3) What was Operation Northwoods? Was it connected to JFK’s assassination?

Operation Northwoods

Operation Northwoods was a Pentagon plan to provoke a U.S. invasion of Cuba in 1963 through the use of deception operations.

Operation Northwoods
From graphic artist Mack White, the story of Operation Northwoods

First disclosed by the Assassination Records Review Board in 1997, the  Northwoods plans are among the most significant new JFK documents to emerge since Oliver Stone’s “JFK” movie.

Operation Northwoods envisioned U.S. intelligence operatives staging violent attacks on U.S. targets  and arranging for the blame for the crime to fall on Fidel Castro and his communist government.

The idea, wrote one planner, was to creates a “justification for U.S. intervention in Cuba,” by orchestrating a crime that placed the U.S. government “in the apparent position of suffering defensible grievances from a rash and irresponsible government” in Cuba.

These plans included the use of violence on American soil against American citizens.

“We could develop a Communist Cuban terror campaign in the Miami area, in other Florida cities, and even in Washington,” wrote one Northwoods planner who worked in the Defense Department. Another Northwood scheme envisioned faking the shooting down of a U.S. airplane and manufacturing “evidence” that Castro’s government was responsible.

The Northwoods plans were developed while Gen. Lyman Lemnitzer, a hawk who clashed repeatedly with JFK, served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, President Kennedy rejected the idea of such  “pretext operations” at a testy meeting in March 1962, but the JCS continued to push them as the solution to problem of Castro.

In May 1963, the Pentagon asserted that JFK’s policy to encourage a domestic rebellion against Castro was likely to fail and that policy alternative were needed.

“An engineered provocation,” declared a JCS policy statement, “offers greater advantages in control, timing, simplicity and security than would a fomented revolt.”

There is some resemblance between the imaginary Northwoods schemes and the reality of Kennedy’s assassination, allegedly by a Castro supporter.

DRE Trinchera
The first JFK conspiracy theory

The Northwoods planners proposed CIA assets be used to publicize the “evidence” of Cuban involvement in the attack on a U.S. target, the better to rally public opinion in support of an invasion.

After JFK’s murder, the CIA’s assets in the Cuban Student Directorate–funded by a CIA program codenamed AMSPELL and run by CIA officer George Joannides–publicized evidence of Oswald’s pro-Castro ways in an unsuccessful effort to generate support for a U.S. invasion.

While some JFK conspiracy writers see Operation Northwoods as a template for JFK’s assassination, there is no direct evidence to link the CIA and Pentagon planners to Lee Harvey Oswald or any other alleged Dealey Plaza gunman.

 But the fact that the Pentagon and CIA hid the deeply cynical nature of Operation Northwoods from the public and from JFK investigators for 35 years invites suspicion that the national security agencies had–and perhaps has–something to hide.

What seems indisputable is author James Douglass’s observation that the Northwoods documents illuminate “the mentality of Kennedy’s military advisers,” who pursued devious and murderous conspiracies to advance their ambition of launching a preemptive war against Cuba that would remove Castro from power.

Intelligence historian James Bamford was the first author to write about Operation Northwoods. In his book “Body of Secrets, rightly described it as “the most corrupt plan ever created by the U.S. government.”  Northwoods, he said, was a prescription for “treason.”


TAKE ME TO JFK STORY #4: In the last year of his presidency, JFK was at war with his ultra-right-wing generals.





  1. Most that chase down where the Operation Northwoods scheme came from find Senator Smathers down in Florida was a point of origin. He first pitched the method to JFK and was turned down. The Smather’s plan appears to have made it to the Joint Chiefs and a like plan was pitched to JFK by Joint Chief Lemnitzer, which was also turned down by JFK. This became known as Operation Northwoods.

    Senator Smathers is interesting because he was very anti-Communist and highly into the anti-Castro issues happening in Florida in that period. Smathers sold his home in Florida to Richard Nixon. Senator Smathers knew Judyth Baker and connected her up with Alton Oshner in New Orleans to fashion a way to kill Castro with radiation and cancer virus methods.

    So, Senator Smathers was right in the middle of all this anti-Castro efforts and the games to knock off Castro with the Soviets being none the wiser via cancer inducement methods. Smathers appears to be one of the persons of most interest for the design of Operation Northwoods and the pitch of it into the Joint Chiefs.

    While Smathers would not be one to want JFK killed, his push on the anti-Communist issues and the Northwoods plan sure game the kill JFK plans a big push forward.

    Jim Phelps

    • Jim, that is a valuable contribution and web link that you posted. It really gives us insight into the thinking at the highest levels of American politics and military with regards to Cuba. Notice how JFK is constantly turning these proposals down (although he did green light the Bay of Pigs invasion in early 1961).

      These folks (business, politicians, military) were quite desperate to get rid of Fidel Castro. Imagine how they felt during the Cuban Missile Crisis in the fall of 1962. Or after the Cuban Missile Crisis when there was no invasion of Cuba!

      • larrywheels says:

        I think Kennedy’s failure to overthrow Castro after the Cuban missile crises was motive to setting the assassination capability that existed with the cia-mafia alliance on JFK. One can make the case his assassination itself was a “Northwoods type” of operation to provoke American reaction to invading Cuba. The very “identity profile” of Oswald as a pro-Castro-ite was used by the sponsors to link Castro with the hit. Like most psych warfare operations they can be exposed if one knows the red flags and the false flags.

  2. Hello,

    Second, from this news story:


    And the information’s origin appears to be the JFK Library itself.

    Jim Phelps

  3. Correction. Bamford was not the first author to go to print with Northwoods. That was an Australian named Jon Elliston in his book, “Psywar on Cuba” published in 1999. Bamford’s book came out 2 years later.

    There was nothing new about Northwoods. Provocations have been around since Adam was a kid.

    In this particular case, Northwoods was just a response to existing op-plans within which a series of “tasks” had been outlined.

    In response to a request for pretexts for military intervention by the Chief of Operations of the Cuba Project, Brig. Gen. Edward Lansdale, the document listed methods, and outlined plans, that the authors believed would garner public and international support for U.S. military intervention in Cuba. According to Jacob Hornberger:
    “The plan called for U.S. personnel to disguise themselves as agents of the Cuban government and to engage in terrorist attacks on the U.S. base at Guantanamo Bay.

    Would’n’t you know it? Just such a plan seems to have been thwarted a few short months prior to Northwoods being put on the table by a Medal of Honor winner who shot and killed a “Cuban suspected terrorist” employed at the base. The Cuban was being escorted from the base after allegedly being found in a restricted area (the ammo dump).

    The Medal of Honor winner and his accomplice were quickly put in psychiatric care and quietly drummed out of the Marines. The whole thing was then buried.



    • jeffmorley says:

      You are technically correct, Greg. Jon Elliston does include some of the Northwoods document in his invaluable “Psy-War on Cuba.”

      But Elliston does not refer to Operation Northwoods by name, which is why I believe that Jim Bamford must be credited with being the first to write about Operation Northwoods. There was some news coverage of the documents when the ARRB first released them but Bamford was the first to put them into context and address their sinister aspect.

      Ellingston’s presentation is valuable because illuminates how the idea of pretext operations mutated in the armed forces in 1961 and 1962 but his presentation leaves impression that such Cuba pretext operations were the brainchild of Lansdale, which I think understates the importance of Operation Northwoods.

      Yes, Lansdale proposed and sought out pretext operations in 1962 but he would soon be gone. Operation Northwoods signaled the adoption of pretext operations at the level of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the planning was then undertaken the JCS planners. By May 1963 Lansdale was gone, defeated by the Cuban security forces and post-missile crisis politics.

      But the JCS plans for pretext operations against the Cuban government lived on. In the JCS Cuba policy statement of May 1963 “engineered provocation” was established as the most likely policy course to succeed, more likely than JFK’s veiled policy of “fomented rebellion.”

      cheers, JM

  4. Jeff, technically, if I point to something that’s black, it’s still black whether or not I say it’s black.

    No argument on Lonsdale and false flag ops vs fomented rebellion.

    • jeffmorley says:

      You can slice the balogna thin Greg, but it still balogna.
      Elliston never wrote the words “Operation Northwoods” so it cannot accurate to say that he was first person to write about Operation Northwoods. I guess you could say he was the first person to write about the Northwoods documents without identifying them as such.

      • Jeff,

        I do think something is being sliced too thin, here.

        Let’s try a slightly different tack. The first Europeans to see a certain animal in Australia had no idea what type of animal it was let, alone what to call it. Yet the animal they described was without a shadow of doubt, what we now call a “platypus”. That they didn’t give it a name does not mean they were not the first White people to write about it.

        Since you mention “Bologna” though, it is a pretty good description of Dalek’s writings concerning Barbara Gamerikian’s oral history.

        But back to “Northwoods”. There was also the crash of a U2 just before the assassination that also carries some of the insignia of a potential “engineered provocation” – though I personally think the case is clearer and stronger regarding the Guantanamo incident pointed to previously.

  5. SM Coogan says:

    Surely for such an intelligent man Jeff, you don’t take Bamford’s comments concerning Northwood’s being “the most corrupt plan ever created by the U.S. government.” There are more than a number of ‘corrupt’ plans the US government has drawn up along the way. Where was Bamford when Operation Gladio broke in the early nineties? His chapter on Ed Lansdale and the Joint Chiefs of Staff in his book ‘Body of Secrets’ is wholly inaccurate. This article at CTKA discusses the role that Operation Northwood’s played in covering up important questions about the Kennedy assassination at the ARRB hearings. Greg Parker contributed a couple of comments in this article if I can recall as did Larry Hancock, Bob Groden, Bill Kelly, Pat Speer and Bill Davy.


  6. The JFK assassination itself was the ultimate expression of Operation Northwoods. The planners of the JFK assassination wanted an invasion of Cuba to result – a “twofer” – get rid of JFK and Fidel Castro at the same time.

  7. LMB says:

    I personally believe that the implementation of Operation 40, put into play in 1960 set the stage for all things to eventually come back to JFK.

  8. HERVE says:

    Lyman Lemnitzer was SACEUR at SHAPE (NATO, France then Belgium). He was the chief of the “stay-behind” sections. The French “stay-behind” had most probably connections with the “SAC”(Service d’Action Civique) and drug traffickers. Lyman Lemnitzer may have used them for the assassination.

    In French AND in English :


    This theory is compatible with the implication of Lyman Lemnitzer as Christian David was a member of SAC (Service d’Action Civique), most probably linked to the french Stay-behind unit (Baud, Ganser) directed by Lyman Lemnitzer (SACEUR of SHAPE/NATO).

    Gladio – NATO’s Dagger at the Heart of Europe : The Pentagon-Nazi-Mafia-Terror Axis


    • Paul Cavanagh says:

      I find the theory that JFK’s assassination was eventually at the centre of Operation Northwood both horrifying and plausible. But why wasn’t Cuba invaded after the coup in Dallas? I have often wondered what the precise content of the message was that RFK sent to Moscow after his Brother’s murder. Could Bobby have provided the Kremlin with the intelligence to stop an invasion of Cuba?

  9. TLR says:

    In my opinion, it wasn’t just about Cuba. It was also about justifying a preemptive nuclear strike on the USSR.

    7/20/1961 At a National Security Council Meeting, the Joint Chiefs of Staff’s Gen. Lemnitzer and CIA director Allen Dulles present a plan for a preemptive nuclear attack on the Soviet Union “in late 1963, preceded by a period of heightened tensions.” President Kennedy walks out of the meeting, saying to Secretary of State Dean Rusk, “And we call ourselves the human race.” (Brothers, Talbot)

    The US had a huge advantage in nuclear missiles (ICBMs) and the Dr. Strangelove types in the government and military wanted to take advantage of that.

    At around the time Oswald was being arrested, wrote FBI Agent James Hosty, “I learned after the assassination from two independent sources fully armed warplanes were sent screaming toward Cuba. Just before they entered Cuban airspace, they were hastily called back…the entire US military went on alert. The Pentagon ordered us to Defense Condition 3…Def Con 3…” (Assignment Oswald p219)

    Somebody in the Pentagon was sitting on “go” ready to start a war. What was it LBJ told Earl Warren and others? They had to put an end to all the rumors about Castro and Khrushchev being responsible for the assassination, or it could result in a war that killed 40 million Americans.

  10. Brad Milch says:

    TLR hit the nail squarely on the head. When one adds Operation Northwoods to the contingency plan ‘Furtherance’ (created during the Eisenhower Presidency & approved during JFK’s Presidency, the Pentagon had the power to start WWIII on its collective own. The strange disappearance & search for Gen Lemay heard on Bill Kelly & Ed Primeau’s edited AF-1 tapes suggests to some the Pentagon was waiting for Lemay to ‘push the button’ & he skipped out of Dodge to avoid doing it.

  11. anonymous says:

    “rightly described it as “the most corrupt plan ever created” …”But the fact that the Pentagon and CIA hid the deeply cynical nature of Operation Northwoods from the public”

    Deeply cynical nature? The Pentagon and CIA have a habit of using false flags. You may have heard of the Gulf of Tonkin “incident”

    A couple cynical incidents would include:

    1) Public anger over the Vietnam War tempted (GOP nominee) Nixon to sabotage the 1968 peace talks: The Lyndon Johnson tapes: Richard Nixon’s ‘treason’

    2) Gary Sick, a National Security Council liaison wrote:
    “campaign chief William Casey had secretly struck a deal, promising that if Reagan-Bush defeated Carter, they would provide TOW missiles…In return, American hostages were held in captivity until after the election”

  12. Frank Snepp says:

    The military complex in the 60’s were fucking insane.

  13. Jeremy Faust says:

    If Operation Northwoods was deployed by Pentagon insiders to murder President Kennedy there undoubtedly would have been nuclear bomb carrying aircraft already in the air & nuke missiles aimed & ready to fire prior to the ambush in Dallas. The word would have come ‘down the pipe’ that something big was about to occur & for the military to get prepared for it. Nothing on the AF-1 tapes suggests the Pentagon was communicating with either the White House Situation Room or AF-1 before, during & after LBJ was sworn in & AF-1 departed Dallas. It seems to appear that JFK’s ambush caught the Pentagon by surprise or it could mean the Pentagon knew the ambush was coming & stood down on its own.

    • Dave says:

      There is likely a lot of AF1 communications edited out of the latest discovered version of the tapes, given the number of open channels and the time in the air between Dallas and DC. Who knows what portions may have related to the Pentagon? That’s why it is important to locate the unedited tapes, if they still exist.

    • Jim Y Loving says:

      LBJ most certainly had a say in what came next – “Door #1 was a go at Cuba and USSR”, Door #2 was lone nut and Viet Nam escalation. He chose Door #2. Besides, he had the goods on them and if he were to go down, they all would have, so they had to go along with Door #2, which by the way, remains closed to this very day for National Security Reasons.

  14. Gerald Campeau says:

    Its interesting that John McAdams and Jerry Posner never got into this conversation. I’m sure they would like to keep it quiet as posable

  15. Mariano says:

    With so many US military chiefs willing to pull the nuclear trigger at the drop of a hat, the world was indeed fortunate to have such an open-minded preserver of the peace as JFK. Did JFK save the world from annihilation several times during his tenure ?

  16. The USA has suffered a silent coup by the shadow government consisting of the CFR, tri-lateral Commission, Bilderberg Group, & others. They had mafia hit men kill JFK. Charles Nicoletti shot him from an office building hitting him in the neck and exiting his throat. James Files, from behind the fence at the “grassy Knoll” shot him in the right temple blowing his brains out the back of his head. ANY hunter that has seen the ORIGINAL Zapruder film knows the last shot was from the front. The Warren Commission lied. Oswald was no saint but he did not kill JFK.

  17. Victor Castro says:

    This article was very informative and I think the CIA actually was behind the JFK assassination……..

  18. Sam says:

    where the hell is the guy who wrote this??

  19. Angie says:

    As I was reading this article I realized – I have an article from the Pocono Record in Northeast PA in which my grandfather, a flight manager and Captain for Eastern Airlines for many years, gives his opinion on the then-recent rash of hijacked planes to Cuba, most of which originated in Miami… so i looked it up again and sure enough the “hijackings” began in 1961, and they give an “estimated total” of 15 planes hijacked to cuba. I thought it was kinda weird to call it an estimated total – you would think theyd know exactly how many were hijacked! Sounds like maybe some were staged & did appear real – in the referenced article the plane happened to be a route my grandfather and another captain would switch on an off, and in this instance it happened to be the other Captain flying when the hijacking occurred, so to me that says it appeared real to the flight crew and passengers. But then referencing an ‘estimated’ total of 15 hijacked planes tells me some of that number is complete fiction.

    I am so impressed at this web site, also maryferrell and rathaus, great research and collection of solid evidence! Thanks for presenting the truth, good to see others care about it and see its relevance. Keep up the great research, you are a bright light in the foggy seas of recent history

  20. […] “First disclosed by the Assassination Records Review Board in 1997, the  Northwoods plans… […]

  21. […] had CIA help, but such a covert operation (possibly based on the false-flag template developed by JCS planners who came up with Operation Northwoods) would not qualify as a “rogue” […]

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