English Translation of "Bay of Pigs Letter" Written to Emilio Salazar from his friend Ponzoa

The Bay of Pigs Invasion (known as "La Battalla de Girón, or Playa Girón in Cuba) was an attempt (unsuccessful, unfortunately) by a group of Cuban exiles who were trained by the US CIA to infiltrate southern Cuba and to take Cuba back from Fidel Castro.  The Cubans desperately wanted to reclaim their homes and were willing to risk their lives with any plan, however risky.  This took place in April of 1961, just 3 months after JF Kennedy became president of the United States.  The Cuban armed forces, trained mostly by the Russians, defeated the American trained combatants in just 3 days.

During many years Bill Butler's first cousin, Emilio Salazar, flew together with Gustavo Ponzoa as Captains with Cubana de Aviación, a Cuban airline company, both nationally and worldwide. They also shared their love in flying model airplanes which they would do every weekend they had free at the Colombia Airport in Marianao, near Havana. Emilio had seen the writing on the wall in 1960 and had returned to Lafayette, Indiana where he had studied and trained during the early 1950's. Gustavo joined Brigade 2506 to become part of the Bay of Pigs invasion team. He wrote this first letter to his good friend Emilio which was followed by a second one, lost to the moment, detailing the actual combat part of the operation.



Dec 2 - 61

My dear friend Emilio, I received your letter and am pleased to hear you are well and happy, and flying and with all or almost all of your family.. Say HI to Caleza-Martinez and to 'commander' "Q" as Carmelo called him in Madrid!

Also say hi to .. and send me his address - to Federico Campos.., of Wichita, as I would like to write him - to hear all of the latest details of his life in Cuba and when he left, and how he left his home - the furniture, etc. I don't know where to start to tell you since there is so much I can almost make a book almost as good as any you have read. (Action in the air). In general I'll give you a brief idea of how it all went and later, in another letter I will relate the details, the combat action and how each one of us made out. I'll start by telling you that the first day of war action they knocked out with one canon shot 'Danny' Fernandez Mon - and he blew up in the air in front of the Biltmore and fell in the water whatever was left of him - his loss hurt me as he was good - and competent - and he demonstrated who are men and who are mice.

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I left Cuba on 2 July via the embassy of Brazil - I was in Miami until August 28 1960 where we had a group of about 80 men, pilots from different groups..Cubana, Aerolinias Q, Expreso Aereo, Aeropostal, Cuban Navy and Army - ex pilots and ex bastista people so it was not an amalgam all that difficult to figure out in particular during those first months when we had a hard time understanding each other. When some of the guys got hot under the collar the discussion became, I would say, serious, but at the end, the serious work as well as the spiritual and moral pains ended up turning us into a magnificent combat "outfit". The Americans remained awed by our work - as much flying in combat that working like peons (I lost 36 pounds) imagine the shape I was in. Many times we remembered you.. Mario and I .. of our model airplanes and our easy life -that was our beloved Cuba (If I keep rambling I will never finish).. so I will be more brief.
Well, as I was saying -we were 9 months in Guatemala, in a place known as Retalhuleo on the Pacific coast about 60 miles from the Mexican border.

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Wilderness - and animals, and big volcanoes 13,000 feet high and always short of return fuel... real scary.. however.. in 70 missions we made over Cuba, even though we were shot at every now and then, we never had a serious accident.
Practicing and flying daily during 9 months we were sharp. (We, the airline pilots turned out to be aces (modesty aside) .. brother.. our background and the experience no one can take it away. ( and of course.. those masculine hormones.. without those you're done..)
About in October we began the flights over Cuba - different zones.. doing droppings.. of arms and supplies in general. I'd fly a DC-4 or a B-26 as well as a C-46. I was Capt of B-26 and the DC-4. Mario Tellechea (who resulted an ace and all man) flew the C-46 and DC-4 as Capt as did Pepito "sopita" Ricky Etchegoyen, Eduardo Ferrer, Fausto Valdez, Cereceda, Rene Gardia, Gonzalo G. Herrera, Danny - Toribio Cosme, etc. later I will tell you the rest.. Military and marines.. who I admire who acted like real men. During our months of training we were

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not allowed to leave the base.. as supposedly all was top secret (although the rest of the world knew better than we did.
One night in a practice Drop Perez Menendez hit the point of a hill (how he lived I will never know) for he tore off .. without exaggerating .. 3 meters of the left wing tip and it opened up wide - he lost motor # 2 as it just hung from the frame.. he had 3000 indicating at the moment of the accident.. he held take off power on the remaining 3 motors and the plane flew with but 120 IND and he was losing altitude. Number 4 catches fire and he has no alternative and he ditches on the coast on a sandy beach. And to sum up, nothing happened to anyone.. his only lament was the loss of the plane. ( I told you old Pepe is a toughie.. he acted like a boy of 20 years and brave all the way.. on another flight they almost shot him down over the Escambray hills.. he lost two motors and had to land in Montego Bay - with the plane all shot up... after finishing the drop.

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To Marco flying a C-46 they almost got him doing a Drop in Cojimar.. he returned and had to make a belly landing (perfect). I had to make a belly landing in a B-26 while we were training.. Mario was an instructor in C-46 and Gonzalo Herrera and I in the B-26,.. we were selected by two gringos after checking us over. Well.. more or less.. that is how the first 8 months went by between one thing and another until the big day came.
Emilio, far from what the great majority think I will tell you that we had all of the necessary resources.. and we had more than enough ability to have knocked out Fidel - "BUT" the damned US government (not to mention three names in particular) ordered the cessation of operations after the first bombing which resulted in a fabulous success for us.. for that reason and that reason only the operation was discontinued which for us was extremely painful - what the rest you may have heard are just stories and lies

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It is true we never had "fighter planes" but as the operation was planned, they were not necessary - I give you my word of honor. Our air power consisted of 17 B-26 with a solid nose with 8 50 caliber in the nose - 8 5 inch rockets on the wings - 3000 pounds of bombs in the belly and 2 auxiliary fuel tanks of 230 gallons each.
8 C-54 and 7 C-46 (The infantry 1300 men "160 paratroopers" the best you can imagine all with tough men and it resulted they were all heroes ready to die in battle - and how well prepared we were.. 3 ships of 4000 tons and 3 landing craft and 40 or 60 high speed 40 knot boats - and we had all the necessary and more.. an aircraft carrier Shangri La and 6 destroyers of the US Navy.. but the SOB up high there did not allow us to go into action as we were promised (that was the downfall of the invasion, without going into detail but as I told you, I could write a book (perhaps I will do it.. I am thinking about it..

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I will end this letter here for it is getting too long.
I mentioned your friends with whom you can very proud of having them as friends.. the order in which I list them does not represent the order of bravery since they were all magnificent .. some more than others.. 3 or 4 almost lost it and cried from fear.

B-26 handsome and valiant - crazy Gonzalito Herrera - for me the best of them all and I think all believe as I do .. what Gonzalo did cannot be described in words.. he is a vicious devil - Rene Garcia - Fabulous - exact and brave in ways you cannot possibly imagine. He volunteered when others who lost their balls failed - modesty to one side he who writes you I have always accomplished with super luck with no limits... because I should have been dead a long while ago. Varela - Cortina Alvarez, Zuñiga very good and brave also, Sotico Toury, etc.
Toribio, in my judgment, ran scared a bit since he was the combat squadron leader and he only made one combat mission while the rest of us made 4 missions (del carajo between you and I). I felt the fear a thousand times but I never lost it.. furthermore, I was sure in the last two missions that I would be shot down sure as hell since we had already
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lost 8 planes. (14 crew members dead - we paid a fairly high toll) - now I want you to know.. (this is barely known in the rest of the world) that we caused Fidel at lest 4000 casualties and this has never been published - but it is the truth.

Tellechea with a single shot knocked down a Sea fury!! what do you think - well my friend I will continue in another as I must have lunch and after to the movies since tomorrow I have a flight.
Have you heard I have done the crazy thing of my life and got married!? Now I am really done in for good -
PS My first target was Santiago de Cuba 15 April 1961 5:45 am. Gonzalo Herrera was my #2. 23 minutes over the target - we did it all in, including # 172 plane that was on the ramp ready to go.. I dropped a small bomb right in its middle.. maybe you saw the fotos in Life.. (like the 3 B-26 2 Sea fury 1 T-33, 1 PBY, 1 Aerocomander, 1 Blovey - 1 C-45m 8 small planes in a hangar at Moa Bay and the fuel tanks.. what do you think??

Love you the Miro

G Ponzoa