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We spent an afternoon at Zellers, where Cowley picked out attire resembling that worn by Soviet soldiers in Cuba: khaki trousers, plaid shirts and tennis shoes. If anyone asked, they were “agricultural experts.” The Russians in Cuba actually described this clandestine enterprise as “Operation Checkered Shirt.” Cowley advised that I needed camouflage. The owner expected to return in a few months, as soon as the “unpleasantness” with Fidel Castro came to an end.
Moscow claimed that all troops had been withdrawn, leaving only a few attachés at the embassy. I was based at the Canadian Embassy on Quinta Avenida, but much of my time was spent in the country—often on poorly identified back roads.
One time, when a colleague, former sergeant Vaughan Johnstone, and I felt too exposed, we pretended to change a non-flat tire. Air reconnaissance reported that a SAM base was packing up, either for redeployment within Cuba or for shipment back to Russia.
Back at the embassy I would attempt to identify the equipment by referring to a NATO manual. The Soviet army moved its installations by night to avoid overhead detection.
They had a range of about 80 kilometres and could be tipped with small nuclear warheads. The existence of surface-to-air missiles (SAM), Komar-class guided-missile speedboats, and the continued presence of thousands of Soviet troops intensified the need for more ground-level intelligence. government specifically asked if Canada would send an officer to our embassy in Havana who the CIA could task with monitoring Soviet military movements and sites as well as Soviet and Eastern European merchant shipping to and from the island. I was concluding my first posting at our embassy in the Dominican Republic and I had Spanish. My briefing in Ottawa was short, since there was not a lot they could tell me. At the end, I was thanked for taking on the assignment and then presented with a gift—a small, sophisticated camera with telescopic lenses. in Havana, I was accommodated in an attractive bungalow in what had been the upper-bourgeois suburb of Cubanacan.
With this information plotted on a map, I would set off in my Volkswagen Beetle, almost invariably on back roads, and drive as close as I could to a site perimeter—not too close, but close enough to sketch and take notes.
Sometimes the camp was too well hidden or the approach road led only to the camp gate, alerting even the most gullible of Soviet guards to my intentions.
The invasion of Cuba by Miami-based exiles was expected to ignite widespread opposition within the island and lead to the overthrow of Castro.
Funded, trained and armed by the CIA, the operation was placed under the command of CIA officer Richard M. If the operation was almost doomed from the outset because it was based on flawed intelligence (especially the belief that a majority of the population would support an armed revolt against Castro), then it was unquestionably doomed by the choice of Bissell.
Several of my sketches are still marked with extravagant security classifications, but they are now declassified. In defiance of the prime minister, defence minister Douglas Harkness ensured that service co-operation did take place. Kennedy, a wealthy Harvard playboy with a heroic Second World War record in the South Pacific, became president in 1961. Khrushchev broke with the grim Stalinist legacy and introduced some liberal reforms.