Did JFK Agree to the So-Called C-Day Coup Against Castro?
John Delane Williams
Waldron & Hartman introduced the idea of a coup against Fidel Castro, planned for December 1, 1963, with the full cooperation of President John F. Kennedy. They termed this coup, which never happened, as C-Day. They claim to have discovered the existence of this plan in their research for Ultimate Sacrifice.  There is no equivocation in this claim, “JFK’s plan for a coup in Cuba—which included a “full-scale invasion” if necessary—was detailed in the author’s previous book, Ultimate Sacrifice.” 
At best, we can only conjecture how much, if at all, JFK was in agreement with the C-Day plan. Perhaps the idea that JFK was committed to the C-Day plan was the invention of a member of the planning team, or perhaps JFK was tentatively in agreement, but with the provision that U.S. involvement would rest entirely with him. Fear of Kennedy backing down, as the CIA might claim JFK did with the Bay of Pigs, would worry members of the planning team. None of these scenarios are discussed by Waldron and Hartman. Perhaps such a discussion would have rung a death knell to their C-Day hypothesis.
The C-Day Plan
According to Waldron & Hartman, the C-Day Plan (a name coined by Waldron & Hartman; no other name seems to have been given to this plan) was one of several plans to remove Castro from power. The plan was to be closely guarded by around a dozen people, including “…JFK, Bobby, CIA Director John McCone, and CIA Deputy Director for Plans Richard Helms.”  The group probably also included Army Secretary Cyrus Vance, and Alexander Haig, then an assistant to Joseph Califano, who was an aid to Vance. A very important cog in this plan was Commander Juan Almeida, then head of the Cuban Army. Almeida’s name was first revealed in a paperback edition of Ultimate Sacrifice.  Others said to be closely associated with the planning included Harry Williams (a former Cuban a.k.a. as Enrique Ruiz), a close confidant of Robert Kennedy, and David Morales, a CIA operative. It is Waldron and Hartman’s assessment that the Mafia was able to infiltrate the planning group and use this information to assassinate President Kennedy. The relationship between Morales and Johnny Rosselli could provide a mechanism for the Mafia gaining information about the coup planned for Fidel Castro. Bradley Ayers was a Captain in the Army, training Cuban exiles for regaining Cuba from Castro; two of his associates in this endeavor were David Morales, and “Colonel” Johnny Rosselli. 
Ferreting out a plan among many some forty years after the fact, is a daunting task—made even more daunting, because this plan was never implemented. The assassination of President Kennedy seems to have torpedoed this plan. It is Waldron’s and Hartman’s assertion that Robert Kennedy saw Johnson twice in January 1964 to try to get the C-Day plan back on track. The first time in early January, Robert Kennedy reportedly saw the President alone. In mid-January he was reportedly accompanied by Erneido Olivia, who had been the second in command at the failed Bay of Pigs invasion; in 1964 Olivia was a second lieutenant in command of Cuban American troops at Fort Benning. Johnson was said to have heard them out, but left no doubt that there would be no continuation of C-Day plans. 
Comparison of C-Day to Operation Northwoods
Documents relating to Operation Northwoods and C-Day were both released in 1997, according to Waldron & Hartman. Operation Northwoods garnered far more interest, partly due to the bizarre nature of the plan. Operation Northwoods was a plan which included possible assassinations of Cuban émigrés, sinking boats of Cuban refugees, blowing up a U.S. ship, and causing terrorism in U.S. cities, and blaming these acts on the Castro regime.  One thing in common between Operation Northwoods and C-Day was that neither plan was implemented. Discovering non-implemented plans decades after their non-implementation brings the question, were these plans nothing more than planning exercises? C-Day seemingly stayed beneath the radar because it didn’t have a name, was less bizarre, and the details of the plan may well have varied even within the small group of participants. Was the “plan” simply an academic exercise, or was it an action plan? Was the plan a contingency plan, to take place if American leaders were assassinated, or was there a plan to overtake Castro with perhaps a better plan than the Bay of Pigs? President Kennedy’s involvement is imputed to the activities of his brother, which are reported not by Robert himself, but through other parties.
A question that Waldron and Hartman don’t address is, “Would President Kennedy have pursued a new plan with the CIA, given the attempt by the CIA to force him to provide air support for the CIA backed attack on the Bay of Pigs.” After Kennedy recognized the enormity of the Bay of Pigs disaster, Kennedy stated “…that he wanted ‘to splinter the CIA in a thousand pieces and scatter it to the winds.’ “ 
Was there an Earlier Publication of the Planning Group for C-Day?
Waldron & Hartman claim that their disclosing the plan was the first publication about it in Ultimate Sacrifice.  I’m not so sure, at least in regard to the group supposedly in charge of the plan. Early in President Kennedy’s administration, two groups were formed. The first was Special Group C.I., which dealt with Southeast Asia, and the second group, formed in November 1961, was Special Group (Augmented) [SG (A)], dealing with Cuba. This group included Robert Kennedy, General Edward Lansdale, General Maxwell Taylor, Dean Rusk, Robert McNamara, John McCone (CIA), USIA Director Edward R. Murrow, McGeorge Bundy, U. Alexis Johnson (State Department), and Lyman Lemnitzer (Joint Chiefs of Staff). Lansdale was in charge of Operation Mongoose, the operational arm of the group. By March 14, 1963, Operation Mongoose was ordered shut down, and SG (A) morphed into the National Security Council Standing Group, a ten member group that included Robert Kennedy, Ted Sorensen, John McCone, McGeorge Bundy, Maxwell Taylor, Roswell Gilpatrick, and C. Douglas Dillon (Eisenhower’s former Undersecretary of State). The charge remained the same, removing Castro from power. Just as important, this group, which met every Tuesday, stressed that whatever happened in Cuba, “It was agreed that we should deny any U.S. government involvement in any of these activities.”  This latter group may in fact have coincided with Waldron & Hartman’s C-Day group. On the other hand, it should be considered that the C-Day group may have existed mainly in memoranda written primarily within the CIA to be brought to light decades after they were written. If CIA employees might avoid answering a question under oath , wouldn’t they have even more leeway in memoranda, to “protect” the agency?
The “Missile Gap”
In 1958, as a Senator, John Kennedy made a major speech attacking President Eisenhower for allowing the Soviet Union to gain superiority to the United States in missiles, causing a “missile gap”. This charge was repeated during the 1960 presidential campaign. In February, 1961, shortly after Kennedy became president, his science advisor, Jerome Weisner, informed the president that the “missile gap” was a fiction.  For a person who had based at least part of his successful presidential campaign as a “cold warrior,” reasons to question his cold war beliefs were at the beginning stages. 
President Kennedy’s Meeting with Former President Eisenhower
On Saturday, April 22, 1961 (shortly after the Bay of Pigs) President Kennedy flew by helicopter to Camp David to speak with former President Eisenhower. With very few pleasantries exchanged, they got down to business.
“Mr. President,” Ike said, “before you approved this plan [The Bay of Pigs] did you have everyone in front of you debating this thing so you got the pros and cons yourself and then made the decision, or did you see these people one at a time.”
Kennedy smiled and said, “Well, I did have a meeting… I just approved a plan that had been recommended by the CIA and by the Joint Chiefs of Staff. I just took their advice.” 
Eisenhower was used to having all his advisors when meeting with such groups. That Kennedy met with them by himself alone must have shocked Eisenhower. Later, Kennedy would summarize his experience with the CIA and Joint Chiefs of Staff, those generals and admirals with tiers of service ribbons advertising their experience: “Those son-of-bitches with all their fruit salad just sat there nodding, saying it would work”…”I’ve got to do something about those CIA bastards”… “How could I have been so stupid?” 
Eventually, JFK would show disgust with his top generals in no uncertain terms. When Generals LeMay and Lemnitzer asked for authorization to use nuclear weapons to defend Berlin and to stabilize Southeast Asia, JFK walked out of both meetings in disgust. 
Kennedy’s Interactions with Nikita Kruschev, 1961
Though JFK and Kruschev met briefly in 1959, no other interactions had transpired between them until Kennedy became president. On February 8, 1963, two U.S. Air Force officers who had been detained since the crash of their plane in Soviet territory in July 1960 were released. On February 23, President Kennedy sent an open note to Kruschev suggesting that they have a one-to-one meeting. A meeting was planned for June. The Bay of Pigs would transpire before their first meeting. 
As Kennedy prepared for his first meeting, he had confidence that he would best Kruschev in the one-on-one meeting. Kruschev was confident he would prevail. Charles DeGaulle felt Kennedy was foolish to be meeting with Kruschev at all. Couve de Murville, the French foreign minister, was heard to say, given Kennedy’s difficulties in Cuba and Laos, “It’s rather like fighting a championship bout when your last two sparring partners have knocked you out.” 
Their meeting took place on June 3, 1961. Kennedy had underestimated Kruschev’s abilities for the one-on-one encounter. On the next day, Kennedy salvaged himself in Kruschev’s eyes when Kennedy suggested getting on with the business of banning nuclear weapons; Kruschev had made a similar suggestion to President Eisenhower in 1955, but it was rejected. The two World Leaders had found common ground; the details would take more than two years to be worked out.  What had precariously begun was a relationship that would quietly change both men.
On September 29, when President Kennedy was staying at his mother-in-law’s summer home in Newport, Rhode Island, Georgi Bolshakov relayed a message from Kruschev to Kennedy through Pierre Salinger. Kruschev sent a 26 page letter that proposed the two leaders deal one-to-one, using private letters to bypass the leaders’ separate bureaucracies and special interests. Salinger distilled Kruschev’s points into three sentences: “You and I, Mr. President, are the leaders of two nations that are on a collision course. But because we are reasonable men, we agree that war between us is unthinkable. We have no choice but to put our heads together and find ways to live in peace.” 
Kennedy responded with a 10 page letter of his own. It appeared to President Kennedy that the Berlin crisis could be solved without going to war. There was also the issue of replacing Dag Hammarskjold, the United Nations Secretary General who was killed in a plane crash on September 25, 1961. The Soviets had proposed a troika (with representatives of the West, the Communists, and neutral nations). When Andrei Gromyko (the Soviet Foreign Minister) brought up the troika concept again, President Kennedy showed that he had learned about the way Soviet leaders attempt to prove a point—through parables. Kennedy countered with handing Gromyko a book in Russian with the Russian fable, The Swan, the Pike, and the Crab. It was impossible for those three creatures to pull a cart together. They simply couldn’t work with the other two creatures. A week later, Kruschev dropped the troika proposal. 
The Berlin Crisis
Berlin was to remain a crisis issue throughout John Kennedy’s tenure as president. The post- World War II agreements had Berlin divided into four segments; West Berlin had three areas under the control of the United States, The United Kingdom and France, respectively, and East Berlin was within the Soviet Russian sphere. In January, 1961 Soviet Premier Kruschev called yet again for a separate agreement with East Germany, which could have the effect of removing the Western powers from West Berlin. Kennedy and Kruschev addressed Berlin as one of the global trouble spots in June, 1961.  In August, the Berlin wall was built. Berlin would be a talking point for the two world leaders; that no agreement would take place on Berlin (nor was a Soviet-East German pact signed) belies the developing relationship between Kennedy and Kruschev. Both men had a need to look strong to their respective audiences. But they also came to a common understanding that Berlin was not an issue worth pursuing a nuclear confrontation, though this understanding was not made public. Rather, Berlin stands as an example of a work in progress; in this case, avoiding acting rashly was the mutually preferred outcome, though either might have preferred a more desirable outcome for his country. 
Single Integrated Operational Plan for Fiscal Year 1962 (SIOP-62)
On September 13, 1961 President Kennedy had a two-hour briefing by General Lyman Lemnitzer, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on the United States most closely guarded secret, its plan for nuclear war (SIOP-62). The military did not volunteer their plans when it had reason to believe a president might change them. To this point, President Kennedy had only a general outline of the plan described by McGeorge Bundy as “a massive, massive total, comprehensive, obliterating strategic attack… on everything Red.” Once a president said yes to pushing a nuclear button, the chain of command switched to the military. There were 3,729 targets which would in turn be destroyed by 1,060 bombs or warheads. The president was told that, at all times, 1,530 missiles and bombers were on full alert, and could be put into action within 15 minutes of a presidential command. Another 1,737 weapons were on non-alert status, meaning they could be deployed within six hours of a command. 
Lemnitzer concluded his presentation, “It must clearly be understood that any decision to execute only a portion of the entire plan would involve acceptance of certain grave risks… There is no effective mechanism for rapid rework of the plan, after order for its execution, for a different set of conditions than for which it was prepared.” 
President Kennedy asked, “Why do we hit all of those targets in China, General?” The Chinese had no nuclear weapons whatsoever. 
Lemnitzer’s reply was, “It’s in the plan, Mr. President.” 
The Cuban Missile Crisis
On Wednesday, October 17, 1962, former Secretary of State Dean Acheson was asked in as a consultant regarding the Soviet missiles in Cuba. When asked for his recommendation, he surmised that “…the United States should bomb Soviet missile sites in Cuba.” Asked how the Soviets would react, he predicted they would bomb NATO missile sites in Turkey. Asked how we would react to that, he said the United States under its NATO commitments would be obligated to bomb Soviet missile sites inside Russia. Asked how they would react to that, he paused and replied: ‘by then we hope cooler heads would prevail.’ ”  If Acheson was wishing to show how NOT to proceed, he did it brilliantly. Unwittingly, he showed that traditional military thinking had definite limitations.
President Kennedy had it confirmed to him on October 16, 1962 that Soviet missiles had been installed. On October 22, Kennedy gave an address to the American people explaining the circumstances, and the response of the U.S.: 1., A quarantine would be placed on Cuba regarding offensive military equipment; 2., Any additional buildup would justify further action; and 3., A missile attack from Cuba against any Western Hemisphere nation would be regarded as an attack by the Soviet Union, requiring a full retaliatory strike on the Soviet Union. Kennedy spoke directly to Kruschev, “… to Soviet Chairman Kruschev, lest he believe America would yield to his threats or at most seek a summit meeting, warning him that, while we seek to avoid the risk of a nuclear war, ‘neither will we shrink from that risk at any time it must be faced.’ ” 
Kennedy had concluded that Kruschev’s backchannel assurances, of no offensive military weapons in Cuba, was a lie. On October 26, a long (26 pages) and rambling letter, apparently crafted by Kruschev himself, was received. Sorensen and Kennedy were working on a reply the next day, when a second letter was received, presumably crafted within the Politburo, a much less conciliatory letter, that insisted on a quid pro quo, with the U.S. agreeing to remove it’s missiles from Turkey. It was agreed to answer only the first letter. Kruschev decided to begin the process of removing the missiles. 
Just How Close Were We to a Nuclear Confrontation?
Only decades later did Ted Sorensen find out just how close we were to a nuclear incident during the Cuban missile crisis. Unknown to the U.S. at the time, a Soviet submarine, equipped with a nuclear-tipped torpedo, was accompanying a Soviet tanker. When sonar detected the submarine, the American destroyer began dropping grenade sized depth charges to signal the submarine to surface and be identified. The submarine’s commanding officer had discretionary authority to fire the nuclear torpedo if attacked. His crew pleaded with him to fire it. He did not do so, because he was unable to communicate with Moscow to receive authorization. “That careful Soviet bureaucrat, anonymous to history, may have prevented nuclear war and possibly global destruction.”  One wonders what might have happened were an American commander having been in a similar position.
The Peace Speech at Washington University
The full text of President Kennedy’s Commencement address at American University in Washington, D.C., on June 10, 1963, is given in Douglass.  An atmosphere of peace, at least at the discourse level, was in the air. On April 11, 1963 the papal bull, Pacem in Terris (Peace on Earth) was released by Pope John XXIII. 
Kennedy’s speech, given as a commencement address at American University, was clearly a major statement about world peace for all, without being a Pax Americana. But just as clearly, it was a plea to Premiere Kruschev to seek a responsible peace between the two major powers. Kennedy acknowledged the terrible sacrifices made by the Soviet Union in World War II with at least 20 million Soviet citizens losing their lives. The two countries likely to suffer the brunt of any nuclear showdown would be the USA and the USSR. “We are unwilling to impose our system on any unwilling people—but we are willing and able to engage in peaceful competition with any people on earth.” 
Kennedy proposed a new beginning to achieving a Test Ban Treaty. He announced that he, Premier Kruschev, and British Prime Minister Harold MacMillan would soon meet in Moscow to begin working on an agreement for a comprehensive test ban treaty.
Earlier in his speech, Kennedy summed up the reasoning for the emphasis on peace: “In the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.” 
Reeves  has pointed out that presidents don’t get to deal with only one issue at a time, but crises can cascade upon them. So it was for John Kennedy. When he got back to the White House, Bobby called him to see on television, Governor Wallace of Alabama repeat his pledge, segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever. The following day, Wallace was standing in the school-house door to prevent two Blacks, Vivian Malone and James Hood, from enrolling at the University of Alabama. Kennedy federalized the troops and they escorted Governor Wallace off campus as the two new students were enrolled. Later that night, civil rights worker, Medgar Evans, was murdered. In Saigon, Thich Quang Duc, a South Vietnamese monk, was burning himself to death, a scene to be immortalized on television and in photographs. Izvestia reproduced the entirety of Kennedy’s American University speech, the first time an American President’s speech was so treated. 
The Test Ban Agreement
Over the next several months, discussion between President Kennedy and Premier Kruschev continued. The treaty was signed on September 7, 1963, another day with a “density of events.” That was also the day that at the National Security Council, JFK signed off on the overthrow of President Diem of South Viet Nam. 
Assessing the C-Day Plan for a Coup Against Castro
Waldron and Hartman’s thesis is that President Kennedy was behind a new plan, hatched in the spring of 1963, to support a coup to replace Castro with Juan Almeida, Commander of the Cuban Army; Almeida would lead the coup only if the full support of the United States were behind the coup. The plan was compromised by persons knowledgeable of the Kennedy-Almeida plan revealed the plan to key Mafia members. The Mafia, under the leadership of Carlos Marcello, Mafia kingpin in New Orleans, would turn the coup plan around, targeting instead President Kennedy.
It is my contention that their thesis can be deeply questioned. The first step in their view of events is that President Kennedy was fully behind the support for Juan Almeida, which would have required full support from the U.S. military. This plan sounds a lot like the plan for the Bay of Pigs, except that the U.S. military would be there as needed to complete the coup. It is true that John Kennedy campaigned for the presidency as a dedicated cold warrior. The Bay of Pigs cost his trust of the CIA. As president, Kennedy’s meetings with the Joint Chiefs of Staff left him in disgust, particularly regarding the SIOP plan; if the military got the OK to use nuclear force, they fully intended to destroy the USSR and China. I would maintain (in agreement with Douglass ) that JFK was reevaluating his stance as a “cold warrior”, and partially through his communications with Nikita Kruschev, was moving toward creating a world safe from the specter of nuclear war. I would propose that their lengthy communications brought about a change in both men. It is ironic that at the very time (spring, 1963) that Waldron and Hartman suggest that the plan to stage a coup against Castro was being formulated, was a time that the two leaders of the two strongest countries were seeking to move to a test ban treaty. Consider President’s Kennedy’s speech at American University on June 10, 1963—a call for world peace for all, and not a Pax Americana. Interestingly, I find no reference to this speech in either of the books by Waldron and Hartman. This was also a speech that was perhaps better received in Moscow than in the United States. The speech led to the Test Ban Treaty, signed on September 7, 1963. I don’t see JFK as being fully involved with any plan to remove Castro from power, though if there were such a plan, I could envision him wanting to be informed so he could stop it. Such a plan could well have been conceived by the CIA and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. And yes, the CIA seems to have involved the Mafia in its continuing plan to eliminate Castro. But it is a leap to suggest that the Mafia used this opportunity to assassinate JFK.
Who seemed (eventually) to most achieve their aims through the death of John Kennedy? It does not appear to be the Mafia; they never got back their interests in Cuba. But, through the events in the Gulf of Tonkin, The Joint Chiefs of Staff and the CIA got their war. That it went badly is another issue.
As a final point, the relationship between Kennedy and Kruschev may have been the reason for both leaders of state to be prematurely removed from office, Kennedy through assassination, and Kruschev through being purged, less than a year after Kennedy’s assassination. As both men sought peace, they ran afoul of their military advisors.
1. Waldron, R. & Hartman, T. (2005). Ultimate Sacrifice: John and Robert Kennedy, the Plan for a Coup in Cuba, and the Murder of JFK. New York: Carroll & Graff.
2. Waldron, R. & Hartman, T. (2008). Legacy of Secrecy: The Long Shadow of the JFK Assassination. Berkeley: Counterpoint, p. ix.
3. Ibid, p. 13.
4. Waldron, R. & Hartman, T. (2006). Ultimate Sacrifice.
5. Ayers, B.E. (2006). The Zenith Secret. Brooklyn: Vox/Pop.
6. Waldron & Hartman (2008). pp. 286-288.
7. Waldron & Hartman (2005). pp. 46-47.
8. Wicker, T., Finney, J.W., Frankel, M., & Kenworthy, E.W. (April 26, 1966). C.I.A.: Maker of policy, or tool? New York Times, p.20. Douglass, J.W. (2008). JFK and the Unspeakable: Why he Died and Why it Matters. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, p. 15.
9. Waldron & Hartman (2005). p. 2.
10. Reeves, R. (1993). President Kennedy: Profile in Power. New York: Simon & Schuster, p. 473; only seven of the ten members of the National Security Council Standing Group were named by Reeves.
11. See Weisberg, H. (1974). Whitewash IV: JFK Assassination Transcript. Frederick, MD: Weisberg & Lesar, p.62. In the first executive session of the Warren Commission, the following exchange took place: Rep. Boggs: Let’s say that Powers did not have a signed contract but was recruited by someone in the CIA. The man who recruited him would know, wouldn’t he? Mr. Dulles: Yes, but he wouldn’t tell. The Chairman (Earl Warren): Wouldn’t tell it under oath? Mr. Dulles: I wouldn’t think he would tell it under oath, no. The Chairman: Why? Mr. Dulles: He ought not to tell it under oath. Maybe not tell it to his own government…
12. Greg Herken interview of Jerome Wiesner, February 9, 1982. Cited by Christopher A. Preble, “Who Ever Believed in the ‘Missile Gap’? John F. Kennedy and the Politics of Security”, Presidential Studies Quarterly 33, No.4, December 2003), p. 816.
13. Douglass, p. 7.
14. Reeves, p. 102.
15. Ibid, p.103.
16. Ibid, p. 222.
17. Ibid, p. 67.
18. Ibid, p. 144.
19. Ibid, pp. 148-161.
20. Ibid, p. 239.
21. Ibid, p. 239.
22. Waite, R.G. (in press). Chapter 11, JFK, Berlin, and the Berlin Crises, 1961-1963. In Williams, J.D., Waite, R.G. & Gordon, G.S. John F. Kennedy, History, Memory, Legacy: An Interdisciplinary Inquiry. Grand Forks: The University of North Dakota. www.und.edu/org/JFKConference.
23. Reeves (1993).
24. Ibid, p. 229-230.
25. Ibid, p.230.
26. Ibid, p. 230.
27. Ibid, p.230.
28. Sorensen, T. (2008). Counselor. New York: Harper-Collins, p.290.
29. Ibid, p. 299 .
30. Ibid, pp. 302-305.
31. Ibid, p. 305.
32. Kennedy J.F. (1963; 2008). Commencement Speech at American University, June 10, 1963. In Douglass, pp. 382-388.
33. Pope John XXIII (1963). Pacem in Terris (Peace on Earth). New York: America Press.
34. Kennedy, p. 386.
35. Ibid, p. 385.
36. Reeves, R. (in press) Chapter 4, “President Kennedy: Profile in Power”. In Williams, et al.
In JFK/Deep Politics Quarterly, 15, 3, 11-22.