"Freedom is our goal!" roared commander Pepe San Roman to the men assembled before him 49 years ago this week. "Cuba is our cause! God is on our side! On to victory!"
Fifteen hundred men crowded before San Roman at their Central American training camps that day. The next day they'd embark for a port in Nicaragua, the following day for a landing site in Cuba named Bahia De Cochinos (Bay of Pigs). Their outfit was known as Brigada 2506, and at their commander's address the men (and boys, some as young as 16) erupted.
A scene of total bedlam unfolded. Hats flew. Men hugged. Men sang and cheered. Men wept. The hour of liberation was nigh -- and these men (all volunteers) were putting their lives on the line to see their dream fulfilled. Their dream was a Cuba free from the Soviet barbarism that tortured it, free from firing squads, torture chambers and the teeming Castroite Gulag.
The Brigada included men from every social strata and race in Cuba -- from sugar cane planters to sugar cane cutters, from aristocrats to their chauffeurs. But mostly the folks in between, as befit a nation with a larger middle class than most of Europe.
"They fought like Tigers," wrote a CIA officer who helped train these Cuban freedom-fighters. "But their fight was doomed before the first man hit the beach."
That CIA man, Grayston Lynch, knew something about fighting -- and about long odds. He carried scars from Omaha Beach, The Battle of the Bulge and Korea's Heartbreak Ridge. But in those battles, Lynch and his band of brothers could count on the support of their own chief executive.
At the Bay of Pigs, Lynch and his band of Cuban brothers learned -- first in speechless shock and finally in burning rage -- that their most powerful enemies were not Castro's Soviet-armed and led soldiers massing in Santa Clara, Cuba, but the Ivy League's Best and Brightest dithering in Washington.
Lynch trained, in his own words, ''brave boys most of whom had never before fired a shot in anger." Short on battle experience, yes, but they fairly burst with what Bonaparte and George Patton valued most in a soldier -- morale. They'd seen the face of Castro/Communism point-blank: stealing, lying, jailing, poisoning minds, murdering.
Humberto Fontova holds an M.A. in Latin American Studies from Tulane University and is the author of four books including his latest, The Longest Romance; The Mainstream Media and Fidel Castro. For more information and for video clips of his Television and college speaking appearances please visit www.hfontova.com.