False Flags, Operation Northwoods: General Lemnitzer’s Pretexts

Abelardo Moreno Fernández

“…the conclusion that it is impossible to achieve a credible internal revolt within the next 9 to 10 months requires the decision by the United States to pursue a “provocation” as a justification for positive military action by the United States”.
Memorandum of March 7, 1962 of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the United States Armed Forces

Faced with the persistent and aggressive escalation of the United States government in Latin America and particularly against Cuba, it is necessary to recall some of the darkest episodes of the dirty war that the U.S. government waged against our country in the early years of the Revolution, which could be revived against the Cuban Revolution or any of the countries in the region subject to Washington’s policy of “regime change”.

In the months following the invasion of mercenary forces in Playa Girón, organized, financed and supported by the government of the United States, the US developed numerous plans aimed at destabilizing the Cuban Revolution with the objective of creating by any means the conditions that would facilitate an invasion of Cuba and the overthrow of our Revolution.

For this purpose, Operation Mongoose was developed, considered the largest subversion operation carried out by the United States prior to its aggression against Vietnam, and in the context of which the largest undercover operations base at that time was created in Florida. Various branches of the U.S. government took part in it and, under the direction of the CIA and the Pentagon, they were in charge of covert operations, paramilitaries as well as policies aimed at overthrowing the Revolutionary Government.

The base, known by the code name JM/WAVE, was located south of Miami and by the spring of 1962 more than 200 CIA officers were operating there, handling more than 2200 Cuban counterrevolutionary agents. It also boasted 100 vessels, including an elevated number of speedboats, and had access to the F-105 Phantoms aircraft stationed at Homestead Air Base. JM/WAVE also spearheaded attempts to assassinate Commander in Chief Fidel Castro Ruz, a project codenamed ZR/RIFLE.

In the context of that operation, and at the request of the so-called “Cuba Project,” the Pentagon, under the direction of General Lyman Lemnitzer, then Chief of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the U.S. Armed Forces, prepared a memorandum that provided “a brief but precise description of the pretexts that would justify a U.S. military intervention in Cuba.”

Although this document, called “Operation Northwoods” was not approved in its entirety by the Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara, or by President John F. Kennedy, some of his proposals were executed and successful challenged by the security agencies of that country.

General Lemnitzer established such pretexts in a period of increasing tensions between Cuba and the United States that would place his country in a position to voice justifiable and credible complaints. At the same time, he pursued the objective of having the United Nations portray the image that the Cuban government was reckless and irresponsible, and an “alarming and unpredictable threat to peace in the Western Hemisphere.

He argued that any action that becomes a pretext for U.S. military intervention would lead to a political decision that would then lead to military action.

The U.S. Joint Chief of Staff postulated that the plan envisaged that these incidents would become increasingly serious and would be combined with other apparently unrelated events in order to mask the ultimate goal, thus creating a far-reaching negative impression of Cuban conduct, both towards other countries and the United States.

According to the memorandum, it would be preferable for there to be a Cuban reaction to the various provocations, which in turn would lead to a response from the United States armed forces. A series of actions were contemplated that, although in many cases focused on the United States Naval Base at Guantánamo, also included other scenarios.

It was planned to be executed at Guantánamo:

-That friendly Cubans in uniform, cross the perimeter fence of the Base and simulate an attack.

-Capture (friendly) Cuban saboteurs inside the Base.

-Initiate riots near the main gate of the base (friendly Cubans).

-Blow up ammunition depots inside the Base and start fires.

-Burn airplanes at the Base (sabotage).

-Fire mortar shells from outside the Base that would cause damage to the infrastructure.

-Capture assault teams approaching the Base by sea or in the vicinity of the city of Guantánamo.

-Capture a militia group that assaults the Base.

-Sabotage a ship in the bay or at the entrance to the bay, and conduct the burial of the alleged victims.

From these actions, the United States would respond with offensive operations to guarantee the supply of water and energy to the Base, immediately destroying the artillery and mortar sites that threatened it and, from then on, large-scale US military operations would begin.

But General Lemnitzer’s proposal did not stop there. He argued that an incident could be manufactured by emulating the motto “remember the Maine” in several ways:

-Create an incident demonstrating that Cuban planes attacked and shot down a chartered civilian aircraft departing from the United States and heading for Jamaica, Guatemala, Panama or Venezuela. The destination would be used only to create a flight plan through Cuba. The passengers would be a group of college students travelling on vacation, or a group of people with common interests who would justify chartering an airplane.

-An exact duplicate of a civil aircraft belonging to the CIA would be painted and numbered. At any given time, the duplicate would replace the real civil aircraft and be boarded by the selected passengers, all with well-prepared false identities, and the real aircraft would become an unmanned aircraft.

-The unmanned and the real aircraft would be located at a point south of Florida. From there, the passenger aircraft would descend to a minimum height and land on an auxiliary runway at Eglin Air Force Base, where passengers would be evacuated and the aircraft would return to its previous status. The unmanned aircraft would continue its flight plan, and when over Cuba it would transmit an international emergency frequency “May Day” message informing that it was being attacked by a MIG aircraft. The transmission would be interrupted with the destruction of the aircraft that would be activated by a radio signal.

-This would allow International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) radio stations in the Western Hemisphere to inform the United States of what had happened, rather than the United States having to “sell” the incident.

-In the same vein, General Lemnitzer’s report proposes the possibility of creating an incident where Cuban MIG planes have apparently shot down a U.S. Air Force aircraft in international waters in an unprovoked attack.

-The basis for this pretext would be the conduct of US air manoeuvres by four F-101 aircraft which, on the basis of an unprovoked attack by the United States, would have been used for the purpose of the attack.

In the same vein, General Lemnitzer’s report proposes the possibility of creating an incident where Cuban MIG planes have apparently shot down a U.S. Air Force aircraft in international waters in an unprovoked attack.

The basis for this pretext would be the execution of US air manoeuvres by four F-101 aircraft which, departing from the Homestead air base, would approach Cuba. During these manoeuvres, one of the U.S. aircraft would separate from the formation and, being close to Cuba, would transmit that it had been attacked by MIG aircraft and was being shot down. The pilot would then fly west at a very low altitude and land on an auxiliary runway at the Eglin base, where the plane would be stored in a hangar and a new insignia would be applied, while the pilot, who had flown under a false identity, would recover the real one and resume his normal functions. In this way, both the aircraft and the pilot would have disappeared, and the other members of the F-101 formation would believe that, in reality, a fourth aircraft had been shot down.

At the same time as the alleged shoot down, a submarine or a small speedboat would leave pieces of an F-101 and parachute about 15 to 20 miles off the Cuban coast and depart. Aircraft and surface ships would then be sent on a rescue mission, which would locate the fragments of the F-101.

Fifty-seven years after Operation Northwood, although international conditions have changed and the world has evolved, the aggressive nature of the U.S. government to resort to provocation, lies and pretexts to achieve its designs is still present, as demonstrated in its recent actions against Cuba, Venezuela and other countries in our region.

Translation by Internationalist 360°