BAY OF PIGS
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Smith's unpublished autobiography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
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
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
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
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