Somebody did talk.
His name was John Martino. In 1963 he was an anti-Castro militant who mixed with organized crime figures and CIA officers. His story is one of the clearest indicators that opponents of JFK’s Cuba policy had foreknowledge that President Kennedy might be assassinated in Dallas.
To put it another way, those who doubt there was a conspiracy need to address John Martino’s story. It is corroborated in multiple ways.
Martino, a native of New Jersey, was a petty racketeer as a young man with arrests for gambling and loan sharking.
In the 1950s, he developed an expertise in electronic equipment related to gambling. He gravitated to south Florida and then to Havana where his skills won him a security job at the casino in the new Deauville Hotel in the Cuban capital. Havana was then dominated by organized crime syndicates who reaped big profits from gambling and related tourist attractions.
When Fidel Castro’s revolutionary movement took power in 1959, the Deauville and other hotels offering gambling and prostitution were closed. Martino was arrested for criticizing Castro and spent three years in jail, a bitter experience that he detailed in his vivid book “I Was Castro’s Prisoner.”
Upon his release in 1962, Martino threw himself into the CIA’s clandestine war against Castro. A publicity tour for the book took him to New Orleans and Dallas in the fall of 1963 where he associated with other anti-Castro activists embittered by JFK’s Cuba policy.
In the days after JFK was killed, Martino devoted considerable effort to linking accused assassin Lee Harvey Oswald to the Cuban government. Martino and others claimed that Oswald had gone to Cuba (a claim that has never been verified). Without supporting evidence, Martino gained attention from investigators but convinced few of his claims that Oswald acted at Castro’s behest.
Behind the Story
A decade later, Martino was dying and he knew it. In 1975, he started telling a different story about the events of 1963, confessing to two acquaintances that he had participated in a conspiracy to assassinate President Kennedy.
His first confessor was John Cummings, an investigative reporter at New York’s Newsday, who had covered Martino’s release from Castro’s prison in 1962 and stayed in contact with him over the years.
“He told me he’d been part of the assassination of Kennedy,” Cummings recounted later. “He wasn’t in Dallas pulling the trigger, but he was involved. He implied that his role was delivering money, facilitating things. He asked me not to write it while he was alive.”
It is worth noting that Cummings was an award-winning reporter who did not make his reputation by believing tall tales.
The second person to whom Martino confided was a former business partner named Fred Claassen who said Martino told him:
“The anti-Castro people put Oswald together. Oswald didn’t know who he was working for — he was just ignorant of who was really putting him together. Oswald was to meet his contact at the Texas Theater [the movie house where Oswald was arrested]. They were to meet Oswald in the theater and get him out of the country, and then eliminate him. Oswald made a mistake . . . there was no way we could get to him. They had Ruby kill him.”
Martino’s widow Florence declined to talk to congressional investigators
in the 1970s, but later acknowledged her husband’s story to British author
Anthony Summers. She said that her husband had advance knowledge of
JFK’s assassination. “Flo, they’re going to kill him,” she recalls him saying
in November 1963. “They’re going to kill him when he gets to Texas.”
Martino’s son, Edward, then a senior in high school, recalls that on Friday
Nov. 22, 1963, his father told him to stay home from school and listen to
the radio. When the news came from Dallas, “my father went white as a
sheet. But it wasn’t like ‘Gee whiz.’ It was more like confirmation.”
Ed Martino, now a business consultant and custom software developer, has not
profited in any way from telling this story. Nor did his mother, now deceased.
Summers reported the Martino story in Vanity Fair magazine in 1994 and in his 1998 book (co-authored with Robbyn Swan), “Not in Your Lifetime” (an updated version of which will be published this year). Historian David Kaiser reported Ed Martino’s story in his book “The Road to Dallas,” which was published by Harvard University Press.
The most complete version of Martino’s involvement in the anti-Castro movement and his subsequent confession is found my 2010 book “Somebody Would Have Talked.” (You can buy it here.)
There were other people who showed foreknowledge that JFK would be killed in Dallas but none whose story is so well-documented as John Martino. He was somebody who talked.
Video: Larry Hancock talks about John Martino as a “linchpin” of the JFK story.
Read: Chapter 1 from “Somebody Would Have Talked.”