281. Briefing Paper1


Entire briefing top secret and more. Danger in relaxing security after operation completed, particularly if successful. Fortunate so far in keeping CIA out of publicity. [Times and Luce (Time)]2
Last August pursuant OCB action, initiated program to eliminate pro-Communist government in Guat. Action program approved December. Team assembled from Korea, Germany, Egypt, Chile.

Plan contemplated:

Internal revolution, spark-plugged by Colonel Castillo Armas from Honduras—most available Guat exile long subsidized by CIA. In several revolutions.
Defection of Guat Military at highest level.
Defection of individual Army garrisons at strong points.
Radio campaign from clandestine transmitters.
Subversion of individual Guat leaders, military and civilian.

[Changes during Ops—importance of air]

Also parallel State Dept. Ops through O.A.S. to hold conference to take steps vs “Communist Guat.”

[Page 438]

U.S.A. diplomatic pressures—Navy and Air reconnaissance, etc. Program budgeted at approximately 3 million dollars. Total spent slightly in excess.

U.S. government hand undisclosable. Established theory of fictional group of Anti Commie American businessmen interested in South America and desirous of eliminating Communism (not United Fruit). CIA dealt with Armas as representative this group. Somoza, Galvez, etc., might have made good guess—but implicated.
Operation presented problems over and above those of usual Banana Republic revolution.


Following fall of Dictator Ubico in 1944, pendulum swung far to left and Guatemala under left-wing leader Arevalo 1944 to 1951 when Arbenz took over. Arbenz able army officer but slowly came under complete influence of hard-core Communists, particularly Fortuny, Pellecer, Gutierrez, and others who trained in Communist school, frequent visitors to Moscow and satellites. [Prague School]

Arbenz controlled army; hard-core Communists took over labor unions, radio, major press organs, and dominated Indian peasantry who had little interest in Marx, et cetera. Foreign properties taken over, land divided up and Communist type state fast being organized. Some thirty abortive revolutions.

Time running against us and faced early probability of purge in Army, arming of the laborers, and further liquidation of the intelligentsia. Also critical situation Honduras (elections).


Via intelligence channels information obtained regarding Arbenz negotiation to purchase 5 million dollars worth of arms from Czechoslovakia. (Refer attempt trace these arms—ran down wrong vessel (German flag)—arrival of Alfhem at Puerto Barrios May 15.) This arrival really blessing in disguise since publicity brought entire situation Guat to a head. However, resulted severe reprisals and due indiscretions one of our main chains within Guatemala completely liquidated (May 30) and danger that our entire network would be rolled up unless we moved rapidly.

Summer rains impending which would impede ground and air operations. Castillo forces augmented by defections following Alfhem incident but still the total of his forces on D-Day represented 80 bodies trained in guerrilla operations by CIA and approximately 400 men in all went over line on D-Day. Necessary move immediately or lose psychological opportunity and control of assets. Reports from Guat and outlying regions indicated popular expectation built up by our radio and by events forced decision to move or lose entire initiative.

Operation run—
  • Policy control: HQ Wash—
    • WisnerBissell
    • WH Division—Col. King; [name not declassified]; Esterline, etc.
  • Ops Control and Field Coordination:
    • Lincoln HQ [place not declassified]
  • Field Control:
    • [place not declassified]
    • [place not declassified]—SOMERSET—SHERWOOD
    • Guat City
  • Support:
    • [place not declassified]3
    • [place not declassified]
  1. Source: Central Intelligence Agency, Job 79–01025A, Box 151, Folder 2. No classification marking. A covering memorandum to the Director of Central Intelligence from Tracy Barnes listed the participants scheduled to attend the White House briefing on July 29.
  2. Brackets in the source text in sections 1, 3, and 6.
  3. The following handwritten notations appear at the end of the paper: “1. Chance clear out commies in S.A.; shown weakness; 2. Air power—dangers to them; 3. Coordinated action—State, Defense, CIA; 4. Do something for Central America.”