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(Operation Phantom)

-Dade County Florida Circuit court case 63L-511, Melbourne Airways vs National Insurance, transcript and depositions.
-Interview with a managerial official of Operacion Fantasma.
-Interview with an operational participant of Operacion Fantasma.
-CIA Memorandum for Stanley J. Crogan/Grogan, assistant to the Director, n.d., approved for release February 1967.
-Miscellaneous news articles and FBI reports which, for the most part, were factually erroneous.
Dr. Sergio Rojas Santamaria was a well educated and connected with the old Cuban sugar business in Cuba.  A formidable revolutionary who had fought against Batista and rewarded with the ambassador post to London in 1959.  With the end of the Urrutia presidency under Castro, Rojas resigned his post in June 1960 and turned once again to crush another dictator ruling his homeland.  At the Bay of Pigs invasion, he was assigned to a ship which was engaged in a diversionary action and never landed.  With the failure of the entire venture, Dr. Rojas set off on his own to fight Castro using his powerful connections.
Sergio Rojas devised a plan to prepare the Cuban people for the next invasion by sending planes over his homeland to drop leaflets.  Deep inside he knew this would not bring Castro to his knees, yet this is the plan which he presented the CIA.  They liked the idea and agreed to finance the plan with $240,000 to be paid in three equal parts of $80,000.  Even as he left the CIA operated hotel in Washington, he and a few low ranking operatives of the Company had already planned how they were going to divert some of the leaflet dropping funds to more aggressive commando operations.

By the Fall of 1961 OPERACION FANTASMA (Operation Phantom) was nearing the first phase of the operation by having two types of leaflets printed and American mercenaries recruited for the delivery over Cuba.  Sergio Rojas' second in command of the overall operation was Frank Gutierrez a former radio station administrator in Cuba. 

Commando operations to hit certain Castro and Russian targets both on the coast of Cuba and at sea was also taking shape with the appointment of Pedro Diaz Lanz as head of the Air Group and Alfred de Berly as Chief of Intelligence.  De Berly immediately utilized his Israeli contacts.  Diaz Lanz' half brother, Sergio Bruwell, went to
Norfolk, bought a used USCG patrol boat, and loaded it with ordinance from the local Navy supply.  It was sheltered in the Cape Canaveral area on the Indian River near Vero Beach.  The mother ship was kept on the Miami River since it was less noticeable.  Another launch able to do 40 knots was purchased by an exile benefactor for $25,000 and belonged to Diaz Lanz.  The Somoza contact in Miami was Nicaraguan Consul Aleret. 

Commando operations were to start in January 1962 with a raid on a port city in Camaguey Province from the Cayman Islands returning to Nicaragua.  But first there were the leaflet raids.  The first action came in on October 21, 1961 with a successful leaflet raid over Matanzas Province with Frank Fiorini (Sturgis) and either Robert Thompson or Robert Swanner aboard.  Each received $500 for the mission.  The second raid over Santiago in December 1961 changed the course of OPERACION FANTASMA.

On December 10, 1961 William Johnson, Robert Swanner, and Hazen Jones met in a restaurant on Brickell Avenue in Miami to go over their orders for taking the leaflets to Norman's Cay where they would meet the rented plane and drop the cargo, by making several runs, over  Santiago.  There were few alternatives on missions like these, so there wasn't much to discuss except the rendezvous in the Bahamas.

On the 12th Johnson called Melbourne Airways from Miami for a charter and specifically asked that Thompson, who he had flown with before, be the pilot.  He stated that he wanted to show real estate to some customers.  The next evening Hazen Jones rents a 35 foot Chris-Craftfrom Miami Yacht Rentals on which 20 bundles of leaflets were loaded by Frank Fiorini and Alex Rorke.  Around midnight Fiorini watched as the boat passed into the darkness with Jones, Johnson, and Rorke aboard
From Miami the boat went by way of Gun Cay which they were at by daybreak on the 13th, running the "flats", over the top end of Andros Island and cut through the Northwest Channel arriving at the Norman Cay channel after dark, anchored the boat a few miles off, and turned in until daybreak.  The leaflet cargo was off-loaded around 06:30  into a truck which Arlen Watts, the island's caretaker, had left for them.  As soon as the leaflets were stored in a service shack near the airstrip, they headed to Nassau to clear customs as required when entering the Bahamas.

Meanwhile Thompson flies the Piper from Melbourne Airways to North Fort Lauderdale to get Fiorini and Swanner and they also head for  Bahamian Customs clearance, filing a flight plan with West Palm Beach by radio, destination:"...Andros Island from Fort Lauderdale...".  The Piper arrived around noon at Fresh Creek, Andros with "three crew and no cargo".  After about an hour the plane left for Nassau for  fuel and headed for Norman's Cay while the Chris-Craft made its way back.  Upon landing the seat and door were removed from the Piper and about seven bundles of leaflets loaded onto the plane.  Swanner and Thompson boarded the red and white Piper and headed South for Cuba at 18:00 passing over the Chris-Craft as it returned from Nassau.

After docking the boat, they went to Watts' house and talked with  Fiorini who met them after walking about a mile from the  airstrip.  The plane was making its first and fateful run. They talked until around 22:30 or 23:00 when it was time to return to the airstrip to meet the plane, which would not return.  A squall line had built up about 21:30 so they waited until the plane's fuel would have run out, which would have been around 00:30 or 01:00.

On Friday December 15, after loading the plane's door and seat, as well as the remaining pamphlets onto the boat, Fiorini, Johnson, and Rorke left Norman Cay on the Chris-Craft, bound for Staniel Cay, an uninhabited island, where they stashed the door, seat and pamphlets.  Jones, however, kept some pamphlets as souvenirs.
On Saturday they returned to Norman Cay in the morning to receive any possible radio telephone calls and then headed back to Miami.  The Piper was to have been returned to Melbourne today.  On Sunday the 17th a call was made to the FAA and the USCG to start a search for the missing plane.  The Border Patrol was notified on the 20th.

Sometime after the loss of the plane Julio Lobo called a meeting at the Miami Springs Motel.  The conference attendees consisted of Osvaldo Padron, Sergio Rojas, Mario Llerena, Armando Castellanos, and two aviators, one being Eduardo Ferrer.  Due to the loss of the plane, and higher-ups in both the Agency and other branches of the Government getting wind of the incident, all operations were suspended for a time.  Sergio Rojas relocated to Spain, others just disappeared, most were left "swinging in the wind" by the Phantom CIA.

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