Forgotten Combatants / Miguel Iturria Savón

They are beginning to fade, the echoes of the insane propaganda about the challenge among the exiles who landed at the Bay of Pigs, April 17, 1961, and the policemen and militiamen who counterattacked in the name of the Revolutionary government, unaware that Castro’s interwoven dictatorship backed by the Soviet Union, whose tanks and machine guns influenced the defeat of Brigade 2506, which marks a before and after in the ruin of the nation.

Neither the bulky official bibliography nor the few testimonies of the defeated shake the boredom of most Cubans, hence the need to revisit the issue from the perspective of the losers, those heroes who demonized like the Mambises of the nineteenth century and the enemies of Machado or Batista, looking for help from the U.S. authorities to defeat Castro, who in the days previous executed dozens of opponents and imprisoned thousands of potential conspirators.

Brigade 2506 was the armed wing of the exile groups, led then by José Miró Cardona, former Prime Minister the Government of Cuba in 1959. It included 1,500 men trained in camps in Central America, Puerto Rico, Louisiana and Florida.

The small army controlled the road to San Blas and moved many miles in three days of unequal combat, as Castro mobilized more than 40,000 well-armed troops. The mission was to establish a “beachhead” 40 miles wide on the eastern shore of Bay of Pigs, from Playa Larga in the north to the Playa Girón in central and Caleta Verde to the south. If they managed that strip of land they would institute a provisional government there, which would request international assistance.

The lack of ammunition and other supplies before the regime’s aerial counteroffensive and the intervention the artillery and Soviet tanks, marked the denouement in favor of the dictatorship. The brigade lost 69 men in combat, 10 were shot, 9 were suffocated while being moved to Havana, 10 died on the boat back and 1,174 were captured and tried in April 1962. The Castro government reported 1,250 dead and 3,000 injured.

Despite being sentenced to death in a public and televised trial, the sentence was changed to 30 years of forced labor or the payment of compensation amounting to almost 53 million dollars at a rate of 500,000 for Jose Perez San Roman, Chief of Brigade 2506 and each of its two commanders, and from 50 thousand to 20 thousand for each fighter. With the exception of 9 who remained behind bars until 1986, the rest were released in December 1962 when the Committee of Families created in exile deposited the ransom in the accounts of government, raised by private donations.

The Bay of Pigs action is the most significant event in the civil war that broke out in Cuba during the establishment of totalitarianism, whose dictatorship we still suffer. Guerrilla warfare in the mountains of Escambray, the Oriente and Pinar del Rio, plus the missile crisis in October 1962, are events of the the same national conflict that involved third parties in favor of the Democrats or the Communists.

Two decades later, the propaganda machine continued to demonize those defeated fighters, while exalting the handful of leaders who were victorious, as if they were not responsible for the island’s socio-economic disaster.

Among the expeditionaries of that spring who confronted the dictatorship that flourished in our nation, beyond these days from Florida, are the names of Ernelio Oliva, second commander, Captain Luis Morse, Eduardo Zayas Bazán, Mario Martínez Malo, Santiago Jont, Esteban Bovo, Julio González Rebull, John E. Pou, Arturo Cobo, Cesar Eli, John Clark and others who deserve the honor of the nation when freedom is no longer a dream.

April 26 2011