Death of a Patriot
In the dark night of the soul (which F. Scott Fitzgerald held to be 3 a.m.), I sometimes lie awake and read the Philadelphia Inquirer online. Last night I was stunned to see a big obit for Marty Casey, who died last week in Miami. It was more than strange to see the length and detail in the obit, for today few people in Philadelphia would even recognize his name. But the byline explained it all. It was written by John Dorschner of The Miami Herald and obviously picked up by a Philadelphia editor fascinated by Marty Casey’s background and the vague reference to his having been born in Pennsylvania. He was a soldier of fortune who participated in anti-Castro and anti-Duvalier activities in the early 1960s. He married a Cuban American, was fluent in Spanish and lived in Little Havana. He also dabbled in writing, freelancing for Soldier of Fortune Magazine, and at least once for the Herald. He also helped journalists, including a writer for TIME Magazine, with investigations. That’s how the Herald knew him. I knew him because we grew up on the same block in Philadelphia and as kids were in each other’s houses all the time.
Marty Casey’s adventures got him in trouble. He went to jail for participating in an attempted bombing of the presidential palace in Haiti. It was a bizarre mission, using homemade bombs which missed their target. He was also caught training Cuban commandos in the Florida Keys. He was picked up when U.S. Customs and Border Protection raided the training camp, one of the incidents that infuriated the CIA and made them hate President Kennedy. A former Marine, Marty was obviously connected to the CIA, although not directly. That’s how the CIA operates. He also did another service to his country, but did not know it at the time.
Backtracking a bit, I lost contact with Marty after he entered the service, but my cousin, who lived next door to him, stayed in touch with his family. I heard about him again when he got press in Florida for participating in that crazy effort to bomb "Papa Doc" Duvalier’s palace. I don’t recall exactly how we reconnected, but I think he called me after seeing our magazine.
At about that time (1975) Gaeton Fonzi, then a partner in our magazine, was hired by Pennsylvania senator, Richard Schweiker, as part of a reopened investigation into the death of President Kennedy. Schweiker suspected the accused assassin, Lee Harvey Oswald, was involved with the U.S. intelligence community. I mentioned to Fonzi that Marty Casey, with all his anti-Castro Cuban contacts, might be helpful. Fonzi, at Schweiker’s urging, was trying to penetrate the murky world of Cuban anti-Castro intrigue. We got together for lunch in Fort Lauderdale, and Marty amused us with some of his soldier of fortune tales. He was a serious patriot, and the stuff he did was clearly dangerous, but he made these missions sound like the antics of high school kids.
Fonzi was telling people he was looking into the CIA (there was an investigation going on at the time), but not the JFK murder. However, he told Casey his real mission. Marty went to work and quickly sources began to call Fonzi. One source led to another. Soon he was in touch with a highly respected and credible Cuban named Antonio Veciana, who had been heavily involved in the anti-Castro movement at the time of the Kennedy assassination.
Not realizing that Fonzi was part of the JFK investigation, Veciana inadvertently told him that he had seen his longtime CIA handler, who used a code name, with Lee Harvey Oswald in Dallas before the assassination. It was a stunning revelation – the first time any connection between Oswald and the CIA had been established by an inside source.
Fonzi said today it all began with Marty Casey.
“Marty was the key,” said Fonzi. “He knew everybody, and he wasn’t a bullshitter. He finally got the attention he deserved.”
Gaeton was eventually able to identify the CIA man and the result of his work was two long magazine articles in Gold Coast magazine in 1980 which strongly suggested that an American president was murdered by his own government. Others had suspected the same, but Fonzi was the first man working for our government, with access no previous writer had to dynamite material and sources, to raise such dramatic doubts about the "lone assasin" conclusion reached years earlier by the Warren Commission. Further research produced the 1994 book The Last Investigation which was updated and republished three years ago. Virtually every important book on the Kennedy assassination cites Fonzi for his landmark work.
Not for his bizarre and sometimes comical adventures as a soldier of fortune, but for his pivotal role in guiding Fonzi to the CIA connection 35 years ago, should old neighbor Marty Casey be remembered.