High-Wire Hunt

He climbed. He saw. He hasn't yet conquered the mystery of his missing brother.

But the facts of Meredith's involvement — his search for the missing boat, his detention in the Dominican Republic — raise questions, particularly for Robb, who for decades has tried to connect the businessman to the CIA.

Meredith is a Manhattan native who quit his job as an ad executive to pursue a career as a novelist in Cuba in 1957. He left the island nation as the revolution was nearing its peak, and settled in Miami. A good friend of Gil Rahm's, he says that around December 1, 1962, he received a call from Lila Rahm that alerted him to the disappearance.

According to Meredith, on December 2 he hired a 40-foot overhauled PT boat and sailed to the area where the Revenge's battered hull had reportedly been spotted. During the search, he encountered a Miami-registered boat, Sigma II, owned and operated by Alpha 66.

Meredith says one of that boat's crew members had met Edison Higgs, the Bahamian captain who saw the overturned Revenge. In the second week of December, Meredith persuaded the Coast Guard to let him accompany a search-and-rescue flight over the waters that swallowed Annable, Rahm, and Skalski. Again they saw nothing.

Meredith submitted a report of his search to the Coast Guard, and his account of the encounter with the Sigma II was printed in many newspaper articles as evidence of secret wars waged in the Caribbean.

On February 15, 1963, the State Department issued an order to detain Spencer Meredith in Santo Domingo. U.S. authorities accused him of impersonating an FBI agent to obtain information about the Revenge from the U.S. consul in the Bahamas. Meredith says now that he simply walked into the consul's office "wearing a good suit" and requested information.

"Someone must have assumed I was with the government," he explains. "I certainly never said any such thing."

When questioned about his role in the Revenge's voyage, Meredith says, "At the time, I suppose I may have believed that there was foul play, and that made me angry, so I very energetically pursued all leads, not unlike young Mr. Annable."

Meredith contends he didn't fund the voyage but that he may have loaned Rahm money now and again "as friends do." Throughout Meredith's Coast Guard testimony are hints of CIA connections — for instance, asked if he was involved in the Bay of Pigs, Meredith answers, "Possibly." There's no followup. Meredith now says he was never in the employ of any government agency.

"Now this was all 40 years ago, you understand, so what I think I need to do is read over what I said at the time," he insists. "I need to jog my memory."

Robb claims he heard vague rumors that Meredith was involved with the CIA, but couldn't confirm them. He says he tried and failed numerous times to reach the businessman. "We just could never get hold of him, and he never returned calls," Robb says. "We felt like there were a lot of dead ends."

From February to September 1963, the Coast Guard investigated the disappearance of the Revenge. Robb's father befriended Lt. Cmdr. E.W. Dorr, who was conducting the Coast Guard inquiry, and the pair exchanged twenty letters about the inquiry's progress. Robert Sr. flew to Miami more than once to watch the testimony of several key witnesses.

The Coast Guard's final report, issued in November 1963, concluded it was impossible to know what happened to the three missing men. It downplayed any sort of Cuban involvement. "Getting the report was a real letdown for my father," Robb says. "He was never satisfied with it. We felt like there were all these questions floating around, especially about Meredith and the CIA, and they just didn't want to look in that direction. And my father was really crushed when several people suggested that they may have been poaching lobster traps."

Robb returned to school, this time in Ohio, but whenever he visited home, he and his father would spend hours trying to link the disparate stories and rumors surrounding the disappearance. "My father kept writing to congressmen and the like, but they all cited the Coast Guard investigation as the last word," Robb says. "We felt like, if there was foul play, the CIA might be involved or at least have some idea what happened, but they weren't answering any questions."

Robert Sr. was increasingly embittered. He began smoking and drinking more heavily and was diagnosed with high blood pressure. His eyes would tear up at odd moments, Robb remembers: "He was like a different person."

Robb himself became more politically active. He began attending civil rights marches and protesting American involvement in Vietnam. After graduating in 1967, he joined the Peace Corps and worked in Micronesia and New York City.

In the late Sixties, Robb and his father began filing public-records requests and traveling to the National Archives in Washington, D.C. They didn't find much, but Robb hatched a plan for a protest that would attract national attention. "I just felt like the government wasn't going to give us anything, but that someone out there, probably in Miami, had to know something about what happened," Robb says.

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