The Legacy of M-26-7

While the world’s media flocks to Cuba to see the munificent prince, raul the great, give his speech commemorating this date in history and the movement that adopted its name, few will remember the legacy it has left the world. Many articles and editorials will talk about the anniversary of M-26-7, but few, if any, will recall the terror it unleashed upon innocent Cubans. But history is history, and while they may ignore it, they cannot erase it.

From Time Magazine, Monday, November 17, 1958

Flight 482 Is Missing

Captain Armando Piedra, 40, pilot for Cubana airlines, was flying from Havana to the Cuban city of Cienfuegos eight months ago when rebels fighting for Fidel Castro popped up among the passengers, commandeered the plane, forced Piedra to head for Mexico. A fortnight ago it fell to Piedra, who is also a good amateur skin-diver, to dive to the sunken hull of a Cubana airlines Viscount that crashed and killed 17 of 20 passengers when rebel hijackers tried to force it to land near Cuba’s Nipe Bay (TIME, Nov. 10). By last week, when Piedra took a Cubana DC-3 up from the little, bullet-stippled one-story airport in seaside Manzanillo, in the shadow of the rebel-held Sierra Maestra, hijacking was getting to be a bit of a bore. But Piedra and his Flight 482 never landed at their destination, Holquin. Next morning the rebels sent word that the DC-3 and its 25 passengers, including a U.S. bluejacket, had been hijacked and safely landed in rebel territory.

It was the second DC-3 and, Viscount included, the third Cubana airlines plane that Castro captured in as many weeks. He thus 1) deprived Cubana of nearly one-fourth of its planes, worth $1,160,000; 2) helped sever the government’s air link to beleaguered Santiago, already virtually cut off by land; and 3) provided himself with the nucleus of an air transport force to service rebel columns marauding in Camagüey and Las Villas provinces.

At week’s end the rebels were negotiating through the Red Cross to return the kidnaped passengers and crewmen. Among them: Amado Cantillo, steward on Piedra’s plane and son of Major General Eulogio Cantillo, now commanding the forces fighting Castro in Oriente.

Also, Dr. Antonio de la Cova has on his site, Latin American Studies, an article that appeared in Gente on November 16, 1958 regarding this particular hijacking. You can read a scanned copy of the original article HERE.

There will be much talk of revolution and the fight against imperialism today, but few will talk about the innovations in terror this movement unleashed upon the world. Innovations that helped put an island in chains, and inspired 19 hijackers on September 11, 2001.

4 thoughts on “The Legacy of M-26-7”

  1. Castro’s 26th of July movement is often credited with the first-ever of an airliner though there accounts of a plane being hijacked in 1931 in Peru.

    Regardless, Castro used hijackings several times including this tragic case, during a time when it was unheard of.

    Later Arab terrorists would use skyjackings to great effect.

  2. The Cubana Viscount hijacking on a flight from Miami to Varadero on Nov. 1, 1958 by members of Fidel Castro’s 26 of July Movement, was the first INTERNATIONAL airline hijacking in history. The 1931 hijacking in Peru never left that country.
    Seventeen of the twenty passengers and crew on the Viscount that fell into Nipe Bay were killed, including American citizens. Last month I interviewed in Miami two of the survivors: Omara Gonzalez, who lost her grandfather in the hijacking, and Osiris Martinez, who lost his American wife and three U.S.-born children, ages 1, 3, and 5.
    Castro’s rebels carried out an indiscriminate bombing campaign throughout the island.
    Their bomb maker in Havana, Odon Alvarez de la Campa, blew off both his hands while making a bomb in Sept. 1957.
    The Batista police did not murder him. Instead, they took him to a hospital and jailed him. Alvarez became a revolutionary hero in 1959. He was appointed administrative undersecretary of the Ministry of Agriculture on January 12, 1959 (Gaceta Oficial, Decreto 51). He resigned six months later and was afterward appointed Secretary of Foreign Relations of the Cuban Confederation of Workers (CTC). Alvarez was named vice president of the Cuban National Bank on March 6, 1961.
    In Nov. 1964, Alvarez and another Cuban diplomat in the Cuban Embassy in Madrid “contacted CIA agents in Madrid and were put in touch with Station Chief Jim Noel who offered them $5,000 for a list of Cuban Embassy personnel, as well as information as to who would be susceptible to CIA recruitment.” Alvarez defected in March 1965 in Paris and later settled in Orlando, Florida.

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