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A new monument to fliers — the aviators of the Bay of Pigs Invasion & the Douglas B-26 Invader

21 October 2009

25º 38’ 57” N / 80º 25’ 49” W

April 15th is an auspicious day in the USA and is simply known as “Tax Day” — the day we must all have our income tax forms filed for the previous year. In 1961 this day became infamous as this was the day the Fuerza Aérea de Liberación launched aerial attacks against the Cuban mainland with eight Douglas B‑26 Invader aircraft, thus began the Bay of Pigs Invasion (La Batalla de Girón, as it is known in Cuba). Controversy exists regarding CIA and other US governmental assistance and that will be left to others for essay as well as discussion. There is no controversy that many were lost, on both sides.

Douglas B-26 Invader at the Bay of Pigs Memorial -- photo by Joe May

Douglas B-26 Invader at the Bay of Pigs Memorial — photo by Joe May

There is a new memorial on the books and this one is dedicated to the Cuban and American aviators who lost their lives in this brief battle and it is located within the Kendall-Tamiami Airport Executive Airport. The memorial is laid out along a representation of the Cuban flag as it might wave in a wind. On the star is a monument while on the blue and white stripes is a Douglas B-26 Invader as it might have looked on that day almost 50 years ago.

Douglas B-26 Invader Bay of Pigs Memorial at the Kendall Miami Airport -- photo by Joe May

Bay of Pigs Memorial at the Kendall Miami Airport — photo by Joe May

Douglas B-26 sitting atop the stripes of the Cuban flag at the Bay of Pigs Memorial -- photo by Joe May

Douglas B-26 sitting atop the stripes of the Cuban flag at the Bay of Pigs Memorial — photo by Joe May

The Invader was designed as a light attack bomber during WW II, having the designation B-26. The B-26 at the time was made by Martin and was named Marauder. After WW II the original B-26 was retired and designations were altered such that the A-26 became the B-26, though retaining the name “Invader”. The “B” model had eight nose mounted 0.50 caliber machine guns. In fact, all eight of the B-26 aircraft used in the opening day assaults of the Bay of Pigs Invasion were this model but had the defensive armament removed. A single pilot aircraft with another two in the crew, it is sleek and powerful. It also has a bomb bay so two basic versions existed — a solid nose with machine guns and a clear nose with a bombsight. Defensive armament consisted of a twin gun dorsal turret.

Emblems of the Fuerza Aérea de Liberación on the B-26 at the Bay of Pigs Memorial -- photo by Joe May

Emblems of the Fuerza Aérea de Liberación on the B-26 at the Bay of Pigs Memorial — photo by Joe May

A note: for an enjoyable movie and great flying footage of this aircraft in low level hazardous forest fire fighting flight I would recommend the 1989 movie, Always— with Holly Hunter, Richard Dreyfuss and John Goodman.   

10 Comments leave one →
  1. Marty Davis permalink
    21 October 2009 11:58

    Interesting! I had no idea that the Bay of Pigs had a memorial. I wonder where the desire and funding for the memorial originated?

    • travelforaircraft permalink*
      21 October 2009 13:54

      I have the same curiosity. But there is no information at the site except a sign stating that an office for the Cuban American Pilots Assoc. will soon be constructed — so maybe then?

  2. James Mccasland permalink
    21 March 2010 11:51

    This is new to me. I used to go to the Weeks Air Museum. There is a Bya of Pigs memorial to the Briagada 2506 in Little Havana at 14th and Calle Ocho. Also, the Brigada has a museum somewhere in Miami.

    • travelforaircraft permalink*
      21 March 2010 12:51

      Hello,

      It is not advertised, is it? A sign there indicates that a museum will be there at some point, though a date was not mentioned. Also, I cannot find them on the web but perhaps if a search in Spanish was used?

      Thanks for the tip on the Brigada as well as the presence of their museum. I live in West Palm beach so it would be a nice way to spend a Saturday or a Sunday and looking them up — and get a meal of ropa vieja con cafe Cubano.

      Thanks again,

      Joe

  3. 20 April 2010 08:41

    While not the actual airplane that participated in the Bay of Pigs,# 931 is painted like the B-26 Gus Ponzoa flew on 17 APR 61. A sad note, Gus passed away in SEPT 09. My father flew along with Gonzalo Herrera in B-26 # 933. A nice depiction can be found on the cover of the book Foreign Invader.

    God Bless them for having the courage to fight for their convictions and their country.

    • travelforaircraft permalink*
      20 April 2010 17:43

      Victor,

      Thanks for filling me in on the aircraft, but, more importantly about Gus Ponzoa as well as your father flying in such an historic event as was the Bay of Pigs Invasion.

      I’ll be sure to look up the book you referenced, too. Absent knowing persons who participated in the events a good reference is worth its weight in gold.

      My thanks to you again,

      Joe May

  4. Rod McRae permalink
    2 March 2015 09:57

    I flew with Gus at Southern Air Transport. I vividly remember his account of strafing the beach in Cuba.

    A true gentleman.

    Rod McRae

    • travelforaircraft permalink*
      3 March 2015 21:40

      It was nice to read that, Joe

  5. Clayton Peters permalink
    13 March 2020 13:25

    In your paragraph that follows; I believe that the first occurrence of the term “B-26”, should instead read “A-26”.:
    “The Invader was designed as a light attack bomber during WW II, having the designation [A-26] B-26. The B-26 at the time was made by Martin and was named Marauder. After WW II the original B-26 was retired and designations were altered such that the A-26 became the B-26, though retaining the name “Invader”. “

    • travelforaircraft permalink*
      13 March 2020 17:21

      Yes. I stated it as the B-26 Invader so it would be known it was the Douglas A-26 originally…this is the convention followed in the literature. It’s also why I use A-1, F-8 and A-5 instead of their original designations as that is how we most know of them. Likewise, I use P-51 instead of F-51 designation as that is how we mostly are aware of it from their years of their main utilization. It is unfortunate having the designation changes but you can thank SecDef McNamara who was confused by the two naming systems and ordered the creation of one to be shared by all services. Your tax dollars at work!

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