Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Jose Perrez San Roman - Cuban Pathfinder Commander

THE LAST CASUALTY OF THE BAY OF PIGS

By Myra MacPherson
October 17, 1989


MIAMI -- On a Saturday evening not too long ago, Jose Perez San Roman carefully vacuumed his two-bedroom mobile home, left his mementos in orderly piles, painstakingly wrote his last letter to friends and family, then measured out enough medication to ensure an overdose.

The former commander, who in times past stood with President Kennedy as throngs cheered, planned his death as meticulously as he had orchestrated military maneuvers. His brother, Roberto, found San Roman's body in bed dressed in trousers and shirt, arms at his sides close to his body. "In position, like a soldier," recalls Roberto as tears come to his eyes. San Roman's suicide came last month at the age of 58, but friends and family believe he died 28 years ago on the beaches of Cuba when he was the 29-year-old commander of the 1,500-strong 2506 Brigade of Cuban soldiers.

Then, on April 17, 1961, he watched in horror as his troops were slaughtered in the Bay of Pigs invasion as they waited in vain for promised support from the United States. There were many tragedies of the Bay of Pigs assault; the lost life of Jose "Pepe" San Roman was a consummate sorrow. A cadet and officer who earned highest honors in his native Cuba, San Roman was picked by the CIA to command the invasion because of qualities everyone remembers -- steady, professional leadership tempered with goodness. He was also remarkably trusting, a man who had "absolute faith in the support he was going to get," recalls Alfredo Duran, another Bay of Pigs veteran. That is why he could call on the brigade to salute the Cuban flag as it was raised at sunset on the transport ship Blagar as they neared the coast of Cuba. The Cuban national anthem was sung. They were invincible. Liberation was theirs. Roberto, who fought at his brother's side during the three-day battle, said, "During our military upbringing in Cuba and through all the barrage of movies from Hollywood, we always thought the might of the United States armed forces was such that they would succeed in whatever they got involved in.

As plans changed from guerrilla warfare to a task force brigade, we thought, 'There is no chance Castro can win.' "One of the things that always bothered my brother later was that he never questioned any of the American plans." The guilt and sorrow and sense of betrayal that haunted Pepe San Roman for the rest of his life began in those frantic last hours at Playa Giron. San Roman's pleas for help to the Blagar remain chilling to this day. At dawn: "Do you people realize how desperate the situation is? Do you back us or quit? All we want is low jet air cover ... need it badly or cannot survive." An hour later, 6:13 a.m.: "Blue Beach under attack. ... Where is promised air cover?" 7:12 a.m.: "Enemy on trucks coming from Red Beach are right now 3 kilometers from Blue Beach." 8:15 a.m.: "Situation critical ... need urgently air support." 9:14 a.m: "Where the hell is jet cover?" 9:55 a.m.: "Can you throw something into this vital point in battle? Anything. Just let jet pilots loose." The messages came quickly toward the end: "In water. Out of ammo. Enemy closing in. Help must arrive in next hour. Send all available aircraft now." In his book, "The Bay of Pigs," Haynes Johnson wrote, "through all the chaos and despair of defeat, Pepe retained the calm that was his hallmark. Those who heard him on the radio that day ... heard the quiet voice, sounding more tired, edged more with anger and bitterness but still determined and still calm."

The weary men fought on the cries of the wounded echoing in the broiling sun. Pepe saw a best friend in a jeep "lying there bleeding all over, as if he had exploded inside. He was lying there as a person that is going to die very soon ...," he told Johnson, "and he had the courage to tell me, 'I may not see it but I am sure we will win.' And then he shouted, and I will never forget it, 'Beat them! Beat them!' " Shortly after 4 that afternoon San Roman sent his last message before retreating to the woods with what was left of his brigade: "Am destroying all my equipment and communications. Tanks are in sight. I have nothing to fight with. I cannot wait for you." In Remembrance Roberto, at 54, looks like the comfortable businessman he now is. Warrior tautness has given way to a slight paunch. Wounded in those last hours of battle, Roberto escaped; but he was 20 days at sea before rescue, thinking that his brother was dead. Pepe San Roman, in turn, was convinced of his younger brother's death. Fidel Castro, confronting his prize prisoner in San Roman's cell, told him a month later that Roberto was alive. Roberto's voice cracks as he looks back over Pepe's life -- his golden promise, the days of battle and almost two years of prison. Then fame and obscurity, and the ordeal of trying to survive the demons of his memories. "If all of this had not happened in Cuba, he would have lived all his life a happy man," Roberto believes.

Historical accounts praise the valor of the Cuban soldiers against impossible odds; blame for the bungled mission centered on the CIA and the Kennedy administration. But this was no consolation for Pepe San Roman. The commander was, in effect, a one-man metaphor for the feelings of betrayal, defeat and survival guilt that would later haunt a generation of Vietnam veterans. "He took the defeat all into himself," says Johnson, who spent months with San Roman while writing the book.

"He was a sweet, sweet person, if that term can be applied to a military commander." Says Roberto, "We all felt, and he should have felt, that we were proud of having hit Castro the hardest with so little supplies. That was enough for me to survive the betrayal, but being in charge, Pepe just couldn't." A Cuban Youth San Roman, a bright and artistically inclined youth, was called by his nickname Pepe. His family was poor, and their bid for respectability and local prominence came through the army. His father, a second lieutenant at the age of 18, was a self-made officer. His greatest desire was that his sons get an education. He insisted that his children study English at night.

"When we came to this country," says Roberto, "we learned what a gift our father had given us." Unable to afford the university in Havana, Pepe and Roberto went to military school, where they quickly excelled. Pepe ranked first in his class and became captain cadet, in charge of 250 cadets. "I was first sergeant cadet," recalls Roberto with a smile. "I was supposed to be tough and I was." But Pepe's style was different. "Instead of 'you do this' and 'you do that,' first he talked to them, got their cooperation and always gave a person a chance. Always. Even though he was strict, he would always let you know what you had to do not to get in trouble." Driven to excel, Pepe started to work at 15. "But I can remember him helping others, staying up at night to help classmates with physics and calculus," says Roberto. For years the younger brother cherished the intricate handcarved toys -- buses complete with passengers, for example -- that Pepe created for him.

All his life Pepe clung to pictures of a distant time in Cuba. They were among the keepsakes given to his family with the suicide letter. His 1953 cadet yearbook shows a handsome, slim 22-year-old winning a trophy for excellence in horseback riding. It was a life of fencing, jumping horses, long infantry marches, rumba dances with men in ceremonial blue dress uniform and their dates in crinolines. Studious Pepe said his main ambition was to "gain some weight and sell his Lincoln for $50 and to sleep." He met and fell in love with a neighborhood girl and they married very young. They divorced about 10 years ago when Pepe was no longer the man she once knew.

After training in the states at Fort Benning, Ga. (where he graduated fourth among 81 men in 1956), Pepe returned to Cuba and Fulgencio Batista's army. But the San Romans, father and sons, abhorred the excesses of Batista's army and were among a group of officers arrested for conspiracy to overthrow Batista. It was the first of three times Pepe San Roman would face Cuban jails. "My brother and I were in the same cell," recalls Roberto. "They tortured us psychologically -- what was going to happen to our family, how they were going to hurt our father. Two months later Batista left, and that day we became the heroes of the same people who had us in jail!"

Although the San Romans did not side with Castro, they tried to make things work in the earliest days of the revolution. Pepe was among a group of officers commissioned to clean up and restructure the army. Roberto was in hiding because he had been among Batista's troops who fought Castro in the mountains: "My brother was able to get a lot of friends out of jail; he was the one who always hid me in different places." Pepe helped many to escape to the United States until he was arrested, this time by Castro. When released in 1959, Pepe and Roberto left for the United States. Roberto recalls the terrible "sense of guilt and strain as we left our family behind. We had no promise of any kind of financial aid to our families. It bothered him and me a lot. But we were thinking we'd be back in Cuba in a year or six months." Their parents, wives and children were able to follow them to Miami at the time the two brothers were training to return to "liberate our homeland" with the Bay of Pigs invasion.

After the Debacle For 20 months, San Roman had ample time to brood over the Bay of Pigs debacle as he languished in Castro's prison. He was often in solitary confinement and never had a visitor. In a letter to his father, he wrote, "I had to order the troops to retreat. ... God help them, I told myself, what right do I have to order my men to sacrifice their honor? What right do I have to order men to go on building Cuban widows, only for honor. ... Our purpose was not to kill Cubans, our purpose was to win a war that will bring peace and happiness to all Cubans, and this war was lost to us." Later he was to write how he "hated the United States, and felt that I had been betrayed. ... Many times I had the feeling that we were thrown there to see what happened, because they were sure that Fidel was going to capture us and put all of us in the firing squad and we would be killed and there would be a great scandal in the whole world... .

" San Roman and two other brigade leaders were placed in the bartolinas, the worst cells. "I thought that only a pig could live there," San Roman told Johnson. Rats and cockroaches filled the dark cell; the toilet was a hole in the floor. At one point, they were allowed to join the men of Brigade 2506 and San Roman immediately assumed command -- ordering his men to wear black armbands and form honor guards when they learned that five prisoners had been shot. Castro seemed fascinated with his major adversary and visited his cell for long talks.

In Johnson's book, San Roman related how he talked back to Castro, decrying the acts of a Castro officer who had put San Roman's men "on that trailer truck and killed ten of them. That was a crime! That was assassination!" Castro shouted: "San Roman, you don't deserve to live." Replied San Roman, "That is the only thing that we agree about. I don't want to live any more. I have been played with by the United States and now you are playing with me here. ... Kill me, but don't play with me any more." Castro reportedly walked away. After 20 months of waiting while the United States and Castro haggled over the terms and the amount of money, brigade prisoners were finally ransomed for more than $50 million in food and medical supplies.

It was nighttime in December 1962 when the last planeload of released prisoners landed in Miami. San Roman was asked to disembark first so that the brigade members could salute him. Waiting among other brigade members who had escaped was his weeping brother, Roberto. Taken by bus to ecstatic mobs, Pepe San Roman was engulfed by brigade members "who tried to take us on their shoulders." Recalled San Roman in "Bay of Pigs": "Then I saw my mother and then I saw my wife and I ran to them but the crowd wouldn't let me get to them. Finally I got to them and I almost killed my mother and my wife and my kids with the embrace I gave them. It was a very great moment because I never thought I would see them again."

He heard the words of praise coming from the microphones, as if off in a distance, hearing little of what was said "because I was just crazy with happiness." It was one of the last times Pepe San Roman would feel such total joy. Beyond the Homecoming At their homecoming celebration, 80,000 cheered San Roman and the other warriors in the Orange Bowl, as Jacqueline Kennedy spoke, in Spanish, of their bravery and the president stood solemnly beside San Roman. But all too soon San Roman was left with the lonely ordeal of trying to forget. For a while, his friendship with Robert Kennedy helped.

For several months, the Kennedys provided San Roman and his family with a furnished home near them at Hickory Hill. Some evenings, Robert Kennedy would ride over, bringing an extra horse for San Roman and they would ride off into the woods of McLean, Va. San Roman's letters from Ethel and Robert Kennedy, warm and personal, were among the souvenirs left to his family at his death. The question is asked, after the sense of betrayal felt by San Roman and so many members of the brigade, how they could work again with the Kennedys and the United States. (Many of them joined the Army and the CIA.)

Roberto, who was sent by Robert Kennedy to Central American countries to seek aid for a second invasion, says, "There was nobody else in this hemisphere that wanted to help us. The only open door for Pepe's men, whether financial help or education or another try at Cuba, was the American government -- the same government that left us there. And so Pepe ate his words and his pride and went with them." Roberto believes the Kennedys had a sense of guilt and wanted to help, but even those offers were slights to San Roman's talents. "Pepe doesn't know what he was going to do and he told Robert Kennedy he wanted to work with his hands. He was a beautiful artist," says Roberto, producing a detailed sketch that Pepe once did of Roberto's daughter. "So what does Kennedy find for him? A construction job at the lowest pay and the hardest work -- moving concrete blocks. And then Pepe would come home from work and maybe find Kennedy waiting to go on a horseback ride with him. What kind of insensitivity! I could never believe it."
San Roman decided to join the Army -- "that's what he knew how to do." Roberto starts pacing the floor in agitation. "Instead of fighting communism in Cuba 90 miles away, we had to go across the world to fight communism." San Roman was now a paratrooper, in the special pathfinders unit, and when he got orders to go to Vietnam, Roberto planted the seed that he should resign.

"Al Haig told him he was going to be court-martialed, accusing him of cowardice," Roberto recalls today. One of the few times San Roman ever pulled rank, so to speak, was at this moment, in June 1965, when he wrote to Lyndon Johnson. Bitterness laces the letter as he writes about the United States' decision to "back off from supporting the 2506 assault brigade which I commanded, in order to protect the best interests of this big nation and the world, as the late president told me. ... "This morning I talked by phone to Colonel Haig ... to explain the situation and tell him I wanted to resign my commission. Colonel Haig felt he had the right to insult a veteran of two wars against communism and implied ... that I was in the service just for the money, and that I was trying to get off now just because of the risks involved. ... I think you will agree with me Mr. President in {sic} that the methods of this gentleman are not the best to make friends among allies." Shortly after, San Roman received an honorable discharge. A pink carbon of his letter to the president remained with San Roman to his death. Roberto now says, "so that was another disillusionment, another lack of respect from the Army to him."

Down and Out Eventually, San Roman, his wife and four children settled in Miami near Roberto. San Roman drifted in and out of jobs; boat dealer at 39, truck operator at 50. He moved to Houston in 1982 and managed three tractor-trailer combination trucks. During the Texas oil crisis, he closed the business and returned to Miami in 1986. The last decade of his life was especially troublesome to family and friends as they watched his depressions and pain. "He couldn't communicate, couldn't concentrate," says Roberto. His bitterness toward the United States had subsided but he still "lived the invasion." Many brigade members, like Roberto, refused to get involved in the Bay of Pigs veterans association -- "the meetings, anniversaries and celebrations. Perhaps for me it was an automatic way of survival and peace of mind," muses Roberto. For others, however, the Bay of Pigs was the penultimate moment in their lives, to be invoked, even in sorrow.

Brigade friends toasted their commandante Pepe San Roman this past summer at a tribute that raised $6,000. But San Roman's depressions deepened. Once again, he and his brother worked side by side, but this time it was in the world of business, not battle. Roberto set aside a corner of his marine supply store for Pepe, who made, sold and installed vertical blinds. "He was doing very well, compared to before," says Roberto. But 10 days before his death last month, San Roman began planning his end. He gave some pending business to a cousin. His sister, Laly de La Cruz, who Roberto managed to get out of Cuba so many years ago, returned home one night in that last week to find a message on her machine from Pepe: "My sister, it is very late and you're not home. I just called to tell you I love you very much and don't you ever forget it." 

His sister nervously dialed Pepe's number, got no answer, slept very little and called again early the next morning. There was no answer. She went to the store and told Roberto, who sent her immediately to Pepe's home. As Pepe greeted her, his sister made believe that she had just stopped by to say hello on the way to work. Roberto saw his brother only twice that week at work. Pepe instead visited his grandchildren, bringing trinkets of marbles and small coins. Then on Saturday night, Sept. 9, Roberto phoned about 8 o'clock and Pepe told him his leg hurt from a flare-up of phlebitis. "I said, 'On Monday, let's make a tour of the medical supply houses and find out if there is a machine, like a water massage, for your leg,' " Robert recalls. He says his brother replied, " 'Sure, let's do that on Monday.' I asked him what he was doing and he said, 'I am writing.' I didn't like that, because normally when he writes, he is depressed, mulling over the same things.

"Late at night he cleaned the house, put everything mentioned in the letter in sight, so that we could find them." Then Pepe drove to the home of an uncle and placed his final letter in one of the cars. On Sunday morning, when his aunt found the letter, she frantically called Pepe's sister, who called Roberto and then 911. "When I arrived," recalls Roberto, "the police were already there." The letter was addressed to his entire family in order -- two sons and two daughters, sister and brother, uncles and cousins. San Roman ordered his body cremated and the ashes sprinkled in the Brazos River in Texas where he once played with his children. The ashes stayed in a closet in Roberto's home until sister Laly took them to Texas last weekend. He gave his avocado tree and a book on Cuba to Roberto, his paratrooper jump master wings to his sons. ‘

The day Roberto and Laly had dreaded for years had arrived. As he reads the letter now, Roberto does not stop the tears that touch his cheeks. In his elegant script, Pepe San Roman wrote, "Great is the sorrow for the shock I am about to give you. I am sorry but I have to do it. There is no other way. This decision is taken after 20 years of struggle against myself. You all know that I have fought back with all my might, with all my will and tried every course available from the sublime to the ridiculous, to no avail. But I am not quitting. I am only dying so my death serves a purpose. I am responsible, not guilty, for my last moments only. These I have done not in a moment of desperation, depression or self rejection. These I have done talking with God constantly for the last 10 days in almost complete isolation from others."

"God," he wrote, "does not punish guys like me to a life sentence of the soul."

An Epitaph An epitaph of sorts appears in Pepe San Roman's most recent resume and job applications. His "work experience" included "political imprisonments."

For previous employer, San Roman listed "2506 ASSAULT BRIGADE." Under job title he wrote "Brigade Commander.

Annual salary: none.

Supervisor's name: U.S. Central Intelligence Agency."

And, finally, "Reasons for leaving: Obvious."


Saturday, November 10, 2018

JMWAVE Commandos Trained as USA LRRS Units

The anti-Castro Cuban commandos trained at the remote South Florida JMWAVE bases - Pirates Lair and Point Mary, off Key Largo, appear to have been trained as LRRS - Long Range Recon and Surveillance units, including parachute training, taught by Ranger qualified USMC captain and two US Army Ranger Captains. 

Here's a link to the training manual for LRRS from 1962 - and note that sniper training was included and taking out a HPT - High Priority Target was approved at that time.

Eyes Behind the Lines – US Army Long-Range Reconnaissance and Surveillance Units


Major James f. Gebhardt, US Army (Retired)

Colonel Ellis D. Bingham
Commander of the VII Corps – LRRP Company – Long Range Recon Patrol

July 1961 – October 1962
USA REUR 50s and 60s

The Alamo Scouts
The planning would then result in the following minimum guidance being provided:
-          Specific mission statement
-          All available information on terrain, weather, enemy, and areas of operation
-          Method of delivery and return, with provision for coordination with transportation unit
-          Friendly tactical information
-          Special instructions on use of electronic surveillance equipment
-          Method of obtaining special equipment for patrol’s use
-          Evasion and escape (E & E) procedures


The “Operations” section of this field manual provides insight into LRP-unit tactics in 1962. From a LRP company command post (CP) located somewhere near the corps or army main CP, LRP’s were dispatched to confirm or amplify information acquired from aerial observation, photography, electronic surveillance, or radio intercept, or to enter area about which nothing was known. In addition, the LRP could be used to locate targets….or provided early warning about the movement of specific enemy weapons systems or units  (reserves).


LRP company personnel were to be volunteers and parachute qualified. The company commander, operations officer, platoon, and patrol leaders were to be Ranger qualified. It was desired that other personnel have Ranger or special forces qualifications. All personnel were also to be cross-trained as radio operators and receive continuous training in a number of subjects: demolitions, combat surveillance, target-acquisition techniques, evasion, escape, survival, advanced first-aid procedures, map reading, tactical appreciation of terrain, and an extensive knowledge of enemy tactics, organization, weapons, and logistical systems. LRP units were to maintain proficiency by conducting frequent long-range reconnaissance and combat-raid exercises.” 





Friday, November 9, 2018

Response to W.T. Parnell's Review of Teenage JFK Conspiracy Freek

NOTE: I like it when these guys post and publish such rubbish, as it gives us the opportunity to respond and set the record straight. - BK 


W. Tracy Parnell


Debunking JFK Conspiracy Theories



Canadian Fred Litwin, a marketing professional who worked nine years for the Intel Corporation, has written a book on the JFK assassination with a catchy title - I Was a Teenage JFK Conspiracy Freak. This concise, entertaining and well written volume will be of interest to conspiracy skeptics and open-minded newcomers to the case. It may even be of interest to long-time conspiracy buffs who actually read it. Litwin previously authored a book called Conservative Confidential: Inside the Fabulous Blue Tent, which is about his journey from anti-nuclear activist to Conservative party campaigner. His JFK book describes an analogous trek from conspiracy believer to “lone nutter.”

BK: So this former anti-Nuke activist is now a conservative and we should pay attention to what he has to say? I don’t think anything he has to say matters.

Litwin begins by documenting the missteps of the early critics of the Warren Commission. An important point made by Litwin, one that he returns to frequently, is that these early critics (and subsequent generations) often consisted of individuals on the political left. They included Bertrand Russell, Raymond Marcus, Sylvia Meagher, Vincent Salandria, Thomas Buchanan and of course Mark Lane.

BK: One of the most intriguing aspects of all Deep Political Events, as Peter Dale Scott describes them, is that the resolution of the assassination of President Kennedy is beyond normal political divisions like leftists and right wingers, liberals and conservatives or democrats and republicans. It is simply a matter of the truth, not one of political divisions.

Litwin notes that “… you weren’t a proper leftist if you didn’t understand the “right-wing” plot to take over America and the huge coverup.” To illustrate the critic’s mindset, Litwin quotes Marcus who thought that If people became aware of the “fraud” of the Warren Report, “they’ll start to demand other answers. Maybe they’ll ask about the Rosenbergs, Hiss, the whole Cold War.  Maybe we can get clean and whole. But if this stays down, there’s no hope.” However, while Litwin is critical of conspiracy theorists on the left, he notes that President Trump promoted the discredited story that Ted Cruz’s father was one of the men who handed out pro-Castro leaflets in front of the Trade Mart in New Orleans at the behest of Lee Harvey Oswald.

BK: Ok, the real Cruz involved with Oswald in New Orleans in the summer of 1963 was Minguel Cruz, then a 17 year old anti-Castro Cuban who was arrested with Oswald and never questioned properly, and is still alive today. How come nobody wants to know about this Cruz?

Litwin begins his coverage of the investigation of New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison early in the book and later devotes an entire chapter (titled Jim Garrison’s Excellent Homosexual Adventure) to the “Jolly Green Giant.” Garrison’s theories did indeed revolve around homosexuals at first, but as Litwin points out, eventually mushroomed to include “Minutemen, CIA agents, oil millionaires, Dallas policemen, munitions exporters, “the Dallas Establishment,” reactionaries, White Russians and certain elements of the invisible Nazi substructure.”

BK: This exposes not the conspiracy theorists’ suspecting Minutemen, CIA agents, oil millionaires, Dallas policeman and munitions exporters, - wait a minute – where did the “munitions exporters” come in? – I get the White Russians and certain elements of the invisible Nazi substructure, but here does the “munitions exporters” come from?

 Reading Litwin’s concise chronology of Garrison’s farce reminds one of the myriad absurd aspects of his investigation. These would be laughable except for the fact that the investigation destroyed the life of an innocent man-New Orleans businessman Clay Shaw. Garrison charged Shaw with conspiring to assassinate JFK, but Shaw was properly exonerated.

BK: Wait a minute, Shaw was not responsible for what happened at Dealey Plaza, but neither was Lee Harvey Oswald. If Oswald was set up as the false assassin – the Fall Guy and Patsy in the murder of the president, so was Shaw, an innocent victim, falsely accused. But like Oswald, Shaw was part of the covert intelligence network that was responsible for the assassination.

The New York Times called Garrison’s prosecution of Shaw “One of the most disgraceful chapters in the history of modern jurisprudence.” Garrison was ultimately barred from further legal action against Shaw by a court injunction.

BK: So Shaw wasn’t responsible for the assassination, only for associating with the accused assassin, - “the most disgraceful chapters in the history of modern jurisprudence,” is not the prosecution of Clay Shaw but the failure of the law enforcement establishment to pursue and prosecute the actual killers of the President.

Litwin’s uses his personal journey from conspiracist to lone assassin advocate to drive his narrative and begins in this regard with the 1975 airing of the Zapruder film on Geraldo Rivera’s Good Night America. Rivera appeared with Robert Groden, Dick Gregory and Ralph Schoenman. Litwin, and millions of TV viewers, were impressed by the fact that the film showed JFK moving “back and to the left” which seemed to indicate a shot from the grassy knoll. But as Litwin shows, a close analysis of the evidence proves a shot from behind.

BK: It doesn’t matter whether the fatal head shot came from in front – as the film indicates, or behind, where the Sixth Floor Sniper was located, the fatal head shot came from not the Sixth Floor but from a First Class Sniper – trained in his profession – “One shot, one kill,” and he was in front or behind the target – which was either going towards him or away from him, but not moving from right to left as the Sixth Floor Sniper saw it. Whether the fatal head shot originated from in front or behind doesn’t matter, as it didn’t originate from the Sixth Floor of the TSBD, where the Third Class Sniper’s job was only to pump evidence into the target car and leave the rifle and shells to implicate the Patsy. He was a diversion, not the real assassin, a First Class Sniper who shot JFK in the head as he rode by in an open car, exactly the Pathfinder plan to kill Castro.

Litwin goes on to refute claims by Gregory and Schoenman while outlining the extreme leftist views of both men. Litwin also provides some interesting background on Schoenman, who was Bertrand Russell’s personal secretary before they had a falling out.

BK: I know Schomeman too. He made a presentation at the NYU Law School conference that implicated Minguel Cruz in the assassination and a Puerto Rican union mobster  – sparking me to make one of my first Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, in which I obtained documents that indicated Cruz was only 17 years old when he was arrested in New Orleans, and was not the guy with the same name who was a Puerto Rican union mobster. When I presented my documents to Schomeman, he acknowledged I was correct and he was wrong. But he was right on a number of other points. And since then I have become good friends and associate with Schomeman’s ex-wife Joan Mellen, who I have called the “Unsinkable Molly Brown” of JFK research.

Speaking of Schoenman, he turns up again in Litwin’s chapter on Oliver Stone and JFK the movie. It seems that Schoenman wrote Garrison in 1971 suggesting that “… we take the offensive. Let’s get out a book, hard and fast, which nails the case against Shaw that we couldn’t get into the courts … let’s put THEM on the defensive by blowing the Shaw case sky high with a muck-raking book that closes in on the company [CIA] even closer.”

The eventual result of this strategy was Garrison’s book On the Trail of the Assassins, which was the basis for Stone’s film. Litwin argues that in Stone’s upside-down world, Garrison became the hero and Shaw the villain rather than a victim of an unjust prosecution. He goes on to document elements of the film that are complete fantasy, but which millions of movie fans accepted as fact. Litwin also discusses the homophobic aspects of the film and provides historical context for his analysis.

BK: It wasn’t the “homophobic aspects” of the film, but Shaw’s CIA connections that make it worth looking into. So he was a gay guy – who was also a spy, as were Guy Burgess, Donald Maclean and other spies. It isn’t their sexual perversions that come into play here, it’s their clandestine associations with the CIA and intelligence connections that matter. And If it wasn’t for Garrison and Stone, we wouldn’t have the “JFK” movie or the JFK Act of 1992 that ordered the government to assemble all of the official records on the assassination of JFK and open them to the public through the JFK Collection at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) by 2017, something that had yet to happen. 

Returning to Litwin’s personal narrative, following a period of relative inactivity he resumed his JFK research upon seeing Stone’s film in 1991. He subscribed to journals and had his own articles published and even lectured on the subject himself. Two powerful influences for Litwin during this period were the HSCA volumes, which largely agreed with the WC findings,

BK: Wait a minute! The HSCA volumes do not largely agree with the WC findings, as they provide a multitude of leads that we are still pursuing today – especially the CIA-Mafia plots to kill Castro, and the HSCA conclusion that there was very likely a conspiracy in the assassination, concluding that the Justice Department should continue their investigation, something they didn’t bother to do. Both the first – Richard Sprague, and second Chief Counsel – G. Robert Blakely of the HSCA concluded there was a conspiracy, for different reasons. So the idea that the HSCA “largely agreed with the WC findings” is patently false, and Parnell should stand corrected.

and the writings of noted researcher Paul Hoch.

BK: Paul Hoch is one of the most respected JFK assassination researchers and for Litwin to say he inspired him to write this Bull Shit make a mockery of Hoch and his decades of devoted and respected work.

HSCA findings that impressed Litwin included the authentication of the autopsy photos and x-rays,

BK: Then how come the photographers of the autopsy photos refused to confirm that they took them, and said they even used a different type of film? Now that’s impressive.

the forensic pathology panel, the photographic panel, the study of “earwitnesses”,

BK: Yes, the majority of “earwitnesses” said the second and third shots were right on top of each other, so close that they could not have been fired by the same gun. Bam, bam, thank you mam.

the handwriting and fingerprint analysis,

BK: Yes, let’s look closely at the handwriting and fingerprint analysis on the Dear Mr. Hunt letter, the prints on the boxes in the sniper’s nest, and the rifle. Let’s look more closely at the handwriting and fingerprint analysis, as it proves Oswald is innocent. 

the Mannlicher-Carcano firing tests and the firearms panel.

BK: Yes, the MC firing tests prove that weapon could not have inflicted all of the damage done, and as the accused assassin’s brother and US Marine marksman said, “If Lee did not practice with that rifle in the days and weeks before the assassination, he did not fire the shots that killed the President and wounded Governor Connally.” And since the WC says the accused assassin did not practice with that rifle at all, then he didn’t do it.

Hoch, who Litwin describes as “not your run-of-the-mill conspiracy freak,” wrote in his newsletter “My model is that there were many coverups, probably many independent ones … One possibility - ironically - is that Oswald did it alone but so many people had things to cover up [unrelated to any assassination plot] that the reaction of the government made it look like the assassination resulted from a conspiracy.”

BK: The idea that there was a cover-up but not a conspiracy is one that can be shown to be false because the cover-up not only protected those actually responsible for the assassination, but how it was accomplished, still accepting the lone assassin myth that has been proven false.

Litwin devotes a chapter to the JFK documentaries from producer Brian McKenna that appeared over the years on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s acclaimed series The Fifth Estate. Litwin carefully documents the abuses of McKenna, which date back to 1977. McKenna revealed his bias toward conspiracy theories during his acceptance speech upon receiving the JFK Lancer Pioneer award in Dallas. McKenna said that a “sophisticated coup plotted by the US military and CIA with support from Hoover’s FBI and Kennedy’s bodyguards” was to blame for the killing. McKenna also fingered the Mafia, HL Hunt and LBJ as conspirators, all perennial conspiracy favorites.

BK: I too have been a recipient of a JFK Lancer – Mary Farrell Pioneer Award (2013) and agree with McKenna’s description that the assassination was result of a “sophisticated coup plotted by the US military and CIA with support from Hoover’s FBI and Kennedy’s bodyguards,” and the Mafia (via John Rosselli), H.L Hunt and oil interests, and of course LBJ was the Que Bono benefactor who initiated the cover-up. They are perennial conspiracy favorites because of their own actions, not the imaginations of silly conspiracy theorists.

A persistent rallying cry of the conspiracy theorists has been to “release the documents.” As of 2018, approximately 99 percent of the documents have been released, depending on whose tally you use. Litwin shows that withholding documents is something routinely done by governments worldwide although it often makes little sense. He provides several examples of documents that theorists were suspicious of, but ultimately proved to be innocuous.

BK: Yes, many, in fact most of the records released under the JFK Act of 1992 are innocuous, but there are a number of key records that are “Smoking Documents” that lead us to the truth, including the Higgins Memo, the HSCA interview with Warren Commission attorney Sam Stern, and all of the Joint Chiefs of Staff records that refer to CIA Cuban covert intelligence operations. They confirm the conspiracy.

In the same chapter, Litwin presents evidence that the conspiracy theorists may have been influenced by a disinformation campaign run by the Soviet Union designed to promote the “CIA did it” angle. Litwin also shows that conspiracy guru Mark Lane received at least $2000 from the KGB.

BK: OK, so Lane got two grand from the Ruskies. Now compare that to the six figures a year that Max Holland gets from the CIA to promote their disinformation. And while speaking of official disinformation about the assassination, you can’t ignore the continuing black propaganda disinformation campaign to blame the murder of JFK on Castro. The people responsible for this disinformation are very close to the actual perpetrators.

Fred Litwin has written an entertaining and informative book that explains why he changed his mind about a JFK conspiracy. The book does not discuss every issue of interest to JFK assassination students (impossible since there are hundreds) over the course of its modest 272 pages. Nor will it change many minds among the current generation of theorists, who are motivated by a naïve view that the world, had Kennedy lived, would have been very different.

Under this belief, the Vietnam War, Watergate and any number of other national maladies would have been avoided by the continuation of the Camelot regime, a view that Litwin argues credibly against.

BK: Ok, JFK would not have changed the world, but he would have made a difference, - not sending hundreds of thousands of troops to their death in Vietnam, and ending the Cold War decades before the fall of the Berlin Wall. So Nitwit Litwin is wrong on that count too.

These theorists simply choose to ignore the voluminous evidence developed by the Warren Commission and enhanced by the HSCA, or they say it is falsified, planted or otherwise misinterpreted.

BK; No it’s not falsified, planted or otherwise misinterpreted, except by those who want it all to remain a mystery, but is quite clear and easily explained – JFK was the victim of a covert intelligence operation perpetuated by a domestic anti-communist intelligence network that continues to operate today. No misinterpretation there.

These same individuals scour the millions of available documents for bits of information that when viewed through the lens of their own bias results in confirmation of whatever pet theory they support.

BK: There’s no theory behind the Higgins Memo, what Sam Stern said to the HSCA, or what we now know about the Valkyie plot to kill Castro and the Pathfinder plan to kill Castro – they confirm the pet theory that one of the CIA-Mafia plots to kill Castro was redirected to JFK in Dallas. And that’s not pet theory of some silly conspiracy theorist but the conclusion reached by former FBI Agent Bill Turner, Mafia don John Rosselli, military investigator Gene Wheaton, USMC Captain Carl Jenkins and the anti-Castro Cubans and US Army Reserve officers who actually killed JFK or knew how it was accomplished.

Most of these people will not read Litwin’s book, but they will criticize it. However, those open minded enough to give it a chance will be entertained and, in the process, learn something from a guy who has been there. For more information see: Conspiracy Freak.com


BK: Ok, I’ll eventually get around to reading Litwin’s book, and will criticize it with a fair analysis, but I don’t believe Litwin is a “guy who has been there.” He hasn’t been anywhere. 

K&K Review of Skorzeny Book

Major Ralph P. Ganis, The Skorzeny Papers: Evidence for the Plot to Kill JFK


Written by Michael Le Flem

From Michael's conclusion: Ganis’ book is an uncomfortable, freewheeling careen down strange dead-end tracks, with unannounced detours through cold dark streets full of faceless characters, and later, journeys through mirror-filled fun houses of speculation, with a final twist and turn that spits you out right over Niagara Falls, barrel and all.

When I heard that a previously undiscovered collection of personal correspondences from SS Colonel Otto Skorzeny had recently surfaced, I was truly interested. Besides his famous exploits in WWII, including the daring mountaintop rescue of Benito Mussolini and the kidnapping of Hungarian regent Miklós Horthy’s son from his Bucharest palace, Skorzeny was infamous for his postwar dealings with a number of intelligence agencies the world over. As a child, my grandfather, Marcel, a French resistance fighter, used to tell me stories of Otto’s exploits during car rides. I thought I was in for a real treat when I found this book. That Skorzeny could have had a hand on the team that killed President Kennedy was also an interesting hook.

The subtitle of this book is “Evidence for the Plot to Kill JFK,” and therein lies its true problem: if by evidence we are referring to clear-cut forensics, incriminating memos, newly declassified documents, newly discovered tapes, or reliable eyewitness testimonies that place Skorzeny either at the scene or in a position directly responsible for the assassination of JFK, then we have little to no “evidence” to justify the book’s subtitle. What the author of the book, Major Ralph Ganis, USAF (retired) seems to suggest is largely tangential to the actionable plot that took Kennedy’s life; that is, Skorzeny, from his position in Madrid as a jack of all trades with ties to postwar Nazis, Texas oil moguls, the Mossad, and French intelligence operatives, could have been a link in a long and winding chain of figures who eventually connected to those who executed the crime of the century. And yet, as we will see, even that supposition is largely based on fantastical leaps of logic, a primary source base that we are never allowed to verify—or see a picture of, or direct reference to—and a conclusion that is not only ridiculous but insulting to the JFK research community.

Dick Russell, who wrote the introduction to The Skorzeny Papers, rightly claims that the book provides a “chronological tracing of the dark alliances that sheds fresh light on how long-suspicious CIA officials like William Harvey and James Angleton wove Otto Skorzeny into their tangled web, or vice versa.” I will give Ganis and Russell that—most of the book is largely this, an extremely dry, almost colorless list of dozens and dozens of figures who were responsible for placing Skorzeny in a secure position from which to run his operations after the war: within only a few pages in chapter seven we have “Enter Major General Lyman L. Lemnitzer and the NATO Link,” “Enter Clifford Forster,” “Enter Don Isaac Levine.” I like to think I have a pretty good memory, but the sheer volume of second- and third-string players in this book is bewildering, with connections seemingly drawn from any and all personnel affiliated with anything remotely clandestine, few of which are ever revisited, and none of which seem truly important given the book’s central thesis, which is that Otto Skorzeny was somehow a key aspect of the Kennedy assassination.

The so-called “Skorzeny Papers,” which Ganis acquired through an American auction house bid in 2012, are alleged correspondences between Skorzeny and some of these underworld and intelligence-based figures, along with letters to his wife, who aided him in his dirty work to some degree. “As the story goes, many of the papers were burned over time, but a fragmentary grouping of documents (the ones used for the research in this book) survived. The archive ranges from 1947 to around the period of Skorzeny’s death.” (xv).
But since we are not allowed to view them or translate them from the German ourselves, we must take the author’s word that they are not mistranslated or even fraudulent.

Ganis begins his book’s preface with a bold proclamation: “Why was President John F. Kennedy killed and who carried it out? All of the investigations, commissions, and academic works have not answered these questions. This book integrated startling new information that does resolve the mystery.” (p. xxi) Let’s unpack that for a moment. Not all commissions are equal. The Warren Commission is not the same as Jim Garrison’s investigation of Clay Shaw, the HSCA, or the later ARRB. The latter three found quite compelling evidence that a domestic intelligence outfit indeed murdered JFK. The former was staffed by Allen Dulles and was essentially a disinformation campaign whose objective was to obfuscate the truth and put the story to bed for the nightly news, which had also been compromised through the Central Intelligence Agency’s media liaisons. As much has been exhaustively detailed in scholarly works, from John Newman’s Oswald and the CIA, to Jim DiEugenio’s Destiny Betrayed, to Jim Douglass’ JFK and the Unspeakable. That we cannot say with certainty who pulled the trigger on the fatal shot so vividly captured in the Zapruder film is ultimately inconsequential; for all intents and purposes, given the time elapsed since that fateful November afternoon fifty-five years ago, we do have a clear picture of the likely suspects behind the plot’s orchestration, along with compelling motives for why JFK was targeted. Bold claims like Ganis’s require even bolder evidence, and to open with a whopper like that, one would presume that Skorzeny’s purported personal papers contain something akin to the map of Dealey Plaza’s sewer system that investigators found in Cuban exile Sergio Arcacha Smith’s apartment, or a handwritten “thank you” note from James Angleton after the Warren Commission had ended for services Skorzeny rendered to the CIA. And yet not only is Otto Skorzeny himself only a tangential part of a book entitled The Skorzeny Papers, but the “evidence for the plot to kill JFK” is awkwardly squeezed into the last two pages of a 346-page work, with a final revelation that made me both angry for investing hours of my life reading the tome, and confused as to how an author with a true breadth of working knowledge about postwar intelligence networks could presume so myopic an assassination motive.


II

Otto Skorzeny was an Austrian by birth who joined the Nazi party somewhat reluctantly, mainly as a way to make a living as the outbreak of the Second World War ramped up in the late 1930s. A mechanic by trade, and a semi-professional fencer, his notorious scar across his face from a missed parry and his 6’4 stature made him something of an icon in the German army. Skorzeny was known for his fearlessness, guile and unconventional approach to commando warfare. As he once said in a postwar interview, “My knowledge of pain, learned with the sabre, taught me not to be afraid. And just as in dueling when you must concentrate on your enemy’s cheek, so, too, in war. You cannot waste time on feinting and sidestepping. You must decide on your target and go in.” (Charles Whiting, Skorzeny, 1972, p. 17) In many ways, his belief that small units could actually move world history in a similar or even greater fashion than regiments and divisions was affirmed after his thirty-man glider-borne SS unit spirited away Mussolini from the Gran Sasso Hotel with not even a single shot fired. Even Winston Churchill heaped praise on him for his bravery in the face of incredible odds.

Rearranging signposts during The Battle of the Bulge, his commandos, who wore captured American uniforms and spoke fluent English with almost no accent, attempted to sow chaos behind Allied lines, seeking to misdirect troops and armored units away from key areas. While the entire Wacht am Rhein [“Watch Along the Rhine”] operation, which was the German code name for Hitler’s last desperate gamble to capture the Belgian port of Antwerp and cut the British and American forces in two, was ultimately a futile dying gasp of an already-defeated Nazi war machine, it proved so devastating to Allied morale (and killed 75,000 Americans) that some planners did reconsider whether the war would be over any time soon. And when a handful of Skorzeny’s men were captured in their false uniforms during that bitterly cold winter of 1945, panic spread throughout SHAEF (Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force), leading to a comical scene in which General Eisenhower frantically argued with his staff who insisted he station twenty guards with sub machine guns around his Paris office at all times in case Skorzeny tried to kill or abduct him. In the middle of the night, the future Director of the CIA, Walter Bedell Smith, Eisenhower’s aide-de-camp, ran out with his staff in pajamas and started firing his carbine into the brush just beyond the headquarters’ window.
He and his men later found the dead cat that had been scurrying about in the dark, but the legend of Otto Skorzeny had taken hold.

Dubbed “the most dangerous man in Europe,” Skorzeny finally surrendered to the Allies in occupied Germany, after seeing the futility of carrying out Hitler’s final order for his “werewolves” to continue the war after the end of hostilities. He was summarily booked and processed, and awaited trial for his role as a top Nazi official and a one-time personal bodyguard of Adolf Hitler. He was later approached by OSS officers as he languished in his holding cell at Darmstadt Prison and it is from this first contact that Ganis believes the true exploits of Skorzeny began. While stories differ as to the mechanics of his escape—Skorzeny claimed in his memoirs that he stole away in the trunk of a car and had a German driver unwittingly smuggle him through the checkpoints; while Arnold Silver, his American point of contact and debriefer said he was released on official terms—he nonetheless was a free man by 1948. After relocating to Paris, where he was unofficially used as a conduit through which CIA officials could monitor communist activity in postwar Europe, Skorzeny was quickly identified due to his conspicuous face and looming profile, and was outed by the French press during one of his many strolls down the Champs-Elysée with his wife Ilse.

Relocating to Madrid, it is here that Ganis believes his real work began, work that—Ganis believes—would ultimately find him involved with dark forces that killed JFK a decade later. Set up in a comfortable office that saw Skorzeny ostensibly managing a construction company that also handled imports and exports of mechanical parts to places in Central Africa and elsewhere, he for all outward purposes seems to have lived a quiet life. Writing memoirs, consulting with foreign governments for a variety of clandestine work, and running a low-key commando training school whose members included some of his former comrades from the SS, French OAS soldiers, American special forces officers, and a rogue’s gallery of other unsavory characters, his postwar life had little in common with his daring exploits during WWII.

The bulk of The Skorzeny Papers deals with the nebulous formation of both the CIA and its shell companies from the remains of the OSS, with familiar figures like Frank Wisner, Arnold Silver, Bill Harvey, and William Donovan featured prominently in Ganis’ narrative. The central portion of the book meanders from French anti-communist hit teams and their American handlers, to the also newly-formed Mossad and its eventual use of Skorzeny for the removal of Egyptian nuclear scientists, to a whole host of West German ex-Nazi intelligence personnel and their largely dull exploits passing mostly fabricated evidence of an impending Soviet invasion to Washington in exchange for their freedom and a career on the American payroll. Somewhere in this tangled web, Ganis situates Skorzeny who, because of his extensive contacts and personal daring during the Second World War, seems—in Ganis’ estimation—uniquely positioned to wrangle these disparate forces into something of a rogue network that is totally off the books. Ganis reiterates this throughout the book, seeking to distinguish ostensible layers of the spy world from what he considers its truly dark realm, which he identifies as a series of assassination teams bankrolled through corporate shell organizations like SOFINDUS, which eventually morphed into the World Commerce Corporation (WCC). 

In The Skorzeny Papers the WCC is akin to SPECTRE from the old James Bond novels; a looming, impenetrable evil menace whose tentacles reach into almost every aspect of Cold War politics and planning, Ganis spends a considerable amount of the book detailing its creation, key operators, possible ties to international Nazi groups and ultimately its potential role as the dark budget from which Skorzeny was able to fund his various international commando operations after the war. In reality, while I’m sure this is all very interesting to someone truly looking for an exhaustive account of postwar dirty money, it has very little to do with Skorzeny, and almost nothing to do with the domestic assassination of John F. Kennedy in Dealey Plaza.

The book then delves into the French OAS, focusing on the enigmatic Captain Jean René Souètre, who of course was allegedly deported from Fort Worth, TX, the afternoon of the JFK assassination. And while I am not denying that Souètre could have indeed been on the ground in Texas in some capacity, Ganis goes to great lengths—even putting him on the book’s cover next to Skorzeny and Kennedy—to implicate him in the plot: “The actual sniper, or team of snipers, was directed by Jean René Souètre, the former OAS officer wanted by French security services for an attempt on the life of President Charles de Gaulle in 1962.” 

While Souètre was a known paramilitary outlaw who hated the idea of Algerian independence from France—which Kennedy firmly championed from the Senate floor in the mid 1950s—he seems from the available evidence to have been a rogue player who drifted through these turbulent times, training commandos, taking exotic posts with his OAS buddies, and advising the CIA on a handful of ultimately uninteresting developments in the Third World. To suggest, as Ganis does, that he was the lynchpin of the ground operations in and around Dealey Plaza, while ignoring the more probable Cuban exile culprits, seems strained.

The Souètre chapter ends with a few lines that reveal a frustrating and repeated aspect of this book, where the author assumes that one’s proximity to a situation necessarily guarantees association and willing complicity. For example, Ganis argues:

The movements of Skorzeny during this period point to his being in attendance at the Lisbon meeting between Souètre and the CIA. In fact, Skorzeny made several trips to Portugal between March and July 1963 concerning his businesses. With the OAS cause now unsustainable, it appears Souètre left the meeting with a new option for employment, signing on with Skorzeny. Captain Jean René Souètre was now a soldier of fortune working for Otto Skorzeny in one of the most guarded secret organizations in the history of American intelligence.” (p. 248, italics added)

It’s not at all clear that these conclusions can be verified, and as Skorzeny’s whereabouts are only deduced from “the Skorzeny Papers,” which are never directly quoted—here or anywhere in the book to my knowledge—one must once again have faith that Ganis is being honest and accurate.

III

The book then spends a considerable amount of time on the Third World and its myriad decolonization movements, with a quite lengthy digression into Ganis’ analysis of the Congo Crisis, exploring the potential for Skorzeny to have been the mysterious QJ/WIN assassin the CIA hired to kill Patrice Lumumba. Ganis takes a fairly condescending approach to his analysis of Lumumba’s rise to power, claiming “As well-founded as Lumumba’s words may have been, they were politically ill-advised. This tense atmosphere was further compounded by the lack of a plan for the organized transition to power.” (p.279). As I have detailed in my article, “Desperate Measures in the Congo,” the United States destroyed any hope for a free Congo before Lumumba had risen to anything nearing real power. In fact, both Belgium and the CIA had planned on separating Katanga, the Congo’s richest area, from the country before it became independent. Belgium had stolen the country’s gold reserves, brought them to Brussels and refused to return them. President Eisenhower refused to meet with Lumumba after the Belgians had landed thousands of paratroopers inside the country. By the time Lumumba’s plane had landed back in Africa, Allen Dulles and friends all but marked Lumumba for death. For Ganis to say he had no plan for an “organized transition to power” smacks of paternalism: given his eloquence, popular appeal and vision of a new dawn for his recently unshackled nation, Lumumba may well have succeeded if he had not been undermined in advance.


The assassination mission was later aborted when the CIA and Belgian intelligence aided Katangese rebels with Lumumba’s capture after he fled his UN protection in a safe house. While I can see where Ganis is going, and how it could be possible, given that Skorzeny seems to have been in the Congo around this time, to my knowledge it’s been pretty strongly established that QJ/WIN, the CIA digraph of one of two selected assassins for the Congo plot, was actually Jose Marie Andre Mankel. To have sent a person as instantly recognizable as Otto Skorzeny into an unfolding international crisis involving the Soviet Union, Belgian and Congolese troops, U.N. officials from multiple nations, and American station personnel seems, to put it mildly, unwise. Indeed, WI/ROGUE, another CIA-sponsored hit man and agent sent on the assignment, had had plastic surgery and was said to be wearing a toupee during his visit. No matter Skorzeny’s connections to Katanga Province’s mining operations, which were real, he was more likely a visiting business opportunist rather than an actionable agent during the Congo Crisis, if he was present there those critical weeks surrounding Lumumba’s capture and execution at all.

Ganis then details Skorzeny’s one brief interview with a Canadian television program in September 1960, in which he boasts about being in high demand by both the enemies of Fidel Castro and Fidel himself, explaining a plot which he takes credit for being the first to discover. This was Operation Tropical, in which the CIA was allegedly training Skorzeny and his commandos for a kidnapping of the Cuban premier in early 1960. Ganis bases his description on an unnamed newspaper clipping found in the papers he secured in his winning auction bid. Curiously, I happened upon Operation Tropical in a perusal of the CIA’s online reading room months before I’d read this book, and searched in vain for the newspaper they cite as having outlined the plot, which they claim is the Sunday supplement edition of the Peruvian newspaper, La Cronica, dated August 7, 1966. I would be interested to read it if anyone can secure a copy. It would go a long way in verifying the validity of Ganis’ main body of evidence, and would be an interesting find for researchers more broadly. In any case, with the aborted Castro plot and a mainstream boilerplate description of the “failed Bay of Pigs invasion,” which of course Ganis attributes to Kennedy’s refusal to release nearby carrier-based air support (something Kennedy staunchly forbade before the operation was underway, a point which Ganis’ omits), we now enter the final stretch of the book, which looks directly at Skorzeny’s role in the JFK assassination.
Spoiler alert—there is none.


IV

“General American Oil Company,” “Colonel Gordon Simpson,” “Algur Meadows,” “Sir Stafford Sands,” “Colonel Robert Storey,” “Jacques Villeres,” “Permindex,” “Judge Duvall,” “Paul Raigorodsky,” “Thomas Eli Davis III,” “ Robert Ruark,” “Jake Hamon,” and about twenty other sub-headings flash across the first dozen or so pages of the final chapter of The Skorzeny Papers. The organization of the book centers on these disjointed, one-to-two-page sub-chapters which give the reader the disorienting and queasy feeling of reading it through glasses with the wrong prescription. Not only did Ganis miss the opportunity to style the life and times of Nazi Germany’s most infamous commando personality along the lines of a thrilling narrative, with exotic locales and shady deals over drinks and cigars, but he arranged the book in so awkward a fashion that he constantly has to end sentences with “and we will get back to him shortly,” or “and I will show you how this ties in later.” Even if one were to storyboard his entire panoply of tertiary personalities, it would look more like a Jackson Pollock art installation than a coherent plot with a compelling impetus culminating in the JFK assassination as we understand it. A story should be clear enough to draw the reader in with its simple facts, and should sensibly unfold on its own accord so as to prevent the need to constantly handhold during the descent into the labyrinth.

Conspicuously absent in The Skorzeny Papers are any substantial sub-headings detailing Cuban exiles, Allen Dulles, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, or any of the genuine suspects of the JFK assassination, save for meanderings on James Angleton’s and Bill Harvey’s roles in the creation of Staff D, the CIA’s executive action arm. Ruth and Michael Paine are nowhere to be found. Neither is a description of the aborted Chicago plot, or any substantive explanation of how Lee Harvey Oswald was moved into the Texas School Book Depository, or a note about David Phillips’ role in the whole affair from his Mexico City station. While these very real aspects of the actual JFK plot are infrequently touched upon in passing—Ganis cannot ignore the entire body of evidence, despite his best efforts—he insists on crow-barring his newfound “primary source data” into a story that at this point doesn’t permit much unique interpretation. It’s safe to say, in 2018, that President Kennedy was assassinated by a domestic, military-industrial-intelligence apparatus that viewed his foreign policy as anathema to both the “winning” of the Cold War and to their image of the United States’ role in world affairs. That Kennedy was a staunch decolonization advocate, a friend and champion of Third World leaders like Sukarno in Indonesia, Nasser in Egypt, Lumumba in the Congo, and sought diplomatic solutions to prevent the impending nuclear Armageddon with Nikita Khrushchev’s Soviet Union is all but ignored in Ganis’ conclusions as to why JFK was shot in Dallas. None of it is suggested. What ultimately led to the tragedy in Dealey Plaza, according to Ganis, is something much bigger.

It all comes down to JFK’s sexual indiscretions, folks. That’s right. Jack Kennedy just couldn’t resist the advances of the hundreds of femme fatales who threw themselves at him, and according to Ganis, the high command had to take him out when he cavorted with the ultimate Cold War honeypot.

I wish I were kidding. But unfortunately I’m not.

The author submits to the reader that the act to assassinate President Kennedy was carried out for reasons that far exceeded concerns over U.S. National security. In particular, they arose out of a pending international crisis of such a grave nature that the very survival of the United States and its NATO partners was at risk. At the source of this threat was breaking scandals that unknown to the public involved President Kennedy. To those around the President (sic) there was also the impact these scandals had on the president’s important duties such as control of the nuclear weapons and response to nuclear attack. It also appears the facts were about to be known. The two scandals at the heart of this high concern were the Profumo Affair and the Bobby Baker Scandal. (p.294)

I will spare anyone reading this a rebuttal of the relevance of this assertion, but suffice it to say, Ganis places the final straw at Kennedy’s—demonstrably disproven—affair with Eastern Bloc seductress Ellen Rometsch. Ganis claims, “Historians are taking a hard look at this information, but preliminary findings indicate Rometsch was perhaps a Soviet agent.” (p.295) He continues, “Her potential as a Soviet agent is explosive since Baker had arranged for multiple secret sexual liaisons between her and President Kennedy.” (p. 295)

He then scrapes together a weird narrative of how Attorney General Robert Kennedy was pleading with J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI to withhold these revelations in a “desperate effort to save his brother and the office of the presidency.” (p.296), He argues that “As President Kennedy was arriving in Dallas, Texas, on November 22, 1963, a very dark cloud of doom was poised over Washington, and the impending storm of information was hanging by a thread.” (p. 296). That’s when Skorzeny—from Madrid—was activated to save the Western world. It seems pointless to add that retired ace archive researcher Peter Vea saw the FBI documents on this case. The agents had concluded there was no such liaison between the president and Rometsch. In other words, to save himself, Baker was trying to spread his racket to the White House. Bobby Kennedy called his bluff.

Ganis pretentiously concludes, “In the end, the assassination network that killed JFK was the unfortunate legacy of General Donovan’s original Secret Paramilitary Group that included as a key adviser from its early inception—Otto Skorzeny. Furthermore, the evidence would seem to indicate Skorzeny organized, planned and carried out the Dallas assassination, however, we may never know what his exact role was.” (p. 342)
Indeed we may never, because there does not seem to be any. Ganis continues, “On November 22, 1963, an assassination network was in place in Dallas; it was constructed of associates of Otto Skorzeny and initiated by his minders in the U.S. Government and clandestine groups within NATO.” Wrapping up, the author reiterates, “The events that led to this killing were triggered by a limited group of highly placed men in the American government. They were convinced that the West was in imminent danger and posed to suffer irreparable damage, and, for some of them, imminent exposure to personal disgrace beckoned. All of this sprang from reckless debauchery in the White House and beyond. With the situation breached by Soviet intelligence and ripe for exploitation, it became untenable for this group. They took action.”

I’ll give you a few minutes now to wipe the tears from your eyes. Okay, good. Are you still with me? 

Overall, The Skorzeny Papers could, I suppose, serve as something like a compendium or glossary for those who just have to know the minutest details of the inner workings of this or that shell corporation that may or may not have had a hand in some world affair during the Cold War. But there are much better books on that. Ultimately, Ganis’ book is an uncomfortable, freewheeling careen down strange dead-end tracks, with unannounced detours through cold dark streets full of faceless characters, and later, journeys through mirror-filled fun houses of speculation, with a final twist and turn that spits you out right over Niagara Falls, barrel and all.

Michael Le Flem 

Michael Le Flem is an independent researcher and a university lecturer in history and philosophy in Chicago. He holds a Master's degree in Western Intellectual History from Florida State University.