U.S. CUSTOMS HISTORY
of PROJECT NASSAU
JANUARY 20, 1967
OFFICE OF INVESTIGATIONS
THIS PUBLICATION IS DEDICATED TO PERFECTING PROFESSIONAL
INVESTIGATIVE ACTIVITY IN THE CUSTOMS AGENCY SERVICE.
Last month's Bulletin recorded the "fizzle" of an attempt to
Haiti from southern Florida. This proved to be only
the end of
the first episode, for on December 28 customs agents learned
involving a deserted house on Cocoa [Coco] Plum Beach, 7
miles north of
Marathon in the Florida Keys.
Setting up a surveillance was not easy, since the site was a
fill island with only one house
it, plus ample docking facilities. However, the
equal to the job. During the early morning hours of
CPIs saw figures making their way to the house under cover
darkness. The following day vehicles began to arrive,
continued to do so for the next 5 days. Most of the activity
during the night and early morning hours. Large
were seen to arrive and unload at night. On one
occasion a CPI
saw through his binoculars a rifle being unloaded.
daylight hours of December 31 a CPI saw through binoculars a
carrying under his arm what appeared to be an automatic
weapon as he
moved from the lower to the upper floor and back down again.
It was learned that 4 vessels were at the disposal of the
On December 30 two of them, the COLUMBUS and the FRANCISCO,
but broke down before reaching the open sea. The vessels
Miami and were apparently abandoned because of the need for
repairs. Customs agents and CPIs searched the
COLUMBUS, found 10
pounds of C-4 explosives, and effected seizure of the craft
conspirators knowing what had happened.
During the early morning hours of January 1 the 55-foot MV
Miami, but also broke down, and during the next night ran
2 miles from its destination. At high tide about noon
2 it was refloated and taken to Cocoa [Coco] Plum Beach,
group immediately undertook needed repairs.
Activity increased during the afternoon and early evening,
and about 8
P.M. the officers learned the vessel was being loaded with
preparation for departure. Customs agents and CPIs
from Miami and
Key West surrounded the premises, found the vessel was
with automatic weapons, and discovered in the house nearly
Haitians, and Americans, all dressed in army camouflage
many carrying sidearms. Rifles mortars, and greaseguns
type of submachine gun) were in evidence throughout
The men (and one woman in the party) were brought out
house to separate them from the weapons, but the customs
with a great deal of resistance. After much discussion
some semblance of order was established, without any
fired, and efforts were made to identify each individual by
place of birth. Calls for help were sent to the
and the highway patrol, both of which responded.
During this process of identification the group became
demanded that they either be placed under arrest or allowed
indeed, the leader mustered his troops and started to march
away to Key
West, some 55 miles distant. Since this could
obviously not be
permitted, it was decided in conference with headquarters to
them all. As the jail at Key West could not hold the
only 23 of the leaders were sent there, and the other 50 men
Seized at Cocoa [Coco] Plum Beach were the MV SANDONA, 2
cars, an old truck, and the following arms:
5 AR-15 rifles
7 M-3 rifles
2 Bren Mark II rifles
1 FAL rifle, caliber 7.62 mm.
3 Beretta rifles, caliber 7.62 mm.
1 Beretta rifle caliber 7.65 mm.
40 Belgian rifles, caliber 7.65 mm.
1 Mauser rifle
80 M-1 rifles, .30 caliber
2 1903 rifles, .30 caliber
3 Enfield rifles, .303 caliber
2 rifles, .22 caliber
1 Russian-made rifle
4 M-2 carbines, .30 caliber
7 machineguns, .30 caliber
8 Browning machineguns, .50 caliber
1 Schmeisser submachine gun
2 Thompson sub machineguns, .45 caliber
1 Winchester shotgun, 12 gauge
1 revolver, .38 caliber
1 Webley revolver, .455 caliber
1 Smith & Wesson revolver, 357 caliber magnum
5 pistols, caliber 9 mm.
8 pistols, .45 caliber
8 mortars, caliber 60 mm.
1 mortar, caliber 81 mm.
2 rocket launchers, caliber 3.5
71,812 rounds assorted ammunition
Sundry knives, machetes, rifle barrels, baseplates,
telescopic sights, etc.
At that, there may have been a little leakage of
conspirator personnel and arms. Next day, two young
Grassy Key, one being an army private on leave, reported
that at dawn
on January 3, they had driven out on the road near Cocoa
Beach "to see what all the excitement was about". They
out. On seeing a man standing in the middle of the
pulled aside to find whether he needed help. Leaning into
window with a grenade in each hand, he said only "Go
went -- about 90 miles, the man holding between their heads
with the pin pulled. After delivering him at a house
they were released.
Of the 50 persons jailed in Miami, Antonio ROJAS was
released on his
$5,000 personal recognizance, the others on $100 each.
leaders at Key West included Rolando MASFERRER Rojas, a
senator under Batista; and Father Jean Baptiste GEORGES, a
Laval University in Quebec, who had been Haitian Minister of
and was to have become President if the coup had
January 5, the conspirators in Key West were taken before
commissioner, 5 at a time, and were released on personal
of $2,500 to $5,000 each. Masferrer, however, was
re-arrested by immigration officers and taken to Miami as a
violator, having been ordered by a court in 1959 to remain
York. His companions kicked the immigration car and
follow it, but were held back by local officers. On
he was released again under $10,000 bail, with additional
"The end of it? It's the beginning of it! shouted
admittedly had planned to use Haiti as a base from which to
Cuba. He may perhaps have spoken truly.
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