Black History Month ends soon –so can I nominate a genuine Black American hero for next year’s?
Don't look for this from Oprah, Tavis Smiley, The Congressional Black Caucus, or anywhere in the MSM, including (especially!) The History Channel or PBS, but the second in command of the freedom-fighters who hit the Bay of Pigs beachhead 50 years ago was a black Cuban (and today a proud U.S. citizen and retired Major General of the U.S. Amy) named Erneido Oliva.
The Knights of Camelot dumped Oliva and his men on that beachhead with only light arms and no air cover—then abandoned them. Oliva's men were outnumbered 30 to one by Castro's Soviet led and supplied troops, who had swarms of Soviet T-34 Tanks and jets overhead. On the third day of unrelenting battle Oliva's men were virtually out of ammo for their carbines and the battlefield horrors were taking their toll.
“Where are the U.S. planes?!” they kept bellowing into their radios. “Where is our ammo?!” Crazed by hunger and thirst, they'd been shooting and reloading without sleep for three days. Many were hallucinating. By then they knew damn well they'd been abandoned by the Knights of Camelot.
That's when Castro’s Soviet Howitzers opened up, huge 122 mm ones, four batteries’ worth. They pounded 2,000 rounds into Oliva's men over a four-hour period. "It sounded like the end of the world," one said later. "Rommel’s crack Afrika Corps broke and ran under a similar bombardment," wrote Haynes Johnson in his book, the Bay of Pigs. By that time the freedom-fighters were dazed, delirious with fatigue, thirst and hunger, too deafened by the bombardment to even hear orders.
But these men were in no mood to emulate Rommel's crack Afrika Corps by retreating. Instead they were fortified by a resolve no conquering troops could ever call upon--the burning duty to free their nation, to free their very families. They'd seen Castroism point-blank: stealing, lying, jailing, poisoning minds, torturing, murdering. They'd seen the midnight raids, the drumbeat trials. They'd heard the chilling "FUEGO!" as Che Guevara’s firing squads murdered thousands of brave countrymen. More importantly, they heard the "Viva Cuba Libre!" from the bound and blindfolded patriots, right before the Soviet bullets ripped them apart.
They set their jaws and resolved to smash this murderous barbarism that was ravaging their homeland. And they went at it with a vengeance. Their commander, Oliva, had to scream over that hellish Soviet bombardment but he made himself heard: "THERE IS NO RETREAT, CARAJO!" Oliva stood and bellowed to his dazed, abandoned and horribly outnumbered men. "WE STAND AND FIGHT!"
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.