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Aviacion Cubana

Cuban Air Force and the Revolution. The Cienfuegos Revolt


Ruben Urribarres





  September 5th, 1957: The Naval Revolt of Cienfuegos and its consequences
In April of 1956 was aborted a military conspiracy against Batista, the leader was the Colonel Barquín, and by this event was prisoned the pilot Lt. Manuel Villafaña. A new conspiracy involved the FAEC, the Navy and militias of the Movement "26 of July" of Fidel Castro.

The 5 of setiembre of 1957 the Cayo Loco naval base in Cienfuegos, is incited. The plan included simultaneous attack in Havana, Mariel and other points by the FAEC, the Navy and militias, attacks that never occurred for the lack of coordination among them.
Some of the Thunderbolts rebelds pilots Some of the pilots that take part in the revolt. From left to right: Gastón Bernal, Cosío Soto, Alvaro Prendes, Enrique Carreras, Rey Moriñas, Martin Klein, backed by an F-47D.

The base rebeled in solitary, they don´t know, that the other seditions forces change the revolt´s date. Two B-26's piloted one by Captain Mario Zúñiga and the other by Captain Agustin Piñeira Machín, overfly the base in a recon flight, and suffered some damage from anti aircraft fire of the Naval Base. Immediately the government prepared the Squadron of F-47 Thunderbolt to bombing Cayo Loco. But the pilots that should do it (Alvaro Prendes, Aurelio Martínez Leiro, Lázaro Rey Moriña, Cosío Soto and Martín Klein) were implied in the sedition and they do that all the bombs thrown hit the sea, or with the sure positions.
 
The Cayo Loco Navy Base that was bombing
 The Cayo Loco Navy base in Cienfuegos, that was bombing by the FAEC when inciting. The F-47D pilots take part in the conspiracy, and threw the bombs to the sea, for which they were imprisoned

Enrique Carreras, the F-47D Squadron Leader, was also among the conspirators. A C-47 of the headquarters of the FAEC observes the failure of the bombing, and informs about the strange "inefficiency" of the F-47 pilots. When returning to Havana, the F-47 pilots are separated of the flights and their airplanes revised.  Then is prepared the B-26 Squadron, that was not in the conspirace, and that bombards efficiently the base, contributing to its rout.  In total the Army suffered 33 soldiers dead and the soldiers kill 60 rebels, and take prisoners 83 others. The remainder of the incited was scattered. The 83 prisoners went envoys in C-54 from Cienfuegos to Columbia, and from there to the repressive organs.
 
The rebels military leader, Dionisio San Román, tries to escape for sea in a rowboat, but is intercepted for an Navy airplane Catalina.  In the same Catalina is sent to Havana, where he was tortured, murdered and their body thrown to the sea.

Begins the largest military purge during Batista. Various pilots went  judged by the Military Court by the crime of rebellion to various years of jail, among them: Major Enrique Carreras Rolas, Major Mario J. Leon Gonzáles, Capt. Gastón Bernal y Fernández, Capt. Eduardo A. Ferrer, Capt. Jorge Perramón Spencer, 2°Lt. Alvaro Prendes, 2°Lt. Martín Klein Schiller, 1°Lt. Rolando Cossío Soto, 1°Lt. Lázaro Rey Moriña, 1°Lt. Aurelio Martínez Leiro. More others officers were fired from the Armed Forces, like Luis José Cereceda Coirat.

Revolutionary comics about the Cienfuegos revolt A revolutionary comic show how the FAEC attack the rebel base

Many of the imprisoned officials had studied in USA. As consequence of the Cienfuegos revolt´s rout, by the FAEC and the Army, and by the reprisals that they followed, the public opinion criticizes the use of american equipment of the Mutual Aid Pact. The government of Dwight D. Eisenhower is obliged to establish since November 1957 the weapons embargo to Batista. This affect seriously the FAEC, that was obliged to seek new sources. After the events of Cienfuegos, the aviators imprisonement and the fired of many others, Batista  stopped trusting in the aviation.

  New equipment in 1957-1958


During the year of 1956, the USAF Mission to Cuba, offered 13 Lockheed F-80 "Shooting Stars" as part of the fiscal year, F57 MDAP, to replace the F-47's, but assuming that Cuba would no have any money to paid for them, the Department of Defense of the United States suggested be given free of charge through the grant previsions of the MDAP. But this aircraft never arrived to Cuba.
DHC-2 Beaver of the FAEC DHC-2 Beaver of FAEC
From the last days of 1957 until the fall of the Batista regime, the government of the United States imposed a restriction to the purchases of the Cuban Air Force, forcing the FAEC to do her purchasing with friendly government such as Mexico, Dominican Republic, Brazil and the United Kingdom. In some cases the B-26 had to use truck brakes adapted to the breaking system, because the restrictions. These Sea Fury were delivered short of detonating cartridges for the starting system, forcing the ground crews to develop different methods of starting the engines. One of them a long leather strap wrapped around the propeller and pulled from a jeep until the engine started. Also they were short of ammunition for their 20-mm, guns and not all the guns were delivered, nor installed.

  Aviation School Promotions in 1956-1958


The development of the FAEC needs the grows of the flight personnel trainings courses:

1956 Aviation School Promotion
Edmundo Aguila Martí,  Nildo Batista Fernández,  Manuel Borbolla Cartaya,  Esteban L.R.T. Bovo Carás,  Orlando Brito García,  Carlos Casanova Lago,  Matías Farías Riesgo,  René Fernández Corredera,  Crispín L. García Fernández,  Adolfo R. León Acosta,  Santiago Méndez Acosta,  Luis Muñoz Grau,  Jorge Pérez Requeny,  Antonio Salas Baro Jr.,  Roberto Suárez-Solis Leyenda.

Trained personal as B-26´s rear gunners (all sergeants)
Telesforo Antúnez Gonzalez,  Rafael Becerra Alba,  Armando Bergueiro Lozano,  Alfredo Capote Oropesa,  Benigno Cernada Valdes,  Julio Concepcion,  Aristides S. Cordova Aguiar,  Pablo de los Reyes Basulto,  Sandino A. Delgado Hernández,  Diego Fernandez Evena,  Emilio Díaz Aguilar,  Julio García Abreu,  Nemésio Hernández,  Pablo Hernández,  Silvio López Ballestér,  Juan Mésa Yanez,  Florencio A Pérez Morales,  Luis Pinacho Fernández,  Francisco Piloto González,  Rene R. Rigal Riéra,  Pedro Vasallo Lima,  Sixto Vasallo,  Gilberto Yip Martínez.
 
Black B-26 of the FAEC
 In august 1957 begins a new curse in Havana teach by an american  Mobile Training Team, for 23 B-26´s pilots. At right: a rare black FAEC B-26C, the N° 901.

1957 Aviation School Promotion
José Alvarez,  Amado Cantillo Huget,  Elpidio Castañeda,  Alfredo de la Maza Barrios,  Mariano Fernández Isla,  Rafael García Pujol,  Manuel González Guzmán,  Guillermo González Molina,  Eduardo J Herrera Pérez,  Alberto Pérez Sordo,  Douglas Rood de Molet,  Wilfredo Leyva Enriquez,  Jorge Navarro Rodriguez,  Jesús Padrón Cruz,  Amado Valdes,  Tte Alvarez.

1958 Aviation School Promotion
Francisco Fernández Piña,  Jorge Fernández,  Jorge Garcia Morata,  Echenique,  Puppy Martínez,  Humberto Miranda,  Morfi,  Roberto Solis Sariol,  José Rivas Pérez,  Ruiz Sabatier.

Liason Pilots Promotion
José Acosta,  Aldo Aguila González,  Evelio Alpizar,  Arturo Ayala,  Ramón Arguelles,  José Barroso Figueredo,  Victor Bernudez,  Sergio Betancourt Núñez,  __ Brito,  Rafael Cabréra,  Francisco B Campbell Coll,  Carlos Canals Rabasa,  Romelio Carta Fernández,  Rafael Castillo,  Celestino Dávila Téran,  Adalberto Díaz,  Federico Dilú Silva,  Nestor Fernández,  José Figueiras Conde,  José M Hernández,  Rodolfo Hernández Herréra,  Alejandro Irraragorri,  Alcides León Fernandez,  Alberto Lambert Mosquéra,  Carlos Lazo Cubas,  Mario López,  José R López,  Wilfredo Mas Machado,  Rafael Mitjans,  Cándido Molinero,  Jesús O'Farrill,  José M Pellon Blanco,  Narciso Pérez,  Arcadio Reyes Martin,  Rafael Rivero Edelso Rodríguez,  Orlando Rodríguez,  Osvaldo Rodríguez Martín,  Luis Roque,  Ramón Ruiz Hernández,  Guido Valdes Obregon,  Carlos Valls Ruiz,  Gumersindo Varela Sánchez.

All along the time, mechanics both jet and reciprocating engines, sheet metals, propellers, radio, etc., as well as ground support personnel such as tower operators, meteorologists, logistics and many more were receiving training at the Americas School in Panama.

  Accidents in 1956-58


Due to a farewell ceremony to Colonel Fred Hood, Chief of the USAF Mission to Cuba, a mass flying formation was scheduled on March 19th of 1956, with all the FAEC airplanes. During the take off a B-26 piloted by Lt. Bernardo Rodriguez Sardiñas and flying on the jump seat Lt Carlos Gomez Acosta a fighter pilot, suffered a fatal accident, when the right engine was lost during the take off roll from Campo Columbia, falling at a side of the American Dominican school in "La Coronela". The same day the 1956 promotion was arriving a Campo Columbia from the Managua Army School to begin flying training.
 
One of this FAEC T-33 explodes in the air
 FAEC T-33 N°709.  In 1958 dies in the N°705 the Lieutenant Héctor González when exploted a bomb that was going to throw over the rebels of Camilo.  That bomb was made in Havana because the US embargo.

The FAEC suffered the followings accidents in 1958:


Parts of this article are based on the work "History of the Cuban Military Aviation", of the Captains Manuel Iglesias Ramirez and Esteban L. Bovo Caras, that use as one of its sources the Dan Hagedorn´s book "Central American &Caribbean Air Forces"

  Related articles
The Trasatlantic Flight of Menendez Pelaez
1913. Audacious Flight of Rosillo and Parlá
1933-1938, Cuban Military Aviation. The 1933 Revolution and her consequences.

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