COL. L. FLETCHER PROUTY
January 24, 1917 - June 5, 2001
Author of "The Secret Team", and "JFK, Vietnam the CIA, and the plot to assassinate JFK".
Obituary, Friday, June 8, 2001, Arlington National Cemetery
Leroy Fletcher Prouty Jr.
Air Force Colonel
Leroy Fletcher Prouty Jr., 84, a retired Air Force colonel who also worked for Washington area corporations, died of multiple organ failure June 5 at Inova Alexandria Hospital. He lived in Alexandria.
Col. Prouty was born in Springfield, Mass. As a young man, he sang with professional big bands in New England. He was a graduate of the University of Massachusetts.
He served with the Army Air Forces during World War II as a transport pilot in North Africa and Saudi Arabia.
After the war, he was assigned to Yale University, where he established an ROTC program, and to the Air Defense Command in Colorado Springs in 1950.
He was a squadron commander stationed in Japan during the Korean War. Prior to his retirement in 1963, he worked at the Pentagon. His honors included the Legion of Merit.
After he left the military, Col. Prouty was vice president for general operations of General Aircraft Corp., vice president and Pentagon branch manager of First National Bank of Arlington and vice president of marketing at Madison National Bank.
Prior to his second retirement in the 1970s, he helped establish the government marketing division at Amtrak and was a speechwriter for the corporation's president.
Col. Prouty held a patent for a disposable razor with a continuous, rotating blade and wrote two books, "The Secret Team" and "JFK: The CIA, Vietnam, and the Plot to Assassinate John F. Kennedy."
He was a consultant to Oliver Stone on the movie "JFK."
His other interests included painting.
Survivors include his wife of 59 years, Elizabeth Prouty of Alexandria; three children, David Prouty of Laurel, Jane Prouty of Santa Fe, N.M., and Lauren Prouty of Lynchburg, Va.
Reply to Greg Burnham:
This is the response to the good paper we have received from Greg Burnham on the subject of Marine Colonel Jack Hawkins, and other special operations matters
TO: Gregory Burnham:
You ask about Col. Jack Hawkins. I certainly do remember him mostly from the Bay of Pigs days. I have looked in a 1963 Pentagon telephone book and find him listed for that year. He was the tactical man we got from the Marines to plan the landing of the Anti-Castro unit and train them. I knew that he was against the project, as many of us were for purely tactical reasons. These Cubans in the USA were not military trained and the restrictions placed upon the project were too severe.
Actually Bissell's comment to Hawkins about "air support ready to strike, if needed" was accurate. We had provided the rebels with 16 B-26's that I had put through a transition project in Arizona. They had 8 50 Cal. machine guns in each nose. (With this is mind), Castro had only 10 capable combat aircraft Kennedy ordered them all to be destroyed before the landing. On Sat., a.m., May 15th they were attacked and all of 7 were destroyed. We scoured Cuba with U-2 reconnaissance and found that three jets that Castro had left were all that he had; but these armed jets could easily shoot down the B-26's. Therefore Kennedy made it very clear on May 16th that the landing could not take place until the Rebel's B-26's had totally destroyed the last three Castro jets...ON THE GROUND. (If this had been done, as ordered by the President then the 16 bombers could have supported the invasion and the Cuban rebels would have had a more than even chance to beat Castro's ground troops and their equipment by bombardment.
Bissell had not lied to JFK; but McGeorge Bundy called Gen. Cabell, then Deputy Director of the CIA and told him that the bombing must not take place until the invaders had landed at the Bay of Pigs. It was about 3:30 am then and Cabell was having trouble locating Rusk to get his opinion. Of all things, Allen Dulles was out of the country.
That is the basic mistake. I won't carry it further here. All of the details are in my book "The Secret Team" and in my new CD-ROM. They will tell you the rest of the story. I can send you the CD if you want ($34.95)
You have printed an interesting line: "there was a high motivation for the Agency to compromise JFK politically." The story is more than that. In late Dec. 1959, when Castro and his rebels were marching into Havana, a group of us in the Special Ops business were ordered into an office. There we were told that if Castro did take over Havana we were going to be ordered to a rebel force. Recall this was under Eisenhower and Nixon.
Well, no call came and after midnight when we had the office TV on and were watching the "New Years" celebrations we were told we could go home. Castro was the new ruler of Cuba. Later in the spring of 1960, Castro came to New York City to speak at the United Nations. Following that speech, he went to Washington and had a meeting with Nixon. After that meeting, Nixon commented with reporters saying, more or less, that if Castro was not a Communist he was close to it. That set the tone for the Eisenhower people to order the CIA to prepare to overthrow his Government.
A little later a team from the CIA came to my office in the Pentagon (At that time I was the Special Operations officer there for the Air Force). They asked me if we had an airfield that could be used for a base to train aircrews and to get aircraft for them for a Cuban anti-Castro rebel group. This started it all.
During this period summer of 1960, we were coming up on a presidential election time and JFK nominated by the Democrats. The Republicans were certain that they would win; so they began to put all the new, and huge appropriations into the next year for "President" Nixon; but in a surprise he was not elected and I never saw such emotional feelings as then. I was then working in the office of the Secretary of Defense, in the Office of Special Operations. In the halls of the Pentagon you could hear the dislike of the new President; and the realization of the fact that JFK had inherited billions of dollars of procurement money for high cost items such and the $6 or $7 billion dollar TFX aircraft buy. In one tactical move the Republicans changed the Anti-Castro plans from small over-the-beach and air drop tactics to a major invasion. In no time they had built up a 3,000 man force that had to be trained and equipped, and dumped it all in JFK's lap.
They did not realize that JFK already knew the Anti-Castro leaders who had been guests of the Kennedy's at their big Florida resort home. One day I was sent to the Senate Office building to a certain room number to pick up four men and have them driven to the Pentagon and to the Secretary of Defense, Gates. The office turned out to be Senator Kennedy's office and the four men were the leaders of the Cuban Exile group: Artime, Varona, Mendonca and one more. Here it was only early summer of 1959, and JFK had yet be nominated for the Presidency by the Democrats, and he was entertaining them in his family's winter home in West Palm Beach and in his Senate office building. People did know how well JFK knew them.
The most influential debate he had before the election with Nixon was the third, when they debated the Cuban Problem. Kennedy just made Nixon look ridiculous; and that debate alone perhaps won for JFK his narrow managing in the election.
Shortly after the election a team of top level CIA officials came to my office and requested that I get base facilities for at least 3,000 Cuban exiles, and enough aircraft for them. They built the Cuban force immediately by those numbers and then with Kennedy's inauguration they dumped it all in his lap.
By April 1961 the invasion plan had been worked out under the leadership of Jack Hawkins. It was all predicated on the fact that the Invasion Force would destroy all of Castro's aircraft BEFORE the invasion took place. This was the plan that was briefed to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, approved by them and taken to Kennedy. Kennedy said little about it except on Sunday, April 17th he finally approved the invasion with the strict proviso that all of Castro's jets would be destroyed; or the invasion force would not be landed on the beach. We all understood that.
For some reason, at 9:30PM McGeorge Bundy called Gen. Cabell, Deputy Director of the CIA and told him that the invasion was off until the men were on the beach. B-26 invasion planes that had been put on standby in Nicaragua were not to be released until dawn. This of course was against Kennedy's orders, because the three jets that Castro had could easily destroy them.
Gen. Cabell left the office in an attempt to locate Sec. of State Rusk. He knew that order had to be changed. While he was doing that the hours passed, and I got a telephone call from the air commander in Nicaragua who was all upset. He knew if the B-26's were not there by dawn the jets would take off and down them. I could hear the B-26 engines running in the background. I made many calls around Washington to get help with this essential problem. As the clock kept running it became too late for the B-26's to arrive before dawn while the T-33 jets were on the ground. Meanwhile the troops were landing at the Bay of Pigs. The whole thing was a disaster...and it was not Kennedy's fault. The last order he had given that day was "The B-26's must destroy the jets before they take off or the invasion must be canceled," This was the military approved plan and Kennedy's orders.
You are correct also about the Power's U-2. That flight was made to fail by a shortage of the proper fuel. The engine stopped when Powers was about one half way to his goal in Norway. He did not use his parachute, because he could fly the plane to the ground. That also caused the important Paris Conference on May 1, 1960 that had been planned between Eisenhower and Khrushchev to be canceled.
As you may know, the Korean War and the Vietnam War were both planned at the Teheran Conference in Oct 1943. When the Japanese surrendered on Sept 2, 1945 the enormous supply of equipment and arms-stockpiled for 500,000 men, were divided in half and one half was sent to Korea and the other half to Vietnam. In later years both were used in wars in which the U.S. was heavily involved and both Presidents were blamed for them. This created especially opposition against Kennedy in the year 1963, and led to his death, Kennedy had already issued Presidential Directives during Oct 1963 to the effect that 1000 American personnel would be out of Vietnam by Christmas 1963, and that all American personnel would be out of Vietnam by the end of 1965. This was the final action that caused his assassination by the powers that wanted to continue the costly, and profitable ... to them... warfare in Vietnam.
You are correct about the Bay of Pigs landing disaster, except for the details that the Cuban rebels were equipped with armed B-26 's; and if used while Castro's jets were still on the ground on the morning o April 18th that would easily been destroyed. Then the landing force would have had, little or no real opposition and they would have defeated Castro.
The JCS and Kennedy had both ordered that if the jets were not destroyed there would be no invasion. Kennedy had ordered that no "active duty USA aircraft would be used in that invasion". This was a firm order that we all understood. You are correct that Kennedy's NSAM #263 would have had us out of Vietnam for sure. I was one of its writers. I know how determined he was, but that was Oct 11,1963. Kennedy was dead on Nov 22, 1963. We all can see the connection.
L. Fletcher Prouty
PROUTY WEB SITE: http://www.prouty.org/