Men on a Mission: Museum opens to honor Bay of Pigs veterans

(WSVN) - You know it as the Bay of Pigs. When the United States recruited Cuban exiles to try to wipe out Fidel Castro, it was an historic event that had enormous implications for South Florida. Many people don’t know much about it, but you can now, as Patrick Fraser reports a museum is opening to honor those “Men on a Mission.”

History should never be forgotten, and neither should the men and women who made that history.

Esteban Bovo, pilot in Bay of Pigs: “We are old right now. Most of us are in the 80s. We are dying one a day, but the history has to be preserved.”

All of these fellows made history on a mission to overthrow Fidel Castro.

Felix Rodriguez, Bay of Pigs veteran: “Well, this is the real history of the Bay of Pigs.”

History books tells us the men were recruited by the Central Intelligence Agency, but the CIA didn’t tell the men they were working for the CIA.

Felix Rodriguez: “Everybody who was recruited thought it was some rich Cuban who was promoting and financing this operation to overthrow Fidel Castro and bring democracy to our homeland.”

The mission was launched in 1961. Fifty-eight years later, you can see it at a museum in Hialeah Gardens.

Esteban Bovo: “Oh, my God. This is something that we have been dreaming for a long time.”

It’s called the Assault Brigade 2506, the name given to the exiles when they volunteered to go attack Castro.

Esteban Bovo: “Never went through my mind that we were going to be history. I thought that we were going to be winners.”

The stories of their training began when the men were led blindly to a secret site.

Felix Rodriguez: “From there, they put us in a field plane. We didn’t even know where we were going to. The windows of the plane in C54 were painted black.”

When they got to Guatemala, they realized it wasn’t a rich Cuban that brought them together to kill Castro. It was the Americans.

Esteban Bovo: “Where else can you get B26’s guns, tanks and everything. I had a feeling that the Americans were behind it.”

The men were taught to use those weapons to eliminate Castro and his supporters.

Esteban Bovo: “Everything to kill human beings: weaponry, tactics of flying that we knew already.”

The Americans prepared those young men for the invasion. Now, as old men, they are blunt about that training.

Esteban Bovo: “And some of them were bright, military personnel. Some others were morons; they didn’t know what the hell they were doing.”

But that’s not why the Bay of Pigs invasion failed.

These walls remind you that the United States had promised to supply air support for the Cuban exiles.

Osvaldo Inguanzo, Bay of Pigs veteran: “And the U.S. didn’t back us up.”

President John F. Kennedy changed his mind, leaving many of those brave men who volunteered to overthrow Castro killed or captured.

Salvador Miralles, fought to defeat Castro: “We lost 14 pilots.”

Felix Rodriguez: “Most of them went to prison that were captured.”

Esteban Bovo: “So many friends had died in the firing squad. Friends, brothers.”

But here, they all come alive again.

Felix Rodriguez: “We have the wall where there’s 106 people that we consider to be the heroes of the Bay of Pigs.”

You can see the past so they can joke about the future.

Salvador Miralles: “Absolutely. If I have to do it again, I might do it again.”

The mission to remember…

Felix Rodriguez: “A lot of people of the new generation have no idea, and this is our history. This is something that will be around for many, many years to come.”

History will never be forgotten, and now the men who were on that mission won’t be forgotten either.

The Assault Brigade 2506 Museum has not had a grand opening yet, but the members of the brigade are often there and would love to have visitors.

FOR MORE INFO:

Assault Brigade 2506 Museum
13651 NW 107th Ave.
Hialeah Gardens, FL 33018
305-825-2506

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