Operation Northwoods #CIA cuba 1962

In 1962, the nation’s top military leaders were asking the Secretary of Defense to approve murdering innocent people —or staging their murders—not to mention attacking sovereign nations, all of which could be blamed on Cuba.

The objective was to trigger a “helpful wave of indignation in US newspapers”.

“In the early 1960s, America’s top military leaders reportedly drafted plans to kill innocent people and commit acts of terrorism in U.S. cities to create public support for a war against Cuba.

The U.S. would stage a “Communist Cuban Terror Campaign…in the Miami area, in other Florida cities and even in Washington…pointed at Cuban refugees seeking haven in the United States.”

From the documents:

“We could sink a boatload of Cubans enroute [sic] to Florida (real or simulated).”

“We could foster attempts on the lives of Cuban refugees in the United States even to the extent of wounding in instances to be widely publicized.”

“Exploding a few plastic bombs in carefully chosen spots…”

“The arrest of Cuban agents and the release of prepared documents substantiating Cuban involvement” to suggest “the idea of an irresponsible government.”

Code named Operation Northwoods, the plans reportedly included the possible assassination of Cuban émigrés, sinking boats of Cuban refugees on the high seas, hijacking planes, blowing up a U.S. ship, and even orchestrating violent terrorism in U.S. cities.

The plans were developed as ways to trick the American public and the international community into supporting a war to oust Cuba’s then new leader, communist Fidel Castro.

America’s top military brass even contemplated causing U.S. military casualties, writing: “We could blow up a U.S. ship in Guantanamo Bay and blame Cuba,” and, “casualty lists in U.S. newspapers would cause a helpful wave of national indignation.”

The documents show the Joint Chiefs of Staff drew up and approved plans for an invasion of Cuba.

This Secret Pentagon document was declassified and can be readily consulted (See Operation Northwoods, See also National Security Archive, 30 April 2001)

The Northwoods 1962 document was titled “Justification for U.S. Military Intervention in Cuba”. ”The Top Secret memorandum describes U.S. plans to covertly engineer various pretexts that would justify a U.S. invasion of Cuba. These proposals – part of a secret anti-Castro program known as Operation Mongoose – included staging the assassinations of Cubans living in the United States, developing a fake “Communist Cuban terror campaign in the Miami area, in other Florida cities and even in Washington,” including “sink[ing] a boatload of Cuban refugees (real or simulated),” faking a Cuban airforce attack on a civilian jetliner, and concocting a “Remember the Maine” incident by blowing up a U.S. ship in Cuban waters and then blaming the incident on Cuban sabotage.”

The Northwoods memo was evidence of the growing frustration that the Kennedy administration’s clandestine efforts to overthrow or assassinate Castro were going nowhere.

From the Document: The suggested courses of action appended to Enclosure A are based on the premise that US military intervention will result from a period of heightened US-Cuban tensions which place the United States in the position of suffering justifiable grievances. World opinion, and the United Nations forum should be favorably affected by developing the international image of the Cuban government as rash and irresponsible, and as an alarming and unpredictable threat to the peace of the Western Hemisphere

At least the Joint Chiefs were consistent. They had maintained all along that an invasion would be the only way to get rid of Fidel.

By March 1962,  Def Sec McNamara had virtually no confidence in Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Lyman L. Lemnitzer “and was rejecting nearly every proposal the general sent him.”

While Lemnitzer was soon gone, the Joint Chiefs’ viral hatred of Castro remained intact. That hatred became a hugely important factor in the Cuban Missile Crisis then brewing.


Operation Northwoods was rejected by the Kennedy administration.

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