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No US air cover for Cubans at the Bay of Pigs

Commentary: Strategy and Politics

No US air cover for Cubans at the Bay of Pigs

This week marks the 50th anniversary of a US-planned invasion of Cuba
that ended disastrously when Cuban volunteers ran out of ammunition
against thousands of Castroite troops. Kennedy decided not to
provide the promised jets.
Friday, April 15, 2011
By Humberto Fontova

"Where are the planes?" kept crackling over U.S. Navy radios 50 years
ago. The U.S. Naval armada (22 ships including the Carrier Essex loaded
with deadly Skyhawk jets) was sitting 16 miles off the Cuban coast near
an inlet known as Bahia de Cochinos (Bay of Pigs.) The question—bellowed
between blasts from a Soviet artillery and tank barrage landing around
him–came from commander, Pepe San Roman, who led an amphibious force of
1500 Cuban -fighters.

"Send planes or we can't last!" San Roman kept pleading to the very
fleet that escorted his men to the beachhead (and sat much closer to
them than the Sixth Fleet sits to the Libyan coast today). Meanwhile the
barrage intensified, the Soviet T-34 and Stalin tanks closed in, and San
Roman's casualties pile up.

"If things get rough," the heartsick CIA man Grayston Lynch, a
multi-decorated WWII and Korea vet, radioed back, "we can come in and
evacuate you."

"We will NOT be evacuated!" Pepe roared back to his friend Lynch. "We
came here to fight! We don't want evacuation! We want more ammo! We want
PLANES! This ends here!" Lynch kept sending the requests Washington-ward
with all of San Roman's urgency.

Along with the Bay of Pigs freedom fighters, Castro faced 179 bands of
"bandits" (Che Guevara's term for the tens of thousands of Cubans
fighting his dutiful Stalinization of Cuba that year, a rebel force
probably greater than Gadaffi faces today — and with goals much
clearer). But San Roman's and Lynch's urgency to Washington was futile.

Camelot's criminal idiocy finally brought Adm. Arleigh Burke of the
Joints Chief of Staff, who was receiving the battlefield pleas, to the
brink of mutiny. Years before, Adm. Burke sailed thousands of miles to
smash his nation's enemies at the Battle of Leyte Gulf. Now he was Chief
of Naval Operations and stood aghast as new enemies were being given a
sanctuary 90 miles away! The fighting admiral was livid. They say his
face was beet red and his facial veins popping as he faced down his
commander-in-chief that fateful night of April 18, 1961. "Mr. President,
TWO planes from the Essex!" (the U.S. Carrier just offshore from the
beachhead), "that's all those Cuban boys need, Mr. President. Let me
order…!"

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JFK was in white tails and a bow tie that evening, having just emerged
from an elegant social gathering. "Burke," he replied. "We can't get
involved in this."

"WE put those Cuban boys there, Mr. President!" The fighting admiral
exploded. "By God, we ARE involved!" While the Knights of Camelot mulled
over their image problems, the men on the beachhead had problems of
their own…

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