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Thursday, April 17, 2008

47th Anniversary of the Bay of Pigs Massacre

It is not known by many people that the Americans invaded Cuba. I had an opportunity to speak with one of the men who was part of the invasion force. The story he told was one of frustration, but ultimately, heroic sacrifice. This is their story:

On April 17, 1961, a joint American and renegade Cuban coalition landed in the small cove, known to locals as Bahia de Cochinos. They expected little or no resistance at this point. However, they were instantly engaged by the Soviets and Castro's army. As they scrambled for cover, they noticed gunboats blocking their escape back out to sea, and effectively trapping them. If they had any time to think, they must have wondered, "what went wrong?"
Why would an operation that had been thought through and executed with such secrecy, go up in smoke the instant they hit the beach? It may have been President Kennedy's indecisiveness. He had constantly changed the strategy and worried over the details. Another reason for the sudden collapse was the fact that intelligence about the raid had leaked to Nikita Khushchev, the Russian head of state. Just as the expedition was getting under way, he called President Kennedy and informed him that the invasion was no longer a secret, and if Kennedy didn't call it off, there would be war with Russia. So, Kennedy washed his hands of the affair, and looked the other way.
But the Americans and their cohorts could not have known this. They were fighting for their lives, and the Soviets had superior fire power, both on land and in the air. The situation was worsening by the minute. President Kennedy had not allowed the Americans to take air support, so it was only a matter of time.
Even as the men were being killed by the dozens, President Kennedy and his wife attended a ball. As the party was in progress, an aide, with a action report from Cuba, hurried up and begged Kennedy to allow, at the least, four airplanes to assist the coalition forces so they could retreat. Kennedy replied, "I don't want to get America involved". The chagrined aide replied, "Sir, we are already involved".
Meanwhile, George Wallace, the governor of Alabama, was also receiving action reports. He was getting very aggravated at the president's inaction. The third day, since the raid begun, had arrived. The governor knew Alabama boys were dying down there in Cuba. Out of frustration, he contacted the commander of the Alabama Air guard unit in Nicaragua. Wallace commanded him to send four planes up to the Bay Of Pigs and help the Americans and their allies escape. He knew he was probably sending those men on a suicide mission. But he realized that if the Americans received no help, all of them would die.


F-4 Phantoms
Back on the beach, the soldiers had just run out of ammunition, when they looked back and saw the Cuban boats scattering, opening a route of escape. They soon learned why, as four F-4 Phantoms, streamed overhead, destroyed several tanks, and distracted the Soviet MIGs. Most importantly, this caused a lull in the fight during which the Americans and Cuban rebels were able to swim out to their troop transports. Several soldiers, who had removed their shoes, cut their feet on the coral, and were eaten by sharks, which were attracted by the blood. Some were even picked up by people who had driven their fishing boats down from Florida. Out of the five thousand men who landed on the beach, forty-four returned. Two of the F-4s were shot down, but the other two made it back to Eglin Air Force Base in Florida. Because those Alabama pilots flew to almost certain death, they saved the lives of forty-four men. If they had not gone to Cuba, the whole force would have been wiped out. Their's is the story of ultimate sacrifice.


Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.org

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2 Comments:

Blogger mcferrill said...

Weren't those B26s? Apparently the Cubans were caught with all their planes on the ground but only the first of the three planned American air strikes went through.

May 13, 2008 at 11:03 AM  
Blogger Stephen Boyd said...

B-26s were initially used for the bombing runs, most of which failed, but the Alabama Guardsmen who flew in to draw fire, were flying F-4s.

May 13, 2008 at 7:16 PM  

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