Bay of Pigs Banner Returned to Brigade
By GENE MILLER
Herald Staff Writer
Brigade 2506 got back its flag from the John F. Kennedy Library in Waltham, Mass., Thursday -- after 14 years, one lawsuit, 512 signatures, and a change of heart by the U.S. government.
The flag came back to Miami glued to a wooden frame and encased in glass, just two days before the 15th anniversary of the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba.
Although the Brigade lost that war, it saved its colors. And on the warm and emotional day of Dec. 18, 1962, President Kennedy accepted the flag in the Orange Bowl. The survivors, garbed in khaki, roared their approval.
"I CAN ASSURE you it will be returned to this brigade in a free Havana," said the President.
He was mistaken. Last year, when Kennedy's brother, Sen. Edward Kennedy, made a speech about lifting the trade embargo on Cuba, the brigade's veterans association decided it wanted its flag back.
Lawyer Ellis Rubin wrote some letters. Back came a response from the General Services Administration: The flag was now the property of the U.S. government. It belonged to the Kennedy Library. He couldn't have it.
ON BEHALF OF the brigade, Rubin sued.
"We have a tape recording of President Kennedy's speech," he said.
The Department of Justice responded: The brigade lacked standing. The court lacked jurisdiction. The government is immune.
But the case never went to trial. The government had second thoughts and offered to compromise.
After all, said Assistant U.S. Attorney John Steven Berk, "the flag is sacred to the exiles."
Could the plaintiffs prove they represented Brigade 2506? Five hundred and twelve veterans signed a document.
Could the government borrow it back? Would it be safeguarded and exhibited?
Brigade 2506, which lost 92 men in Cuba and believes that nine of its members are still imprisoned in Cuba, agreed.
AND RUBIN FLEW to Logan International Airport in Boston to sign a paper and bring home the flag.
The museum curator, David F. Powers, an old Kennedy aide, shook his hand and told him the flag should stay in its 5 1/2-by-6 foot frame.
It is silk, he noted, and it might tear or shred if removed.
Eastern Airlines provided a 727 jet for the flight to Miami. But the flag, it was discovered, wouldn't fit through the cargo doors of the jet
Eastern got a bigger jet with wider doors, an L-1011, and shipped the flag to Miami Thursday.
Brigade 2506 will formally accept its flag at 11 a.m. Saturday, at its annual rally at the monument, at SW Eighth Street and 13th Avenue, erected in memory of more than 100 exiles killed in the invasion.
Thursday night it was well protected. It was kept in a walk-in vault at an undisclosed bank.
The brigade had a little trouble getting it there. It had to use a truck
to move it. It was too big for the Brinks and Wells Fargo armored cars.