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The ULTRASENSITIVE Bay of Pigs

Newly Released Portions of Taylor Commission Report Provide Critical New Details on Operation Zapata

National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 29

Published – May 3, 2000

Edited by Peter Kornbluh
Assisted by Rafael Cohen, Michael Evans and Catherine Nielsen

For more information contact:
Peter Kornbluh 202/994-7000 or nsarchiv@gwu.edu

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Washington, D.C., May 3, 2000 – Shortly after the CIA's botched paramilitary invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs, President John F. Kennedy established a commission to investigate the failure and to consider whether the United States should conduct similar covert operations in the future.  The commission -- chaired by General Maxwell Taylor, but also including the president's brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy, Admiral Arleigh Burke and DCI Allen Dulles -- produced a highly critical series of narratives and memoranda, concluding, in part, that "the impossibility of running Zapata as a covert operation under CIA should have been recognized" as early as November 1960, five months before the invasion.

Long the focus of declassification efforts, highly excised portions of the Taylor Commission's report were first released in 1977 and again in 1986, while the original remained tucked away in the coffers of the JFK Presidential Library.  In 1996, the document was again up for review, this time in response to a request from the JFK Assassination Records Review Board, but declassification required the concurrence of the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the National Security Council, the State Department and the National Security Agency, each of which was to review the document for sensitivity.  More than three years passed.  It was not until December 1999 that the National Security Archive learned the reason for the hold-up:  The Pentagon had simply lost the report.  The Archive immediately requested the document under Mandatory Declassification Review, and the multi-agency declassification process, normally subject to a long, grinding backlog, began anew.

This time, thanks to the expeditious efforts of officials at the National Archives and Records Administration, the report was declassified in less than four months, an astonishing achievement for a process that under normal circumstances requires years of patience.  The National Security Archive can remember no other case where the concurrence of multiple agencies -- illustrated by the dates of the "Declass" stamps adorning the cover pages of each document -- was gathered so quickly.

The release of the Taylor Report follows the long-awaited declassification of the CIA's own scathing evaluation of the invasion, a report prepared in October 1961 by Lyman Kirkpatrick, the CIA's Inspector General, and called by Newsweek reporter Evan Thomas, "The most brutally frank and honest government document ever written."  Kirkpatrick's report was released to the National Security Archive in February 1998.  Appended to the IG Report is a point-by-point rebuttal from Richard Bissell, the operation's chief architect.  These and other associated documents, including interviews with key CIA managers of the Bay of Pigs operation, have been published in Bay of Pigs Declassified: The Secret CIA Report on the Invasion of Cuba, now available from The New Press.

While the full report of the Taylor Commission is too long to reproduce here, this Electronic Briefing Book provides excerpted passages from eight key documents, substantial portions of which were previously unavailable in the censored versions of the report released in 1977 and 1986.  The appended graphic, compiled by Catherine Nielsen, summarizes the two major previous releases of the Taylor Report, published in Operation Zapata (Frederick, MD: University Publications of America, 1981) and in Foreign Relations of the United States, 1961-1963, Volume X, Cuba, 1961-1962 (Washington: US Government Printing Office, 1997), and compares their content with the newly declassified version.  Other releases of parts of these materials have occurred elsewhere.  Researchers are encouraged to refer to these sources for the rest of the report, which is also available at the National Archives and Records Administration facility in College Park, Maryland.  We owe special thanks to the staff of the JFK Library for assisting researchers in identifying key passages that were previously classified.

 


THE DOCUMENTS

Document 1: Propaganda Action Plan in Support of Military Forces, Undated

Document 2: Chart of Command Organization for Operations

Document 3: Memorandum for Record, Paramilitary Study Group Meeting at the Pentagon, Ninth Meeting, 3 May 1961 [Excerpt]

Document 4: After Action Report on OPERATION PLUTO, 4 May 1961 [Excerpt]

Document 5: Memorandum for Record, Paramilitary Study Group Meeting at the Pentagon, Twelfth Meeting, 8 May 1961 [Excerpt]

Document 6: Memorandum for Record, Paramilitary Study Group Meeting at the Pentagon, Fourteenth Meeting, 11 May 1961 [Excerpt]

Document 7: Memorandum for Record, Paramilitary Study Group Meeting at the Pentagon, Nineteenth Meeting, 22 May 1961 [Excerpt]

Document 8: Mr. Phillips [Interview of David Atlee Phillips] [Excerpt], Undated

 

Documents

Operation Zapata

FRUS

Taylor Report

Memorandum No. 1, 13 June 1961
Annexes still classified
Published with some names excised. Some annexes available as footnotes in FRUS text (pp. 576-600)
Annexes not in set
 
p. 6—1 ½ lines deleted
 
Released
 
p. 7—1 line deleted
 
Released
 
p. 9—2 ½ lines deleted
 
Released
 
p. 11—Name excised
 
Lt. Col Ray Wall
 
p. 15—Names excised
 
Col. Hawkins
Mr. Esterline
 
p. 17—Name excised
 
Col. Jack Hawkins
 
p. 19—9 ¼ lines excised
 
Released with some excisions
 
p. 21—1 line deleted
 
Released
 
p. 22—Name excised
 
Captain Ryberg
 
p. 27—Name excised
 
Captain Ryberg
 
p. 31—22 lines deleted
 
Released
 
p. 34—5 lines deleted
 
Released
 
p. 34—Name excised
 
General Gray
 
p. 35—Name excised
 
Mr. Robertson
Memorandum No. 2, 13 June 1961
p. 38—Name excised
Published
Captain Ryberg
Statement by Mr. Philips
Not Published
 
Released in full
Brief History of Radio Swan
Not published
 
Released in full
Index of Witnesses
Not published
 
Released with two excisions.
Many of the names that are listed in Operation Zapata as unidentified CIA operatives are available in this list.
Memorandum for the Record:
First Meeting of General Maxwell Taylor’s Board of Inquiry, 22 April 1961
p. 54—Names excised (NOTE: The names listed in Operation Zapata as “Other Participants” are listed as “Central Intelligence Agency” in the newly released documents)
Published (pp. 318-324)
Colonel J.C. King
Jacob D. Esterline
Edward A. Stanulis
Colonel Jack Hawkins
 
p. 55—Names excised
 
All but one released
 
p. 56—24 lines deleted
 
Released
 
p. 57—8 lines deleted
 
Released with excision
 
p. 58—8 lines deleted
 
Released
Memorandum: Chronology of the Development and Emergence of the Revolutionary Council, 17 May 1961 
Not Published
 
Released in full
Second Meeting of the Green Study Group, 24 April 1961
 
Published; points 1-6 not available; some names excised that are available in Taylor report.
Note on front of document: “Missing pages 16, 20-21, 23 are being sent by CIA”. Pages are not in document, but they are published with name excisions in Operation Zapata.
 
Names excised
 
Colonel Stanley W. Beerli
Colonel J.C. King
Mr. Jacob D. Esterline
Colonel Jack Hawkins
 
p. 64—Line excised
 
Released
 
p. 69—Line deleted
 
Released with excision
 
p. 79—2 ½ lines deleted
 
Released
 
p. 90—Name excised
 
Mr. Hayden
Second Meeting, Afternoon Session, 24 April 1961
Names excised
Published
Colonel J.C. King
Mr. Jacob D. Esterline
Colonel Stanley W. Beerli
Colonel Jack Hawkins
Mr. Hayden
 
p. 96—4 lines deleted
 
Released
 
p. 122—2 lines deleted
 
Released
 
Annexes still classified 
 
Annexes still classified
Classified Message, 31 October 1960
Not Published
   
Memorandum of Third Meeting, 25 April 1961
Names excised
Published, pp. 357-364
Mr. Esterline
Colonel Beerli
Colonel Hawkins
 
p. 127—31 lines deleted
 
Released
Chart of Command Organization for Plans and Training
Not Published
 
Released in full
Memorandum of Fourth Meeting, 26 April 1961
p. 140—4 lines deleted
Published (pp. 365-370); Discussion of Indo-China at beginning of report missing, but is available in Taylor report
Released
 
p. 140—2 ½ lines deleted
 
Released
 
p. 141—3 ½ lines deleted and one excision 
 
Released
 
p. 142—2 ½ lines deleted
 
Released
Chart of Command Organization for Operations
Not Published
 
Released in full
Memorandum of Fifth Meeting, 27 April 1961
Names excised
 
Lt. Colonel Wall
 
p. 150—1 line deleted
 
Released
 
p. 150—1 line deleted
 
Released
 
p. 150—1 ¼ lines deleted
 
Released
 
p. 150—excisions
 
Released
 
p. 150—8 lines deleted
 
Released with excisions
 
p. 151—26 lines deleted
 
Released
 
p. 153—1 line deleted
 
Released
Memorandum of Sixth Meeting, 28 April 1961
Names excised
Published (401-401) First six pages of document missing
Mr. Lynch
Colonel Mallard
 
p. 158—7 ¼ lines deleted
 
Released
 
p. 165—3 lines deleted
 
Released
Memorandum of Seventh Meeting, 1 May 1961
Name excised
Published (410-417); First paragraph missing
Lt. Colonel Egan
 
p. 173—4 ¼ lines deleted
 
Released
Memorandum of Eighth Meeting, 2 May 1961
Names excised
 
Mr. Robertson
Mr. Lynch
Mr. Georgia
Captain Ryberg
 
p. 190—42 lines deleted
 
Released with one excision
 
p. 190—2 ½ lines deleted
 
Released
     
p. 14—line excised, but it is published in Operation Zapata, p. 197: “and, in addition, have atomic-demolition capabilities.”
Memorandum of Ninth Meeting, 3 May 1961
p. 198—Name excised
Published (438-446); first six pages of document missing (On McNamara’s testimony published)
Name excised throughout document.
 
p. 199—50 lines deleted
 
Released with excisions (not in FRUS)
 
p. 199—12 lines deleted
 
Released with excisions (not in FRUS)
 
p. 200—99 lines deleted
 
Released with excisions (not in FRUS)
 
p. 206—name excised
 
Lieutenant Colonel Wall
 
p. 208—name excised
 
Colonel Egan
Memorandum of Tenth Meeting, 4 May 1961
p. 223—16 lines deleted
Published (447-454)
Released
Memorandum of Eleventh Meeting, 5 May 1961
Published without excisions
 
Not in set
Memorandum for the Record: Conversation between General Taylor and Mr. Thorsrud at the Pentagon, 6 May 1961
p. 233—1 ¼ lines deleted
 
Released
 
p. 235—line excised
 
Released
Memorandum of Twelfth Meeting, 8 May 1961
Names excised
Published (493-510); pages 1-6, 30-40 not published. (Only Generals Shoup and White’s testimonies are published.
Colonel Gaines
Colonel King
 
p. 267—name excised
 
Colonel Gaines
 
p. 274—127 lines deleted
 
Released with excisions
Memorandum: Policy Decisions Required for Conduct of Strike Operations Against Government of Cuba, 4 January 1961
Not published
Published (pp. 10-16)
Released in full
Memorandum of Thirteenth Meeting, 10 May 1961
Name excised
 
Colonel King
Memorandum of Fourteenth Meeting, 11 May 1961
Entire meeting classified
 
Released with excisions
Memorandum: Summary of White House Meetings, 23 January 1961
Not Published
 
Released in full
Memorandum of Fifteenth Meeting, 16 May 1961
Name excised
 
Captain Scapa
Memorandum: What Briefing, if any, was given the Brigade of the Brigade’s staff on going guerilla, 31 May 1961
Not Published
Published (pp. 563-66)
Released in full
Memorandum of Sixteenth Meeting, 17 May 1961
Lines deleted
 
Not in set
Memorandum of Seventeenth Meeting, 18 May 1961
Released in full
 
Released in full
Memorandum of Eighteenth Meeting, 19 May 1961
Released in full
 
Released in full
Memorandum of Nineteenth Meeting, 22 May 1961
Still classified
 
Released in full
Propaganda Action Plan in Support of Military Forces (D-Day until the fall of the Castro regime)
Not published
 
Released with excisions
Memorandum of the Twentieth Meeting, 25 May 1961
Names excised
 
Not in set
Memorandum of the Twenty-first meeting, 30 May 1961
Not published
 
Released in full
Cuban Internal Situation, 18 May 1961
Not published
 
Released in full
Document entirely excised per CIA review
     
Testimony of Colonel Hawkins
Not published
 
Released in full
Memorandum: Sequence of Events (D-2 to D+2), and Organization and Operation of Command Post, 3 May 1961
Not published
Published (pp. 431-438)
Released in full
Memorandum for Lt. Colonel B.W. Tarwater, USAF: Transmittal of Documents (brief narrative of air activity, chronological sequence of events, report returned from Tide, training received by pilots, support missions flown from D-Day thorough D-2, a list of personnel involved, composition of base unit at Tide
Not published
 
Released in full
After Action Report on OPERATION PLUTO, 4 May 1961
Not published
Published, less than one line excised
Released in full
Report from Wounded man evacuated from Playa Giron airstrip by C-46, 31 May 1961
Not published
 
Released in full

– Table Compiled by Catherine Nielsen

 

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