What Is Operation Mongoose?

Operation Mongoose involved a broad array of activities, including intelligence gathering, sabotage operations, the hunt for leaders inside Cuba who might be able to topple Cuban President Fidel Castro, and much more. The Cuban Plan, also known as Operation Mongoose was a broad-based terrorist attack campaign on civilians, and clandestine operations conducted by the Central Intelligence Agency in Cuba. The Cuban Project consisted of a covert operations plan, including sabotage, psychological warfare, information gathering, and building up a domestic revolution against the Communist government. The U.S. officially authorized the operation on March 17, 1960, when President Eisenhower signed off on a CIA document entitled Program of Covert Action against the Castro Regime.

President Kennedy, Attorney General, CIA Directors John McCone, Richard Goodwin, and Brigadier General Lansdale met November 21, 1961, to discuss plans for Project Cuba. After meeting at the White House on November 3, 1961, the initiative became known as Operation Mongoose, which was to be led by Air Force Brigadier General Edward Lansdale from the military side, and William King Harvey from the Central Intelligence Agency. The resulting examination led to the November 1961 decision to launch a new secret plan to Cuba, codenamed Operation Mongoose.

Determined to make amends for their home invasion, the Kennedy Administration initiated Operation Mongoose–a plan to undermine and destabilize the government and the Cuban economy, including the potential assassination of Fidel Castro. The ultimate objective of Operation Mongoose was the complete destruction, and if necessary, the assassination, of Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro. Through Operation Mongoose, the CIA and the Kennedy Administration concocted what can only be described as bizarre and outrageous plots aimed at taking down Fidel Castro – at all costs.

The aim of Operation Mongoose was to accomplish precisely what the Bay of Pigs invasion had failed to accomplish: to remove Castro’s communist regime from Cuba. In November 1961, following the failed Bay of Pigs invasion, President John F. Kennedy and his advisers launched Operation Mongoose, a secret operation intended to undermine Cuba’s government and economic infrastructure. The Cuban Plan was a secret plan directed at Cuba to eliminate communists from power, according to Harvard University historian Jorge Dominguez, and was the primary goal of the administration of President John F. Kennedy. The Cuban Project was a governmental-wide operation that operated from the offices of Bobby Kennedy, with Ed Lansdale serving as its architect.

As the dust settled over Bay of Pigs, Bobby Kennedy began making sure that the CIA would never embarrass him again, returning the CIA to its original mission of intelligence collection, not clandestine operations. Bobby Kennedy had promised to break up the CIA in a thousand pieces, a pledge that he is now making good. Convinced that his military and intelligence advisers had betrayed Kennedy with their decision to begin the Bay of Pigs invasion, John Kennedy put Cuba into the hands of a man he knew he could trust. President Kennedy, feeling betrayed by his military advisers in the Bay of Pigs invasion, placed his brother Robert Kennedy in charge of supervising Operation Mongoose, and General Edward Lansdale was charged with coordinating activities among the CIA, Department of Defense, and the Department of State.

President Kennedy’s, by then, implied to the Russians that the CIAs activities would be contained. Once the Cuban missile crisis began on Oct. 16, 1962, following the discovery of a Soviet missile base on Cuba, President Kennedy wisely suspended top-secret activities. Amid growing concerns in Washington about the possibility that Soviet weapons being introduced to Cuba included nuclear-capable ballistic missiles, the Kennedy administration suspended Operation Mongoose in October 1962, facing that much graver threat–one that would lead to the most dangerous confrontation between the U.S. and Soviet Union of the Cold War.

On 17 April 1961, 1,400 Cuban exiles launched what became a failed invasion of the Bay of Pigs, located off Cuba’s southern coast. On April 17, 1961, about 1,200 Cuban exiles, armed with American weapons and using American amphibious assault ships, came ashore at the Bay of Pigs in Cuba. The 2506 Brigade–a group of Cuban-Americans who were determined to rid their country of Communism–their nation invaded Cuba in 1961 at the Bay of Pigs, but the operation was a major failure, with high casualties, and Cuba held many of the survivors as POWs.

Psychological operations like propaganda and staging incidents were part of the plan, but Operation Mongoose also contained provisions for a much more ambitious physical threat against Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro and his allies. During planning of The Cuban Project, the March 1962 CIA memo sought a short, yet accurate, description of pretexts that the Joint Chiefs of Staff believed would justify American military involvement in Cuba. The failure proved to have historical significance, not only for the future of Cuba, but also Indochina, as it guaranteed Edward Lansdale’s removal from American policymaking on Vietnam at just the moment when relations between the Kennedy Administration and Diem’s Government were reaching a crisis over Diem’s handling of a rebellion by Buddhist militants.

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