An American pilot on a covert anti-Castro mission for the CIA vanishes in Latin America.
On September 23 rd , 1963, in Waterbury, Connecticut, 28-year-old Geoffrey Sullivan, a former Air Force pilot, prepared to depart on a secret mission. Sherry Sullivan is his daughter:
Four days later, Geoffrey disappeared somewhere over the Caribbean. Sherry was only seven years old when she lost her father. Years later, she became a private investigator. She said that one of her toughest cases has been uncovering the truth about her father’s disappearance:
Geoffrey had earned his Air Force wings in 1957. After receiving an honorable discharge in 1959, he became a freelance commercial pilot. At about that time, Fidel Castro’s revolution swept through Cuba. The communist threat was now only 90 miles from American shores.
Once Castro took power, the United States government and several Cuban exile groups launched campaigns to overthrow his regime. It was the shadowy world of these covert operations that may have cost Geoffrey his life.
In 1961, a suspected CIA operative named Alex Rorke hired Geoffrey as a pilot for secret missions against Cuba. Their covert actions ranged from distributing anti-Castro leaflets to dropping homemade bombs.
At the Bay of Pigs that same year, US-backed Cuban exiles failed in their attempt to invade the island and overthrow Castro. Eighteen months later, Soviet missiles were discovered in Cuba. For seven days, the world was on the brink of nuclear war. According to author William Turner:
The U.S. government issued a public warning aimed to stop men like Alexander Rorke and Geoffrey Sullivan in their operations against Cuba. Eight days after the warning was issued, Geoffrey left Connecticut. The next day, he was seen in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, with Alex Rorke. There, Geoffrey and Rorke met with two men. One of them was Frank Sturgis, who would become well-known for his role in the Watergate scandal years later. Sturgis, who had also been named in the public warning, described their meeting:
Sturgis convinced Rorke to meet with Nicaraguan officials and clear the way. The four men rented an airplane and planned to leave for Nicaragua the following day. That morning, Rorke’s wife drove him to Opa-Locka Airport in Fort Lauderdale. On the way, they picked up another man. According to Geoffrey’s daughter, Sherry:
The twin-engine plane took off from Ft. Lauderdale with Geoffrey, Rorke, and the mysterious stranger. Sturgis and his associate stayed behind. Geoffrey’s activities over the next 48 hours still cannot be fully explained. According to the FAA investigation, his flight activities were highly unusual. He returned to Ft. Lauderdale three times. For some reason, on his third trip to the airport, the plane’s landing gear remained up. After the control tower warned him not to land, Geoffrey did not attempt to return to Ft. Lauderdale again.
Geoffrey finally landed at North Perry Airport, a mere thirty miles away from Ft. Lauderdale. But he took a suspiciously long time getting there. What should have been a twenty-minute flight had taken nearly five hours. No one knows where the plane was during that time. After refueling, Geoffrey and his passengers took off again around 1:30 P.M. The flight plan listed Tegucigalpa, Honduras, as their final destination.
A little more than two hours later, Sullivan radioed the Tower at Miami International Airport. This time, he filed a new flight plan, with Tucuman, Panama, as his destination. Search party member Howard described the unusual radio calls:
Seven more hours passed with no contact from the plane. Finally, at 10:22 P.M., Sullivan again radioed the Miami Tower. This time, he filed a flight plan for Belize, British Honduras. The FAA says that Sullivan refueled just after midnight in Cozumel, Mexico. This was the last sighting of the plane. Geoffrey and his companions were assumed lost at sea. Despite a massive search, no trace of the plane or its passengers was ever found.
More than two decades later, Sherry Sullivan and her attorney petitioned the government for information concerning her father. They have received over 5,000 pages of documentation from fourteen federal agencies, including the FBI and the CIA.
More than a third of the 800 pages received from the FBI were censored. According to Sherry, information found in these documents indicates that at least 400 more pages exist, but were withheld for National Security reasons. For Sherry, it was the confirmation she was looking for.
In the FBI documents, Sherry found the name Floyde Park. When she finally reached him by phone, Park told Sherry that he had seen her father two days after he supposedly disappeared. But Sherry explained that she had a hard time getting any further information from him:
Sherry only talked to Park once and has not been able to reach him since. But Park did say that her father and Rorke might have been taken prisoner in Cuba. According to Sherry:
In 1986, during her investigation, Sherry spoke with journalist Marty Casey. Marty said that he was in Cuba two years after her father disappeared:
According to Marty, he asked the man if he was talking about the pilot:
Another name Sherry found in the FBI documents was Enrique Molina Garcia. Garcia was supposedly a double agent for Castro’s government. Sherry believes Garcia was the mysterious third man on the plane and that he tricked her father and Rorke into flying to Cuba. Unconfirmed reports have placed Garcia in Havana years after Sherry’s father disappeared.
Today, Sherry believes that her father was most likely jailed in Cuba and either died there or was executed. On the 40th anniversary of Geoffrey Sullivan’s disappearance, a commemorative grave marker was unveiled in the Veteran’s Memorial Cemetery in Augusta, Maine. The Veterans Administration is the first and only government agency to officially recognize Geoffrey as “missing in action.”
Sherry Sullivan has not given up hope that she will some day discover her father’s fate.
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