A Department of Defense document declassified in 1997 shows that the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the United States Armed Forces had drafted and approved a plan to attack and kill Americans and to blame it on Cuba.
The original document is stored at the National Security Archives at George Washington University in Washington, DC, and is available in PDF form HERE. (HTML version)
The plan was rejected by President John F. Kennedy, after it was presented by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Lyman Lemnitzer, to Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara on March 13, 1962. The plan was intended to "provide justifications for US military intervention in Cuba."
Face page, Operation Northwoods memo.
It included proposals to "blow up a US ship in Guantanamo Bay and blame Cuba," and to "develop a Communist Cuba terror campaign in the Miami area, in other Florida cities and even in Washington."
Section from page eight of Northwoods memo.
The plan calls for an incident reminiscent of the USS Maine, in which 167 American sailors died. The plan references another covert action plan, Operation Mongoose, which goes as far as arranging for the spaceship of American astronaut John Glenn to crash upon take-off, and blaming it on the Cubans.
Kennedy demoted Lemnitzer soon after rejecting the plan. The following year, Kennedy was assassinated. Although ABC News reporter James Bamford, the author of a book on the subject, said that parts of the plan "would have amounted to treason," the conspirators were never arrested and Lemnitzer was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery when he died. Bamford's book is entitled "Body of Secrets."
Code-named Operation Northwoods, the memo was signed and approved by all five of the Joint Chiefs. After Lemnitzer was demoted, he was replaced by General Maxwell Taylor as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs.
With the subject line heading "Justification for U.S. Military Intervention in Cuba" on the face page, the memo states at page 5:
"The desired resultant from the execution of this plan would be to place the United States in the apparent position of suffering defensible grievances from a rash and irresponsible government of Cuba and to develop an inter-national image of a Cuban threat to peace in the Western Hemisphere."
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Lyman Lemnitzer
The plan discusses on page 13:
"It is possible to create an incident which will demonstrate convincingly that a Cuban aircraft has attacked and shot down a chartered civil airliner enroute from the United States to Jamaica, Guatemala, Panama or Venezuela. The destination would be chosen only to cause the flight plan route to cross Cuba. The passengers could be a group of college students off on a holiday or any grouping of persons with a common interest to support chartering a non-scheduled flight."
The story has languished in the major media. In May of 2001 ABC News did cover the disclosures, but since then no major media news reports exist. The book has remained unreviewed by major book review publications.
According to "Body of Secrets" author James Bamford, only JFK stood between the Joint Chiefs' desires and the lives of Americans. The plan was to become operational within a "few months." The operation's "paramilitary" aspects, both "covert and overt," were to be run by the office of the Joint Chiefs. Page 9 states:
"Time is an important factor in resolution of the Cuban problem. Therefore, the plan should be so time-phased that projects would be operable within the next few months.
Inasmuch as the ultimate objective is overt military intervention, it is recommended that primary responsibility for developing military and para-military aspects of the plan for both overt and covert military operations be assigned the Joint Chiefs of Staff."
It is historically well-known that the Kennedy administration and the top eschelons of the US military were often at odds over foreign policy. During the Cuban Missile Crisis, Kennedy refused to be rushed into a decision to attack Cuba, saying that he was not interested in "starting World War III." The audio tapes of the administration's deliberations over what to do about the discovery of Soviet missiles in Cuba, possibly with a nuclear capability, were declassified in the mid-1990s. The tapes are known as the Excomm tapes. (EXCOMM tapes transcripts) (audio files)
Section from page eight, Operation Northwoods memo.
At one point in the meetings over the Cuban missiles, Air Force Chief of Staff General Curtis LeMay told JFK: "You're in a pretty bad fix, Mr President." Kennedy shot back: "You're in it with me."
Since the release of the EXCOMM tapes and other previously classified material, many historians have concluded that the world had come closer to the brink of nuclear holocaust than previously thought. Rather than attack Cuba, Kennedy gave the Soviet president, Nikita Kruschev, a face-saving diplomatic measure in return for pulling the missiles out of Cuba.
With respect to Operation Northwoods, Bamford noted in "Body of Secrets," that "Although no one in Congress could have known at the time, Lemnitzer and the Joint Chiefs had quietly slipped over the edge."
Skeptics of the official story backed by the US government on the events of 9/11 have frequently cited Operation Northwoods as evidence of the willingness of elements of the American government to wage false flag attacks, i.e. attacks planned by elements of the government on Americans in order to blame another party, and to, in the words of the Northwood memo, "provide justifications" for declaring war on that party. Ironically, four months after the Northwoods memo received its first major media coverage from ABC News, 9/11 struck.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff on 10 February 1960. From left to right: General Lyman L. Lemnitzer, Chief of Staff, US Army; Admiral Arleigh Burke, Chief of Naval Operations, US Navy; General Nathan Twining, US Air Force, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; General Thomas D. White, Chief of Staff, US Air Force; and General David M. Shoup, Commandant, US Marine Corps.