Tuesday, November 12, 2013


November 12, 2013


Washington, D.C.  (JFK+50) Fifty years ago today, November 12, 1963, President John F. Kennedy, according to Thurston Clarke's latest book, "JFK's Last Hundred Days," presided over a meeting of his senior advisers who were responsible for the oversight of the anti-Castro campaign carried out by the Central Intelligence Agency.

Fidel Castro in Memorial Parade
Havana, Cuba
March 5, 1960

Clarke writes that during the meeting, CIA director John McCone...

"presented a dispiriting summary of the current state of play, admitting that Cuba's military remained loyal to (Fidel) Castro and its internal security forces were well organized."

Thurston Clarke also says that the head of the CIA's Cuban task force, Desmond Fitzgerald*, presented the President with this less than favorable news...

"Casualties among CIA operatives in Cuba had increased, with 25 captured or killed..."

Fitzgerald also  reported that U.S. allies Canada, Spain and the United Kingdom were continuing to trade with Cuba and this was reducing the impact of US economic sanctions.

Desmond Fitzgerald added that the CIA was continuing giving support to "autonomous anti-Castro groups mounting sabotage operations from bases outside U.S. territory."

According to Clarke, Fitzgerald...

"Listed four recent sabotage operations, but offered vague statements about their effect, justifying them as ways of  'keeping up the pressure,' raising
the morale of the people' and adding to Cuba's 'growing economic problems.'"

After hearing this less than stellar report, President Kennedy, again according to Clarke, questioned whether or not the sabotage program was worth the effort and Secretary of State Dean Rusk commented that the program was

Clarke lists the following reasons as to why the decision was made to continue the program...

The sabotage program was low-cost, successfully denied Castro essential supplies, and improved the morale anti-Castro Cubans.

Although JFK "signed-off" on sabotage operations scheduled for the upcoming weekend, at the same time he was in the process of "pursuing the second track of his Cuban policy."

That track involved attempting to contact Dr. Rene Vallejo**, Castro's confidant, directly.  What the President wanted to know, from the horse's mouth, was whether or not Castro would entertain some adjustment to Cuba's "external Communist influence," and efforts of "subversion" in Latin America.

JFK certainly would have liked for Castro to end his relationship with the USSR as well as his subversive efforts in the Western Hemisphere.

Thurston Clarke makes clear that these 2nd track efforts at negotiation with Castro were in the preliminary stages.

*Desmond Fitzgerald (1910-1967) was educated at Harvard, won a Bronze Star in WWII, and practiced law in NY after the war.  He became head of the CIA's Far East division and served as a guide for new CIA director John McCone in 1961.  In 1966, he was made Director for Plans.   DF died of a heart attack at the age of 57.

**Dr. Rene Vallejo was a prominent Cuban physician who served in the U.S. Third Army in WWII and became Fidel Castro's personal doctor as well as his aide de camp and close personal friend.  After JFK's death, Vallejo lost favor with Castro. RV died in 1969.


"JFK'S LAST HUNDRED DAYS:  The Transformation of a Man and the Emergence of a Great President," by Thurston Clarke, The Penguin Press, New York, 2013.


Washington, D.C. (JFK+50) After a morning meeting on the Cuban situation, JFK convened his reelection team in the Cabinet Room at the White House in the afternoon.

Kennedy Election Poster
JFK Library Image

According to Thurston Clarke, the meeting was attended by the Attorney General, Robert F. Kennedy, and manager of the campaign, Stephen Smith.

This was the first formal meeting of JFK's reelection team.

Also attending, according to Clarke, were JFK assistants, Larry O'Brien and Ken O'Donnell, as well as speechwriter Ted Sorensen and DNC chairman, John Bailey among others.

Clarke notes that LBJ "had not been invited."  In fact, according to Mrs. Evelyn Lincoln's records, JFK and LBJ had met alone for a mere 75 minutes since the beginning of the year 1963.

JFK made it clear at this meeting, again according to Mr. Clarke, that...
"he intended to micromanage the Democratic convention," and that he wanted a "livelier convention" than the 1960 version.


"JFK'S LAST HUNDRED DAYS:  The Transformation of a Man and the Emergence of a Great President," by Thurston Clarke, The Penguin Press, New York, 2013.