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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.
Canada’s Department of National Defence has since declassified many of the documents related to my activities in Cuba, but the key bit—which revealed the link between the Canadian government and the U. government and CIA—was found by Don Munton of the University of Northern British Columbia, an academic friend who discovered several of my telegrams (addressed to Ottawa) in the Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston. As leaders, neither were intimidated by pugnacious colleagues and as the missile crisis unfolded both understood the stakes and stood down their respective hawks.
The CIA had a network of agents in Cuba, but most were rolled up by an increasingly professional Cuban counter-intelligence force. I was also a reserve officer in the Royal Canadian Navy, but I don’t think that was a factor. The most useful advice came from my colleague George Cowley, who had been rushed to Havana to start the intelligence work pending my arrival from Santo Domingo. I should have anticipated the “gift” and my mind raced—about what would happen if I was stopped with incriminating film by the Soviets or Cubans. Dismayed, my new CIA friends were no doubt thinking black thoughts about secret agents in Havana producing drawings of the inner workings of vacuum cleaners to bamboozle their employers, as in Graham Greene’s classic spy novel Our Man in Havana. It came fully furnished plus Pura, a splendid maid, and Blackie, a large dog of mixed breeding.
They clearly needed more help—and urgently—otherwise it is unlikely that they would have sought eyes-on-the-ground covert intelligence help from an ally which did not even have a professional foreign intelligence service. Returning to Ottawa, he shared with me his newly acquired trade secrets. It seemed to me that any alert security patrol would want to investigate a stranger, even in a look-alike Russian plaid shirt, lurking around military installations. The owner, an American who owned a small factory, was leaving and had offered the residence to his friend, the Canadian ambassador, to use as he saw fit.
American reconnaissance by high-flying U-2s, RF-101 Voodoos and RF-8 Crusaders provided the locations and rough configurations of Soviet military installations, but not enough detail.
However, the level of trust was understandably low.
Acknowledging this American anxiety, Khrushchev agreed to United Nations on-site verification, but Castro vetoed the arrangement, calling it an “abuse of Cuban sovereignty.” This was a major concern. Aerial photography revealed the presence of mobile nuclear weapons.
My sketches depicted SAM, Cruise and Komar missiles and much else. My findings were dispatched by diplomatic bag to Ottawa or, in the case of something significant, by telegram using a specially dedicated cipher machine. 27, 1962, when a Soviet anti-aircraft weapon fired two missiles, bringing down a U-2 overflying Cuba and killing the pilot, U. Air Force Major Rudolf Anderson Jr., and almost triggering a massive U. I was given the base co-ordinates and asked to scout the area—a two-hour drive from Havana.
Just before midnight, I was driving along a secondary road when I saw the dimmed lights of a line of trucks approaching. But zipping past it left insufficient time to take notes. Another similar event was an expedition to Punta Brava, a town a few miles southwest of Havana, to search for a SAM base.