Bay of Pigs Casualty To Be Buried Today
BIRMINGHAM, Ala -- (AP) -- The body of Thomas Williard Ray will be buried today in his native Alabama soil after 18 years in a Havana morgue.
The gray pine coffin was accompanied from Miami to Birmingham by Ray's son, Tom Jr.
"I made my last flight with my father," he said.
The elder Ray was working for the Central Intelligence Agency during the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion, training Cuban refugees to overthrow Fidel Castro's government, when his B26 bomber was shot down near Castro's field headquarters.
In 1963, Sen. Mike Mansfield (D., Mont.) confirmed that four civilian airmen from Alabama had been killed in the invasion.
Ray, 30, was slain by Castro militiamen, and his body had been frozen in a Havana morgue.
RAY'S FAMILY began its struggle to have Ray's body returned when they learned three years ago that the Cubans had it.
Tom Ray hasn't talked to many people over the years about his father. He last saw him when he was 7. He says he has tried to avoid the painful memories by trying not to think about it much.
"But then there are times," he said, "when I'm faced with a career, family or business decision and I really which he were here . . . someone I could talk to."
Ray's body was accompanied from Havana by U.S. Consul Edwin L. Beffel of the American Interest Section in Havana, In the muggy Cuban pre-dawn, he traveled to the morgue where Ray's body lay to witness the sealing of the zinc coffin inside the pine box.
The body was wrapped in gauze and the coffin soldered shut. The inch-thick lid of smooth pine was slid into place, screwed shut and wax seals covered the screws.
PAPERS WERE signed. Representatives from the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Health, and the chief of Forensic Medicine Division all were there. An act was signed by the Cubans and by Beffel that officially turned over the body to the American Interest Section of the Swiss Embassy.
The hometown military funeral will be held in the Birmingham suburb of Center Point.