miami tribune

Rio EscondidoLike Armageddon
So chaotic was the battle that at one point, when one of the Brigade's supply ships was destroyed by Cuban attack planes, some believed that Armageddon itself beckoned.
    Lynch recalls:
    ''The Rio Escondido exploded in a huge, mushroom-shaped fireball... At this moment, I received an urgent call from Rip up at Red Beach... ''Gray!'' Rip said. ''What the hell was that?'' I told him that the Rio Escondido had been hit and had exploded. ''My God, Gray! For a moment, I thought Fidel had the A-bomb!''
    Lynch asserts that Cuban ground defenses ''were kind of like a mob, coming at us in open trucks while we blasted away,'' and the invasion would have wildly succeeded if not for the aerial bombardment.
    the bombings caused panic aboard the remaining supply ships, mostly operated by civilian crews, which fled to sea, and left the Brigade without ammunition.
    Lynch includes this last dispatch from Brigade commander Jose ''Pepe'' San Ramon:
    ''Tanks closing in on Blue Beach from north and east. They are firing directly at our headquarters. Fighting on beach. Send all available aircraft now!''
    And finally:
    ''I can't wait any longer. I am destroying my radio now.'' All of this tragedy Lynch attributes to Kennedy's last-minute decision to cancel air strikes, fearful of widening U.S. involvement.
    ''This may have been the politically proper way to fight a war, according to the rules laid down by the 'armchair generals' of Camelot." Lynch writes, "but we called it murder."

Rescuing survivors
    frogmen attached to the 2506 assault brigade  The one honorable U.S. aspect of the failed invasion, he says, was the Navy's full-scale effort afterward to rescue survivors. He describes this scene:
    ''The search planes reported a survivor sitting under a mangrove tree, slowly waving a white cloth on the end of stick... He'd been drinking salt water and could neither stand nor talk...
    ''Slowly, drop by drop, we were trying to get water into him... Finally, he was able to form a few words.
    ''I asked what the man had said. Turning to me with tears in his eyes, [frogman Amado] Cantillo said, 'He wants to know if we won.' ''
    Despite Lynch's contempt for Kennedy, the agent believes Kennedy's subsequent secret campaign against Castro -- which brought to Miami the largest CIA contingent outside of Langley, Md. -- was devastatingly successful and would have toppled Castro if not for Kennedy's assassination in 1963. He plans to publish a second book about those Miami years, tentatively titled The CIA's Secret War on Cuba.

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