Joseph Caldwell King

Joseph Caldwell King, the son of Warren Charles King and Jessie Calhoun Caldwell, was born in Brooklyn, New York on 5th October, 1900.

King worked for Johnson and Johnson in South America before joining the Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs (OCIAA). He was stationed in Argentina from 1941 to 1945, where he was engaged in feeding deceptive information to Japanese agents. For his service in 1943 to 1946 as a military attaché in Argentina, Lt. Col. King was awarded the Legion of Merit.

In 1947 King joined the Central Intelligence Agency. Eventually he became chief of CIA's Western Hemisphere Division. On 11th December, 1959, King sent a confidential memorandum to Allen W. Dulles, the director of the CIA. King argued that in Cuba there existed a "far-left dictatorship, which if allowed to remain will encourage similar actions against U.S. holdings in other Latin American countries." (1)

As a result of this memorandum Dulles established Operation 40. It obtained this name because originally there were 40 agents involved in the operation. Later this was expanded to 70 agents. The group was presided over by Richard Nixon. Tracy Barnes became operating officer of what was also called the Cuban Task Force. The first meeting chaired by Barnes took place in his office on 18th January, 1960, and was attended by David Atlee Phillips, E. Howard Hunt, Jack Esterline, and Frank Bender.

According to Fabian Escalante, a senior officer of the Cuban Department of State Security (G-2), in 1960 Richard Nixon recruited an "important group of businessmen headed by George Bush (Snr.) and Jack Crichton, both Texas oilmen, to gather the necessary funds for the operation". This suggests that Operation 40 agents were involved in freelance work. (2)

It is known that at this time that George Bush and Jack Crichton were involved in covert right-wing activities. In 1990 Common Cause Magazinemagazine argued that: "The CIA put millionaire and agent George Bush in charge of recruiting exiled Cubans for the CIA’s invading army; Bush was working with another Texan oil magnate, Jack Crichton, who helped him in terms of the invasion." (3) This story was linked to the release of "a memorandum in that context addressed to FBI chief J. Edward Hoover and signed November 1963, which reads: Mr. George Bush of the CIA" (4)

King officially retired from the CIA in 1967 but soon came back as a CIA consultant. He was CEO of the Amazon Natural Drug Company, known as a front for the CIA.

Joseph Caldwell King died on 27th January, 1977.

Joseph Caldwell King grave stone.
Joseph Caldwell King grave stone.

Primary Sources

(1) Arthur Schlesinger, memorandum for Richard Goodwin (9th June, 1961)

Sam Halper, who has been the Times correspondent in Havana and more recently in Miami, came to see me last week. He has excellent contracts among the Cuban exiles. One of Miro's comments this morning reminded me that I have been meaning to pass on the following story as told me by Halper. Halper says that CIA set up something called Operation 40 under the direction of a man named (as he recalled) Captain Luis Sanjenis, who was also chief of intelligence. (Could this be the man to whom Miro referred this morning?) It was called Operation 40 because originally only 40 men were involved: later the group was enlarged to 70. The ostensible purpose of Operation 40 was to administer liberated territories in Cuba. But the CIA agent in charge, a man known as Felix, trained the members of the group in methods of third degree interrogation, torture and general terrorism. The liberal Cuban exiles believe that the real purpose of Operation 40 was to "kill Communists" and, after eliminating hard-core Fidelistas, to go on to eliminate first the followers of Ray, then the followers of Varona and finally to set up a right wing dictatorship, presumably under Artime. Varona fired Sanjenis as chief of intelligence after the landings and appointed a man named Despaign in his place. Sanjenis removed 40 files and set up his own office; the exiles believe that he continues to have CIA support. As for the intelligence operation, the CIA is alleged to have said that, if Varona fired Sanjenis, let Varona pay the bills. Subsequently Sanjenis's hoods beat up Despaign's chief aide; and Despaign himself was arrested on a charge of trespassing brought by Sanjenis. The exiles believe that all these things had CIA approval. Halper says that Lt Col Vireia Castro (1820 SW 6th Street, Miami; FR 4 3684) can supply further details. Halper also quotes Bender as having said at one point when someone talked about the Cuban revolution against Castro: "The Cuban Revolution? The Cuban Revolution is something I carry around in my checkbook."

(2) Fabian Escalante, The Secret War: CIA Covert Operations Against Cuba, 1959-62 (1995)

On December 11, Colonel King wrote a confidential memorandum to the head of the CIA which affirmed that in Cuba there existed a "far-left dictatorship, which if allowed to remain will encourage similar actions against U.S. holdings in other Latin American countries."

King recommended various actions to solve the Cuban problem, one of which was to consider the elimination of Fidel Castro. He affirmed that none of the other Cuban leaders "have the same mesmeric appeal to the masses. Many informed people believe that the disappearance of Fidel would greatly accelerate the fall of the present government."

CIA Director Alien Dulles passed on King's memorandum to the NSC a few days later, and it approved the suggestion to form a working group in the Agency which, within a short period of time, could come up with "alternative solutions to the Cuban problem." Thus "Operation 40" was born, taking its name from that of the Special Group formed by the NSC to follow the Cuban case. The group was presided over by Richard Nixon and included Admiral Arleigh Burke, Livingston Merchant of the State Department, National Security Adviser Gordon Gray, and Alien Dulles of the CIA.

Tracy Bames functioned as head of the Cuban Task Force. He called a meeting on January 18,1960, in his office in Quarters Eyes, near the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, which the navy had lent while new buildings were being constructed in Langley. Those who gathered there included the eccentric Howard Hunt, future head of the Watergate team and a writer of crime novels; the egocentric Frank Bender, a friend of Trujillo; Jack Esterline, who had come straight from Venezuela where he directed a CIA group; psychological warfare expert David A. Phillips, and others.

(3) Don Bohning, The Castro Obsession (2005)

The Cuban Intelligence Organization was more commonly known within the local Cuban community and intelligence circles as Operation 40, a quasi-independent group headed by Joaquin Sanjenis, who gained somewhat of a legendary and controversial reputation among some exiles. The group was created in March 1961 and trained in intelligence matters by the CIA as part of the planning for what was to become the Bay of Pigs.

According to a Cuban exile who worked for Operation 40 for three years in the late 1960s, the group's initial objective was to take over administration of "the towns and cities liberated by the invasion force, roundup government officials and sympathizers and secure the files of the government's different intelligence services." Sanjenis was the overall boss. The top field officer was Vicente Leon, who was believed to have been a colonel in Cuba's pre-Castro police. Leon killed himself rather than surrender when he landed with the Bay of Pigs invaders as part of an Operation 40 advance team.

After the Bay of Pigs, Operation 40 turned its attention more to counterintelligence activities directed at suspected Castro agents who might have infiltrated into the local exile community. More controversially, it provided intelligence on the activities of local exile groups, some of which allowed local or federal authorities to thwart unsanctioned exile raids. Numerous declassified CIA Intelligence Information Cables on file at the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library in Austin, Texas, included the "source and appraisal of the cables." A variation of the following was often cited: "A member of a group of Cuban emigres trained in the techniques of information collection. The group has provided useful reports for over two years. The information was obtained from a local representative of the JURE who has access to members of the JURE executive committee."

The exile who worked for the unit in the late 1960s said Operation 40 was "fairly compartmentalized," but "foremost to its existence was the collection of intelligence on Cuba.... Most of the information collected was from overt sources.... primarily the hundreds of Cuban refugees coming to South Florida on Freedom Flights." The refugees were screened as they arrived. Those that might have useful information were interviewed separately.

(4) Larry Hancock, Someone Would Have Talked (2006)

Manolo Ray had also been among the "leftist" exile leaders who would have possibly been on the target list for Operation 40, a covert operations team trained by David Morales and organized in support of the Bay of Pigs. The team's mission reportedly included seizure of strategic facilities and the kidnapping or elimination of targeted Communists, left wing politicians and Castro cadre.' Due to the failure of the invasion, most Operation 40 personnel did not land in Cuba. Although the group was officially disbanded after the invasion, we now know that certain individuals were retained as a shadow intelligence group (see Chapter 8 for details and sources). Persons reportedly associated with Operation 40 and with Sanjenis (its leader) continued to appear in anti-Communist and criminal activities for another decade or more...

Victor Hernandez's own HSCA testimony suggests that these CIA reports were very probably a cover for individuals assigned to invasion support missions relating to Operation 40. Hernandez speaks of being removed to a safe house in New Orleans and then being sent on to Cuba but not having the chance to land. New documents provided by researcher Malcolm Blunt confirm that Sanjenis, the individual in charge of Operation 40, was actually the number one exile in the AMOT organization trained and prepared by David Morales. The CRC was actively recruiting in New Orleans while the brigade was being formed. The local CRC head was Sergio Arcacha Smith...

The individuals knowingly involved in the actual conspiracy included both exiles and a small number of their most committed American supporters. Neither the exiles nor the Americans belonged to a single group although some of them likely held membership in Alpha 66, SNFE and other militarily active organizations such as AAA and Commandos L. Some of them had CIA training, military training and had worked for the Agency for periods of time.

It is likely that some of the participants were part of the Morales trained and organized intelligence service thatwas developed to support the 1962 action against Cuba and which had a political assassination (black list) component. Elements of this group were retained as Morales' intelligence and surveillance force in Miami after the failure at the Bay of Pigs. Some of them had been involved in Agency sanctioned (and possibly unsanctioned) projects to assassinate Castro. This group was unofficially known as Operation 40.

The conspiracy participants were individually recruited and acted as individuals rather than as members of an established group. However, some of those involved had a history with members of the former Havana "casino crowd" and connections to Trafficante organization in Cuba and later in Florida.

Student Activities

The Middle Ages

The Normans

The Tudors

The English Civil War

Industrial Revolution

First World War

Russian Revolution

Nazi Germany

United States: 1920-1945


(1) Senate Report, Alleged Assassination Plots Involving Foreign Leaders, 1975 (page 92)

(2) Fabian Escalante, CIA Covert Operations 1959-1962: The Cuba Project, 2004 (pages 42 and 43)

(3) Common Cause Magazine (4th March, 1990)

(4) Joseph McBride, Where Was George?, The Nation (13th August, 1988)