David Sanchez Morales – The CIA’s “One-Man Gang”

Author’s note: Finally, a long sought-after file belonging to one of the most feared CIA operatives of the 1950s and 1960s has peeked out from underneath the barrage of documents released by the National Archives document dumps of 2017 and 2018.

David Sanchez Morales, alias, “El Indio” is one of the most enigmatic figures of the Cold War Culture of the 1950s and 60s.  One of his pseudonyms was “Stanley R. Zamka”. With the ARRB JFK-related document releases of 2017/18, we are now beginning to obtain a clearer picture of this so-called “one-man gang”, who took care of business that others were unable or unwilling to. The reason Sanchez Morales is important in the JFK assassination saga is that after his death in 1978 of a “heart attack”, at the young age of 53 while the HSCA was looking to interview him, two key individuals, Rubén “Rocky” Carbajal, and his attorney Robert Walton gave interviews to several authors revealing that while inebriated, Sanchez Morales had boasted being involved in both the JFK and Robert F. Kennedy assassinations.

A portion of his personnel file, NARA number 104-10222-10019 containing only 61 pages serves to whet our appetite to learn more about a man who was feared by friend and foe alike.  This file was prepared for the HSCA and later re-classified and contains the following two pages, confirming that what we are getting is a sanitized version of a portion of his 201 file.   What appears to be a voluminous file has been reduced as follows:

Here is a copy of his original secrecy agreement dated 9 July 1952:

The following is a Biographic Profile with many portions sanitized or redacted:

Here is a closeup showing the last entries above which places Sanchez Morales in Cuba from 1958 to June 1960.  In October 1960, he was promoted to Branch Chief in charge of Paramilitary operations and was assigned to the JMWAVE station in Miami. From there, he would continue to work in Paramilitary, Special, and Black operations against Cuba under JM/WAVE Chief of Station Theodore Shackley AKA Andrew Reuteman.   In his book “The Last Investigation”,  Gaeton Fonzi described Shackley’s personal identification of Sanchez Morales as: “He was my Chief of Operations” (pg371).  One cannot help but note that most of his activities for the year 1963 from February on,  have been completely redacted.

This memorandum dated 11 January 1963 reports Morales being in the vortex of Cuban field operations for the past four and a half years:

Upon careful examination of the document and despite the redaction, it is determined that William “King” Harvey was the originator of the “vortex” memorandum. Harvey was the Chief of Task Force W at the time, plus the signature was not completely erased.  The upper loops of the “k” and “h” match other known Harvey signatures exactly:

“Speaking operationally, Mr. Morales is a one-man gang”

There is no doubt that Sanchez Morales was trusted with the highest priority operations against Fidel Castro’s Cuba, and this is confirmed by the few documents found in his personnel file where he is elevated to the status of being a “one-man gang”.

Morales’s specialty was Paramilitary Operations (PM) where he recruited, organized, and implemented this type of discreet warfare against any foe deemed so by the CIA. His most notable work (because the file has been sanitized) was in Cuba (PBRUMEN) and his fitness reports praise Morales as simply being the best in his field.  His fluency in the Spanish language and the color of his skin enabled him to infiltrate any Latin American country where the assignment was strictly black operations, assassinations, guerilla warfare, infiltration, exfiltration,  and one notable area of expertise, “UDT”, which stands for Underwater Demolition Team.

The La Coubre incident

On 4 March 1960, the French steamship “La Coubre” exploded in Havana harbor while ammunition and armaments were being offloaded, killing over 100 people. To this date, all files regarding La Coubre remain classified by the U.S. Government.

A few days after the explosion, during a peaceful memorial service and demonstration denouncing the involvement of the CIA, Cuban photographer Alberto Korda snapped one of the most iconic photographs ever – the one which has been dubbed “Guerrillero Heroico” and shows Ché Guevara’s expression as he looked into the multitude who had congregated at Colón Cemetery in Havana for the memorial service for the victims.

The following photograph was taken during the La Coubre procession.

  • From left to right: Fidel Castro, Osvaldo Dorticós Torrado, Ché Guevara, Augusto Martínez Sánchez, Antonio Núñez Jiménez, William Alexander Morgan and Eloy Gutiérrez Menoyo.

With Morales operating in Cuba at the time according to his personnel file, and one of his specialties being Underwater Demolition, it does not take a rocket scientist to infer that Morales could have been and probably was involved in this heinous act of terrorism.  Perhaps the timing of this next document is not a coincidence, where any documents contained in his personnel file were effectively blocked to “any external inquirer”.

As mentioned above, Stanley Zamka was one of Morales’s pseudonyms (see his 1 April 1964 to 31 March 1965 Fitness Report shown later in this post). This 24 July 1959 message from Havana COS Woodrow Olien (James Noel) to CIA Director Allen Dulles is short, but concisely reveals in coded terms how Morales has been able to smuggle “technicians” and their “supplies without difficulty” into Cuba. The final sentence reveals two important if not odd requests, upon Zamka’s return to Miami: A male document specialist and a female disguise specialist.

This article, one of four published by Paul Meskil of the New York Daily News in April 1975, unequivocally blamed the CIA for the incident. The details are an uncanny match to what Morales would have trained his indigenous counterrevolutionary operatives to do.  His fitness reports are replete with references to one of his specialties mentioned above — UDT, which stands for Under Water Demolition Team. To this day, the CIA files pertaining to this terrorist act remain classified.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is frogmen-1-858x1024.png

Bay of Pigs

One of the most revealing documents which mention Morales is this one from the FBI dated 9 May 1961, which places the entire blame for the failure of the Bay Of Pigs invasion squarely on the shoulders of the CIA and Morales.  This suggests that the extreme hatred the exiled Cuban community developed for JFK, where they blamed him for the Bay of Pigs debacle, had to have been influenced by the CIA. The obvious purveyor of this disinformation would have been, of course, David Sanchez Morales.  Noel Twyman, the author of “Bloody Treason” pg456,  breaks down Morales’s state of mind: “Morales was in the air above the Bay of Pigs invasion helplessly watching his friends on the beach being slaughtered because, Morales thought, John Kennedy was a traitorous coward.”

This hatred was of such magnitude that Cuban exiles were openly and brazenly talking about assassinating Kennedy during his trip to Miami in November 1963. This one dated 16 November 1963 was anonymously mailed to the Chief of Police in Miami:

Fitness Reports

Most of Sanchez Morales’s Fitness Reports have been excised from his personnel file, however, the few that remain are quite revealing, starting with this one covering 1 April 1960 to  31 March 1961:

“Subject is the finest all-around ops officer I have ever known”

Fitness Report dated 28 October through 31 May 1961

Fitness report 1 June 1961 through 31 March 1962

Fitness report 1 April 1962 through 31 March 1963

Fitness report 1 April 1963 through 31 March 1964

Fitness report 1 April 1964 through 31 March 1965

The JMATE Program

According to Bill Simpich at Maryferrell.org, the JMATE program was a cryptonym which stood for: “Overall Cuban operations, including the Bay of Pigs project. Known as JMARC before this cryptonym became compromised in December 1960, and then became JMATE. Used for Cuban operations well into 1962.”  And sure enough, Sanchez Morales was right in the middle of it:

Clearly, David Sanchez Morales was the CIA’s superstar operative in covert Latin American operations during the 1950s and 60s where he personally was involved in leading the CIA’s war against Fidel Castro and the Communist regime he ushered into Cuba in January 1959.  His leadership, efficiency, and devotion leap out at the reader upon examination of what is left of his CIA personnel files. His flight from Cuba after the La Coubre terrorist attack and the subsequent “blocking” of his files are very hard to ignore. It appears that his only failure was the Bay of Pigs invasion, an incident that could have sealed JFK’s fate.