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Aviacion Cubana

The Rebel Air Force operations against Batista

Ruben Urribarres

  Attacks of the FAEC to the airstrips of FAR in Mayarí Arriba

August 23 two F-47 (N° 463 and 471) from Santiago de Cuba attack the rebelds runway in Mayarí Arriba, with 4 bombs of 500 pounds, damaging it and wounding 4 peasants.  The rebels repair the runway, that becomes the main point of the FAR.

October 22 the rebels kidnap the DC-3 CU-T266 of Cubana, that performed a flight of Cayo Mambí to Moa.  Another DC-3 of Cubana, the CU-T8 in route Camaguey- Manzanillo-Holguín, is abducted November 5 and carried to Mayarí Arriba, where was the other DC-3.
Ryan Navion Super-260
Ryan Navion Super 260. The FAR had two aircraft of this model

The passengers of both airplanes DC-3 immediately were freed, including to Amado Cantillo, son of the General Eulogio Cantillo, one of the maximum leaders of the Batista´s regime. To Mayarí Arriba arrived too an Ryan Navion Super-260 kidnap November 25. Its pilot was Mario Díaz, that collaborating to the government and with pending count with the rebels, and was executed. All the airplanes are camouflaged with branches of trees. During the combats by that zone, November 12 the pilot of an B-26 (N° 903) that returned from an bombing mission to Mines de Ocujal, note some lumps near the runway of Mayarí Arriba. 
The two rebelds DC-3 were destruyed
 DC-3 of Cubana as the two captured for the FAR and hidden in the airstrips of Mayarí Arriba. The FAEC B-26 discover them and destroy inNovember 12

The B-26´s pilot suspecting that were the airplanes DC-3 sought by the FAEC, and requests by radio instructions to Camaguey through an air command C-47. Is ordered to attack immediately, but he not having already munition, requests support of another B-26. Arrives the B-26 N° 923, that bombing and shoot the lumps. When being hit, both DC-3 are set on fire completely, in spite of the intents by extinguishing the fire. The rebel command takes the decision of abandoning partially the runway, and to place in her obstacles, therefore the Army plans an air disembark there. On November 22 a F-47 sets on fire with rockets a house in the proximities, that was the kitchen of the rebels in evacuation, and next to where was being repaired the Kingfisher motor. 

The days 21 and 22 of November 7 airplanes B-26 and F-47 of the FAEC, with the C-47 (N° 205) as air command, bombing the town Mayarí Arriba and their near zone, destroying all. In these attacks one of the B-26 was seriously damaged by the rear mashine gun of the Kingfisher. The day 23 in the morning two F-47 again attack by surprise in low level flight the runway zone. One of the F-47D (N° 451) was hit by the gunners, the impacts destroyed it the radio. For this bombing and the destruction of the DC-3 Raúl Castro, changes Orestes del Río as FAR Chieff by Evans Rosales, in decree of December 4, ascending Evans to the Captain rank. 
C-47 FAEC 205
 The C-47 FAEC 205 that served as flying command and observation during the attacks. Behind it is seen a F-47 Thunderbolt

  Rebels Mustangs

November 23 land in Mayarí Arriba two North American F-51 Mustang. The gunner of the runway, in alerts by the attacks of the enemies F-47 the same day, takes them for airplanes of the FAEC, and shot them, damaging slightly one, the Captain del Río leaves running toward the gunners gesticulating and shouting, and they stop the fire surprised.  These Mustangs, qualified by Raúl Castro as "a wonder", came piloted by Michel Yabor and Adolfo Díaz Vásquez from Miami, where they were bought with money of the "Movement 26 of July", as waste of war and without guns. The Mustangs are prepared to fight soon against the enemy, but they come to be ready only by December 31, the last day of the war. To the following day the rebels hear for the radio ADF of the Mustang the news about the Batista´s flee and with joy they finish of repairing the airplanes for the 11 o´clock of the morning of the first day of peace. 
F-51D Mustang of FAR
  North American F-51 Mustang FAR-400 after the revolution victory

  Attacks to the headquarters of La Maya

This was the first combat action of the FAR. The town of La Maya was captured, but here still resisted 200 soldiers of the Army in the headquarters, where had retired of the other positions of the town. If  fell La Maya, many rebellious strengths would free to attack Guantánamo, Baracoa and Santiago, therefore almost all the remainder of the eastern territory of Cuba was in the hands of the guerrilla. 
Silva Tablada with her Kingfisher
Silva Tablada with her Kingfisher N°50 of the Navy, in which he bombing the Army headquarters in La Maya

Leonel Paján flew like this Navy Kingfisher guncrew 

Kinfisher gunner

The rebels urgent need to finish the yield of the headquarters, that resisted expecting help, while the FAEC tried throw them air supplies. The FAR received its first combat mission, the order of bombing the headquarters. November 7, 1958 at 5.30 o'clock the Kingfisher, piloted by Silva Tablada and with the gunner Leonel Paján, take off from Mayarí Arriba for the "Operation A-001".  He carried 2 bombs of demolition.  When the Kingfisher arriving, the Army soldiers jump of joy "¡the FAE, the FAE!", but Silva in three pass places the two bombs in the center of the headquarters and shoot them. The psychological impact for the soldiers was great, and they immediately hoist a white flag and yielded, finalizing 14 days of fierce battles. With this victory the territories of two rebels fronts are united and the highway Santiago - Guantánamo is totally controlled. Then the FAEC bombing the runway of Mayarí Arriba and Cananova, without results. 

  Attack to Sagua de Tánamo

Another of the strategic points of the moment, was Sagua de Tánamo, where the Army fight in the city hall. December 19 at the morning begins the "Operation A-002". The Kingfisher of Silva Tablada take off  from Cananova with Leonel Paján like gunner. The T-28 of Jorge Triana must flying with them as escort against the FAEC, and take off from Yamaniguey 10 minutes before Silva, because its runway are further. They arriving and throw the bombs, but they don´t hit the hall, and not exploit. 
Tablada with her Kingfisher
  Silva Tablada with the Kingfisher. The attack to the Army headquarters of Sagua de Tánamo the December 20, 1958, was the last combat mission in the war
Cuban T-28 Trojan
  The T-28 Trojan of Jorge Triana after the revolutionay victory. See that the FAEC letters no longer is used, but the FAR not yet, only the transitory of FAC. Both this airplanes were the only used in combat

The Major Castillo of the rebels forces, claims the repetition of the mission with urgency. Silva Tablada, Triana and Paján go with other rebels in jeep to Sagua de Tánamo, where the rebels teach the exact objective to bombing. At 17.50 o'clock the Kingfisher and the T-28 take off again in the Operation A-003. This time the bombs don´t leaved the Kingfisher, but was able to shoot to the Army soldiers, causing great commotion among them by be confused again as the FAEC. The following day 20 of December is carried out the Operation A-004, and the bombs of the Kingfisher hit the objective, provoking a great fire and helping to the fall the day 24 of the garrison. 

  Operational Results of the FAR

At the moment of the revolutionary triumph of January 1, 1959, the FAR already had 14 runways, 10 pilots, 6 qualified technicians (in total 107 men), and 12 airplanes: 
  • 1 Piper Pa-12
  • 1 Piper Pa-23
  • 1 Cessna-120
  • 1 Cessna-175
  • 2 Cessna-180
  • 1 Ryan Navion Super-260
  • 1 Vought-Sikorsky OS2U-3 Kingfisher
  • 1 North American T-28 Trojan
  • 2 North American F-51 Mustang
  • 1 Fairchid F-24

    Cessna-120 similar to the one that the FAR received of its proprietary Gilberto Pérez Ricardo in Cebollas. The airplane complied with several missions and after the triumph was returned to its owner
    Cessna-180 similar to the two that had the FAR. One was bought in Miami and brought to the FAR by Silva Tablada, the second was occupied in Maisí (Courtesy of Phillip Treweek) 

    During 8,5 months of operations, the FAR performed 77 flights: 50 of them of liason, recognition, transport of weapons and personal among the rebels zones, four of  personnel transport to the outside, five bringing personnel from the outside, 11 with military loads from the outside to the Second front, 7 combat missions (4 of bombing and 3 of escort). The FAR was an happy success, that showed the possibility that the guerrillas operated their own air arm. Is not only the presence of the airplanes, but the existence of an infrastructure of shops, runways, refuge, factories of explosives and armaments, and others.

    The FAR lost 10 airplanes by the following causes:
    1Cessna-195Crashed July 25 near San Germán
    1Aero CommanderCrashed August 16 near Guantánamo Bay
    1Beechcraft D-17SCrashed September 29
    1Beechcraft D-18Destroyed by the FAEC and the rebels August 30 near Cayo Espino
    2Douglas DC-3Bombed and destroyed by the FAEC November 12 in Mayarí Arriba
    1Ryan Navion Super 260Confiscated in United States October 10, 1958
    1Cessna-182Confiscated in United States May 12, 1958
    1Piper Pa-20Confiscated in Jamaica after the landing here May 6, 1958
    1Piper Pa-12Write off  by bad conditions

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    1933-1938, Cuban Military Aviation. The 1933 Revolution and her consequences.

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