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Operation 40 was a Central Intelligence Agency-sponsored undercover operation in the early 1960s, which was active in the United States and the Caribbean (including Cuba), Central America, and Mexico. It was approved by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in March 1960, after the January 1959 Cuban Revolution, and was presided over by Vice-president Richard Nixon. The group included Frank Sturgis (who would later become one of the Watergate burglars); Felix Rodriguez (a CIA officer who later was involved in the capture and summary execution of Che Guevara); Luis Posada Carriles (held in the US in 2010 on charges of illegal immigration, he is demanded by Venezuela for his key role in the execution of the 1976 Cubana Flight 455 bombing); Orlando Bosch (founder of the counterrevolutionary Coordination of United Revolutionary Organizations, that organized the 1976 murder of Chilean former minister Orlando Letelier); Rafael 'Chi Chi' Quintero; Virgilio Paz Romero; Pedro Luis Diaz Lanz; Bernard Barker; Porter Goss; and Barry Seal. Members took part in the April 1961 Bay of Pigs Invasion directed against the government of Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro.
Operation 40 had 86 employees in 1961, of which 37 were trained as case officers.
On 11 December 1959, following the Cuban Revolution of January 1959, Colonel J.C. King, chief of the CIA's Western Hemisphere Division, sent a confidential memorandum to CIA director Allen W. Dulles. 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."
As a result of this memorandum, Dulles established a ZR/RIFLE unit named Operation 40, from the "Group of 40" of the National Security Council group that followed Cuba. The group was presided over by then-Vice President Richard M. Nixon and included Admiral Arleigh Burke, Livingston Merchant of the State Department, National Security Adviser Gordon Gray, as well as Dulles himself.
Tracy Barnes functioned as operating office of the Cuban Task Force. He called a meeting on 18 January 1960, in his temporary office near the Lincoln Memorial. Those attending included David Atlee Phillips, Jacob 'Jake' Esterline, E. Howard Hunt, and Frank Bender (an alias of Gerry Droller), all of the CIA. Barnes, Phillips, Esterline, Hunt, David Sanchez Morales and others had previously worked together in the 1954 overthrow of Jacobo Arbenz in Guatemala, organized by the CIA under the code-name Operation PBSUCCESS.
On 17 March 1960, President Eisenhower signed a National Security Council directive on the anti-Cuban covert action program authorizing the CIA to organize, train, and equip Cuban refugees as a guerrilla force to overthrow the government of Cuban prime minister Fidel Castro.
The group recruited former Batista-regime intelligence officers and mob henchmen such as Eladio del Valle and Rolando Masferrer, soldiers of fortune such as Frank Sturgis, and CIA case officers such as Col. William Bishop and David Sanchez Morales, who managed teams of assassins.
On 4 March 1960, La Coubre, a ship flying a Belgian flag, exploded in Havana Bay. It was loaded with arms and ammunition that had been sent to the armed forces of the post-revolution government of Cuba. A second bomb was set nearby and timed to go off later. The explosions killed 75 people and over 200 were injured. Operation 40 was not only involved in sabotage operations. One member, Frank Sturgis, allegedly told author Mike Canfield: "this assassination group (Operation 40) would upon orders, naturally, assassinate either members of the military or the political parties of the foreign country that you were going to infiltrate, and if necessary some of your own members who were suspected of being foreign agents...We were concentrating strictly in Cuba at that particular time." The group sought to incite civil war in Cuba against the government of prime minister Fidel Castro. "In October 1960, they realize that this project has failed, and that is when Brigade 2506" was created, a CIA-sponsored group made up of 1,511 Cuban exiles who fought in the April 1961 Bay of Pigs Invasion.
The group played a major role in the invasion. "The first news that we have of Operation 40 is a statement made by a mercenary of the Bay of Pigs who was the chief of military intelligence of the invading brigade and whose name was Jose Raúl de Varona Gonzalez," writes Escalante. "In his statement this man said the following: in the month of March 1961, around the seventh, Mr. Vicente Leon arrived at the base in Guatemala at the head of some 53 men saying that he had been sent by the office of Mr. Joaquin Sanjenis, Chief of Civilian Intelligence, with a mission he said was called Operation 40. It was a special group that didn't have anything to do with the brigade and which would go in the rearguard occupying towns and cities. His prime mission was to take over the files of intelligence agencies, public buildings, banks, industries, and capture the heads and leaders in all of the cities and interrogate them. Interrogate them in his own way".
See also 
- CIA Kennedy assassination conspiracy theory
- Cuban Power
- Cuban Project
- Echo 31
- Guillermo Hernández-Cartaya
- Richard M. Bissell, Jr.
- Zapata Corporation
- Escalante (1995)
- Furiati (1995), pp.14-15
- Fonzi (1993), p.415
- Mahoney p 174-175; HSCA staff reports
- Rodriguez (1999), p.153
- Fernandez (1999), p.100
- Bohning, Don. 2005. The Castro Obsession: U.S. Covert Operations Against Cuba, 1959-1965. p. 303 ISBN 1-57488-676-2
- Escalante, Fabian. 1995. The Secret War: CIA Covert Operations Against Cuba, 1959–62. ISBN 1-875284-86-9
- Fernandez, Jose Ramon. 1999,2001. Playa Giron/Bay of Pigs: Washington's First Military Defeat in the Americas. Pathfinder ISBN 0-87348-925-X ISBN 9780873489256
- Fonzi, Gaeton. 1993. The Last Investigation. ISBN 1-56025-052-6
- Furiati, Claudia. ZR Rifle: Plot to Kill Kennedy and Castro. Ocean Press. ISBN 1-875284-85-0
- Gyeorgos Ceres Hatonn. Tangled Webs Vol.I p. 73
- Rodriguez, Juan Carlos. 1999. Bay of Pigs and the CIA. Ocean Press Melbourne. ISBN 1-875284-98-2
- Russell, Dick. 2003. The Man Who Knew Too Much: Hired to Kill Oswald and Prevent the Assassination of JFK
- Scott, PD and Marshall, J. 1998. Cocaine Politics: Drugs, Armies, and the CIA in Central America
- U.S. House Committee on the Judiciary. 1974. Statement of Information: Hearings Before the Committee on the Judiciary, House of Representatives. "specially trained to capture documents of the Castro government"
External sources 
- Bay of Pigs, 40 Years After: Chronology. The National Security Archive. The George Washington University http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/bayofpigs/chron.html