January 12, 1961
Cuban G-2 (military intelligence), “Report on mercenary camps and bases in Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Florida” (forwarded to Cuban President Osvaldo Dorticos Torrado)
This document was made possible with support from Leon Levy Foundation
[Box] DIY. INT. G-2 MINFAR
APR 7 1961
RECEIVED NO. 2681
THIS REPORT IS EXCLUSIVELY FOR THE INFORMATION OF THE CHIEF OF REVOLUTION TO WHOM IT IS ADDRESSED.
IT SHOULD BE RETURNED TO THE DEPARTMENT CHIEF INF G-2 MINFAR [MINISTRY OF THE REVOLUTIONARY ARMED FORCES]
From: Dr. Tec. 0. Inf. G-2
To : Commander Ramiro Valdes Menendez
Department Chief. Inf. G-2 MINFAR
Dpt. Inf. G-2 MINFAR
January 12, 1961
“YEAR OF EDUCATION’’
Re : Report on mercenary camps and bases in Guatemala, Nicaragua, and Florida
In 1959, the “yanki” [Yankee, i.e., US] Department of State made the Dominican Republic its main mercenary training center. Adventurers and murderers from different countries, Falangists from the Blue Legion, Nazis, Japanese, “yankis”, war criminals, European renegades, and other riffraff assembled there and trained under the direction of [Former Batista General Jose] PEDRAZA [Cabrera] and [Dominican Republic President Rafael] TRUJILLO’S Officers for an invasion of Cuba. Every day, the Dominican radio spewed insults and defamation against the Cuban Revolution and its leaders.
But then Washington changed its plans. TRUJILLO turned out to be spoiled goods for the peoples of America. This devoted lackey was already very “burned.” Plans were made to “sacrifice him” at the OAS [Organization of American States] (a sacrifice that later turned out to be apparent, not real) in order to stage a farce in that International Organization that would lead to condemnation of the TRUJILLO dictatorship along with the CASTRO “dictatorship.”
As these “highly strategic” political plans were being developed, plans in which “democrats”[former Costa Rican President] PEPE “CACHUCHA” FIGUERES, [Venezuelan President] ROMULO BETANCOURT, and [Puerto Rican Governor Luis] MUNOZ MARIN were not uninvolved, the forces of imperialism transferred out of Santo Domingo their most important preparation center for an attack against Cuba. From that day forward, Guatemala became the main focal point for mercenary training in camps and bases established there. The distinguishing feature was that this operation was no longer run by PEDRAZA and TRUJILLO, but rather by the CIA, with North American officials directly training the mercenaries, and provisioning them with equipment, arms, supplies, aircraft, etc.
Thus, by the first few months of 1960, an important airstrip, as well as a major mercenary camp, had already been built in Retalhuleu under the direction of “yanki” officials. This base was built with utmost haste by a “yanki” company and “yanki” engineers at a cost of over one million dollars supplied, according to reports, by the CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) and businesses such as the United Fruit Company.
More than twenty such camps were quickly established in different areas of Guatemala, comprising a total of more than six thousand mercenaries as well as a large number of airplanes and huge quantities of arms.
By this past October , the climate of hostility toward Cuba and preparations underway in Guatemala for an invasion were evident.
In mid-October there was a marked increase in activity on bases established in the Department of Retalhuleu. The number of airplanes arriving and unloading was higher than usual. People working in those centers observed that there was every indication of an impending attack on Cuba. The airplanes had unloaded parachutes, field hammocks, and stretchers.
The mercenaries were concentrated mainly in the Department of Retalhuleu. At “Helvetia” farm, 600 tents were divided into two camps of 300 tents each. An individual who was in one of those tents reported that there was an average of ten men in each tent, which added up to six thousand mercenaries. These included Cubans, Guatemalans, other nationalities, and North Americans. They were paid about ten dollars per day. There are approximately two hundred North Americans, who direct training, construction, the radar station, etc. One of these camps is situated 3 kms. north of the center of the above-mentioned farm.
The airstrip at Retalhuleu airport is built to withstand bombardment and to last an average of two years. Its estimated cost is placed at over one million dollars. Although this airstrip was recently built, repair crews are there every day, which can only be interpreted as a preventive measure in case of reprisal from Cuba.
When the Retalhuleu airport was first opened, [Guatemalan] President [Miguel] YDIGORAS [Fuentes] said that it was to be used to export products from western Guatemala. It has been closed to the public for the past several weeks, however, having been placed under military jurisdiction during the state of siege. And although it is ostensibly under the control of the Guatemalan Army, the fact is that the airport actually is controlled by North Americans, to the extent that truck drivers who arrive there to unload cargo are replaced by North Americans to keep them from entering. Moreover, the Governor of the Department does not even have access to this airport.
There are an estimated 48 airplanes based in Guatemala for use in the attack and invasion of Cuba. There are B-26 airplanes, some propulsion aircraft, and Globemaster transport planes. Most of these planes are based at the Retalhuleu airport and in Chinaja, while the rest are distributed between the central “Aurora” airport near Guatemala City, and Puerto Barrios on the Atlantic coast.
Flights take place at night. The majority of the planes are unmarked and most are painted black. Activities are generally nocturnal. This can be construed not only as a means to remain inconspicuous and cover up these activities, but also as a means of preparing the men to operate at night against Cuba. As a result, there have been a number of air accidents on the coast of Retalhuleu and the area known as Flores, in the Peten. The plane that crashed in the Peten (Flores) had taken off from Tapachula, located almost on the Mexican-Guatemalan border. Nighttime parachute drills also are taking place.
Training sessions are held using real firepower. As a result, the Ydigoras government has publicly acknowledged that several men have been killed or wounded, while alleging that this occurred during the training of Guatemalan troops with modern weapons.
On the “Helvetia” farm, municipality of El Palmar, Department of Quetzaltenango, but also accessible via the municipality of San Sebastian, Department of Retalhuleu, in the area known as Cerro Nil, on the banks of the Nima River, a radar station was installed. Another radar station recently was installed on the central Guatemalan Air Force base located at “La Aurora” airport in Guatemala City, and on the base at San Jose airport on the Pacific coast.
The areas where the aggressors have focused their activities are Retalhuleu; Chinaja; “La Aurora” international airport which also houses the FAG [Guatemalan Air Force] base, located on the outskirts of Guatemala City; the base located at the port of San Jose on the Pacific coast; and the base in Puerto Barrios, on the Atlantic coast. But the main mercenary concentration point is located in Retalhuleu, near the Guatemalan-Mexican border, whose airport is situated between kilometers 186 and 188 of the highway leading to Champerico port; the new airport was secretly built on the national (government-owned) farm called “La Aurora” located in the municipality of Nuevo San Carlo, also in Retalhuleu, whose airport is made of concrete cemented on piles ten meters deep and two meters wide and is outfitted, according to unconfirmed data, with underground hangars.
Other information sources indicate that there is a 45,000-gallon gasoline tank covered over with sandbags and garbage in Retalhuleu airport. Airplanes usually take off from Retalhuleu on Mondays at four o’clock in the morning and return on Wednesdays between four and five o’clock in the morning. During the first week of last October, a cargo of leather boots was received for the alleged invaders. US Air Force planes numbers 850 and 854 reportedly were painted with Guatemalan insignia.
The apparent chief or authority in the Retalhuleu camps is a North American who goes by the assumed name NORTH. There are an estimated fifty North American aviators.
Since 11 August 1960, several jets and Mustang airplanes have landed at the base at the port of San Jose. On the 13 August, a Globemaster landed at the main “La Aurora” airport in Guatemala City supposedly to deliver milk to CARE, but was actually carrying weapons and ammunition that were unloaded by Guatemalan Army soldiers. The following week, other Globemasters landed at the San Jose airport and their cargo was transported to Retalhuleu.
Airplane arrivals and departures then intensified. On October 14, two North American B-29 bombers and a transport plane landed at “La Aurora” central airport in Guatemala City. During the third week of October, airplanes marked with registration numbers, or alleged registration numbers, L-F-5, L-F-8, L-F-9, L-F-11 conducted night flights between “La Aurora” central airport and Retalhuleu airport. This past October 14, a large number of airplanes landed at Retalhuleu airport. Also, [Avro] Lancaster airplanes, Canadian-made bombers. By October 26, 47 bombers had been assembled at the secret airport located on “Aurora” farm, as well as a huge arsenal of five hundred and six hundred pound bombs which, arranged in a row, cover 150 meters.
It is possible that the northwestern zone of Retalhuleu Department has been chosen for mercenary camps because several national farms are located there. In other words, farms that were owned by Germans, were expropriated following World War II, and are now administrated by the Guatemalan government. The most important of these farms is “Candelaria Xornuitz.” Others currently occupied by camps are “Aurora,” “La Suiza,” “Tambor,” “Culsin,” and “Helvetia” itself, owned by brothers ROBERTO and CARLOS ALEJOS ARZU, who are YDIGORAS stalwarts.
“Helvetia” farm, currently owned by ROBERTO ALEJOS ARZU, former coordinator of “North American Aid to the Guatemalan Government,” friend and advisor of YDIGORAS, currently diplomatic representative of the Knights of Malta, and his brother, CARLOS
ALEJOS ARZU, currently the Ambassador to Washington, is one of the most important mercenary concentration points. Reports indicate that, possibly in the month of August or earlier, 185 mercenaries and 45 specialists were there, most of the latter North Americans. Later, Batista followers and other mercenaries began to join them. In late July or early August, 500 soldiers and noncommissioned officers from the Guatemalan army also were taken there, 20 of whom were taken to the United States and the Panama Canal Zone for special training. Many workers and peasant farmers from the national and private farms in the area were persuaded, or obliged, to sign up. At the end of the third week of October, a large number of North American soldiers were brought in by railway via Puerto Barrios, and were taken to “Helvetia” farm.
Some regular troops of the Guatemalan National Army, about four infantry companies, have been assigned to guard the zone and are deployed at “Helvetia,” “Aurora,” “La Suiza,” “Tambor,” and “Culsin” farms.
Reports have been received regarding the presence of an airplane-launching catapult at “La Suiza” farm, which serves the dual purpose of instructing pilots for aircraft carrier based operations and impeding detection of the base from the air. These installations were built by the North American company “Johnson Powers.”
Other camps worth mentioning are located at “Rancho Florida” farm in Escuintla Department, “Campo Corriente,” owned by United Fruit Company; “Helvetia” and “Aurora” mentioned earlier, and those in other zones.
Last November, AUGUSTO MULET, Press Secretary of the Guatemalan Presidency, confirmed the existence of secret training camps at more than TWENTY farms where forces are instructed in commando and guerrilla tactics; he identified the Retalhuleu air base and “Helvetia” farm as one such camp.
It is common knowledge that the Retalhuleu airport was outfitted hastily by North American engineers at an estimated cost of more than one million dollars. Its main facility is the airstrip. Funding was supplied by the “Central Intelligence Agency” (CIA) and by corporations such as United Fruit Company among others.
Other reports provide the following information:
The meteorological Service at the port of San Jose in the Pacific has been under military control recently and other meteorological centers in the country also operate under a quasi-military system.
A ten kilowatt radio transmitter has been installed at Puerto Matias de Galvez, at a cost of 35,000 dollars. Its broadcasts on official frequencies and primarily target Belize. It is therefore possible to surmise that its broadcasts could also reach Cuba on other frequencies; that it is able to broadcast instead of, or in conjunction with, Radio Swan; and that it could be put into service during an invasion, since its geographical location and power enable it to broadcast a clear signal to Cuba.
YDIGORAS’ chauffeur makes two trips per week to Puerto Matias de Galvez to deliver tape recordings of speeches recorded by “a Cuban” in Guatemala City.
A fleet of fishing vessels on the Atlantic Coast is well equipped with artillery, data that was gleaned from a public statement made by MARCO ANTONIO VILLAMAR, secretary of the organization PUR.
Military preparations also extend to other areas of the country. A few kilometers from Champerico Port, work has begun on a new air base in a place called “El Manchon,” some eight kms. to the east, and for the installation of troops on “Montecristo” farm, approximately 12 kms. from there. Punta de Manabique, enclosing Amatique Bay in the Atlantic, is fortified. On the banks of the Polochic River, what appears to be a new airstrip is under construction; and construction took place at a rapid pace in an area known as “Rama Blanca,” Izabal Department.
Other reports indicate that it is likely that YDIGORAS and the “yankis” plan to unleash hostilities between Guatemala and Cuba by falsely claiming the incursion of an alleged Cuban aircraft that would be shot down in Guatemalan territory. This would permit the “legal” use of Guatemala territory for operations against Cuba, which would be followed by an attempt to provoke a collective OAS response.
In addition to sparking protests by the Guatemalan people, the existence of over 20 mercenary training camps has raised concerns inside the army over preparations for an attack on Cuba. Certain reports indicate that last 26 October, there were discussions inside the army chief of staff headquarters [Estado Mayor] regarding the position the army should take regarding these matters.
At the same time, the political opposition to YDIGORAS in the Parliament denounced the existence of the camps, issuing summons in the matter and calling for an immediate investigation. At first the government rejected their demands, but a few days later, YDIGORAS invited opposition legislators to visit the Retalhuleu base. This offer was rejected because the legislators in question asserted that, on 27 October 1960, the authorities had just finished dispersing the mercenaries to other areas.
The considerable level of air traffic registered during the first weeks of October in the zone of Retalhuleu diminished and nearly disappeared after the opposition began to agitate.
Whether because the opposition faction in Parliament had requested that an investigatory commission be sent to Retalhuleu; or because of the stance taken by many Army Officers; or perhaps because the YDIGORAS administration and the “yanki” Embassy in Guatemala already were aware of a conspiracy involving numerous officers (which culminated in the 13 November military uprising), the fact of the matter is that most of the mercenaries were removed from “Helvetia” farm on the night of 27 October.
Mercenaries taken out of “Helvetia” farm were distributed more or less as follows: some four thousand mercenaries boarded thirteen war vessels, with no flags or registration numbers, anchored in the bay at Puerto Barrios and embarked for Nicaragua. Upon arriving in that country, they disembarked at the mouth of the Prinsapolka River, where an air base is located, and were later taken to a camp six miles away.
The ships left Puerto Barrios at 22:30 hours on that night, 27 October. This mercenary contingent was mainly composed of Cubans, as well as Salvadorans, Hondurans, etc. Other reports add that some of these mercenaries were left in the area of Puerto Cabezas, Blue Fields, Cabo Gracias a Dios and the Islas de Maiz (leased to the US) in Nicaragua. It also indicates that a group disembarked at Swan [Cisne] Island in Honduran territory.
That same night, 27 October, another group of some fifteen hundred mercenaries was removed from “Helvetia” farm in an extraordinary movement of trains and aircraft. They were taken to a camp adjoining the Chinaja airstrip, where they were seen over the following days.
The Chinaja airstrip and camp mentioned earlier is described as follows: Chinaja is located in northern Alta Verapaz department, latitude approximately 16 degrees north and longitude 90 degrees, fifteen minutes. Because there are no roads, this area is virtually cut off by land from the rest of the country. It is located in an area spanning 271,601 hectares, that was obtained by a North American corporation, “The Ohio Oil Company,” through oil claim number three. This was where the first oil well was drilled in 1958. The Company built an airstrip there, which is the longest in the country and currently is used by aircraft stationed there by the United States for the invasion of Cuba. As stated earlier, a camp currently has been established there with part of the troops previously located at “Helvetia Farm.”
We should also mention that some distance from Chinaja, in the Peten, there are airstrips in Poptun and Flores.
Airports also were under construction in Champerico and in Carmelita, on “Concepcion” farm, equipped with radar and military personnel stationed there by the CIA.
Following the transfer of mercenaries from the “Helvetia” base and other nearby national farms, the situation was as follows:
The four Guatemalan army companies remain on “Helvetia” farm, to which another contingent of 500 regular troops has been added, in other words a total of one thousand soldiers.
Many North Americans also remain on “Helvetia.” The rural workers and peasant farmers who signed up were demobilized and returned to their agricultural pursuits, although under strict vigilance. This is presumably a temporary situation.
Some reports point to a total of 60 aircraft, for the attack on Cuba, while others report as many as 150 aircraft. Although the latter figure coincides with YDIGORAS’ statement on 13 October, the start of the military uprising, in his threatening words to Guatemalan Air Force (FAG) pilots who refused to bomb Zacapa and Puerto Barrios, so far we have not been able to obtain exact figures.
North American instructors had already concluded other aspects of mercenary training; therefore, those who remain camped at “Helvetia” and other bases are only undergoing training in parachute jumping, for which a huge transport plane is used.
Public protests against preparations for the invasion of Cuba that took place in Guatemala:
The fact that a Cuban invasion was being planned was widely reported in Guatemala and had a strong impact on public opinion there. Beginning in July, the “Guatemalan Labor Party” [“Partido Guatemalteco del Trabajo”] made a number of charges and statements on the subject.
Several publications, especially radio news programs such as “Guatemala Flash” and “Radio Noticias,” and the newspaper “Prensa Libre,” reported on the issue. Colonel CARLOS A. PAZ TEJADA’s allegations, widely circulated and published on an entire page of Guatemalan newspaper “Prensa Libre” with a daily circulation of some thirty thousand papers.
The declarations of the “Association of University Students,” the “Association of Economic Sciences Students,” the “Association of Students in the School of Humanities,” in the capital. The declarations by the “Western Association of Law Students,” and the “Salvador Orozco Circle,” both in Quetzaltenango. Another prominent event had to do with the summons of the Foreign Minister that was issued by congressmen JULIO VALLADARES CASTILLO and MARCO ANTONIO VILLAMAR CONTRERAS, and the public letter issued by the latter.
The allegations emanating from within the Guatemalan Congress and the motion
presented by congressman VALLADARES CASTILLO of the PUR, at the request of the Student Associations, calling for an investigation of the activities and camps at Retalhuleu; the declaration by the “Federacion Autonoma Sindical;” the protest demonstration and rally held in front of the United States Embassy in Guatemala City; and the rally last 20 October, the XVI anniversary of the Guatemalan Revolution, attended by the above mentioned FAS, the Sindicato de Pilotos Automovilistas, etc., were all demonstrations of open solidarity with the Cuban revolution and outright rejection of the military preparations taking place against Cuba, all of which had an impact on YDIGORAS’ frame of mind and that of his “yanki” protectors.
The military uprising of 13 November 1960
The YDIGORAS government, consumed by a serious economic, political, and social crisis, a substantial foreign debt, and completely discredited in public opinion, is facing the active opposition of the Guatemalan masses.
For some time, a significant number of Army Officers had been expressing their disagreement with the YDIGORAS regime. In late June, 1960 a conspiratorial circle had formed comprising some 60 officers. Most of those involved were young officers from different army divisions and a few troop commanders. In July, when the teachers and students movement emerged around the seniority law and other demands, this group of soldiers tried to act, seeking the opportunity and means to bring about a change of government. A huge demonstration took place at that time and there were street disturbances for several days despite the declared state of emergency; but these officers never managed to act.
The group continued to attract more officers to its cause, achieving a certain degree of organization as well as a core of five members who directed the conspiracy. These officers contacted Colonel CARLOS A. PAZ TEJADA and, following his statements against the mercenary camps and military bases on Guatemalan territory, essentially placed him at the head of the core directorate, discussing with him the actions that they planned to take.
They reached agreements with PAZ TEJADA on several points: agreeing to publish a proclamation clearly signaling their opposition to the mercenary army’s presence in the country, the derogation of the 1956 Constitution in effect, and the formation of a Junta to be headed by PAZ TEJADA and a government cabinet including three or four PUR Ministers.
Nonetheless, the position taken by these Officers was patently indecisive and opportunistic. They did not want to be identified with the 1944-1954 Revolution; nor did they wish to acquire commitments with the revolutionary organizations that would entail difficulties with the North American government, or publicly express sympathy for the Cuban revolution.
After the overthrow of LEMUS in El Salvador, these officers considered doing something similar in Guatemala.
To summarize, this military movement was not proposing structural changes in the country, but rather sought to preserve the country’s existing dependency on “yanki” monopolies and native exploiters. In fact, their conspiracy tended to hamper grassroots revolutionary action, and sought to establish the traditional government by military junta, accompanied by a lot of “democratic” rhetoric and the same submission to imperialism in practice.
Last 28 October, Lieutenant Colonel SESSAN PEREIRA, who while not part of the plotters’ leadership was very much taken into account because of his personal commitment and his influence at Military Zone I General Headquarters, was willing to launch a coup and requested the approval of the Group’s leadership. After initially giving its approval, the group changed its mind after considering the situation, and told him it would be better to wait awhile and further develop the plans.
Inside the army there was considerable concern over preparations underway in the mercenary camps for an attack on Cuba. Unconfirmed reports indicated that on 26 October, a discussion took place inside the Army Chief of Staff Headquarters [Estado Mayor] regarding the position the army should take with respect to these events.
The Officers’ conspiracy followed its course. On 30-31 October, a large officers meeting was held in the capital, where discussion centered on whether or not the army should continue to support the YDIGORAS administration or form part of the Junta that would replace him. By a narrow margin, the vote came out in favor of continuing to support the government and, although the conspirators received a significant number of votes, they stopped acting at that time.
The conspirators then distanced themselves from Colonel PAZ TEJADA. They expanded their directorate to seven members, with a strengthened centrist position favoring a coup d’etat that did not involve alliances with the left so as to avoid confrontations with the “yankis.” They later made contact with certain leaders of the “Revolutionary Party” [PR] who reinforced their already indecisive and sell-out [entreguista] mentality. PR members succeeded in influencing the officers in support of their halfhearted approach, pushing aside Colonel PAZ TEJADA and his friends.
On 5 November, the army officers presented YDIGORAS with a memorandum giving him 72 hours to modify certain aspects of his policy of internal repression and to remove from the country all mercenaries remaining in the camps. It appears that, from a military standpoint, these officers viewed the presence of government-sponsored armed mercenaries as a blow to their military ego.
For its part, the YDIGORAS government had already taken precautions against the conspiracy and internal army opposition, which was quite pervasive if we consider the narrow vote in favor of continuing to support the government.
The deadline set by the Officers expired on 8 November and YDIGORAS, far from complying with their petitions, ordered repressive measures to be taken against the disgruntled officers. On 11 and 12 November, the principal officers who had presented the memorandum were arrested, and 97 others were relieved of their duties and discharged. The detainees were taken to jail cells located in the General Headquarters of Military Zone 1 (“Justo Rufino Barrios”), a hub of rebellion since Colonel SESSAN PEREIRA had won over to the conspiracy many officers from the military police, who were headquartered there, many of whom were pushing for a coup.
When the plotters realized that YDIGORAS had begun to move against them, they decided to act before it was too late, without public support or that of the revolutionary organizations, and without the collaboration of Colonel PAZ TEJADA, merely as a coupminded army group, isolated from the people and already dependent on foreign monopolies.
On the morning of 13 November, the plotters easily took control of the General Headquarters of Military Zone 1. And they were confident of their ability to coordinate with certain officers to take over the Mariscal Zabala Regiment, the best complex, with more troops and equipment than anywhere else in the country, save the mercenary camp installed by the “yankis” at the “Helvetia” base.
Other young officers assured the plotters that they could take control of Military Zone No. 2 in Zacapa. They were also confident that they could take control of the bases at Puerto Barrios and Jutiapa.
But the rebellious officers were unable to take over the Mariscal Zabala Regiment. With the few officials [officers?] they had, they were only able to neutralize the guard, passing without difficulty in front of the Regiment with some two hundred soldiers from the General Headquarters of Zone No. 1 and six large trucks carrying weapons, taking over the Atlantic highway. The Zacapa zone was taken over as planned, as was Puerto Barrios, but they failed to gain control of the base at Jutiapa.
The rebels gained military control over the departments of Zacapa and Izabal; but their best hope for triumph had been placed in the rapid support they anticipated from their counterparts in the capital, that could lead to a rapid coup d’état without too much struggle. They also were counting on the fact that the Guatemalan Air Force would not attack them.
Thus, awaiting the decision of their co-conspirators in the capital, without ties to the people or revolutionary organizations, lacking a concrete fighting plan, refusing to arm revolutionaries in Zacapa and Puerto Barrios who came to request that they do so (Colonel SESSAN PEREIRA wanted to arm the people, a position virulently opposed by his colleagues); all of these factors gave YDIGORAS time to react and take measures to counteract the rebels.
They published just two proclamations, one in Zacapa and the other in Puerto Barrios, about which the rest of the country remained virtually unaware. The plan essentially was to wait and see how the situation played out in the Capital.
YDIGORAS had difficulties mobilizing the Air Force against the rebels. Approximately 25 pilots, more than half, refused to attack their fellow soldiers. The President could only count on the full support of the Air Force chief of operations, who also piloted his Comander aircraft, and two or three other aviators. On that day, 13 November, YDIGORAS was compelled to go personally to the FAG and threaten the pilots with the use of the organized military force at the “Helvetia” base where, the President warned, there were 6,000 men and 150 aircraft.
His threat notwithstanding, YDIGORAS, did not trust the FAG; the bombing and strafing operations that ensued were primarily carried out by North American pilots. On that same day, 13 November, the United States Embassy’s Air Force Attache, together with other “yanki” military attaches, directed operations from the Presidential Palace, where pilots presented themselves in person to report and receive their instructions. In addition to the pilots operating out of “La Aurora” central airport, we understand that other aircraft also operated out of Retalhuleu and Chinaja. Some Guatemalan FAG pilots were used for nothing more than to taxi the aircraft out onto the runway where they would deboard the plane and a “yanki” pilot would take over the controls. They used B-2 bombers and Mustangs.
Later, there were reports from Puerto Barrios that “Catalina” airplanes had been sighted, which could have taken off from the “Shan-gri-la” aircraft carrier.
While the FAG had few bombs, during those days they were amply stocked from the arsenals of the North American mercenary bases. This included Napalm bombs.
YDIGORAS’ army chief of staff, AUGUSTIN DONNIS KESTLER, with strong ties to the “yankis” dating back to 1954, stated that the Army Chief of Staff intended to request the deployment of North American marine infantry if the situation got complicated. This plan to request US assistance was furthered, without YDIGORAS’ prior knowledge, by [US President Dwight D.] EISENHOWER’s order to send, as he did, several US Marine units and an aircraft carrier to guard Guatemala’s Atlantic coast.
13 and 14 November were very insecure days for the government. However, YDIGORAS’ prompt use of the “yanki” aviators and the immediate maritime intervention decreed by EISENHOWER, coupled with the rebels’ indecisiveness, successfully prevented other officers and units from joining the rebellion, and the movement failed in the wake of intense bombing in Zacapa and Puerto Barrios.
The rebellious troops were subjected to intense air fire and bombardment, which was enough, without calling in the infantry, to compel them to retreat from their positions in Puerto Barrios and Gualan. The Government regained control in the other areas without resorting to armed force. As for the mutinous soldiers, who numbered close to a thousand, some fled into the mountains, others were captured, and still others surrendered. One group of chiefs and Officers reached the Honduran border. Colonel EDUARDO LLERENA refused to leave Puerto Barrios, and remained in hiding in the area.
On 16 November, the uprising was considered to be under control, but the army remained very divided. The movement led by the group of officers had implicated some two hundred officers, of which at least fifty had participated actively in the rebellion. Others who were part of the plan to rebel did not do so, and some of these probably were discharged for suspicion. Still others remained on active duty. Several young officers who played prominent roles in this military action are university students, and others had received specialized “ranger” training in the United States and the Panama Canal Zone. Some non-commissioned officers also participated, but the rank and file were not clearly aware of what they were doing. Although it is still weak, a certain nationalism is unquestionably taking root among young officers, and some wish that “things not continue as they are.”
Democratic forces continue to struggle to overthrow YDIGORAS and change the situation. To this end, they organize and assemble, awaiting new battles in the struggle against the sell-out government.
The military uprising has accentuated the government’s internal contradictions and weaknesses. Colonel JOSE LUIS CRUZ SALAZAR, a favorite of the North Americans and the government’s Minister of Communications and Public Works, at one point during the uprising looked for an opportunity to carry out a coup d’etat with Castillo Armas followers.
Colonel ENRIQUE PERALTA AZURDIA, who was named Chief of Operations during the revolt, now is emerging as a new US favorite and is the man IGIDORAS [sic; YDIGORAS] is grooming to be his presidential successor by appointing him Minister of National Defense.
YDIGORAS and the forces of imperialism tried to take advantage of this army uprising devoid of revolutionary plans against Cuba, by accusing it of links to Fidel, which events soon proved false.
The uprising, as stated earlier, was quashed without infantry troops, through the exclusive use of intense aerial bombardments, including rockets, carried out by the mercenary air force and piloted by “yanki” aviators (they used B-26 airplanes numbers 16 through 21). Puerto Barrios was attacked by more than 800 rockets.
The units that participated in the uprising were: a) those from the Military Police headquarters in the Capital; b) those from the Zacapa zone; c) the Puerto Barrios garrison.
The entire city of Zacapa was bombed and, particularly, the railway stations. Part of the city of Puerto Barrios was bombed, the airstrips, and the recently-built radio station. Military casualties were insignificant on both sides, but many civilians, women and children, were killed in the bombings of Zacapa and Puerto Barrios.
Current situation in Guatemala
YDIGORAS, who in late October, 1960 had been obliged to disperse the mercenaries in the face of public protest and allegations and inquiries in Parliament, now, in January 1961, has resumed its activities in the camps and bases established for an attack on Cuba.
YDIGORAS’ attitude can be explained based on the following: In putting down the 13 November 1960 military uprising, he had had the opportunity to purge the Army’s ranks of disgruntled officers, disaffected with his administration. Further, EISENHOWER’s active support of his floundering government, the deployment of naval guard units in Guatemala’s Atlantic waters, is considered a decisive factor likely to quell any threat by the opposition against his regime. YDIGORAS, then is considered to be in a strong position, in charge of the situation. And therefore, in compliance with orders from his “yanki” bosses, he is resuming mercenary activities in the Guatemalan camps.
In light of Guatemala’s internal situation at the end of October,1960 it is easy to appreciate the threats that hovered over the mercenary camps and, as a consequence, over the “yanki” plans to attack Cuba. That explains why the North American government did not hesitate to mobilize part of its fleet and openly declared its willingness to use any means to prevent the downfall of the YDIGORAS government, which would put a serious wrench in the CIA’s invasion plans.
In fact, they justified their open intervention in support of YDIGORAS by invoking the already stale and false excuse of a possible attack by Cuba and communism.
This reactivation of the mercenary camps has become so obvious that it has been reported openly in the “yanki” press, including the “New York Times” among others, provoking a scandal of worldwide proportions.
For example, on 9 January, correspondents JOSEPH MARTIN and PHIL SANTORA wrote in the New York “Daily News” that the activities of counterrevolutionary groups operating in the United States and Guatemala are financed by North American industrial interests. They added that each week, fifty or sixty counterrevolutionaries depart from Miami International Airport in a plane headed for one of the three secret training camps.
They confirmed that, as part of this operation, pilots are trained on an airstrip located in Guatemala just 56 kms. from the Mexican border. The existence of the secret base was revealed by another journalist, DON DWIGGINS, in an article published in the weekly “The Nation.”
Both journalists affirmed that these forces have 12 B-26 light bombers and at least 6 troop transport planes, which have been sent to the secret base in Guatemala.
This past 9 January, the “Sunday Times” of London published an article, including text and photographs, on Cuban counterrevolutionary training camps in Miami, reporting that preparations are openly underway to invade Cuba.
The “New York Times” reported on 9 February that combat forces in Guatemala are being trained in guerrilla warfare by foreign personnel, most of whom are from the United States. A dispatch from Retalhuleu reports that “this zone is the focal point for Guatemalan military preparations, for which Guatemalans believe that a clash with Cuba is virtually unavoidable.” It later adds that the United States is supporting this action not only with personnel, but also with materials and the construction of facilities for air and ground services.
While ground forces train on the spurs of the mountain range a few kilometers from the Pacific, intense air training is taking place here in a partially camouflaged aerodrome. President YDIGORAS admitted in an interview that training in guerrilla warfare was taking place on the spurs of the “Helvetia” hacienda, located a few kilometers from the provincial capital. He further stated that the air base located approximately 5 kms. west of the Capital on the Pacific side was being used for military purposes, but that he expected that it would be turned over to commercial use in the near future.
A Guatemalan authority at the “Helvetia” farm indicated, according to the Times, that the project had grown so quickly that they had imported foreign instructors. According to this source, most of these were North American guerrilla warfare specialists; experts also had been imported from other countries. He added that the latter group included Cubans, but the authority at “Helvetia” denied that Cuban citizens currently were being trained there.
The Times went on to report that, according to a source, a group of United States military personnel were at the air base, as well as other foreigners, for training purposes.
CARLOS ALEJOS ARZU, Guatemalan Ambassador to the United States, acknowledged on 10 January that North American officials are assisting Guatemalan forces and troops of other nationalities with training in the environs of the Retalhuleu air base and other parts of the country, but said that the training was not for the purpose of invading Cuba.
The declaration was made after revelations published by North American journalists in the “New York Times,” ‘The Nation,” and the “New York Daily News.”
The Department of State in Washington announced at the last minute that it would have no comment or statement to make about reports published in the “New York Times” to the effect that commandos were being trained to attack Cuba from Guatemalan bases. This announcement was made by LINCOLN WHITE who had stated at noon that the Department would have an official statement to make on the subject.
The journalists mention GUILLERMO HERNANDEZ VEGA, a Cuban who passed himself off as a counterrevolutionary and was in the training camps, and fled the camps before the Christmas holidays, seeking asylum in the Mexican Embassy in Guatemala. Upon being denied safe conduct he fled the Embassy and headed for Mexico where, according to reports, he informed the Cuban Ambassador of the invasion plans.
That same day, 10 January, President Ydigoras categorically denied that preparations were underway to invade Cuba.
A dispatch from the Guatemalan city of Retalhuleu signed by “New York Times” correspondent PAUL P. KENNEDY, reports that this zone is the focal point of military preparations in Guatemala against Cuba. The dispatch adds that the base at Retalhuleu is used to train commando forces with the assistance of specialists from North America, Cuba and other countries.
KENNEDY asserts that the base was built with financial assistance from the United States, which also supplied arms. He added that an official who participated in the negotiations in Washington confirmed for him that the North American government refused to send more arms than those already sent, because it believed that the supplies requested exceeded the requirements of defensive operations.
He added that the base’s main facility is an airstrip built by a North American firm, but that the aerodrome is not a military facility in the true sense of the word. He went on to report that military personnel wearing North American uniforms have been sighted in the city of Retalhuleu.
Colonel ENRIQUE PERALTA AZURDIA, Guatemalan Minister of Defense, stated that: “There are indeed troops stationed in Retalhuleu because it is a Guatemalan military base where Guatemalan regular army troops are trained to repel a second attack, whether it be launched from within Guatemala or from the outside.
“There are North American officers in Guatemala and they belong to the Air Mission. In addition, a Naval Mission will be arriving shortly.
They provide valuable training services to Guatemalan troops because that is why they have come to Guatemala, as they have gone to almost all Latin American countries.
“Guatemalan troops who are being trained in guerrilla warfare in Retalhuleu were airlifted to the battles in Zacapa and Puerto Barrios last November.”
As can be observed, there are two falsehoods in these statements by YDIGORAS’ Minister of Defense: the first being when he states that the troops were airlifted to the battles in Zacapa and Puerto Barrios. It is common knowledge that infantry forces did not operate there and that the air power used was operated by “yanki” pilots. The second lie has to do with affirming that Retalhuleu is a Guatemalan Army base, when it is well known that it is a foreign mercenary base. In fact, it appears that YDIGORAS now wants to cover up these mercenary activities by saying that they actually correspond to the Guatemalan Army.
After visiting Guatemala last November, the head of UPI [United Press International] in Mexico confirmed the presence of an air base in Retalhuleu. At that time, he cynically commented that the base was being prepared as a potential future facility to protect the Panama Canal, and as a center from which to launch an attack on any invading fleet.
The “New York Times” correspondent was able to prove that the base was isolated from the surrounding road and that armed soldiers man a guard post on a neighboring agricultural farm, from which they are able to observe activities in the military center and keep strangers from entering.
In September and October of last year, a considerable number of North Americans, military in appearance and with tattoos customary among members of the United States Armed Forces, were observed around Retalhuleu and on nearby Pacific beaches.
The opposition asserted that those North Americans were responsible for training commandos, but the government only stated that they were engineers assisting with construction of the base.
As Guatemalan Minister of Defense Colonel Enrique Peralta just indicated, recently there has been a resumption of intensive activity at Retalhuleu.
The “New York Post” called journalists MARTIN and SANTORA careless for reporting that these counterrevolutionary activities are financed by American industries whose properties in Cuba were nationalized by the Revolutionary Government.
In the New York-based “The Nation,” DON DWIGGINS reported that he had been able to confirm the existence of a military base in Retalhuleu. All access routes to the aerodrome are closed off. Rifle-bearing guards are posted on roads leading to the base. According to reports, the aerodrome’s airstrip is eight thousand feet long, which would seem rather short for operating jet propulsion combat planes, although it can be done since the aerodrome is at sea level.
The airstrip is built on terrain belonging to MANUEL RALDA, a prominent Guatemalan cattle rancher. It is said that the construction was completed in record time, over 80 days in the summer of 1960, under the worst conditions of heat and humidity. Since there are no flights to and from the Department of Retalhuleu, there is no doubt as to the purpose of the base there.
Dr. ROGER HILTON, Director of the Hispanic American Studies Institute of Stanford University, recently returned from Guatemala with proof that the country was replete with exiles who were planning a Cuban invasion via Isla de los Pinos; this information was published in “The Nation.”
According to Dr. HILTON, they expect to establish a Formosa-style government there (referring to Isla de los Pinos), that would serve as an assembly point for enemies of FIDEL CASTRO. In coordination with the invasion plans, forces would be concentrated in Puerto Barrios, which would serve as a springboard during the maneuver.
One report indicates that Retalhuleu is a training base for air and ground forces pertaining to a burgeoning “volunteer” army comprising OAS member countries. Other reports describe the aerodrome as one of many in a growing network of military bases from which it would be easy to launch a coordinated attack against Cuba.
On 10 January, the “New York Times” reported that the United States is supplying Guatemala with training personnel, materials, and other assistance to ready a guerrilla force for a possible clash with Cuba. Times correspondent KENNEDY reported from Retalhuleu that the US also has helped finance the construction of a landing camp where daily training in air maneuvers is taking place. He also reported that the hacienda is mostly owned by ROBERTO ALEJOS ARZU, one of the largest independent coffee growers in Guatemala and an intimate friend and advisor of YDIGORAS.
Two B-26s and two DC-4 or DC6s, without registration marks, operate on the airstrip. The camp structures appear to be army barracks, one of which is used as a radio station.
News correspondent KENNEDY said that he was able to penetrate twelve kilometers into the hacienda where the Guatemalans are being trained. A Guatemalan authority told him that Guatemalans originally were in charge of training at the base, but that the project expanded so quickly that guerrilla warfare specialists, mainly from the United States, were brought in.
It was reported that they used two Russians so that the recruits could get used to hearing Russian commands. The source denied, however, that Cubans currently are being trained on that hacienda.
Officers who appear to be wearing United States Air Force uniforms have been seen driving vehicles in downtown Retalhuleu, but none with that type of uniform have been seen on foot in the streets.
The Minister of Defense stated that “in fact we have forces stationed in Retalhuleu, but they are Guatemalan army soldiers who are there to receive training in guerrilla warfare.” He added that this was not for the purpose of armed action, but rather part of the Army’s routine activities. With regard to the presence of North American officers, it must be recalled that there are United States military and air missions in Guatemala, which usually provide valuable assistance to our Army. The Ministry of Defense is developing plans to reorganize the military bases in the country: the seven bases now in existence would be reduced to four bases, which would better equipped and organized than the existing facilities. These plans include establishing a strong military base in Retalhuleu. The troops there played a successful role in putting down the 13 November uprising against the government.
The Minister said that it is not true that Retalhuleu is the focal point of Guatemalan preparations for an inevitable clash with Cuba.
For approximately one year now, the opposition has been alleging that mercenary forces are trained in Retalhuleu for an invasion of Cuba.
Persistent rumors are circulating unofficially about unusual troop movements in Retalhuleu, especially on “Helvetia” farm, owned by the ALEJO brothers. These rumors even describe mercenary groups leaving Retalhuleu for Isla Cisne in Honduras; in recent weeks, there has been talk of the presence of numerous Cubans in Retalhuleu, which official sources deny.
As can be observed, all of these reports by North American correspondents that caused an international scandal provided very little information about the mercenary bases in Guatemala. This G-2 Information Department already had complete information, which was recounted in the first part of this report. These activities were condemned in a timely fashion by the Cuban government and by its representative at the U.N., Dr. RAUL ROA.
Mercenary activities in Florida.
Besides Guatemala, the United States is the other country where significant mercenary and counterrevolutionary activity in training camps is visible.
Florida has become an important center for conspiracy and training camps operate blatantly in different parts of the state.
The camp run by the FRD [Frente Revolucionario Democrático; Democratic Revolutionary Front] [led] by TONY VARONA is well known and contains some 1,400 mercenaries. Although the titular chief of this camp is former Colonel EDUARDO MARTIN ELENA and former Lieutenant MANUEL ARTIME, the true leaders are North American officials working for the CIA.
In addition, there are other camps run by PEDRAZA, MARTIN DIAZ TAMAYO, GARCIA TUNON, SANCHEZ MOSQUERA, MEROB SOSA, ROLANDO MASFERRER, and others.
All in all, approximately 5,000 mercenaries are receiving training in different regions of the United States.
On 10 January, the “Miami Herald” reported that the city could be linked to the air transport of anti-Castro forces to a training center in Guatemala.
Its editor, JAMES BUCHANAN, reported that an unmarked airplane with its lights off landed at the rarely used Opa-Loka aerodrome, and this was explained as merely an airplane that was low on gasoline.
Last 13 January, Dade County Commissioner ARTHUR H. PATTEN, made a proposal to assemble mercenaries throughout Florida in Opa-Loka, for an invasion of Cuba.
The newspaper also stated that a few weeks ago Hendry County police authorities were investigating similar cases of unmarked planes, with their lights off, picking up groups of men from an abandoned air strip near Clewiston [Florida].
The newspaper further reported that recruits, some of them North American, have been active in the Miami area for several months, screening exiles for men considered to be qualified and trustworthy. One agent screened volunteers from his home. The recruits are not allowed a single suitcase, nor can they carry identification documents or money; they are allowed to take only the clothes on their backs which is exchanged for a field uniform once they arrive at their destination.
On 10 January, a 28-year-old North American named DEL GURULE in Denver, Colorado, stated that he was trying to assemble a force of about 500 men in the Rocky Mountain region to join the invasion of Cuba scheduled for next June. GURULE, a Korean war veteran, said that the force he plans to mobilize will join the invading force undergoing training in Florida. He cited part of a letter signed by RAMON [S?]UAGO, a Cuban Army Colonel, to the effect that five thousand men are being prepared in Miami for the invasion.
“Parade” Magazine in New York published an article by ROBERT MAY stating that the United States has at least eleven espionage services headed by the CIA, Central Intelligence Agency, for a total of 45,000 spies who meddle in the affairs of Cuba, Guatemala, El Congo, Indonesia, Iraq, Iran, Burma, Laos, and other countries. He went on to say that, based on conservative estimates, the CIA spends approximately one billion dollars annually to obtain intelligence and promote subversive activities abroad. The article reports that the CIA has espionage centers disguised as business establishments in many cities. In Formosa, for example, it uses a publishing house and in the Philippines, a restaurant.
In Los Angeles, California, there is talk of an incredible air raid operation planned for early 1961. They are offering 25,000 dollars to pilots willing to participate in this mission. Those offering the money are “big shots” in the Government. According to the plan, six A-20 planes equipped with 600-pound bombs, whose pilots are only waiting to receive the offered money up front and in cash, are scattered among aerodromes in Los Angeles, Miami, Haiti, and Venezuela. The plan is to fly low over the water, appear suddenly on the Cuban coast at four o’clock in the morning, and bomb petroleum tanks and refineries.
A North American journalist recounts that, in a Caracas bar, an aviator [was] described [as] an intermediary who handles secret messages for members of the recently formed “Caribbean Legion” comprising mercenary aviators. These salaried pilots are bringing into the Caribbean a heterogeneous fleet ranging from English jet propulsion “Vampires” to B-25s and P-51s from the last war.
Mercenary training in the United States is carried out so blatantly that the 31 October edition of “Life” magazine included photographs of mercenary camps in the State of Florida. Last 25 October, CBS television (Columbia Broadcasting System) ran footage of several of these counterrevolutionary centers in Miami.
Last 22 November, the “Diario de las Americas” reported the death of North American RUSSELL F. MASKER, victim of a stray shot from Cuban ROLANDO MARTINEZ CAMPANERIA during military instruction in a camp located in “Cayo Sin Nombre,” thirty miles from Cayo Hueso.
There have been reports of a paratrooper base in Tucson, Arizona, as well as small mercenary groups on the Andros Islands, in Nassau, in Cayo Sal and Cayo la Roque. There is also talk that mercenaries assembled in camps in Miami, Orlando, Homestead, Fort Lauderdale and Fort Myers earn 25 dollars a week in pay and a stipend for family members, based on the number.
Mercenaries have been transferred from these Florida training camps to Guatemala and Isla Cisne in North American Army transport planes and civilian cargo planes. The same practice is followed for those who complete instruction in Guatemala. Isla Cisne is used as a transfer point where mercenaries remain for several days before being transferred to Guantanamo Naval Base.
The first group transported to Guantanamo comprised 150 men who traveled last 24 October on United States Navy warship “Burman,” commanded by Captain JOSEPH MCDONALD. Since that date, there have been weekly embarkations of groups of 150 men with weapons, supplies, medicines and food rations. Recently, mercenaries in Guatemala have gone directly to the Guantanamo Naval Base without stopping over in Isla Cisne.
Mercenaries located in Guantanamo, wearing the camouflage olive green, caramel and white uniforms used by the Marine Infantry in the Second World War, are the best troops and have the best weapons. The plan is to launch several small commando-type expeditions to different points on the Island, synchronized with attacks and acts of sabotage in the cities. These expeditions will depart from Florida, some adjacent keys, and possibly Isla Cisne. During disembarkation, mercenaries camped at the Guantanamo Naval Base will head toward Sierra Maestra, which will be used as an operations center to launch attacks on several cities in the Oriente province, with air support from bases in Isla Cisne and Guatemala. The mercenary air force also plans to bomb different locations in the La Habana province.
One of the Miami recruitment centers is located on 17th Street and Biscayne Boulevard, where mercenaries openly are signed up to join an invading army:
There already have been reports that the FRD under TONY VARONA has the approval of the United States authorities and transfers contraband weapons, supplies, and explosives to the Isla. Further, [in] this counterrevolutionary group’s camp, mercenaries may not return to civilian life after they have been accepted. They receive correspondence from family and friends through a post office box in Miami, using a system similar to that employed by the North American army during the Second World War to conceal the status of the troops.
On New Years Eve, AP reported from Miami that a group of 200 Cubans and 23 North Americans camped in warehouses near the downtown area of the city were preparing to disembark in Cuba. The group, led by ROLANDO MASFERRER, included North Americans KENNETH PROCTOR, age 33, from Boston; LARRY BRICENT, age 22, from Columbus, Ohio.
We also know of, and have duly reported, radio programs maintained and financed by the Washington administration, that engage in defamation and encourage treachery while simultaneously transmitting coded orders for counterrevolutionaries based in Cuba, all under the CIA’s direction.
One such group which produces radio programs maintains a luxury home in Miami where programs are taped and later transmitted from a 35-foot long vessel based in that city.
From New York, another program called “By Cuba and For Cuba” is broadcast five times a week by shortwave radio and rebroadcast sixty minutes later on longwave by Radio Swan on Isla del Cisne [Swan Island].
The vessel that leaves Miami every day broadcasts the program “Radio Independent Cuba” in which they give directions to sabotage cinemas, theaters, and other meeting places.
As it is known, Radio Swan is on the air since last August, appearing to be operated by the firm “Gibraltar Steamship Company” located in New York City. Every night, it broadcasts four hours in Spanish and recordings are made in the United States, then sent twice per week by airplane to Isla Cisne [Swan Island].
Isla Cisne serves as a transit point for groups of mercenaries. Though it belongs to Honduras, it is occupied by the United States, which has installed a Meteorological Bureau station for the Caribbean to study hurricanes there. This island is almost entirely the property of Summer Smith, a merchant from Boston and descendant of Captain Alonzo Adams, who established himself there in 1893.
The past December 21st, the “Committee for the Liberation of Cuba” was created, led by John McClatchy, who will buy radio station time to make propaganda against Cuba. He is supported by Representative [Roman] Pucinsky of Illinois, and retired Commander Pilot Nicholas Nonnemather.
Everything stated above is as much as we can report to the present moment about the mercenary camps in Guatemala, Nicaragua, Florida, as well as other counterrevolutionary activities. “We will win.”
The preceding report is submitted to Dr. Osvaldo Dorticos Torrado, Citizen President of the Republic, for his knowledge and consideration.
Ramiro Valdés Menéndez, Commander Chief Dept. Infirmary G-2 MINFAR
A military intelligence report from the Cuban G-2 service, outlining the miltiary capabilities of nearby Latin American countries, as well as the miltiary situations (uprisings) in many of those same countries.
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