Countdown to Darkness: The Assassination of President Kennedy Volume II is the important next step in the extraordinary and ambitious work of one of our most essential contemporary historians, Dr. John Newman. I have characterized Volume I as being not supremely well suited for those who are new to the deepest areas of current JFK research. Countdown to Darkness places its predecessor, Where Angels Tread Lightly, in appropriate context as our necessary point of entry, and affirms that Dr. Newman is doing something that no one has ever done. What he is producing on the related areas of this topic is unprecedented in its scope and density. The publication of Volume II makes clear that the continuation of Dr. Newman’s work-in-progress on the assassination of President Kennedy defines, as comprehensively as possible, a multi-dimensional representation of what can be known during this time.
Across an enormously broad chronological range and geographical landscape, Dr. Newman’s work, which includes the newly updated and expanded second edition of JFK and Vietnam, affirms that our task requires we must properly identify and understand every individual on the playing field as Cold War hot-spots were being targeted for U.S. plans and actions, and America’s National Security executives were ordered to execute what Dr. Newman refers to as President Eisenhower’s “Cold War Triple Play,” the elimination, through covert and plausibly deniable means, of Patrice Lumumba, Rafael Trujillo, and Fidel Castro. President Eisenhower’s orders to do this, and the manner and means by which actions were initiated to carry them out before the end of the president’s second term, would have supremely serious ramifications for John F. Kennedy as presidential candidate, president-elect, and most of all, once he was inaugurated as president at noon on January 20th, 1961.
Volume II continues to build upon the major working hypotheses and further assumptions set forth in Volume I. The following are introduced with the publication of Countdown to Darkness:
· (New): DCI Allen Dulles was aware, well before Congo’s independence, of Belgium’s plans for the secession of Katanga Province.
· (New): The claims, by top advisors to Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy, that an exile invasion would trigger an uprising of the Cuban population against Castro were known to be false by those who made them.
· (New): The CIA attempt to cobble together a functional government-in-exile from the exiled Cuban leaders was doomed to fail right from the start.
· (New): Given the level and timing of Soviet Bloc military aid to the Castro regime, there was not enough time to adequately prepare, train, and equip a Cuban exile military force capable of toppling the regime.
· (New): DCI Allen Dulles and the Joint Chiefs of Staff knew that the CIA- planned invasion of Cuba would fail, and deliberately withheld this judgment from the president. Furthermore, they assumed that, once the exile forces were being slaughtered on the beachhead at the Bay of Pigs, Kennedy would reverse his policy of refusing to intervene with U.S. military forces.
· (New): Allen Dulles hoped that DDP Dick Bissell would be fired for the failed landing in Cuba, and that Dulles would get to remain as the DCI instead of being replaced by Bissell as JFK had originally planned.
It need not go without saying that these works, which must include JFK and Vietnam, second edition, complement one another and serve our interests best when viewed and evaluated together. JFK and Vietnam created a media firestorm when it was originally published in 1992. It was attacked (and defended) from all sides, and, significantly, it was embraced and supported by former DCI William Colby and former special assistant to President Kennedy, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., people who were there and felt that the story had never been examined with this kind of authority nor told with this kind of documentation. I feel very strongly that there is value in looking closely at these works in relation to each other. Reading and absorbing as much as we can of JFK and Vietnam provides deeper context and broader perspective of Dr. Newman’s work on the assassination of President Kennedy.
I would like to add one additional personal observation. Countdown to Darkness is addressing issues in the years leading up to Dallas which the author understands to be necessary for our purposes. He has said that, contrary to what many authors of works offering conclusions might desperately try to make us believe, we are, in fact, at the beginning of a serious investigation of 1.) President Kennedy’s murder, 2.) who were the ultimate perpetrators, and 3.) how they got away with it. The experience of reading this book, part of which examines controversial issues which we do encounter along our journey, has forced me to confront specific allegations which until now have been too distasteful for me to consider. Those of us who look upon the Kennedy brothers as heroes, and for whom the impact of their deaths created emotional wounds which will never completely heal, are acutely sensitive to and on-guard against character assassination and tabloid accusations which over many years and periodic revivals seem designed to diminish the memory of their lives so that the significance of their deaths may be devalued. Having to confront certain issues which are present in the story being examined has been ugly and difficult for me, and — maybe it’s helped me grow up a little. Maybe it has forced me to venture outside of my comfort zone, maybe it’s a good thing to be able to at least look at things we would not choose to be true whether they are true or not, maybe we are better off if we have the courage and willingness to admit that knowledge is indifferent to what we want to be true. Because of the work of Dr. John Newman, I am determined more than ever to confront the things I was afraid to look at and, at a minimum, to concede that for progress to be earned, we must examine everything in our path so that we may learn what is important and what is not in our continuing quest for greater knowledge and deeper understanding of the events which preceded the assassination of President Kennedy.
Dr. John Newman is a retired U.S. Army intelligence officer who served for two years as Executive Military Assistant to the Director, General William Odom at the National Security Agency. He has testified before various sub-committees of the U.S. House of Representatives, has worked as a consultant on two major motion pictures and to various U.S. and foreign media organizations including PBS Frontline, the History Channel, C-Span, NBC, and other news agencies. His experience and expertise as a strategic intelligence cryptologic analyst makes his qualifications and credentials unique among those who choose to delve into the hidden histories buried within America’s military and intelligence bureaucracies. For the past quarter century his work has overturned orthodoxies, broken new ground, introduced new facts, and produced revelations about America during the Cold War.
I just finished reading this fantastic book, and it is an extraordinarily important contribution to the history of this era. Newman's second volume in a series of books about the assassination of President Kennedy provides groundbreaking information about a broad range of subjects: Lee Oswald's false defection to the USSR, the CIA's documents and operations pertaining to Oswald, the CIA plot against Patrice Lumumba in the Congo, the CIA/Mafia plots against Fidel Castro, the mafia's (Sam Giancana) role in the election of President Kennedy, and how the CIA and the Joint Chiefs provided terrible advice to Kennedy in the lead up to the Bay of Pigs fiasco. Newman is an expert at navigating the byzantine world of CIA documents, memos, and routing slips to uncover crucial cryptonyms, pseudonyms, and operations. This book builds on his work that was published in "Oswald and the CIA". This book earns my highest praise. I can't wait for Newman to finish the third volume, "Into the Storm: The Assassination of President Kennedy."
-Jeremy Granade 1/29/17
John Newman is to be commended for writing a book that is both easy to grasp and is impressively researched. Newman's other works are stellar and this one is no exception. As an author myself, I am very particular in what I praise and choose to review. With that said, get this one asap!
Vince Palamara 1/29/17
American is lucky to have an historian like John Newman. His groundbreaking research has illuminated the darkest corners of our nation's history, from Vietnam to Cuba, to the JFK assassination. The book reads like a John Le Carre spy novel, but it's more chilling because it is both true and timely. --Eric Hamburg, Producer of Nixon film, and former aide to Senator John Kerry
"Meticulous, low-key, methodical." Those were the words used to describe author John Newman in a 1991 Esquire magazine article on the fury surrounding Oliver Stone's movie JFK, which, whatever you think of its merits, helped pry open startling new historical files and revelations on the JFK assassination. After reading about Newman's painstaking research and quiet, behind-the-scenes influence on the course of the JFK production, I began buying Newman's books in the 1990s, and continue to do so to this day. Newman's books deserve far more attention than they seem to get, and Countdown To Darkness is no exception. Newman's approach to this and other companion works on the JFK assassination is to do a deep dive into the CIA files and other documentation surrounding Lee Harvey Oswald, using his military intelligence expertise to tease out what the CIA knew, and when they knew it, about the President's alleged lone-nut assassin. In Countdown To Darkness, Newman's most startling new revelation is that a known, respected, and high-level CIA officer, when confronted with Oswald's CIA paper trail, concluded that Oswald was a witting defector to the Soviet Union, perhaps sent there to help uncover a "mole" (i.e., Soviet agent) within the CIA. If so, the simplistic historical portrait of Lee Harvey Oswald as a lone-nut Communist sympathizer needs to be completely reexamined. Perhaps the coming release of the remaining JFK files In October 2017 will shed new light on these important issues, and if so, I can't wait to see what John Newman will have to say about them in the coming volumes of this series.