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!"
And so they did--and wrote as glorious a chapter in military history and the annals of freedom as any you'd care to read.
For three days his force of mostly volunteer civilians battled savagely against a Soviet-trained and led force 10 times their size, inflicting casualties of 20 to 1. To this day their feat of arms amazes professional military men. Morale will do that to a fighting force. And there’s no morale booster like watching Fidel Castro and Che Guevara ravage your homeland and families, believe me.
When his betrayed, decimated, thirst-crazed, and ammo-less men were finally overwhelmed (but NOT defeated!) by Castro’s Soviet-led bumblers at the Bay of Pigs, Oliva snarled at his brainless eunuch of a Castroite opponent, Jose Fernandez (a Spaniard, technically): “the only reason you’re holding a gun on us right now, Fernandez, is because we ran out of ammo.”
During almost two years in Castro’s dungeons, Oliva and his men lived under a daily death sentence. Escaping that sentence would have been easy: simply sign a confession offered to them daily by their guards denouncing the U.S.--which is to say: repeating what Danny Glover, Nelson Mandela, Jeremiah Wright, etc. etc. etc. constantly snarl and bellow about the U.S.
Condidering their betrayal you might think these men has pretty good cause to sign it. But Castro got his answer from Oliva and his men as swiftly and as clearly as the Germans got theirs from Mc Auliffe and his men at The Bulge—“NUTS!”
Oliva and his men repeatedly spat on the Castroite document—convinced this defiance would doom them to death by firing-squad. “No man in Cuba is as free as a political prisoner in rebellion,” said longtime Castro political prisoner Francisco Chappi. We were tortured, we were starved. But we lived in total defiance.”
"Inside of our souls we were free,” said another Bay of Pigs freedom-fighter (also Black and today a proud U.S. citizen) named Sergio Carrillo, a paratrooper at the Bay of Pigs in 1961 and a Catholic priest in America today. Neither Oliva nor any of his men signed the document. His hundreds of men stood solidly with their commander. “We will die with dignity!” snapped Oliva at the furious Castroites again, and again, and again. To a Castroite such an attitude not only enrages but baffles.
“These Cuban exiles, for all their chest-thumping and terrorism, are really just a bunch of wimps!” Michael Moore writes in his book “Downsize This!”--That’s right. "Wimps!” Moore’s insults target the Bay of Pigs freedom-fighters for particular scorn. “Ex-Cubans with a yellow stripe down their backs,” he calls them, on top of “crybabies!” Michael Moore was the Democratic Party’s guest of honor at their 2004 Convention.
"A soldier to the bone," that's former Secretary of State General Alexander Haig referring to Erneido Oliva, whom he worked with in the early 60's. "One of the most fiercely honorable men I have ever known."