A failed invasion and a call to duty
You know there are advantages to growing old.
One is the memory of events that took place that changed our world. The recent death of one evil man by the name of Fidel Castro jarred this old guy's memory of events long gone.
Events that greatly affected our country and sadly turned our island neighbor Cuba into a real hell hole.
Somehow the current accounts of our liberal mainstream media don't square with what really happened.
In my youth, Cuba was known as party town. It was a tourist mecca with all sorts of party-going Americans and noted entertainers heading to Havana to enjoy the freewheeling nightlife in the multitude of clubs.
We imported sugar by the ton, ignoring the harsh conditions that ill- paid sugar cane workers endured to produce it. Fulgencio Batista, a dictator from 1952 to 1959, former president but, addicted to power, increasingly formed lucrative ties to the American Mafia to control the drug, gambling and prostitution businesses in Havana. Yes, Frankie Sinatra and his buddies were involved. As usual, the majority of the population silently suffered in poverty.
Enter a revolution started in the rugged hills of the island led by guerilla Fidel Castro, and his brother Raul, advised by Marxist-leaning Che Guevara, who served as a military advisor to Castro and led guerrilla troops in battles against Batista forces.
When Castro took power in 1959, Guevara took charge of La Cabaņa Fortress prison. It is estimated that between 156 and 550 people were executed on Guevara's extra-judicial orders during this time. Guevara was convinced that a Marxist revolution throughout Latin America would free the common people to a better life, but fortunately, he was captured by the Bolivian army and killed in 1967.
Eisenhower was president at the time, and I'm sure closely watched events in Cuba. It was hands-off for the United States, for, after all, one corrupt dictator had been deposed and another, hopefully with better tendencies, had taken his place. Then Castro revealed his Marxist leanings by taking over American-owned land and industries. The economy being nationalized.
Cubans fleeing to the U.S. by the thousands, eventually 1.5 million of them, leaving everything behind to be confiscated by Castro. Endless tales of executions, torture, long prison sentences. It was probably time to take action.
Enter Jake Shier. In yea about 1966, I was assigned to a KC-135 Squadron in Oklahoma. Jake was one of our evaluator pilots in the tank. Jake told of sitting on a Miami Airport ramp in a B-26, the Douglas variety. Good twin-engine bomber loaded with bombs and strafing guns fully armed.
Jake was in civilian flight clothes a supposedly "galvanized" pilot for the CIA. The April 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion was in progress. Jake and his fellow Cuban repatriate pilots and crews were to provide air cover for of the invasion force in a coordinated attack. Disastrously, the air assets were held on the ground and forced to inaction by newly installed President Kennedy, Democrat. The brave souls, volunteers one and all, who were the invading forces at the Bay of Pigs failed in battle due to lack of air cover. A belated rescue attempt only saved a few and the fate of those captured by Castro's forces is lost by time. Prison, torture, execution one can only imagine.
In typical liberal fashion President Kennedy "explained" that the ill-fated mission wasn't his fault that he had inherited it from his predecessor. Eisenhower's response, "Check my history. I never committed to an invasion landing without air cover!"
Then it wasn't long before a U-2 (the pilot could have been Jerry McLemoyle from McCook) flying surveillance over Cuba found Russian missile pads being constructed to base nuclear-tipped missiles just 90 miles from our shore. President Kennedy then found his backbone and the Cuban Missile crisis kicked off. October 1962.
SAC went on full alert. Every available bomber was loaded with nuclear weapons. B-52s circled the Soviet Union on airborne alert. The B-52s, flying 24-hour-long missions, were supported by KC-135 tankers flying from who knows where. The shorter-range TAC fighter-bombers loaded with weapons pulled alert in Florida and along the East Coast. The United States was hair-trigger ready.
I was dispatched to Sondrestrom Air Base, Greenland to stand alert with my KC-97 unit to provide air refueling to bombers targeted in the USSR if the thing kicked off. No replacements in the plan, we were told to stay as long as we might be needed. The US Navy encircled the island of Cuba with an impenetrable blockade.
I have personally felt guilty over all these years for leaving my wife and two very young children living on Otis AFB, Cape Cod. Almost certainly in the center of a target for soviet nuclear weapons had things turned out differently.
Military exigencies but that is the life I had chosen.
Soviet dictator (sorry President) Nikita Khrushchev finally blinked. The USSR ships carrying the Russian missiles bound for Cuba were turned around and the crisis deescalated. Leaked but never officially admitted by the Kennedy administration that part of the Faustian deal with Khrushchev was the United States would be hands off Castro for as long as he lived.
And so it has been that the United States kept its bargain in settling the Cuban Crisis. The Cuban people paid a terrible price, but Castro survived in luxury all these years, cruel dictator for life. Finally, natural causes got him just last week. May he rot in hell.
It could have been different. The Bay of Pigs invasion with airpower could have succeeded and Castro replaced long ago.
All for the lack of courage by a new president the Cuban people have suffered long under a cruel failed Marxist socialism regime.
That is how I saw it.