The story of the Bay of Pigs invasion would not be complete without recognizing the heroic efforts made by the pilots and crews of the 2506 Assault Brigade's Liberation air force during that fateful battle.
The success of the mission rested heavily on their shoulders and was a daunting task as planned. But US President John F. Kennedy and members of his administration conspired to turn daunting into impossible and lethal.
Throwing all advice and caution to the wind, Kennedy and his administration "advisors" cut and pasted the air sorties to their liking and to the detriment of the operation and the men whose job it was to carry it out.
If executed as originally planned, the pilots of the Liberation air force's B-26s would have destroyed Castro's air force on the ground and ruled the skies over Cuba. Without his air force, Castro's ground elements would have been completely vulnerable to attacks by the 2506 Assault Brigade's land and sea forces, and the Liberation air force.
But Kennedy, who feared the wrath of world opinion more than he feared the disgrace of defeat, cut the Liberation air force's sorties until any benefits to be gained from them was lost completely and the mission compromised. Leaving Castro's jet fighters operational doomed the slower, less maneuverable, and lighter armed Liberation B-26s, their unarmed support aircraft and their crews, making them sitting ducks in the air over Cuba.
Undaunted, the Liberation air force flew mission after mission under constant fire from Castro's planes, hampered by having to fly back to their original base in Nicaragua to refuel and rearm, without sleep, and soon without ten of their comrades.
Eight CIA pilots volunteered their services when exhaustion finally made staying the course impossible. Four of the CIA pilots fell victim to the same fate as their Liberation air force compatriots.
If determination, honor and courage in the face of impossible odds are the attributes of a great man, then the men of the 2506 Assault Brigade's Liberation air force and their CIA pilot partners were indeed great men.
Soon, they will be honored with a memorial of their own as pictured above. It has been a long time in coming, but it shall stand as a reminder to all, that it is not whether the battle was won or lost, but how well you fought it and who you inspired by your efforts.
2506 Assault Brigade Liberation Air Force Memorial. Sponsored by CUPA - The Cuban Pilots Association, PO Box 720328, Miami, FL 33272, Tel. 786-200-7816, Fax 305-675-0375.
We are reproducing these pictures with the permission of the Cuban Pilots Association In Exile, in whose book How Our Heroes Perished: Liberation Air Force, they appear, and Edward B. Ferrer, author of Operation Puma; The Air Battle of the Bay of Pigs. We have tried our best to ensure that the artist's renderings display correctly throughout all browsers, however some may display colorization a little differently.