Operation Northwoods
--Article by William Marsh

While the Cold War and the Cuban Missile crisis seem like things of the past, a new and haunting fact has come forth to remind us how very close we came to taking the first step in an all-out nuclear war. Today a previously top secret, classified document was released: Operation Northwoods.  Robert McNamara, the Secretary of Defense under President John F. Kennedy, presented this  document to President Kennedy and his War Council, during the Fall of 1962. The document outlined a method for handling negotiations with Cuba and the Soviet Union.

This document did not suggest some sort of trade or deal, but that we go on the offensive against Cuba under the pretense that Cuba had already attacked. Of course, Cuba had not attacked and we were never sure that we would have the chance to launch a counter-attack if they did, given the considerable amount of Russian warheads they had aimed at Washington, D.C., New York City and other major targeted areas in the United States. Instead, Operation Northwoods proposed that we frame Cuba by committing terrorist acts against ourselves.

The document entailed that the United states army conduct some, if not all of the following operations:

“ 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) saboteurs inside the


      (4) Start riots near the entrance to the base (friendly


Appendix to Enclosure A

     (5) Blow up ammunition inside the base; start fires.

      (6) Burn aircraft on airbase (sabotage).

      (7) Lob mortar shells from outside of base into base.

   Some damage to installations.

      (8) Capture assault teams approaching from the sea

   of vicinity of Guantanamo City.

      (9) Capture militia group which storms the base.

     (10) Sabotage ship in harbor; large fires -- napthalene.

     (11) Sink ship near harbor entrance. Conduct funerals

   for mock-victims (may be lieu of item 10).

   b. United States would respond by executing offensive

operations to secure water and power supplies, destroying

artillery and mortar emplacements which threaten the base.

   c. Commence large scale United States military operations.

3. A "Remember the Maine" incident could be arranged in

several forms:

Remember the Maine. Digital image. The Airing of Grievances. Web. 17 Dec. 2010. <http://aofg.blogspot.com/2004_08_01_archive.html>.

“Remember the Maine” is a saying used to commemorate and honor the deaths and loss of the U.S.S Maine in a fight with Spain off the coast of Havana, Cuba.”

   a. We could blow up a US ship in Guantanamo Bay and

blame Cuba.

   b. We could blow up a drone (unmanned) vessel anywhere

in the Cuban waters. We could arrange to cause such incident

in the vicinity of Havana or Santiago as a spectacular result

of Cuban attack from the air or sea, or both.  The presence

of Cuban planes or ships merely investigating the intent of

the vessel could be fairly compelling evidence that the ship

was taken under attack.  The nearness to Havana or Santiago

would add credibility especially to those people that might

have heard the blast or have seen the fire.  The US could

follow with an air/sea rescue operation covered by US

fighters to "evacuate" remaining members of the non-existent

crew. Casualty lists in US newspapers would cause a helpful

wave of national indignation.

4. We could develop a Communist Cuba terror campaign in

the Miami area, in other Florida cities and even in Washington.”

In case it wasn’t clear enough, the U.S had planned to destroy their own ships, damage military installations, sink U.S ships and spread rumors regarding communist Cuba and imminent invasions in general. And all of that just to create national support behind a war with Cuba. In short, we had an complex, extremely well organized operation ready to be implemented within the early months of 1963. The goal of this Operation was to serve as a rallying cry for the Declaration of War on Cuba, and likely used by the United States to justify a preemptive strike  of nuclear warheads. Thankfully the operation never went into effect and the Cuban Missile Crisis was averted through diplomacy, rather than firepower. Had Operation Northwoods gone through, the casualties and collateral damage would have been astronomical. Chances are much of Cuba would be an irradiated wasteland, while the major cities of the United states would lay in the rubble of a counter-strike.