Douglas A/B-26 Invader

The pilots story

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Page 1 - Invading pigs


The Attack

The eight bombers were organized into three sections:

Puma Flight

Jose Crespo and navigator Lorenzo Pérez-Lorenzo as               "Puma 1"

Daniel Fernández-Mon and navigator Gaston Pérez as             "Puma 2"

Osvaldo Piedra and navigator José Fernández as                      "Puma 3"

Their target was the airfield Campo/Ciudad Libertad (the counter-revolutionary crews called it "Camp Libertad"; the Cubans "Ciudad Libertad).

Gorilla Flight

Capt. Gustavo Ponzoa and navigator Capt. Rafael Garcial Pujol as                                                                                                "Gorilla 1"

Capt. Gonzalo Herrera, and navigator Angel Lopez as            "Gorilla 2" 

Their target was the Antonio Maceo International Airport, Santiago de Cuba.

Linda Flight

Luis Cosme, and navigator Nildo Batista as                               "Linda 1" 

René Garcia, and navigator Luis Ardois as                                "Linda 2 "

Alfredo Caballero, and navigator Alfredo Maza as                    "Linda 3" 

Their target was San Antonio de los Banos air base.


Each aircraft was armed with two 250kg and ten 125kg bombs, as well as with eight machineguns, mounted in the nose.

As first over their target, Santiago de Cuba, arrived the Invaders of the Gorilla Flight. They were probably spotted by a patrol boat of the Cuban Navy while approaching at medium level, but then dived to only 10 or 20 feet above the sea and continued towards the target. Once over Santiago de Cuba, Ponzoa bombed the ramp under which fuel depots were buried, while Herrera straffed AAA-emplacements. After the first turn, the planes exchanged their places and Herrera bombed, while Ponzoa tried to give him some cover. The Cubans responded with fierce fire, filling the skies with tracer caliber 23 adn 37mm, but the two Invaders then turned around positioning for their third attack. While dropping his last bombs, Capt. Gonzoa noticed one Cubana Airlines DC-3/C-47 (CU-T172) and a Cuban Navy PBY already burning, and then turned for another strafing run, during which Herrera hit several parked aircraft and also the building nearby. Despite the meanwhile fully alerted defenses and the fierce AAA fire, Capts. Ponzoa and Herrera positioned for yet another attack, during which Ponzoa hit an all-black painted FAR B-26C, causing it to burst in flames. Only then have they turned away: Herrera’s plane was hit several times, causing his nose gear door to hang half open. Nevertheless, the pair landed safely at Happy Valley almost seven hours after the take-off, claiming to have destroyed the fuel depot and virtually every military and civilian aircraft they found parked on the ground (for a total of three or four B-26Cs – all of which were probably not airworthy – one C-47, and one FB.1 Fury of the FAR, and the single DC-3 of the Cubana Airlines).

As next over their target, Camp/Ciudad Libertad, the Puma Section was less successful and lucky. Some sources claimed that the Puma Section damaged "only one T-33A", but in fact there were no FAR aircraft at this airfield, as it was not used already since months. Therefore, this strike was a complete waste of time and resources. Even more so, the B-26B "Puma 3" was shot down by AAA, and crashed off the north coast of Havanna, with the loss of the crew. The second Invader from this pair, the "Puma 1", was also damaged, and diverted to the NAS Boca Chica, near Key West, instead of flying back to Nicaragua.

Finally, the third pair, Linda attacked San Antonio de los Banos, and claimed the destruction of one each of T-33A ("715"), C-47, and AT-6, and another Cubana DC-3. The was damaged by AAA and diverted to Grand Cayman.

With this, the opening attack was over, and the CIA now initiated the "public" part of the campaign. At 0400hrs, Mario Zuniga, a pilot of the Brigade 2506, took off in the second B-26B "FAR 933" for Miami, where he landed at 0821hrs, explaining to have defected from Cuba after destroying several FAR aircraft on the ground. Only very few observers noticed that the aircraft was a B-26B, with "hard" nose that contained eight machine guns, while the FAR was flying B-26Cs, equipped with a "glazed" nose and carrying machine guns in the wings. Also, initially nobody asked any questions about the fact that the guns of the aircraft were obviously not fired: for the time being, the deception functioned.



The Pilots - Official
Jose Crespo and navigator Lorenzo Pérez-Lorenzo                    "Puma 1"

Daniel Fernández-Mon/Navigator Gaston Pérez                       "Puma 2"

Osvaldo Piedra/Navigator José Fernández                                "Puma 3"

Capt. Gustavo Ponzoa/Navigator Capt. Rafael Garcial Pujol, "Gorilla 1"

Capt. Gonzalo Herrera/Navigator Angel Lopez.                       "Gorilla 2"

Luis Cosme/Navigator Nildo Batista;                                        "Linda 1"

René Garcia/Navigator Luis Ardois,                                          "Linda 2"

Alfredo Caballero/Navigator Alfredo Maza,                              "Linda 3"

Unofficial American air crew

Thomas Willard “Pete” Ray - Killed in the invasion. Ray’s body was embalmed, placed in a glass coffin and stored in a freezer. This was the only real proof of U.S. participation, but the U.N. never pursued an investigation, in spite of requests by Cuba’s Raul Roa. Eighteen years later, in December 1979, the body was identified after Cuban officials sent copies of the fingerprints to the FBI, and returned to the U.S. family, which had been kept in the dark by CIA and State Department officials. As part of the “cover story,” the family was told that Ray had died in a cargo plane crash.

Leo Francis Baker, Ray's Flight Engineer, Killed in the invasion. Eight American pilots flew combat missions without the approval of President Kennedy. Baker, the navigator in Pete Ray’s plane, survived the crash and was shot in a ground battle while holding a grenade.


Wade Gray - Killed in the invasion.


Riley Shamburger - Killed in invasion.

Billy Goodwin - One of eight American pilots that came form the Alabama Air National Guard

Buck Persons - American pilot


Col. Joe Shannon - American pilot.

Other pilots that took part in the battle


Esteban Bovo


Crispin Lucio Garcia Fernandez - Killed in a plane crash with Mata Gonzalez Romero, after a bombing run over Cuba, when their B-26 crashed on the way back to their home base in Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua.

Captain Manuel Navarro - Flew a C-46 into the airfield at Playa Girón to deliver 8,500 pounds of ammunition and picked up a wounded pilot (Matías Farías).

Mario Zúñiga - Was presented to the world press as a “defector” and photographed next to his plane

Raúl Vianello


Capts. Ponzoa and Pujol