One-time Miami soldier of fortune: Gerald Patrick Hemming, 70
BY JOHN DORSCHNER
A '60s-era Miami soldier of fortune and a key figure for conspiracy theorists around the world, Gerald Patrick Hemming, is dead at 70.
His death was confirmed Thursday morning by the Cape Fear Valley Medical Center in Fayetteville, N.C. His son, Felipe, told The Miami Herald that he was found dead in his North Carolina home on Tuesday evening.
A shadowy figure who enjoyed talking about paramilitary operations and anti-Castro activities during the 1960s, Hemming became known in his later years mostly for statements he made about the Kennedy assassination to the Warren Commission and to many investigative journalists.
A Google search of Hemming's name and the Kennedy assassination turns up more than 4,000 hits.
Robert K. Brown, publisher of Soldier of Fortune magazine, said he knew Hemming well during the 1960s. ``Gerry was an especially charismatic guy who on first impression came across very well. He was looked up to by a lot of Cuban exile groups. He was a big man, spoke fluent Spanish, a very intelligent guy. . . .
''But Gerry tended to get carried away with this conspiracy stuff,'' Brown said, ``and it was hard to tell where the fact ended and the fiction started.
''He knew so many things,'' said Felipe Hemming, who works for Miami-Dade fire rescue. ``He was still researching when he died. . . . My dad was an operator. He wasn't a guy on the side of the road making up stories.''
Others disagree. Don Bohning, who was The Herald's Latin America editor for many years, said, ``I never believed a word he had to say.''
In 1959, after Castro came to power, Hemming spent considerable time hanging out in Havana, often in the company of William Morgan, an ex-U.S. paratrooper who went to Cuba to join the rebel forces in the Sierra del Escambray to fight the Batista dictatorship.
A confidential U.S. Army report from March 1960 reports that Hemming was ``stationed with Cuban rebel air force in Pinar del Rio. Claims he is a T-33 jet pilot with mission to intercept U.S.-based planes which fly over Cuba bent on destroying cane fields. Was formerly stationed in Isle of Pines.
``Subject wears Army fatigues, is armed with a pistol, and wears a U.S. paratrooper bade. He states he has been in Cuba for two years. He wears no insignia of rank.''
Hemming may have claimed being in the Castro military at the time, but other experts question that information.
However, Olga Morgan, the widow of William Morgan, recalls Hemming warning her husband to leave Cuba, or he would be killed by the Castro regime. 'He said, `Cuba is no good for you, with the new government. You need to get out. You have a family.' ''
Morgan didn't heed Hemming's advice. He was executed by a Cuban firing squad in March 1961.
In his 2005 book, The Castro Obsession, Bohning wrote that in the early 1960s, Hemming was among the soldiers of fortune who hung around the Time-Life bureau in Miami. An ex-Marine, six-foot-five, Hemming had organized a paramilitary force based in the Florida Keys called the Intercontinental Penetration Force.
At one point, Bohning wrote, Hemming used Time-Life stationery to write to the military aide of President Kennedy, seeking ''advice and constructive criticism'' for his forces. ''There is no indication any was forthcoming,'' Bohning wrote.
Hemming is survived by six children, said his son, Felipe.
A graveside service is planned for 2 p.m. Monday at Sandhills State Veterans Cemetery in Spring Lake, N.C. A memorial service in South Florida may take place later.
Herald investigations editor Mike Sallah contributed to this report.