They were gifted in so many ways – with vision, strength, courage, tenacity,…and yet there was a vast reservoir of pure evil in both – just under the surface.
I was in high school – maybe a freshman, – when I first learned of the Cuban Revolutionaries fighting for Freedom in the Sierra Maestra Mountains if Eastern Cuba. The piece on the old black & white TV portrayed them as good guys….
Many years later I would learn that they were being supplied by the CIA – one of many early attempts by our government to overthrow unfriendly or uncooperative governments, – this one led by the dictator Fulgencio Batista.
I was still a junior when Castro’s revolution succeeded (New Year’s Day 1960), and Batista fled Cuba to the Dominican Republic. Americans then rejoiced – believing that democracy had just triumphed over a military dictator.
So why were Cuba’s best and brightest fleeing to Florida?
As my senior year started, Castro was welcomed to the UN in NY City – where he spoke for nearly 5 hour straight – and made a new friend – Russia’s Nikita Khrushchev.
Castro was proving to be a totally self-absorbed narcissist [much like Obama today] who never understood that Khrushchev’s only interest in Cuba was it’s geographic location, – and ~ maybe ~ it’s sugar crop. What a great place for air, naval, and missile bases!
Looking back, America’s response was saddening. We elected a handsome phony ‘war hero’ to follow the legendary Dwight Eisenhower into the White House.
We would pay a terrible price for electing a smooth-talking novice – and for ignoring the crook he’d picked to ensure southern Democrats would go along.
Kennedy’s first blunder was the Bahía de Cochinos (Bay of Pigs) which he authorized upon taking office. Planning had begun under Eisenhower, – but Kennedy got cold feet as the operation kicked off in April 1961, and cancelled US air support. Cut off and meeting Russian tanks, the surviving invaders surrendered in 2 days. Kennedy was humiliated.
Emboldened, Castro agreed with Khrushchev to allow Russian ICBMs to be secretly based in Cuba. These missiles SS-4s and R-14s, could easily reach Washington DC. But they were discovered going in by American U-2 photo-recon flights in October 1962….and we nearly went to war!
And there I was – a young paratrooper in the 101st Airborne at Fort Campbell, – suddenly rigging my jeep for heavy drop and loading it into a C-119. There must have been over 100 troop carriers parked at Campbell Army Airfield, as C-124 were flying in honeycomb cardboard from Seattle….to rig more loads….
And within a day veterans – some discharged for years – began showing up….their unit was not about to go to war without them! Nobody said no, – no officers turned them away,…they just grabbed a chute and took their place….and we waited,…and waited….
….and frankly we all breathed a big sigh of relief when the Russian freighter turned back….none of us really wanted to go shoot Cubans….or Russians. It was still too soon after WWII…..and our buddies in the Berlin Brigade were surrounded.
Plus even at 18, I understood that any Cubans or Russians we’d have to shoot after jumping into Cuba would just be peasants caught in the middle…..
All these years later I remain impressed – maybe a little awed – at how quickly reserve and guard units got to Campbell, and at how single-mindedly the troops worked to be ready if the word came. The anti-war protests that marked the Vietnam War were six years away – and by then Johnson the Crook would be President…..
The Cuban Missile Crisis did reinforce for military planners what Korea had shown us, – that our defenses could not rest soley upon our Nuclear Triad. Whether 90 miles from Florida, – or half-way around the world, – protecting US interests and stopping communists would take boots on the ground.
Kennedy would authorize the expansion of Special Forces, and the creation of the experimental 11th Airmobile Division (which would become the famed 1st Cav in Vietnam).
Castro managed to out-fox 10 American presidents, – always a thorn in our side, – and always keeping the Cuban people in his brand of communist bondage.
His trademark tools were torture and the firing squad.
He feared the reckless and mecurial Che Guevara, – so he dispatched him “…to help liberate people…” in Africa and South America,…knowing full well Che’s reckless personality would eventually overpower his common sense. He was correct.
Now we are watching our “News Media” obliterate the evil past of the Castro Brothers, – of Che, – and of their Communist Revolution.
They fail to mention that the ONLY Americans who flee to Cuba are wanted criminals…..
If you have kids and grand-kids, – this is the time to tell them the truth, – so when they see someone wearing a Che Guevara T-shirt – they can explain to that fool why it’s evil.
And we can only hope a true Cuban Patriot puts a bullet through little Brother Raul Castro’s head,…soonly!