Saturday, August 09, 2003

From the Miami Herald:

Miami Herald


It is contemptible that the Cuban regime imprisons people for activities such as speaking their minds, meeting with others or using typewriters. Yet the regime compounds its discredited policies with cruel inhumanity. It withholds medical treatment, denies family visits and subjects prisoners to subhuman conditions. The international community must continue to insist that Cuba release these political prisoners.

The treatment of Martha Beatriz Roque, 57, the only woman among 75 dissidents convicted in a March crackdown, exemplifies what is happening. She was taken from her cell to a military hospital on July 24 suffering from high blood pressure and chest pains. Her sentence is 20 years for ''conspiring'' with a foreign power. Her crime? Speaking the truth about Cuba's moribund economy and totalitarian government.

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Held at the notorious Manto Negro prison, Ms. Roque -- coauthor of the dissident manifesto, The Homeland Belongs to Us All -- has been kept in solitary confinement with no access to sunlight, according to Havana independent journalist Angel Polanco. She refused to drink filthy prison water and subsisted on water provided by her niece in monthly visits. Rats and cockroaches infested her cell, and her body was covered by an allergic rash.

Such prison conditions aren't unusual. Contaminated water and filthy cells are standard issue. Prisoners are moved hundreds of miles from home, turning family visits into odysseys. Visits then are permitted at the whim of prison authorities.

• Dr. Oscar Eliás Biscet hasn't been allowed to see his wife, Elsa Morejón, since April. He's jailed in a ''punishment'' cell for refusing to wear prison garb and is denied care packages and visits. His mosquito bites have become infected due to the intense heat, and he suffers a chronic infection in his mouth from lack of treatment.

• Independent journalist Oscar Espinosa Chepe, 62, who has severe liver disease, has deteriorated dramatically since being imprisoned and reportedly is close to death.

• Little is known of the condition of human-rights activist Leonardo Miguel Bruzón, who suffers numerous ailments due to prison treatment and repeated hunger strikes. After 17 months in detention, he has yet to be charged with a crime.

Amnesty International rightly reaffirmed last weekthat the 75 dissidents are prisoners of conscience. It also noted that, "Neither the U.S. embargo nor any other aspect of U.S. foreign or economic policy can be used to justify grave violations of fundamental rights by the Cuban authorities.''

International condemnation can make a difference. Countries that support human rights -- especially Caribbean and Latin American countries -- must call for the regime to end this cruel and inhumane treatment of people who never would be imprisoned in a free country.

. Thirty-five years after writing this memo, Marine Col. Jack Hawkins broke silence in an article in the Dec. 31, 1996, edition of National Review:
. . . "The crucial point at issue was air support. Throughout my participation in the Cuba project I frequently emphasized both orally and in formal correspondence the absolute necessity for complete destruction of the opposing air force at the outset of the operation. In another memorandum in early 1961 I stated flatly that if Castro's air force were not all destroyed before the troop transports arrived at the landing beaches, a military disaster would occur.... [Secretary of State Dean] Rusk did not seem to grasp the point ... so when the recommendations from the State Department conflicted with those of the CIA, the President usually adopted Mr. Rusk's position.... President Kennedy's cancelling of the invasion bombing of the remains of Castro's air force doomed Brigade 2506.... The Brigade fought hard and well for three days and was not overrun or driven from its position.... The troops eventually ran out of ammunition and had to surrender. Before the surrender ... [Admiral Arleigh] Burke requested permission from the President to have carrier aircraft eliminate the rest of Castro's air force and fly cover and support for the Brigade, and use naval landing craft to evacuate troops from the beach. The president refused


For the first time during the invasion Alabama Air National Guard pilots
were at the controls of warplanes taking part in the fray. Prior to April
19th the Alabama guardsmen were not allowed to fly combat missions in
support of the brigade. The White House feared that an American pilot might
be shot down and expose the U.S. Government's role in the covert affair.
President John F. Kennedy, newly inaugurated and concerned about the
political fallout from the invasion, was adamant that operations be carried
out in such a way that the U.S. Government could plausibly deny any
involvement. Unfortunately, the concern for "plausible deniability" within
the decision-making process took precedence over military requirements.
Pre-invasion air strikes against Cuban airfields were held to a minimum to
mask U.S. involvement. This was done on direct orders from the President.
Remnants of Fidel Castro's air forces, including two British-built Sea Fury
prop fighters and two Lockheed T-33 jet trainers with fighter capability,
survived the attacks to strike back against the invasion forces and their
limited air support. The fighters attacked the landing forces at will, sank
their ammunition and supplies coming in from the sea, and wreaked havoc on
the B-26s coming to their aid. The denial of U.S. fighter cover from the
carrier Essex steaming offshore yielded command of the air to Castro's few
surviving planes. The minimal bombing strikes two days before the landing on
April 17 not only failed to destroy all of Castro's planes, but alerted the
Cuban dictator that the landing forces were on the way. On the morning of
the 17th Castro's planes sank two of the brigade's ships, the Houston and
the Rio Escondido, loaded with war supplies. Five of the liberation air
force's 16 B-26s and their crews were lost on the day of the landing. Flying
one and sometimes two missions a day-each mission six and one-half hours
over open water without navigational aids-the Cuban pilots were physically
and emotionally exhausted by the third day of the invasion. Air Guard
Lieutenant Colonel Joseph L. Shannon recalled that the Cuban pilots were in
no shape to fly on the 19th, but some flew anyway.

Faced with exhausted aircrews and a desperate situation on the ground in
Cuba, the CIA authorized Alabama guardsmen to fly missions on the 19th. Four
Guard pilots and four crewmen stepped forward. The lead formation on the
19th was commanded by Billy "Dodo" Goodwin, a major in the Air Guard, and
Gonzalo Herrera, a fearless Cuban pilot known as "El Tigre" by his
compatriots. The other Alabama Guard pilots were Joe Shannon, Riley
Shamburger, and Thomas Willard "Pete" Ray. Crew members from Alabama
included Leo Francis Baker, Wade Gray, Carl "Nick" Sudano, and James Vaughn.
A second exiled Cuban pilot, Mario Zuniga, and his observer rounded out the
strike force.

At the last minute the B-26s were promised air cover from the Essex, but in
a tragic mix-up the jet fighters did not show until the bombers were leaving
the target area. The Navy pilots had orders not to fire unless fired upon.
When the unprotected bombers arrived over the beachhead at sunrise, the
Cuban fighters were waiting for them. The two lead B-26s piloted by Goodwin
and Herrera sustained hits but delivered their ordnance and were returning
to Puerto Cabezas when the other bombers arrived in the target area. Two of
the B-26s came under attack as they approached the beachhead. Joe Shannon
was able to outmaneuver the T-33s, but his wingman Riley Shamburger was hit.
Shamburger and his observer Wade Gray went down with their plane. Further
inland, a Cuban fighter brought down Pete Ray's bomber as he pressed the
attack against heavily defended targets. Ray and Leo Francis Baker, a flight
engineer, survived the crash only to be killed in a shootout with Cuban

That afternoon the beachhead collapsed and the Cuban exiles, having
exhausted their supplies and ammunition, surrendered to Castro's army. It
had taken just seventy-two hours to crush the invasion. Some survivors were
rescued by U.S. ships, but the brigade took heavy casualties including 114
men who died and 1,189 who were taken prisoner. Fidel Castro held the
prisoners until December 1963 when he ransomed them to the United States for
$53 million worth of food and drugs. A humiliating defeat for the U.S.
Government, the Bay of Pigs was a tragedy from which the Cuban exiles and
their liberation movement would never recover.

No one shared the loss more than their U.S. comrades. Joe Shannon recalled
that he and the other Alabama guardsmen had flown the final mission on 19
April because they "were closely associated with the Cuban aircrews, and . .
. felt a strong dedication to their cause." Captain Edward B. Ferrer, a
pilot in the liberation air force, wrote a book on the air battle at the Bay
of Pigs and declared that the U.S. crews who volunteered to fly with them in
combat were no longer advisers, but brothers. Despite the swirl of
controversy surrounding the Bay of Pigs fiasco and their strong feelings
about the constraints placed on air power, Shannon and the other air
guardsmen kept their silence for decades. They had been sworn to secrecy,
and they honored that commitment. They did not even tell their wives.
For the families of the four heroic guardsmen who gave their lives on the
final day's mission, theirs was a compelling story. The families mourned
their loss, but went years without knowing what happened to their loved
ones. How could they relate the deaths to the Bay of Pigs if the government
denied they were ever there? Some family members refused to give up. In a
poignant twist to the Bay of Pigs tragedy the family of Pete Ray learned in
1978 that for 17 years his body had been refrigerated in Cuba on Castro's
orders. The Castro regime kept the slain U.S. pilot's body as a propaganda
trophy and as evidence that the U.S. government was behind the Bay of Pigs

Thomas Ray, Jr., (a San Francisco attorney) and his sister Janet (the wife
of an Air Force colonel and F-16 pilot) were small children when their
father was killed. Although the family learned that he had died while
supporting the invasion, officially he was never there. While growing up the
son and daughter relentlessly pursued the truth about their father's death
and what had happened to his body. The family's persistence persuaded the
Cuban government to return Thomas Ray's body to Alabama for burial in
December 1979. The U.S. Government finally admitted in May 1999, nearly four
decades after the event, that Ray and three other Alabama guardsmen were
shot down on April 19, 1961, flying combat over Cuba's Bahia de Cochinos.

Over the past 40 years the daring B-26 mission on the final day of the
invasion-resulting in the untimely death of four intrepid guardsmen-has
become a symbol of the Alabama Air National Guard's role in the Bay of Pigs
invasion. That role had its start when a large contingent of Alabama
guardsmen, joined by other volunteers from Arkansas units and the civil
aviation sector, deployed on a secret mission to Guatemala in late 1960.
They served there as advisers to Cuban exiles who were preparing to liberate
their homeland under the auspices of the CIA. No one else, not even their
families, knew where they were. The failure at the Bay of Pigs had
far-reaching implications for the U.S. Government and its Cold War policies.
It led directly to the Cuban missile crisis of 1962 and may have propagated
the political indecision and myopia leading to our more tragic failure in
the Vietnam War. For the Alabama Air National Guard there were no Bay of
Pigs service medals or campaign streamers, but the experience has become a
distinctive part of Air Guard history. For the guardsmen who were part of
that history, their silence was a badge of honor.

April is Bay of Pig’s Month at the Southern Museum of Flight. The April 1961 futile invasion by U.S.-supported Cuban exiles to oust Castro was a fleeting moment of Cold War history. It was a small war but it was Birmingham’s war. The bulk of the advisors and instructors assisting the Cuban Liberation Army’s Air Force of B-26s, C-46s, and C-54s were from Alabama, most within fifteen miles of the Southern Museum of Flight. Seven of the sixty-plus Air Guardsmen attended the closest high school to the Air Guard complex at the Airport - Tarrant High School. The CIA civilian-contract personnel primarily came from Hayes Aircraft across the runway from the Air Guard. Most of the Guardsmen who "went South" to Guatemala and Nicaragua in 1961 had a similar background ... four years in the Air Force as aircraft mechanics, employment by Hayes Aircraft, service as "weekend warriors" in the Guard, and finally as full-time Air Guard technicians.

They were a close-knit group, good ole boys in the best sense of the term. They pulled their own weight. If a job was their responsibility, they did it. They wouldn’t let a tough task beat them. The Guardsmen took the Bay of Pigs’ defeat personally and hard. After it was over, they were quickly and quietly (Air Guard complex cleared out before they landed) back to Birmingham and told to forget the whole mess. The never forgot, but they did keep silent.

To a man they felt betrayed by the lack of decisive air support at the appropriate times. The title of a recent book on the Alabama Air Guard’s covert involvement captured their plight ... Wings of Denial. Wings (air support) denied caused the tactical failure of the invasion. Wings denied was the government’s long-term denial of the extent of the Alabama Air Guard’s involvement. Bay of Pig’s participants learned a new dimension of "keeping a stiff upper lip." Wing’s of Denial: The Alabama Air Guard’s Covert Role in the Bay of Pigs by Warren Trest and Don Dodd (Montgomery, AL: New South Books, 2001) tells their story. The following is a synthesis of the book’s introduction.

In the predawn hours of April 19, 1961, six Douglas B-26 Invaders, painted in Cuban Air Force colors, took off from a secret CIA base at Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua, and headed north over the moonlit waters of the Caribbean toward Cuba. Puerto Cabezas, known as "Happy Valley" to the pilots and crews, was the staging base of the ill-fated invasion at the Bay of Pigs.

Armed to the teeth, the twin-engine B-26s flew the mission in two-ship formations—taking to the skies at 30-minute intervals to stagger their arrivals over the target area. The bombers were launched in a desperate attempt to stave off defeat for the brigade of Cuban exiles who were stranded on the embattled beachhead and fighting for their lives.

For the first time during the invasion Alabama Air National Guard pilots were at the controls of B-26s taking part in the fray. Prior to the 19th the Alabama guardsmen B-26 pilots were not allowed to fly combat missions in support of the brigade. The White House feared that an American pilot might be shot down and expose the U.S. Government’s role ...

B-26 bomber with Cuban markings at Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua, before the Bay of Pigs invasion.

Captain Thomas "Pete" Ray was shot down in the latter stage of the Bay of Pigs invasion. He survived the crash, but was shot and killed at close range by Cuban infantrymen.

Guardsman Riley Shamburger’s B-26 Douglas Invader was shot down by a Cuban T-33 and crashed into the sea. Shamburger was the Assistant Operation Officer for the training of the Cuban pilots

Cuban Confederate Colonel
The Life of Ambrosio José Gonzales
Antonio Rafael de la Cova

The definitive biography of a Cuban and Confederate rebel

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Cuban Confederate Colonel: The Life of Ambrosio José Gonzales tells the story of a revolutionary who figured prominently in both his native country's struggle against Spain and the Confederacy's fight for secession. Immortalized as the first Cuban to shed blood in the effort to oust the Spanish, Gonzales (1818–1893) managed to place himself in the center of hostilities in both his homeland and in the United States. In this biography, Antonio Rafael de la Cova examines the Cuban filibuster movement of the 1840s and 1850s, the American Civil War, and Southern Reconstruction from Gonzales's unusual perspective as both a Cuban and Confederate rebel. In doing so, de la Cova sheds new light on the connections between Southern and Cuban society, the workings of coastal defenses during the Civil War, and the vicissitudes of Reconstruction for a Cuban expatriate.

De la Cova draws on archival sources from Cuba, Spain, and the United States to offer groundbreaking material on the filibuster movement, including the integral participation of Freemasons and the involvement of Robert E. Lee. De la Cova also documents Gonzales's preparation of invading forces, authorship of a United States annexation manifesto, and association with influential Southern politicians.

With the failure of the 1854 filibuster attempts, Gonzales settled in the United States and married into South Carolina's prominent Elliott family. The author traces Gonzales's significant role in Confederate coastal defenses, his costly feud with Jefferson Davis, and his finest hour as a Confederate–as artillery commander at the Battle of Honey Hill.

Following the war, the colonel pursued a variety of vocations, all of which were marginally successful, but like many others he never provided the security he sought for his extended family. De la Cova points out that while Gonzales's connections to Cuba's economy may have made his postwar entrepreneurial endeavors distinctive, his efforts were similar to those of other formerly wealthy Southerners who sought to recover their estates and social status.

Antonio Rafael de la Cova is an assistant professor of Latin American studies at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in Terre Haute, Indiana. The author of the forthcoming book The Moncada Attack: Birth of the Cuban Revolution, de la Cova holds a Ph.D. from West Virginia University. He lives in Terre Haute

Dear Sir:
My name is Robert Register. I grew up near Fort Rucker but now I live in Northport across the river from Tuscaloosa.I am helping Janet Ray Weinenger piece together details of her time around Fort Rucker.
(Andy Garcia (Godfather III, Ocean's Eleven) is interested in this story.)
In January of '61, Janet Ray was 6 years old and was living near Dothan. We think she was living in Ozark. She may have been living in Dothan. Her Daddy was named Thomas Willard "Pete" Ray. He was from the B'ham area and a member of the Alabama Air National Guard. He was training at Ft. Rucker. Janet was in the 1st grade but she doesn't remember the school. She remembers that she was living by an overgrown Negro cemetery and that she saw a burial and lots of blackberries were growing there. Her Dad was given a special mission in January '61 and her family moved back to Tarrant to live with her grandmother.Her father was murdered in cold blood by Castro's troops in April of '61 at the Bay of Pigs.The U.S. government covered up Pete's death.
In 1978, Janet's work paid off and she was able to get her father's frozen body out of a Havana morgue. Pete crashed an old WWII B-26 at the Bay of Pigs in April of '61 and while he was strapped in his cockpit, one of Castro's troops walked up and blew his brains out. The CIA would not tell Janet's family what happened but they began sending them checks. Fidel froze Pete's body in order to prove that the CIA backed the Bay of Pigs invasion. Janet ,singlehandedly, finally got her Daddy's body back here in '78 and the FBI found the powder burns on his temple during the autopsy and her family was able to bury him here in Alabama.
The BBC has recently interviewed Janet about the "Kennedy Legacy" since the 40th anniversary of his assassination is coming up and if they air anything she said, I'll be surprised.

Talking to Janet has really helped me because the first person to walk up to me in the halls of Young Junior in Dothan on the afternoon of Friday, Novermber 22, 1963 and tell me Kennedy was dead was Pat Roney. He was celebrating. All the teachers, especially Mrs. Elmore were crying, so I have been bothered by this all these years. It makes sense now. Pat's Daddy, Jack, worked for the Alabama Air National Guard at the old Dothan airport and the Kennedy brothers had denied air support for the Bay of Pigs invasion(four members of the Alabama Air National Guard were killed) and after that the Kennedys hid the information from the families here in Alabama because they had a hissy fit cause they were afraid they'd have another U-2/Francis Gary Powers on their hands.
Please feel free to forward this email to anyone.
Anyway, we need to find out where the Ray family was living in January '61 and where Janet was going to school. I know you will do everything you can do to help. Check out my weblog at
Don't have Janet's web address right off the bat but I think it's

Best wishes,
Robert Register


This is wonderful.

--- robert register wrote:

Haven't worked on this very much but here goes:

Went down to Ecuador
Back in '74 ( In Nineteen Seventy Four)
Left you down home
While I went off to roam
Knew it should be over
Knew you wanted more

Thought I'd learned my lessons
But I didn't have a clue
Didn't know that what I needed
Was solitude and not you.
Yes, the solitude of my soul
Was really what I needed (Was what I really needed)
Not a lovely woman
Or a pocket full of gold
All I really needed was
The solitude of my soul.

Back a few months later
We got back together
Nothin' was the same
You were always someone
I could never tame

Learned that a broken heart
Is something that just won't mend
It's a wound that lasts a lifetime
Until that lifetime ends

Thought I'd learned my lessons
But I didn't have a clue
That what I really needed
Really wasn't you

Friday, August 08, 2003


From: | This is spam | Add to Address Book
Date: Thu, 7 Aug 2003 21:27:37 EDT
Subject: Re: Wings of Valor


My father was at Fort Rucker beginning the process of flying with the Alabama Army National Guard when he was contacted for the Cuba mission in January 61.

On September 8th, Ambassador Lino Gutiérrez will be sworn-in as the Ambassador to the Republic of Argentina at the Department of State in Washington, DC. He is one of the most honorable Cuban-Americans that I know. It is an honor for him to invite me.

Janet Ray Weininger

Dear President Clinton:

Thirty-four years ago, a six year old girl's heart shattered when she
learned her father's plane would never again break through the clouds,
never again would she run to the arms of the man in the green nomex
flight suit, never again would her cheek know the feel of her father's
whiskers. With a plaintive howl, she pleaded to God not to abandon
her father. The only sound she heard was the whimpering of her dog,
Chase, as he licked her tears, tears of pain, selfish tears.

Out of love for her father, this little girl embarked upon a mission
lasting over eighteen years to learn the fate of her father, to learn what
makes a man take off on a mission he knows will be his last. Why would
an American give his life for Brigade 2506 and Cuba during the 1961
Bay of Pigs Invasion? The answer would come as she watched his coffin
descend from the plane in the shivering mist. This son of the south made
his final flight home to Alabama, to the arms of his little girl, after
being kept in a pullout drawer of a Havana morgue since his execution.

The only request she made of the Cuban exile communtiy was for a Cuban
flag. It would be the last thing that rested on the coffin of an
American who made decisions of conscience, decisions of honor.
As the coffin was slowly lowered in the ground, Pete Ray's daughter
cradled his Cuban flag that now held tears for Cuba. He had taught
her how precious freedom is, her mission had just begun.

If you don't understand the reason for the September 2nd Democracia
Flotilla to Cuba, read Pete Ray's daughter's letter to Richard Nuccio
or ask her why an American would join the flotilla. I know what she
will tell you because I am that six-year-old girl who will never
abandon Cuba. It is time for Cuba to be free.


Janet Ray Weininger
17901 SW 84th Avenue
Miami, FL 33157


You are a gold mine of information. I'm enthralled by your material. Look
forward to more.


Thursday, August 07, 2003

You can go to Janet Ray Weininger's website at

Janet's organization is an IRS 501C-3 non-profit corporation so you can write off all contributions. The following comes from her website and let's ya know how BIG A BANG FOR YOUR BUCK ya get when you contribute to the work of Wings of Valor in Nicaragua.

We are a small organization that has made a difference, but we need your support to continue our efforts.


Use our Donate By Mail Form to make your tax-deductible donation in your name or in tribute to someone special.

For every dollar donated we can transport and deliver $180 - $250 of donated aid.
For every dollar donated we can provide $26 of medicine.
For every forty dollars donated we can pay the monthly salary of a teacher to educate 40 children.
Funds can be used to purchase critically needed items in country that will stimulate the economy resulting in a multiply effect.

What we throw away can rebuild the lives of the forgotten.

Your donation is tax-deductible.
Protect our fragile environment by reducing the amount destined to landfills.

Assist us in being a voice for the forgotten by making others aware through linking to the Wings of Valor Site. No permission or notification is necessary.


We are all given special gifts in life to be shared.

Help solicit and inventory in-kind donations from individuals, organization, schools, and businesses that will support our projects.
Be a volunteer coordinator to encourage groups, clubs, organizations, churches, businesses, and schools to join us.
Gather and assist in researching and writing grants for potential funding
Assist the development of publications and public relations events that will educate your community about our efforts and programs.
Organize a medical or educational mission to visit the remote areas.
Develop fund raising events and strategies.
Join us on a humanitarian mission.

This is so wild! Tony Delacova sends me this information about Pete Ray's daughter. I look up her website, find an article about recovering Bay of Pigs veterans bodies from Nicaragua and find Lino Gutierrez in the article! Lino was ambassador to Nicaragua when Janet Ray Weininger put together the team that excavated the bodies of two Cuban exile pilots of a B-26 that crashed on a Nicaraguan mountaintop after the Bay of Pigs invasion. I knew Lino when he was a student at the University of Alabama. The reason I got to know him so well is because I taught Biology at Druid High School in Tuscaloosa with his mother, our Spanish teacher.
If this story doesn't bring a tear to your eye, you don't have an idea about the horrors of communism.

39 years after Bay of Pigs, bodies of two pilots to be returned to Miami for burial
Web-posted: 1:13 a.m. Oct. 18, 2000

With no body to mourn and no gravesite, Frank Garcia clung to the hope that someday his father would come walking through the door again. Garcia knew, of course, that his father, pilot Crispin Lucio Garcia Fernandez, had crashed his B-26 into a mountaintop in Nicaragua in 1961 after a Bay of Pigs mission over Cuba. But beyond these stark facts lay a vast, empty space with no answers. So, sometimes Garcia would allow himself the luxury of
imagining his father was not dead, only gone. Garcia Fernandez became a man reconstructed from photographs, memories and a letter sent to his son less than a month before the crash that killed him and his co-pilot, Nabel Gonzalez Romero. "In a few days you'll have your 5th birthday and your father will not be by your side," Garcia Fernandez wrote to his young son. "You will receive the gift from your father when you return to Cuba and are able to think freely without fear of repression, when you will be able to be with your grandparents and see that in Cuba there is liberty. That will be my gift to you, a free homeland."

These words made living without a father easier, but Garcia could not reconcile himself to the fact that his father's body, and that of Gonzalez Romero -- two men who had been on a U.S.-engineered mission -- were lost, mired in bureaucratic red tape and mountain mud. Finally, on Veterans Day, Nov. 11, almost 40 years after their deaths, their remains will be buried in Miami in a ceremony with full military honors from the Cuban American Veterans Association.

The ceremony, officiated by the Rev. Sergio Carrillo, himself a Bay of Pigs paratrooper, will be held at St. Michael the Archangel Church. The remains of the two men, which rested together in obscurity all those years, will be placed in one coffin and buried at Dade South Memorial Park. "We are glad to have these bodies here and give them the honor they deserve," said Carrillo, who discovered his calling during the 18 months he was imprisoned in Cuba after the invasion. "We're also thinking about all those family members who don't know where their
relatives are."

Though their families had searched for answers for years, the quest for Crispin Lucio Garcia Fernandez and Nabel Gonzalez Romero, who died at age 25 and 26 respectively, began in earnest in 1994, when the families met Janet Ray Weininger. Weininger's father, Thomas "Pete" Ray, was shot down near Playa Giron on April 19, 1961. Eager to prove that the U.S. government engineered the failed attack, Fidel Castro had kept Ray's body frozen in a morgue for 18 years. Weininger became a cause celebre in the exile community when, after persistently lobbying congressmen and government officials, she managed to bring back her father's body and bury him in his Alabama hometown.

Weininger swore then that if she ever encountered a family in a similar situation she would help them recover their dead.

"After 18 years of looking for my dad I said if anyone is in this boat again I'm going to help them," Weininger said. "I'm a firm believer that when someone gives his life serving his country you must return those remains to the country." In time, Weininger, the Garcia family and Isaac Rotella Gonzalez, Gonzalez Romero's nephew, would become a formidable, single-minded trio.

The bodies of their three relatives would be the only ones returned to the United States from Brigade 2506, the group of about 1,500 U.S.-trained exiles who invaded Cuba. More than 100 died and about 1,100 were captured after President John F. Kennedy withdrew promised air support. "Many people don't understand us," said Nora Garcia, widowed at 24. "We realize many people don't like us. Janet does. I call her La Cubanita. If I hadn't met Janet my husband's remains would still be on that mountaintop."

Garcia Fernandez, an avid pilot, fled Cuba in 1960, after Castro took power. Soon after coming to Miami he met a group of exiles who were planning an invasion on the island. He began training with Brigade 2506 in Guatemala. There he met Gonzalez Romero. In Cuba, Gonzalez Romero had loved to fly Cessnas with his nephew over the sugar and tobacco fields that surrounded their town of Camajuani, in the province of Las Villas.

"He was our idol," Rotella Gonzalez said. "He would do acrobatics with that plane. He was intelligent and a great mechanic, very versatile."

When Castro and his band of rebels started to assemble in the Sierra Maestra mountains, Gonzalez Romero helped by bringing them supplies. But soon after the revolution succeeded he felt betrayed by Castro's turn toward communism.

When they began their search, the men's families knew only that Garcia Fernandez and Gonzalez Romero's B-26 had gone down on a densely wooded mountaintop near the rural Nicaraguan town of San
Jose de Bocay. Weininger made the first of five trips to the mountaintop in 1995 and managed to narrow down the crash site by talking to villagers in the area and researching classified CIA documents. During her second trip that year she was accompanied by Garcia. Together they found the B-26's wing buried in the mud. They also found the plane's engine and even a wheel hub which had become a wash basin for the villagers.

"Never in my wildest dreams did I think I would see that crash site and what my father had been through," recalled Garcia. "I said a prayer for them."
The bodies were not found on that trip. They would remain elusive until the spring of 1998 when the U.S. Army, persuaded by evidence from Weininger's previous trips, joined the mission and conducted a
month-long excavation."It was quite a feat to pull it off," recalled Lino Gutierrez, the Cuban-born former ambassador to Nicaragua, who visited the site at the time. "Some people had doubts as to whether this operation could be brought about because there had been bandits in the area."The excavation site made strange bedfellows: Nicaraguan police and army officials, mostly with Sandinista roots, guarded the area alongside former Contras. "The day we found those remains everyone hugged," Weininger said. "There were tears in everyone's eyes. We all became brothers." In 1998 the remains of Garcia Fernandez and Gonzalez Romero were flown to the U.S. Army Central Identification Laboratory in Hawaii for positive identification. The process took nearly a year, and the families since have been waiting for the right time to bring them home. Weininger, who financed many of the expeditions to Nicaragua with her family's savings, is reaching out to exile groups to raise the $6,000 needed to bring the bodies from Hawaii to Miami and to pay for the funeral. As they have in the past, the families have full faith in Weininger.

Both families say if Castro's government falls in their lifetimes they plan to take the remains back to Cuba. This is the promise they have made to their dead. Vanessa Bauzá can be reached at or 305-810-5007.

For more information on Janet Ray Weininger's organization please contact

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P.O. Box 56-2801
Miami, Florida 33256-2801
Phone: (305) 255-8892 Fax: (305) 232-9933

Got another outstanding email from Tony de la Cova today. What a guy!!!! He always cuts through the crap and gets right down to BIDNESS.

I have been "up to my armpits in alligators" doing research at Harvard. Found a lot of great information on Cuban business owners in the U.S. during 1850-90. This is material that has never been researched before. On the weekends my wife and I drive off to New York City (four hours away) on Friday evening and return to Boston on Sunday evening. As a result, I haven't had time to stop by the arboretum or do other things I had planned.
Thomas "Pete" Ray the Alabama National Guard pilot killed during the Bay of Pigs invasion was in fact murdered by Castro's troops. His daughter, Janet Ray Weininger, told me that when her father's remains were returned to the U.S. in 1977, after being kept for 16 years in a morgue freezer in Havana, the FBI performed an autopsy. It revealed that he had died of a close contact bullet wound to his left temple, which still had powder burns. After Ray crash landed he was still strapped to his seat when a Castro soldier ran up to the plane and murdered him. I am sure that Castro would have preferred to have displayed the captured American before the TV cameras. Janet is president of Wings of Valor and has her own web site at
I read about former Florida Governor Richard Keith Call on your web site. His nephew was George W. Call (1825-1863), the U.S. District Attorney in Jacksonville, Florida, who prosecuted the filibuster steamer Pampero for violation of the Revenue Act after it dropped off Gen. Narciso Lopez with an expedition in Cuba in August 1851. You can read about it in my article "Cuban Filibustering in Jacksonville in 1851" at
Ironically, when the Lopez filibusters returned from Cuba after the first expedition in May 1850, they found that "Ex.-Gov. Call tendered an invitation to the whole party, at St. Marks, to visit the capital of Florida, which they did." (Richardson Hardy, History and Adventures of the Cuba Expedition, page 54)
In 1859, George W. Call became the first Venerable Master of Amelia Island Lodge No. 47 (where I was raised). Call went on to become a Confederate cavalry colonel from Florida and was killed in battle in Virginia in 1863. His brother, Wilkinson Call, was a Florida Democratic senator who on Dec. 11, 1889 introduced a resolution before the U.S. Congress proposing that Cuba would buy its independence from Spain with an indemnity guaranteed by the United States. The resolution was eventually shelved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
I was just informed today by the University of South Carolina Press that my book, Cuban Confederate Colonel: The Life of Ambrosio Jose Gonzales has just come out. It is being advertised on their web site at

Got this email today from one of childhood friends from Dothan, Richard "Buddy" Burke. It concerns recording some songs we wrote 31 f**king years ago!!!!

Hey Reg,
Bout' a month ago I made an ebay purchase of a tascam 488 portastudio. It's
old analog technology recording up to eight tracks on a cassette. Then you
do a final mixdown to cassette from the recorder. It's pretty much the
technology I was using when I quit the recording business back in 79'.
Anyway, the long and short of it is that I've currently got the ballad of
grover and becky recorded. Nothing fancy just me on bass, two guitar
tracks, dobro, lead vocal and two backing vocal tracks. I ping ponged the
two backing vocal tracks to one track and still have two tracks left. So
now that I'm not concerned about who owns the rights to our stuff, I'm gonna
lay down 40 year, lay down sweet sally, can't be too fast, etc. I'm movin'
slow, playin' round with the recorder and arrangements but as soon as I've
got product I'll send you a prototype and get your input. If you have new
concepts send em' on. Frank has a first class digital recording setup so
when I'm ready I'm gonna' give my sidemen copies of the songs and we will
rerecord them to hard drive which will yield cds. My brother in law's
brother has some kind of a publishing / song writing / performance thing
going and when you and I decide how we want to proceed we will go with it.

We may be older, but we ain't fuckin' dead.


Ya'll check out my buddy Bret Tannehill's website, It's a guide to evahthang that's jumping in T-town. Bret is the Senior Anchor/Reporter for Alabama Public Radio in Tuscaloosa. He sent me the following email today which warmed the cockles of my heart.From :
"Brett Tannehill"

Reply-To :

To :
"robert register"

Date :
Wed, 6 Aug 2003 20:36:53 -0500

Reply Reply All Forward Delete Put in Folder...InboxSent MessagesDraftsTrash Can Printer Friendly Version

very cool. i enjoy your blog when i have time. it's the only one I read.

take care
Brett T

Wednesday, August 06, 2003

HAVANA, CUBA — When Thomas "Pete" Ray's B-26 bomber was shot down by Cuban antiaircraft batteries near Playa Giron on April 19, 1961, he wasn't there.

So said the CIA.

And for decades, the U.S. government publicly denied that a top-secret squadron of civilians recruited from the Alabama Air National Guard ever existed, let alone was on a CIA mission to bomb Cuba in one of the agency's best-kept and most humiliating secrets. It was the failed Bay of Pigs invasion, in which, officially, no Americans were involved. Castro was so determined to prove the Americans were there that he froze Ray's remains — for more than 18 years.

But Ray was there. The 30-year-old Center Point, Ala., pilot was shot to death — pistol and knife in hand — by one of Fidel Castro's soldiers. They also killed his flight engineer, Leo Baker, after the two had bombed targets near Castro's field headquarters. Two other Alabamians also died when their plane was shot down during the invasion, which included napalm bombing by U.S. aircraft.

They were on a mission that Col. Joe Shannon, one of the few surviving pilots from the group, recently recalled was "a last-ditch effort" that, through its very secrecy, would change the course of many lives for decades to come.

Castro was so determined to prove the Americans were there that he froze Ray's remains — for more than 18 years.

For Ray's wife, mother and two children, those years were haunted by silent confusion and fear, as the U.S. government knew, but refused to tell, the whereabouts of a man who had simply vanished from the face of the Earth.

The CIA still has not publicly admitted that it knew where his remains were all along. For the CIA, Ray's secret involved national security and image. To admit that the pilot was one of theirs was to concede the depth of the agency's involvement in a disastrous invasion that it insisted, until last year, was the work of dissidents within Cuba.

And for the Cuban government, which spent thousands of dollars preserving Ray's remains, the case was both frustrating and mystifying: How could any government lie for so long to the family of a soldier? After all, it had announced to the world on the day Ray died that it had the body of an American pilot.

In December 1979, after the Cubans learned of a personal mission by Ray's daughter, Janet Ray Weininger, to find his body — and after 19 months of painstaking diplomacy with a U.S. government that still did not want to claim him as one of its own — the Cuban government returned the pilot's body to Alabama.

The CIA still has not publicly admitted that it knew where his remains were all along. Just last month, however, the agency released a document confirming that U.S. pilots were, in fact, shot down over Cuba in 1961. And last week, in response to detailed inquiries about the Ray case from The Times, agency officials acknowledged publicly for the first time that the Alabama pilot was one of theirs.

"Thomas 'Pete' Ray made heroic contributions to the CIA and to this country, serving with great distinction," CIA spokesman Bill Harlow said. "Given the passage of time and recent declassification of historic documents from this time period, his affiliation with the CIA can now be acknowledged publicly."

Documents obtained by The Times from the Cuban government, combined with the recently declassified CIA memos, cables and confidential reports on the Bay of Pigs, solve much of this extraordinary Cold War mystery of the lost Alabamians.

... Cubans Call Costly Mission Humanitarian
In opening Havana's archives on the Ray case to The Times last month, Cuban officials asserted in interviews that their government originally froze the pilot's body to prove U.S. involvement in the invasion but that the costly maintenance quickly became a humanitarian mission.

"In our culture, we do not handle dead bodies insensitively, not even our enemies, our worst enemies," Cmdr. Manuel Pineiro, a former intelligence chief better known as "Red Beard," said in his last interview before he died of a heart attack after a car crash in Cuba last week.

"The only explanation that I have for keeping the body for so long was to return him to whoever claimed him, to his family," said Pineiro, who was venerated in the Cuban press after his death as "the CIA's nemesis" in Cuba. Pineiro and other Cubans interviewed expressed shock that the U.S. government could turn its back for so long on one of its own. "We told the world, the United Nations; we sent the list with the names we had. Why was it nobody answered?"

"How does a country allow its own citizens — I refer to the families of these pilots — to live in doubt, not to know what happened to their loved ones?" he asked. "We told the world, the United Nations; we sent the list with the names we had. Why was it nobody answered?"

Another senior Cuban official used a recent interview to invite Ray's daughter to Havana as a state guest for what he said would amount to emotional closure.

But Weininger, 43, who has devoted her life to researching the case and who now participates in Cuban American exile events in Miami, politely declined.

After decades of trying to find out the truth and finally retrieving her father's body with the help of two members of the U.S. Congress who pushed the case with the State Department, she said she has become suspicious of nearly everyone.

"I don't want to go to Cuba and be involved in something bigger, to be used as a pawn between different political groups — there or here," she said. "I want to go to Cuba when it's a free country."

Yet Weininger added that she harbors no animosity toward the Cubans for keeping her father all those years. Just the opposite: "I blame my government. My government did wrong. They led these men into harm's way and then turned [their] back on them."

It is only within the past year that the CIA has admitted even that.

... Recruits, Secret Bases and an Ill-Fated Plan
The story begins about a year after Castro overthrew Cuba's U.S.-backed dictator, Fulgencio Batista, and marched into Havana in January 1959. In a plan hatched under President Eisenhower and executed in the first months of John F. Kennedy's presidency, the CIA plotted every ill-fated step of an invasion that was meant to appear entirely the work of dissidents within Cuba and of mutinous Cuban military forces.

Ray was typical of Doster's unlikely Cold Warriors — weekend fliers who included the owner of a local pizza shop. The CIA recruited exile fighters from throughout the United States, set up clandestine training bases in the U.S., Guatemala and Nicaragua, and searched for planes that would match those in the Cuban air force — B-26 bombers that the agency could repaint and deploy to make it appear as if Castro's military had turned on him.

The only B-26s the CIA could find in the United States were in the aging fleet at the Alabama Air National Guard in Birmingham. And there, the agency also found a more-than-willing co-conspirator in the local Air Guard commander, Maj. Gen. G. Reid Doster Jr., who hated Communists everywhere.

In January 1961, the CIA picked Doster to recruit local pilots to fly, along with Cuban exiles, the disguised B-26s during the invasion. Ray, an Alabama-born aircraft inspector at a Birmingham factory, was typical of Doster's unlikely Cold Warriors — weekend fliers who included the owner of a local pizza shop.

Weininger remembers the day her father left home for the last time: Feb. 5, 1961. She was 6. None of the families of the dozen or so local pilots knew the men were heading to Nicaragua to prepare to bomb Cuba. The men's "cover story," Col. Shannon says, was that they were going to pilot training school.

"My dad was just an average guy who loved to fly," Weininger said. "But he firmly believed in what he did. He had told his mother that if he dies flying, he'll die happy. But he also said that if we don't stop communism in Cuba, someday we might have to fight it in our own backyard."

Shannon concurred. The Birmingham resident flew another B-26 the morning Ray was killed; Shannon escaped a Cuban fighter jet that shot down his best friend, Riley Shamburger, that day. By the time Ray took off for the flight to Cuba, the invasion already had failed.

"This was a last-ditch effort, a desperate mission to save the guys on the ground," recalled Shannon, now 76. "We weren't supposed to fly at all. We were told we wouldn't be able to fly even if we wanted to. But we were so close to the Cuban [exiles], their cause sort of became our cause. And in a last moment of desperation, they [the CIA] let us fly."

The declassified CIA documents show that the final invasion plan did bar the U.S. pilots from joining in the bombing runs. But the exile pilots, who had been attacking Cuban airports and other targets for three days before the invasion collapsed on April 19, "were exhausted and dispirited," according to the documents.

By the time Ray took off from the Nicaraguan base at 3:55 a.m. on April 19 for the 700-mile flight to Cuba, the invasion already had failed. At the last minute, Kennedy canceled U.S. air cover in a further effort to deny Washington's role, and the 1,500 Cubans the CIA had sent to invade were being torn to pieces on the beachhead.

Initially, the CIA blamed the lack of air cover for the invasion's failure, but the CIA inspector general's report blamed the CIA itself — its arrogance, poor planning and "almost willful bungling."

A CIA telegram to its personnel in Nicaragua authorizing Ray and his colleagues to attack Castro's forces that day foreshadowed the decades of mystery that would follow:

Cannot attach sufficient importance to fact that American crews must not fall into enemy hands. In event this happens, despite all precautions, crews must state [they are] hired mercenaries, fighting communism, etc.; U.S. will deny any knowledge.

And that it did — despite Cuba's best efforts.

Jet Downed After Several Strafing Runs
Cuban Gen. Oscar Fernandez Mell, who was in charge of field operations the morning Ray was killed, described in a recent interview how Ray's B-26 was shot down after it made several daring strafing runs.

"The airplane fell in a cane field. We ran toward it. Then there was an explosion and fire," he said. "I gave orders to recover everything inside the aircraft."

But Ray and flight engineer Baker had already fled their cockpit. Witnesses told Fernandez that the pair ran into a nearby cane field. Baker was found holding a grenade; a Cuban soldier shot him.

"I never questioned why he was there; there were orders about him, and that was enough for me," said Menendez, who cared for the body the entire time. Another soldier told Fernandez that he found Ray hiding in a nearby forest, wounded but alive and armed. The soldier said he killed Ray in self-defense.
Foreign Minister Raul Roa made headlines worldwide later that day when he announced to the U.N. Security Council that Cuba had the body of a U.S. pilot shot down during the invasion; "Proof of the Yankee Intervention," the daily Revolucion declared the following day.

The United Nations never pursued the issue after the U.S. publicly denied its involvement.

Baker, whose features appeared Latin, was buried along with other unclaimed Cuban invaders soon after. But Ray, whose features did not, was sent to Havana's Institute of Forensic Medicine, where mortician Juan Menendez Tudela, now 75, recalls embalming him.

Menendez says he placed the body in a freezer, where it remained at about 5 degrees below zero for 18 years and eight months.

"I never questioned why he was there; there were orders about him, and that was enough for me," said Menendez, who cared for the body the entire time. "Of course, I knew he was an American pilot, but my orders were to take care of him, to watch over him."

Cuban officials conceded that they did not know the identity of the body until soon after they learned of Weininger's search for her father. That information came through diplomatic notes sent to Cuba's Foreign Ministry from the U.S. Interest Section, Washington's diplomatic mission in Havana, which opened in 1977, 16 years after the United States broke off diplomatic relations with Castro and closed its embassy.

The only identification found at Ray's crash site in 1961 was fake CIA documents for Baker.

It wasn't until 1979 that Cuban and FBI officials positively identified Ray's body by matching it with fingerprints and dental records.

The day after Ray's death, a Defense Department spokesman in Washington flatly denied rumors that the Alabama Air Guard had taken part in the attack. President Kennedy, under fire from U.S. allies and enemies alike, told reporters only: "I think that the facts of the matter involving Cuba will come out in due time." Ray's wife was told she'd be committed to an institution for life if she pressed to learn her husband's fate.

Though shattered and forever changed, the survivors of Ray's small group of Guardsmen quietly went home to Birmingham and kept Kennedy's secret — for decades. The word went around town that Ray and the others had died in a cargo plane crash in an unrelated operation.

"They were about as good of secret keepers as you'd want to have," said Bailey, the cousin who joined forces with Ray's daughter. "The community soaked them back up, and the community helped them keep their secret." Asked why, Bailey said: "First, you've got the South, the way we are .... We're not always very forthcoming. Then, I think there's the issue that the government scared the crap out of these people.

"The fear of God was just put in a lot of people here; the CIA came to the houses of every one of my grandmother's 11 kids and interviewed every one of them to see what they knew."

Among the stories that made the rounds in the family but were never confirmed by the U.S. government, Bailey added, was that Ray's wife was told that she would be committed to a mental institution for life if she continued pressing to learn her husband's whereabouts.

"But thirdly," Bailey said, "sometimes you handle the pain of something like this by just not talking about it."

Families Petition to Get Real Story
In the late 1970s, Bailey and Weininger sent 100 questions to the CIA under the Freedom of Information Act, asking it to explain Ray's fate.

When the CIA finally provided Ray's posthumous awards in 1978, "they told us not to mention it to anyone." The agency never answered in writing. Instead, it sent two agents to meet them in Selma, Ala., in the spring of 1978. There, Bailey and Weininger recalled, the agents told the truth about Ray and handed over two medals and a citation posthumously awarding Ray the Distinguished Intelligence Cross.

But when the agency did provide the posthumous award, Weininger said, "they told us not to mention anything about it to anyone."

Even after Ray's body went home the next year to a funeral that drew many of the Air Guard veterans, along with Cuban survivors and even one of the CIA agents who had briefed Bailey and Weininger, the CIA did not acknowledge publicly that Ray and the other men had ever served their country — until its statement to The Times last week.

Weininger and Bailey say — and the CIA papers declassified last month confirm — that documents they have accumulated show that the agency set up a front company that paid each dead pilot's family a regular stipend and financed children's college educations — including Weininger's. Relatives were told that the money was from a Miami company — not the government.

One of the CIA documents states that the fake company created to settle

the legal and moral claims arising from these [airmen's] deaths has been costly, complicated and fraught with risk of disclosure of the government's role.

The document adds:

In spite of the invasion failure, the story of the American pilots has never gotten into print, although its sensational nature still makes this a possibility. In dealing with the surviving families, it has been necessary to conceal connection with the United States government.

Clearly, however, the costs were not financial.

As for her own life, Weininger said: "You can say it's an obsession, but to me it's an opportunity to look through somebody's window at a moment of history and then be able to share it with people.

"Everybody has to confront pain in their own way. No one gets out of it without scars, but the difference is how those scars heal."

For Cuban officials, who say Castro's forces lost far more lives in the Bay of Pigs than did the invaders, the CIA's recent admissions are a vindication. But the case of Thomas "Pete" Ray, most say, remains one of sadness.

"To me, dead people — even enemies — make me feel sad and sorry," said retired Lt. Col. Arnelio Loynaz, who was assigned to check on Ray's body in the mid-1970s.

"I feel sorry for him, and for his family."

Copyright © Los Angeles Times, Mar 15, 1998

The Miami Herald
February 13, 2001
Bay of Pigs pilot honored

After 40 years, CIA flier finally breaks silence

Cox News Service

PALM BEACH GARDENS -- He trained Cuban Americans to bomb their
homeland. He fell in love with the cause. He joined the assault on the Bay of Pigs
and flew for his life. Then Carl Nick Sudano barely mentioned any of it for 40

He'd let out a whisper now and then about his work in support of "the agency.''
But for the most part, the CIA code of silence suited Sudano's need to downplay
himself, to go about his business and leave it at that.

On Jan. 20, the CIA honored him with a rare Agency Seal Medallion in recognition
of his support during the embarrassing failure to overthrow Fidel Castro in April

He was honored along with the man who flew the B-26 bomber he nearly died in
and the families of two other men, an unusual public display about a chapter in
American history the CIA has good reason to try to forget.


The U.S. government said 114 Cuban exiles and four American pilots died in a
mission that Washington portrayed as a strictly Cuban uprising that it had nothing
to do with. It was originally designed as a gradual escalation of anti-Castro forces,
with help from the U.S. It ballooned into an all-out invasion, its budget jumping
from $4 million to $46 million, in which the American-trained invaders were
trapped on the beach by Castro's men.

One of the American trainers, Sudano only had to keep quiet for 20 years, he
said. The next 20 was his decision alone. But secrecy doesn't come so naturally

Then 31, now 70, Sudano got involved, he said, when his friend at the Alabama
Air National Guard, Riley Shamburger, told him pilots were wanted to help train
Cuban exiles how to fly in combat for some ``important'' government mission.

He'd do it.

"I was getting bored a little, sitting around in Birmingham, Ala.,'' Sudano said. He
told his wife he was going to technical school. Pilot Carl Nick Sudano became
civilian Nick Sudoli, so everyone could deny knowing him if things went wrong.
Americans were to have no acknowledged role in the invasion -- President John F.
Kennedy said so.

He arrived to a surreal atmosphere at the training ground in Puerto Cabezas in
Nicaragua. News had broken about the CIA's plan to organize Cuban Americans
to storm the shores of Cuba and eventually topple Castro, but no one, no one
official at least, ever said the words "Bay of Pigs.''


There was a divide, both culturally and psychologically, between the Americans
and the Cubans. But Sudano -- known simultaneously as drinker,
bar-room-brawler and heck-of-a-nice-guy -- made several Cuban friends right away
in a setting where some reports say the Cubans were treated poorly.

"You talk about families,'' said Sudano, "how homesick they might be and their
cause to try to liberate their country. I became very attached to their cause, too
much so, I think.''

The Cubans trained by Sudano and many other Americans never had a chance,
Sudano said, because Kennedy decided to withhold U.S. air support that was
needed to obliterate Castro's air power. The invading forces were encircled by
Castro's troops a few days into the mission. The exile pilots, some having flown
10 or more missions, were dog-tired.

The Americans weren't, though. And despite the orders that they not fly to Cuba,
Shamburger had another proposition for Sudano on the invasion's last day, April
19, 1961.

"Our president said, 'No.' We said, 'Screw you, we're going,''' Sudano said. He
and seven other men in four other planes got their superiors' blessings and took
off in bombers disguised as Cuban. Sudano paired with Joe Shannon.

It was a suicide mission. But Sudano was sure he'd be just fine, because, he
said, you're always sure if you're in combat.


After a three-hour flight, the bombers were descending toward their targets. Then
their run stopped before it started. He heard Shamburger say over the radio, "I'm
hit. On fire.''

"I looked behind me and I saw Riley peeling off, going down toward the
Caribbean,'' Sudano said. One of his best military friends was dead but Sudano,
to survive, had to ignore it. The Cuban T-33 wanted them next. Four of the group's
eight men didn't make it back, Sudano said.

Shannon guided the plane low, because his plane was more maneuverable at low
altitudes than the T-33.

"I didn't think we had a spitting chance in hell at that time,'' Sudano said.

Twenty feet above the Caribbean, Shannon zigzagged at 325 miles per hour. The
Cuban fighter couldn't lock in on them. They lived.

At the ceremony in Birmingham, emotions came out.

"I had a frog in my throat about 3 pounds,'' Sudano said. He was so moved he
couldn't bring himself to deliver his prepared speech, in which he would have
decried "the arrogance and stupidity of decisions made by political hacks,''
meaning, he says, primarily Kennedy.

The four who died were honored years ago. Sudano received little information
about the choice to honor the survivors now. In a letter to him, the CIA wrote that
"we've located records'' identifying Sudano and others as having flown but never
having been honored. That's it.

His story told, he ponders the medallion's meaning. It'll be a terrific heirloom for
the grandkids, he declares.

At last, he says, "I'm proud of it, no doubt about it.''

Later, he took Army National Guard helicopter training at Fort Rucker, Ala.
When he resigned from that, he went to work for Hayes International Corp., a
company with defense contracts in Birmingham
In February 1961, he told his wife, Margaret, he was going to an officer’s
training school. She wrote to him at a post office box in Chicago. He never
came back.
Neither did three other pilots who worked for Hayes. The dead Americans
had flown two of the 16 bombers that took off from the jungles of Nicaragua for
missions over Cuba. The families began receiving $225 twice a month from a
mysterious bank account.
“Nobody has ever told us officially he was working for the CIA,” his son
Ray’s copilot, Lee Baker, was shot dead by Cuban militiamen after the
plane crash landed on a grassy strip near the headquarters. Ray is believed to
have escaped to a swampy area two miles away where he was tracked down
and shot. Two other B26 flyers from Birmingham died when their plane went
down over the bay during the landing.

Without going into details, the agent explained in a conspiratorial whisper that the CIA had a secret project in the works to arm and train a brigade of Cuban exiles for an invasion of their homeland. That the CIA had a plan to overthrow Fidel Castro was enough to demand the general's attention. The Cuban dictator had become a thorn in the side of the United States, a menace to his neighbors, and a threat to peace throughout the region. He was a cancer that needed to be removed. "So we're finally going after the bearded lady," was Doster's booming response.

The man threw Doster a quizzical look. "Fidel. You know, the bearded lady," the general said. "You're finally going after that commie son of a bitch." Continuing in a hushed voice, the man told Doster that the CIA had sent him to Birmingham to get the Alabama Guard's help in training Cuban exiles for the secret project. The agency planned to equip a small liberation air force with refurbished B-26 light bombers from the Air Force's mothball fleet at Davis-Monthan AFB in Tucson, Arizona. A cadre of experienced pilot instructors along with maintenance and armament crews was needed, and the CIA hoped to draw from the Alabama Guard's pool of proven resources. Having retired its B-26s in the late 1950s, the Birmingham wing was the last USAF unit to fly the WWII-vintage bombers. The agent asked if the general would be willing to recruit qualified volunteers to deploy to a secret base in Guatemala for an extended period. The men would be sheep-dipped (sanitized) and sworn to secrecy. They were to talk to no one, not even their families, about the mission. "Mister, you got yourself an air force," Doster replied, jumping at the opportunity. "Nothing me and my boys would like better than to go down and kick Castro's butt." There was a second star in Doster's future whichever way he went, but an important mission like this one never hurt. It would also be good for "his boys" as he referred to the guardsmen in his wing. When the agent finished talking, Doster yelled to his secretary to get the governor's office on the telephone. When told that the governor would see them, Doster and the CIA man left in a staff car for the two-hour drive to Montgomery

Wings of Denial
Warren Trest and Don Todd

After nearly four decades of government denial, the deeds of four Alabama Air National Guardsmen who died at the Bay of Pigs in 1961 have been made public and their names memorialized at the CIA's Wall of Honor in Langley, Virginia. Their stories can now be told. Drawing upon a variety of sources, including recently declassified documents and personal interviews with guardsmen who were there, the authors have pieced together the heretofore secret story of the Alabama Air National Guard's clandestine role in the Bay of Pigs invasion. The four guardsmen who died flew with a group of Alabama volunteers to secret CIA bases in Guatemala and Nicaragua to train Cuban exiles to fly B-26 bombers in support of the invasion forces. When the small group of exhausted pilots could no longer sustain the air battle, seven Alabama Guardsmen flew with them into combat on the final day of the invasion in a futile attempt to stave off defeat at the embattled beachhead. The body of one of these men, Thomas W. "Pete" Ray, remained in Cuba until 1978 where it was frozen as a war trophy and as evidence of U.S. complicity in the failed 1961 invasion.

I think taking it to Clark a good idea. Sounds like a wonderful source for illustrations.
BTW, we are trying to raise about $40-45,000 for a special edition of Alabama Heritage devoted entirely to Alabama and Cuba. Know anyone who may be interested in chipping in?

Tuesday, August 05, 2003

Check out the blog today
The Grateful Dead Movie stuff is intimately related to my interest in Cuba. The last time Ken Kesey emailed me before he died he asked for Castro's address because he wanted to ask Fidel for permission to bring the Bus to Cuba. I gave him the address of the Cuban Interest Section in the Swiss Embassy in D.C. cause the Czechs had kicked them out of their embassy after they got free of the Soviets.
Ken Babbs was Kesey's best friend. He has helped me more than any other person in getting the word out about "Cuba Alabama".You will see my picture advertising his t-shirts and a link to "CubAla" on his website Babbs is a little left wing and I'm a little right wing so we compliment each other. And we have something in common. We were both devastated when Kesey died. Less than three hours after Kesey died at 3 A.M. on Saturday morning, Babbs emailed me the bad news.
It is my desire to ride on Kesey's bus in Cuba. When Kesey took the bus to England for Channel 4's Search for Merlin and also when he took the Bus to Cleveland for the induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, he asked a good old buddy of mine, John Allen Cassady to drive. I met John here in Tuscaloosa when he lived here in the early '70's and we had a lot of fun together. John is named after Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsburg. His parents are Neal and Carolyn Cassady. Neal drove the bus on the trip chronicled by Tom Wolfe in The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test. Since Neal wasn't available, Kesey asked John to drive. Hopefully John will be able to drive the Bus in Cuba. I think Kesey would have wanted that
Thought I'd rent the veil a little more on THE MASTER PLAN.

Give them what they want.
Give them their money's worth.
-- Skypilotclub motto

to email click on:

Dear all,

Like many of you, I have been waiting and waiting for the legendary Sunshine Daydream film (from 8/27/72) to be released.

I recently got in touch with with Sam Field, one of the original filmmakers.
Sam has been working for a long time now on preparing the movie for release. As has been rumored for some time now, the process has gotten caught up and delayed for some time now in the bureaucratic and contractual spokes of GDP.

Excerpts from Sam's reply to me are below:

"I know the TV networks consider if they get a letter supporting a show, it
represents 100,000, or some such number, viewers. I trust you when you say
you speak for many. I know there are many who agree with you and we need to
get this movie out there for all to enjoy. It will happen!"

"As you know, GD is still going through their changes and somehow, they have
not yet found the time to bless our project for its due release. We do need
them for a minor remix and, of course, they can add immeasurable promotional
energy. When the summer tour slows down, and everybody gets back in town,
we will give them our full court press and get this pushed through."

"Since we have basically 4 camera tracks, Jerry cam, Bobby cam, Phil cam and
general cam, we thought the DVD should have all 4 picture tracks available
and you could watch "all Jerry all the time", if you so desired."

"Please share this email address, , which I set
up for just this purpose, with all your friends and then I can take a stack of
emails with me when we finally do the negotiations. You can make a


Call to Van Buren, March 28,1830

"The deed to Panton, Leslie & Co. is more formal, but is liable to the following objections:
it was made subsequent to the death of Panton and Leslie. It purports to have been made by the Seminole Indians in consideration of the debts due by them to the said house. But the list of debtors as well as those who signed the deed showing that they belonged to the Indian towns within the limits of the United States, the confirmation by Governor Folch of both these claims covering near two million acres of land is evidently spurious. But even if it was genuine, I have obtained the most conclusive proof of the total want of power in Gov. Folch to confirm those grants. The second grant to John Forbes & Co. is estimated to contain one and a half million of acres, but from the boundaries extending from the Appalachicola to the River Choctawatchee and presenting a grant on the sea coast of more than a hundred miles it must contain nearly double that quantity. It purports to have been granted by the Capn. General of Cuba in consideration of losses said to have been sustained by the said house. This grant bears upon its face the most conclusive evidence of its fraudulent character. The original dates have been erased and others inserted, in order to bring it within provisions of the 8th article of the treaty which renders void all grants made subsequent to the 24th day of January, 1818. The grant to John Forbes individually is for an Island in the River Appalachicola said to contain 7,000 acres. This depends alone on a deed of gift from a few Indians most of whom lived north of the 31st degree of Latitude, and never was formally confirmed by Governor Folch or any other authority of the Spanish government."

Monday, August 04, 2003


Sunday, August 03, 2003

Tarpon fishing in the mangroves of Cuba's south coast tidal rivers was the first thing that lit a fire in me for Cuba. I had flown over the island fourteen times on my way to Ecuador but a National Geographic book on fishing published in '39 made me aware of Cuba's incredible fishing. In the future I will try to get some of those old pictures and text on the Web.

Dear Chuck:
An important bicentennial will occur on May 25, 2004. This will mark the 200th anniversary of the signing of the Forbes Purchase at Chiskatalofa, an Indian village located around Ellicott Survey Mound #381 near the point where Alabama, Florida and Georgia intersect on the west bank of the Chattahoochee in present-day Houston County, Alabama. This deed of cession of 1.2 million acres east of the Apalachicola River to John Forbes & Co. began an entire series of treaties where Indians paid their debts with the only thing they possessed, their land. Since John Forbes moved to his sugar plantation, Canimar, in Matanzas Province, Cuba in 1817, many of the business transactions and lawsuits associated with the Forbes Purchase occurred in Cuba. When Forbes died in 1823, his son-in-law,Francisco Dalcourt(husband to Forbes' daughter, Sophia) was appointed executor of Forbes's estate in Cuba. Money from the sale of the Forbes Purchase became tied up in a series of lawsuits filed in New Orleans and Matanzas by those claiming to be owed money by the Forbes's estate. Litigation over the property granted to John Forbes by the Indians at Chiskatalofa in 1804 remained in the courts until 1923, a century after Forbes had died, when the Florida Supreme Court ruled that submerged land in Apalachicola Bay granted by the Forbes Purchase was owned by the State of Florida.

After being appointed Receiver of Pubic Monies in the General Land Office in 1825, Richard Keith Call sailed to Havana to examine the original Forbes Purchase documents . From then on, Call argued to overturn the Forbes's Purchase. According Coker and Watson:

At Call's urging, the U.S. Supreme Court delayed hearing the case until 1835. In the interim, the government sent Jeremy Robinson to Havana to obtain documents to support the government's arguments. Fully briefed by Call, Robinson spent two years in Havana locating and identifying documents, but he died in 1834 before any of these papers were sent to Washington. Nicholas Philip Trist succeeded Robinson and uncovered forty-five documents in Havana, which the Supreme Court refused to admit as evidence.

This was Justice Marshall's last case and he upheld as perfectly legal the Forbes Purchase land grant.

It is my understanding that Jay Shuler of Apalachicola has some Forbes Purchase documents. I am going to try to call him today.

A lot of my research is posted on my weblog
It is easy to find on the Web. Just type "cuba alabama" into google or yahoo search engines and along with over 1.2 million other hits, my blog comes up #1. With google, you can type "cuba alabama" in and click on the "I'm feeling lucky" and my site pops right up.
It is my desire to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the May 25, 1804 signing of the Forbes Purchase in some appropriate way. I am discovering fascinating details on a daily basis. It's not a coincidence that Mobile's James Innerarity had the 24 Lower Creek and Seminole sign over their land on May 25, 1804. On May 25, 1803, exactly one year to the day earlier , the Creeks gave the OK to seize Bowles and put him in handcuffs at Hickory Ground near present-day Wetumpka, Alabama. Many of the 24 chiefs who signed over the land between the Apalachicola and the Wakulla to John Forbes & Co. in 1804 had been allies of Bowles and had promised him this same land. Much of their debt was due to Bowles attack on the Panton,Leslie and Co. store on the Wakulla in 1792. In order to get the chiefs to sign, Innerarity had to promise to open a store at Prospect Bluff on the Apalachicola River. Of course, building the store there led to the British building the Negro Fort there and later Jackson building Fort Gadsden on top of the Negro Fort's ruins.

Please feel free to forward this email to anyone and let me hear from you.
Best wishes,
Robert Register


Here I stand near Nickajack where Alabama,Georgia and Tennessee intersect. Please send all suggestions and other unwanted comments to

Muchas gracias a mi buen amigo, babbs, para el t-shirt. Git yur skypilotclub t-shirt @

Robert Register
with his buddy,
Mr. Hugh Taylor.

As always, any suggestions or other unwanted comments should be sent to

Well, I can see more of the "master" plan in your last two or three communications.
Jimmy Doster a strange dude. I always got along with him; still do, I suppose. I would try to persuade him to cooperate, rather than fly in his face. It would make for a much stronger publication.
Globalization has its price; and some of it is too high. I agree with you; high school students should be given Alabama history. Taught properly, it is not simply the narrow history of a state, but the history of a nation through the witness of one state.
Why wait until post-Fidel until going to Cuba? He's only seventy-five, and may live to 100. I know your feelings about his regime. I'm no Fidel-lover either, but sometimes the good--personal and professional--that can come from travel outweighs the personal misgivings about a country's leadership.With all you have read about Cuba, you would enjoy going to places such as Matanzas, etc. There are few--if any--travel restrictions in the country. I traveled to Cienfuegos, Camaguey back in the summer of 2001 with no problems. And we are developing ties with historians, archivists, librarians, some of whom could possibly be of real assistance to you. My guess is the basic bureaucratic infrastructure will continue in Cuba after Fidel's passing, especially those at the lower level of the food chain, not involved or beholden totally to the Party for their positions. However, the "future of Cuba" is probably is unsure as anything in the world; I think diviners and swamis have probably as good a guess as the analysts at CIA or NSA....

robert register wrote:

Three of the most intriguing figures in Alabama History made Cuba their home. John Forbes at his plantation, Canimar. James Innerarity on his Canimar River plantation, Heloisa and William Augustus Bowles in the dungeons of Morro Castle. In some way I would like to bring the Cuban Connection to Alabama History back to the young people of Alabama. In February of '98, Alabama History was eliminated as a graduation requirement in all public high schools in Alabama. Nearly all of the graduating classes of 2002 and 2003 had no Alabama History class taught in their high schools. I talked to Rufus Bealle the day the state school board eliminated it and he told me it was a sad day for Mrs. Summersell. My son will enter the 9th grade at County High on Thursday and he will not have the opportunity to study the history of his own state. A portion of my master plan is to get some information about Alabama History to the young people of this state. I have no desire to pitch my ideas to ANY of the social studies teachers in the public schools of this state so I will be looking for alternative methods of communication.
Since my three heroes (Forbes, Innerarity and Bowles) knew Cuba, I would like to know Cuba as well. I plan to visit and study in a post-Fidel/post-Communist Cuba. There is an organization that is working toward the non-violent transition to a Constitutional Cuba. It is the Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy. They will be having their 13th annual meeting in Coral Gables next week. Many of their members will not be able to attend because Fidel put them in jail during the past year. It would be wonderful if someone connected to Cuba-Alabama Week could attend some of the sessions. Give me a $1000 and I'll attend all three days of meetings and bring back a load of material. Check out the conference at
Just thought I'd raise the curtain a little on the "Master Plan". When I argued with educators back in '98 about their decision to kill Alabama History, they all came back with the same bull," But, Robert, We're trying to expose our students to a global perspective." What could be more global than the ports of Mobile, Pensacola, Tampa, Havana and New Orleans?

Where is all this taking you? Much of it is fascinating, and as I prepare once again to teach my old Spanish South and Southwest (the old Boltonian Spanish Borderlands), I find the references, sources, etc. very useful. But what are you going to do with all this? Perhaps you've told me of the "master" plan and it just went into a cell now in temporary abeyance in my head.
Anyhow, thanks for sharing all this. As time passes I and Pam Jones collaborating with me on the piece for Alabama Heritage will certainly like to draw upon this vast accumulation of docs and images you have brought together.