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Monday, July 9, 2012

William Kelly: The Tampa Plot in Retrospect

The Tampa Plot in Retrospect





JFK at MacDill AFB, Florida, November 18, 193

Former SS Agent Blaine said that he has kept some of the advance reports on the Tampa trip, reports that had previously been reported destroyed.

The Tampa Plot in Retrospect - By William Kelly

Four days before he was killed in Dallas President Kennedy visited Tampa, Florida, where he addressed the Steelworkers Union and then later in Miami the Inter-American Press Association (IAPA) to whom he delivered a major speech on Cuba, part of which was said to have been designed to confirm his support for a coup in Cuba.

In the course of this trip, which included a long motorcade that began and ended at MacDill AFB, Kennedy met privately with the commander of MacDill, a base where a quick-strike unit was prepared to intervene in Cuba if called upon to do so. As Peter Dale Scott has pointed out, MacDill AFB was the recipient of the special message from Dallas PD officer Stringfellow informing the Quick-Strike unit that the accused assassin was a Cuban Communist, a possible instigation to mobilize.

Also in the course of the visit to Tampa, the Secret Service and local authorities investigated a plot to kill the president, a conspiracy that included shooting the President with a high powered rifle while he rode in the motorcade, and a patsy, Gilberto Lopez, a Cuban affiliated with the FPCC who was trying to get back into Cuba, and eventually did so, via the same route Oswald allegedly tried to take via Texas and Mexico City.

News of the Tampa plot was confined to a single newspaper report, and picked up by the UPI, but Lamar Waldron and Thom Hartmann explore this plot further and in some detail in their books “Ultimate Sacrifice” (Carroll & Graf, 2005) and “Legacy of Secrecy” (Counterpoint, 2008).

While their view of the assassination is somewhat warped by the adherence to their theory that what happened at Dealey Plaza was planned by Mafia dons in league with some CIA officers and Cubans planning a “C-Day” coup and US invasion of Cuba, much of what they have uncovered is true and can be independently verified.

Laying the basic ground work in “Ultimate Sacrifice – John and Robert Kennedy, the Plan for a Coup in Cuba, and the Murder of JFK,” at first they intentionally neglected to name their primary suspect to lead the Coup in Cuba, a coup that the CIA was unmistakably plotting. Desmond Fitzgerald (on September 25, 1964) informed the Joint Chiefs of Staff of their “Valkyrie” plan, based on a failed plot to kill Hitler adapted to Cuba. This plan targeted disenchanted Cuban military officers and a few revolutionary figures close to Castro.

That alone is a major research breakthrough, and if they would have stopped right there and entwined the details of how that Cuban coup planning was redirected to Dealey Plaza, it would have been enough, but they further developed their theory with the additional details - that the Kennedys had a approved a coup in Cuba to take place on C-Day (Dec. 1) and that this plot was hijacked by Mafia dons Santo Traficante and Carlos Marcello and used to kill Kennedy.

Although he is not named in the first edition of their book, Juan Almeida is identified in hastily published follow up edition after Almeida was named by others.

My primary problems with their work is centered on the fact that they made up the term “C-Day” for the date of their planned coup and invasion of Cuba, so it is not a term you will find in any government records, although the idea of a coup in Cuba was the subject of many discussions that are memorialized in memos and documents, especially the military records found among the Califano papers, released under the JFK Act [ and posted on-line at Mary Ferrell ]

It has also been brought to our attention that on the date of the supposed coup, it has been documented that Almeida was in an airplane on the way to Africa to lead Cuban forces in the Congo, so he was in no position to lead a coup in Cuba and in any case, he didn’t, and is still considered in the good graces of the Castro government in Cuba.

My other problem with the Waldron/Hartman theory is that the coup plan was known to, infiltrated and hijacked by Mafia dons, when in fact the CIA and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who were in cahoots in the Valkyrie Plot, were quite capable of redirecting the Havana coup from Castro to Kennedy without any help from their Mafia friends, though they certainly could have been used in some of the tactical aspects (ie. silencing the Patsy).

Nor do I think that their extensive use of anonymous sources contributes to their credibility, though I believe their unidentified ONI source as having shadowed Oswald and destroying official government records related to Oswald immediately after he was arrested.

That said, Waldron and Hartmann have done extensive research into the Tampa plot, and reported what they knew in their books, some of which is quoted here.

In “Ultimate Sacrifice” (p. 145), they write: “Authorities had received credible reports of threats against JFK, and Tampa authorities had uncovered a plan to assassinate JFK during his long motorcade there...Long-secret Congressional reports confirm that ‘the threat on November 18, 1963 was posed by a mobile, unidentified rifleman shooting from a window in a tall building with a high power rifle fitted with a scope.’ One Secret Service agent told Congressional investigators that ‘there was an active threat against the President of which the Secret Service was aware in November 1963 in the period immediately prior to JFK’s trip to Miami made by ‘a group of people.’”

“The Tampa threat was confirmed to us by Chief of Police (J.P.) Mullins, who also confirmed that it wasn’t allowed to be published at the time. However, as with Chicago, JFK knew about the Tampa assassination threat. In the words of a high Florida law-enforcement official at the time, ‘JFK had been briefed he was in danger.’”

JFK at MacDill - Mary Ferrell Photo Archives


“After JFK arrived in Tampa on November 18, 1963, newspapers say that he was first ‘closeted’ with ‘General Paul Adams, commanding officer of the Strike [Force] Command’ for a ‘secret session at MacDill.’ Joining General Adams were the commander of the Tactical Air Command headquartered at Langley AFB, Virginia, and the Commander of the Army Command based at Fort Monroe, Virginia…The Strike Force Command is known as Central Command, or CentCom, today. It was described in newspapers at the time as ‘the nation’s brushfire warfare force,’ designed for rapid deployment to trouble spots…Following his brief meeting with the military leaders, JFK continued a heavy schedule of speeches and public appearances. His main motorcade for the public lasted about forty minutes….”



JFK at MacDill - Mary Ferrell Photo Archives

After the motorcade JFK addressed the United Steelworkers at the International Inn, where Waldron and Hartman say, “Just four days later, Trafficante would go to the site of JFK’s last speech in Tampa, the International Inn to publicly toast and celebrate JFK’s death in Dallas.”

After that Tampa speech, Kennedy went to Miami to address the media, and reportedly included in his speech, a special message for those who were contemplating a coup in Cuba.

“The Tampa Police Chief on November 18, 1963, J.P. Mullins, confirmed the existence of the plot to assassinate JFK in Tampa that day. While all news of the threat was suppressed at the time, two small articles appeared right after JFK’s death, but even then the story was quickly suppressed. Mullins was quoted in those 42-year old articles, and he didn’t speak for publication about the threat again until he spoke with us in 1996, confirming not just the articles but adding important new details.” (p. 254)

“The Tampa attempt is documented in full for the first time in any book later; but briefly, it involved at least two men, one of whom threatened to ‘use a gun’ and was described by the Secret Service as ‘white, male, 20, slender build,’ 28.….According to Congressional investigators, ‘Secret Service memos’ say ‘the threat on Nov. 18, 1963 was posed by a mobile, unidentified rifleman shooting from a window in a tall building with a high powered rifle fitted with a scope.’ 29. That was the same basic scene in Chicago and Dallas.”

“Chief Mullins confirmed that the police were told about the threat by the Secret Service prior to JFK’s motorcade through Tampa, which triggered even more security precautions. One motorcade participant still recalls commenting at the time that ‘at every overpass there were police officers with rifles on alert.”

“Secret Service agents in Tampa were probably subjected to the same pressure for secrecy as those in Chicago…It also explains why, in the mid-1990s, the Secret Service destroyed documents about JFK’s motorcades in the weeks before Dallas, rather than turn them over to the Assassinations Records Review Board as the law required. 36 As noted earlier, that destruction occurred just weeks after the authors had first informed the Review Board about the Tampa attempt.” 37 (p. 256)

“There is clear evidence that the Secret Service and other agencies handled the serious JFK assassination attempts in Chicago and Tampa far differently from earlier assassination attempts we’ve researched. Since just after JFK’s election, most attempts to kill him would briefly make the newspapers at the time of the incident. 38 That was even true for minor, routine threats to JFK in Chicago and Tampa in the fall of 1963,…”

“The Tampa attempt was kept completely out of the news media at the time of JFK’s visit, and for four days afterward. Only two small articles about the Tampa attempt finally appeared after JFK’s death, one in Tampa on Saturday, November 23. By the time the next article appeared in Miami on Sunday, the authorities had clammed up and were no longer talking. There were no follow-up articles in either paper. 40 The two articles went unnoticed by Congressional investigators and historians for decades…”

“What made the attempts to kill JFK in Chicago and Tampa (and later Dallas) different from all previous threats was the involvement of Cuban suspects – and a possible Cuban agent – in each area. In addition, these multi-person attempts were clearly not the work of the usual lone, mentally ill person, but were clearly the result of coordinated planning. The Chicago and Tampa assassination attempts took place… when US officials were making plans for dealing with the possible “assassination” of “American officials” in retaliation for US actions against Castro…”

“In both the Tampa and Dallas attempts, officials sought a young man in his early twenties, white with slender build, who had been in recent contact with a small pro-Castro group called the Fair Play for Cuba Committee (FPCC). In Dallas that was Lee Harvey Oswald, but the Tampa person of interest was Gilberto Policarpo Lopez, who – like Oswald- was a former defector. 44 We later document eighteen parallels between Dallas suspect Lee Harvey Oswald and Gilberto Policarpo Lopez, but here are a few: Like Oswald, Lopez was also of interest to Navy Intelligence. Also similar to Oswald, Gilberto Lopez made a mysterious trip to Mexico City in the fall of 1963, attempting to get to Cuba. Lopez even used the same border crossing as Oswald, and government reports say both went one way by car, though neither man owned a car. Like Oswald, Lopez had recently separated from his wife and had gotten into a fistfight in the summer of 1963 over supposedly pro-Castro sympathies. 45 Declassified Warren Commission and CIA documents confirm that Lopez, whose movements parallel Oswald in so many ways in 1963, was on a secret ‘mission’ for the US involving Cuba, an ‘operation’ so secret that the CIA felt that protecting it was considered more important than thoroughly investigating the JFK assassination.” 46

“Since the initial publication of Ultimate Sacrifice, a few additional references to Tampa have surfaced. On June 10, 2005, - five months before the first public revelation of the Tampa attempt in our book – the Secret Service’s advance agent for JFK’s trip to Tampa made an intriguing comment during an interview with researcher Vince Palamara. Retired agent Gerald Blaine said there were ‘more characters’ for the Secret Service to worry about ‘in Tampa’ than in Dallas. Blaine said ‘we were really concerned about that. We did a lot of work on that.’ Palamara writes that “Blaine added that he was riding in the lead car with the Chief of Police’ during JFK’s Tampa motorcade.” 36 (p. 718)

(36 Vince Michael Palamara Survivor’s Guilt: The Secret Service & the Failure to Protect the President (Pennsylvania, 2005, pp. 20, 21)

Also see:
2. “Threats on Kennedy Made Here,” Tampa Tribune 11/23/63; “Man Held In Threats to JFK,” Miami Herald 11-24-63 – it is bylined Tampa (UPI), so it may well have appeared in other newpapers.
3. Frank DeBenedictis, “Four Days before Dallas,Tampa Bay History Fall/Winter 1994

[BK Notes: If anyone can obtain the Tampa Tribute Article “Man Held in Threats to JFK” of 11/23/63, I’d like to have the text copy so I can post it, as well as Frank’s article.]





Military ready for action. Caption reads: Initial USAF deliveries to MacDill AFB, Florida, in November 1963, were 29 "borrowed" Navy F-4Bs (given USAF serial numbers, but eventually returned). These 12th and 15th Tactical Fighter Wing aircraft were soon joined by production F-4Cs. Both types appear in this photo.


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