Tuesday, September 15, 2009

1958: DR Opens Escambray Second Front

Cuba History Timeline Events
February 13, 1958
The DR (Directorio Revolucionario, Revolutionary Directorate) sketched out plans over the fall-winter of 1957 to expand its urban terror thrust by opening a guerrilla front in in the mountains of central Cuba (Las Villas province). In November, Eloy Gutiérrez Menoyo scouted out an area in the Escambray mountains that he declared the home of the new "Second Front" (13th of March Movement).

On 31 January an expeditionary force of 16 (including Faure Chomón) with a large quantity of arms for DR mountain and urban operations, left Miami in a small US-registered yacht, the Thor II. This vessel took them to Racoon Key off Cuba’s north coast, from where in smaller boats they landed near Nuevitas (Camagüey province) on 8 February. They broke up into small groups to reach the Escambray mountains (about 120 miles) with the aid of cadre supporters and new recruits.

On or about 13 February, the expeditionaries reached a camp in the Trinidad-Sancti Spíritus mountains, where a rendezvous had been arranged with their commanders Eloy Gutiérrez Menoyo and William Morgan (an American soldier of fortune) and their local guerrillas. Their first engagement was a few days later when they ambushed army troops they spotted. On 27 February they reached their new base of operations in the mountains. At the end of February they published their Escambray Manifesto.

The Escambray revolutionaries in the photo below included some of the early casualties of the revolution. William Morgan was executed by firing squad for treason in March 1961. Eloy Gutiérrez Menoyo went into exile and participated in anti-Castro operations, he was captured and imprisoned for treason and counter-revolution by Castro 1965-1986.

Escambray Guerillas 1958 Escambray guerrillas in 1958. (L to R) Nene Français, Eloy Gutiérrez Menoyo,
José García, Henry Fuerte, William Morgan (photo: Latin American Studies collection)

based on Manuel Márquez-Sterling's Cuba 1952-1959 and
Cuba 1952-1959 Interactive Timeline

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