Excerpt: 'Ultimate Sacrifice'

Editor's NoteThe following is the Introduction to Ultimate Sacrifice: John and Robert Kennedy, the Plan for a Coup in Cuba and the Murder of JFK, by Lamar Waldron with Thom Hartmann (Carroll & Graf).

Seventeen years ago, Thom Hartmann and I began writing a book about the battles of President Kennedy and his brother, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, against the Mafia and Fidel Castro. Drawing on new information and exclusive interviews with those who worked with the Kennedys, in addition to thousands of recently declassified files, we discovered that John and Robert Kennedy had devised and were executing a secret plan to overthrow Fidel Castro on December 1, 1963. "The Plan for a Coup in Cuba" (as it was titled in a memo for the Joint Chiefs of Staff) would include a "palace coup" to eliminate Castro, allowing a new Cuban "Provisional Government" to step into the power vacuum, and would be supported by a "full-scale invasion" of Cuba by the US military, if necessary.

The "Plan for a Coup in Cuba" was fully authorized by JFK and personally run by Robert Kennedy. Only about a dozen people in the US government knew the full scope of the plan, all of whom worked for either the military, the CIA, or reported directly to Robert. The Kennedys' plan was prepared primarily by the US military, with the CIA playing a major supporting role. Input was also obtained from key officials in a few other agencies, but most of those who worked on the plan knew only about carefully compartmentalized aspects, believing it to be a theoretical exercise in case a Cuban official volunteered to depose Fidel.

Unique and different from any previously disclosed operation, the Kennedys' "Plan for a Coup in Cuba" is revealed in this book for the first time. The CIA's code name for their part of the coup plan has never surfaced in any book, article, or government investigation. Officially declassified in 1999, "AMWORLD" is the cryptonym the CIA used for the plan in its classified internal documents. Since the overall coup plan was under the personal control of Attorney General Kennedy, who did not use a code-name for it, we call it "C-Day" in this book, a name entirely of our own invention. Its evocation of D-Day is intentional, since the Kennedys' plan included the possibility of a US military invasion.

C-Day was undoubtedly one of the most secret covert operations in United States history. In its secrecy, however, lay tragedy. Even though the Kennedys' coup plan never came to fruition, three powerful Mafia dons--Carlos Marcello, Santo Trafficante, and Johnny Rosselli--learned of the plan and realized that the government would go to any lengths to avoid revealing it to the public. With that knowledge, the three mob bosses were able to assassinate JFK in a way that forced the truth to be buried for over forty years.

Marcello, Trafficante, and Rosselli undertook this extraordinary act of vengeance in order to halt the Kennedy administration's unrelenting prosecution of them and their allies. The Kennedy Justice Department had vigorously pursued Marcello, even subjecting him to a brief, nightmarish deportation. Once he returned, Marcello hated the Kennedy brothers with a deep and vengeful passion. The two other Mafia bosses suffered similar pursuit, and eventually Marcello, Trafficante, and Rosselli decided that their only way to avoid prison or deportation was to kill JFK.

Our investigation has produced clear evidence that the crime bosses arranged the assassination so that any thorough investigation would expose the Kennedys' C-Day coup plan. They were confident that any such exposure could push America to the brink of war with Cuba and the Soviet Union, meaning that they could assassinate JFK with relative impunity.

They did not carry out the act themselves, but used trusted associates and unwitting proxies. The most widely known are Jack Ruby and Lee Harvey Oswald, who were both in contact with associates of Marcello, Trafficante, and Rosselli in the months before the assassination. Reports in government files show that Oswald and Ruby knew about parts of the Kennedys' plan and even discussed it with others.

Robert Kennedy told several close associates that Carlos Marcello was behind JFK's death, but he couldn't reveal what he knew to the public or to the Warren Commission without C-Day being uncovered. As this book shows, RFK and other key government officials worried that exposure of the plan could trigger another nuclear confrontation with the Soviets, just a year after the Cuban Missile Crisis.

None of the seven governmental committees that investigated aspects of the assassination, including the Warren Commission, were officially told about the Kennedys' C-Day plan. However, over the decades, each successive committee came increasingly close to discovering both the plan and the associates of Marcello who assassinated JFK. We were able to piece together the underlying story by building on the work of those committees, former government investigators, and revelations in four million documents that were declassified in the 1990s.

Key to our efforts were new and often exclusive interviews with many Kennedy insiders who worked on the coup plan or dealt with its consequences, some of whom revealed aspects of JFK's assassination and the coup plan for the first time. They include Secretary of State Dean Rusk, Press Secretary Pierre Salinger, and the Kennedys' top Cubanexile aide, Enrique "Harry" Ruiz-Williams. Their inside information allows us to tell the story, even though a 1998 report about the JFK Assassinations Records Review Board confirms that "well over a million CIA records" related to JFK's murder have not yet been released.

NBC News' Tom Brokaw confirmed on his September 29, 1998 broadcast that "millions" of pages remain secret and won't be released until the year 2017.

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