            In his book on the CIA, “Legacy of Ashes,” Tim Weiner writes, if memory serves, that Oswald made a one-in-a-million shot with a mail order rifle. Weiner doesn’t come right out and say he doubts that that happened, but the phrasing certainly communicates skepticism.
            Wasn’t this the same Oswald who was court martialed in the Marines after accidentally shooting himself in the elbow with a handgun?
            And wasn’t this the same Oswald who, supposedly, fired at Gen. Walker — and missed?
            I hesitate to suggest that there was only one Oswald, the one who was murdered in police custody before he could stand trial. There seems to have been multiple Oswalds.

        • Gerry Simone says:

          Here’s the link to that article which I forgot to include in my last response to you.

          http://michaelgriffith1.tripod.com/poor.htm

        • Jonathan says:

          As you say, Photon, what a croc.

          CBS, among many other things, did not use the alleged murder weapon in the condition it was found.

          I can go on — for example, about how CBS threw out and ignored “experiments” that didn’t match the official story.

          I believe you are here to mislead, Photon. You’re too intelligent to make a comment like the one you’ve just made without a mischievous intent.

          • Photon says:

            How do you know what the condition of the CBS rifle was in?
            For that matter, how do you know what the condition of Oswald’s Carcano was prior to 12:30 PM on 11/22/1963?
            How many thousands of Red Army soldiers were killed or maimed by Carcano rifles in 1945?

          • leslie sharp says:

            Jonathan,

            CBS as a private corporation would not have engaged in these tests without full cognizance and sanction of their executive board.

            Before I get into the detail of the individuals involved in those meetings and that aproval, I think it is important to consider the following piece by Carl Bernstein from the October 1977 “Rolling Stone Magazine.” fwiw I’m no fan of Bernstein nor Woodward, but I do believe that Bernstein made a significant controbution toward uncovering the emasculation of the Fourth Decade in this expose.

            Bernstein reported:
            “Among the executives who lent their cooperation to the Agency [Central Intelligence Agency] were William Paley of the Columbia Broadcasting System, Henry Luce of Time Inc., Arthur Hays Sulzberger of the New York Times, Barry Bingham Sr. of the Louisville Courier-Journal and James Copley of the Copley News Service. Other organizations which cooperated with the CIA include the American Broadcasting Company, the National Broadcasting Company, the Associated Press, United Press International, Reuters, Hearst Newspapers, Scripps-Howard, Newsweek magazine, the Mutual Broadcasting System, The Miami Herald, and the old Saturday Evening Post and New York Herald-Tribune. By far the most valuable of these associations, according to CIA officials, have been with The New York Times, CBS, and Time Inc. [Time negotiated for what has been reported as the "original Zapruder film"]

            . . . .The Columbia Broadcasting System — CBS was unquestionably the CIA’s most valuable broadcasting asset. CBS president William Paley and Allen Dulles enjoyed an easy working and social relationship. Over the years, the network provided cover for CIA employees, including at least one well-known foreign correspondent and several stringers; it supplied outtakes of newsfilm to the CIA; established a formal channel of communication between the Washington bureau chief and the Agency; gave the Agency access to the CBS newsfilm library; and allowed reports by CBS correspondents to the Washington and New York newsrooms to be routinely monitored by the CIA. Once a year during the 1950s and early 1960s, CBS correspondents joined the CIA hierarchy for private dinners and briefings.

… At the headquarters of CBS News in New York, Paley’s cooperation with the CIA is taken for granted by many news executives and reporters, despite the denials. Paley, 76, was not interviewed by Salant’s investigators. “It wouldn’t do any good,” said one CBS executive. “It is the single subject about which his memory has failed.”

          • Bill Clarke says:

            I believe, Jonathan, that Photon might well be the MOST intelligent here. What say ye?

            I’ve never seen Jean Davison miss a shot either.

        • bogman says:

          Nice close reading of what I wrote, Photon.

          The point Hunter makes is that NOBODY could shoot that gun accurately as purchased without a shim. You have to have a shim to make it workable. The FBI put in their own shim but nobody asks where Oswald’s shim went to.

          They put a crappy Japanese scope on a crappy WWI Italian rifle and the scope could not be “zeroed out” to have it aligned to where the bullet was going without a shim. Not just on Oswald’s gun — ANY of these guns.

        • leslie sharp says:

          Could you provide a link to the results of the CBS tests, and the date(s) and locations of those tests?

      • Bill Clarke says:

        How do you know Oswald used the scope? At that range and a moving target I’d have preferred the open sights.

        • Gerry Simone says:

          The FBI’s tests for the WC were based on a scope and so was Frazier’s 25 yard simulation from the iron sight (to ‘equate’ to ***using a 4x scope*** at 100 yards).

          This isn’t an irrational assumption.

          If you have a scope, why take a chance if your goal is to hit the POTUS within a very narrow time frame?

          If Oswald could easily take those shots with iron sights, how in the heck could he allegedly miss on the first and closest shot?

          Even more incredible, how could Oswald miss the ENTIRE limousine?

          :-0

          • Bill Clarke says:

            Gerry Simone
            May 15, 2014 at 11:37 am

            The FBI’s tests for the WC were based on a scope and so was Frazier’s 25 yard simulation from the iron sight (to ‘equate’ to ***using a 4x scope*** at 100 yards).

            This isn’t an irrational assumption.

            Okay but it is still an assumption. And we still don’t know which sights Oswald used the fateful day.

            If you have a scope, why take a chance if your goal is to hit the POTUS within a very narrow time frame?

            Because it is much easier (faster) to get on and stay on a moving target with open sights than with a scope. At the range JFK was shot one certainly wouldn’t need the magnification of the scope.

            If Oswald could easily take those shots with iron sights, how in the heck could he allegedly miss on the first and closest shot?

            Even more incredible, how could Oswald miss the ENTIRE limousine?

            Have you ever been scared? I don’t mean kind of scared, I mean really really scared?

          • Gerry Simone says:

            Oh come on Bill.

            So Oswald misses the closest and easiest shot because he is sooooo scared as you say, but then immediately turns into the coolest cucumber to execute world class marksmanship thereafter?

            I doubt that an assassin’s first and only attempt to shoot such an important target would be to abandon the use of a 4x scope, which would’ve been even more effective for the third and fatal shoot at nearly a 100 yards.

          • Bill Clarke says:

            Gerry Simone May 21, 2014 at 11:55 pm

            Well, that was just a guess, Gerry. He could have coughed, the tree could have interfered, he could have jerked the trigger and a lot of other rational things could have caused the first missed shot. I wouldn’t under estimate the stress of taking a shot at the President of the United States.

            A cheap 4X scope doesn’t give you a decent field of view. At one hundred yards or less at a moving target I’d prefer the open sights. It is easier to re-aquire your target with the open sights. At a stationary target I’d take the scope.

            But again, this is just my opinion.

          • Gerry Simone says:

            Well, which is it?

            Scared or nervous as hell, a cough, or tree?

            The lone assassin camp have also argued that the first shot occurred much earlier than what the Warren Commission says, which makes a first shot miss even more incredible.

          • Gerry Simone says:

            One more thing or to re-iterate:

            The F.B.I. in all its re-enactments, and even Robert Frazier himself, never suggested that Oswald used the iron sights.

            Neither did those true firearms experts attempt shooting with iron sights for CBS.

            After many years of doubt, WC advocates have come up with the iron sights argument in an attempt to offset the weakness of the lone assassin with misaligned scope argument.

            I’ve looked out from the window next to the sniper’s lair, and even though things appear closer in real life, a last attempt at a head shot by someone like Oswald without practice and average marksmanship at best, would not have left it to chance with his iron sights.

            If he indeed took a shot at General Walker and missed, hitting a window frame, you would think that he would’ve learned his lesson and used the 4X scope on November 22nd.

          • Bill Clarke says:

            Gerry Simone May 23, 2014 at 4:12 pm

            I doubt even Oswald know why he missed the first shot. I certainly don’t know but the reasons could be many things. I’ve missed shots at moving targets with the first and second shot but hit on the third. It happens.

            You make too much of a missed shot.

          • Bill Clarke says:

            Gerry Simone May 24, 2014 at 1:37 am

            Probably the reason these groups didn’t suggest Oswald used the iron sight is because no one knows which sight Oswald used that day. We never will know.

            It would be my guess that Oswald used the scope to fire at Walker for the light gathering ability of the scope. Another guess is that this might have been the time he learned that the scope was off. So he wouldn’t use a scope that he knew was off for his shot at JFK.

            There are 15 rounds missing from the box of ammo. Another guess is that Oswald used these rounds to sight in the rifle.

        • Jonathan says:

          You assume a conclusion, actually several. In particular, you assume the alleged murder weapon was fired on November 22 at President Kennedy.

          That’s a false proposition, according to FBI expert Robert Frazier’s testimony. Frazier told John McCloy he didn’t check the barrel of the alleged murder weapon for metal fouling. Why? The barrel was so corroded, it was apparent no round had been fired through the barrel any time recently.

        • bogman says:

          Read the article. The rifle sights are made for long-distance shooting that allows for a “drop” of the bullet. Oswald would’ve have to have the trunk of the limo in his sights to Kennedy — would not work, in other words.

          • Gerry Simone says:

            Depends how close his target is.

            I’d say JFK’s back instead of the limo’s trunk.

            In any event, it also shot above and to the right (and the limo was not negotiating that much of a curve down Elm that would compensate for this scope error as Frazier opines).

          • Bill Clarke says:

            Yes, the iron sights of the Carcano Oswald used are factory set for 200 meters. They cannot be adjusted.

            The Mannlicher Carcano Oswald used had an average muzzle velocity of 2,165 fps firing a 160 grain bullet with a B.C. of 0.275 and sighted in for 200 meters. Running the line of trajectory of the bullet using http://www.hornady.com/ballistics-resource/ballistics-calculator we find that;

            1. At 25 yards the bullet will be 0.7 inches over the line of sight.

            2. At 50 yards the bullet will be 2.4 inches over the line of sight.

            3. At 75 yards the bullet will be 3.6 inches over the line of sight.

            4. At 100 yards the bullet will be 4.2 inches over the line of sight and this is as high as the bullet gets over the line of sight.

            So you really think 4.2 inches max at at moving target is going to require Oswald to aim at the trunk of the Limo? I don’t think so.

            And then we have “combat zero” which as a Marine Oswald would be familiar with.

          • Bogman says:

            Bill – According to Hunter, the Carcano is a 19th century battlefield design and all of them, including Oswald’s, were designed to hit 300 meters with sights, not 200.

          • Bill Clarke says:

            Bogman

            With a weapon in service for such a long period of time the Carcano naturally underwent many changes and variants and of course this leads to much confusion. I believe the only time the Carcano had a fixed 300 meter zero was when it was chambered for the 7.35X51. When they went back to the 6.5mm all the Carcano rifles went to a fixed 200 yard zero. Hunter is incorrect in stating that the Oswald rifle had a 300 meter zero. Do you have a link for Hunter? I ran the ballistic calculator with a 300 yard zero and the round would be almost a foot high at 100 yards, making your original post correct. Oswald would have had to aim at the trunk of the Limo.

            This reference didn’t allow me to cut and paste so I have transcribed the minimum.
            _____________________________________________________________________________
            “The biggest change to the Carcano Model 1891 rifle family line came in its shift to the 7.35X51mm Carcano cartridge,…..”.

            “The only other drastic refinement of the original Model 1891 lay in the rear sight which was now fixed to 300 meters”.

            “As such, Italian authorities ordered the stop to production of the 7.35mm rifles and shifted back to the proven 6.5mm rifles for the remainder of the 1930s and much of World War 2”.

            “Like other carbines before it……..and a fixed sight ranged out to 200 meters”.

            http://www.militaryfactory.com/smallarms/detail.asp?smallarms_id=443.

          • bogman says:

            Bill — Went to that link and it states that the sights were only changed on the Carcano 1938 Calvary Carbine model not the Fucile di Fanteria Modello 1891/1938 short rifle model that the site says Oswald used.

            You can read the first couple pages of Hunter’s essay by googling “The Third Bullet” and “The Shim’s Tale” and going to the Amazon “read more inside” search result.

            Otherwise you have to purchase the book to read the entire essay — it’s not available online that I’ve seen though there are forum discussions about it if you search hunter Oswald and shim.

          • Bill Clarke says:

            Bogman

            I couldn’t find this reference yesterday but I have a lot of faith in Dave Emary, a true ballistic expert and fan of the Carcano. Emary says that, “with the introduction of the M38 models (plural) went to a 200 meter battle zero”. So he is saying that all M38s have a 200 meter zero.

            I wondered yesterday why the author only mentioned the cavalry carbine as having the 200 meter zero since I had read Emarys article sometimes ago. It is my understanding that the only time the Carcano had a 300 meter fixed sight is when they chambered the weapon for the 7.35 round. Before that, and again to the best of my knowledge, the weapon had the flip up style back sight graduated from 100 meters to 1,000 meters or more. In the flat position the zero was for 300 meters.
            ________________________________________
            Dave Emary
            Chief Ballistic Scientist
            Hornady Manufacturing Inc
            Grand Island, Nebraska
            SHOOTING THE 6
            http://personal.stevens.edu/~gliberat/carcano/emary.html

            “The Italians apparently realized that a 300-meter battle zero was a bit impractical and with the introduction of the M38 models went to a 200 meter battle zero.”

            “I contend with the Carcano the Italians had a very intelligent approach for a battle rifle. The fixed sights were basically fool proof. The Italians must have realized with the M38 models that
            nearly all small arms engagements occurred inside of 200 meters. The fixed sights with a 200 meter zero would have been fool proof for a soldier under stress, who was probably a poor judge of distance to begin with. The soldier would have had to do nothing but point and shoot at the middle of his enemy for ranges out to 220 – 230 meters. How much more simple and effective could it have been made.”

          • Bogman says:

            Strange how the simplest but still critical details in this case have to be debated. Neither the WC or HSCA appears to have included an answer on the sights. The WC seems to have ignored the possibility Oswald could’ve used the sights altogether. Don’t understand why they would do that if the FBI had to create its own shim to make the scope work.

            I trust your source but also trust mine. He bought the Oswald gun and used it extensively to write a fictionalized but plausible alternative account of the assassination using the facts of the case set down by the WC, HSCA, Bugliosi and Posner.

          • Bill Clarke says:

            Bogman

            I didn’t even know this was debatable until your post. A little more search and I turned up two references that said the weapon had a 200 meter zero and one reference that said it was a 300 meter zero. So now I don’t know.

            So much of the work was done using the scope it makes good references for using the open sight scarce. I agree, I don’t understand that.

            If you come across anything else I’d appreciate a heads up on it.

          • bogman says:

            Will do. This is strange there is no definitive, official answer on this.

            It’s also why Hunter calls for the Oswald rifle to be taken out of the archives and worked over by a team of the best hunters and snipers in the world to determine if the deed was possible with the gun as configured. He claims the rifle shouldn’t be treated like some relic — it’s evidence. Seems to make sense to me.

          • Pat Speer says:

            I discuss the rifle and the scope in great detail towards the end of chapter 9b at patspeer.com.

            One aspect that some here seem to be missing is that Hunter’s recent observation about the shim only confirm what has long been known, and known due to input from an unexpected source: Dr. John Lattimer.

            From chapter 9b at patspeer.com:

            In 1969, Dr. John Lattimer gave a presentation to the New York Academy of Medicine on his own attempts to replicate Oswald’s supposed feat. While claiming his tests showed that Oswald could have performed the shooting, he made some interesting observations which did not remotely support this conclusion. After discussing his acquisition of four rifles like Oswald’s, fitting them with scopes like the one found on Oswald’s rifle, and picking out the rifle which most closely resembled its overall condition, he admitted: “To align the sight perfectly, it was necessary to place thin metal wafers (shims) under the front ring of the mount of the telescope, just as had been found necessary with Oswald’s rifle, in order to correct the faulty alignment of the telescope.” This point, moreover, was confirmed by writer Stephen Hunter in his 2013 book The Third Bullet. In an appendix to his novel in which an alternate scenario to the shooting was presented, Hunter claimed he’d bought a rifle like the one used in the shooting, and scope like the one found on the rifle, and discovered they were hopelessly out of alignment without the addition of shims. So yeah, it’s true. The shims added to Oswald’s rifle were added after it was found in the depository, not before. This suggests, then, that on the day of the shooting Oswald’s rifle was inaccurate, at least when using the scope, and that this was an inherent defect of that rifle and scope combination, not a problem created afterward as presumed by so many for so long.
            Lattimer continued: “It was found that with the sling binding the rifle tightly to the experimenter’s arm, and by resting both forearms flat against the legs, above the knees (as was possible from Oswald’s high perch), three cartridges could be worked through the action in six or seven seconds, still allowing a short period for aiming, before each simulated shot. If the interval between each shot was increased to five seconds (10 seconds total) aiming became quite easy.” Lattimer failed to explain that he was firing at stationary targets, and that tracking or leading a moving target would be more difficult, and take more time. But I digress…
            Lattimer then said something quite interesting. He noted: “It was found necessary not only to push the bolt vigorously forward but to pull it vigorously back, each time, with more force than is usually required with bolt-action rifles. Facility with these motions was acquired with many, many workings of the action over a period of two weeks of both simulated and actual firing. It became obvious to us that the ability to fire this rapidly and dexterously required a prolonged period of practice.” Lattimer then proceeded to speculate that Oswald’s failed attempt on General Walker “might have persuaded him to sharpen his skill at rapid fire (as he did all too well) by further practice, before November 22…” Well, I’ll be. Lattimer’s belief Oswald fired the shots is related to his belief Oswald had extensive practice with his rifle…something both the FBI and Warren Commission specifically ruled out!
            Lattimer then drove this point home: “The prolonged period of practice and familiarization was found to be essential for the achievement of any kind of accuracy during rapid firing of this rifle. In general, we were surprised and interested to observe how effectively proficiency with this rifle could be acquired, if plenty of time was allowed.” Well this suggests as well that a prolonged period of defamiliarization with this rifle would lead to a degeneration of one’s skills, does it not? The Warren Commission found no evidence that Oswald had even touched, let alone fired, his rifle for at least six weeks prior to the shooting. They found no evidence he’d ever used it to fire on a moving target. They found no cleaning equipment or spare ammunition among his possessions. This should make us suspect that, if one man fired all the shots on Kennedy, he was either a much better shot than Oswald was presumed to have been in 1963, or had been practicing with Oswald’s rifle for some time prior to 11-22.

    • Gerry Simone says:

      JFK felt Diem was not in touch with his people (a reasonable assertion given the unstable political climate there) but that doesn’t mean that he wanted him executed or ordered it. The palace coup by Diem’s generals was perhaps inevitable.

      NSAM 263 mentions the 1,000 initial troop withdrawal. NSAM 273 does not AND includes paragraph 7 for ‘possible increased activity’ and a host of other changes from the draft which suggests greater U.S. involvement.

      See -> http://www.bostonreview.net/us/galbraith-exit-strategy-vietnam

      It isn’t an obsession but careful scrutiny of the change in U.S. policy from one administration to another, which you would rather ignore.

      Nobody is slandering the CIA and Cuban exile community, just pointing fingers at them where the circumstantial evidence leads us.

      One may say the CE399 is one single piece of so called evidence which absolves LHO of the crime which he was alleged to have done, but you and other LATs will disagree.

      Since the assassination was a murder CONSPIRACY & COVER-UP, there is no single piece of evidence which miraculously resolves this debate.

      Asking for that is a red herring, or to insist that it’s absence proves Oswald’s guilt, is a straw man argument.

      However, we do have a plethora of circumstantial evidence.

  8. I don’t know what Paul May is talking about when he connects the coup to JFK’s withdrawal plan. As Newman and others have proven, JFK was not actually behind the coup, and it had no impact on his intent to withdraw. None. See for example, Gordon Goldstein’s Lessons in DIsaster, his brilliant last chapter where he discusses these arguments, and through McGeorge Bundy, he neutralizes them. Doesn’t get much better than that. The whole Paul May coup argument, to me, is a non sequitir. Kennedy was never going to commit to Vietnam. But LBJ was ready to do so from the start. And that was the difference. And that is how the debacle began with the reversals of Kennedy’s policies in NSAM 273 and NSAM 288.

    As per Mr. Clarke, the entire withdrawal plan was part of the McNamara Taylor Report, which was secretly written by Kennedy through Krulak. And that plan was announced by McNamara at Kennedy’s urging to the press at the time NSAM 263 was signed. As he was walking out to brief them, JFK said and tell them that withdrawal means all the helicopters too. I mean, what is the mystery about that comment? (Newman, p. 407) And why would JFK supervise the editing of the report in the first place to include the withdrawal plan if that is not what he wanted? (Ibid, p. 401) And then why would he ride herd on his staff to sign on to both NSAM 263 and the Taylor-McNamara report, including the 1000 man withdrawal and the 1965 complete phase out? (See Newman’s excellent chapter 21 on this point.)

    No, I do not think the Cubans were running the plots in Chicago and Dallas in November. I think they were simply an extension of the operational arm of the conspiracy at a middle management level. The Cubans could never have run anything as sophisticated as what happened in Chicago, let alone Dallas.

    Bu the timing of these maneuvers in Vietnam and Cuba, plus the quickening radicalism of some of Kennedy’s other foreign policy maneuvers was simply too much too fast. That was it.

    And I should add, I have this on the word of someone directly involved with the effort to obstruct Garrison, who was communicating with Allen Dulles at the time. He actually said, words to the effect, Kennedy had to die. He was trying to change things too fast.

    • Bill Clarke says:

      I believe that most people feel that if a person is killed on an operation that they have approved they have a moral responsibility to stick around and clean up the mess. I assume you and Newman don’t feel that way. I know JFK didn’t order the assassination but he approved the removal of Diem and should have expected such a bloody ending.

      “Kennedy was never going to commit to Vietnam.” Looks like to me he was already committed the way he had escalated our efforts there.

      The only thing reversed in NSAM 273 was the Oplan-34A program. Meoise called them a pin prick under both presidents. And this wasn’t really reversed but instead was supposed to be escalated. It still didn’t amount to a hill of beans.

      DiEugenio “As per Mr. Clarke, the entire withdrawal plan was part of the McNamara Taylor Report, which was secretly written by Kennedy through Krulak. And that plan was announced by McNamara at Kennedy’s urging to the press at the time NSAM 263 was signed.”

      Who told you that? Newman? NSAM 263 is marked “Eyes Only” after “Top Secret” was marked through. We put out top secret policy to a news conference? Did you read this part of NSAM 263, “The President approved the military recommendations contained in Section I B (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”.

      http://www.fas.org/irp/offdocs/nsam-jfk/nsam263.jpg

      Newman doesn’t have an excellent chapter in his book. There is no mention of a complete “phase out” or complete withdrawal or anything else you want to call it in NSAM 263 and 1965 is not a deadline. Have you read NSAM 263?
      _________________________________________________________________
      Taylor: I will just say this, that we talked to 174 officers, Vietnamese and U.S., and in the case of the U.S. (officers) I always asked the question, “When can you finish this job in the sense that you will reduce this insurgency to little more than sporadic incidents.” Inevitably, except for the Delta, they would say “64 would be ample time.” I realize that’s not necessarily…..I assume there’s no major new factors entering [unclear], I realize that—-

      JFK: Well, let’s say it anyway. Then ’65 if it doesn’t work out {unclear] we’ll get a new date.
      http://tapes.millercenter.virginia.edu/clips/1963_1002_vietnam_am/
      _________________________________________________________________
      Taylor: I would think if we take these dates, Mr. President, it ought to be very clear what we mean by victory or success. That doesn’t mean that every [unclear] comes [unclear] a white flag. But we do- we’re crushing this insurgency to the point that the national security forces of Vietnam can [unclear].

      McGeorge Bundy: It doesn’t mean that every American Officer comes out of there either.

      Taylor: No.

      McNamara: We have about 3,500 left at the end of the period.

      http://tapes.millercenter.virginia.edu/clips 1963_1002_vietnam_am/

      It isn’t the number that is so important here but the fact that we are not making a total withdrawal.

      • Gerry Simone says:

        According to the historical time line here, Kennedy got nervous before the coup and privately admitted that the U.S. bore responsibility, after it happened.

        They promised the over-taking generals that U.S. support would continue, which OSTENSIBLY would be the case had Diem not been ‘removed’, so why couldn’t the status quo change down the road in any event?

        Viet Nam was already in ‘intensive-care’.

        After he coup, it was on ‘life-support’.

        JFK could’ve pulled the plug after the election if the situation wouldn’t improve.

        Considering his past conduct in military situations, I doubt he would’ve gone all out.

      • Jonathan says:

        Bill Clarke,

        I believe you are correct to this extent: JFK and RFK agreed in principle to the removal of Diem. For RFK, the only question became, would the coup succeed? Neither Kennedy brother apparently expected Diem and his brother to be killed. This was naive of them. They also apparently expected to be able to control the coup leaders, which was also naive.

        I believe you go create a distraction when you harp on the question of whether JFK was committed to a total withdrawal of American troops from Viet Nam. The issue is whether JFK intended in November 1963 to enlarge the U.S. military effort in Viet Nam. NSAM 263 and the document to which it refers make CLEAR JFK was not intending to enlarge U.S. military involvement in SVN. I don’t know where, if at all, you got that idea.

        • Bill Clarke says:

          I agree on your take about the Kennedy boys. From what I gather JFK was very upset when he learned of the death of Diem.

          I think, Jonathan, that all this began when some wizard decided that the reason JFK was murdered was because he was withdrawing from Vietnam so “they” (insert whoever) killed him. That makes it on topic for this forum. So now those who follow this trail have to prove NSAM 263 said Jack was getting the hell out of Vietnam, win lose or draw.

          So now we have had more disinformation, propaganda and outright falsehoods told about what NSAM 263 says that any other subject I’ve observed.

      • Photon says:

        JFK increased American troop strength by 1500% during his 1000 days. Nearly 200 Americans were killed during that period- enough even to be brought up in a contemporary “Twilight Zone” episode. He entered the war ankle-deep and left it hip deep.
        Following An Bac it was evident that American “advisors” were in a shooting war with orders to fire back when fired upon.
        As South Vietnam collapsed into chaos after the Diem coup it is ludicrous to think that JFK would have pulled out under the circumstances. In 1964-1965 there was overwhelming support for prosecuting the war-how many No votes for the Tonkin Resolution? Any attempt at a withdrawal under the circumstances would have led to a collapse of his support and finished off RFK’s career. We really can’t speculate what JFK would have done, but during the totality of his administration he ignored the “dove ” elements and always supported attempts to defeat the Communists in the South- even to the point of agreeing to Diem’s removal despite the objections of his principle military advisor and much of the Defense establishment.

        • Ronnie Wayne says:

          The Diem coup facilitated by JFK’s opponent/rival Henry Cabot Lodge?

        • JSA says:

          The fact is, JFK never put boots on the ground as LBJ did. He never forced the East Germans to tear down the wall in Berlin when it went up in August of 1961. He never authorized full US Naval support after the weak CIA-designed Bay of Pigs attack faltered. And he never ordered an attack on Cuba during the missile crisis, even when an American was lost when a U-2 plane went down. He procrastinated over Vietnam, refused to broaden the war into Thailand, and started to withdraw US advisors.

          Yet you insist that had he lived, President Kennedy would have ramped up Vietnam rather than scale it back down after the 1964 elections. What precedent do you have to back up this pattern-breaking assertion, Photon?

          • Bill Clarke says:

            JSA May 15, 2014 at 10:05 pm

            Kennedy put a of boots on the ground in Vietnam. Yes, he didn’t sent combat units but he sent troops that engaged in combat. And yes Johnson did send combat units when Saigon was in danger of falling. The communist played a big role in that.

            The wall in Berlin was built on east German soil. What right would we have to tear it down or demand they tear it down?

            Yes, plausible denial would have been blown if our navy had entered the fray. No doubt JFK had decided that the plan was a loser by then.

            During the missile crisis JFK had nukes aimed at him. If that doesn’t make a man hesitate I don’t know what will.

            Actually JFK sent troops to Thailand when he was negotiating the Laos mess.

            You make it sound like he was withdrawing “all” the advisers. This isn’t true.

            I’m not saying what JFK would have done in 1964. I don’t know. Neither do you.

  9. There was not one more troop in Vietnam when JFK died than on the day he took office. This is a semantic trick used at McAdams’ web site, and Paul May borrows it here. There was an increase in advisers only. And Kennedy was withdrawing them at the time of his death.

    Kennedy was not complicit in the removal of Diem, because the plotters lied to him about who had signed on to it. McCone had not signed on to it, but they told him he had. This is why he was so upset upon his return. And this is why on his tape after he learned of DIem’s death he said, it was like his government was splitting apart and he admits that he did not do enough to control it.

    We CAN say what JFK would do, because he never ever approved any importation of combat troops. And he never once approved battle plans for an air war or amphibious war by Americans. Johnson did both within 16 months of gaining office.

    OPLAN 34 A was a provocation program. Even McCone and Forrestal admitted to this after. Especially after LBJ altered NSAM 273 so these would be done largely with American equipment and support. This is why the resolution was written in advance, and LBJ lied his head off about what happened.

    Now compare this with what JFK did in the Missile Crisis after Castro shot down a U2 and killed a pilot. That was much worse than what the North Vietnamese did in Tonkin Gulf, I mean one bullet through a hulll and no one dead. LBJ went on national television to announce the beginning of the air war over North Vietnam, thereby allowing them to prepare anti aircraft batteries to shoot our pilots down, which they did.

    JFK did nothing, even though there was a contingency plan in place.

    As per Clarke’s wild assertion that somehow no one in the press knew about Kennedy’s withdrawal plan at the time, again, are you going to say later you were joking?

    Look, JFK spoke about his plan at his last press conference on 11/14. But even way before that he vaguely alluded to withdrawing as early as May 22nd. Which jibes with the Sec Def meeting at which McNamara began to implement the withdrawal plan.

    In McNamara’s book, he talks about and quotes from a press release that Kennedy ordered him to give on October 2nd.(p. 80) Lesley Gelb later alluded to this release in the Pentagon Papers. THe NY TImes mentioned the withdrawal plan on November 16 and the 20th, both on page one. But as early as October 4th, the withdrawal plan was announced on the front page of the Armed Forces Pacific Stars and Stripes. In other words, it was fairly common knowledge. The Pentagon Papers devotes a chapter to this withdrawal plan.

    When Bill Clarke writes stuff like this, I am reminded of the old adage, everyone has the right to spin facts. No one has the right to create them, or in his case, deny them.

    One last observation: Why is it that the same people who deny a conspiracy also deny Kennedy’s withdrawal plan?

    Pretty obvious isn’t it?

    • Bill Clarke says:

      James DiEugenio May 15, 2014 at 10:08 pm

      The only semantic trick here is your insistence that all these troops were strictly “advisers” that stayed in the classroom or some other safe place. In fact many were serving in a combat role on the ground, in the air and on the water. And now you make it sound like JFK was withdrawing “all” of the “advisers”. This isn’t true.

      Now I have to ask if you are joking about JFK not being implicit in the overthrow of Diem. It would not have come off without the approval of JFK. Period. Your logic here is much like the apologist claiming JFK wasn’t responsible for the BOP because Ike had started the planning for it. Hogwash.

      No, you can’t say what JFK would have done because you don’t know.

      You seem to be really confused about Oplan 34-A. Who, may I ask, do you think supplied and supported these type operations under JFK? The United States!

      I say again, NSAM 263 was marked Eyes Only.

      By this I guess you will no longer be making up your facts. Good.

      • Jonathan says:

        Bill,

        As a Vietnam vet, you surely know the difference between an army captain going into battle as an adviser with ARVN troops and an army captain commanding an infantry company in an Americal battalion.

        The army captain advising ARVN troops is carrying weapons and may be killed or wounded. But his job is not the same as the Americal infantry captain. You know that. Why are you muddying the waters?

        • Bill Clarke says:

          Of course I understand the difference and I certainly agree with what you have posted. But I was trying to un-muddy the water, not make it worse.

          It seems to me that when one chants that “JFK only sent advisers” they really believe that these men were somehow above the fray of combat. That wasn’t true and we need to be perfectly clear that these “advisers” were engaged in combat on the ground, in the air and on the sea.

          • Gerry Simone says:

            They probably did on occasion but perhaps to boost morale or to defend themselves when fired upon or when close to harm’s way in precarious situations.

            But I doubt they were spearheading offensive maneuvers or leading an attack chiefly comprised of American personnel.

          • Fearfaxer says:

            The American advisers, consisting of small numbers, would accompany South Vietnamese units into the field, make suggestions to the SV officers commanding the units (with these suggestions often being of the Very Very Strong variety), and engage in combat themselves. I believe that they were generally carrying sidearms as opposed to rifles, but am not certain about that. The war at that point was nothing like it would become post-Gulf of Tonkin, there were far fewer numbers of men engaged on each side, and the SV army units were sometimes rag-tag groups armed with old weapons, occasionally even shotguns and such. The Americans never went out in force themselves, but the whole notion that they were simply “advising” was transparent nonsense, which was recognized even at the time. Even James Reston was moved to write something along the lines of (this is a very approximate quote) “our soldiers are involved in a war, this is known in Saigon, in Hanoi, in Peking, and in Moscow, just about everywhere in fact except the USA.”

      • Gerry Simone says:

        A military advisor is not going to charge into the enemy or take an offensive role.

        They will advise on procedure, methods and tactics.

        They may have been lurking behind the battle field, but I know of no incidents involving advisors that were mistaken as an offensive battalion, company, etc.

        Perhaps others can opine or furnish more info on this point.

        • Bill Clarke says:

          Gerry Simone May 21, 2014 at 5:58 pm

          In 1962 until the end the only reason an American adviser in SVN wouldn’t charge the enemy in an offensive move would be because ARVN refused to go with him. Refused combat in other words and this was not uncommon I fear. A good example of this is the U.S. Captain sitting on the M-113 at the battle of Ap Bac.

          By 1962 we had provided advisers down to the battalion level of ARVN. The battalion is the basic maneuver element in an Infantry organization. This team of American advisers usually consisted of a LTC and 3 or 4 Captains. These Captains worked with the Companies, the LTC with the CO of the ARVN battalion. They went with ARVN on their missions. You can’t advise from Saigon, you have to be there with the troops. So when an ARVN company or battalion charged in an offensive attack our Americans were right beside them. And that is the reason American advisers began dying at an increased rate.

          Yes, I agree, JFK did not send ground combat “units”. This is not to say he didn’t send air combat units.

          • Gerry Simone says:

            Maybe we have common ground here.

            Advisors got their feet wet and their hands dirty, and sometimes, unfortunately for them, in the line of fire, but they probably weren’t afraid and maybe even itching to engage. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be there in the first place.

            (Were such advisors la creme de la creme?)

          • Bill Clarke says:

            Gerry Simone May 22, 2014 at 11:26 am

            Oh yes, I’m pretty sure our advisers at that time were gung ho. You have to remember these men were not the American draftees that we heard so much about in the 1970s. Nothing helps your promotion more than combat time and especially command during combat. I would guess that most of the advisers, at that time, probably requested Vietnam duty and I’d guess the Army could cherry pick who they sent to Vietnam. So I think it safe to say that these were the cream of the Army.

            The ARVN commanding officer told McNamara that these teams “stiffened” his battalions and evidently they did. These Captains that were on the ground with ARVN were excellent in calling for indirect fire and air support. ARVN, not yet being too swift at this practice naturally like this.

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