Reflections by Comrade Fidel


The Playa Girón Battle


(Part I)


More than one year before April 16, 1961, after rigorous analysis and exchanges, President Dwight Eisenhower decided to destroy the Cuban Revolution.


The main instrument of the sinister plan was the economic blockade on Cuba, which is described by the empire’s political literature with the anodyne and almost pious term of “embargo.”


A secret memorandum drafted by the then Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Lester Mallory, listed the concrete goals pursued by the sinister plan: “The majority of Cubans support Castro –states the document- […] There is no effective political opposition […]. The only foreseeable means of alienating internal support [from the government] is through disenchantment and disaffection based on economic dissatisfaction and hardship […]. Every possible means should be undertaken promptly to weaken the economic life […] denying money and supplies to Cuba, to decrease monetary and real wages, to bring about hunger, desperation and overthrow of government.”

The set of measures to be taken was called “Program of Covert Action against the Castro Regime.”

Any onlooker, whether or not in agreement with such repugnant methods lacking every elemental ethics, would admit that this would imply the idea of subduing an entire people.


In this case it was about a confrontation between the most powerful and rich country in the planet and a small country with a different origin, culture and history.


Eisenhower was not a born criminal.  He seemed to be –and perhaps he was- and educated person who behaved properly according to the parameters of the society in which he lived. He was born into a modest farmers’ family in Denison, Texas, in the year 1890.  He received a religious education and lived a disciplined life.  He joined the West Point Military Academy in 1911 and graduated in 1915.  He did not take part in the First World War and was assigned only administrative tasks.


He first took on the command of troops in 1941, at a time when the United States was not participating yet in the Second World War.  He was already a Five-Stars General and lacked combat experience when George Marshall assigned him the command of the troops that landed in northern Africa.


Roosevelt, in his condition as President of the country with the highest amount of resources and military means, took on the responsibility of appointing the military chief of the allied troops that would land in Europe in June 1944, fourteen months before the end of the war.  He assigned this responsibility to General Eisenhower, since Marshall, his highest ranking officer, was the Chief of Staff of the Army.


He was not a brilliant officer; he made significant mistakes in northern Africa and even during the Normandy Landing, where he had to confront strong rivals among the allied troops, such as Montgomery, and adversaries such as Rommel.  But he was a serious and methodic professional.


After this necessary reference to the Five-Stars General, Dwight Eisenhower, President of the United States from January 1953 to January 1961, I will then go over to a question: ¿how is it possible that such a serious man, who dared to expose the nefarious role of the Industrial Military Complex, could be made to adopt such a criminal and hypocritical attitude as the one that led the United States government to attack the independence and justice that our people had been seeking to achieve for almost a century?


It was the capitalist system, the preeminence of the privileges of the rich, inside and outside the country, to the detriment of the most elemental rights of peoples. The mighty power never worried about the starvation, ignorance, unemployment, land problems, education, health and the most elemental rights of the poor people of our nation.


In the brutal attempt to submit our people, the US government would drag the soldiers of its country to a war in which it would never be able to attain victory.


When it comes to historical issues there are many imponderables and quite a considerable incidence of chance.  I start from the information and the experience I had during those days when the phrase “Girón was the first defeat dealt to imperialism in the Americas” was first said.  From that experience I drew many conclusions, which could perhaps be of the interest of others as well.


We did not have a national army in our country.  By the end of what historians in Cuba called the Third Independence War –in which the defeated and exhausted Spanish colonial army was hardly able to preserve only the control of the big cities -, the ruined metropolis, thousands of miles away, could not maintain a force almost equal to the one the United States had in Vietnam by the end of the genocidal war it carried out in that old French colony.


It was then when the United States decided to intervene in our country.  It deceived its own people, the people of Cuba and the   entire world through a joint declaration whereby it recognized that Cuba, de facto and de jure, should be free and independent.  The United States signed in Paris an agreement with the colonial and vindictive government of the defeated Spain; it disarmed the Liberation Army through bribery and deception.  Later on, our country was imposed the Platt Amendment, which meant that Cuba’s  ports were to be place at the disposal of the US Navy for its use, and that our country would be granted an alleged independence, conditioned by a constitutional precept whereby the United States government was entitled to intervene in Cuba.


Our brave people fought on their own for its independence -as much as any other in this hemisphere- against a nation that, as was stated by Bolivar, was destined to plague America with
misery in the name of liberty.


In Cuba there was an army trained and advised by the United States.  I won’t say that our generation has more merits than any of the preceding ones, whose leaders and combatants were insuperable in their heroic struggles.  The privilege of our generation was having had the opportunity, by mere chance rather than by merits, to prove right one of Marti’s ideas: … “A just cause even from the depths of a cave can do more than an army.”


Based on just ideas and after overcoming bitter tests, starting with only seven rifles, we did not hesitate in continuing our struggle in the Sierra Maestra after our 82 strong detachment, out of lack of experience and other adverse factors, was attacked by surprise  before reaching the foothills.  In only 25 months, our heroic people defeated that army, which was equipped with the arms, fighting experience, communication means, training centers and advisory with which the United States maintained absolute domain over our country ad Our America for more than half a century.


By applying the correct fighting methods, the principles of respect for the population and our policy to fight the adversary –healing he wounded and sparing the life of prisoners without a single exception during the entire war-, we dealt the military apparatus created by the Yankees a crushing blow, and we finally seized the one hundred thousand weapons and materiel they had and used against our people.


But it was also necessary to ideologically defeat the immense arsenal they had and the almost absolute monopoly over the media through which they flooded the country with sweetened lies.


The mass of unemployed persons, landless peasants, exploited workers, illiterate citizens, sick people without hospitals, children without books or schools, and the endless list of those whose dignity and rights had been trampled, were far more numerous than the rich and privileged minority allied to the empire.


Education, science, culture and arts, sports, all the professions involving human development, lacked support in our country, which was devoted to the monoculture of sugar cane and other economic activities subordinated to Yankee transnational banks and enterprises through which the powerful neighbor to the North imposes its “democracy” and “human rights” patterns.


I should point out that a show like the one performed by ‘La Colmenita’ –that a few days ago was on stage at the Karl Marx theatre-, a group founded by the son of one of the persons assassinated by the US Government’s terrorists, who was traveling on board of the plane that took off from Barbados on October 6, 1976, is unrivalled in the world. The impressive cultural performance of the children pioneers as well as their Congress, which was closed on that day, would have never been possible without the education that the Revolution has granted to the children, teenagers and youngsters of our homeland.


On April 16, 1961, when the Socialist character of the Revolution was proclaimed, there had been two years and three months since the triumph of the Revolution on January 1st, 1959. Our small and victorious Rebel Army, in its liberation struggle, only had the weapons it had seized from the tyranny –the overwhelming majority of them supplied by the United States.  Arming the people became indispensable.


To avoid giving the United States any pretext for its aggressions, as the one it carried out in Guatemala, we tried to buy and pay in cash for the rifles and other weapons in several countries of Europe which traditionally exported them to many nations.


We bought several tens of thousands of semi-automatic FAL rifles caliber 7.62 with 20 bullets magazines and its corresponding ammunitions, among them, the anti-personal and anti-tank grenades for those weapons which were transported on board of customary merchant vessels, just as any other country would do.


But, what happened to those ingenuous purchases of “non-communist weapons” whose quality seemed excellent to us?


The first vessel arrived in Cuba under normal conditions, carrying tens of thousands of FAL rifles.


There was no illegal deal whatsoever; nor there were any pretext to launch a campaign against Cuba. 


That situation, however, did not last for long.  The second vessel arrived at an important dock in the capital.  Longshoremen and combatants of the Rebel Army were unloading the crates. Containers did not exist back then.  I was at the fourth or fifth floor of the Agrarian Reform Institute, a building which currently hosts the Ministry of the Revolutionary Armed Forces, located nearby the Revolution Square. That used to be my office when I was not moving around the city or the country.  The old Government Palace had been turned into a museum and the new one was not yet completed.  The date was March 4 of 1960.  A huge explosion shook the building.  Instinctively I looked towards the port, where I knew the French merchant vessel La Coubre was being unloaded.  A dense plume of smoke was rising up from that place, which was not too far if you could move down a straight line.  I immediately understood what had happened.


I imagined the victims.  I rushed down from the office. I was accompanied by a small security detail.  We all plunged into the cars and drove to the port through narrow streets and heavy traffic.  I was too close to the docks already when I heard a second explosion coming from the same place.  You may figure out the anxiety that the new explosion caused in all of us.  I imagined the harm caused to the workers and soldiers who would be assisting the victims of the first explosion.  With great difficulty I made the car to come close to the docks, where I could see the tragic but heroic behavior of those men.


Around 100 persons died.  There were many wounded requiring immediate assistance.


The day after, from the University, we carried the corpses down the broad 23rd Street until the same cemetery where one year, one month and 11 days after a Revolutionary ceremony would be held at the burial of the victims of the bombings perpetrated by Yankee airplanes bearing Cuban markings.


On March 5, for the first time and in an absolutely spontaneous way, during the burial of the workers and combatants who had been vilely assassinated, I exclaimed: ¡Patria o Muerte! (Homeland or Death!) It was not a mere phrase.  It was a profound conviction.


Many investigations were still to be done but, at that very moment, I had no doubt in my mind of the purpose of the aforementioned massacre. The merchant vessel had been sabotaged before it sailed from the European port.  The sabotage had been the work of experts.


I devoted all due attention to the required investigations.   I needed to know if those grenades that had come inside the crates where the explosions had taken place, could have burst by accident if one of them had slipped down to the floor or any of the like.  To rule out that possibility –which had been discarded by the experts who had previously studied the safe mechanisms of the grenades- I asked that some of the crates filled with grenades that came on the vessel be dropped from a height of one thousand meters.  I observed the tests and not a single grenade exploded.  All the moves that the vessel had made were thoroughly investigated and it became evident that he sabotage had been perpetrated by experts hands, as part of a plan approved by the US administration.


We had been taught a lesson about what was to be expected from the imperialism.  We did not hesitate to approach the Soviets, with whom we had no principled contradictions.


We were granted the necessary credits to purchase those weapons.  Since the USSR and other socialist countries such as the Socialist Republic of Czechoslovakia, the People’s Republic of China and the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea began to supply weapons to us until today, more than one thousand vessels have been carrying weapons and ammunitions to Cuba without ever having an explosion on board.


For decades, our own vessels carried most of the weaponry used by Cuba’s internationalist troops without the occurrence of any explosion.


The speech I delivered on April 16 of 1961 at the funeral of the victims of the treacherous bombings during the early hour of morning of the previous day, was addressed to the comrades of the Rebel Army, the National Revolutionary Militias and the people of Cuba.  Here I quote, word for word, some paragraphs and ideas, without which it would be impossible to assess the importance and fervor of the battle that was waged:


“This is the second time that we rally at this same corner.  The first time was on the occasion of the La Coubre explosion, which took the lives of almost one hundred workers and soldiers.”


“Since the early days of the Revolutionary Government, the first efforts made by the enemies of the Revolution were aimed at preventing our people from arming itself.”


“…since the first diplomatic steps failed, they resorted to sabotage […] to prevent those weapons from reaching our hands…”


“That brutal attack took the lives of numerous workers and soldiers, […] we had the right to think that those to blame for the sabotage were the ones interested in depriving us from those weapons…”


“…all of us, our entire people, were fully convinced that the hands that had perpetrated that barbaric and criminal action were the hands of the US government secret agents.”


“…many people in this country and even abroad found it too hard to believe that the US government could be capable of reaching such extremes; it was hard to believe that the leaders of one country were capable of resorting to such methods […] we had not been able to acquire the tough experience that we have been accumulating in these two and a half years.  We didn’t quite know our enemies yet; […] we did not know what the United States government’s Central Intelligence Agency was all about; we had not had the chance to become aware, day after day, of the criminal activities it perpetrated against our people and our Revolution.”


“…our country was already being a victim of the incursions of several pirate planes which dropped some pamphlets one day, and the day after burned our sugar fields, and then the next day tried to drop a bomb over one of our sugar mills.”


“…the bomb they intended to drop went off and the pirate plane and crew exploded; […] on that occasion, the United States government could not deny -as it had been doing so far- that those planes were taking off from its coasts; […] since we were able to seize the entire documentation intact […] the US could not deny the facts; […] they decided to apologize and offer an explanation.”


“However, those flights did not cease […] and on a certain occasion, one of those incursions took a high toll on the lives of our compatriots.  However, none of those actions had the characteristics of a military attack…”


“Never had there been any operation with the characteristics of a purely military operation.”


“…some weeks ago, a pirate boat made itself through the port of Santiago de Cuba, opened fire against the refinery located there, and at the same time, with its gunshots,  caused several victims among the soldiers and sailors who were detached at the entrance of the bay.”


“…such an operation, with that kind of boats, could not have been carried out if not for the boats provided for by the Americans and supplied by the Americans somewhere in the Caribbean.”


“…this continent surely knew about foreign troops landings.  It experienced it in Mexico, […] Nicaragua […, Haiti […] the Dominican Republic […] and all these peoples had the opportunity to know what the interventions of the US Marine Corps were all about.”


“…the one thing that none of the peoples in this continent had had the chance to know about was that systematic action of the secret services of the United States government […] the one thing that none of the peoples of this continent never knew about was the struggle against the Central Intelligence Agency […] which was determined, against all odds, and following the instructions of its government, […] to systematically destroy the fruit of the work of an entire people; to systematically destroy the economic resources, commercial centers, industries, and what is worst: the valuable lives of workers, peasants and of hardworking and honest citizens of this country.”


“But despite all that, none of the previous events had, as it was the case yesterday, the characteristics of a typically military aggression. It was not a flight of a pirate aircraft; it was not the incursion of a pirate vessel.  It was in fact a simultaneous attack against three different cities of the country, at the same time, in the early hours of morning.  It was an operation following the rules of all regular military operations.


“Three simultaneous military attacks at dawn, at the same time, in the city of Havana, in San Antonio de los Baños and Santiago de Cuba […] which were carried out with the use of B-26 bombers that dropped bombs of a high destructive power and rockets, and machine-gunned three different locations of the national territory. This was an operation with all the characteristics of a regular military operation.


“Besides, it was a surprise attack, similar to those attacks that are usually perpetrated by some vandalistic Nazi and fascist governments against nations […] The attacks launched by Hitler’s hordes against European populations were always like these: attacks without any previous notice; attacks without any declaration of war; treacherous and surprise attacks.  That was how Poland, Belgium, Norway, France, the Netherlands, Denmark, Yugoslavia and other European countries were invaded.”


I reminded them of what the Japanese militarists had done at the Pearl Harbour US base on December of 1941:


“…we do not intend to make any comparison” –I said- “because when the Japanese were fighting the Americans, that was a conflict between two imperialist countries, a dispute between two capitalist countries, between two exploiting governments; it was a conflict between two colonial governments, two governments whose intentions were to control the markets, the raw materials and the economy of a significant part of the world.”


“What makes us different from the United States is that the United States is a country that exploits other peoples; a country that has taken hold of a significant part of the world’s natural resources and forces tens of millions of workers from all over the world to work in the interest of its cast of millionaires.”


“With our Revolution, we are not only eradicating the exploitation of one nation by another nation; we are also eradicating the exploitation of men by men!”


“Politically speaking, the United States is a system of exploitation of several nations by one nation; a system of exploitation of men by other men.


“Therefore the dispute between Japan and the United States was a dispute between similar systems; the conflict between the United States and Cuba is a conflict between different principles.  That is, a conflict between those who are bereft of every human principle and those of us committed to defend human principles.”


“However, how useful have these events been to our own understanding! How useful have these events been in our discovery of this world’s realities! How useful have these events been in the education of our people! Those lessons are costly, painful and bloody but, how much peoples learn from those facts! How much our people have learned from them! How much they educate our people and how bigger our people have grown!”


“…no wonder right now we are one of the peoples who have learned the most in less time in the entire world.”


“How difficult it was to know what was going on in the world, when the only news that reached our country were the American news! How much deception did they instill in us and how many lies had we been victims of! If anyone has any doubt, if any person of good faith in this country –and I am not referring to the miserable ‘gusanera’ (the counterrevolutionaries); I am speaking about men ad women with honest ideas, even if they do not think the way we do-; if any of them had any doubt or believes that there is a bit of honor in the Yankee policy, or a bit of moral in the Yankee policy; if anyone believes there is an atom of dignity or honesty or justice left in the Yankee policy…”


“If there is anyone in this country, which has had the privilege of watching how an entire people have become a people of heroes, a people of proud and courageous men; if there is anyone in this country - whose merits, heroism and sacrifices grow by the day- still has any doubt; if those who do not think the same way we do believe they are raising or defending and honorable banner, a just banner, and because of that they are pro-Yankee and advocators of the US government; if there is anyone of those good faith people  left in our country, may these facts serve […] to dispel all of their doubts.


Yesterday at 6:00 a.m. sharp, as everyone knows, three groups of bombers penetrated the national territory from abroad and attacked three points of the national territory. At each of these points, there were men who defended themselves heroically. In each of these points, the courageous blood of the defenders was shed.  In each of these points there were thousands, if not hundreds and hundreds of witnesses of what had happened there.  Besides, it was something we expected to happen; everyday we had been expecting this to happen.  It was the logical climax to the burning of sugarcane fields, the hundreds of violations of our airspace, the incursions of pirate aircraft, and the pirate attacks against our refineries perpetrated by a boat that made it into our territory one day in the early hours of morning.  It was the consequence of everything that the world knows; it was the consequence of what everybody knows; it was the consequence of the aggressive plans that were being perpetrated by the United States with the complicity of puppet regimes in Central America; it was the consequence of the air bases that the people know about and the entire world knows about, because even the American news agencies and papers have published about them, and their own agencies and papers are tired of publishing information about the mercenary armies that they train, the airfields they have ready, the planes that  the US government has given to them, the Yankee advisors and the air bases established in Guatemalan soil.”


“Do you think that the world would ever get to know about an attack against Cuba? Do you think that the world would ever get to know what happened? Do you think or have you ever conceived that it could be possible to silence the echo of the criminal bombs and rockets that were dropped yesterday over our homeland? Do you think anybody in this world could have come across that idea; that someone could try to deceive the entire world, to hide the truth from the entire world, to defraud the entire world? Well, yesterday they not only perpetrated a cunning and criminal attack against our country, whose plans everybody knew. The y used Yankee planes, Yankee bombs, and Yankee weapons, as well as mercenaries paid by the Yankee Central Intelligence Agency. They not only did that; they not only destroyed some national property. They not only ended the lives of young people, many of whom had hardly reached the age of 20.  Besides, in addition to all that, yesterday the US government tried to deceive the world […] in the most cynical and shameless way one could ever imagine.”


“…what they told the world and what perhaps they have made tens of millions of human beings believe; what was published yesterday by thousands and thousands of papers; what was broadcast yesterday by thousands and thousands of radio and television stations about what had happened in Cuba; what the world, or much off the world, or a significant part of the world knew, through the Yankee news agencies.”


“ ‘Miami, April 15. UPI  - Defecting pilots fleeing Fidel Castro’s air force flew to Florida in World War II bombers Saturday after blasting Cuban military installations to avenge betrayal by a “coward” among them. One of the Cuban air force B26 bombers landed at Miami International Airport, riddled from anti-aircraft and small arms fire and only one of the two engines working. Another landed at the U.S. Naval Air Station at Key West. A third bomber landed in another “foreign country” […]. There were unconfirmed reports that the third plane crashed in the sea near Tortugas and the U.S. Navy was investigating the case anyway. The pilots, who asked to remain unidentified, alighted from their planes in military fatigues and immediately asked for asylum in the United States.’”


“… ‘District Immigration Director Edward Ahrens in Miami said their requests were under consideration. The mustachioed pilot who landed in Miami told immigration officials he and three other Cuban air force pilots had planned “for some months” to escape from Castro’s Cuba. He said it was because of the “treachery” of Galo that he and the others decided to “give him a lesson” with a strafing and bombing run over air base installations on their way to freedom. He said he struck at his own base - San Antonio de Los Baños - and the other pilots hit other bases.’  This pilot was eager to talk to the journalists, but he lowered his head and put on sunglasses when the photographers tried to take some pictures of him.


“‘He explained’ –listen very carefully, what a big lie and how much nonsense-, ‘that he and the other pilots had left their families in Cuba and that they feared Castro’s reprisals against their relatives’.  That is, they confirmed that they stole the planes, that they defected, and they don’t reveal their names so that no one knows the names of those who stole the planes and defected.  And they say they were pilots of the air force.”


“Cables from A.P.:


“‘Miami, April 15. A.P. – this is what they have told the world.

“Miami, April 15, A.P. - Three Cuban bomber pilots, fearful of being betrayed in their plans to escape from Fidel Castro's government, fled to the United States today after strafing and bombing the airports in Santiago and Havana.

"One of the two Second World War twin-engine bombers landed in Miami international airport, with one Lieutenant at the helm.  The pilot described how he and three others of the 12 B-26 pilots who remain in the Cuban Air Force had planned for months to escape from Cuba.

“‘The other plane with two men on board landed at the U.S. Naval Air Station at Key West. The names of the pilots were not revealed. Immigration authorities placed the Cubans in custody and seized the planes.’"

“‘…you may now realize how cynical they can be, […] and how shameless the leaders and officials of imperialism are; […] they even fabricate in great detail a horrifying legend that no one would believe’.  The pilot said – listen to the story they delivered to the press, to wrap the whole news with details, to complete the trick with every single detail; just listen to the story they invent-:

“’ I am one of the 12 B-26 pilots who remained in Castro’s Air Force after the defection of Díaz Lanz, ex chief of the Cuban Air Force, and the subsequent purges. Three of my comrades and me had been planning for months to escape from Castro’s Cuba.  The day before yesterday I heard that one of the three, Lieutenant Alvaro Galo –they even give a name, they used the name of one of the pilots of the Revolutionary Armed Forces; they include a name; see how cynical and shameful they can be!-, the day before yesterday I heard that one of the three, Lieutenant Alvaro Galo, who is a B-26 pilot, with FAR number 915 –it so happens that the pilot is precisely in Santiago; incidentally he has been assigned to Santiago-, had been talking to one of the agents of Ramiro Valdés, the chief of G-2.  I warned the other two, and then we concluded that probably Alvaro Galo, who had always behaved like a coward, had betrayed us. We then decided to take action immediately.  Yesterday morning I was posted to the routine patrol, flying from my base, San Antonio de los Baños, over one section of Pinar del Río and around the Isle of Pines. I advised my friends at Campo Libertad and they agreed that we should act.  One of them should fly to Santiago; the other made the excuse that he wanted to check his altimeter; they were going to take off from Campo Libertad at 6:00 –in Campo Libertad there were no B-26 planes; there were defective planes.  I was in the air by 6:05.  Due to Alvaro Galo’s betrayal, we had agreed to teach him a lesson.  So I flew back to San Antonio, where his plane was parked, and made two passes and fired two barrages against his plane and three others that were stationed nearby.  While leaving the area I was hit by handgun fire and then I engaged in an evasive action.  My comrades had taken off before to attack the airfields that we had agreed should be attacked.  Later on, since I was running out of fuel, I had to enter Miami because I could not reach the destination that we had already agreed.  Maybe they went to bomb other airfields before withdrawing, such as the Baracoa beach, where Fidel keeps his helicopter.’

“That is to say, this is what they have told the world.  Not only the UPI and the AP publish to the world the news about ‘Cuban airplanes’, ‘pilots who left with the planes and carried out bombings’, but they also distribute this cartoon story through the entire world.  And, what do you think has been read and heard by tens of millions of persons yesterday in the world, and published by thousands and thousands of different newspapers, radio and television stations? What do you think they have said in Europe, in many places in Latin America and many parts of the world?

“They have not only confirmed the news, but have made up a full story, in great details, including names, of how they planned everything.  No one in Hollywood ever reached such extremes.”

 "Mexico, D.F., April 15, AP. The bombing of Cuban bases by Cuban deserter planes was particularly welcomed here by the majority of newspapers, which joined with the Cuban exile groups to say that the bombing was the beginning of a movement for liberation from communism. The government remained silent while leftist and communist students groups supported the statements made by the Cuban ambassador José Antonio Portuondo, who said that the air bombings were cowardly and desperate attacks by the imperialists.   A great deal of activity was seen among the Cuban exiles. A Cuban source commented that the new Cuban government in exile would head to Cuba shortly after the first wave of the invasion against the Fidel Castro regime, to establish a provisional government that it hoped would be quickly recognized by many anti-Castro Latin American countries.’”  

“Both agencies published the following news:

“‘A statement issued by Dr. Miró Cardona –this was published by AP and UPI-: A heroic blow in favor of Cuban freedom was dealt this morning by a certain number of officers from the Cuban Air Force. Before flying their planes to freedom, these true revolutionaries tried to destroy as many of Castro's military planes as possible. The Revolutionary Council is proud to announce that their plans were carried out successfully, and that the Council has been in contact with them and has encouraged these brave pilots. Their action is another example of the desperation which patriots of all social strata can be dragged to under Castro's relentless tyranny. While Castro and his followers try to convince the world -listen carefully-; while Castro and his followers try to convince the world that Cuba has been threatened by an invasion from abroad, this blow in favor of liberty like others before it, was dealt by Cubans living in Cuba who decided to fight back against tyranny and oppression or die trying. For security reasons, no further details will be released."

“Miró Cardona was none other than the head of the provisional government that the United States had waiting, nearby a plane, with his bags all packed, ready to land in the Bay of Pigs as soon as a beachhead had been secured.”

“But this did not stop here.  Now we are going to finish unmasking that sham that the imperialism has there at the United Nations, who put on the face of an illustrious, liberal and leftist man, etcetera, etcetera: Mr. Adlai Stevenson […] And the deception keeps on; I mean, the deception to the world keeps on.  The UPI and AP have spread the story; thousands of newspapers and they themselves have published that the main newspapers had particularly welcomed the news about the defection of those pilots.

“The amount of lies was not enough yet.”

“ ‘The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Adlai Stevenson, rejected Roa's claims and reiterated the statement made by President John F. Kennedy that under no circumstances –I repeat-, under no circumstances
whatsoever, would there be a direct intervention by US military forces against Cuba.  Stevenson showed the Commission photographs from United Press International showing two airplanes that landed in Florida today after taking part in the raids against three Cuban cities.’”

 'They have the mark of Castro's Air Force on their tails –he said, pointing to one of them-; they have the star and the Cuban initials; these are clearly visible. I will exhibit this photograph with pleasure. Stevenson added that those two planes were piloted by officers of the Cuban Air Force and manned by deserters from the Castro regime. No U.S. personnel participated in the incident today, and the planes were not from the United States –he emphasized-; they were Castro's own planes that took off from his own airfields.'"

“’The Cuban minister said that ‘the incursions during the early morning hours today were no doubt the prelude to an attempted full scale invasion organized, supplied and financed by Washington.  The government of Cuba –said Roa- solemnly accuses the US government before this commission and the world’s public opinion of attempting to use the force to settle its differences with member States.’”

“Here we have the opportunity, as has been rarely the case for any other people, to know inside out, from the sides, from above and from below what imperialism is all about […] and the work of its financial, publicity, political and mercenary apparatus, its secret corps and its officials, who so quietly and in a very astonishing way deceive the world.”

“That is to say, they organize the attack, they prepare the attack, they train the mercenaries, equip them with planes and bombs, prepare the airports, everybody knows that; afterwards the attack takes place and then they simply make a declaration to the world –a world that they know would feel outraged in the face of such monstrous and cowardly violation […] about peoples’ rights and peace!

“And these miserable imperialists, after casting a pall over half a dozen households, after assassinating a group of youngsters, who were not millionaires; because those whom we’ve come here to bury were not parasite millionaires … they were not mercenaries who sold themselves for the gold of any foreign country; they were not thieves. They are true sons of our people! They were young workers, children from families of ordinary people who never stole anything from anyone, who never exploited anyone, and who had more right to live than the millionaires. They had more right to live than the parasites! […]. Because they did not live off the labor of others, like the Yankee millionaires. They did not live off foreign gold, like the mercenaries and counterrevolutionaries who have sold out to imperialism. They do not live off vice and robbery.  Their lives deserve respect, and no miserable imperialist millionaire has the right to send planes, bombs or rockets to destroy those young and beloved lives of the homeland!”


“…those who agree with such crime; those who agree with such atrocity, those who miserably sell themselves out and support the activities of those criminals, those who conspire against the homeland out in the streets, in the churches, in schools, wherever, deserve to be treated by the Revolution the way they deserve!”


“The imperialists plan de crime, organize the crime, furnish the criminals with weapons for the crime, train the criminals, pay the criminals, and then those criminals come here and murder the sons of seven honest workers, after which they calmly land in the US and although the whole world knows of their deeds, they just state that they were Cuban pilots, make up a ridiculous tale and broadcast it to the whole world an publish it in all newspapers, radio and television stations…”

“Is there any honest Cuban unable to understand that? Is there any honest Cuban having any doubt? […] Let them go there and see by themselves if there is a single hint of truth in what they have said; let them see by themselves how the imperialist reactionaries and a fake clergy are deceiving the world and the peoples; let them realize it is high time for the peoples to rid themselves from the exploitation, deception and fraud of the imperialists and all shams in this world; and break loose from those shackles, no matter the cost!”

“… I hope that the President of the United States has a modicum of decency; and if the President of the United States has a modicum of decency, the Revolutionary Government of Cuba challenges him before the entire world […] to present at the United Nations the pilots and the planes he said took off from our national territory!”

“…Cuba will demand that the planes and pilots who allegedly defected from its air force be brought before the United Nations…”

“…why don’t they do that? Obviously the President of the United States would have the right to avoid being called a liar. […] If the President of the United States doesn’t want that anyone could have the right to call him a liar, he should bring before the United Nations the two pilots…!”

“…if the President of the United States does not bring those pilots before the United Nations to prove […] that those pilots were here and defected from here, then not only the Cuban Revolutionary Government but the entire world will have the right to call him a liar!

“…The US imperialist government will have no other choice but to confess that the planes were its own, that the bombs were its own, that the bullets were its own, that it organized, trained and paid the mercenaries, that the bases were located in Guatemala and that it was from there that the planes took off to attack our territory; that those planes that were not shot down went there to seek refuge in the US coasts, where they have been given shelter.”

“…how can the US government uphold that lie?”

“…we are not living in the times of stagecoaches; we re living in the times of the radio, and the truths of one country can be conveyed to far away places.”

“…what the imperialists cannot forgive us for is that we are here. What the imperialists cannot forgive us for is the dignity, the integrity, the courage, the firmness of ideas, the spirit of sacrifice, and the revolutionary spirit of the people of Cuba.”

“…what they cannot forgive […] is that we have made a socialist Revolution …”

“And that we defend this socialist revolution with these guns! That we defend this socialist revolution with the same courage shown yesterday when our antiaircraft artillery riddled the aggressor’s planes with bullets!

“…we do not defend that Revolution with mercenaries; we defend that Revolution with the men and women of the people.”

“… Are those weapons in the hands of mercenaries? Are those weapons in the hands of millionaires? Because mercenaries and millionaires are one and the same thing. Are those weapons in the hands of the children of the rich? Are those weapons in the hands of the foremen? Who have those weapons? Whose hands are those that are raising these weapons? […] Are they the hands of the rich? Are they the hands of the exploiters? Whose hands are those that are raising these weapons? Aren’t they the hands of the workers? Aren’t they the hands of the peasants? Aren’t these the hands toughened by labor? Aren’t these creative hands? Aren’t these the humble hands of the people? And, who are the majority of the people?  The millionaires or the workers? The exploiters or the exploited? The privileged or the humble?”

“Comrade workers and peasants, this is the socialist and democratic Revolution of the humble, by the humble and for the humble.  And for this Revolution of the humble, by the humble and for the humble we are ready to give our lives.

“Workers and peasants, humble men and women of our country, do you swear to defend this Revolution of the humble, by the humble and for the humble until the last drop of blood?

“Comrade workers and peasants of the homeland: yesterday’s attack was the prelude to the mercenaries’ aggression. Yesterday’s attack, which cost seven heroic lives, was aimed at destroying our planes on the ground. But the mercenaries failed; they only destroyed three planes, and the bulk of the enemy planes were damaged or shot down.  Here, in front of the graves of our fallen comrades; beside the remains of the heroic youth, children of workers and children of humble families, let us reaffirm our determination that, just as they faced the bullets, just as they gave their lives, no matter when the mercenaries might come, all of us, proud of our Revolution, proud to defend this Revolution of the humble, by the humble and for the humble, shall not hesitate to confront whoever may come and defend it to the last drop of blood.”

The end of that speech was no doubt an inflamed harangue of revolutionary questions and answers.  At the end I shouted: “Long live the workers! Long live the peasants! Long live the humble! Long live the Socialist Revolution! Long live the martyrs of the homeland!” And I concluded my speech by shouting “Homeland or Death!”, which became a usual slogan since we buried those who had fallen more than one year before as a result of the explosion of La Coubre.

What nobody knew was that, as I spoke –it was almost dark- one of my bodyguards approached me and told me that the enemy was landing nearby the Cabañas harbor, to the West of Havana.

The landing was absolutely logical and expected, after the attack aimed at destroying our small air force early in the morning the day before.  Then I did what I had never done before after concluding a speech.  After shouting the traditional slogan ‘Homeland or Death!’ I continued speaking very briefly.  In fact I went on to give instructions to the combatants.

After the final applauses, I literally said: “Let us all go to combat…Let us sing the National Anthem, comrades” (all those present began to sing the National Anthem).

“Comrades, all units need to head towards the headquarters of their respective battalions, in view of the mobilization that has been ordered to maintain the country in a state of alert in the face of the imminent mercenary aggression that can be deduced from all the events of the last weeks and yesterday’s cowardly attack, the attack by the mercenaries. Let us march to the Militia Houses. Let us form up the battalions and prepare to go and confront the enemy, with the National Anthem on our lips, singing the lyrics of the patriotic anthem, and crying  “To the battle,” with the conviction that “to die for the homeland is to live” and that “to live in chains is to live plunged in ignominy and shame.”

“Let us march to our respective battalions and await for orders there, comrades.”

After the rally was over, I went to “Punto Uno”, the code name for the General Staff of the Armed Forces, to receive information about the situation.

There had not been any landing; there had been a mock landing organized by the US Navy.  The whole situation was analyzed and several instructions were given.

Afterwards, I left around twelve midnight.  Persuaded that the enemy was about to act, I decided to take a few hours sleep.

Roxana Rodríguez, who passed away a few days ago, the wife of the then director of the plan to develop the Zapata Swamp, Abraham Maciques, said she had called Celia to inform her that Lieutenant Antelo Fernández, chief of the military unit of Jagüey Grande, had told her about some landing through Playa Larga, and that heavy machinegun and cannon shooting were being heard in that location.

In a note sent by Celia to “Punto Uno” she affirmed that she established communication with the Australia sugar mill and was able to corroborate that Playa Girón and Playa Larga were under attack.

According to the note sent by the Command Post, it was 3:29 of April 17, 1961.

When I went over the words I myself said during the TV program ‘Universidad Popular’, that is, three days after the victory, I said I received the news at 03:15.  Celia really did not waste a single minute in the face of any situation.

Since that moment, some events occurred that were hard to believe.  I am writing a summary that could be the starting point for a thorough and objective investigation of the history of these events that someone with enough time, health and energy could recreate.


What matters is the essence, which should never be altered.  The details are especially significant for the most meticulous historians. In this case, my interest has to do with the desire that our youth could get to know about the events occurred in those decisive years, for them to know about the struggle in which their predecessors risked their lives for the Revolution and for the immense cultural wealth our youth have today, for it is now their turn to continue defending it.


“Homeland is humanity!”


As I explained at the ‘Universidad Popular’ TV program “…I was told, and the rest of the comrades are told, that there were combats in Playa Girón and Playa Larga, where the enemy had landed…”


“We asked for confirmation.  Under such circumstances, it is always advisable to be on the safe side, because afterwards we received information about some boats on such and such a location, that there were boats coming through a different place […].  The fact is that, with absolute certainty and after the first wounded in combat, the news came that an invasion force was producing heavy fire with bazookas, recoilless guns, 50 caliber machine guns and warship guns.  Playa Girón and Playa Larga, at the Zapata Swamp, were under attack.  There was no longer the slightest doubt that, in fact, there were troops landing through that area, and that the landing was being strongly supported by heavy weapons.”


“The microwave equipment in Playa Girón and Playa Larga were informing the results of the attack […] until the very moment when, as a result of the attack itself, they stopped working […] From three to four o’clock in the morning there were no more news about Playa Larga or Playa Girón.”


“The Zapata Peninsula has these characteristics: this portion of solid ground near the shore […] a rocky area and a scrubland area […] But, to the North of this solid ground area, there is a swampy area which is absolutely impassable.”


“Before there was no way of communication […] A narrow-gauge railway was the only way of communication that the peasants of that area had.”


“At the moment of the invasion there were two hundred teachers in the Zapata Swamp area teaching persons how to read and write.”


“It was one of the pilot areas of the Literacy Campaign.  All these towns –Jagüey Grande, Covadonga, Australia -, […] had no access to the sea; all of these were swampy grounds.  Now, all the persons who live there have a beach.  Playa Larga and Playa Girón are visited by thousands of persons on Sundays, even when the facilities there are not yet finished.”


“There are […] three hundred sons and daughters of peasants who live in the swamp that are currently taking courses on ceramics, tanning, mechanics and carpentry in Havana.”


“The Zapata Swamp had become one of the most popular and visited places.”


In July of 1976 I told the Swedish TV filmmaker Gaetano Pagano the following:


“They landed through an area where they could have held up for some time, because that was a place very difficult to recover.  The access roads ran several kilometers through impassable swampy areas.  It was a sort of Thermopylae Pass.


The Playa Larga coastline, the one that the mercenaries intended to occupy, is 29 kilometers far from a small sugar mill named ‘Australia’.  From Playa Larga to Playa Girón, down a road which is very close to the sea, there is a distance of 39 kilometers, so the total distance that separates ‘Australia’ from Playa Girón is 68 kilometers. Eleven kilometers to the North of Girón there is Cayo Ramona, which is not surrounded by sea.  That is a solid ground area surrounded by swamps.  Fourteen kilometers far from Girón there is San Blás; thirty kilometers far there is Covadonga; 36 kilometers northeast there is Horquita and 44 kilometers far there is Yaguaramas.


When I was at the Sierra Maestra I did not have any bodyguards nor did I need them.  I used to march along with the troops and when I moved from one place to the other I was accompanied by persons who helped me do different tasks.  Those responsible for the weapons, health services, supplies and transportation were focused on their respective tasks until the war ended. Celia took care of the logistics of the small group who accompanied me and the combatants of Column No. 1.


When the tyranny collapsed, I was on my way to the capital, with some troops from Column No. 1.  The tanks, artillery and two thousand soldiers of the elite troops that had been defeated during the Rebel Army offensive and counter-offensive, already described in the corresponding texts, joined us, for we healed the enemy soldiers wounded in combat and respected prisoners without any exception.  I took them with me because the situation in the capital was not yet very clear.  Camilo and Che received instructions to move on quickly down the Central Highway and occupy the Columbia military camp and La Cabaña respectively.  I then had, for the first time, a security detail made up by combatants selected by Raúl from the troops of the Second Oriental Front ‘Frank País’.


They were excellent, and accompanied me for more than two years.  Afterwards they went to accomplish other important tasks of the Revolution.


Security became a function under the Ministry of the Interior, who was directed by comrade Ramiro Valdés and his advisors.  Ramiro was one of the combatants who took part in the attack to the Moncada garrison; he came on board of the ‘Granma’ boat and was part of Che’s Column.  I never objected to any of the persons chosen.  They were, as a rule, youngsters from humble peasants and workers families of well-known leftist ideas.


In our country, as is known, there was an ideological chaos created by the Yankees whose rule was based on lies and ignorance rather than on the use of force.


The new members of my security detail received crush courses that helped them to better to do their task and, in general, they were courageous and determined, but had no combative experience at all.


That did not worry me much.  I cared, most of all, about the personal qualities of each of them.  Among other things, they should have a good domain of the weapons and of cars. We all had a lot to learn.


I will tell you what one of them literally said, and this is part of his own written testimony about what happened in the early morning hours of April 17 when we received the news about the mercenary landing:


“I was on duty guard on the corridor facing the staircase and I remember that around the small hours of morning an abnormal movement on that floor began.  Suddenly the Commander woke up and started to ask that telephone calls be made to different military chiefs.  While the calls got through, he paced up and down and said: ‘They already landed, and they did it at the place I expected.  But, it does not matter:  We will crush them!’ […] ‘Let’s go!’.  I thought to myself: Now we are all screwed up; the Americans are landing and this man has gone mad! We left immediately for Punto Uno.”


Bienvenido was really scared that day. 


Gathered at Punto Uno in the small hours of April 17 were Commander Sergio del Valle Jiménez, Chief of Staff; Captain Flavio Bravo Pardo; the chiefs of several defense sectors in Havana: Commander Filiberto Olivera Moya; Captain Emilio Aragonés Navarro; Captain Osmany Cienfuegos Gorriarán; Captain Rogelio Acevedo González; Captain Raúl Curbelo Morales, who would later on be appointed Chief of the Revolutionary Air Force; and Captain Sidroc  Ramos Palacios, among others.  I was already communicating with several chiefs.


I should point out that during the Girón battle, first quality stenographers worked in shifts at Punto Uno. With amazing accuracy, they took note of every conversation I had with the different Points and also of the conversations between the Central Command Post and any of the chiefs at the operation theatre. Here I include the transcriptions of many of those communications that illustrate the evolution of the battle with a minimum of explanations, which I elaborate only when it becomes indispensable.  If there is anything that is not clear enough, I may round up the idea.  Many a time I have deleted some rude words; I have only included them when they offer an idea of the fervor that we experienced.




03:30 hours.  Commander Sergio del Valle (Commander of the Rebel Army and Chief of Staff of the Revolutionary Armed Forces) instructs the Militia Leaders School in Matanzas to get ready to leave on a military operation, which even included the trucks.


03:35 hours. Commander in Chief Fidel Castro instructs Rebel Army Captain Osmany Cienfuegos Gorriarán to have all the battalions of his sector ready on the trucks to go on a military operation.


03:36 hours.  The mercenary landing at Playa Larga is confirmed. Militia Battalion 339 –which is at the Australia sugar mill- should leave for Playa Larga immediately.  The Militia Battalion of Matanzas should leave immediately for Jovellanos.”


Battalion 339 of Cienfuegos should have been stationed at Girón and Playa Larga, according to the instructions I personally gave well before the enemy landing.  In a testimony given many years ago, on March 17, 1986, 24 years later, Abraham Maciques, the director of the plan for the development of the Zapata Swamp Peninsula, affirmed: “One week before the landing, the Commander visited the area of Girón.  He walked around the seafront, the airport and the tourist resorts accompanied by Commander Guillermo García and other officers.  He said that if he were to organize a landing he would choose that area, because it had two way outs and other conditions.  He gave instructions to place several four-barreled machine guns at the airport and one 50 caliber machine gun on the water tank at Girón.  He sent one thousand Czech M-52 rifles for the militias.  He instructed Commander Juan Almeida to move Battalion 339 of Cienfuegos to that area.  Those instructions did not materialize because a few days later the invasion took place.”


Almeida sent the battalion.  Due to some sort of confusion, the battalion had one platoon in Playa Larga.  Should it had been deployed in Girón and Playa Larga, instead of being stationed at the Australia sugar mill, at a distance of 68 and 29 kilometers respectively, the consequences would have been nefarious for the invaders, who were already sailing to those places.


The instruction I gave at 03:36 in the small hours of morning that this unit should move during the evening to support the men who resisted in Playa Larga, was exactly what had to be done. Giving that instruction in open daylight, after the enemy paratroopers had already been dropped, would not have been the right thing to do. It was around 6:30 in the morning, that is to say, three hours later, when the enemy dropped the battalion of paratroopers who were supposed to occupy the ways of access through the swamp.  Obviously, the enemy B-26 planes, some of which were piloted by the Batista’s pilots who had launched so many bombs against us at the Sierra Maestra, provided air coverage for the paratroopers who were dropped over Pálpite, where the antiaircraft batteries that were supposed to participate in the counterattack could not arrive at that time.


This is an important observation necessary to understand the future course of events.


03:55 hours.  The Commander, Chief of the Revolutionary Air Forces, is instructed to set two Sea Fury and one B-26 ready with their full loads.  Julio. (Captain Flavio Bravo Pardo).


04:06 hours.  Fidel orders the Chief of the Revolutionary Air Forces to have the planes ready, organize two squadrons, two Sea Fury and one B-26.


04:45 hours.  Fidel orders Silva (Captain of the Rebel Army and fighter pilot Luis Alfonso Silva Tablada) of the San Antonio de los Baños air base, to accomplish a mission.  Two Sea Fury and two B-26; one jet fighter (a T-33 jet propulsion American plane) should be ready to take off and defend the base.  Silva should move with the other planes with rockets and gunshots, attack the beachhead in Playa Larga and Punta Perdiz […] To take off at 05:20 hours; to attack the ships first and then go back to Havana to report.  Jet fighter ready to defend the base, and also the antiaircraft batteries […] There are also some at Punta Perdiz (very close to Girón), but right now Playa Larga is most important.”


The San Antonio de los Baños air base is 149 kilometers and 600 meters far from Playa Larga; and 176 kilometers and 800 meters far from Playa Girón.  It was a matter of minutes.


“0:48 hours. To move another battalion to Matanzas; it is important to occupy all bridges in Havana and Matanzas, and leave four (battalions) as a reserve in Kukine.


05:10 hours. A telephone call from Commander in Chief to Silva,   at the San Antonio de los Baños air base, to ratify former order, which is the following:  It has been reassured that the enemy has taken Playa Girón, not Playa Larga, as had been reported. Numerous enemy troops are advancing.  The enemy is deployed at the entry of Bay of Pigs, to the East; there is a town built by us there (Girón).  There is also an airfield and landing strip.  Silva, imagine a horseshoe shape with its center pointing to the North and the two tips pointing to the South.  You should look at the right southernmost tip.  Girón is more or less there.  You have to see if there are planes at the airport.  If there are planes, shoot them.  Otherwise you should attack the ships if they are inside our jurisdictional waters.  First target: planes; Second target: boats.  See if there is any movement of trucks nearby Girón, any truck that you see between Girón and Playa Larga, 2 kilometers, going from Girón to Playa Larga.  Attack anything that moves along that area.  So the objectives are the following:


“First objective: to attack the airport with full force if there are planes there.


“Second objective: to attack the ships.


“Third objective: to see if there are any movement of trucks very close to Girón.  If there is, to attack the trucks and the troops.


“If you spot any maneuvers of ships and troops, attack the ships and then the troops.  You should turn southeast heading for Bay of Pigs.  The plane should take off at 05:20 hours.” (That is to say, before dawn).


05:45 hours. Commander del Valle made a telephone call to Commander Raúl Guerra Bermejo, Maro (chief of the Revolutionary Air Force, at the San Antonio air base, to inform that Minister Curbelo was sent there to discuss air operations.  Coordinations shall be made between you and him, since he is above you, understanding the differences between civilians and the military.”


“At 05:50 hours of April 17. Commander del Valle advised Olivera and Acevedo to mobilize all troops without using radio and have everything ready to receive orders. They were informed about the landing and its evolution.  By Lieutenant Crabb.


“Everything ready in Managua, awaiting Fidel’s orders.”


06:00 hours. Fidel calls San Antonio de los Baños to find out if they had been informed that there were three B-26 ready.  Get the B-26 and the jet fighters ready with rockets and bombs.  This should be done by the time when the others return.  There should always be one watching the base.  If they have communication with the planes, let them report to us as well. Within 25 minutes they are over the target.


06:30 hours.  Fidel calls the Revolutionary Air Forces to find out about the planes ready to attack.  He orders that the Revolutionary Air Forces chief should command the Sea Fury and a jet fighter to attack Playa Larga, and that a B-26 should follow after those that left before arrive.  Let them report at once and let them get ready and take off immediately.  To follow those orders immediately.


06:33 hours”.  The San Antonio Air Base is instructed that it should inform our planes that when flying over the Australia sugar mill they should say so beforehand, because there is the order to open fire.


06:34 hours.  Curbelo, from the Revolutionary Air Force, reports to Fidel that enemy planes are overflying the Isle of Pines prisons.  Our planes opened fire against the ships in Playa Larga.  Send one Sea Fury and one B-26 to attack the ships and Playa Larga.  Comrade Leyva will be the head of the squadron.  To go, drop the bombs and be back.”


“At 06:35 hours.  Order by Fidel: Two antitank batteries to ‘Aguada de Pasajeros’.  Those that left for Matanzas should continue to Aguada.  Two more antitank batteries to Matanzas.


06:40 hours.  Fidel orders that the jet fighter should be ready; there are planes heading in that direction.  Also ready should be the antiaircraft battery and the jet fighter.  Another plane should be ready to defend the air base.  The Sea Fury should take off and leave for the target; the jet fighter should be kept in the air or on the airstrip, ready to attack.  The antiaircraft artillery should be ready to reject the aggression together with the plane.”


“At 06:46.  Another squadron left for Girón.


“At 06:46.  Isle of Pines:  Four enemy planes attacked the Isle of Pines and we are fighting back.”


07:20 hours.  Silva reports to Fidel:  What did you do? You broke And, haven’t you shot the ship? Haven’t you attacked the ship? Did the Sea Fury shoot the ship? Did you sink it? What did you do over Girón? You shot a speed boat; but you did not sink it. You saw them swimming.  Go back again and shoot them; yes, yes.  And, what did you do to them? Go back to Playa Girón, attack the ship and sink it.  Shoot those at Girón; the others went to Playa Larga.  You go back to Playa Girón and sink all the ships there.


07:25 hours.  Commander del Valle requests to speak to Curbelo: Fidel asks if the Sea Fury planes are back.  Hey, tell me, yes, yes, yes, tell me, all right, let them watch those planes too, the others should attack Girón, we can not let those ships go away; very well, very well.”


08:08 hours.  To Pepín Álvarez Bravo. (José Álvarez Bravo, chief of the antiaircraft artillery) How many batteries do you have left? And in the warehouses? Mobilize the six batteries and leave one on duty guard that we are going to resist.  You shall be in command of the batteries.  No, you have to keep on moving them to support the artillery and the tanks.  The fight is with the artillery and tanks.  All right, Homeland or Death!


08:13 hours.  Who’s speaking? Call Almeida or Angelito. (Ángel Martínez, ex Lieutenant Colonel of the Spanish Republican Army and military advisor of Commander Almeida in the Central Army) Angelito? You should send some troops through Juraguá to Jovellanos.  Let him move towards Jovellanos, so that he could keep on along the coastline.  Very well! They? From where? But, how could they move on through? How? Have they advanced? Well, go out and fight those isolated paratroopers; they are doomed to die. The paratroopers dropped over Horquita are doomed to die! Use the militia troops you have to fight them.”


That was the first news I received about the dropping of enemy paratroopers.


“Almeida? Sent some troops through Jovellanos, so that they could fight on the coast.  Filiberto (Commander of the Rebel Army Filiberto Olivera Moya) is going to move on through Girón, and the battalion that you sent with Tomassevich (Commander of the Rebel Army Raúl Menéndez Tomassevich, Chief of Staff of the Center Army).  Then those people should move towards Girón from Juraguá. Let a company move on toward that area, and let them prevent the enemy from running away.”


08:20 hours.  To Del Valle (personally).  Order Pedrito Miret to mobilize at least twelve 122 millimeters cannons with some university students and head towards the Australia sugar mill to deploy them along the coast.


“We have to prepare the antiaircraft defense.  Two Sea Fury planes on the antiaircraft string to defend the airspace against the B-26.  Let them be ready for tomorrow.  Those planes arrive this afternoon; they should quickly offer protection to our forces.  Today we are going to sink ships, tomorrow we are going to shoot down planes.”


08:21 Che calls Fidel (from Pinar del Río): What’s up? What type of mortars, Che? What mortars? We are training those troops in Baracoa. Do you want me to send them to you? Well, I will speak to those people so that they sent them to you, and I am going to speak with Universo so that he sends you some troops from Pinar del Río.  OK. Where do I send them to? Well, you should try to get that there […] I will send it to Artemisa […] the best, but it is not easy to get some transportation now, because they are with the battery.  Fine.  People are fighting already. We shall overcome!


“At 08:22 hours.  To Universo Sánchez, that the antitank batteries troops from Pinar del Río and Toranzo (Captain of  the Rebel Army Mario Toranzo Ricardo) send 120 caliber mortars to Che.


08:23 hours.  To Universo Sánchez.  Che has six batteries of cannons but no staff.  I recommend that you send him there some of the best trained staff from Rinar del Río […] The cannons are there.  They know a lot already.  If they don’t know a lot at least they know something.”


08:26 hours.  To Curbelo – Revolutionary Air Forces […] we are going to shoot down planes, but today we are going to sink ships.  Sink ships! Sink ships, damn it, you have to sink many ships! What the fuck, shoot them!”


I kept on giving instructions at that same pace since 03:30 hours.


08:42 hours.  To Osmany (Personally).  To Kico (Captain of the Rebel Army Enrique González) let him send ammunitions and spare parts for tanks.


08:45 hours.  To Osmany (Personally) The order given to Curbelo was to destroy ships, destroy the ships!


08:46 hours. To Osmany.  Let us count.  One Filiberto, two Jovellanos, there are three, one in Matanzas, four.  How many we have left in Havana? (Osmany reports that there are thirty four battalions left).  I would send four more: one to Jagüey Grande.  Do you know why? Because we will use them in the morning, in the assault.  But it does not matter; let them arrive at  Jagüey at midnight; four light battalions; two light and two heavy.  Yes, because we are going to occupy the entire area.


08:47 hours.  To Aragonés. (Personally).  ‘Fatso’: at 6:00 in the morning all this will be clean.  I know down well all that area. At 6:00 in the morning everything will be clean.  We are going to attack in the evening, and with full force!


08:48 hours. To Raúl Castro (in Oriente).  So far I think you have been left out of the party, but you should be alert.  What? So have they have landed through the South.  I can not give you any details; I should not give any details.  But you should be alert at the Sierra and around all that area.  I think they have concentrated them here, you know? All right, good luck! Bye.


08:53 hours.  Commander Del Valle requests communication with Commander Curbelo.  Del Valle says that our mission is to concentrate  the attack on the ships in Playa Larga and Cayo (Playa) Girón.


08:58 hours. To Curbelo. Revolutionary Air Force.  Tell me. How is everything? Yes.  What happens? Yes. And, the pilot? Where did he go? Yes. And what about the enemy ships, what? Yes. You have not sunk any? Fine.  High morale!  Have you shot down any of their planes? Well, a Sea Fury, how many do we have left now? Tell me.  Well, we have to keep on fighting.  Have the jet fighters arrived in there already? Here, what? And the jet fighters? Have you shot them? Have they been shot? The ships have not withdrawn? You have to keep on shooting them with anything you got! Yes, we have to avenge the comrade that they shot down! We have to avenge him, comrade! Use the jet fighters to shoot down their B-26! Well, you will certainly receive bullets.  Bye, comrade.”


The brave Captain of the Rebel Army, Luis Alfonso Silva Tablada, a fighter pilot with whom I talked at 4:45 a.m., had been shot down.


At 09:09 I managed to communicate with the ‘Covadonga’ sugar mill.


“To the Covadonga sugar mill: ‘Tell me, yes.  Look, comrade, (Gonzalo Rodríguez Mantilla, Chele) tell that comrade he can not leave from that place.  Tell me. Fine, tell me one thing: Are there any troops at Aguada de Pasajeros? It does not matter; those are our planes that are bombing.  Our planes are bombing the enemy non-stop.  Well, look: do not withdraw; things are on the way there, comrade, but they have advanced, and this takes time.  They should have moved past Aguada.  Call Aguada de Pasajeros.  I will make a call so that the reinforcement troops are sent there.  Resist there with courage, comrades! Very well! Homeland or Death!’”


09:13 hours.  To Del Valle. (Personally). (Someone informs that Cedeño, from the Ministry of Transportation, has given the order of paralyzing the entire transportation). Tell him not, tell him not to follow that order while it is not necessary.”


09:20 hours. The Revolutionary Air Force reports to Commander Del Valle that two enemy B-26 are chasing one of our jet fighters.  Another jet fighter took off to help.


09:25 hours.  To Curbelo.  Revolutionary Air Force in San Antonio.  Listen, Curbelo, see if you can get one jet fighter to protect our troops over the central highway from Australia sugar mill to Soplillar.  Yes, can you get one jet fighter? Fine, when he comes down give him instructions and tell him to take off to protect our troops, at least for half an hour, between the Australia sugar mill and Soplillar, where there is one B-26 causing too much bother; one jet fighter to protect the advance of our troops, and see if it can be there within 25 minutes.  I will get in touch with Fernández.  As soon as it lands, see if it can give that support. No, between Australia and  Soplillar.  Fine.


09:28 hours.  To Fernández –Australia. Within thirty to forty minutes a jet fighter will be there to protect that road […].”


09:30 hours.  To Del Valle (personally) Give the order of quartering all patrol cars tonight, to go wherever it is needed to. (Del Valle asks if there should be one around here).  No, it is not necessary.”


09:31 hours. To Curbelo.  Revolutionary Air Force.  Curbelo: Could you offer that protection to them? In that direction? It is going to protect us, isn’t it? Yes.  Protect them between Australia and  Soplillar.  Fine, I will advise them there.  How long will it take to get there? Twenty minutes? Very well.  And the two that were chasing the Sea Fury.  Very well!”


Regarding the air protection, I went back on the same issue at 09:40 and at 09:42 hours.


09:50 hours. (Del Valle reports that pilot Carreras has sunk one ship and has damaged another that is sinking.  He shot down one B-26 that withdrew with one wing wrapped in flames. He returned to refuel and continue the attack on the semi-sunk ship).  Ask in Matanzas if the tanks have already moved past there.  The antiaircraft battery that should be in Matanzas should accompany the tanks to Jovellanos.”


10:00 hours.  To Curbelo. Revoltuionary Air Forces.  Curbelo: Fernández has not reported to me.  You have to explain the pilot very well that the road is the one that goes from the Australia sugar mill to Playa Larga, the central highway from Australia to Playa Larga, which is where the jet fighters should offer protection, but they don’t have to go as far as Playa Larga, only to Pálpite.  When one of them is back, then the other must take off.  You should explain that to them very well: air protection to that.  Yes, more or less, for our troops that will be moving on through that area.  From Australia to Playa Larga.  Until Cayo Ramona? What? Yes.  Fine.  To keep the road under protection.  That is important. And keep on attacking the ships.  And always remain alert, because tomorrow they will try to strike there.  Keep the road under protection for as long as it is necessary.  I will let you know.  Fine, very well.


13:02 hours.  From Fidel Castro to Commander Raúl Castro in Oriente:


“Listen, Miró Cardona insists that there has been a landing through Oriente.  Yes, listen, it does matter.  In case anything happens, you have to use a lot of antitank, in case some tanks come.  All antitanks should be ready, so that they can arrive quickly.  We don’t know; when we capture the first we will let you know.  One paratrooper dead. Don’t hurry; do not worry.  Listen to me, Raúl; a lot of antiaircraft at the airport…We will ask again, but they must be arriving at any time.  One more thing: if anything happens tomorrow there, we can send you already, probably, the aviation.  The aviation has been perfect (…) I can not specify, but there is nothing to be worried about.  What? Yes, because they insist a lot, but they launched their paratroopers and all here; they made an effort to take hold of this area.  I think it was here, through Zapata, where they made their main effort.  I can not be specific, but they launched a lot of paratroopers; I think they launched all they had. You should be very alert there.  Raúl: a lot of tanks and a lot of antiaircraft.  Give support to the people with the antiaircraft.  Afterwards they will send you some, but use a lot of antiaircraft. I will find out about the 400, when they left and from where.  Where? I don’t know, but I will find out.  A lot of antiaircraft, and protect the people, because they come with planes.  Fine.”


I give more that 50 orders and adopt several measures at “Punto Uno” before leaving for the theatre of operations.


Testimony by José Ramón Fernández:


“It was approximately 02:40 in the early hours of morning of April 17.  I had no news about the invasion, I mean, about the mercenary landing, and he was the one who told me that a landing was taking place through the Zapata Swamp.”


“He ordered me to live in no time for Matanzas and lead the students of the Militia Leaders School –of which I was also a chief- to fight the invasion.”


“’Take a car and leave at full speed’”.


“I took a while in leaving, because I was looking for some maps of the region –I had been at the Swamp only once with the Commander; I had never gone through that region, neither before nor after.  I had only been there for a day on our way from Escambray –and the warehouse where the maps were kept was closed. […] Around half an hour later the Commander called again:  But, are you still there? Haven’t you left yet?’  Well, I don’t remember if we knocked down one door.  I got the map and left immediately for Matanzas to wake up the school.  He would give the order to mobilize the school.  And, sure enough, when I got there, the School was already up.


“I hardly had entered the facility –the current headquarters of the Central Army Command- when the officer at the sentry box told me: ‘The Commander is calling you’.  I went there, I talked to him again and he reiterated that I should move to Jagüey Grande.  He asked what route I intended to take.  I didn’t quite know the roads and when I looked at the map I realized how I could reach Jagüey.”


“I left with the intention of going through Colón.  I finally went through Perico-Agramonte.  Upon arriving to Jovellanos, on the road, there was the Captain of the Rebel Army José A. Borot García and another two or three comrades.  They signaled me to stop, and almost miraculously I stopped.  Then I told them: ‘Please, I beg you not to interrupt me.  I am packed and I am in a hurry’ […] Then they told me: ‘No, no, the fact is that the Commander is calling you’.  The military garrison of Jovellanos was right there, at the town’s entry.  I went there, climbed up the stairs and got in touch with the Commander again. He told me to go to the administrative building of the Australia sugar mill –where there was a phone that was a  hotline with  Punto Uno-.  He told me to go there straight, and as soon as I got there I should communicate with him.  I arrived in Jagüey at past seven in the morning.”


“Then I had taken more than two hours to go from Matanzas down the central highway, which was the best road that existed at that time.”


“…at around 08:00 hours the manager of the sugar mill arrived.  I went there and asked:


“- Where is the telephone here?


“Indeed, when I picked up the phone I talked to the Commander again, who ordered me not to stay far from the phone and clarify well what the situation was like, and that I should look for information about what was going on.


“This was the first call I received from the Commander at the Australia sugar mill.  Then, in the course of the day, I could not tell how many more I received.  There were many.”


“People started to gather […] More than 100 or 200 men gathered there, asking for weapons to go and fight.”


Upon receiving the information about the landing, the chief of Battalion 339, the Captain of the Rebel Army Ramón Cordero, who was at his unit, close to the Australia sugar mill, sent some troops of his first and second companies to confront the enemy in the area between Pálpite and Playa Larga at their disadvantage: the adversary was better armed, better organized, much better trained and deployed in a position favorable for the defense.  During that fierce battle against the aggressors, several militias were killed and that part of the battalion troops was virtually dispersed.  Shortly afterwards, before dawn, the rest of the units of Battalion 339 also moved on.  This time the troops were under the direct command of their battalion chief, and they fought under quite unfavorable conditions.”


He told me to take Pálpite with my people.  I was looking at the map and told him:  Commander, there’s no such thing as Pálpite on the map.  That was the beginning of a long discussion:  “I can not find it.  There’s no Pálpite on this map.’ ‘Well then, look for Pálpite; it must be there.’


Then, it so happened that there was a mistake on the map.  It read ‘Párrite’ –the military maps of the 1950’s are still around.  Instead of Pálpite it read Párrite, and I continued looking in the map.  Then I told him: ‘Look, I see a place here called Párrite, located between such and such a point and such and such a point’.  He responded: ‘That’s the one; it is not Párrite, but Pálpite.  Go and take Pálpite.’


“Fidel called me again and told me that there was a battalion coming.  That was Battalion 219-223 of the area of Colón, under the command of Captain Roberto Benítez Lores.


“These were people from battalions that were not completely conformed or well organized as yet.  But those men had a high morale, although none of them had practiced shooting and only carried M-52 rifles with 20 rounds each. I gave them the mission to try to occupy the little town of Pálpite.”


In this case there must have been some sort of confusion in Fernández memories.  He made that recount on April 17, 1968, that is to say, 27 years after the events.  Neither in the more than one hundred notes taken by the stenographers who recorded my calls and orders nor in any of the notes I drafted that day had I ever mentioned that Battalion from Colón.  The first unit I ordered to move that day was a troop made up by officers of Column No. 1 of the Sierra Maestra under the command of Harold Ferrier, with 600 men equipped with FAL rifles, accompanied by a company of tanks and its chief, López Cuba, who attacked Playa Larga that evening.  I personally gave those instructions to that force in Pálpite.


The Militia Leaders School of Matanzas, with its chief, José Ramón Fernández, was sent to fight the invasion, precisely because it was one of the best trained units and its proximity to the area chosen by the enemy for the landing.


The testimony of José Ramón Fernández continues:


“An attack launched by the enemy air force caused six deadly casualties and forced it to retreat.  (He is referring to the Battalion that arrived from Colón).  I ordered them to advance again and secure the road, specially the sewage.”


“Afterwards, Battalion 227 from Unión de Reyes, under the command of the Captain of the Rebel Army Orlando Pérez Díaz, arrived in Australia.  I gave him the mission of attacking Pálpite, where he arrived after the members of the Militia Leaders School go there, because he moved by walking and the School staff moved in vehicles.”


That was another unit made up by brave combatants as those from Colón, who advanced to the Australia sugar mill without me or the Central Command Post knowing it.  That was an irrefutable proof of the patriotism of our people. Except for the Militia Leaders School of Matanzas, all other infantry, tanks, antiaircraft and land artillery units were sent from Havana.  The capital of the country concentrated the most numerous and experienced forces to combat an assault Brigade that had been well trained and equipped by the United States, with the support of naval and air means.  I consider these are important data because they help us to better understand the circumstances in which that historical battle was waged.


Fernández’ recount continues:


“Around 09:00 in the morning the Battalion of the Militia Leaders School arrived.  I did not let them come off the truck.  I climbed on the roof of one of the trucks, right there.  They approached me and I spoke to them.  I told them to take Pálpite, and then send a company and take Soplillar, which was around 6 or 7 kilometers to the East of Pálpite.  The company would block the air strip there and secure the area.”


“When the message arrived that Pálpite had been taken, I called the Commander and he asked me:


“-Did you take Pálpite? Is your people in Pálpite? Are you sure?


“- Sure, Commander.


“- We already won!”, Fernández said I exclaimed and, although this was not recorded in the stenographic notes of my communications, such conclusion was not impossible, because the beachhead to the other side of the swamp, 25 kilometers from the Australia sugar mill, was within our reach.  I had said it once before: “we already won the war”, when there were very few of the combatants who came on board of the ‘Granma’ left, and I saw the impressive wooded mountain of Pico Caracas, at a height of 1 200 meters, the theatre of operations we were looking for.  But in Girón, the fact is that on that day and at that time everything was yet to be done.


And Fernández concludes his recount by affirming as follows:


“That is why Fidel, one month later, during the speech he made at the graduation ceremony of the Militias School, when referring to the deadly casualties among the members of the school that was turned into a combat battalion, he expressed: ‘…the members of this unit did not graduate as militia leaders; they graduated as eternal heroes of our homeland’.”


Testimony by Raúl Curbelo Morales:


“I think that my case is like the case of many other comrades.  Despite the fact that I had no knowledge about the air forces, I took up that responsibility.  In crucial moments, Fidel, out of his own instinct and his understanding of the war, wanted to have someone in San Antonio who could understand the orders that he gave.  I was lucky I am from Cienfuegos.  Before the triumph of the Revolution I had been on a horse ride around Yaguaramas, and I knew all that area until Girón.  That was a tremendous luck, because if the landing comes through Mariel or Bahía Honda, regions which I did not know, I would have found it difficult to command military actions.  Fidel knew the roads and the whole area where the landing took place, because the Revolution had built the roads, the embankments…he knew all that area by heart, and whenever he talked to me about one spot I could answer him back.  When he instructed me that the air force should act on any specific point he indicated, I accomplished the order.


“Fidel called me many times to the command post of the airbase of San Antonio.  I stationed myself at the control tower, and I received the orders there.


“Commander Raúl Guerra Bermejo, Maro, was the chief of the Air Force; he was Commander and I was Captain.”


“I remember I told Maro: ‘I do not know about the conditions of the land here; nor I know how to handle the preparations of the planes for combat, so you take care of the land, that I will go up to the control tower, to direct operations from up there, with the pilots, according to the instructions I receive from the Commander in Chief.’


“Then Maro, with tremendous enthusiasm, courage and determination, without any reservation, played a very important role there together with all the rearguard staff.  Maro had very good relations with me.”


“There is one factor that was decisive, which shows the art the Commander in Chief had to conduct military operations.”


“My version was to attack the troops on the ground.  Fidel responded: ‘No, we have to attack the ships, the ships!’


At that moment I did not quite understand him.  I managed to understand him later on, when I concluded my military studies.  When fighting a sea landing, the first thing is to put out of action the naval means that are carrying out the landing.  He did that as if he had studied at any of the great military academies.  He did it out of its own intuition, because Fidel’s war at the Sierra Maestra had nothing to do with ships or any action of that sort.  Perhaps his readings about the First and the Second World Wars, the great military campaigns of the Romans and other military theoreticians provided him with that historical knowledge about the big battles.


“He reiterated to me:  ‘We must sink those ships’.  That was when I told him:  ‘Look, Commander, incidentally I have Carreras close to me.  If you wish I pass over the phone to him.’


“He responded:  ‘Tell him to pick up the phone!’ It was then when he asked Carreras: ‘Sink those ships! Attack the ships, Carreras!’ That was the moment when he asked Carreras that.  Shortly afterwards, Carreras took off on board of his plane and later on we received the news that he had shot the rockets first against the Houston and afterwards against the Río Escondido.”


These were the sincere words by Raúl Curbelo. Given the heroism and the beauty of the narration of the feat worked by this pilot, I should include in this Reflection what General Enrique Carrera Rolas told to the ‘Letras Cubanas’ publishing house in 1979, and explain how important it was to preserve the few fighter planes that we had.


Testimony by General Enrique Carrera Rolas:


“The Commander in Chief visited us very often at the San Antonio air base.  He talked to the technicians and the pilots.


“In those conversations he told us:  ‘Look, those dilapidated planes that you fly, should be scattered.  You should not have them parked altogether.  Thus, in case there is an air strike, the enemy will destroy the aircraft that have already been discharged.  Place them at a certain distance one from the other to confuse the enemy and preserve our planes.  I am sure that they will attack us. Make your moves before they come’.  And so it happened.


“I was on duty guard in my plane when I was told that the Commander in Chief wanted to speak to me.


“Carreras, there has been an enemy landing in Playa Girón.  Take off and get there at dawn.  Sink the ships that are carrying the troops and don’t let them go away.’


“At five in the morning we received the order to take off.  When I was told that there had been a landing I thought it was about some yacht or another bigger ship that was dropping soldiers along the coast. I could not imagine, not even in my dreams, that I would have to cope with the situation that awaited me over Bay of Pigs and Playa Girón.  We only had three planes ready to take off:  two Sea Fury and one poorly armed B-26. I went up first as the chief of the squadron. I was followed by Bourzac (Gustavo Bourzac Millar) and Silva (Luis Silva Tablada) who had played a dirty trick on Lagas (Jacques Lagas, a Chilean pilot).  Twenty minutes later we were flying over the target.  What I saw from a height of 6 000 feet when I had my first look, made me believe I was dreaming or that it was some kind of Second World War documentary or film. I thought that what I was looking at was some poor imitation of a small scale Normandy landing.  Nearby the shore, at Playa Girón, there were at least seven or eight big ships and an indefinite number of barges and speedboats in the middle of a hectic activity.  I saw that a huge transport vessel was sailing inside Bay of Pigs, followed by a frigate, which is like the second most important naval unit after the destroyer.


“I took a decision on my own, in a matter of seconds. I chose the first prey:  the vessel that was heading for Playa Larga.  I gave encoded instructions through the radio to my comrades and I was the first to launch the attack.  From a height of 5 thousand to 7 thousand feet we dive-bombed the Houston, a ‘Liberty’ type transport vessel eight thousand tones in weight, filled with troops and materiel. That was our target.  At a height of 1 500 feet I took careful aim and launched my four rockets load.  Something weird was moving inside me.  I felt like I was wrapped up by a mist.  I only had the experience of sporadic air shooting drills and I did not know what a war was all about.


“We had already been sighted by the enemy and the antiaircraft fire against us was a real madness.  Dozens of batteries –machine guns and cannons- were spewing their bullets upwards.  It was an impressive scene.  The space was all lighted up by tracer shells and the explosion of the missiles.


“I can assure you that what we rehearsed was a ‘kamikaze’ action, as the one performed by the Japanese suicidal pilots.


“I activated the mechanism to shoot the rockets and followed with my eyes the direction they took.  I must confess that I was all surprised to see them hit the target on the stern of the Houston. A smoke began to sprout from the vessel and I saw that its master, in an urgent maneuver, was moving it to run it aground on the shore.  Bourzac and Silva also shot their rockets against the Houston and managed to remarkably hit the target.  The escorting frigate realized that the ship had been destroyed, because it was taking in water.  It started to zigzag and turned around to reach the entry to the Bay and join the flotilla facing Playa Girón.


“I made two more passes over the target and shot all the rounds of my machine gun.  Afterwards I returned to the base.


“When I got off the cockpit, I was all excited.  To a certain point I had found that everything had been so easy –just pressing some buttons and see how the structure of a ship crumbled as if it were made of paper- that I wanted to tell everybody what had happened.  Curbelo called me to the Operations Room and I reported to him.  Afterwards I was told that they could hardly understand what I said at the beginning, because I started to mix up all the routes and jumbled up all the explanations, until I calmed down a little and I was able to put together a decent part of  conversation.


“Commander Castro was already pleased.  We had dedicated the first ship to him.


“I do not know how long they took to get my plane ready again with fuel and ammunitions.  The mechanics and the weapons staff moved like flying.  They did everything in one third of the usual time I guess; and I took off again, this time carrying eight rockets five inches each. I headed for Playa Girón.  From the sky I could see the Houston, ran aground near Playa Larga, as a big fish that had been fatally wounded.  Right in front of Playa Girón I sighted a ship that was even bigger than the Houston.  It was the ‘Río Escondido’ which, as I knew later, was one of the vessels that carried more troops and equipment for the mercenaries.  On board of it, there was the radio plant with which those bastards intended to harangue the people of Cuba once they could install it on land.  Besides, it also carried spare parts and fuel for their planes –they had planned to secure an air base on the air strip of Playa Girón and operate their air force from there-, as well as a lot of ammunition.  The Río Escondido was approximately three miles to the South.


“The rockets of my Sea Fury came out looking for the huge ship as if they were smoking lightning flashes.  Touché! The rockets hit the ship right in the middle. I take more time in telling this than what the Río Escondido took to burst like a firecracker, wrapped up in flames.


“When I was enjoying the show, which was still new to me, I saw that a B-26 was approaching me.  I thought it was Silva’s plane, but soon I realized that we had no B-26s flying at that moment.  The trick was almost perfect.  The only distinct feature I noticed on that plane was some blue stripes on the wings.  Aside from that, it had the same colors, the Cuban flag and the markings of the Revolutionary Air Forces, just exactly as our planes.  I made a turn, taking advantage of the speed of my ‘Furious’, which was higher than that of the enemy bomber, and I managed to place myself behind its tail.  It was a perfect ‘twelve o’clock’. (Pilots used that language to define the position of the adversaries in the air).


“Despite my advantageous position, the B-26 managed to open fire first with the machine gun on its tail.  I answered back with a long burst of my 50 caliber gun and hit one of its engines.  I saw it was losing height, spewing smoke, heading towards the warships sailing below, as if it were looking for protection.  Finally it plunged into the sea, nearby one of the vessels.


“I don’t know if it was because of the B-26 shots or the rounds shot by the ships’ antiaircraft batteries, but I realized that my engine had been hit.  The Sea Fury was faulty.  Despite that, I made several passes over the ships until I ran out of ammunitions.  Afterwards I headed for the base. During landing, the plane did not respond well.  As soon as the mechanics approached, they explained to me what had happened.  Two shots had damaged one of the cylinders; that was quite a serious mishap.


“But all of us who were there knew that it was far more dangerous to fly any of those planes than confronting the enemy in a fire exchange.


“Much to my regret I had to submit to a compulsory recess.  The repair took time and I would not be able to fly again on that day.


“But I was very happy: I had added two big ships and one enemy plane to my credit.


“I thought that Fidel Castro must have felt pleased.  Carreras had not failed to him.”


On a single day, and only in the ‘Houston’, the pilots placed an entire battalion of mercenaries hors de combat; they were not able to fight.  The pilots caused numerous casualties among the invaders at the ‘Río Escondido’.  The entire fleet was put to flight.  I guess that we had around half the number of fighter planes the enemy had.


Raúl Curbelo explains it further:


“Carreras attacked the planes.  He first damaged the Houston and forced it to run aground.  He returned to the base and went back to Bay of Pigs.  He attacked Río Escondido and sank it.  That was the main ship because it carried fuel and a huge amount of ammunitions, which was very important to meet the goals pursued by the mercenaries.


“I think that was the key moment.  There were other moments after that which made it possible to defeat the enemy  in seventy two hours, because one ship had been sunk and the other was placed hors de combat with an entire battalion inside; the barges that were in the process of landing were all destroyed.  There were other ships.  One of them, ‘El Atlántico’ saw that one of the ships had been sunk and the other had been damaged, so it moved farther from the ground because it was at a distance of approximately three miles from the shore.”


Testimony by Harold Ferrer Martínez:


“When the airports were attacked at around 02:00 hours, the Commander in Chief called me to Cojímar and asked me  some questions about the men, the weapons and the transportation means I had there.  He told us to be ready to leave, because probably we would have to go into action.  He gave no further details.


“On April 17, Celia called me to Cojímar to give me the news about the landing through Girón and the Commander ordered me to be ready to leave in the morning.  He ordered me to leave for Matanzas and wait there.


“I had gone out to get some transportation. 


“In 1959, the Commander in Chief gathered a group of officers of the Rebel Army and asked us who were willing to go to Minas de Frío to accomplish a mission.  The Rebel Army officers Leopoldo Cintra Frías (Polo), the Sotomayor brothers, the Pardo brothers, Captain Gaspar Camejo,  Hugo del Río, among others, were all part of that group.


“The idea was to rely on comrades who were ready to command thousands of Rebel Army soldiers, give them some training and have them climb the Turquino Peak eleven times.  The objective was to prepare new columns to reject any foreign aggression.


“That was how this column was created, which he himself named  after Jose Martí.  He was personally in charge of providing it with the first transportation means and weapons that arrived from the Soviet Union and define the missions each soldier should have.  Two columns were created: the artillery column was commanded by Polo and the infantry column was under my command. I went to ‘Base Granma’, where we received some training.  Then we spent some days at the Managua Camp and afterwards we moved to Cojímar.


“There were four infantry companies, one mortar batteries company, one machine gun company and the fire launchers that were at INRA who subordinated to us (they were around 600 men). This force was not organized as a battalion, but as a column.  It was not as numerous as a battalion.”


“We entrenched ourselves in Casablanca and afterwards we were deployed in Cojímar, which was my permanent location.”


“At the time of the invasion, he told us to be ready to leave and wait in Matanzas.  Once we reached that city he ordered us to wait at the military garrison of Jovellanos, where we arrived to in the afternoon.


“There he gave us the mission to move to Laguna del Tesoro, and from there we should attack together with the tanks and the support of the artillery the positions of the mercenaries who controlled the highway from Pálpite to Playa Larga.”


“Fidel gave us details about the characteristics of that swampy area, difficult to access through a single road with swamps and vegetation on both sides.  He warned us it was a difficult mission, but it would be a historical mission because we had to expel the enemy from their positions.


“Column No. 1 was made up by around 600 men. Under its command there were two bazooka and fire launchers companies that we had at the INRA.


“While I received Fidel’s orders, I ordered one of the chiefs to deploy the Column nearby the central highway, but there was some confusion, and part of the artillery continued to Colón.  I tried to advise them to return, but I had no other choice than to inform the Commander what had happened.  He told me he would be in charge of locating the rest of the troop and send it to the theatre of operations.”


In the afternoon I was already at the theatre of operations and I sent a handwritten order to Captain Fernández:




“I have decided to send the other twelve howitzers and support them with two multiple machine guns batteries and also an antiaircraft canon battery because I think it is extremely important to open an infernal barrage.  Try to shoot as many howitzers as you can in barriers.


Fidel, Australia sugar mill.  April 17, 1961.


7 p.m.


Testimony by José R. Fernández Álvarez:


“While Fidel was there –and he stayed up to the night, or until late in the afternoon, because in the evening he left for Pálpite- the antiaircraft artillery arrived. Artillery batteries as well as tanks arrived.  Fidel had followed the strategy of moving these forces, which are easily identifiable from the air, and had no good antiaircraft defense, such as the artillery and the tanks, to Jovellanos and concentrate them there.  During the evening he would move them to the combat zones.  But afterwards, some of those units moved during the day, although, as a general rule, the strategy was to move them during the night.  The truth is that, at dusk, Fidel authorized us to move to Pálpite and organize the attack on Playa Larga.  We had the protection of the antiaircraft artillery.  We moved five tanks, four 122 mm howitzers batteries; two or three 85 mm cannons batteries and a 120mm mortars battery.”


Testimony of bodyguard Bienvenido Pérez Salazar (Chicho):


“He stayed for some time there in the Australia sugar mill, and then he left Augusto Martínez as chief of operations. (The second chief was medical doctor Commander Oscar Fernández Mell, chief of Military Health Care).  All of a sudden the cars left for the swamp, and I go back to look for Santiago Castro, but he did not appear.  He had overslept beside the car.  He was lying on the grass.  I had never seen a war or anything like it and I was a little bit excited with all that, but Santiago was so calmed as if there was no war. Then, when I approached Santiago Castro, Augusto Martínez came to me and told me: ‘You can not go; you have to stay here with me, because I stayed here as a chief.  And then I asked him: ‘Tell me, did you discuss that with the Commander? He said, ‘Yes, yes, you have to stay here with me’.  He was alone and he was rather trying to find a comrade to support him.


“I am staying, but I am still worried that the Commander is around the combat zone.  I was planning the way to leave Augusto anyway, not because it was Augusto, because I felt a profound respect towards him.  But the thing was that I was part of Fidel’s security detail, I was not Augusto’s bodyguard.  Then it becomes necessary to send Fidel a message informing him that there was another landing taking place through Bahía Honda.  Augusto was looking for a guide to take the message there.  It was already dark.  Then I told Augusto: “I am the guide; I know how to walk down this road day or night, because the Commander comes very often around that area.  I know that road perfectly well”.  I told him I could move down that road even with my eyes closed.  He did not want to give me the message, until he realized that I was the best suited person to do that.


“Santiago Castro and I left for La Boca.  There were vehicles all along the road, and it was a whole drama to reach the place, because we were traveling with our lights off.  We arrived at the place where the Commander was in a meeting with other comrades, explaining to them the strategy, the plans to move on, and I handed over the message to him.


 “That was the moment when he handed over to Flavio –I think it was him- all those documents, all the maps, in order to go back, to return to Havana.  But he decided to keep on and we went into Pálpite.  He was there, analyzed the situation, returned to the Australia sugar mill and from there to Havana.”


Testimony of bodyguard Santiago Castro Mesa:


“I stayed to take care of the car.  I lied on the grass and fell asleep. They came out all of a sudden and Chicho could not find me.


We had spent four nights without sleeping, without even closing our eyes.


“On the evening of April 17, we went up to La Boca de la Laguna del Tesoro and continued to Pálpite.  The road to Girón was under construction.  Almost all of it was covered with gravel. A layer of asphalt had been applied to it but, since it was inside the swamp, the pavement had subsided.  The right side of the road was occupied by the tanks, the artillery and the vehicles with the infantry.  Only half of the road was available and we had to drive in the dark with the support of the comrades of the Rebel Army and the militias who were alongside the road.


“When we were about to reach La Boca, an enemy plane was sighted at a certain distance, and that area became a fireworks party.  There were thousands of tracer bullets that came out from all batteries.  The Commander picked up ‘Gallego’ Fernández at La Boca and continued driving until the last battery position in Pálpite, but when we realized that our artillery was shooting right behind us, the Commander decided to go back.”


Before leaving for Havana he sent a message to Fernández:




“I am taking care of the cannon ammunition.  The other tanks will arrive at Australia by dawn.  During the day we will decide which will be the best moment to move them.


“Augusto will stay at Australia. In a while I will have to leave for Havana.  I will be all the time in touch with you.  Keep on sending me news about the evolution of operations.


“Keep on!


“(F) Fidel Castro

Australia, April 18, 61

3 am


“P.S. I have not received any news yet since the little paper you sent me informing that the enemy was decreasing its fire power.”


I told once the historian Quintín Pino Machado about my return to Havana in the early hours of morning that day.  Pino Machado wrote in his book: “‘I knew the area perfectly well –because I had explored it, because I like nature, because of my guerrilla spirit (…) I knew where trucks and tanks could get through.  I knew a path down the left that ended up two kilometers to the West of Playa Larga.  Then I was waiting for the tanks to launch an attack in the dark, in the small hours of morning, around 2 or 3 in the morning, down those empty roads, and I was going to come out at the rear of Playa Larga (…) I was organizing the attack….and, at that moment –it must have been one or one thirty in the morning, I can not specify- I am informed that an attack is taking place through the West of Havana. An attack through the West of Havana? Sure? The report was conveyed to me by a messenger who was driving a car. I had no radio communication from there.  Then I asked for corroboration.  I was told it had been corroborated.  They said: our troops have already made contact with the enemy.  I said: how strange; how strange.  Because everything indicated that this is the main attack; maybe they had some reserve troops in Miami and they have sent them to the West of Havana, through Pinar del Río, through Bahía Honda…Then we said:  well, the main battle is going to be waged in Havana.  And I left the place.  I gave the mission of launching the attack that I was organizing to the person who was at the Command Post –not to Fernández- (…).  I left for Havana and arrived there at dawn…


“ ‘ And, when I arrived (…) I had no communication from my car(…) We had to drive a long way, more that three hours (…).  When I arrived at Havana at dawn it was corroborated that there had been no landing.  And then, the comrade I had left in charge of the mission did not know the places and the attack with the tanks through the rear of Playa Larga was not launched, and the enemy withdrew and concentrated in Girón.  Had that operation been carried out, we would have split the enemy forces (…) We would have crushed the invasion, I guess, in thirty hours.


“ ‘Some years later we knew that the confusion arose from a diversionist maneuver of the CIA, for which it used upgraded and very modern electronic equipment, capable of simulating a battle.  Using different means of transportation, rubber dinghies among them, they placed the equipment close to the shore and with some contrasting light effects and the corresponding characteristic sounds, they managed to give the impression that there was a true combat.  In the evening of April 16 some movements of ships were spotted to the West of Havana.


“The success of the maneuver consisted in extending the combats based on a fortuitous event because, out of mere chance, the only officer present who knew the area was the Commander in Chief of the Cuban Armed Forces. Ninety per cent of the defense forces in Havana remained intact and ready to combat, so it was not necessary to transfer any troops from the swamp to the capital.”


From Australia and by means of Augusto Martínez Sánchez, Captain Fernández reports that the offensive towards Playa Larga had been stopped and that he had an indefinite number of dead and wounded.  I answered to him, using the same channel:


4:40 a.m.


“From Augusto to Fernández:


“Fidel received your message and tells me to give you the following instructions:


“1. Position all the antiaircraft to protect our people.


“2. The tanks should keep on their attacks.  Position the batteries again (122 mm howitzers).


“3. Do not fail to position a single antiaircraft.


“4. He recommends you to send a troop, either from Battalion 180 or from Battalion 144, for you to move towards Soplillar and go out through Caleta del Rosario and block the road to them.  Thus, the enemy will be split into two.


“5. If necessary, he can send you the ten tanks that are about to arrive from Jovellanos.


“6. You can divide those ten tanks into two groups: one by the road and the other one by Buenaventura.


“7. If necessary, move the tanks during the day.  I could send you a heavy antiaircraft protection.


“8. Finally, Fidel says that it is necessary to take Playa Larga without any excuses.”


Testimony by José R. Fernández Álvarez:


“…Fidel’s idea was to split the enemy forces, and do that with Battalion 111, separating the units located to the North of San Blas from those that were at Girón; and Battalion 144 would isolate the enemy forces deployed at Playa Larga from those located at Girón.  With that, the enemy would be divided into three groups, separated one from each other.  Thus they could be defeated faster.


“I am convinced that if we had managed to do that, we would have taken Girón on the 18.  Unfortunately this was not done either by Battalion 111 or Battalion 144, and that upset Fidel.  The guide of the battalion I sent disappeared.”


“The truth is that the operation did not go out well.  The enemy deployed at Playa Larga managed to escape.  They, together with the main force, put up a strong defense and resistance at Playa Girón.”


To be continued.



Fidel Castro Ruz

April 14, 2011

10:31 p.m.