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Excerpt of Striped Moons, Harry G. Smith's unpublished autobiography


This section is about the first time HGS stayed in La Cabana prison. Later, at the Bay of Pigs, Smith was captured again and stayed in the same prison for months!


   One night we had planned an exceptional move. We were to bring a complete family back from Cuba. By complete, I mean two generations or maybe three. We had planned to take them to Florida because they were the backbone of Cuba's higher society and were much respected in the Cuban communities in Florida. They were needed to control the hot headed leaders currently in control of the Florida Cuban population. I do know that the entire family was taken to the States.

   I established a pattern. I was left behind for the first time of many more such times than I care to remember. By this time I had an exotic setup in my boat. I was running alone with no armament. I was not trusted to hold my temper. All the sound equipment was now permanently mounted so that I could operate all of the controls from my position at the tiller.

   This particular night I was making a run off the coast line of Matanzas. The night was overcast as we liked it. By this time I was overconfident and somewhat bored by the whole thing because I just didn't know what the hell I was doing there. Nor did I know what was going on between the United States and Cuba. I just wasn't concerned enough or worried enough about anything to become emotionally involved. My uncaring attitude and usual overconfidence caused me to completely miss the Cuban Cruiser that was rapidly approaching my position.

   The Moppie was running at about 15 knots to make sure the shore patrols would hear the blaring of the speakers on my boat. I didn't even know they were on top of me until the huge searchlight smacked me square in the eyes. As a reflex action my right hand drove the throttle forward and my moppie lifted over the water.
   I began hugging the coast because it was a big Cruiser and it couldn't catch me without running aground. Fate, certainly not God, was against me. The night had cleared and the moon made a playground of the Cuban waters. I hit a hard right that caused the moppie to turn in a fast arc. The Moppie headed North right into searchlights that were creeping along the water line like another horizon.
   Something new happened to me. For the first time in my life the heavy thud of cannon fire came over the water. Game time was over. Those guys were serious. The light found me. I spun the controls almost causing the boat to tip over. The Moppie seemed to be going in circles. My mind could not catch up with my reflexes. I was scared shitless. Orange flashes of machine gun fire came from the deck of the Cruiser.   Suddenly I realized that I was going to die and my wife didn't even know where I was.

   The bow of the Cruiser was on me before I could react. It missed me by scant inches. The Moppie was hugged to the starboard side of the Cruiser and the suction pulled the Moppie under. Don't ask me to explain why I am not at the bottom of the Nicholas Channel right now. It just wasn't my time.

   The Cruiser left me behind and kept searching for the Moppie. It didn't even know that it had swamped me. Shore was a long way off. Fears of the unknown plagued me. Sharks fifty feed long. Poisonous snakes. Giant squid and anything else Jules Verne
might have run across. I got lucky and made it to a fishing boat which took me directly to Matanzas.

   On shore the authorities were waiting for us. I imagine that the boat had notified them of me, their extra passenger. There was no way to bullshit my way out of this one. I couldn't even understand their language. I had never come up against anyone who was so dedicated to their jobs. The three men in olive drab meant business. I didn't want to antagonize them. There was no excuse for my being in the water. I kept my mouth shut. Fear was building up inside of me. No one even knew what happened to me.

   We stopped at a small building where our jeep was joined by additional troops. They escorted our jeep to a nightmare. I was twenty three. The nightmare was La Cabana. It was a fort with a high wall.

   Interrogations took place. Periodically interrogated prisoners were taken outside in groups of seven. The routine was that seven went out but only six returned. I tried to force my mind to believe that if they took me outside that I would surely be one of the six coming back. The men for the groups were chosen by a simple touch on the shoulder. Every man that was touched seemed to fold into himself as if he were trying to make a small ball out of his body. I was no exception. That simple tap on the shoulder found me out.

   I was fourth in line when we entered into the court yard. I thought they would keep us in a group. Pick the man they actually wanted and execute him. That wasn't the way they did it.

   A ditch ran in front of a wall that showed the pock marks of may previous slugs tearing out the wall. Scary blotches of red mud decorated that wall. The red mud was human leftovers. We were marched in front of the wall where the ditch left all of our body exposed from the waist up.

   What do I write? That I stood there valiantly as they prepared to shoot one of us? That I showed them what a man I was? I showed them my fear. Showed them that in my mind I was a coward.

   They blindfolded all of us. There was no "movie cigarette." The Spanish words commanding my death screamed in my ears. Another man died and once again I survived. I knew then I was a coward because I began to cry.

   Back in the cell I was immediately bombarded with further interrogation. An English speaking Cuban asked me many questions that I did not have the answers to. He said that he didn't have the time or patience to fool with me. That he would have me shot. With that he sent me back to my cell.

   I waited for eleven days and nothing happened. On the twelfth day they simply came and took me to the dock at Havana. There I was met by another Cruiser that took me back to Florida. It seems that I was traded for someone who Castro wanted out of a prison in Atlanta.


pictures of La Cabana



Copyright 2005 Harry G. Smith