The Miami Herald
October 6, 2000

Remains of Miami pilots coming home

 2 died during the Bay of Pigs


 Two Miami pilots whose remains lay in the Nicaraguan jungle for nearly four
 decades after their plane crashed during the Bay of Pigs invasion are at last
 coming home.

 The remains of Crispin García and Juan de Mata González, part of a small
 CIA-trained air force that fought Fidel Castro's planes in the sky over the invasion
 site, will be buried together in Miami on Veterans Day, Nov. 11.

 ``I'm pretty emotional about it,'' said Frank García, 44, the son of one of the pilots.
 ``It's been a long wait.''

 Plans for the funeral will be announced at a press conference this afternoon. Lino
 Gutiérrez, deputy assistant secretary of state for Western Hemispheric affairs and
 U.S. ambassador to Nicaragua when the pilots' remains were recovered in 1998,
 is expected to attend, along with representatives of the CIA.

 The funeral will mark the end of a tale that, like so many stories from the Bay of
 Pigs, has been long, tangled and painful.

 García and González were both Cuban exiles. Today is the 40th anniversary of
 the García family's arrival in the United States.

 The two men were among a group of 54 pilots recruited by the CIA to provide air
 support for the April 1961 invasion of the island by an exile army. Eighteen of the
 pilots died during three days of fighting before Castro's forces crushed the


 But unlike most of the pilots, whose planes were shot down as the crews of other
 aircraft watched, the fate of García and González was shrouded in mystery for

 Their B-26 bomber flew shotgun over the invasion force for a couple of hours, then
 landed at Boca Chica Naval Air Station near Key West for emergency refueling. A
 few minutes later, they took off for the secret CIA airfield, 700 miles away in
 Nicaragua, from which the Bay of Pigs air war was being directed. They were
 never seen again.

 Seven months passed, according to declassified CIA documents, before the
 agency learned of reports of a crash site from peasants in the remote mountains
 of northern Nicaragua's Jinotega province.

 The CIA station chief in Managua flew to the scene with Anastasio Somoza, the
 commander of Nicaragua's armed forces and future president, to verify that the
 plane was the missing B-26. It had apparently missed a clandestine airfield in the
 dark, flew 140 miles past it and crashed after clipping a tall tree atop a 1,000-foot

 Local peasants told them that some battered human remains had been buried
 near the wreckage. In the swirl of international controversy following disclosure of
 the U.S. role in the Bay of Pigs invasion, the CIA decided to leave the remains
 where they were.

 Three decades later, García's son Frank -- with the aid of Janet Ray Weininger,
 who had badgered the CIA and Fidel Castro for 10 years before recovering the
 body of her own father, another pilot shot down at the Bay of Pigs -- began
 pressing the agency for help in locating the crash site.

 When the CIA refused to help, Weininger and Frank García went into the
 Nicaraguan jungle themselves and found it. But 34 years, two civil wars, an
 earthquake and a hurricane had scattered the wreckage and made finding the
 burial site impossible.

 In 1998, the CIA finally agreed to fund a search by the U.S. Army's Central
 Identification Laboratory in Hawaii, which uses forensic archaeological techniques
 to identify remains of missing servicemen.

 The Army team spent four weeks at the crash site sifting through thousands of
 cubic feet of earth, then sent a small package of bones and teeth to Hawaii for
 lengthy DNA testing. Between the tests and some personal effects buried near
 the remains, the two pilots were positively identified.


 Frank García, who has been on an emotional roller coaster since beginning the
 search for his father, says even the positive identification has torn him.

 ``I'm happy that I'm finally getting my dad's remains,'' he said. ``But I'm sad about
 what it is -- that we're going to bury him, and probably open some old wounds.''

 García was 4 years old the last time he saw his father. He doesn't recollect the

 ``I don't recall him at all, I was too small,'' García said. ``I can't close my eyes and
 see him. But I remember him every day of my life.''