MY BAY OF PIGS DESTINY4/16/2021
Early in 1960, President Dwight D. Eisenhower authorized the CIA to recruit Cuban exiles living in Miami and train them for an invasion of Cuba. The group that became known as Brigade 2506 was initially 28 members, including 10 former Cuban military officers recruited by Dr. Manuel Artime, head of the Movimiento de Recuperación Revolucionaria (MRR). After training in secret camps in the Florida Everglades as early as March 1960, the growing brigade moved its base to the Sierra Madre in Guatemala, which boasted a similar climate to Cuba and a friendly government. That September, a brigade member named Carlos Rodriguez Santana was killed in a training accident, and his comrades chose to name the brigade after his serial number: 2506. History.com.
Tomorrow will be the 60th anniversary of the called Bay of Pigs invasion. I survived, and avoided prison. I also wrote a small piece about my feelings of our purpose and legacy. It will be posted in Facebook, and may be read in the ceremony that will take place at Tamiami airport for the occasion. It was written in Spanish, our native language. The question that I had since April 19th, when we arrived in Cuba and was stopped as we were ready to disembark is “why was I saved”. As I arrived in the US August 1960 I had heard of a military operation in Cuba.
Soon thereafter I was called about a group of advanced medical students and MD’s that would be part of a “hospital ship”. I joined, but after months of waiting with only delays, I decided to go to the recruitment office in the Grove and join in whatever unit they would place me. My cousin told me about a friend that was joining a “new” unit that was looking for University students and grads. We both joined what was known as OP. 40.
After a couple of weeks training somewhere in the keys, we were flown to Guatemala with a final stop in the mountain camp called Retalhuleu. The first stop was in our air base Trax. There I saw many friends that almost convinced me to stay there. I continued on. My last stop was in a port town in Nicaragua, Puerto Cabezas, to board a cargo ship named Lake Charles. Among many rumors, I heard that another ship “the Atlántico” would be the medical one . I asked the CIA agent in charge to transfer me to it, as that was my original destination.
His response was “son, you are going to war, and your destiny should not be changed”. Needless to say I was angry about that lame excuse! At the end, the med students and Dr’s were sent to the Lake Charles. A part of OP. 40, was boarded in the Atlántico (among them our close friend, the one that had told us about the unit), but most of our group joined us. Our arrival was supposed to be D+1, but we had given some of our fuel to another ship, and one day turned to two. We finally arrived late on D+2, scheduled to join the invasion on dawn D+3. The rest is history. My dying, or being imprisoned was not in my destiny.
But, there is no action without a reaction, and my survival guilt (our friend was killed in battle) enforced my continued fight (with my best weapon, my voice and words), in all my social life and professional associations, where I was able to win many battles against Castro’s abuses and falsehoods. I sacrificed wealth in order to serve the mental health needs of our veterans, where I stayed for 20 years and made possible many new programs which the entrenched bureaucracy fought against. Suffice it to say many, because of their success, are now mandatory! On the personal side if my fate would have been different I would have lost 57+ years on marriage and 3 children and 6 grand would have not come to this world with our combined DNA
.Fernando J. Milanés, MD