Memo: Pretexts to Justify Military Intervention in Cuba


The U.S. federal government considered a "body of secrets" which could justify an American military invasion of Cuba. Those items, set forth in "Operation Northwoods," included proposed events like:

  • Staging assassinations of Cubans living in the United States (which would wound, not kill, the targets)
  • Developing a “Communist Cuba terror campaign in the Miami area, in other Florida cities and even in Washington"
  • “Sink[ing] a boatload of Cuban refugees (real or simulated)”
  • Faking a Cuban Air Force attack on a civilian jetliner
  • Concocting a "Remember the Maine" incident by blowing-up an American ship in Cuban waters, conducting “funerals for mock-victims,” then blaming Cuban sabotage as the source of the trouble.

This image depicts the first page of suggested “pretexts to justify US military intervention in Cuba.” The text of the 13 March 1962 document, splits into paragraphs here for easier reading, states as follows:



(Note: The courses of action which follow are a preliminary submission suitable only for planning purposes. They are arranged neither chronologically nor in ascending order. Together with similar inputs from other agencies, they are intended to provide a point of departure for the development of a single, integrated, time-phased plan.

Such a plan would permit the evaluation of individual projects within the context of cumulative, correlated actions designed to lead inexorably to the objective of adequate justification for US military intervention in Cuba).

1. Since it would seem desirable to use legitimate provocation as the basis for US military intervention in Cuba a cover and deception plan to include requisite preliminary actions such as has been developed in response to Task 33 c, could be executed as an initial effort to provide Cuban reactions.

Harassment plus deceptive actions to convince the Cubans of imminent invasion would be emphasized. Our military posture throughout execution of the plan will allow a rapid change from exercise to intervention if Cuban responses justifies.

2. A series of well coordinated incidents will be planned to take place in and around Guantanamo to give genuine appearance of being done by hostile Cuban forces.

    a. Incidents to establish a credible attack (not in chronological order):

        (1) Start rumors (many). Use clandestine radio.

        (2) Land friendly Cubans in uniform "over-the-fence" to stage attack on the base.

        (3) Capture Cuban (friendly) sabateurs inside the base.

        (4) Start riots near the base main gate (friendly Cubans).

Click on the image for a better view.

Media Credits

Image described above, online courtesy the U.S. National Archives and the National Security Archive at George Washington University.



Awesome Stories Silver or Gold Membership Required
Awesome Stories Silver or Gold Membership Required
Show tooltips