Obituary: Roswell Gilpatric

Roswell Gilpatric's great moment came in the tensest moments of the 1962 Cuban missile crisis. In private, he was widely believed to have been the lover of Mrs Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.

Gilpatric was a member of "Ex Comm", the top-level working group President John F. Kennedy had entrusted with managing the US response to Nikita Khrushchev's decision to deploy Soviet nuclear weapons in Cuba. The President's national security adviser, McGeorge Bundy, had put forward the case for bombing the Soviet missile sites in Cuba, from which Soviet missiles with nuclear warheads could reach much of the United States. Gilpatric's boss, the defence secretary Robert S. McNamara, argued against bombing, saying no one could tell how the Russians would respond. As Ken-nedy hesitated, Gilpatric, the Wall Street lawyer, intervened.

"Essentially, Mr President," he said, "this is a choice between limited action and unlimited action, and most of us think it is better to start with limited action."

On other occasions, however, Gilpatric took a hard line. A staunch Cold Warrior, he had served as Under-Secretary of the Air Force in the Eisenhower Administration. He was the head of a secret task force of which General Edward Lansdale, the original of Graham Greene's The Quiet American, was a member. Its brief was "to prevent Communist domination of Vietnam", and Gilpatric consistently argued for US commitment.

He also signed off on the overthrow, though not explicitly on the murder, of General Diem, the leader of the pro-American government of South Vietnam. (Diem was removed from power by a military coup with American approval, given on McNamara's behalf by Gilpatric, so far as the Pentagon was concerned. The balance of evidence suggests that Washington officials were not aware that the Diem family were to be killed.)

Gilpatric was, too, a member of the "special group" which planned Operation Mongoose, the CIA' s dirty tricks campaign against Fidel Castro in Cuba.

Gilpatric's cautious advice against bombing Cuba was characteristic of the calm Wall Street lawyer. A lifelong Republican, Ros Gilpatric was a partner from 1940 to 1977 in Cravath, Swain and Moore, one of the two or three most prestigious of the "white shoe" Wall Street law firms. His clients included major banks and industrial corporations and especially defence and aerospace companies.

Gilpatric was the epitome of the "dollar-a-year men" of what had been called the "American Establishment" who came down from Wall Street to serve in government before returning to "the private practice of law". He was a protege of one of the most celebrated of them, Robert Lovett.

He came from an upper-class New York background and was educated at the Hotchkiss School, a famous private boarding school, and at Yale. He was a childhood friend of Governor Nelson Rockefeller.

President Kennedy used to question him closely about Rockefeller's plans, his character and his girlfriends. "He has lots," said Gilpatric. "How does he get away with it?" asked the President, who was getting away with "it" himself at the time on an epic scale.

By a twist of history, it is widely believed that Gilpatric himself became the lover of the President's widow, Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, after his death and before she married Aristotle Onassis.

A brother Wall Street lawyer offered for sale letters written to Gilpatric by Mrs Kennedy over a five-year period, beginning before his assassination. The letters were subpoenaed by the third Mrs Roswell Gilpatric, who was then seeking a legal separation.

The letters are intimate but inconclusive as to the nature of his friendship with Jacqueline Kennedy. One of them, written just after her marriage to Onassis, said, "I hope you know all you were and are and will ever be to me." It was signed, "With my love, J". But Gilpatric denied that he and Mrs Kennedy Onassis had ever been anything but the best of friends.

From 1972 to 1975 Gilpatric served as chairman of Federal Reserve Bank of New York. He was also a trustee of the Metropolitan Museum and of the New York Public Library.

Godfrey Hodgson

Roswell Leavitt Gilpatric, lawyer and administrator: born 4 November 1906; married five times (one son, two daughters); died New York 15 March 1996.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

HR Advisor - North London / North West London

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Advisor - North London...

Finance Manager - Recruitment Business (Media & Entertainment)

£28000 - £32000 per annum + negotiable: Sauce Recruitment: We have an exciting...

HR Advisor - North London / North West London

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Advisor - North London...

HR Advisor - North London / North West London

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Advisor - North London...

Day In a Page

Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album
Hugh Bonneville & Peter James: 'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'

How We Met: Hugh Bonneville & Peter James

'Peter loves his classic cars; I've always pootled along fine with a Mini Metro. I think I lack his panache'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's heavenly crab dishes don't need hours of preparation

Bill Granger's heavenly crab recipes

Scared off by the strain of shelling a crab? Let a fishmonger do the hard work so you can focus on getting the flavours right
Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

Radamel Falcao: How faith and love drive the Colombian to glory

After a remarkable conversion from reckless defender to prolific striker, Monaco's ace says he wants to make his loan deal at Old Trafford permanent
Terry Venables: Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England

Terry Venables column

Premier League managers must not be allowed to dictate who plays and who does not play for England
The Inside Word: Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past

Michael Calvin's Inside Word

Brendan Rodgers looks to the future while Roy Hodgson is ghost of seasons past