March 11, 1975
The Bay of Pigs veterans are asking for return of the Cuban flag they presented to President John F. Kennedy in 1962 after the ill-fated invasion effort to overthrow Fidel Castro.
The flag, which was carried into the battle on Cuban shores, was presented to Kennedy in an emotional Orange Bowl ceremony in which the President promised it would fly again over a free Cuba.
The Bay of Pigs Association, representing more than 1,000 survivors of the invasion, voted unanimously last night to ask the return of the flag in response to what they called Senator Edward Kennedy’s “treasonous” proposal to ease relations with Cuba.
“It makes absolutely no sense to have that flag in the Kennedy museum in Massachusetts after the statements that Sen. Kennedy has made,” said Juan Perez-Franco, president of the group.
The association, Perez said, considers it an “affront to all the martyrs of the Bay of Pigs that under the present circumstances the flag is being kept at the museum.”
On April 17, 1961, about 1,500 Cuban exiles landed at the Bay of Pigs on Cuba’s south-central coast in a military operation financed in part by the U.S. government.
The men were ill-equipped and without air support. Castro’s militia men crushed the invaders within a few days, taking 1,200 of them prisoner.
Kennedy agreed to ransom the prisoners for $50 million in medical supplies and food raised by private citizens.
Following the return of the prisoners to Miami shortly before Christmas, 1962, President Kennedy told thousands at the Orange Bowl, “I can assure you [the flag] will be returned to this brigade in a free Havana.”
Last week, Senator Kennedy introduced a bill to lift the embargo against Cuba.
This proposal, said the resolution passed by the association, is “energetically rejected by all democracy-loving Cubans because they are treasonous to the cause of Liberty, not only that of Cuba but also of the whole American continent.
Such rapprochement towards Cuba, said the resolution, “signifies complicity with the tyrant (Castro)…. who has spilled generous and freedom-loving blood on the soil of our fatherland.”
Perez said the association has not yet contacted the Kennedy Library in Massachusetts, but that it planned to send a letter today.
In Washington, a member of Sen. Kennedy’s staff said it would be hard to comment on the association’s request because it had not yet reached Kennedy’s office.
Perez was authorized by the association to take all the necessary steps to have the flag returned.