Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Why of the JFK Assassination

                                                        The Why of the JFK Assassination  

                                                             John Delane Williams

L. Fletcher Prouty, author of The Secret Team [1] and a special consultant to Oliver Stone for the movie JFK, had JFK: The CIA, Vietnam and the Plot to Assassinate John F. Kennedy [2] published before his death in 2001. This book was an attempt to exhaustively address the Why of the assassination. He begins his enquiry at the end of World War II, setting the context for what would culminate in the assassination of the American President in 1963.     


 Beginnings of the Cold War


Prouty was involved in a couple of incidents in 1944-1945, that didn't make much sense at the time, but in retrospect, seemed to be part of the starting of the Cold War.  The first incident occurred in August, 1944. Prouty was scheduled to be the chief pilot for 30 transport planes which flew 750 American POWs and Nazi intelligence officers and  their voluminous Eastern European intelligence files from Syria to Cairo. A number of the Americans had one or both legs amputated to keep them from fleeing from their Balkan captors. The Nazi intelligence officers were taken out of the Balkans prior to the arrival of the Soviet armies. It seemed very strange to Prouty that the United States was helping their enemies (the Nazis) escape from our allies, the Soviets. This seemed to be an unusual action during a time of war.  [3] The second occurrence was the shipping, on September 2, 1945, of an enormous amount of leftover armaments to Ho Chi Min in Hanoi, and to Korea. [4] In retrospect these two simultaneous events proved to be ominous regarding future warfare of the United States armed forces.


The Eisenhower Years


As President Truman would later lament, he started the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) out of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). [5] President Eisenhower inherited the CIA when he took office. During the Eisenhower years, the CIA fomented much ill in the world, and one might think it was partly because they either couldn't hear or understand what Eisenhower said.  On January 8, 1954, President Eisenhower was meeting with the National Security Council where he stated that he was bitterly opposed to placing U.S. troops in Indochina. Present at the meeting was Allen W. Dulles, Director of the CIA. Six days later, his brother John Foster Dulles, Secretary of State, at a National Security Council meeting, suggested a guerrilla operation against the Vietminh formed government of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam. Secretary Dulles suggested we could raise hell in Vietnam at a relatively low cost. [6]   


The incursion into Vietnam was only one of several CIA operations during the Eisenhower years. There was also the replacement of President Quirino of the Philippines by Ramon Magsaysay, and the replacement of the murdered Premier Muhammad Mossadegh of Iran with the Shah of Iran. [7]


For Eisenhower, one of clearest disregarding of an explicit presidential order was the order to cease all over flights of Soviet Russia prior to his summit with Nikita Khrushchev. Nevertheless the CIA had Gary Powers attempt the then longest U-2 flight, from Pakistan to Norway. On May 1, 1960 engine failure caused him to land near Sverdlovsk, jettisoning the talks with Premier Khrushchev. [8]


The Report from Iron Mountain


In 1967, Dial Press published a supposedly suppressed government document that caused quite a stir. Some claimed that the report was bogus. Others found it either to be welcome, or conversely extremely unwelcome. The study was purported to have begun in 1963 during the Kennedy administration; when the 15 members disbanded, they agreed that that the report would remain secret. A John Doe reportedly handed the report to Leonard Lewin. [9] The report addressed the issue, how would society handle the situation where "peace broke out". Several different scenarios were considered, none of which would be considered to be desirable, sometimes for economic reasons, other times because the solutions were undesirable (for example, the reintroduction of a more updated version of slavery). [10] The conclusion includes "Planning or rationalizing the war system, on the other hand [as compared to peace],to ensure the effectiveness of its major stabilizing functions is not only more promising in respect to anticipated results, but is essential; we can no longer take for granted that it will continue to serve our purposes well because it always has." [11] The report in fact was a satirical hoax, as Lewin, its author, revealed in 1972. Because it seemed to logically arrive at the absurdity of a peace economy, it arrived at the war economy as the logical solution to the future. Needless to say, the report (though bogus) was well received in some quarters. The Defense Department ordered 5000 paperbacks for some purpose. "A handful of far right zealots and eccentrics predictably applauded the report's conclusions." [12]  Its import here is that the thinking dovetails closely with the reality that confronts us, since Hiroshima, has dramatically changed. "There can no longer be an all-out,  go-for-broke-type warfare there has been down through the ages, a war that leads to the meaningful victory for one side and abject defeat for the other. Witness what has been called warfare in Korea and Vietnam..." [13]


Hegemony in Vietnam


As indicated earlier, the road to Vietnam (the American Vietnam War) began in 1945 with the delivery of armaments to Ho Chi Minh, the premier of the newly declared  Democratic Republic of Vietnam. By 1946, the French had taken over military commitments to Vietnam. The U.S. began supplying military aid to the French, thus having armed both sides in this conflict. By 1949, the war had become  a major international issue. The French were intent on getting out of Vietnam, in a military sense. They had set up the closest thing to a government in the South part of Vietnam. The French were defeated at Dien Bien Phu in May of 1954 by the Vietminh. The former Emperor, Bao Dai asked Ngo Dinh Diem to be the premier of this new country (South Vietnam); Diem assumed the office on July 7, 1954, and was elected President in October, 1954. The only thing the “government” of South Vietnam had was a president. There was no congress, no army, no police, no tax system. What structure of government that existed was provided by the remaining French. Commerce functioned reasonably well because Chinese traders would serve as a conduit for buying farm products and bringing merchandise in exchange for the farm products sold; Diem got rid of the French and the Chinese traders. Also, 1.1 million Tonkinese, presumably Catholic, had been transported  (by the U.S.) or walked from the North to South Vietnam. Their destination was the Saigon area. No provisions were made for this mass of people, and many resorted to  banditry to survive. From 1954 and beyond, the CIA was involved with much of the goings on in South Vietnam, and in particular, the moving of the Tonkinese to South Vietnam. [14]


Many of the changes were seemingly not in the interests of helping South Vietnam as a country, insofar as South Vietnam had much of a chance of successfully becoming a country. While the installing of Diem as president was questionable, the three major strikes against the new country were 1) Having 1.1 million Tonkinese “Catholics” move into the area around Saigon, without providing them the means to begin their lives in a productive way, thus moving many of them to become looters of the native peoples of South Vietnam. The new Diem government had no resources to be of much help to the new immigrants; and 2), Forcing out both the Chinese traders and the French persons who formed some degree of structure  for the populace in the South. [15]

These tragic decisions most likely were at least agreed to by the CIA. These decisions were not in the best interest of working toward the survival of the new nation of South Vietnam.  But perhaps that was not their purpose. Prouty infers that, consistent with The Report from Iron Mountain, the goal is to continue spending on expendable military war materials. [16]


Bay of Pigs- The Decision to Not Allow a Second Air Raid


The Bay of Pigs has had several book length treatments; one of more definitive, in terms of JFK's involvement, is by Peter Wyden. [17] One critical point is the decision to call off the planned bombing of the remaining three Cuban aircraft. Prouty stated, "But between the time of Kennedy's approval at 1:45 P.M. Sunday and the time for the release of the B-26's from the Hidden Valley Base at Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua, the vital dawn air strike to destroy Castro's three remaining T-33 jets was called off by President Kennedy's special assistant for national security affairs, McGeorge Bundy, in a telephone call to General Cabell." [18]


If Bundy did in fact make such a call, it is inconceivable that he would have done so except on the explicit orders of President Kennedy. Wyden paints a very different scenario. Shortly after the Presidential approval of the second bombings to eliminate the remaining three Cuban jets, McGeorge Bundy called General Cabell. "Bundy said no air strikes could be launched until after the Brigade had secured the Giron air strip, and strikes would ostensibly be launched from there. This was an order from the President." [19]  


After Bundy's conversation with  Cabell, Secretary Dean Rusk received General Cabell and Richard Bissell at his office. Earlier, Rusk had talked to President Kennedy, who told Rusk that the air strikes were to be called off unless there were "over-riding considerations". Cabell and Bissell presented their case for the air strikes to Secretary Rusk. Rusk called the President and relayed their pleas for reinstating the air strikes. Rusk concluded in his presentation to JFK, that the air strikes were important, but there were no over-riding considerations. The president agreed with Rusk. Then Rusk asked Cabell if he wanted to speak to the President. Cabell, recognizing that the President was the Commander in Chief, and had said no. When the ultimate leader has said no twice, there is no reason to ask again. [20]


However, Prouty wasn't finished. After a call from the CIA commander at Puerto  Cabezas urging Prouty to call General Cabell at Operation Zapata to order the release of the planes to bomb the Cuban jets, using OSO/OSD authority. General Cabell wasn't in. "After that call, I reached the CIA's Zapata office and suggested they release the B-26's "on Kennedy's orders" or the whole effort would fail." [21]


The person speaking to Prouty said that it was in the hands of McGeorge Bundy, Secretary Rusk, and General Cabell. Invoking JFK's name with no authority to do so could perhaps have had serious consequences for Prouty. Fortunately for him, his ruse was rebuffed. It is remarkable that Prouty never addressed that his attempt to infuse the U.S. further into the Bay of Pigs fiasco would have been an act of war against Cuba. This attempt occurred at the very time that the actions of the United States vis-a-vis Cuba were being closely scrutinized at the United Nations meetings. The expectancy of the CIA and the military was that American air support could be called upon to insure the success of the mission. Prouty had never seemed to reconcile that the CIA had vastly underestimated the support the Cuban people had for Castro.


The TFX Decision


Eisenhower had wished to delay a large aircraft purchase so that he could end his last year with a budget surplus; thus the purchase could be arranged under the new President Nixon. The new president of course had a different last name. Thus it fell to JFK to be in a position to award a huge peace military project. Secretary of Defense McNamara then added the navy's procurement money to the Air Force's money, adding up to 6.5 billion dollars. This was the largest procurement ever during peacetime; both JFK and McNamara were aware that such a project could pave the way to JFK's being re-elected in 1964. Secretary of Labor Arthur Goldberg joined 

JFK and McNamara in mapping the United States down to the County level. Their approach was to find the proposal that would allow tipping the areas who voted Republican in the 1960 presidential election by bringing the work for the TFX to those counties, to insure a Kennedy re-election. On the other hand, the military system had gone through their "normal"  selection process, spending an estimated 275,000 man hours. [22] The view of most military personnel involved in the process were reasonably sure Boeing would win the contract. The General Dynamics/Gruman proposal would give a more favorable result at the ballot box. In the end, the contract was awarded to General Dynamics/Gruman. The old military-industrial "team" members were livid with the decision. The decision making process on military expenditures had been taken out of their hands. It only got worse from the military-industrial perspective; Roswell Gilpatric, a New York banker, who was McNamara's deputy, announced at a banker's convention on April 9, 1963, the new Kennedy position, "I have not the slightest doubt that our economy could adjust to a decline in defense spending." [23]


Four Decisive National Security Action Memoranda (NSAM)


After the embarrassment of the Bay of Pigs, President Kennedy appointed a Cuban Study Group. This group included General Maxwell Taylor, who had retired after differences with President Eisenhower over the strength of the army; Admiral Arleigh Burke, who had been involved with the military planning of the Bay of Pigs; CIA Director, Allen Dulles; and Bobby Kennedy. General Taylor asked many questions of Dulles and Burke. When the study group concluded, Taylor wrote a letter to President Kennedy with recommendations that became NSAM #55, NSAM #56, and NSAM #57. [24] NSAM #55 had a key element. The Joint Chiefs of Staff was to replace the CIA as his advisor in peacetime. That NSAM was sent only to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Lyman L. Lemnitzer. Typically, such a memorandum would have gone to the Secretary of Defense, with copies to the Secretary of State and to the Director of the CIA. [25] So what happened to the recommendation that the joint chiefs of staff replace the CIA as the advisor to the President in peacetime? In a word, the military as represented by the Joint Chiefs Staff saw such an arrangement as being outside the parameters they were able or willing to work in. Their business was war, not peace. NSAM #56 & #57 fleshed out how these paramilitary operations might be conducted. [26] Also, on July 11, 1961, President Kennedy created the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) as a means to reduce the importance of the CIA. [27]


NSAM #263 Contains 10 subparts. Subpart 2 has garnered the most interest. It states: "The objectives of the United States with respect to the withdrawal of U.S. military personnel remain as stated  in the White House statement of October 2, 1963." [28] President Kennedy directed that no formal announcement be made of the implementation of plans to withdraw 1,000 U.S. military personnel by the end of 1963. [29] Further, it was JFK's plan to remove all U.S. personnel out of Vietnam by the end of 1965. [30]


An Amazingly Fast Extra Edition of the Christchurch Star


Prouty happened to have been dispatched to Christchurch, New Zealand, just before November 22, 1963. JFK's shooting in Dealey Plaza occurred at 12:30 P.M. (7:30 A.M. on November 23, Christchurch time). Before noon, Christchurch time (before 5PM Dallas time 10/22/1963) the Christchurch Star had an Extra on the streets covering the assassination. Reported were news items filed by on the spot reporters, who reported Senator Ralph Yarborough saying at least two shots came from his right rear, which did not correspond to the 6th floor of the Texas Schoolbook Depository Building. Automatic weapons were reported. What is most amazing is the detail reported in the Christchurch Star and on the streets before 5 P.M. Dallas time. Included was a fine studio portrait photograph of Oswald in a business suit, white shirt and tie.  Details of his defection to the Soviet Union, his activities in the Soviet Union, his return to the U. S. with his wife and child, his having been a chairman of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, were all sent on the wires by both the Associated Press (AP) and the British United Press (BUP). [31] The paper  reported all of this information and was on the street over two hours before Oswald was charged with the murder of J.D. Tippet (7:10 P.M. Dallas time). Oswald was not formally arraigned for the murder of President Kennedy until 1:30 A.M.. over 7 hours after the newspaper hit the streets in Christchurch. [32] One wonders just how a dossier is prepared and circulated around the globe about a virtually unknown person in such a small time frame!


Pulling This all Together


Prouty gives us insight into the why of the JFK assassination. Much of the why deals with that a continued Kennedy presidency (i.e., elected for a second term in 1964) presented to several interested parties their specific issues. For the CIA, there was the threat of JFK either eliminating or emasculating the agency. President Kennedy had already tried to reduce their influence (and perhaps their budget) through NSAM #55. The war in Vietnam was pretty much a CIA operation. During President Kennedy's tenure, military advisors had been added, but NSAM #263 would scale this back by 1,000 men in December 1963, and perhaps remove all personnel by the end of 1965. The CIA's "raising hell" in Vietnam would be over. The Christchurch Star's remarkably quick printing of the news about a suspect who hadn't even been charged was indeed remarkable. Whatever the CIA's involvement, they would be a prime suspect for getting Oswald's dossier to the AP and BUP so quickly.


The military surely had their quarrels with JFK. Perhaps most notable was their displeasure with the TFX decision wherein the Kennedy administration ignored the nearly unanimous preference for Boeing by the military, and the awarding of the 6.5 billion dollar contract to General Dynamics-Gruman, using the awarding process to advance JFK's chances for re-election. The Joint Chiefs of Staff were often at loggerheads with President Kennedy, but arguably, such is the process of a democracy. Certain individuals  may have had strong grievances with the President. The military controlled the autopsy at Bethesda; [33] the autopsy would have been conducted in Dallas without the intervention of the secret service, who, along with the Presidential party removed President Kennedy's body against the strong demands of Dr. Rose to conduct a legal autopsy in Dallas. [34] Though Prouty was impressed with the Report from Iron Mountain; even though he admits that it was a novel by Leonard Lewin, he still seems to consider that there was such a study group, started in August 1963, perhaps by Secretary McNamara. [35]. Prouty often quotes from it at length. In that the Report concludes with the recommendation of a continued war economy, even in peacetime, the Report likely resonated with military leaders in the 60's and 70's (and probably even today). However, President Kennedy seemed to be looking to a peace dividend, thus significantly reducing the military budget (see [22]).


The sector that had the most to lose with the JFK presidency was the defense related industries. They were thwarted by the handling of the TFX contract, which the Kennedy administration was using political efficacy rather than the "normal" processes of awarding contracts. But the future of a Kennedy administration was much more daunting, from the defense industries perspective. Kennedy appeared to looking toward a peace dividend in future spending, and apparently ending the Vietnam conflict without the billions of dollars that such a continuance could (and did) entail. There were fortunes to be made, or left on the table. Those in the war business had become accustomed to calling the shots. Likely they were involved with calling another kind of shot.



  1. Prouty, L.F. (1973). The Secret  Team: The CIA and its Allies in Control of the United States      

  and the World. New York: Prentice-Hall. 

  2. Prouty, L.F. (2011). The CIA, Vietnam, and the Plot to Assassinate John F. Kennedy. Dover, DE:  Skyhorse Publishing. Originally published in 1996 by Carol Publishing Group, New York.

  3. Ibid., pp. 10-11.

  4. Ibid., p. 45.    

  5. Ibid., p. 18.

  6. Ibid., pp. 56-57.

  7. Ibid., pp. 32-37.

  8. Ibid., facing p. 60. 

  9. Special Study Group (1967). Report from Iron Mountain: On the Possibility and Desirability   of Peace. New York: Dial Press.

10. Ibid., p. 84.

11. Lewin, L.C. (1996). Report from Iron Mountain: On the Possibility and Desirability of Peace. New York: The Free Press, p. 106.

12. Ibid., p. 150.

13. Prouty, (2011)., p. 5.

14. Ibid., pp., 67-80.

15. Ibid., pp. 78-80.

16. Ibid., pp.107-108.

17. Wyden, P. (1979). The Bay of Pigs: The Untold Story. New York: Simon & Schuster.

18. Prouty, (2011)., p. 130.

19. Wyden, p. 197.

20. Ibid., pp. 199-200.

21. Prouty, (2011)., p. 131.

22. Ibid., p. 145.

23. Ibid., p. 148.

24. All three memoranda are available at . These files were taken from L. Fletcher Prouty's own files while working at the Pentagon.

25. Prouty, (2011)., p. 170.

26. Ibid., pp. 225-227.

27. Ibid., p. 228.

28. National Security Memorandum No. 263.

29. Ibid.

30.Prouty, (2011). p.116.

31. Ibid., pp. 306-310.
32. Wood, I.D. III. 22 November, 1963: A chronolog

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