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Sergio Arcacha Smith and Three BOP Vets - May, 1961
Subject: Arcacha Smith and Three BOP Vets- May, 1961
Date: 25 Jul 2000 00:00:00 GMT
New Orleans Times-Picayune May 30, 1961 S1-P11
Air Help Key, Invaders Say
Trio Also Cite Lack of Cuban Rising
Lack of adequate air support and the failure of the Cuban people to support the invaders were the principal causes of the Cuban invasion failure in April, three members of the invasion force said in New Orleans Monday [29th].
The men identified themselves as Carlos Fernandez, Juan Castellano, and Enrique Castillo but said these were assumed names because they did not want to endanger the lives of relatives still in Cuba. All three said their homes are in Havana.
They are making their headquarters now in Miami, they said, and are in New Orleans for a few days of rest. They plan to return to Miami some time this week.
All three were members of a 34-man crew aboard an escort ship, the Barbara J., which sailed into Cochinos Harbor in the early hours of April 17. The ship, equipped with weapons and other supplies, was supporting the larger vessel, the Houston, which carried 450 men to land on the island during the invasion.
"The purpose of our ship was to protect these men as they landed," Fernandez said. "But we didn't have much time; we were attacked almost immediately by planes."
He said that only 175 men on the Houston reached land and that the Houston itself was bombed and sunk during the attack.
Although Fernandez said "things were happening so fast" that he was unable to keep up with all the events, he was nevertheless able to identify the types of planes which participated in the attack -- B-26's and T-33 jets.
He said that it was obvious that the jet pilots were not Cubans - "we have no jet fliers trained there."
"These pilots were definitely foreigners," he said. "They flew too well to be Cubans."
Fernandez served as spokesman for the Cubans since the other two men spoke only a few words of English.
He said that one of his ship's orders was to investigate reports that a Russian submarine base was located in the harbor where the ships entered.
"We never had time to find out," he said, "but we saw definite signs that something was there -- lights on the surface of the water, lights which certainly were not supposed to be there."
The group said they didn't see any MiG fighters during the attack but Fernandez said he had been told by "very responsible Cuban army officers" that many MiG's did attack the invasionary forces.
The escort Ship Barbara J. was damaged by a bomb during the attack but managed to escape with all crew members. It returned to "some place near Central America," Fernandez said. He declined to elaborate on where the ship departed or where it returned. He said the men were trained "at sea."
All three men said the invasion failure had served to increase the prestige of the invaders and the support they are receiving daily.
Commented Sergio Arcacha Smith, officer in charge of the Cuban Revolutionary Front office in New Orleans, who was with the three Cubans when they were interviewed: "After all, this was only a battle lost. This does not mean the war is lost.
"We shall continue to train men and gather equipment and supplies until we have overthrown Castro," Smith declared.
In discussing cause for the failure, Smith said the Cuban people failed to rise up to support the invaders "because Castro would not let our broadcasts reach them. Many of them did not know the exact time of the invasion."
Fernandez added that the invading forces had been informed that most of Castro's air power had been destroyed during the bombings made before the invasion.
"As we found out, this unfortunately was not true at all," he said.
Fernandez, 39, who spent 54 days in s Cuban prison for "counter- revolutionary activities," says he feels the invaders have learned much from the failure and that "when we go again, we will be better prepared with more air power and more fighting ships."
All three men expressed approval of a plan being pushed by private citizens in the United States to send Castro 500 tractors in exchange for the 1200 prisoners captured during the invasion.
Commented Fernandez: "I approve of this plan because I would like to see these men back with us. They are good fellows, and I know they did their best."
Asked if he felt the invaders felt any resentment toward United States officials for what has been termed "poor advice" on the timing of the invasion, Fernandez said "absolutely not" and added:
"This was certainly a mistake on some person's part, but after all, we're only human and can all make mistakes. What we must want to do now is profit from this and other mistakes, ready our forces and try again.
"We are sure we will succeed next time," he added.
[end of article]
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