The Militant(logo) 
    Vol.62/No.18           May 11, 1998 
A Bay Of Pigs Episode The CIA Concealed  

Below we print major excerpts of an article that appeared in the April 5, 1998, issue of the Cuban weekly Granma International, titled "A Bay of Pigs episode the CIA concealed." On April 17, 1961, some 1,500 U.S.-based Cuban- born mercenaries invaded Cuba at Playa Girón, known in the United States as the Bay of Pigs, on the southern coast. The action, organized by Washington, aimed to establish a "provisional government" to appeal for direct U.S. intervention. However, the invaders were defeated within 72 hours by Cuba's militia and the Revolutionary Armed Forces. On April 19 the last invaders surrendered. Subheadings are by the Militant.

After having kept it under wraps for 37 years, the United States' Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has admitted that a U.S. pilot who died during the Bay of Pigs invasion in April 1961, and whose body was preserved by freezing for 18 years in Cuba, was a member of that organization.

The CIA hid that reality in order not to admit direct participation by U.S. troops in that military attack on Cuba. In an attempt to keep that information secret, the Agency publicly erased all ties with the person it sent to die, along with others with the same military specialization.

The pilot involved was U.S. citizen Thomas Willard Ray, born in Tarrant, Alabama, on March 14, 1930. His relatives were forced to travel a bitter path, given the fact that formally neither the CIA nor the rest of the authorities in Washington admitted any knowledge about this young man.

As a result, for years no U.S. government entity requested the return of the pilot's body from Cuba, which had been located at the Institute of Forensic Medicine in Havana, with public knowledge, since 1961.

On April 19 of that year, as part of the invasion at the Bay of Pigs, Ray bombarded Cuban territory from a B-26 in the area around the Australia sugar mill in Matanzas province, and his plane was shot down by anti-aircraft batteries.

The two crew members managed to make an emergency landing, and were able to escape before the aircraft exploded and caught fire. The heads of the search operation ordered that they make the greatest effort possible to capture them alive, as was the case with the vast majority of the invaders.

That was not possible. One of them, when he realized he had been found, fired his revolver at the Cuban soldiers, who killed him when they shot back. His name was Frank Leo Baker. The second of these U.S. soldiers, upon being discovered, tried to throw a hand grenade but was killed by several gunshots. He was Thomas Willard Ray.

It later became clear that 24 hours before these events, Richard Bissel, the CIA's chief of operations, had authorized the participation of U.S. pilots like Baker and Ray in combat actions against Cuba. But that was not sufficient to prevent the invasion by those members of the espionage agency from being defeated in less than 72 hours.

Sixteen years later, a Democratic senator from Alabama, John Sparkman, began to take steps to have Thomas Willard Ray's body returned, and the Republican senator from that same state, John Buchanan, followed that request through to the end.

In May 1978, the U.S. Interests Section in Havana informed the Cuban government that Ray's relatives wanted to have his body returned. In line with the willingness it had always demonstrated in this regard, Cuba agreed to offer immediately all the facilities deemed necessary....

On March 24, 1979, Janet Ray Weininger, the daughter of the U.S. pilot, sent a letter to her country's State Department authorizing a postmortem examination for the purpose of identifying the remains that were assumed to be her father's. The Interests Section informed Cuban authorities of this weeks later. Through the appropriate tests, on August 24, 1979, the Institute of Forensic Medicine identified the body as that of Thomas Willard Ray, and this was verified by a U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation report regarding his fingerprints.

When the Cuban government was informed by the Interests Section that the expenses for preserving the body over the previous 18 years would not be covered by the U.S. government, and therefore would have to be met by the dead man's relatives, the Cuban government decided to clear that debt for humanitarian reasons. On December 5, 1979, the body of Thomas Ray was sent to the United States.

Nevertheless, the authorities in Washington continued to deny that Ray had worked for a government agency such as the CIA.

Now, on March 15 and 18 of this year, more than three and a half decades since the Bay of Pigs invasion, news agencies reported from Washington that the CIA had admitted that this U.S. citizen was one of the pilots employed in the attack.

One of the news agencies, ANSA, based on revelations from the CIA, commented that Ray's instructions had been that if he were captured, he should say that he was a mercenary contracted by Cuban-American organizations.

That Italian news agency adds that Ray's death in combat and the subsequent freezing of his body so that it could be turned over when it was demanded "was the beginning of a ballet of lies. To the CIA Ray had never existed, for the U.S. government the man had disappeared into thin air, and for the relatives of the pilot, it was the start of a nightmare."

ANSA also said that the relatives' battle to force the U.S. authorities to admit that Ray had died in action has lasted until the present time, since the CIA even "created a false association which for years paid the widow a pension and subsidized the children."

The cable explained that now the relatives have been given two medals of valor and that the documents released by the CIA show that when that pilot received the order to fly out of Nicaragua in his plane, the Bay of Pigs invasion was already a failure.

This same source went on to say that sending Ray was an act of desperation on the part of the CIA, after President John F. Kennedy had denied air coverage to the invaders, in order to conceal the role Washington played in that disastrous operation.

What happened to the other two pilots that the CIA utilized in that military adventure tends to corroborate, and emphasize even more, the lengths to which that spy agency is capable of going.

According to documents that were recently declassified, Crispín Lucio García Fernández and Juan de Mata González, both Cuban-born, having flown for hours over the site of the invasion and being short of fuel, made an emergency landing at the Boca Chica air base, near Key West, on April 17, 1961.

According to what has been revealed, CIA officials only allowed them to rest for a few hours and then ordered them to return to the secret landing strip in northern Nicaragua, from which they would get into the air war against Cuba. But during the course of that flight, the airplane fell to earth and they died.

According to the Miami Herald, the CIA knew of the operation that García Fernández and Mata González were to carry out, but it waited seven months before locating the site of the disaster, and at that time it decided to leave the bodies where they had been buried by the peasants, in order to avoid increasing the size of the scandal resulting from the invasion's resounding failure.

From that time on, the relatives of the two men demanded that the bodies be sent back to the United States, but it wasn't until now, 37 years later, that the CIA recognized the two as part of their troops at that time, and announced that it would try to find their remains.

What does all this mean? This history which has just been revealed by newly released CIA documents coincides with charges that Havana had been making since April 1961. Once more, it has become clear that Cuba does not lie.

Two previous examples, among many others, had already demonstrated this. On November 18 of last year, as the reader may remember, Pentagon documents - written between March and April 1962 and aimed at creating acts of provocation that would justify aggression against the island - were released to the public. These documents corroborate charges formulated by Havana in those and the following years.

Not long ago, on February 22, other declassified CIA documents made it even clearer that the project which culminated in the Bay of Pigs invasion began in 1959, and from that time on Cuban-American groups were utilized as a facade to cover up the activities of the espionage agency. This very contention was made by the Cuban government on many occasions.

Furthermore, Miami was exposed as a great center of subversive operations of all kinds against Cuba, and the radio stations financed by Washington were revealed as CIA instruments to create internal disorientation on the island. All of these things have been said here on numerous opportunities.

And now they have declassified information on the case of CIA pilot Thomas Willard Ray.

In addition to what we have said before, this information makes it possible to see more precisely the face of Cuba's main enemies and to understand how far they are capable of going.

According to the memoirs of the United States' president and vice president at the time, Dwight Eisenhower and Richard Nixon, the decision to strangle the Cuban Revolution was made shortly after it came to power. The revolutionary breaking of Cuba's neocolonial status and the clear intention of carrying out a program of social justice to benefit the majority of Cubans were unacceptable to U.S. authorities at the time, as they still are today....  
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