In 1962, during the Kennedy administration, a plan was hatched by the Joint Chiefs of the Armed Forces, under the leadership of Army General Lyman L. Lemnitzer. In order to draw America into a war with Cuba, specific targets would be struck, in order to goad the populace into supporting the war effort. The difference between the plan, known as Operation Northwoods, and other military operations would be that American military personel would not only be striking at Cuban targets, but also at choice, public American targets. The Joint Chiefs even went so far as to speculate that they "could blow up a U.S. ship in Guantanamo Bay and blame Cuba," and that "casualty lists in U.S. newspapers would cause a helpful wave of national indignation."

So alleges a recent book, which received only nominal national attention. The book, titled Body of Secrets and written by journalist James Bamford, is a history of the National Security Agency, or NSA. It contains references to documents that were made available some 40 years after the events they pertain to, after the passing of the Freedom of Information Act. These documents, it seems, were found by an anonymous source on a board that Bamford frequented, and he later confirmed were in the national archives.

The plan apparantly was pitched to Kennedy's National Security Advisor, Robert McNamara, on March 13th of 1962. McNamara's answer was never clearly recorded, but Kennedy himself told Lemnitzer that there was virtually no chance of ever again using military force against Cuba. A few months later, Lemnitzer was removed from his position and transferred.

The ABCNews article on the book says that Bamford claims that other plans were also advanced. Some of these include covertly begining a war between another Latin American country and Cuba and then publicly intervening, paying some of Castro's forces to attack Americans at Guatanamo Bay, intentionally risking U-2 pilots in low-flying missions so that they might be shot down and give pretext for war, and causing a malfunction in John Glenn's spaceflight and then blaming the Cubans for sabotage.

Had any of these operations been tried, the Joint Chiefs also wanted permission to establish a military government in Cuba. This, as Bamford notes, would be "exactly what the Russians were doing all over the world, by imposing a government by tyranny, basically what we were accusing Castro himself of doing."

It seems that the Government, or at least portions of it, are out to get you sometimes.
[Author's note] At one time there was a mighty fine writeup above this one. It summarized most of the outrageous, scary, apparently demented anti-Castro projects that fell under the United States' "Operation Mongoose" umbrella in the early sixties. The list omitted the project I describe below, so in the interest of completeness, I placed my writeup in this node, rather than the more logical Operation Northwoods.

Now that writeup is gone, and all that remains is this explanation of only one of the many, many schemes that were part of "Operation Mongoose". It is woefully incomplete, and now seems woefully misplaced as well. Operation Northwoods was lost in the gel, so Another user came along and created a proper writeup in the proper place. I should have made my writeup self-sufficient, and chosen its title carefully. I did neither, and now you, the truthseeker, must suffer for my poor judgement. Mea Culpa.

I only mention these things as an object lesson to young noders. Now on with the show:

(Fled user)'s excellent writeup above omits only one Mongoose project that I'm aware of, but it's a real knee-slapper, and deserves specific mention. It was called Operation Northwoods.

The project was laid out in a recently declassified 1962 Joint Chiefs of Staff memo to Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara. The subject of the memo is "Justification for US Military Intervention in Cuba", but it is not a position paper. It is an outline of several proposed schemes for creating "pretexts which would provide justification" for that intervention:

Such a plan would enable a logical build-up of incidents to be combined with other seemingly unrelated events to camouflage the ultimate objective and create the necessary impression of Cuban rashness and irresponsibility on a large scale, directed at other countries as well as the United States. (...) The desired resultant from the execution of this plan would be to place the United States in the apparent position of suffering defensible grievances from a rash and irresponsible government of Cuba and to develop an international image of a Cuban threat to peace...
The text repeatedly mentions "similar submissions from other agencies",including the Department of State, and it makes specific reference to a "suggested course of action proposed by the US Navy" called "Instances to Provoke Military Actions in Cuba" (8 March 1962), but those submissions have not come to light. It is known that many documents of that era pertaining to US covert actions have been destroyed at various times over the years, but not all was lost, because this memo, JCS 1969/321, provides considerable detail as to the nature of the plans.

Some of the recommendations are designed to give the appearance of Cuban attacks and sabotage in and around the American base at Guantanamo Bay - the use of friendly Cubans to stage riots and attempted invasions is explored. To add drama to the proceedings, the Joint Chiefs recommend lobbing mortars into the base from outside, blowing up ammunition and burning planes within the base. For a real touch of spice, they suggest sabotaging a ship in the harbor - "large fires -- napthalene (...) sink ship near harbor entrance. Conduct funerals for mock-victims"

Warming to the task, they suggest a "Remember the Maine" incident". They note optimistically that "Casualty lists in US newspapers would cause a helpful wave of national indignation". They go on to take the domestic program a step further:

We could develop a Communist Cuban terror campaign in the Miami area, in other Florida cities and even in Washington. The terror campaign could be pointed at cuban refugees seeking haven in the United States. We could sink a boatload of Cubans enroute to Florida (real or simulated). We could foster attempts on lives of Cuban refugees in the United States (...) the release of prepared documents substantiating Cuban involvement also would be helpful (...)
The memo goes on to lightly drop a mention of airline hijackings, but the planners put some real work into a couple of schemes to stage "Cuban" shootdowns of US domestic and military aircraft in "an unprovoked attack".

John F. Kennedy apparently had the good sense not to go forward with Operation Northwoods. The fact that memo JCS 1969/321 has been declassified gives rise to the hope that it was such a cockamamie flight of fancy that it was never taken seriously in the halls of power, and was tossed in a file with silly things like itching powder in Fidel's shoes. No, wait, we tried that one, didn't we?

I'm not making this up. You can read the document for yourself at:
or read about it in James Bamford's book on the National Security Agency, Body of Secrets: Anatomy of the Ultra-Secret National Security Agency

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