Dictabelt 10A.4

John Kennedy, Richard Helms
White House Telephone

At a joint news conference on February 28 with House Minority Leader Charles A. Halleck, party of a semi-regular series that had become known "Ev and Charley Show," Senate Republican leader Everett Dirksen had called for a Senate investigation into the ill-fated Bay of Pigs operation of April 1961. Dirksen was evidently prompted in part by a report in an Alabama newspaper the previous month that claimed that four American pilots, all from Alabama, had been killed when their B-26 bomber had been shot during the invasion. The source of the claim was a reporter who had participated in the air operation over Cuba and had known the pilots who had died. Responding to the implication of an administration coverup, Senate Majority Leader Mike Mansfield said that the deaths of four American pilots, all of whom had volunteered to fly combat missions, had been reported to a select few Congressional leaders at the time.1

Arkansas Governor Faubus had subsquently claimed that 12 Arkansas Air National Guard pilots had volunteered for the 1961 invasion and had flown missions.2

President Kennedy: . . . involved.

Richard Helms: Absolutely not, sir.

President Kennedy: Yeah.

Helms: I've just verified and reverified that.

President Kennedy: Yeah.

Helms: That's absolutely certain.

President Kennedy: Why--were they down in Nicaragua or--

Helms: They were in Guatemala.

President Kennedy: Yeah.

Helms: And there eight of them who were officers. In other words, pilots, navigators, planners--

President Kennedy: Yeah.

Helms: --who were involved in training the Cubans. The other 16 were involved in ground crews, mechanics and things of that kinds.

President Kennedy: I see. How come they were recruited in the South and not the North. I notice [Orval E.] Faubus said they couldn't recruit in the North.

Helms: I don't know why, sir.

President Kennedy: Yeah.

Helms: I think that was pure happenstance.

President Kennedy: Yeah.

Helms: The states that were represented were Georgia, there was one from California, there were several from Washington, D.C., and then there was Alabama and Arkansas.

President Kennedy: Oh, I see. Now, these were recruited from . . .

Helms: All from National Guard units.

President Kennedy: I see.

Helms: And they totalled 124.

President Kennedy: Recruitment--124?

Helms: Yes.

President Kennedy: --they recruited. OK.

Helms: And then we had some others that were--some pilots from [Civil Air Transport] CAT that were rotated in and out and so forth. 3

President Kennedy: OK. Good. Fine. Thank you, Dick.

Helms: [Unclear.] You bet.

  • 1. Cabell Phillips, "Dirksen to Push Senate Study of 1961 Bay of Pigs Invasion," New York Times, 1 March 1963, p.2; "Echo of Bay of Pigs," New York Times, 4 March 1963, p.14.
  • 2. Wall Street Journal, 7 March 1963, p.1
  • 3. Civil Air Transport (CAT) was an airline owned by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), which supported covert operations of the U.S. government.