Cuban Rebels in Action 1958
Man's Magazine, April 1959, Vol. 7, No. 4, pages 24-25,
MAN'S was bird-dogging
Underground" story (page 24) long before Castro's
openly to turn Miami and environs into a revolutionist's
supermarket. In fact, as MAN'S goes to press,
like Dumas, Conrad and London pop up daily in the
- An arms laden plane and 22 persons were seized here
gunfire when police interrupted loading operations at an
"MIAMI, FLA. -
Cubans, two of whom wheeled their fleeing munitions
packed car into a
crowded dog track, were captured after a shooting chase
of 12 blocks."
"OCALA, FLA. -
road patrolman intercepted an auto convoy of arms for
early today and eight persons, including a Miami soldier
were arrested after a two-county chase."
knows Florida and Cuba as well as he knows his wife
after 35 years of
marriage. A Miami Herald columnist, Jack has seen
the rebels in
action in Cuba and Florida!
[To see a
full size photo, right click and VIEW IMAGE]
[caption] EDITOR'S NOTE: As MAN'S went to press, rebel
Cuba. This story reveals, in part, how Fidel
insurgent group overthrew Strong Man Batista's regime.
by Jack Kofoed
FICO SAT in the sunshine of Miami's Bayfront Park, smoking a
cigarette. He wore rope-soled canvas shoes called
a soiled white guayabera shirt hung outside his pants.
Fico is a friend of mine. I met him years ago at the
alai fronton, which stands in a maze of narrow slum streets,
smelly and brawling with noise. He seemed acquainted
everybody, but what he did for a living I never knew.
After Batista had unseated Dr. Carlos Prio Socarras as
Cuba, Fico left Havana hurriedly and settled in Miami.
English well, and since there are 45,000 of his countrymen,
them anti-Batista, in Dade County there is no opportunity to
lonesome. Saloons along Miami Avenue are not as cozy
bodegas he frequented at home, and he missed his favorite
chilindron; but after all, you can't have everything.
When Fico arrived, there was only a splinter anti-Batista
in Miami. It began to grow, stimulated by rebel leader
Castro's first attacks against the government. Once
Fidel led 80
followers from a diesel-powered yacht to the sandy beach at
Nicaro. There they were met by gun-blasting soldiers,
and only 20
rebels lived through the barrage. His 26th of July
assault on the
Moncada barracks proved equally disastrous. Both times
captured and pardoned by Batista. But he became a
only to countrymen in Cuba, but to those Cubanos who had
voluntarily or through duress, to Miami.
caught in boat headed for Cuba include ex-Brooklynite
Antonio Lopez (rt.).
Machine-guns riddle an Army
Havana...A farmer in Pinar
shoots a cop...An
fires an Oriente sugar
behind it all are the
gunrunners who have turned
world's winter playground
a menacing cloak-and-dagger
[caption] Arms recovered
from the cruiser Harpoon
are sorted after cutter intercepted ship at sea.
[caption] Handcuffed in pairs, members of the Cuban
underground are taken to Miami on charges of smuggling.
In the years that have passed, the Miami underground
developed into an
incredible network of intrigue, turning the world's largest
playground in the gaudiest cloak-and-dagger city in the
hemisphere. Members work in every possible way for
raising money and shipping arms, ammunition, food and
medicine, as well
as recruits, to him.
Expatriated Cubans, particularly those who have not become
take great risks. The latter can have their visas
revoked, and be
sent back to face Batista's wrath at home. They know
regard Castro's rebels as freedom fighters, likening them to
Hungarians who died under Russian machine-gun fire in the
"A big day for us, this," Fico said, jabbing at me with his
cigarette. Having covered stories now on the front
page of my
paper, the Miami Herald, I knew exactly what he meant . . .
A Cubana Airlines' DC3 took off from Guantanamo carrying
passengers and a crew of three. The first leg of the
Moa Bay is only a 15-minute run. When the plane was
three men, pistols in hand, rose from their seats. One
guard over the other passengers, the others went to the
gave orders to the pilot. Looking into the threatening
there was nothing the pilot could do but obey.
He was ordered to fly over the Sierra Maestra range and set
down on an airstrip controlled by the rebels. Castro,
strengthened his ground forces, wanted to add to his
force. The DC3 could be equipped with makeshift bomb
the improbable dream of bombing Havana might be made a
Almost simultaneously, guerrillas attacked an army outpost,
half a dozen soldiers in a sharp,
continued Page 86
brief fight, then slipping back into the hills.
The success of the kidnaping set off a spate of
others. A few
days later another Cubana Viscount turbo-jet warmed up on
its strip at
Miami International Airport. Seven Americans boarded
for a flight to Varadero Beach. Mingling with them
Cuban rebels, who apparently had been based in Miami for
Their pattern was the same as in the previous coup.
belts had been unloosened, cigarettes lighted, and a
serving daiquiris, the four rebels brandished their
ordered the pilot to fly to the Castro-occupied province of
Oriente. Though there are no witnesses to testify, the
have protested. Landing on a rough, badly-lit airstrip
mountains would be hazardous.
Shrugs, palms of hands upward. Quien sabe? Who
We take chances every day. What does another amount
the pilot lined up his plane for the approach, misjudged the
crashed into Nipe Bay. Result: 17 lives lost.
Miami's rebels are hard men, not easily discouraged.
die if their objective is to be achieved. What
death comes in a plane or on the battlefield? It's too
innocent people go, too, but in war everyone is expendable.
Havana lies 250 miles from Miami, across the blue-green
waters of the
Caribbean. It was a sophisticated, Continental city,
gambling and sex were flaunted. Today, since Castro's
across it, it is neither gay nor carefree. And one
reason why the
shadow persists lies in the Miami underground.
A little grocery store on the West Side, a Spanish
restaurant on Miami
Avenue, a motel on Miami Beach may be important
centers. The bus boy who removes dishes from your
table in a
hotel dining room, the taxi-driver who takes you to the
woman who waits on you in a shop - may be leaders in the
Machine-gun bullets rip through a military intelligence car
in Havana .
. . a farmer in Pinar del Rio fires a .45 automatic pistol
threatening police lieutenant . . . an incendiary bomb burst
flame roaring through fields of sugar cane in Oriente.
Guns, ammunition and explosives are the muscle and sinew of
revolution. Even the toughest guerrillas can't wage
knives and machetes. In the business of getting
rebels look at Miami as a housewife regards a
supermarket. It is
the funnel through which supplies, purchased in different
parts of the
United States, are poured. Private planes are air
isolated airports, carrying every pound allowable.
take off all the way from Fort Lauderdale to tiny islets
near Key West,
not only with weapons, but recruits for Castro's small
Individuals fly on regularly scheduled airlines, weapons
their bodies . . .
"It's kind of funny," said Fico. "I mean, how much we
do, and how
little people around town know about it. ‘Batista!
say. ‘We've got enough troubles of our own without
those Cubans!' So, it's only when they read about
up machine guns in an apartment, or the Border Patrol
capturing one of
our boats, that they even give us a thought. But, we
trouble just the same, with the FBI, Border Patrol, local
others on our tails.
"There are plenty of Batista secret police here, too.
even citizens who don't know anything about us get us in
Like a taxi-driver, suspicious because his fare's bags were
heavy. He told a policeman, and we lost 40 automatic
pistols. Still, we get through about 90 per cent of
what we send."
That is doubtful. The Border Patrol estimates 50 per
cent, so the
real truth probably lies between those figures.
Whatever it is,
the job has been amazing. There have been few
Fidel Castro's men ran short of ammunition.
Occasionally stories creep into the papers . . . stories
drama. They represent only a minute bit of what goes
on day after
day in the luxury capital of the world. One concerned
the 60 foot
cabin cruiser Harpoon, hired for a gunrunning
expedition. It was
an old boat. As a cover, while loading, the rebels
hull. Some observant soul noticed that, while standing
the water when loading began, the Harpoon settled deeper and
its cargo of guns and ammunition was loaded. So - too
forestall the cruiser's departure - a tip was passed along
The 32 men aboard wore arm bands marked "Comando Calixto" or
"OA." The first was for a revolutionary who died in an
the Presidential Palace in Havana; the second for
Autentico," a political party headed by former President
Socarras. The cargo was made up of mortars, antitank
ammunition and supplies, all vital needs for Castro's
The filibusters (gunrunners) were aware of the danger they
If the Harpoon outrode American hunters, more ominous danger
when they made a landing on the Cuban coast. There,
underground would face no fines, not short prison
police shoot first, ask questions, if any, afterward.
times when they hanged filibusters to the nearest trees
without even a
Realizing this, the men aboard the Harpoon were tight as
fiddle strings as the cruiser cut a path through the quiet
Suddenly a searchlight silhouetted them against the
voice shouted: "Keep on course . . . keep on course!"
Douglas C. Shute slid alongside, but the rebel helmsman paid
attention to the order. He spun his wheel, slamming
into the bank.
Below deck men frenziedly smashed port holes and tossed
the water. Others poured up on the deck, screaming in
anger. One man pointed a Tommy-gun at Inspector
Raymond D. Bond,
pulled the trigger . . . but the weapon jammed.
to blow up the gas tank with the detonator of a hand
exploded in his hand, ripping off a couple of fingers.
For a moment it was touch and go. There were only
against 32 filibusters, but cooler heads among the rebels
carnage. Some talked about making a break when they
Fort Lauderdale, but a large number of police were on hand
landed, so the attempt was never made. This was not
catch of its kind made by the Border Patrol. Ten
they descended on Big Pine key, and took another cruiser,
with 30 men, listed as reinforcements for Castro, and a
amount of arms aboard.
When the excitement was over, the prisoners did not resent
arrest, and considered their capture an incident of
took the position that they were patriots, and doing no more
patriot should. They were heartbroken at having failed
adventure, but determined to try again.
Most boats used for filibustering are rented, often from
know nothing of the purpose for which they will be
used. Some are
purchased outright, like the Corinthia, which was used in a
fiasco, an attack on the Cuban coast in which most of the
carried were shot by troops lying in ambush.
Failures, trouble from without, sometimes treason from
circle, even deaths, have not deterred supporters of the
revolution. All Cubans in Miami are not sworn enemies
Batista government. Some think the stocky, one-time
done much for the country. The majority, though,
and support to Castro.
Originally Castro found his weapons in hit-and-miss
Maids in the homes of Army officers or police officials were
tip off rebels to the time when families would be
they'd break in and steal whatever side arms they could
This furnished only a trickle of what was needed. When
situation became desperate, hit-and-run attacks were staged
or barracks, where rifles and Tommy-guns were in large
These raids alerted the government so success became more
difficult to achieve.
As political arrests increased, thousands of Cubans fled to
Miami. The majority are by no means rich. They
work at a
variety of jobs at average, or less than average,
own restaurants or stores. There are a few wealthy men
former President Dr. Carlos Prio Socarras, who was
Batista in 1952.
Handsome, mustachioed Prio, who lives in the penthouse of
Vendome Hotel, is credited with being the bankroll of the
underground. The ex-president denies this, but when
rial for violating the National Security Act several years
pleaded nolo contendere, and was fined $9,000. In
Prio was indicted by a Federal Grand Jury for the same
allegedly, in his case, meant smuggling arms and troops.
"The good doctor is important to us," Fico said, " but we do
him for president again when we win. Many of us do not
Castro either . . . Who do we want?" He shrugged his
shoulders. "Who can tell? We are funny
see what goes on around here. You know."
Though all out for the revolution, Miami's Cuban are split
organizations, divided in aims and ideas as to how to help
revolution: One, the "26 of July" movement, is named
day the guerrilla leader made his dramatic attack on the
barracks. Another is the "Directorio
students and intellectuals; the "Autentico Party,"is Dr.
Leadership is not always decided by wealth, social standing
political prominence. Among section groups, which do
gunrunning, one is led by a bus boy.
There is no strength in division, and Castro's supporters
to realize this. Many believe the failure of a general
followed by all-out war, announced a year ago, was partly
contradictory intelligence Castro received from Miami
Being emotional, the Cubans sometimes act without
staged several street demonstrations in Miami against police
orders. Some hotheads beat up a legislator, Rodolfo
Rojas, and Justo Luis del Pozo, son of Havana's mayor, while
visiting the city.
"That was foolish," said Fico. "It makes us look like
and we are not hoodlums. It attracts attention to us,
and we do
not need attention. Many of us are here on temporary
visas - we
can be sent back to Cuba; and you know what happens to us
He made a slitting motion across his throat.
Most Miami-based Cubans are beginning to realize that.
there have been no public demonstrations, though many of the
fanatical rebel supporters openly claim the United States
gives aid to
the Batista government.
These, then, are the people who have turned Miami into the
most conspiratorial city. They gamble a million
dollars a year on
getting supplies to Castro, and "gamble" is the proper word,
have no idea of how much will actually get through.
Buyers negotiate with arms dealers in New York, Washington,
and Los Angeles . . . Mls, carbines, Thompson sub-machine
automatic pistols, shotguns, .75 mm. anti-tank guns and
wanted most. Purchasing agents are busy, on a smaller
Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Costa Rica and
World War II Army machine guns are purchased ostensibly as
souvenirs. These were deactivated under government
welding the barrel of the gun to the receiver, or operating
and plugging the barrel. This is an easy problem to
The government weld is broken, the barrel replaced, and the
into a deadly killer.
The Cubans also alter electrically operated machine guns,
use in aircraft. Tripods, triggers and rifle butts are
which, users say makes the weapon more defective than the
There has been a marked increase in business for Miami
and in most instances sales are legal. It is lawful
traveler to carry three hand guns, or rifles, out of the
person making several trips, with ammunition strapped under
clothing, can supply a 10-man fighting unit for a week.
All weapons are not earmarked for Castro's mountain
fighters, or even
for Fifth Columns scattered throughout the Sugar
have been laid not only for the next battle, or the next
the future. Underground training schools are set up in
provinces, where recruits are taught to assemble and use
"A isn't a factor," said Fico. "Middleaged farmers and
get the hang of it in a little while. Why, I even know
woman who can put together three rifles while she boils a
rice. These people are not fussy about what they
Anything which shoots when the trigger is pulled will do.
There is little difficulty buying weapons, much in getting
through. The rebels have adopted some of the
Prohibition-era bootleggers. They establish "drops"
can be deposited, to be picked up later.
Shipments move from originating points by trucks,
trailers and rental trailers. If from New York or
are stored in warehouses in Savannah or adjacent
broken into small lots to be transported, usually by private
Here they are kept in homes, motel rooms, garages or barns
details for getting them out of the country are
Security is essential, and while security is excellent for
knit organizations, the FBI, other government agencies or
often find out what is happening.
For example, customs agents learned that 200 M-1 carbines
bought in Alexandria, Virginia, moved out and stored in
In the dark of night three Cubans loaded those guns in two
cars and a
trailer and headed for Miami. They took turns driving,
drove fast. It wasn't until they had reached Pompano
the Florida Turnpike, that the agents, by that time
Florida Highway Patrolmen, caught up with the caravan,
men, and confiscated the carbines.
There is danger from money-hungry rebels and unscrupulous
gangster, who want to get their hands on rebel loot, as well
as from U.
S. law enforcement authorities and the Cuban secret
have been members of the inner circle, entrusted with large
which to buy guns, who made deals with sellers to raise
and then split the difference with the traitors.
Even the underworld has, on occasion, edged into the
rebel agents named de la Torre and Madariaga left Miami on a
trip carrying $248,000. Because of the nature of these
transactions, cash on the barrel-head is the only accepted
doing business. A hoodlum named Gene Norris convinced
he could make a better deal for them than anyone else.
roundabout journeys through several states, de la Torre and
were held up at gunpoint in a Fort Worth, Texas, motel and
every dollar they had.
Later, when Norris attempted to pick up the money from a
cache where he had hidden it, he was shot to death by Texas
The cloak-and-dagger Cubans have come to accept such hazards
unhappy results as inevitable parts of their program.
be waste and losses in war, and the only yardstick of the
success is the percentage of supplies which get through.
There are many secret meeting places which, of necessity,
changed from time to time. One, used for a long time,
abandoned private airport west of Fort Lauderdale.
sympathizers gathered there, sometimes in large numbers,
arousing suspicion. They flew model airplanes as a
cover, and the
mild funmaking brought no police to investigate.
rebel plane landed and took off from the strip at regular
bringing instructions from the Man of Sierra Maestra, and
reports and money.
In October, three F51 fighters were destroyed by gasoline
Broward International Airport. The owner said they
were to have
been converted into executive type aircraft. That
reasonable. Single seaters such as F51s equipped with
could be made over only at excessive cost. Edward
young soldier of fortune who left the rebel forces because
said Castro planned to drop bombs on Havana; and authorities
the F51s might have been a part of this plan, just as the
Cubana passenger plane undoubtedly was, too.
Personable, outspoken Jose Aleman owns the Trade Winds
Miami Beach. He also owned- before selling it to the
Miami-the Miami Stadium and an enormous amount of other
him by his father, the late Cuban Senator Aleman.
Young Jose is
one of five men heading the "Directorio Estudiantil"
Council). He has helped many refugees make a new start
but strenuously denies having anything to do with
Exiles stay at the Trade Winds for undetermined
afternoon last June, Dade County deputy sheriffs slammed
patrol cars to
a noisy stop in front of the apartment house. They
most of the units, when denied keys, and found 4,300 rounds
ammunition, 900 sticks of dynamite, two Tommy-guns and
charts covering waters between the United States and
young Cubans, on guard duty, were arrested. Jose
anything of the cache.
To show how widespread are the meeting places and "drops,"
were seized at a house on NE 110th St., a $25,000 cache
packed in oil
drums on a downtown pier, 600 sticks of dynamite on SW 18th
machine guns and 83,000 rounds of ammunition on 27th Avenue
phosphorous bombs in an apartment on SW 5th St.
There is a feeling of sympathy here for men who risk so much
ideal. Unless some hotheaded rebel, frantic at having
his mission, violently resists arrest, officers handle their
gently. When gun runners are brought to trial, and
federal judges temper justice with mercy. The men of
were given only 60 days . . . and credited with time spent
trial . . . plus a $200 fine each.
The case of slender young Hector Duarte Hernandez points up
attitude. Duarte, one of the few who lived through the
attack on the Presidential Palace in Havana, escaped to
Cuban police were anxious to get their hands on him, and
The young man was brought before Federal Judge George
His attorney pointed out that sending Duarte back would be
to passing a sentence of death. Judge Whitehurst
denied the plea
for extradition and, instead, levied a $300 fine for illegal
Perhaps this tolerance stems not only from sympathy for
for what they conceive to be their rights, but to the fact
Florida's Gold Coast has a tradition for gunrunning which
many years. When Cubans were fighting for
independence, and the
Spanish Governor-General, Weyler, was earning the title of
because of his atrocities, American feeling ran high.
now, the government did what it could to prevent the
Napoleon Broward, who later became governor of Florida,
owned a speedy
tug called Three Friends. Broward was sentimental and
practical. He wanted to help the patriots, but was not
turning a tidy profit while doing it.
He'd take the Three Friends up New River to Fort Lauderdale
by the railroad bridge. A train would puff to a stop
trestle, cases of arms and ammunition were lowered to the
tug, and then
he'd head south.
The Florida keys consist of innumerable small wooded
and reefs, which in any age make a haven for
cutters and Spanish ships of war chased Broward countless
times, but he
knew the keys as he knew his own engine room, and always
them. The governor-to-be was hauled into Federal court
occasions, but no prosecutor was able to make a case against
The Three Friends rotted and sank years ago in the St.
near Jacksonville, but Napoleon Broward, long in his grave,
is still an
inspiration to men who run guns - Cubans and Americans.
For not all those who are a part of, or become involved in,
filibustering activities of the rebels are Cubans.
time in Cuba, and written much about it, men from all parts
United States and Canada have sent his writer letters asking
could join Castro's forces. Most were from
veterans who had not "found" themselves after getting out of
or from old timers with a row of hash marks on their sleeves
more action. Some wanted to know how much Castro would
experienced machine gunners and riflemen. Many were
like sons of American Navy personnel at Guantanamo Bay, who
but the chances of even such dedicated souls getting to the
Maestra are small.
A Miami pipe fitter named Bill Leonard was arrested in
when he strolled into a police station and asked for a pass
get him within Castro's lines. He wanted to visit a
Charlie Ryan, who was fighting with the guerrillas.
such a pass in a hotbed of rebel activity was akin to
license to rob banks. When the astonished police
poise, and searched the pipe fitter, he was lucky to get
away with his
Leonard carried a small tear gas gun and a knife, protection
troubled area, he explained, but the police didn't buy his
for quite awhile. After consultation with the American
they let Bill go, first warning him never to come back.
"Americans who want to join us," said Fico, "feel themselves
modern Lafayettes, but they sometimes do things as foolish
as some of
our people. You never can figure out some men.
Vega. Cesar was one of those captured on the
you know what he did before that ill-fated voyage?
gathered a few friends and invaded a little dot of an island
Sal, near the Cuban coast. It belongs to Great
Britain, and Cuba
does not give a peso for it but Cesar thought it a great
capture the cay for our country.
"It took the British about 10 minutes to capture him and
throw him out,
but to some of our hotheads that was a fine and patriotic
do. That kind of thinking does us harm."
While a combination of Cubans, guns and raw emotions
supplies most of
the fuel for current action in Miami's underground
melodrama, there are
other factors poised to set off more revolutionary
Haiti has had bloody uprisings, but Haiti is poor and cannot
buy on the scale of Castro's backers. The Dominican
restless, but those who seek Trujillo's overthrow are not
enough to appear in the open. The ousted dictator of
Gustavo Rojas Pinilla, has returned there, and a nervous
hopeful of blocking a new revolt. These and other
present or future possibilities as filibusters and potential
of arms' salesmen. These fellows congregate in
Whether or not there is anything imminent, they find it
easier to keep
their ears to the ground here than anywhere
Ousted politicos of nationalities other than Cuban, like
Jimenez kicked out of Venezuela, settle down for varying
Perez bought an estate on Miami Beach and hired off-duty
three shifts to protect him and his property. So far
these politicians in exile has been attacked successfully,
are too well guarded.
In the meantime the guarded politicos hope for coups which
them back to power while they mull away time in sun-drenched
where during the winter season, horses race at Hialeah . . .
Lewis tells his funny blue stories at the Eden Roc . . .
beauties relax in the sun at cabana clubs. And not one
thousand tourists even dreams of the international melodrama
played under their nose.
Fico threw away his cigarette, stood up, and stretched
"What goes on here," he said, "will go on until we get what
which is freedom for Cuba. But when that times comes,
and we can
cease our activities, Miami will still be the center of
intrigue. Other Latins have seen what we have done in
all handicaps. When Cuba finds peace, there will be
from the Dominican Republic, Haiti and maybe a dozen other
who will try to copy us. You can bet every peso you
will be a revolutionary center for years to come. In
meantime, though, there is much for us to do . . . and no
your people try, no matter what the obstacles you put in our
get to Castro what Castro wants."
A plane flew overhead flying a banner advertising a night
"I wish it was flying over the Presidential Palace, with a
bomb in its
belly," said Fico. "Maybe we'll see that pretty soon!"
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