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Cold War Figure Dies

Reference: The Fayetteville (NC) Observer. Published on Friday, February 01, 2008

Cold War figure dies
By Corey G. Johnson Staff writer A former soldier who trained Cubans to fight against Fidel Castro and had been a central figure in assassination probes of John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. died this week in Fayetteville, family members said.
Gerald Patrick Hemming, 70, died in his sleep at his Haymount Manor apartment, his daughter, Kristi Hemming Roderick, said Thursday.
An exact date and cause of death is still being determined. Mr. Hemming will be buried with military honors at 2 p.m. Monday in Sandhills State Veterans Cemetery.
"My father was a Cold War freedom fighter," Kristi Hemming said. "He put country first, which meant he wasn't around as much as we like, but that's OK, we loved him anyway."
Born March 1, 1937, in Los Angeles, Mr. Hemming joined the Marines in
1954. Four years later, he left the Marines to go to Cuba, where he fought side-by-side with Fidel Castro to overthrow then president Fulgencio Batista in 1959.
"A lot of people don't remember that initially we supported Castro," said Mr. Hemming's wife, Patricia Hemming. Patricia and Kristi Hemming live in Fayetteville.
Shortly after Castro assumed power, Mr. Hemming discovered the Cuban leader secretly working with the Soviet Union. He felt betrayed.
"He didn't know nuclear warheads were being pumped into Cuba," his wife said. "When he found out, he tried his best to stop it."
Castro learned of Mr. Hemming's plans to organize an uprising and threw him and his friends in jail, Patricia Hemming said. Sometime later, Mr. Hemming was able to escape. Many of his fellow insurgents weren't as lucky.
"My father named my brother Felipe Vidal Santiago, in honor of Felipe Vidal, who was executed," Kristi Hemming said. Vidal was a Cuban naval officer who went into exile when Castro gained power.
Mr. Hemming returned to the United States and settled in Miami, where he gradually became a fixture in the anti-Castro community. At the time, the CIA - operating out of a non-descript office on the campus of the University of Miami - was heavily recruiting Cubans for a secret offensive against Castro, according to congressional records.
Mr. Hemming was also recruiting and training Cubans to fight in his organization, called the Intercontinental Penetration Force (Interpen), the records shows. Some people alleged that Mr. Hemming was working with the CIA during that time.
His wife and daughter deny the allegation.
"If he did, where were the checks?" Patricia Hemming said. "We scraped and struggled all of our life."
After President Kennedy was assassinated in 1963, the FBI questioned Mr. Hemming as a suspect. Investigators dropped the inquiry once they learned he was in Miami taking care of his pregnant wife, Patricia Hemming said.
But in the 1970s, congressional investigators questioned Mr. Hemming again after he revealed that he met Lee Harvey Oswald years before the assassination.
FBI files show that Mr. Hemming told agents in March 1968 that someone had offered to pay him to kill King.
Patricia Hemming said her husband began to fervently research both assassinations, in part to get to the truth and in part to clear his name.
"Those accusations were like a cloud that he wanted to get rid of," she said.
As part of that effort, Mr. Hemming spoke out at assassination-related conferences. He is also listed as a technical adviser on Oliver Stone's film J.F.K.
But he got his most joy in his humanitarian work, Kristie Hemming said.
In the 1970s, Mr. Hemming organized a group of doctors and Special Forces veterans for a rescue mission into Peru after an earthquake hit.
And he led a rescue mission into Honduras after a Hurricane flooded an entire area, family members said.
He moved from Florida to Fayetteville in the 1990s because he wanted to be near the Veterans Affairs Medical Center and old buddies.
"He wasn't driven by money or the world," Patricia Hemming said. "Honor was his most important thing."
Staff writer Corey G. Johnson can be reached at or
323-4848, ext. 487 Copyright 2008 - The Fayetteville (NC) Observer

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