“My heart is with you but I cannot do anything else”.

CI 153-D

TO: THOMAS J. KELLY, Metropolitan Sheriff

FROM: LT. FRANK KAPPEL, Supervisor Criminal Intelligence

SUBJECT: CUBAN COUNTER – REVOLUTIONARY ACTIVITIES – Additional Information

On April 26, 1961, Agent A. L. TARABOCHIA was contacted by a very reliable informant who revealed that he had just returned from the abortive invasion in Bahia de Cochinos on April 17, 1961.

The informant stated that he had taken part in the invasion as coxswain of a landing craft attached to the transport, “Atlantico”.

In preparation to the landing, the informant and his group were transferred from the training camp of Trax, Guatemala to Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua.

The group was commanded by ENRIQUE TOMEO who was assisted by an American instructor known as DOC. The group, comprising eight men and eight boats, remained in training for approximately 30 days.

Puerto Cabezas is located on the Eastern coast of Nicaragua and has no communications with the interior except by air and telephone. It is the opinion of the informant that although the location was ideal as a secret embarkation point, it lost its secret value when the troop transports waited at anchor in the bay for three days after loading the troops. The informant added that while all the means of communications were controlled by the government, nothing could prevent a Communist from leaving on foot and contacting a foreign embassy in Managua revealing thus the impending invasion.

The informant revealed also that the training camps in Guatemala were not shrouded in the secrecy that was alleged to surround them because there were Guatemalan civilians working as laborers by day and returning to their homes at night. Opposition by Guatemalan communists and Castro sympathizers was strong and culminated with the ambush of a truck enroute from Trax to Rethaluleu. The truck with a few recruits was blown up by dynamite as it rounded a curve on the mountain road.

The training at the camps was conducted by American instructors of the highest caliber. According to the informant, the performance of the instructors as individuals and their professional preparation were instrumental in forming a lasting bond between the troops in training and their instructors. This accounted for the high morale of the troops who, even after the abortive invasion, declared themselves ready to return to action as soon as possible.

At this point, it should be pointed out that even after capture, the majority of the invading troops showed their fighting spirit whenever the opportunity arose. It is a matter of record that on April 26, 1961 during a televised interrogation of the captives, FIDEL CASTRO was forced to warn the spectators that applause was forbidden during the interviews. This measure was adopted after the prisoners, herded into the Havana Sports Palace, gave a prolonged applause to a captured invader being interviewed before TV cameras by FIDEL CASTRO. The prisoner contradicted some of the dictator’s statements about the motives that had prompted the captives to join the invading forces.

The informant revealed that the 81 mm mortar instructor could hit a 55 gallon drum used as target with the second salvo. In most cases, the instructors accompanied the troops as far as feasible and in some cases, as with the frogmen, they actually led their men to their objectives.

According to the informant, there were several miscalculations which led to the unsuccessful conclusion of the invasion.

First, there was the unjustified delay of departure from Puerto Cabezas and the sudden vacating of the camps. Both operations could have been carried out in a more secretive way by transferring men and equipment piece meal to a rendezvous point and staging area in some uninhabited island of the Caribbean. The seasoned troops in the camps could have been replaced with recruits in order to avoid immediate knowledge of a sudden departure.

The informant added that the complete convoy came in full view of Guano Island in the late afternoon of April 16, 1961. Guano Island is used by the Cuban Government as a weather station and has a radio station in operation.

Since approximately nine hours elapsed from the time the convoy came in view of Guano Island and the time the landing began, there is good reason to believe that the weather station on the Island reported the strength and direction of the convoy because it is most unusual for such a number of ships to travel together in close proximity of the Cuban coast.

This apparent lack of secrecy prompted the captain of the ship, a Spaniard named MARURI, to ask if the island had been taken by the Anti-Castro forces.

The informant states that the landing took place according to schedule but almost from the beginning, the invaders ran into considerable opposition from the militia. The landing of a party of frogmen which was to establish the landing beaches was discovered by a patrol of militiamen. The leader of the party had to kill the members of the patrol and this exchange of fire resulted in alerting the rest of the positions along the coast.

The landing operations began at approximately 5 a.m. after the initial opposition had been subdued. The troops landed singing the Cuban National Anthem and until daylight, the operations progressed satisfactorily.

The landing operations were somewhat hampered because of another instance of bad judgment when tanks, trucks, and other heavy equipment were landed before the infantry. The infantry men in turn landed with a little more than their weapons and necessary ammunition to carry them over until the rest of the material could be unloaded from the ships.

The informant revealed that the day before the landing, ROBERTO SAN ROMAN, Commander of the heavy weapons battalion, had stated during a briefing session that the Castro Air Force had been obliterated and posed no threat. SAN ROMAN added that the operation was going to be mainly a landing by the Brigade and no popular uprising was expected, at least at the initial stages.

The unexpected arrival of Castro’s Air Force on the scene created a situation that soon became unbearable for the ships. Although the ships tried to offer as much support as they could to the troops that had landed, their effectiveness was hampered by the lack of weapons. The only armament the transports had consisted of four .50 caliber machine guns. After two ships were badly damaged and abandoned, the escorting destroyers gave orders to withdraw out of range of the coastal batteries.

The consensus of the returned expedition members was that it was a lack of adequate air support that doomed the invasion. The Castro Air Force, consisting of three Sea Furies and four B-26’s, had the advantage of greater range and greater speed and maneuverability of the Sea Furies as opposed to the air support of the invaders consisting only of B-26’s.

The sinking of the communications vessel and that of the transport carrying the fuel and ammunition for the tanks rendered the position of the troops that had landed almost desperate. The Captain of the U.S. destroyer code named “Santiago” asked an aircraft carrier cruising in the proximity for air support; back came the reply, “My heart is with you but I cannot do anything else”.

The fighting continued until mid-afternoon of April 18, 1961 when the transports received orders to return to Puerto Cabezas. One of the reasons for such action was the fact that the transports were overloaded with high octane fuel and explosives and an approach to the coast could mean sure destruction.

The informant added that every one of the returned invaders was willing and ready to return and felt positive that with sufficient air cover, the operation could have been successful.

After a two day stopover in Puerto Cabezas, the evacuees left by air and arrived at Homestead Air Force Base at approximately 11 p.m. of April 24, 1961. Mr. FRANK BENDER’S Assistant, BARKER, was on hand to receive the returning personnel.

In order to underline the poor judgment of the organizers of the invasion, the informant cited an incident that created deep resentment among the troops. Just prior to departure from Puerto Cabezas appeared aboard the transport, “Lake Charles” Comm. JESUS BLANCO, Chief of BATISTA’S infamous S.I.N. (Naval Intelligence Service). BLANCO’S presence not only offended those present but resulted in what could be termed mutiny when BLANCO demanded command of the ship. A compromise was reached and BLANCO was relegated to command the artillery (four .50 caliber machine guns) of the vessel. BLANCO did not disembark in Cuba but returned to Miami along with the rest of the evacuees.

The chronological succession of the military operations will be summarized in a report to follow.

Respectfully submitted,

A.L. TARABOCHIA
Intelligence Agent

LT. FRANK KAPPEL, Supervisor
Criminal Intelligence

ALT/rew

Found at cuban-exile.com.

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