1954: A CIA officer dispatched to Moscow is caught in the act of espionage, arrested, and deported shortly after his arrival.
President Eisenhower creates a second (fact-finding) intelligence commission led by James R. Killian, the president of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Eisenhower wants to prevent a surprise Soviet attack and presses for “communications and electronic surveillance” to provide “early warning of an impending attack.”
January – June 1954: The CIA embarks on Operation Success, the plot against Guatemala’s President Jacobo Arbenz, with a $3 million budget.
- Castillo Armas and his few hundred rebels are scheduled to attack the 5,000 man Guatemalan military
- The CIA subsidizes an anticommunist student movement in Guatemala City (several hundred strong)
- A CIA officer (Henry Hecksher, the chief of the Berlin base) is sent to Guatemala City to persuade military officers to rebel against their government; he is authorized to spend up to $10,000 a month for bribes, augmenting the arms embargo and threat of American invasion already in place
- Hecksher becomes convinced that only an actual attack by the US will embolden the Guatemalan military to overthrow Arbenz
- CIA headquarters sends Hecksher a roster of 58 Guatemalans marked for assassination
- Castillo Armas and the CIA agree that the assassinations will take place during or immediately after Armas’ triumphal arrival in Guatemala City so as to underscore the seriousness of the rebels’ intent
- An arms shipment to the Arbenz government arrives in Puerto Barrios, Guatemala; the arms are basically rusted and useless, but they create a propaganda windfall for the US
- US Secretary of State John Foster Dulles and the State Department announce that Guatemala is now part of a Soviet plot to subvert the Western Hemisphere
- Speaker of the House John McCormack calls the antiquated arms shipment “an atomic bomb planted in America’s backyard”
- US Ambassador to Guatemala John Puerifoy says the US is at war
January 29, 1954: Planning for the Guatemalan coup is underway at Opa-Locka, FL.
January 30, 1954: The CIA’s plans for Guatemala are blown. Every major newspaper in the Western Hemisphere publishes President Arbenz’s accusations of a “counterrevolutionary plot” sponsored by a “Northern government,” led by Castillo Armas, and based in a rebel training camp in Nicaragua. The leak emanates from secret cables and documents that a CIA officer leaves in a Guatemala City hotel room.
March 1954: Mike Mansfield states: “Secrecy now beclouds everything about the CIA — its cost, its efficiency, its successes, its failures . . . ” Mansfield and 34 of his colleagues back a bill to create an oversight committee and order the agency to keep Congress fully and currently informed about its work. The bill will not pass for 20 years.
Senator Joseph McCarthy collects allegations that “the CIA had unwittingly hired a large number of double agents — individuals who, although working for the CIA. were actually Communist agents whose mission was to plant inaccurate date.” Unlike many of McCarthy’s charges, this one was true.
Allen Dulles rebuffs Senator McCarthy’s attempt to supoena the CIA’s Bill Bundy who has contributed $400 to the defense fund of Alger Hiss, the suspected communist spy. Allen refuses to allow the senator to bring down the CIA.
Allen Dulles runs a dirty, covert operation on McCarthy. He organizes a team of CIA officers to penetrate the senator’s office with a spy or a bug (or both). His idea is to gather dirt, then spread it.
March 1, 1954: The US tests its first H-bomb.
March 9, 1954: Edward R. Murrow‘s popular CBS TV show See It Now features its “Report on Senator McCarthy,” including clips of the Senator in many uncomplimentary situations. The show i a smash, and a follow-up critique of McCarthy airs the following week.
April 6, 1954: McCarthy is given a chance to respond to Murrow on See It Now.
April 22, 195 4: The US Army vs. Senator Joseph McCarthy hearings begin, adding “point of order” to the American lexicon. ABC, NBC, and the Dumont networks all broadcast the hearings live. Americans watch as McCarthy flubs out before the skilled probing of Army counsel Joseph Welch. By the time the hearings conclude on June 17, McCarthy’s career is as good as over.
May 1, 1954: For four weeks the CIA wages psychological warfare in Guatemala through a pirate radio station called the Voice of Liberation run by a CIA contract officer. The station sends out shortwave reports of imaginary uprisings and defections and plans to poison wells and conscript children.
May 21, 1954: US Ambassador to Guatemala John Peurifoy says the US is at war and that “nothing short of direct military intervention will succeed.”
May 24, 1954: US Navy warships and submarines blockade Guatemala in violation of international law.
May 26, 1954: A CIA plane buzzes Guatemala’s presidential palace and drops leaflets over the headquarters of the presidential guard, the most elite of the army’s units in Guatemala City. They read: “Struggle against Communist atheism!” and “Struggle with Castillo Armas!” What he US wants is a terror campaign says the CIA’s E. Howard Hunt who worked on the political-warfare portfolio for Operation Success.
May 27, 1954: The Atomic Energy Commission’s personnel security board recommends that J. Robert Oppenheimer’s security clearance be revoked. The reason: ” a long history of having Communist ties, both prior to and during the time he served as director of the Manhattan Project.”
End of May, 1954: President Eisenhower receives a 6 page letter from an air force colonel (Jim Kellis), the first whistle blower from inside the CIA. The president reads the letter and keeps it. Eisenhower wants to counter the threats to the clandestine service and clean up its problems in secret. The truth is that the “CIA wittingly or unwittingly delivered one million dollars to a Communist security service (the WIN operation in Poland) . . . CIA unwittingly organized an intelligence network for the Communists.”
June 5, 1954: The retired chief of the Guatemalan air force flies to Somoza’s farm in Nicaragua where he is interviewed and broadcast for propaganda purposes.
June 6, 1954: Arbenz hears about the broadcast and reacts:
- He grounds his own air force for fear fliers will defect
- He raids the home of an anticommunist student leader working closely with the CIA and finds evidence of the American plot
- He suspends civil liberties and begins arresting hundreds of people, hitting the CIA’s student group the hardest — at least 75 are tortured, killed, and buried in mass graves.
June 8, 1954: The CIA station in Guatemala cables: “Panic spreading in government circles;” CIA leadership sends orders to further fan the flames.
June 18, 1954: Castillo Armas launches his long-awaited assault, more than 4 years in the making: 198 rebels attack Puerto Barrios on the Atlantic Coast and are defeated by policemen and dockworkers; 122 rebels march toward the Guatemalan army garrison at Zacapa — all but 30 are killed or captured; 60 rebels set out from El Salvador only to be arrested by local police.
Castillo Armas himself leads 100 men from Honduras toward 3 lightly defended Guatemalan villages; he camps out a few miles from the Guatemalan border calling on the CIA for more supplies; within 72 hours more than half of his forces are killed, captured, or on the verge of defeat.
June 19, 1954: Ambassador Peurifoy commandeers the CIA’s secure communications line at the American Embassy and writes directly to Allen Dulles: “Bomb repeat Bomb.”
June 20, 1954: The CIA’s Guatemala City station reports that the Arbenz government is “recovering its nerve.”
June 22, 1954: Allen Dulles secretly authorizes one more air strike on Guatemala City; it is a dud. Eisenhower cuts a secret deal to bolster the CIA effort
June 25, 1954: The CIA bombs the parade grounds of the largest military encampment in Guatemala City, breaking the will of the officer corps. Arbenz summons his cabinet and announces that elements of the army are in revolt.
June 27, 1954: Ambassador Peurifoy meets with the coup plotters. Arbenz cedes power to Colonel Carlos Enrique Diaz, who forms a junta and vows to fight Castillo Armas. “We have been double-crossed, Peurifoy cables.
A US representative delivers a message to Diaz: “Colonel, you are not convenient for American foreign policy.”
The junta vanishes instantly, and is replaced in quick succession by four more, each more pro-American than the last.
Ambassador Peurifoy demands that the CIA stand down.
June 30, 1954: The CIA bows out.
July 1954: Shortly after the conclusion of Operation Success, Eisenhower commisions General Jimmy Doolittle and William Pawley to assess the CIA’s capabilities for covert action. Doolittle has 10 weeks to report back.
September 1, 1954: Castillo Armas officially becomes President of Guatemala. He receives a 21 gun salute at a White House dinner where the Vice President toasts:
We in the United States have watched the people of Guatemala record an episode in their history deeply significant to all peoples . . . . Led by the courageous soldier who is our guest this evening, the Guatemala people revolted against communist rule, which in collapsing bore graphic witness to its own shallowness, falsity, and corruption.”
For the next 40 years, Guatemala then endures military rulers, death squads, and armed repression.
October 19, 1954: General Doolittle reports to President Eisenhower at the White House.. The Doolittle Report states that the CIA has
ballooned out into a vast and sprawling organization manned by a large number of people, some of whom were of doubtful competence.
He says that Dulles surround himself with people who are unskilled and undisciplined. He also addresses the family relationship between Allen Dulles and John Foster Dulles, saying it would be better for all concerned if the personal connection were not a family connection. He conclude that an independent committee of trusted civilians should oversee the CIA for the president.
The report warn that Wisner’s clandestine service is “filled with people having little or no training for their jobs.” The report recommend a “complete reorganization” of Wisner’s empire.
Allen Dulles buries the Doolittle report and doesn’t allow high-ranking officers to see it — not even Wisner. The report remains classified until 2003.
November 1954: Work on the Berlin Tunnel is underway.
President Eisenhower approves efforts to build the U-2 spy plane.
November 27, 1954: Alger Hiss is released from the penitentiary in Lewisburg, PA, where he has served 44 months of his 5 year sentence. “Three years in jail is a good corrective to three years at Harvard,” he quips.
December 2, 1954: The Senate votes 67 to 22 to censure Senator Joseph McCarthy.