Spanish English Aviacion Cubana

Aviacion Cubana

Cuban Air Force and The Cayo Confites prosperity

Ruben Urribarres

  New airplanes and the first helicopters 

Under the new ARP Interim Program with the United States, begin to arrive new equipment, among which they would be able to have been 8 F-47D Thunderbolt, but Cuba is decided for the North American B-25 Mitchell.

Cuba received until the beginings of 1952 the following equipment, some bought and other obtained by the cited programm:

Beech AT-11 FAEC
A Beech C-45 with Cuban colours, similar to them received by Cuba in 1945 
(Courtesy of Tulio Soto)

  Expedition against Trujillo

In 1947 it began to be organized an expedition in Cuba (Legion of the Caribe) to oust the dictator of the Dominican Republic Rafael Leónidas Trujillo. The government of the Cuban President Grau San Martín helped in the business. The expedition had 1,000 men including veterans communist as Agostini and Menoyo of the Spanish Civil War and they were trained in cayo Confites Key, at the north of Cuba. The leaders of the expedition of "Cayo Confites" were Rolando Masferrer, their socialist companions of the MSR and some Dominicans as the future President Bosch. The organizing axis was the Cuban Minister Jose Manuel German. The plans of the called "Caribbean Legion" were ambitious, and came 16 airplanes to have. The airplanes were bought in United States as war surpluses. Various airplanes were detained in United States, as an J2F-6 retained in Miami August 9 and a PB-4Y in Ponca City, Oklahoma November 6 and a B-25 confiscated in Tulsa November 7. 

But the spies maintained Trujillo informed about the conspiracy. The Dominican dictator began a press campaign to denounce the invasion, and the government of Cuba, fearing the scandal, suspend the expedition.  The invasion was planned for September 25 but they were detained the same week of the massacre of Orfila September 20, 1947. 

  The airplanes of the "Legion" are confiscated

12 airplanes were confiscated officially by the Cuban Air Force in the airport of Columbia. They were:

- 1 B-24 Liberator that landed in Rancho Boyeros July 31 piloted by Chester H.  Pickup. This bomber was loaded with rifle munitions, and different military loads. August 1 was confiscated and carried to Columbia by military pilot.
- 2 Lockheed Vega Ventura carried of Rancho Boyeros to the Columbia Camp by military pilot August 1. 
- 6 Lockheed P-38F-5 Lightning.  August 16 two landed in the Naval Base of Mariel. Other two arrived the day 19 and one the 23.  The sixth P-38 landed by mistake in Columbia Camp and was retained for the soldiers.  Then the General Director of Sports, Manolo Castro, went to the Presidential Palace to defend the liberation of those airplanes. As result, the soldiers delivered the P-38 and a C-47. The P-38 flew to the Naval Base of Mariel the 4 of setiembre. The P-38F-5 were twin place of photographic recognition painted in black.  They were bought in US without armament.  But according to some fountains, they were 6 P-38L and 2 P-38F-5. 
- 2 B-25 Mitchell. To October 29 already were painted with the insignia of the Cuban air force. 
- 1 C-46A Commando

Besides these 12 retained in Columbia, the expedicionaries had in Cuba also: 
- 2 Cessnas C-78 in the Field of the Anacra in Rancho Boyeros. 
- 2 C-47 based also in the Field Anacra of Rancho Boyeros. One of them, with the registered NC-56001 was crashed in Managua, by Havana, August 27 by failure of the motor. The other, registered NC-66113 was confiscated for the Cuban military in Santiago of Cuba, where landed the 5 of setiembre. 

According to Kenneth Robinson, an American pilot that accepted to serve of instructor in the base Anacra, also there they were 2 Vultee BT-13, one of them returned to US, and the second was crashed in Cuba. 

  Results for the Air Corp 

Thanks to the confisqued equipment to the Caribbean Legion, that they were found in the air-naval base of Mariel and in Columbia, and the abortion of the expedition of Cayo Confites, the Air Corp, did not have to expect to the birth of the mutual program of aid of the United States, to return to grow. The prosperity of Cayo Confites Key benefit the Air Corp freely in the following form: Only a part of these airplanes should fight and supposedly to paralyze the Dominican Air Force. Masferrer said in an interview October 12 to the magazine Bohemia, that "We Decide that Manolo Castro bought them in United States. With the money assigned by the Minister José Manuel German should be acquired 6 fighters P-38, 8 B-25 and 6 transpors C-47". But at the moment of the abortion, only there were 2 B-25 and one confiscated in US, and of the 6 Douglas C-47, only 2 presents in Cuba. The C-47 would throw 225 paracaidistas in the invasion. The revolutionaries were decided for the B-25 when the Cuban Army retained to the B-24 and the Lockheed Ventura.

The P-38�s originally stationed at the Mariel Naval Air Base, were flown to Campo Columbia by Lieutenants Masmontet, Matamoros, Corvo, Carreras and Lima. The C-46 and the B-24 were destroyed by a hurricane at Campo Columbia. 

  Aviation School Promotions and events of the period 1947-1950

1947 Aviation School Promotion
Juan Brito García, Roberto Carrillo Castillo, Rolando Cossio Soto, Luis Cosme Toribio, Hector Hernández, Osvaldo Hernández Suarez, Manuel Iglesias Ramírez, Raul Planas, Joaquín Varona, Manuel Villafaña Martínez, Antonio Michel Yabor Justiz, Mario Zuñiga Rivas.

1948 Aviation School Promotion
Raul Cross Quintana, Rene García Fernández, Jorge González Barréra, Aurelio Martínez Leiro, Emilio Pérez Piloto, Claudio L. Rey Moriñas, Rene Travieso Plá, Raul Vianello Alacán.

During the period of 1947 to 1948 and been the Chief of the Air Corp Colonel Eulogio Cantillo Porras (later a General) the Campo Columbia asphalt runways were built under the supervision of Captain Guillermo Someillan Gonzalez. The runways were oriented 40°/220°, 180°/360° and 80°/260° accordingly to the prevailing winds. In 1948 the old Almendares Hotel was purchased and remodeled to have the Office of the Chief of Staff of the Air Corp. the dependencies, the operational squadrons, dining facilities, rooms for officers and enlisted man dormitories, classrooms for Aviation cadets, a club and an open air movie house. Also during 1948 and while on a second approach to the runway of the summer retreat of President Carlos Prio Socarras in the Altura, Province of Pinar del Rio and under instrument conditions due to a torrential storm with no navigational aids, lost his life Lt.. Hernandez Hector and his mechanic flying an AT-6. 

During the summer of 1950 and while flying a P-38 numbered 121, Lieutenant Joaquin Varona suffered a fatal accident over Santa Fe Beach in Havana.

  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.

  External Links
Cuban Military Forum

Foro Militar General

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