Thursday, February 17, 2011

Bay of Pigs news coverage by Tad Szulc of The New York Times

Anti-Castro Units Land in Cuba; Report Fighting at Beachhead; Rusk Says U.S. Won't Intervene

PREMIER DEFIANT Says His Troops Battle Heroically to Repel Attacking Force

By Tad Szulc
Special to The New York Times


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Rusk Declares Sympathy of Nation for Castro Foes

Roa Charges U.S. Armed Invaders: Tells U.N. That C.I.A. Aided Attacks -- 'Agression' Is Denied by Stevenson

Miami, Tuesday, April 18 - Rebel troops opposed to Premier Fidel Castro landed before dawn yesterday on the swampy southern coast of Cuba in Las Villas Province.

The attack, which was supported from the air, was announced by the rebels and confirmed by the Cuban Government.

After fourteen hours of silence on the progress of the assault, the Government radio in Havana broadcast early today a terse communique signed by Premier Castro announcing only that "our armed forces are continuing to fight the enemy heroically."

The announcement, made shortly before 1 A. M., said that within the next few hours details of "our successes" would be given.

The communique came amid a wave of rebel assertions of victories, new landings and internal uprisings. The rebel spokesmen were acclaiming important progress in new landings in Oriente and Pinar del Rio Provinces, but none of these reports could be confirmed.

Government Reports Battle

The Government communique said a battle had been fought in the southeastern part of Las Villas Province, where yesterday morning's landings occurred.

Although the communique was signed by Premier Castro, the Cuban leader has not spoken to his nation since the attack began. An earlier communique, issued yesterday, reported the rebel landings.

In a communique issued last night, the Revolutionary Council, the top command of the rebel forces, said merely that military supplies and equipment were landed successfully on the marshy beachhead. The communique added that "some armed resistance" by supporters of Premier Castro had been overcome.

Premier Castro was reported to have escaped injury in an early-morning air raid yesterday near the beachhead.

The Revolutionary Council's announcement spoke of action in Matanzas Province, indicating that the rebels might have crossed the provincial border from Las Villas. The border is about ten miles north of the presumed landing spot.

The communique also said that "substantial amounts of food and ammunition" had reached the underground units in that region.

The Government accused the United States of having organized the attack.

Late last night unconfirmed reports from rebel leaders asserted that the attacking force had penetrated deep into Matanzas Province, reaching the central high way near the town of Colon.

An insistent spate of reports said that numerous landings also had occurred in Oriente Province, in the eastern part of Cuba, in the vicinity of Santiago de Cuba. But a complete blackout of direct news from Cuba made it impossible to assess the situation accurately.

In New York, the Revolutionary Council announced that "much of the militia in the countryside has already defected from Castro." The council predicted that "the principal battle" of the revolt would be fought along with a coordinated wave of sabotage before dawn.

President Jose Miro Cardona of the council in an earlier statement had called for Western Hemisphere peoples to support the revolt "morally and materially." The council has announced its aim to set up a "government in arms" as soon as it can get territory in Cuba and then to ask for foreign recognition and help.

[A dispatch said that the Cuban naval station at Veradero had reported a fleet of eight strange ships off Cardenas, north coast seaport about eighty-five miles east of Havana.]

National Alert Declared

The invaders, in undetermined numbers, are under the orders of the Revolutionary Council. In the words of its declaration, the Council seeks the overthrow of the Castro regime and the freeing of Cuba from "international communism's cruel oppression."

Premier Castro declared shortly before noon a state of national alert and called all his militia forces to their posts.

The Cuban official radio announced last night the arrest of Havana's Auxiliary Bishop, Msgr. Eduardo Roza Masvidal, on charges of hiding United States currency and medicine for anti-Castro rebels.

The Government-controlled radio stations offered their normal music programs and soap operas. There were no further references to the landings.

An occasional announcement spoke of foreign support for Cuba, including a mention of volunteers from Czechoslovakia seeking to enlist to fight in Cuba.

According to official statements by both sides, the rebel forces went ashore during the night near the Bay of Cochinos as paratroop units were dropped farther inland to link up with underground fighters.

It was believed that the rebels landed near Playa Larga, on the eastern bank of the Cochinos Bay, which means the Bay of Pigs. This bay is wedged into the vast swamp of the Cienega de Zepata.

Report of Capture Unconfirmed

Persistent reports in exile circles that Raul Castro, Fidel's brother and Minister of the Revolutionary armed forces, had been captured somewhere near Santiago could not be confirmed.

One Cuban in close touch with Democratic Revolutionary Front activities here said the report was given credence by the fact that Dr. Castro had assumed the military role that for recent months he had turned over to his brother.

Dr. Castro charged that the invaders were "mercenaries" in the service of United States "imperialism." He pledged the Cubans to fight until death for the preservation of their "democratic and Socialist revolution."

The Revolutionary Council members were standing by, ready to move into Cuba and proclaim a "government in arms" as soon as the beachhead is firmly secured.

It was not known early last night how many troops had participated in the Las Villas landing. Whether this was to be the principal thrust against the Castro forces or the first of several such attacks also was not known.

The total strength of forces available to the rebels is estimated at somewhat over 5,000 men. Opposed to them is a military establishment of 400,000 of the regular army and the militia armed with the most modern Soviet bloc weapons.

The rebel command is known to believe that one or more major landings would set off internal uprisings and many desertions by soldiers and the militia.

Today it was too early to tell whether this optimism was justified.

The use by the rebels yesterday of planes and gunboats covering the landing indicated that it was an operation of major scope and not just another guerrilla foray of the type that has been occurring in the past.

It was believed here that the attacking forces came from the camps in Guatamala, where they have been trained for the last nine months. Some of the units may have come from a rebel camp in Louisiana.

Battle Area Strafed

It was believed however, that the rebel troops left their camps a day or so ago and were staged for the jump-off at Caribbean islands somewhere between Central America and the Cienaga de Zapata Peninsula of Las Villas Province.

A possible location of the staging area is the Swan Islands, where there is an anti-Castro radio station.

Capt. Manuel Artime a 29-year-old former Castro officer, is reported to be the field commander of the operation. He was appointed last week by the Revolutionary Council as its "delegate to the armed forces."

Rebel aircraft bombed and strafed the battle area that extends into Matanzas Province.

About 7 o'clock in the morning, Premier Castro, personally leading the defense operations, was reported to have found himself under an aerial bombardment in the small town of Boca de Laguna de Tesoro, about ten miles to the northeast of Cochinos Bay.

Cuban radio stations broadcast at 11:07 A.M. proclamations by Dr. Castro and President Osvaldo Doricos Torrado acknowledging that Cuba had been attacked and declaring a state of national alert.

Up to then, radio stations had kept up normal musical programs, which beginning at 8 A.M. were interrupted by constant "urgent" calls from the general staff of the army ordering militiamen to report immediately to their battle stations.

The only report issued during the day by the Castro regime on the progress of the fighting came in the Premier's proclamation. He declared that "our troops are advancing against the enemy in the certainty of victory."

Radio messages on the Government microwave network monitored here- which gave a dramatic minute-by-minute account of the first hours of the landing- included appeals for reinforcements from additional militia battalions and a request for ambulances for the "many wounded."

It was a frantic conversation between Government radio operators in the invasion area that provided the news that Premier Castro was in the town being bombed.

The network ceased transmitting at 7:20 A.M. - except for the sudden call for the ambulances that came at 11 A. M.

Varona's Visit Cited

There were many indications that the mechanism of the invasion was set finally into motion Sunday when Dr. Manuel Antonio De Varona, a member of the Revolutionary Council and Minister of Defense in the Provisional Government, made a quick flight and visit to Miami.

Simultaneously, a large number of exile leaders here, including military figures, vanished early Sunday. They have not been seen since.

The climate for the invasion- anticipated and promised by the Cuban rebels for many weeks- was created to a large extent by events of last week.

Since last Thursday a major wave of sabotage swept Cuba. Saturday three B-26 aircraft bombed three air bases on the island. Beginning in the middle of last week informants in Cuban groups made it known confidentially that "important events" were to be expected over the week-end.

Final preparations for the move against the Castro regime started in earnest about three weeks ago after the Revolutionary Council was formed and a secret mobilization order went out to rebel volunteers.

For the last three weeks hundreds of volunteers had been leaving the Miami and New York areas for the camps in the training grounds in Guatamala. Yesterday as word of the attack spread in Miami, additional hundreds of volunteers began appearing at the recruiting offices of several of the movements that make up the Revolutionary Council.

At least one sizable group of highly trained officers and men were still held back at a ranch on the outskirts of Miami.

In his proclamations, Dr. Castro appealed repeatedly for support by Latin-American nations. The Havana radio broadcast reports of Latin-American solidarity for the Cuban cause.

The Revolutionary Council also addressed itself to Latin America. Its dawn declaration stated that the rebels were convinced that "the freedom-loving people of this hemisphere will make common cause with them and support them."

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