Above and Beyond

Mission: Cuba. Status: Top secret.

Media coverage of the Bay of Pigs fiasco was unbridled. Far right: the narrator, as a staff sergeant in the Alabama Air National Guard in the 1950s. (Proquest Historical Newspapers; University Of Texas, Austin; George Teichrib; Radio Netherlands; Bay Of Pigs Museum; James Storie; Photo Illustration By Théo)
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The Bay of Pigs invasion failed because the air armada wasn’t used effectively. The plan required air superiority. We were supposed to bomb our targets continuously to prevent Castro from having anything to fly—and even if some of his aircraft survived, his runways were supposed to be so damaged that the aircraft wouldn’t be able to take off.

At Puerto Cabezas, we started to close things down. We had to turn in our Colt .45 automatic pistols, but we could keep the other items we’d been issued. Our baggage was searched at departure.

We returned to Florida in much the same manner we arrived, on a C-54. But the transport’s windows weren’t blacked out and it flew at a much higher altitude. We were reminded that the operation and our involvement in it were still top secret. We were to use the cover stories originally given us and had the name of a person with the Air Guard to contact in case we thought we were being watched or noticed something unusual. Otherwise, we were told to keep quiet and go on with our regular routines.

While I was in Puerto Cabezas, a Cuban technician I had been training came to my tent and told me he did not know my real name but he was going to tell me his, and if I was ever in Miami, I should contact him. “I want to give you something,” he told me. “It’s all I have to give.” He presented me with a brand-new G.I. winter coat. I told him how much I admired him and would gladly accept it.

Today, 50 years after the Bay of Pigs, I still have the coat. I could never tell him who I was—we had been warned that Castro might try to track us down if our real names were ever known. That Cuban technician was a real hero. I wish I knew what happened to him. At least he knew I cared.

James Storie as told to Allan T. Duffin

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