Operation 40

Operation 40

Operation 40 was a Central Intelligence Agency-sponsored undercover operation in the early 1960s, which was active in the United States and the Caribbean (including Cuba), Central America, and Mexico. It was created by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in March 1960, after the January 1959 Cuban Revolution, and was presided over by Vice-president Richard Nixon. The group included Frank Sturgis (who would later become one of the Watergate burglars); Felix Rodriguez (a CIA officer who later was involved in the capture and summary execution of Che Guevara); Luis Posada Carriles (held in the US in 2010 on charges of illegal immigration, he is demanded by Venezuela for his key role in the execution of the 1976 Cubana Flight 455 bombing); Orlando Bosch (founder of the counterrevolutionary Coordination of United Revolutionary Organizations, that organized the 1976 murder of Chilean former minister Orlando Letelier); Rafael 'Chi Chi' Quintero; Virgilio Paz Romero; Pedro Luis Diaz Lanz; Bernard Barker; Porter Goss; and Barry Seal. Members took part in the April 1961 Bay of Pigs Invasion directed against the government of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro.

Operation 40 had 86 employees in 1961, of which 37 were trained as case officers.



On 11 December 1959, following the Cuban Revolution of January 1959, Colonel J.C. King, chief of the CIA's Western Hemisphere Division, sent a confidential memorandum to CIA director Allen W. Dulles. King argued that in Cuba there existed a "far-left dictatorship, which if allowed to remain will encourage similar actions against U.S. holdings in other Latin American countries."

As a result of this memorandum, Dulles established a ZR/RIFLE unit named Operation 40, from the "Group of 40" of the National Security Council group that followed Cuba. The group was presided over by then-Vice President Richard M. Nixon and included Admiral Arleigh Burke, Livingston Merchant of the State Department, National Security Adviser Gordon Gray, as well as Dulles himself.

Tracy Barnes functioned as operating office of the Cuban Task Force. He called a meeting on 18 January 1960, in his temporary office near the Lincoln Memorial. Those attending included David Atlee Phillips, Jacob 'Jake' Esterline, E. Howard Hunt, and Frank Bender (an alias of Gerry Droller), all of the CIA.[1][2][3] Barnes, Phillips, Esterline, Hunt, David Sanchez Morales and others had previously worked together in the 1954 overthrow of Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala, organized by the CIA under the code-name Operation PBSUCCESS.

On 17 March 1960, President Eisenhower signed a National Security Council directive on the anti-Cuban covert action program authorizing the CIA to organize, train, and equip Cuban refugees as a guerrilla force to overthrow the government of Cuban prime minister Fidel Castro.

The group recruited former Batista-regime intelligence officers and mob henchmen such as Eladio del Valle and Rolando Masferrer, soldiers of fortune such as Frank Sturgis, and CIA case officers such as Col. William Bishop and David Sanchez Morales, who managed teams of assassins.[4]

"This photograph was taken in a nightclub in Mexico City on 22nd January, 1963. It is believed that the men in the photograph are all members of Operation 40. Closest to the camera on the left is Felix Rodriguez. Next to him is Porter Goss and Barry Seal. Tosh Plumlee is attempting to hide his face with his coat. Others in the picture are Alberto Blanco (3rd right) and Jorgo Robreno (4th right)."- text from Spartacus Educational site by John Simkin[5]


Over the next few years Operation 40 worked closely with several anti-Castro Cuban organizations including Alpha 66, a US-supported Cuban paramilitary group that trained in the Everglades. CIA officials and agents such as William King Harvey, Thomas G. Clines, Porter Goss, Gerry Patrick Hemming, David Sanchez Morales, Carl Elmer Jenkins, Bernard Barker, William Robert Plumlee ("Tosh" Plumlee), and William C. Bishop also joined the project. (Later, Ted Shackley played a role, as CIA station-chief in Miami after the Bay of Pigs invasion.)

The individuals who composed Operation 40 had been selected in Miami, Florida by Jose Sanjenis Perdomo, former Chief of Police during Cuban President Carlos Prio's regime. Operation 40 had 86 employees in 1961, of which 37 were trained as case officers. These included: Frank Sturgis, Felix Rodriguez, Antonio Veciana, Luis Posada Carriles, Orlando Bosch, Rafael 'Chi Chi' Quintero, Roland Masferrer, Eladio del Valle, Guillermo Novo, Carlos Bringuier, Eugenio Martinez ('Musculito'), Antonio Cuesta, Hermino Diaz Garcia, Juan Manuel Salvat, Ricardo Morales Navarrete, Isidro Borjas, Virgilio Paz Romero, Jose Dionisio Suarez, Felipe Rivero, Gaspar 'Gasparito' Jimenez Escobedo, Nazario Sargent, Pedro Luis Diaz Lanz, Jose Basulto, Alvin Ross, Ricardo Morales Navarrete, Juan Manuel Salvat, (Cuban-American) Bernard Barker, and Paulino Sierra. Barry Seal may have flown for Operation 40.

A letter dated 8 February 1961 signed by Felipe Rodriguez of the CIA, lists the leaders and men of "la COMPANIA DE INTELIGENCIA Y RECONOCIMIENTO (Operacion-40)". This letter also has names and information as to member status of death, prison, of various Bay of Pigs Invasion participants. (Letter obtained from Brigade 2506 Headquarters.)[6] Among the names listed are: Jose Manuel Alvarez Pascual, Rafael D. Arce Godinez, Enrique Jose Casares Blanco, Miguel Cossio (Cosio Rosales), Arsenio Felipe De Diego Aday, Carlos Alberto De Diego Aday, Alberto J. Farinas Alzugaray (Alzagaray), Jorge Luis Fernandez Lopez Callejas, Federico M. Flaquer (Flagler) Carballar, Mario Fuentes Macias, Héctor A. de Lamar Maza, Mario Luis de Lamar Maza, Vicente Leon Leon, Fernando J. Milanes Morales, Ramon Eduardo Pages Morales, Carlos Pascual Noriega, Eddy Perez, Ramon Perez Veitia (Veytia), Ramon Pla Perez, Pedro Salvador Puig Gomez, Jose Manuel ('Manolo') Reboso (Reposo) Bello, Felipe Rodriguez, and Rogelio ZAYAS Bazan Loret de Mola.[7]


On 4 March 1960, La Coubre, a ship flying a Belgian flag, exploded in Havana Bay. It was loaded with arms and ammunition that had been sent to the armed forces of the post-revolution government of Cuba. A second bomb was set nearby and timed to go off later - to kill the volunteers attempting to rescue the (primarily civilian) victims of the first explosion. The explosions killed 75 people and over 200 were injured.[1] Fabian Escalante, an officer of the Cuban Department of State Security (G-2), later claimed that this was the first successful act carried out by Operation 40.[citation needed] Operation 40 was not only involved in sabotage operations. One member, Frank Sturgis, allegedly told author Mike Canfield: "this assassination group (Operation 40) would upon orders, naturally, assassinate either members of the military or the political parties of the foreign country that you were going to infiltrate, and if necessary some of your own members who were suspected of being foreign agents...We were concentrating strictly in Cuba at that particular time." The group sought to incite civil war in Cuba against the government of prime minister Fidel Castro. "In October 1960, they realize that this project has failed, and that is when Brigade 2506" was created, a CIA-sponsored group made up of 1,511 Cuban exiles who fought in the April 1961 Bay of Pigs Invasion.

The group played a major role in the invasion. "The first news that we have of Operation 40 is a statement made by a mercenary of the Bay of Pigs who was the chief of military intelligence of the invading brigade and whose name was Jose Raúl de Varona Gonzalez," writes Escalante. "In his statement this man said the following: in the month of March, 1961, around the seventh, Mr. Vicente Leon arrived at the base in Guatemala at the head of some 53 men saying that he had been sent by the office of Mr. Joaquin Sanjenis, Chief of Civilian Intelligence, with a mission he said was called Operation 40. It was a special group that didn't have anything to do with the brigade and which would go in the rearguard occupying towns and cities. His prime mission was to take over the files of intelligence agencies, public buildings, banks, industries, and capture the heads and leaders in all of the cities and interrogate them. Interrogate them in his own way".

On 17 April 1961, Vicente Leon Leon, with other members of Operation 40, landed at the Bay of Pigs via the CIA-chartered freighter Atlantico. He was killed in action.[8][9] Other members are reported on the freighter Lake Charles that retreated without landing any attackers.[10]

In a 9 June 1961 memorandum[11] to Richard Goodwin, historian and Kennedy advisor Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. wrote: "Sam Halper, who has been the New York Times correspondent in Havana and more recently in Miami, came to see me last week. He has excellent contracts among the Cuban exiles.... Halper says that CIA set up something called Operation 40 under the direction of a man named (as he recalled) Captain Luis Sanjenis, who was also chief of intelligence.... But the CIA agent in charge, a man known as Felix, trained the members of the group in methods of third degree interrogation, torture and general terrorism. The liberal Cuban exiles believe that the real purpose of Operation 40 was to 'kill Communists' and, after eliminating hard-core Fidelistas, to go on to eliminate first the followers of Ray, then the followers of Varona and finally to set up a right wing dictatorship, presumably under Manuel Artime.... The exiles believe that all these things had CIA approval.... Nice fellows." Halper actually worked for Time, not the NY Times.

See also


  1. ^ a b Escalante (1995)
  2. ^ Furiati (1995), pp.14-15
  3. ^ Fonzi (1993), p.415
  4. ^ Mahoney p 174-175; HSCA staff reports
  5. ^ John Simkin (unknown). "Barry Seal". http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/JFKseal.htm. Retrieved 2010 1 18. 
  6. ^ Cuban Information Archives Document 0034 Explanation of the BOP Name List http://cuban-exile.com/doc_026-050/doc0034.html
  7. ^ Cuban Information Archives Document 0035 List of Participants of the Bay of Pigs Invasion http://cuban-exile.com/doc_026-050/doc0035.html
  8. ^ Rodriguez (1999), p.153
  9. ^ Fernandez (1999), p.100
  10. ^ Cuban Information Archives Document 0042 Chronology of Military Operations http://cuban-exile.com/doc_026-050/doc0042.html
  11. ^ Cuban Information Archives Document 0355 http://cuban-exile.com/doc_351-375/doc0355.html


  • Bohning, Don. 2005. The Castro Obsession: U.S. Covert Operations Against Cuba, 1959-1965. p. 303 ISBN 1574886762
  • Dankbaar, Wim. 2005. Files on JFK: Interviews with Confessed Assassin James E. Files, and More New Evidence of the Conspiracy That Killed JFK. ISBN 0979406315
  • Escalante, Fabian. 1995. The Secret War: CIA Covert Operations Against Cuba, 1959–62. ISBN 1875284869
  • Fernandez, Jose Ramon. 1999,2001. Playa Giron/Bay of Pigs: Washington's First Military Defeat in the Americas. Pathfinder ISBN 087348925X ISBN 9780873489256
  • Fonzi, Gaeton. 1993. The Last Investigation. ISBN 1560250526
  • Furiati, Claudia. ZR Rifle: Plot to Kill Kennedy and Castro. Ocean Press. ISBN 1875284850
  • Gyeorgos Ceres Hatonn. Tangled Webs Vol.I p. 73
  • Rodriguez, Juan Carlos. 1999. Bay of Pigs and the CIA. Ocean Press Melbourne. ISBN 1875284982
  • Russell, Dick. 2003. The Man Who Knew Too Much: Hired to Kill Oswald and Prevent the Assassination of JFK
  • Scott, PD and Marshall, J. 1998. Cocaine Politics: Drugs, Armies, and the CIA in Central America
  • U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary. 1974. Statement of Information: Hearings Before the Committee on the Judiciary, House of Representatives. "specially trained to capture documents of the Castro government"

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