William Douglas Pawley was born in Florence, South Carolina, on 7th September, 1896. His father was a wealthy businessman based in Cuba and Pawley attended private schools in both Havana and Santiago. He later returned to the United States where he studied at the Gordon Military Academy in Georgia.
In 1925 Pawley began work as an estate agent in Miami. Two years later he began working for the Curtiss-Wright Corporation. In 1928 Pawley returned to Cuba to become president of the Nacional Cubana de Aviacion Curtiss. He held this post until the company was sold to Pan American Airways in 1932.
Pawley now became president of the Intercontinent Corporation based in New York. The following year he moved to China where he became president of the China National Aviation Corporation. Over the next five years he built three aircraft factories for the Chinese government of Chiang Kai-shek.
Pawley also formed a business relationship with Tommy Corcoran. In 1940, President Franklin D. Roosevelt had asked Corcoran to establish a private corporation to provide assistance to the nationalist government in China. Roosevelt even supplied the name of the proposed company, China Defense Supplies. He also suggested that his uncle, Frederick Delano, should be co-chairman of the company. Chiang nominated his former finance minister, Tse-ven Soong, as the other co-chairman.
For reasons of secrecy, Corcoran took no title other than outside counsel for China Defense Supplies. William S. Youngman was his frontman in China. Corcoran's friend, Whitey Willauer, was moved to the Foreign Economic Administration, where he supervised the sending of supplies to China. In this way Corcoran was able to create an Asian Lend-Lease program.
Pawley also worked closely with Claire Lee Chennault, who had been working as a military adviser to Chiang Kai-shek since 1937. Chennault told Tommy Corcoran that if he was given the resources, he could maintain an air force within China that could carry out raids against the Japanese. Corcoran returned to the United States and managed to persuade Franklin D. Roosevelt to approve the creation of the American Volunteer Group.
William Pawley became involved and he arranged for one hundred P-40 fighters, built by the Curtiss-Wright Corporation, that had been intended for Britain, to be redirected to Chennault in China. Pawley also arranged for the P-40 to be assembled in Rangoon. It was Tommy Corcoran's son David who suggested that the American Volunteer Group should be called the Flying Tigers. Chennault liked the idea and asked his friend, Walt Disney, to design a tiger emblem for the planes.
On 13th April, 1941, Franklin D. Roosevelt signed a secret executive order authorizing the American Volunteer Group to recruit reserve officers from the army, navy and marines. Pawley suggested that the men should be recruited as "flying instructors".
In July, 1941, ten pilots and 150 mechanics were supplied with fake passports and sailed from San Francisco for Rangoon. When they arrived they were told that they were really involved in a secret war against Japan. To compensate for the risks involved, the pilots were to be paid $600 a month ($675 for a patrol leader). In addition, they were to receive $500 for every enemy plane they shot down.
The Flying Tigers were extremely effective in their raids on Japanese positions and helped to slow down attempts to close the Burma Road, a key supply route to China. In seven months of fighting, the Flying Tigers destroyed 296 planes at a loss of 24 men (14 while flying and 10 on the ground).
In 1944 Pawley became president of the Industan Aircraft Manufacturing Company in Bangalore, India. Pawley was responsible for building India's first ammonium-sulfate plant in Trannvancore.
After the war Pawley became a diplomat. In 1945 Harry S. Truman appointed Pawley as U.S. Ambassador to Peru. Soon afterwards left-wing newspapers in Lima began to claim that Pawley was making "lucrative deals" for himself in Peru. This involved transporting unspecified goods in and out of Peru.
In 1948 Pawley became Ambassador to Brazil. During this time he became a FBI informant. He passed information to J. Edgar Hoover claiming that Spruille Braden, the Ambassador to Argentina was under the control of communist advisers such as Gustavo Duran and George Michanowsky. In a document dated the 7th September, 1948, Pawley suggested that Braden was attempting to expose "non-existant and imagery Nazis in Latin America" as a cover for his communist sympathies. Pawley also claimed that William A. Wieland, who worked as a press officer for the embassy in Brazil, held "anti-capitalist" views.
Pawley continued to be involved in various business projects. He was a close friend of President Rafael Trujillo and together with George Smathers, had invested in the bauxite industry in the Dominican Republic. He was also extremely friendly with Fulgencio Batista and in 1948 he established Autobuses Modernos in Cuba. A company he later sold to Batista.
On 7th November, 1949, Pawley sent a memorandum to the State Department suggesting that a small group of Americans should be sent to Formosa in order to help protect the government of Chiang Kai-shek. Pawley claimed that Dean Acheson rejected the idea after consulting with advisers such as Owen Lattimore, John C. Vincent and John Davis. In February, 1951 Pawley became special assistant to Acheson. Later that year he held a similar post under Robert A. Lovett. However, he discovered that the State Department considered him to be a reactionary and he was denied access to secret documents concerning Latin America.
Pawley was an active member of the Republican Party. A close friend of both President Dwight Eisenhower and CIA director Allen W. Dulles, he took part in a policy that later become known as Executive Action (a plan to remove unfriendly foreign leaders from power). Pawley played a role Operation Success, a CIA plot to overthrow the Guatemalan government of Jacobo Arbenz in 1954 after he introduced land reforms and nationalized the United Fruit Company.
John Foster Dulles decided that he “needed a civilian adviser to the State Department team to help expediate Operation Success". Dulles selected William Pawley. In his book Peddling Influence (2005), David McKean argues that Pawley's most important qualification for the job was his “long association with right-wing Latin America dictators.”
Gaeton Fonzi points out in his book, The Last Investigation: "Pawley had also owned major sugar interests in Cuba, as well as Havana's bus, trolley and gas systems and he was close to both pre-Castro Cuban rulers, President Carlos Prio and General Fulgencio Batista. (Pawley was one of the dispossessed American investors in Cuba who early tried to convince Eisenhower that Castro was a Communist and urged him to arm the exiles in Miami.)"
In March 1958, President Dwight Eisenhower, disillusioned with Batista's government, insisted he held elections. This he did, but the people showed their unhappiness with his government by refusing to vote. Over 75 per cent of the voters in the capital Havana boycotted the polls. In some areas, such as Santiago, it was as high as 98 per cent.
Some members of the State Department came to the conclusion that it would be in America's best long-term interest in Cuba to be seen as opposing Batista. William A. Wieland, Director of the Caribbean and Central American Affairs, was against America providing support for the Cuban dictator. As the U.S. Ambassador of Cuba, Earl E. T. Smith was later to tell a Senate Committee: "He (Wieland) believed that it would be in the best interest of Cuba and the best interest of the world in general when Batista was removed from office."
Wieland was not the only one who took that view. According to Pawley and Smith, Roy R. Rubottom, Assistant Secretary of State for Latin American Affairs, John L. Topping, Chief of the Political Section and the Chief of the CIA Section, held similar opinions. Pawley and Smith also identified Herbert L. Matthews of the New York Times as being an important figure in providing support for the idea of regime change in Cuba. Smith pointed out that "Matthews wrote three articles on Fidel Castro, which appeared on the front page of the New York Times, in which he eulogized Fidel Castro and portrayed him as a political Robin Hood."
On 9th December, 1958, Pawley had a meeting with Fulgencio Batista. Pawley told Batista that he was losing the support of the American government. Pawley suggested that the Cuban dictator should resign and allow an anti-Castro and anti-Batista caretaker junta to take over. Batista rejected the idea and on 14th December, William A. Wieland, speaking for the State Department instructed Earl E. T. Smith, to inform Batista that he no longer had the support of the US government and that he should leave Cuba at once. On 1st January, 1959, Batista fled to the Dominican Republic.
Pawley later told a Senate Committee on Latin American Affairs: "I believe that the deliberate overthrow of Batista by Wieland and Matthews, assisted by Rubottom, is almost as great a tragedy as the surrendering of China to the Communists by a similar group of Department of State officials fifteen or sixteen years ago and we will not see the end in cost of American lives and American recourses for these tragic errors."
After Batista was overthrown by Fidel Castro, Pawley pressurized President Dwight Eisenhower to provide military and financial help to anti-Castro Cubans based in the United States. Recently released FBI files suggest he worked closely with Manuel Artime in efforts to overthrow Castro.
In the winter of 1962 Eddie Bayo claimed that two officers in the Red Army based in Cuba wanted to defect to the United States. Bayo added that these men wanted to pass on details about atomic warheads and missiles that were still in Cuba despite the agreement that followed the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Bayo had originally fought with Fidel Castro against Fulgencio Batista. He disagreed with Castro's policies after he gained power and moved to Miami and helped establish Alpha 66. His story was eventually taken up by several members of the anti-Castro community including Gerry P. Hemming, John Martino, Felipe Vidal Santiago and Frank Sturgis. Pawley became convinced that it was vitally important to help get these Soviet officers out of Cuba. To help this happen he communicated with James Eastland, the chairman of the Senate Internal Security Subcommittee, about this story.
Pawley also contacted Ted Shackley, head of the CIA's JM WAVE station in Miami. Shackley decided to help Pawley organize what became known as Operation Tilt. He also assigned William (Rip) Robertson, a fellow member of the CIA in Miami, to help with the operation. David Sanchez Morales, another CIA agent, also became involved in this attempt to bring out these two Soviet officers.
In June, 1963, a small group, including Pawley, Eddie Bayo, William (Rip) Robertson, John Martino, and Richard Billings, a journalist working for Life Magazine, secretly arrived in Cuba. They were unsuccessful in their attempts to find these Soviet officers and they were forced to return to Miami. Bayo remained behind and it was rumored that he had been captured and executed. However, his death was never reported in the Cuban press.
William Pawley died of gunshot wounds in January, 1977. Officially it was suicide but some researchers believe it was connected to the investigations being carried out by the House Select Committee on Assassinations. However, a relative Cash Pawley, has argued: "Bill Pawley had acquired a severe case of Shingles years earlier, which had progressed across his entire body (even the soles of his feet). He had been unable to lay down, stand or become comfortable in any position. The pain was excruciating, and there was no modern medicine(s) for a cure or even proper pain management at the time. Therefore, Mr. Pawley suffered day in and day out, until he just could not do it anymore. This was the reason for his suicide."
Pawley was both a former diplomat and a semi-professional intelligence agent. Born in South Carolina in 1896, he spent some of his youth in Cuba, and during the 1920s and 1930s he established himself as a player in the fledgling aircraft industry there, as well as in China and India. In 1940-41 Pawley became deeply involved in the formation of the American Volunteer Group, also known as the Flying Tigers-an Amer¬ican-piloted air force that the Roosevelt administration recruited for Chiang Kai-Shek. Active in various business enterprises catering to the Flying Tigers, Pawley eventually managed to collect a commission of $250,000 on one hundred P-40 planes that the new air force purchased from the Curtiss-Wright Corporation. The force's commander, General Claire Chennault, told federal investigators in 1944-45 that Pawley was guilty of attempted bribery. But President Truman nevertheless appointed him as ambassador to Peru in 1945-46 and to Brazil in 1946-1948.
Pawley was also friendly with Henry Luce, the publisher of Time and Life magazines, and by 1949 he shared Luce's view that a foolish or treacherous clique of Foreign Service officers had handed China to the Communists. He began a parallel campaign against several diplomats, led by one Spruille Braden, a determined opponent of right-wing Latin American dictatorships which he implied to the FBI were giving similar aid and comfort to Communists in Latin America." During the 1950s Pawley worked on two occasions with the CIA, which briefly cleared him as a source in 1952 despite several reports of his dishonesty and appointed him to the advisory Doolittle Committee in 1954. He claimed in 1967 that he had somehow participated in the CIA-sponsored overthrow of the Arbenz government in Guatemala in 1954. According to his account, he had been a friend of Batista for about thirty years.
By the 1950s Pawley owned the Havana street railway system and was developing business interests in the Dominican Republic. He had also become friendly with President Eisenhower and CIA Director Allen Dulles, and in November of 1958 he talked them into sending him on a private diplomatic mission to persuade Batista to step down in favor of a junta of more moderate army officers. On December 9, 1958, Pawley made the approach, together with the chief of the Havana CIA station and with J. C. King, chief of the CIA's Western Hemisphere branch. Batista declined to step down.
One of the first leads Schweiker asked me to check came from a source he considered impeccable: Clare Boothe Luce. One of the wealthiest women in the world, widow of the founder of the Time, Inc. publishing empire, former member of the U.S. House of Representatives, former Ambassador to Italy, successful Broadway playwright, international socialite and longtime civic activist, Clare Boothe Luce was the last person in the world Schweiker would have suspected of leading him on a wild goose chase.
Yet the chase began almost immediately. Right after Schweiker announced the formation of his Kennedy assassination Subcommittee, he was visited by Vera Glaser, a syndicated Washington columnist. Glaser told him she had just interviewed Clare Boothe Luce and that Luce had given her some information relating to the assassination. Schweiker immediately called Luce and she, quite cooperatively and in detail, confirmed the story she had told Glaser.
Luce said that some time after the Bay of Pigs she received a call from her "great friend" William Pawley, who lived in Miami. A man of immense wealth - he had made his millions in oil-during World War II. Pawley had gained fame setting up the Flying Tigers with General Claire Chennault. Pawley had also owned major sugar interests in Cuba, as well as Havana's bus, trolley and gas systems and he was close to both pre-Castro Cuban rulers, President Carlos Prio and General Fulgencio Batista. (Pawley was one of the dispossessed American investors in Cuba who early tried to convince Eisenhower that Castro was a Communist and urged him to arm the exiles in Miami.)
Luce said that Pawley had gotten the idea of putting together a fleet of speedboats-sea-going "Flying Tigers" as it were-which would be used by the exiles to dart in and out of Cuba on "intelligence gathering" missions. He asked her to sponsor one of these boats and she agreed. As a result of her sponsorship, Luce got to know the three-man crew of the boat "fairly well," as she said. She called them "my boys" and said they visited her a few times in her New York townhouse. It was one of these boat crews, Luce said, that originally brought back the news of Russian missiles in Cuba. Because Kennedy didn't react to it, she said she helped feed it to Senator Kenneth Keating, who made it public. She then wrote an article for Life magazine predicting the missile crisis. "Well, then came the nuclear showdown and the President made his deal with Khrushchev and I never saw my young Cubans again," she said. The boat operations were stopped, she said, shortly afterwards when Pawley was notified that the U.S. was invoking the Neutrality Act and would prevent any further exile missions into Cuba.
Luce said she hadn't thought about her boat crew until the day that President Kennedy was killed. That evening she received a telephone call from one of the crew members. She told Schweiker his name was "something like" Julio Fernandez, and he said he was calling her from New Orleans. Julio Fernandez told her that he and the other crew members had been forced out of Miami after the Cuban missile crisis and that they had started a "Free Cuba" cell in New Orleans. Luce said that Fernandez told her that Oswald had approached his group and offered his services as a potential Castro assassin. He said his group didn't believe Oswald, suspected he was really a Communist and decided to keep tabs on him. Fernandez said they found that Oswald was, indeed, a Communist, and they eventually penetrated his "cell" and tape-recorded his talks, including his bragging that he could shoot anyone because he was "the greatest shot in the world with a telescopic lens." Fernandez said that Oswald then suddenly came into money and went to Mexico City and then Dallas. According to Luce, Fernandez also told her that his group had photographs of Oswald and copies of handbills Oswald had been distributing on the streets of New Orleans. Fernandez asked Luce what he should do with this information and material...
A year later, in December of 1976, when I was about to start working for the Assassinations Committee, I stumbled across some other fascinating facts related to Clare Boothe Luce's tip to Senator Schweiker. That was when I learned, for instance, that her "great friend" in Miami, William Pawley, was a longtime associate of the CIA. Never an official spook, Pawley was nonetheless a member of the Old Boys network and was especially close to CIA Director Allen Dulles. He had helped transform his Flying Tigers into one of the first CIA proprietary airlines, Civil Air Transport, and had set up for the Agency a front called the Pacific Corporation as an offshoot of the Tigers. He had been involved in the CIA's overthrow of the Arbenz government in Guatemala and he had backed more than one Castro assassination attempt. Pawley once told a Miami reporter: "Find me one man, just one man who can go it alone and get Castro, I'll pay anything, almost anything." But Pawley was not just a backer of exile groups, he wanted to be a participant, and I came across a bizarre story about one of his secret excursions to Cuba.
Early one morning in the summer of 1963, a 65-foot luxury yacht named the Flying Tiger II slid away from its dock behind a mansion on Miami Beach's Sunset Island and headed for Cuba. The yacht belonged to Pawley. Aboard were three CIA paramilitary operatives; a cache of heavy firearms and explosives was locked in its stateroom. The yacht was scheduled to rendezvous off the coast of Cuba with an amphibious aircraft, a Catalina PBY, provided by the CIA. Aboard the aircraft were Pawley; a fellow named John Martino, who had worked for Mob bosses in Havana's casinos and had been imprisoned by Castro; Life magazine's Miami bureau chief Richard Billings (the same fellow who would later become the Assassinations Committee's chief writer); Billing's photographer, Terrence Spence; a daring Alpha 66 veteran Cuban infiltrator named Eduardo ("Eddie Bayo") Perez; and a raiding party of eleven CIA-trained Cuban exiles. The aim of the mission was for Eddie Bayo and his exile party, using a small, high-speed boat provided by the CIA, to sneak ashore, capture two Russian military technicians from a Cuban missile site and bring them back to the United States. Then, using the documentation that Life magazine's staffers would provide, a major press conference would proclaim that here was living proof that Soviet missiles were still in Cuba. The mission was a tragic failure. Radio contact with Bayo and his raiding party was lost and they were never heard from again. The Flying Tiger II and Pawley returned to Miami and Life never wrote a story about the mission.
Jack Pfeiffer: I have a question, and it is what was Pawley's relation to this whole operation... and your relation with Pawley seems to have been quite close, too.
Jake Esterline: I think it was a hangover relationship from the things that Bill Pawley had done as quite a wheel with a number of very senior people during the Guatemalan operation ... that they felt that Bill, who had been very closely tied into Cuba ... that he was a very prominent man in Florida... that there were a lot of things that he might be able to do, in the sense of getting things lined up in Florida for us... and also his ties with Nixon and with other republican politicos. I used to deal with him quite a bit before.... From my point of view, we never let Bill Pawley know any of the intimacies about our operations, or what we were doing. He never knew where our bases were, or things of that sort. He never knew anything specific about our operations, but he was doing an awful lot of things on his own with the exiles. Some of the people that he had known in Cuba, in the sugar business, etc. I guess he actually was instrumental in running boats and things in and out of Cuba, getting people out and what not, and a variety of things that were not connected with us in any way. He was a political factor from the standpoint from J.C.'s standpoint. I don't know whether Tommy Corcoran entered in at this point... I think Tommy Corcoran was strictly in Guatemala. I guess Corcoran didn't come into this thing, at least not very much.
Jack Pfeiffer: His name turns up once or twice.
Jake Esterline: Yes, I met him once, in connection with Cuba, but I don't remember who... for J.C King, but I don't remember why, at this point. It wasn't anything of any significance. My feeling with Pawley... he was such a hawk, and he was every second week... he wanted to kill somebody inside... . It was from my standpoint - we were trying to keep him from doing things to cause problems for us. This was almost a standing operation.
Jack Pfeiffer: This is what I was wondering, because Tracy Barnes, I know on a number of occasions, seemed to make it quite clear that what the Agency had to be careful of was getting hung with a reactionary label, and then at the same time that was going on, here is all of this conversation back and forth with Pawley and his visits...
Jake Esterline: Really to keep him from doing something to upset the applecart from our standpoint. In that sense, I did fill that role in part for a long time; and the net result of the thing is that Bill thinks I am a dangerous leftist today. If I hadn't been a foot dragger, or hadn't taken all these dissenting opinions of this, things in Cuba would have been a lot better.
Jack Pfeiffer: Was Pawley actually involved in the covert operation in Guatemala?
Jake Esterline: Yes, he, well I am sure he was, in a...
Jack Pfeiffer: I mean, with you as far as you...
Jake Esterline: Not I personally, but he was involved with State Department. I said Rubottom a couple of times, I didn't mean Rubottom, I meant Rusk. He was involved - especially in Guatemala with Rubottom or whoever Secretary of State was, and Seville Sacassaa and Somoza and whoever Secretary of Defense was in getting the planes from the Defense Dept., having them painted over, the decals painted over and flown to Nicaragua where they became the Defense force for that operation.
Jack Pfeiffer: I ran across some comment that he had made to Livingston Merchant.
Jake Esterline: They were good friends, and knew each other. But to my knowledge, he never had any involvement like that during the Bay of Pigs days, although you'd have to ask Ted Shackley about what they did later, because I think he ran some things into Cuba for Ted Shackley.
Jack Pfeiffer: That is beyond my period of interest. He was involved in a great amount of fund raising activity, in the New York area apparently - pushing or raising funds in the New York area - wasn't Droller involved in this too? What was
your relation with Droller... were you directing Droller's activities, or was Dave Phillips running Droller...
Jake Esterline: Oh, I sort of ran Droller, except I never knew what Tracy Barnes was going to do next, when I turned my back. Droller was such.an ambitious fellow trying to run in... trying to run circles around everybody for his own aggrandizement that you never knew... but Droller would never have had any continuing contact with Pawley, because they had met only once, and I recall Pawley saying that he never wanted to talk to that "you know what" again. He was very unhappy that somebody like Gerry... he just didn't like Gerry's looks, he didn't like his accent. He was very unfair about Gerry, and I don't mean to be unfair about Gerry - the only thing is that Gerry was insanely ambitious. He was his own worst enemy, that was all.
I wanted to address you on the area of Cuban exile activities, CIA operations and Mafia and organized crime. I have spent a lot of my spare time reviewing the release last year, the CIA made a supplemental release to us of materials that they were going to try to keep postponed indefinitely, and I wanted to see what was in the 10,000 pages that initially they had intended to postpone. Under pressure of publicity, they made a re-review and a lot of that material was released to us after the initial release.
I found that the largest single item of material was related to a raid against Cuba that was conducted in June 1963, which is known as the Bayo-Pawley Affair. It is something that has been publicly known since 1975, but the amount of detail contained in these files was never known about the raid.
It was a raid which was originated by an individual named William Pawley who had been a high official in the Defense Department, the State Department, he had been an ambassador, and was extremely well-connected politically in the country. He had originated, along with a fellow named John Martino, a raid against Cuba, supposedly to obtain two Russian defectors from Cuba who would then state that there were still missiles in Cuba after the Cuban Missile Crisis, and that the U.S. policy in the Cuban Missile Crisis had been ineffective in removing the missiles from Cuba.
Mr. Pawley used his connections to obtain the assistance of the CIA. So the JM Wave Station in Miami provided logistical assistance for this operation in June 1963. We have a photograph of Mr. Martino, which I have provided you, which was a result of Life Magazine participating in the raid. Life Magazine participated by providing some money and then were allowed to go along on the raid.
The interest that we had in this particular item is that Mr. Martino, in 1975, shortly before he died, told a close associate of his that there had, in fact, been plot against JFK. That it originated from anti-Castro Cuban exiles, that Oswald had been involved in such a plot, but that he did not know who he was working for, did not know or understand the nature of the activity, and that the murder plot that he described was the one that was in retaliation for what was seen as JFK's softness in relation to activities to dislodge Fidel Castro and replace his government in Cuba.
That report from 1978, actually, by a Dallas reporter had lain uncorroborated for a long period of time. When I saw these records this year, I did some further investigation, found a journalist who was very intimate with Mr. Martino back in 1963. In fact, he had been invited to go on this raid in 1963, and he had kept in touch with Mr. Martino over a period of time, and this journalist confirmed to me that, in fact, before Mr. Martino's death he did describe such a plot to this journalist, but he had withheld the information in order to protect the family, and he had an obligation up until now to do that.
William Pawley was a hugely wealthy man with a remarkable career behind him. After founding the Flying Tigers unit in Asia during World War II, he had held ambassadorial posts in Latin America and achieved high office in the Defense and State Departments. A staunch Republican conservative and a friend of CIA director Alien Dulles, he had a hand in the ClA's overthrow of the Communist-oriented government in Guatemala. His CIA file, released in 1994, shows that he was hand-in-glove with the Agency's highest officials. Pawley had a vested interest in Cuba, where he had owned an airline and the Havana bus system. He had struggled long and hard to keep Batista in power and then pressured President Eisenhower to give American support to the first anti-Castro exiles. In the spring of 1963, he lent his prestige and his practical help to "proving" a claim that the Soviet Union still had missiles in Cuba.
It was Pawley who had persuaded Clare Booth Luce to finance anti-Castro guerrilla operations. As wife of the chairman of Time Inc., Luce was influential. Life magazine, then part of the Time empire, reportedly cooperated with the CIA in many instances - notably in inflating the importance of anti-Castro groups like Alpha 66, at the center of the allegations linking CIA officer "Maurice Bishop" to alleged assassin Oswald.